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August 31, 2007

Senator Craig Plans to Resign on Saturday - New York Times

The sad twisted priorities of the Republican Party today.  A minor sex scandal that affects nothing in his constitutional capacity, if sordid and hypocritical, that voters can decide on the importance of in the next election, is a cause for immediate banishment.

But shredding the constitution by Bush and Gonzales are ignored.im

Re: Senator Craig Plans to Resign on Saturday - New York Times:

Party leaders made it clear that they wanted Senator Craig to surrender his seat so they could avoid a repeat of the 2006 Congressional elections held in the shadow of a previous sex scandal.

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August 20, 2007

The Founders Had an Idea for Handling Alberto Gonzales - New York Times

Re: The Founders Had an Idea for Handling Alberto Gonzales - New York Times:

If the House began an impeachment inquiry, Mr. Gonzales would most likely resign rather than risk the unpleasantness of the hearings, and the ignominy of being removed. Congress should think of it as a constitutional tap on the shoulder, to let the attorney general know that the time has truly come for him to go. If Mr. Gonzales did resign, this Congress would most likely be more gracious than the one in 1876, which ignored Mr. Belknap’s hurried resignation and impeached him anyway.


Yet, letting him off (“gracious”) would be exactly the wrong solution.  For someone with such egregious violations and malformed notions of the constitution, the impeachment and trial should proceed -- not to “punish” him, but to impose the penalty of never holding an office of the public trust again, so that he doesn't pop up again in 20 years for some other renegade Republican president.

Per the US Constitution:

[Article I, Section 3] Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

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APA Rules on Interrogation Abuse - washingtonpost.com

Finally!

Re: APA Rules on Interrogation Abuse - washingtonpost.com:

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 19 -- The American Psychological Association ruled Sunday that psychologists can no longer be associated with several interrogation techniques that have been used against terrorism detainees at U.S. facilities because the methods are immoral, psychologically damaging and counterproductive in eliciting useful information.

Psychologists who witness interrogators using mock executions, simulated drowning, sexual and religious humiliation, stress positions or sleep deprivation are required to intervene to stop such abuse, to report the activities to superiors and to report the involvement of any other psychologists in such activities to the association. It could then strip those professionals of their membership.

[Update 8/22/2007]:

Progress, although the rules appear to be looser than first appears.

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August 16, 2007

Padilla guilty but US not acquited

Jose Padilla is guilty, but all the US did was track down another ineffective goofball, like the “Portland 7” six of whom couldn't even get themselves into Afganistan, not some master terrorist.

But his guilt doesn't acquit the US of multiple unconstitutional and illegal acts -- mental torture, inflicting cruel and unusual punishment (even before conviction!), a Kafka-esque series of legal proceedings, compelled self-incrimination (even if not used in the trial), etc.

As conservative Andrew Sullivan put it,

... the manner in which he was detained and prosecuted is a terrifying glimpse of the fragility of the West's system of justice in a war on terror.

[Update]
And common ground with the libertarian Cato Institute, in their piece, Not the Way America Is Supposed to Work:

A Miami jury has convicted Jose Padilla of charges unrelated to those that were alleged when he was first incarcerated more than five years ago. Some will argue that the guilty verdict justifies Padilla’s characterization as an enemy combatant and his extended detention, incommunicado, without charges filed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen, protected by the U.S. Constitution against unreasonable seizure and deprivation of liberty without due process. He was denied his rights.

In the case of suspected terrorists, the stakes are immense. So a powerful argument can be made for changing the rules to provide for preventive detention in narrowly defined circumstances. But if we do change the rules, the process cannot be unilateral − implemented by executive edict without either congressional or judicial input. And it cannot be law on-the-fly, with no knowledge of the rules by anyone other than the executive officials who are responsible for their enforcement. In the end, Padilla may have deserved the treatment he received, perhaps worse; but for those of us concerned about the rule of law, the Padilla episode is not the way America is supposed to work.

And from Glenn Greenwald:

To this day, many people, including myself, cite the Padilla case as the ultimate wake-up call to the true character, the genuine soul, of the Bush administration. Imprisoning a U.S. citizen, on U.S. soil, with no charges of any kind, and then keeping him for years completely incommunicado, is just one of those lines which many people believed would never be crossed in America.

That this bright line was crossed, and crossed so explicitly and with so little controversy, was an unmistakable sign of just how much of our national character was being eroded, just how limitless was the attack on our basic constitutional framework, just how profoundly our political press was failing. Today's verdict offers yet more evidence of just how unnecessary -- on top of illegal, unconstitutional and destructive -- the administration's behavior here was.

[Update 8/20/2007]:

Re: APA Rules on Interrogation Abuse - washingtonpost.com:

The American Psychological Association ruled Sunday that psychologists can no longer be associated with several interrogation techniques that have been used against terrorism detainees at U.S. facilities because the methods are immoral, psychologically damaging and counterproductive in eliciting useful information. 

Psychologists who witness interrogators using mock executions, simulated drowning, sexual and religious humiliation, stress positions or sleep deprivation are required to intervene to stop such abuse, to report the activities to superiors and to report the involvement of any other psychologists in such activities to the association. It could then strip those professionals of their membership.

Pull back the veil; prevent a repeat

Bush/Cheney deserve impeachment to restore accountability to the people, not just as “punishment”.

But the math doesn't work on impeachment of Bush or Cheney until more Republicans are replaced, but that is over a year a way, and too late.  The House and Senate Republicans have demonstrated they will vote by party affiliation.  (Gonzales is another matter, and he should be prevented from ever holding an office of the public trust again so he doesn't pop up in some future Republican administration in 20 years.)

What we should consider is a sort of American “truth and reconciliation” after Bush is gone. 

And we need to roll back the transgressions. 

We need ask: how can we pull back the secrecy veil and learn who did what ... and to whom? 

And post-2008, we need to ask: what do we do to prevent this from happening again (a new president rescinding previous executive orders doesn't prevent a future president from doing it again)?

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August 15, 2007

America's Shame

I don't know if you can read the Christian Science Monitor series on Jose Padilla without crying for the man and for the the United States of America.  These are an important read:

As a US citizen, Mr. Padilla enjoyed a right against forced self-incrimination. But this constitutional guarantee vanished the instant President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.
Padilla was delivered to the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., where he was held not only in solitary confinement but as the sole detainee in a high-security wing of the prison. Fifteen other cells sat empty around him.

The purpose of the extraordinary privacy, according to experts familiar with the technique, was to eliminate the possibility of human contact. No voices in the hallway. No conversations with other prisoners. No tapping out messages on the walls. No ability to maintain a sense of human connection, a sense of place or time.

In essence, experts say, the US government was trying to break Padilla's silence by plunging him into a mental twilight zone.
When suspected Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla was whisked from the criminal justice system to military custody in June 2002, it was done for a key purpose – to break his will to remain silent.

As a US citizen, Mr. Padilla enjoyed a right against forced self-incrimination. But this constitutional guarantee vanished the instant President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.
... at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal and with Padilla's case pending at the Supreme Court, the Justice Department held a highly unusual press conference. Officials announced that after two years of interrogation, Padilla had confessed to involvement in the dirty-bomb plot and other activities with Al Qaeda.

“We now know much of what Jose Padilla knows. And what we have learned confirms that the president of the United States made the right call,” said James Comey, then deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
At its root, US treatment of Padilla shows the inclination to do anything to break the silence of a suspected terrorist, even it means violating such basic citizen rights as protection against self-incrimination and harsh interrogation, as well as the right to a trial.
The odd trajectory of this case also shows the bob-and-weave tactics used by the administration to avoid constitutional challenges to the way it handles terror suspects.

At first, Padilla's rights were protected because he was detained under the criminal-justice system. But then he was labeled an enemy combatant and put under military control, like noncitizen detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. When the courts appeared close to challenging his status, the Bush administration switched him back to a criminal court and lessened the charges to one of merely supporting Al Qaeda.

Guilty or not, Padilla deserves the same rule of law that any US citizen can expect. America can't win a global war to defend its values by stepping on them. As Army Capt. Ian Fishback wrote to Sen. John McCain after witnessing US military abuses in Afghanistan: “I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is America.”

One protection from Islamic terrorists lies in clinging to the civic virtues that terrorists seek to end. Such values are a source of safety and should not be eroded in trying to kill, capture – or prosecute – suspected terrorists.

One of America's strengths in this war lies in being able to rally other nations to its side by upholding universal principles. That same strength also weakens terrorists.

The jury may well find Padilla guilty, but it may also see the injustice done in his case, and decide otherwise.

Victory in war is sometimes a victory simply for the rule of law.

Under what notion can you defend the treatment of Padilla?  It isn't only a question of violating the Geneva Conventions against torture, our own laws against torture, but also, the plain language of the US Constitution:

[In Article I.]  The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases or Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. [which has happened only once, briefly, during the Civil War]
AMENDMENT V.  No person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
AMENDMENT VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The constitution gives the president the power of commander in chief over the armies but doesn't give with that the power to suspend any of the constitution.

[Article I.]  Section. 2. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;

With over half the country believing that Bush and/or Cheney and/or Gonzales should be impeached (see here, here and here), and both the ABA and APA taking action (see following and here) at least it hasn't entirely escaped notice:

Back on July 21, President Bush issued an Executive Order which gave cover to a series of brutal interrogation and detention practices to be used by the Central Intelligence Agency at black sites. Now the nation’s organized bar and its psychologists’ association are both saying: “no” and directing their members not to comply with the order.

Perhaps someday, when we're through this horrible period, history will look at the post-9/11 Bush America as America's loss of innocence.  If we clean up, restore constitutional rights and impose laws and oversight to reduce the possibility of new transgressions, we may be able to hold our heads up again, but with the wisdom of the fallen and redeemed knowing how easily a country can be lead astray.

One of the great questions is, when a Democratic president is elected in 2008 and assumes office in January, 2009, how quickly will the new president both rectify errors and lift the secrecy veil so we know what happened, by whom and to whom?  The office of the president is going to need a “truth and reconciliation” with the American people and their constitution.

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Rove vs. Clinton

Karl Rove has made a mastery of attacking his opponents strengths.  So Rove has done a great job of telling Hillary what he's afraid of from her -- each thing he is attacking.

Re:   Rove vs. Clinton - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog:

In a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh today, Mr. Rove repeated his characterization of Mrs. Clinton as a “fatally flawed” candidate, and lashed out at her for saying in her new television ad that Mr. Bush treated some Americans as “invisible.”

Mr. Rove said that Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of the president showed “a lack of vision” on her part.

“The fallback position in politics is, if you don’t know what you want to be about, and if you don’t know what your vision is, go at somebody else,” Mr. Rove said in the interview.

He also called her record on health cares issues “spotty and poor,” asserted that she has been “less than supportive” of American troops and took aim at her positions on a variety of anti-terrorism measures the administration supports.

Rove says, “fatally flawed”; read Hillary is a very strong candidate (why else would he bother attacking her?)

Rove says, “lack of vision”; read Hillary has strong ideas, opposed to his

Roves says, “healthcare record spotty and poor”; read Hillary has extensive experience and well-developed proposals

Roves says, “less than supportive of the troops”; read Hillary has stood up to the administration in fighting for better treatment of vets and defender of the troops against inadequate preparation, equipment and rotations

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Living in a time of Kafka

Re: Peter Chase: The Patriot Act: I Know What It's Like - Politics on  The Huffington Post:

In my case, after the Patriot Act was reauthorized in the spring of 2006, the FBI changed their minds and declared that my identity was no longer a threat to the national security [as a librarian fighting an FBI National Security Letter (NSL) and its gag order] ; my fellow librarians and I could speak about receiving a NSL after all. It was clear to me then that the FBI is not protecting national security by having John Doe and I gagged, they are protecting themselves.

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August 13, 2007

Re: Obama the Hawk? Open Left:: Obama the Hawk?

Well, obviously Obama is not a hawk.  A hawk sees the foreign policy world through military solutions, generally.  Obama obviously doesn't.  He has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.  He still opposes it.  He is not a hawk.

Just because he feels that miliatry intervention can be justified in one case doesn't make that a repudiation of his position.  He never said he was a peacnik.  He's said since the beginning that invading Afhanistan was the right thing to do.  And he has been saying for a long time that we didn't finish the job.

We'd never let Timothy Mcveigh go free for killing a few hundred Americans in Oklahoma, why should we let Osama bin Laden stay free for killing a few thousand?

This is entirely consistent.

Re:     Open Left:: Obama the Hawk?      :

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

No candidate known for opposing the Iraq war from the beginning gives a speech like this unless s/he is trying to change his image on military matters and foreign policy.  No Democrat running for President tells the country that he will deploy more troops to Afghanistan and conduct military strikes in Pakistan without Pakistan's approval in order to appeal to the primary electorate.  I think what Obama is trying to do instead, and what the media coverage of this speech so far is helping him accomplish, is bust up an image of him as “soft” or “inexperienced” on military matters.  As we have all learned from the example of Bush and Republicans over the years, the media and foreign policy establishment doesn't care if you are “inexperienced” on foreign policy as long as you threaten to bomb people, in which case you look “tough” and “serious.”  Obama is trying to win the approval of that establishment, and change the way he is portrayed by it.

Now, some people will defend what Obama is doing here in terms of policy.  Others will argue that Obama has to portray himself this way in order to avoid looking left-wing, or something.  However, keep in mind that no Democrat, no matter how hawkish s/he appears, has ever received the right-wing stamp of approval and thus avoided some variation of the “soft on defense” narrative.  Further, keep in mind that in 2004, voters who cited “terrorism” as their prime concern voted for Bush at an 86%-14% clip. Republican win when the terrorism frame is foregrounded, and Democrats are not able to vaccinate themselves against attacks by appearing hawkish themselves.  Terrorism voters are not, ultimately, policy-based voters. They are, instead, conservative, identity based, “values voters” in a different energy state.

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Re: Rove Exits

Just to see how bad it is for Republicans in the future, remember this take on the resignation of Karl Rove is from a conservative:

Re: The Daily Dish - Karl Rove Exits:

While he spins. The man's legacy is a conservative movement largely discredited and disunited, a president with lower consistent approval ratings than any in modern history, a generational shift to the Democrats, a resurgent al Qaeda, an endless catastrophe in Iraq, a long hard struggle in Afghanistan, a fiscal legacy that means bankrupting America within a decade, and the poisoning of American religion with politics and vice-versa. For this, he got two terms of power - which the GOP used mainly to enrich themselves, their clients and to expand government's reach and and drain on the productive sector. In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America's 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country. Such a choice was and remains despicable.

Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war - and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president's eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul.

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