Drudge, Partisan Stooge

Posted by Admin

Matt Drudge loves to manufacture things, this we know. Remember the story about Kerry's intern that fizzled into nothing but lies? Or the one about Wes Clark "supporting" the war in Iraq with his Armed Services Committee testimony, which actually showed the opposite if one read the transcript? A few months ago, Drudge ran a headline very very briefly that said a doctor admitted giving Kerry botox. I guess it didn't pan out because the headline disappeared within hours. This is why Drudge should check his facts before he goes to print.

Now he's running a picture of the Clinton's at Reagan's funeral with their eyes closed, captioned "Clinton's Rest Eyes During Reagan Eulogy." Of course, if you look right behind the Clinton's, you'll see a woman who I believe is Mrs. Betty Ford also with her eyes closed. Perhaps it was a moment of prayer or reflection. Perhaps the eulogies were just damned boring.

Another Drudge picture also focuses on the man republicans still love to hate (Clinton) beside Kerry and they are both--oh, horror of horrors--laughing. Heaven forbid anyone smile or laugh following a funeral.

Thankfully Ronald Reagan can only die once. You'll have to count me among those who weren't impressed with him while he was alive and find no reason to be impressed with him now that he's dead. This whole Reagan love-fest is overkill, in my opinion. The man was not the most loved president (contrary to republican claims), he did a lot of bad things while president, and while death is always unfortunate, the man was 93 years old.

Now republicans want to put his face on all kinds of currency and coin, rename the Pentagon after him, and waive the time period before a monument to someone can be erected on the mall in Washington. Some even want to carve his face onto Mt. Rushmore.

Part of this surge of Reagan-love coming from the right is an attempt to cement Reagan with Republican to supplant peoples' worsening views on republicans due to Bush's antics with their fond memories of Reagan. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo points out, the Bush campaign has even turned its website from a Kerry bash page to a Reagan tribute.

The Republican party is starting to recognize that Bush is a sinking ship. They are hoping that by glossing over Reagan's true historical legacy, Bush can stay afloat by holding onto Reagan's coattails. There has been much effort in the past weak to recast Bush as Reagan's heir. Of course, Bush disputed that and told Tom Brokaw the day Reagan died that he preferred to be thought of as a "Bush republican." Someone must have hit him upside the head because shortly after, he was trying to draw parallels between himself and Reagan.

Let's see. Reagan favored nuclear disarmament; Bush favors abandoning nuclear arms treaties and building new nuclear weapons. Reagan did not retaliate for the deaths of over 200 soldiers in Lebanon and in fact pulled back; Bush has avenged the deaths of 3,000 Americans against a country that had nothing to do with it. Reagan raised taxes when needed; Bush continues to cut them even when they should be raised.

Of course, there are parallels. Both men played lip service to "compassion," and it was lacking in their deeds. Both saw soaring unemployment. Both left huge deficits in their wake. Both engaged in illegal activity that they tried to shield from the American public and when confronted, both claimed to be out of the loop on the issue. Both also had a penchant for saying stupid things when they thought nobody was listening.

From reading the Drudge report, you'd think Jesus had died all over again.

UPDATE: Drudge pulled the picture of Kerry and Clinton laughing. I wonder why. Perhaps someone snapped a picture of Bush laughing so Drudge decided it would be a mistake to make someone laughing at a funeral into a negative.

Justice Department Says Torture is Legal

Posted by Admin

Okay, this story is old and I'm coming to it late, but did anyone find George Bush's insistence yesterday that he "authorized staying within U.S. law" regarding the treatment of detainees "comforting": Ashcroft stated something similar before congress on Tuesday.

Both the Justice Department memo and the Department of Defense memo leaked to the press provide legal rationalizations for the president to authorize torture. Therefore, claiming that Bush ordered people to follow U.S. law in this regard isn't sufficient, because those charged with advising him are interpreting the law in such a way as to legitimize torture.

It reminds me of those who won't pay federal taxes on the grounds that federal taxation is illegal. They insist they're obeying the law and everyone else (i.e. the IRS) is wrong about the law's interpretation. Bush insists he's following the law, but whose law is he following? The law as put forth by his Justice Department in a secret document signed by Jay S. Bybee, now a federal judge, or the law as it has been understood for decades, which prohibits the president from authorizing torture?

It's interesting that the Department of Defense memo, on Page 6, under Section III on Domestic Law, subsection A, Federal criminal law, article 1, Torture Statute, argues that individuals can only be prosecuted for torture under U.S. law if the "offense occur[ed] outside the United States." The memo asserts that 18 U.S.C., Sec. 2340 defines the U.S. "to include all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States," which, according to the memo, includes Guantanamo Bay. Thus, says the memo, "the Torture Statute does not apply to the conduct of U.S. personnel at GTMO."

If U.S. employees at Guantanamo are exempt from the Torture Statute because the "torture" must take place outside the U.S. and the memo correctly states that under U.S. law, Guantanamo is under U.S. jurisdiction, why has the Bush administration persistently argued--including before the Supreme Court--that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over the inmates at Guantanamo because it's under Cuban sovereignty and "outside the U.S"?

It's surprising, in a way, that these memos are such a surprise to everyone. In December 2003, government lawyers made the following arguments before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

...the detainees have absolutely no legal right to question U.S. actions on Guantanamo. Federal court jurisdiction should be foreclosed, government counsel insisted during oral argument before the Ninth Circuit, even if the plaintiffs were to claim that their captors were committing "acts of torture" on Guantanamo or were "summarily executing the detainees."

In other words, Bush's lawyers argued even then that the government had the legal right to torture and even execute prisoners, and the courts had no say in the matter.

So when Bush says we should feel "comfortable" that he told everyone to obey the law, it's important to keep in mind just what his administration thinks the law means. We should feel comfortable that he told everyone it was okay to torture and execute prisoners at Guantanamo. Somehow, I find it less than reassuring.

Josh Marshall addressed the scariest part of the Justice Department memo:

...But that whole discussion is different in kind from one passage in the report. I quote from the piece ...

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

Since when is a president vested with the authority to set aside laws he doesn't like? While the president does have the "executive order" powers, the Supreme Court has ruled that those must "be based either on an act of Congress or directly on the Constitution itself." Of course, if Bush can rely on a compliant congress--as he seems to have now--he can make executive orders and feel assured that congress will not use their limited powers of oversight.

Jose Padilla

Posted by Admin

Today Deputy Attorney General James Comey gave a briefing on the case of Jose Padilla. Supposedly the situation concerning Padilla is so vital to national security that he must be detained indefinitely as an enemy combatant and is not allowed visitors. He's not even allowed to consult with his attorneys. Instead, he's held in solitary confinement on a ship off the East Coast, where he's subject to who knows what kind of interrogation. One of the reasons previously given for continuing to hold him incommunicado was concern that he'd reveal methods of interrogation used against him. Because he's been given the same status as inmates at Guantanamo, it's reasonable to assume these could include physical abuse, sexual humiliation, sleep and food deprivation, dogs, threats of violent reprisals against his family, and even near-drowning.

Comey detailed the criminal intentions to which Padilla supposedly confessed, yet the justice system is replete with individuals who succumb to harsh interrogation techniques and confess to crimes they did not commit:

The Innocence Project in New York found that out of 123 people who have been exonerated by DNA evidence, nearly 27 percent had falsely confessed to the crime.

One high profile case is that of the Central Park Jogger. Several individuals confessed to ivolvement in the brutal attack on Trisha Meili. Years later, Manhattan's district attorney asked a judge to vacate the verdicts because of discrepancies between the "confessions" and the evidence and because another man had been linked to the crime through DNA and confessed.

Padilla's attorney said that if the U.S. had all this rock solid evidence, some of which they have now selectively released to the public, why not try him in court, get a conviction and keep America safe by keeping him behind bars without denying his rights of due process as an American. Comey's remarks were most telling:

We do not have any plans to present this, the information I have given you today, to a grand jury. I don't believe we could use this information in a criminal case, because we deprived him of access to his counsel and questioned him in the absence of counsel.

If what Comey says is true, America may now be less safer. If the Supreme Court rules, as it should, that Bush has no right to detain American citizens without due process, and Padilla is granted his right to a fair trial, all the evidence obtained from Padilla is legally worthless. As soon as his attorney is granted access, she will be able to detail how much of Padilla's "confession" was made under duress and regardless because he was not afforded a lawyer previously, his statements cannot be used. Unless the U.S. has additional evidence of Padilla's guilt, he would have to be released.

The Justice Department should have had the matter adjudicated before depriving Padilla of his rights. If the court ruled in the Bush administration's favor, Padilla could then have been reclassified as an enemy combatant and moved offshore.

According to today's news conference, Padilla confessed that he planned to use natural gas to blow up an apartment building or possibly use a dirty bomb. Assuming the confession is legitimate (and that's a stretch), why must Padilla be tried as an enemy combatant instead of receiving the same treatment as William Krar in Texas?

Krar pled guilty in November 2003 to posessing a weapon of mass destruction. He wasn't just planning or thinking about using a bomb to kill millions of people. He actually built the bomb:

Last month, an east Texas man pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Inside the home and storage facilities of William Krar, investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist and antigovernment literature.

Krar also conspired with others to obtain fake DoD and UN badges. So why wasn't Krar branded an "enemy combatant" and subject to the same conditions as Padilla when he appears to have been a more serious threat? Had Krar's name been Mohammed, he'd no doubt be in the same situation as Padilla.

Comey's statement today highlights one of the fundamental flaws with the administration being allowed to declare people enemy combatants and hold them "indefinitely." It's all very subjective and there's no way to ensure the individual's guilt; an innocent man could spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement, subject to God knows what behind closed doors, and never be allowed to see his family again. Surely this fits the definition of "cruel and inhumane."

Who can say whether Padilla's guilty as alleged? According to the Associated Press, Comey also said that if Padilla had gone through the usual system of justice--the one Constitutionally mandated for Americans--he might not have confessed and "would likely have ended up a free man." This means the primary evidence they have against Padilla are statements he made under duress.

The government decided he was guilty, forced a confession, and is now using that confession to justify their prior determination of his guilt. Since when is it legitimate for law enforcement to deny Americans their fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination and force confessions from people in order to gain a conviction from someone the police feel certain is guilty? This makes the police (or in this case the Justice Department) law enforcement, judge, and jury.

After the case of Brandon Mayfield, nobody should "trust" the government to decide someone's guilt or innocence. Let Americans decide for themselves whether Jose Padilla is a danger to them by impaneling twelve on a jury and presenting the evidence for their consideration.

Further, having men in our Justice Department who believe the ends justify the means and Americans should be subject to illegitimate methods to force them to confess smacks of the Salem Witch Trials (sometimes they'd pile weights on the accused's chest until the person confessed...or died) or some Medeival practice that goes against our American traditional of justice for all--not just justice for all but those who the president decides are undeserving.

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