Monday, June 28, 2004

Big Day for Supreme Court -- Bad day for you 

In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justices O'Connor and Breyer once again prove why they, collectively and individually, suck dick. Meanwhile, Justice Scalia continues march forward, alone but principled.

In the Hamdi case, Hamdi (an AMERICAN) filed a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus charging that his arrest and detention without charges (for over 2 years now, based solely on Bush's decision to label him an "enemy combatant") is illegal AND that if that label makes his detention legal, that he should at least be entitled to a full and fair opportunity to dispute the "enemy combatant" label under the Due Process Clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments.

The Government argued Hamdi's "enemy combatant" label made the detention without charge or trial legal because: (1) The President has war power to do as he choses without authorization from anyone; or (2) the Congressional bill passed days after 9/11 (the "AUMF") explicitly gave the President the power to do this. The Majority {O'Connor, Breyer, Rehnquist, Kennedy -- with Souter and Ginsberg concurring only with the remand) agreed with #2 and held that "Congress has in fact authorized Hamdi’s detention, through the AUMF."

The Government then argued that Hamdi should not be able to contest the "enemy combatant" label (there is no violation of Due Process so no right to grant Hamdi's Writ of Habeas Corpus) because: it would be "too burdensome" to make the Government come forward with evidence showing that Hamdi is, in fact, an "enemy combatant." The Majority both rejected and accepted this rationale. The Court held that Hamdi should be given a "meaningful opportunity" to put forth why he isn't an enemy combatant BUT (so as not to "burden" the poor old executive too much) the Government can use Hearsay to establish Hamdi is an enemy combatant AND the Government is given a presumption that Hamdi is an enemy combatant (which Hamdi must attempt to rebut).

Why this is wrong. There are two reasons why the Executive could not (until today) label and detain without full Due Process, an American citizen without trial: (1) Section 4001(a), passed in 1971, says "[n]o citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress.”; and (2) the "Supension Clause" in the Constitution allows the Executive to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus only with express congressional approval -- if the Writ is not suspended, then FULL Due Process must be given.

The Majority ruled that the AUMF meets Section 4001(a)'s requirements (the Executive has the power to label him an enemy combatant), and ignores the Suspension Clause requirements (no full Due Process for Hamdi).

Scalia writes a brilliant dissent rehashing the entire Anglo-Saxon legal tradition. His argument: the common law "Suspension Clause" requires that either: (i) the govt charge a citizen and subject him to normal federal criminal procedures; or (ii) the Congress authorize the President to suspend Habeas. The Congress' AUMF bill did not accomplish #(ii). Because Habeas wasn't suspended here, Hamdi should be given the full Due Process right to contest his label of "enemy combatant."

Here's a snippet from Scalia's dissent:
It should not be thought, however, that the plurality’s evisceration of the Suspension Clause augments, principally, the power of Congress. As usual, the major effect of its constitutional improvisation is to increase the power of the Court. Having found a congressional authorization for detention of citizens where none clearly exists; and having discarded the categorical procedural protection of the Suspension Clause; the plurality then proceeds, under the guise of the Due Process Clause, to prescribe what proce-dural protections it thinks appropriate. It “weigh[s] the private interest . . . against the Government’s asserted interest,” and-just as though writing a new Constitution—comes up with an unheard-of system in which the citizen rather than the Government bears the burden of proof, testimony is by hearsay rather than live witnesses, and the presiding officer may well be a “neutral” military officer rather than judge and jury. It claims authority to engage in this sort of “judicious balancing” from Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U. S. 319 (1976), a case involving . . . the withdrawal of disability benefits! Whatever the merits of this technique when newly recognized property rights are at issue (and even there they are questionable), it has no place where the Constitution and the common law already supply an answer.
As many of you already know, I took a course from Kenneth Starr this past semester. Starr told us that he believed the real "story" of the current Supreme Court is the story of "pragmatism over principle." The Court, he claimed, repeatedly ignores principle in order to allow the legislative and executive branches to accomplish certain ends (as long as something doesn't go too far, it is okay, even if it violates the Constitution "in principle."). Scalia would likely agree in this case.
There is a certain harmony of approach in the plurality’s making up for Congress’s failure to invoke the Suspension Clause and its making up for the Executive’s failure to apply what it says are needed procedures—an approach that reflects what might be called a Mr. Fix-it Mentality. The plurality seems to view it as its mission to Make Everything Come Out Right, rather than merely to decree the consequences, as far as individual rights are con-cerned, of the other two branches’ actions and omissions. Has the Legislature failed to suspend the writ in the current dire emergency? Well, we will remedy that failure by prescribing the reasonable conditions that a suspension should have included. And has the Executive failed to live up to those reasonable conditions? Well, we will ourselves make that failure good, so that this dangerous fellow (if he is dangerous) need not be set free. The problem with this approach is not only that it steps out of the courts’ modest and limited role in a democratic society; but that by re-peatedly doing what it thinks the political branches ought to do it encourages their lassitude and saps the vitality of government by the people.
Full text of the opinion (Adobe required).

Sunday, June 27, 2004

From Atrios' Comments  

This guy (handle "Little Brother") summarizes media people pretty well I think. The comment is in response to the Gwen Ifill Meet the Press comments about Michael Moore's movie. Enjoy:

-- Yeah, Gwen strikes me as a perfect example of the apparently decent and reasonably bright journaloid who gets carried along in the undertow of the infomedia profession and buys into the dominant paradigm to a degree directly proportional to her success. Or, as some would have it, quaffs the Kool-Aid™.

But, in all (but not too much) fairness, I don't think such folks experience a Faustian/Christian crisis wherein the Malificent Muse of Infomedia leads them to a mountaintop and offers them the world in exchange for their soul. I think their soul leaches away one drip at a time, and that they really imagine they are remaining, or becoming, diligent, integrated, authentic, fair & balanced.

I'll bet that when they look in the monitor or mirror, they don't see the shapeless ruined wraith they've become. I'm not saying that they're more to be pitied than censured; they're to be pitied and censured.

-- Re:those boring pedants who pass themselves off as "presidential scholars"

How true. My epiphany came years ago, when the News Hour (another pure manifestation of the gradually co-opted infotainment industry) was still MacNeil-Lehrer. This might've been as far back as the Carter Administration. Anyhoo, it was when "terrorism experts" were beginning to pop up on the tube.

I don't remember their names, although one was a Brian somebody. They purported to have impressive military and/or intelligence credentials, although they were now private citizens. And it hit me: Who is this guy? Who are these beady-eyed, seedy-looking guys who blather on so knowingly and pretentiously blather on about the arcane mechanisms of terror? More to the point, why should I believe or trust a fucking word these shadowy authorities utter?

As Conrad wrote, sometimes one gets such a flash of insight. I began to pay attention to my Inner Bogometer, and on the whole I think it was a useful revelation. Even the winsome Doris Kearns Goodwin doesn't enthrall me any more.

By the way, on the very night of 9/11, unable to relax, I was surfing on the PC while some panel show babbled sententiously on the TV in the other room. Nightline, maybe. I heard the unmistakable bloviating of the phony expert muttering fitfully about the Meaning of what had happened and how our Gummint should respond. I didn't know who he was, just that he had a lot to say, and was treated with deference bordering on awe.

When I finally went in to turn the damn thing off, I saw the perpetrator: Tom Clancy. How fitting and perfect: In our darkest hour, Amerika turned for enlightenment, if not salvation, to a writer of popular fiction.

WMD's: Keeping Your Eye on the Ball 

Public Opinion: All this criticism of Bush for going to war in Iraq is groundless. After all, even the German, French and Russian intelligence agencies "agreed" that Saddam possesed WMD's. Therefore, Bush's decision to go to war has nothing to do with incompetence or some hidden agenda -- he was just misled (like everyone else). Plus, we're safer because Saddam is no longer in power."

You: If this were true then what was Colin Powell doing at the UN with that whole 6th-grade-like presentation? Keep your eye on the ball. Clinton didn't Saddam HAD WMD's (he did think Saddam was pursuing them), neither did the Germans, French, or Russians. That's what the fight was about.

Russia: Putin said [Michael White, "Putin demands proof over Iraqi weapons," The Guardian, October 12, 2002.], "Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners yet. This fact has also been supported by the information sent by the CIA to the US Congress."

France: French intelligence services said, "according to secret agents at the DGSE, Saddam's Iraq does not represent any kind of nuclear threat at this time...It [the French assessment] contradicts the CIA's analysis." [French Intelligence Service Assesses Iraqi War Potential," FBIS, Sept 25, 2002.] French spies said that the Iraqi nuclear threat claimed by the United States was a "phony threat." (Go here for nice synopsis.)

Remember Bush's speech to us on the eve of war?
"In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act, in the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687 -- both still in effect -- the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will.

Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and urged the nations of the world to unite and bring an end to this danger. On November 8th, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power. For the last four-and-a-half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that Council's long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours."

Great Democratic Experiment (continued) 

Michael Moore's Farenheit 911 continues to draw heat from media as being blatantly false (non-factual). I'm watching Meet the Press and Gwen Ifill (from PBS's Washington Week), and Russert asks her how she liked the film. Like Lisa Myers' recent broadside attack on Farenheit, Gwen Ifill says the film is not "factual". [Transcript here]

MR. RUSSERT: There's a new movie, as we all well know, "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Michael Moore, which is playing to packed houses. Gwen, you've seen the movie. What's your sense?

MS. IFILL: You know, I look at this movie as a journalist, and as a journalist I have this affection for facts and accuracy. And even though there are facts in this movie, on whole it's not accurate. Michael Moore is guilty of the same thing that he and a lot of Democrats say that the Republicans are guilty of, especially on the Iraq-9/11 connection, and that's--I call it guilt by juxtaposition. You put several facts out there then and say to the viewer, "How could this not be true?"

The president, according to Democrats, did that with 9/11. He said, "Well, there was terrorism on 9/11. There's terrorism in Afghanistan. And we know that Saddam Hussein consorted with terrorists, and you make the conclusion." Michael Moore is doing the same thing. He's saying, "Well, look at the president and the Saudis. They were all friendly." You see a lot of pictures of him shaking hands with people wearing turbans. You raise mysterious questions about that, never completely answer them, and then leave with a lot of, I think, fairly cheap shots at this administration, which makes it a movie, but it doesn't make it fact.
How does this allegation, even if true, make the film is not factual? Unlike Lisa Myers, Gwen Ifill doesn't strike me as a partisan hack. So, she's not doing this because Dick Cheney is puppeteering her via a hand up her ass. So why then? It seems to me, the only possible conclusion = media personnel think Moore's film is not "factual" simply because he presents a side of the story which "they" consider fantastic. Therefore = not factual.

It's as simple as that. Disagree with "us" to a great extent and you're making fiction.
UPDATE: Atrios agrees.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Education of Caption Yee (continued) 

Captain Yee appeared in public for the first time Friday.
He appeared Friday night at a Chinatown benefit to raise money for his legal bills, although a gag order limited his ability to talk about the case.

"I'm not here tonight to talk about my case, but to thank those who stand in support of civil liberties," Yee said. "I thank everyone for their patience, and God willing, they'll be able to hear my story."
Pretty convenient for the military I'd say. You arrest him with a huge press blitz and tell everyone he's a terrorist, hold him incommunicado for 76 days, quietly drop all the terror-related charges, convict him of downloading pornography (which a subsequent judge rightly tosses out), then impose a gag order so he can't tell anyone what happened to him.

What's in my Pocket? 

As though scripted -- as on que -- the police officer caught on tape beating a suspect has tossed a familiar smoke screen. Now watch the press (and those clamoring for the cops' head) lose themselves in the cloud.

The officer has resorted to the all-too-familiar, focus on the object in the defendant's pants, "I thought it was a gun", defense. As in previous cases of police brutality -- this sleight-of-hand is meant only to get us looking in the wrong direction and asking the wrong questions.

Remember the Amadou Diallo slaying (Springsteen wrote the song "41 shots" in memoriam)? The cops admitted they made a "mistake" of thinking Diallo was reaching for a gun, when in reality (they later "discovered") he was reaching for his wallet. Then everyone worked themselves into a frenzy because we had an "admission" by the police that there was a mistake [the press can report that as loudly as they want] and this mistake resulted in police killing a man who was just reaching for his wallet! What gets lost in the shuffle? The very likely truth that Diallo wasn't reaching for ANYTHING when he was gunned down. I said it then, and I'll say it now -- keep your eye on the officer, not the object. Without the object, the police are defenseless -- and they know it. So they always go for the object. Always.

In this case, the guy initially ran and then put his hands on his head and lied on the ground. The blue men then ran up, and with several of them on his back, one officer proceeded to beat him with his flashlight and kick him in the head. He was giving himself up, does it really matter what's in his pocket?

Despite the irrelevance, and just as in Diallo's and countless previous cases, the present bad boys in blue are pointing to the alleged object (a pair of wire-cutters).
"A police officer caught on videotape pummeling a suspected car thief with a flashlight said he delivered the blows because another officer warned that the man was carrying a gun, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

John J. Hatfield told investigators that another officer attempting to handcuff 36-year-old Stanley Miller after a car chase Wednesday felt a metal object in Miller's pants, the newspaper said, citing anonymous sources.

Hatfield tried to subdue Miller by kicking him and striking him 11 times with a metal flashlight. The object mistaken for a gun was later revealed to be wire cutters in Miller's right front pants pocket.

Hatfield's account was corroborated by two other officers at the scene, the Times reported. Officers were also concerned that Miller may have been concealing a weapon in his left hand, but they later learned he was clenching money."
Keep your eye on the officer, not the object.

UPDATE: TalkLeft has apparently already fallen prey to the magic.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Bush -- perpetually the "deer-in-headlights" 

Via Yahoo News
Ireland - President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq and insisted most of Europe backed the move during a tense interview Thursday on Irish television.

On several occasions during the 15-minute interview, Bush asked RTE correspondent Carol Coleman not to interrupt him.


Bush was asked whether he was satisfied with the level of political, economic and military support coming from European nations in Iraq.

"First of all, most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq. Really what you're talking about is France, isn't it? And they didn't agree with my decision. They did vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. ... We just had a difference of opinion about whether, when you say something, you mean it."
You see France has always argued that if you say something = you DON'T mean it. Whereas, President Bush argued that if you say something = you DO mean it. As this interview makes plain, there is much more dividing the US and France than that great body of water. I continue to hope, however, that someday we can overcome these monumental differences and come together as a planet.

Seriously though, I'm starting to think Bush has contracted George Costanza disease ("it's not a lie, if you believe it").

UPDATE: According to the Irish Independent, "THE White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTE journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush." (link via Atrios)

Poker with Dick Cheney 

In Poker & Liberty's absence I feel compelled to post this account of a poker game with Dick.

Public Defender Dude  

Keepin' it real about the recent police brutality evidence. I swear I share a brain with this guy.

Tort Reform in the New York Times 

Great Op-ed piece in the Times about the "Medical Malpractice Crisis." Basically, it's a bunch of shit. To top it off, Insurance companies and the AMA are working hard to keep secret the data that confirms it. Via NYTIMES:
in several states specifically characterized by the A.M.A. as in "crisis," the evidence is rolling in that malpractice claims and awards are not appreciably increasing, and in some instances are declining.

The A.M.A. has its crisis states marked in red on a map of the U.S. on its Web site. One of the red states is Missouri. But a press release in April from the Missouri Department of Insurance said, "Missouri medical malpractice claims, filed and paid, fell to all-time lows in 2003 while insurers enjoyed a cash-flow windfall."

Another red state on the A.M.A. map is New Jersey. Earlier this month, over the furious objections of physicians' representatives, a judge ordered the release of data showing how much was being paid out to satisfy malpractice claims. The judge's order was in response to a suit by The Bergen Record.

The newspaper reported that an analysis of the data showed that malpractice payments in New Jersey had declined by 21 percent from 2001 to 2003. But malpractice insurance premiums surged over the same period. A.M.A. officials told me yesterday that they thought the New Jersey data was "incomplete," but they did not dispute the 21 percent figure.

Last summer a legislative committee in Florida, another red state, put insurance executives, lawyers and medical lobbyists under oath in an effort to get to the truth about malpractice costs. When questions about frivolous lawsuits arose, Sandra Mortham, the chief executive of the Florida Medical Association, told the panel, "I don't feel that I have the information to say whether or not there are frivolous lawsuits in the state of Florida."

There is no question that malpractice insurance premiums have increased sharply over the past few years. In some instances they have skyrocketed. But, as the Congressional Budget Office has noted, there are a variety of reasons for that, including the cost of malpractice awards, decreases in the investment income of insurance companies and cyclical factors in the insurance market.

"Insurance companies' investment yields have been lower for the past few years," the budget office said in a report in January, "putting pressure on premiums to make up the difference."

The disinformation campaign of the tort reform zealots, and their sustained attacks on the rights of patients who have been harmed by doctors, have been disgraceful. The proper prescription for this apparently chronic disorder is a strong dose of the truth.

Great Democratic Experiment (cont) 

Democracy and Moore's Farenheit 911 --

Caught some MSNBC this morning. They had an amazing segment on Moore's film by Lisa Myers [Myers is commonly referred to as "NBC's senior investigative correspondent"]. Myers' segment was presented as a balanced, unbiased "review" of the film.

Myers basically presented a four part attack on the film based on the film's "factual inaccuracies." The "facts" are wrong, according to Myers, because:

(1) despite the close relationship between the Bush's the Saudi Royal family, Bush's foreign policy has nothing to do with this relationship; [Someone please point out how this is an objective fact capable of being disproven -- especially by her assertion that this "just isn't true."]

(2) the allegation by Moore that Bush allowed the Bin Ladin family special clearance to fly out of the country immediately after 9/11 is untrue -- because Richard Clarke said HE gave them the clearance! (First of all, here's what Lisa Myers, Lisa Myers, had to say about Clarke while he was the administration's target. Now Myers cites him as evidence that Bush is great and Moore is a liar. Secondly, go back and look at Clarke's testimony -- he says he was brought the request for clearance from either the FBI or the State Department. In other words, this wasn't his baby. It came from somebody else.]

(3) Moore's attack on the "coalition of the willing" is unfair. Moore points out that the coalition includes three countries that do not even have an army, and thus, have sent no troops (e.g. Iceland, Costa Rica, and another country you've never heard of). This is unfair, according to Myers, because he doesn't mention Britain and Poland (countries who DID send troops). Again, please explain how this makes the film "factually inacurrate."

(4) Lastly, Myers chides Moore for his "graphic depictions" of the human casualties of the Iraq war. He spends too much time, Myers says, focusing on the injuries sustained by Iraqies at the hands of US soldiers, and he doesn't mention Saddam Hussein's torture chambers and gassing his own people. Somehow, this too is factually inaccurate.

Here's the kicker, the segment closes with the talking head asking Myers, very colloquially (so you, the viewer, get the sense of getting something special), what "her impression" of the film was! As if she hadn't just spent 10 minutes spewing her fucking opinion. Myers says, with a straight fucking face, "The film does make some interesting points, but I it's too heavy on factually inaccurate, polemic propaganda. And, it's too bad, because that will eclipse the film's worthwhile points." What are the worthwhile points? I must've missed that review (probably it'll be on tomorrow).

This is what Democracy looks like folks.

[UPDATE: Your own Public Opinions beat THE Atrios to the punch on this one]

Thursday, June 24, 2004

HUGE Change in Criminal Law Today! 

Mark you fackin' calendars kids. Today marks the beginning of a new era for sentencing in the federal and state systems. The case is Blakely v. Washington

"In this case, petitioner was sentenced to more than three years above the 53-month statutory maximum of the standard range because he had acted with "deliberate cruelty." The facts supporting that finding were neither admitted by petitioner nor found by a jury. The State nevertheless contends that there was no Apprendi violation because the relevant "statutory maximum" is not 53 months, but the 10-year maximum for class B felonies in §9A.20.021(1)(b). It observes that no exceptional sentence may exceed that limit. See §9.94A.420. Our precedents make clear, however, that the "statutory maximum" for Apprendi purposes is the maximum sentence a judge may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant. See Ring, supra, at 602 (" 'the maximum he would receive if punished according to the facts reflected in the jury verdict alone' ". In other words, the relevant "statutory maximum" is not the maximum sentence a judge may impose after finding additional facts, but the maximum he may impose without any additional findings. When a judge inflicts punishment that the jury's verdict alone does not allow, the jury has not found all the facts "which the law makes essential to the punishment," Bishop, supra, §87, at 55, and the judge exceeds his proper authority.

The judge in this case could not have imposed the exceptional 90-month sentence solely on the basis of the facts admitted in the guilty plea. Those facts alone were insufficient because, as the Washington Supreme Court has explained, "[a] reason offered to justify an exceptional sentence can be considered only if it takes into account factors other than those which are used in computing the standard range sentence for the offense,"
The Court changed the definition of "statutory maximum" today to include the ever-popular sentencing ranges (in state and federal sentencing guidelines). Upward departures (outside the range) are a violation of the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial. Lookout though, downward departures might be next. More on this later.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Another Study Confirms US Criminal Justice System is Fucked 

Another study (this one by the ABA) confirms what countless other studies told us 10 years ago: the "war on drugs" and "get tough" sentencing are completely irrational and indefensible. The ABA study, of course, will have exactly the same effect on sentencing in the criminal justice system. None. Via the Associated Press:
"the federal government spent $9 billion on jails and prisons in 1982 and $49 billion in 1999, an increase of more than 400 percent. The likelihood that someone living in the United States will go to prison during his or her lifetime more than tripled to 6.6 percent between 1974 and 2001, the report added.
Also from the study: If you're a black male born in the US in 2001, you have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in your lifetime. How many times have you heard the phrase: "We have the best system in the world..." Don't let that statement go unchallenged anymore.

Best system in the world my ass.

The Great Democratic Experiment 

According to the movie review in the New York Times:
"Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 will be properly debated on the basis of its factual claims and cinematic techniques, [but] it should first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression."
Pay attention now. We're going to have a little experiment here. We're going to see just how "democratically" this film is received. We already know there has been a high-level, concerted plan to keep this film from being shown in your local movie theater. Let's all just keep an eye on this great democratic experiment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Public Opinions seriously bored with being right all the time 

In yet another instance of Public Opinions' foresight -- your favorite blogsite has again correctly prognosticated future events. Way back on February 19th Public Opinions predicted (under the title "Your Papers Please") that this guy's arrest and subsequent conviction would be upheld by the US Supreme Court.

The issue was whether a US citizen, after being accosted by a jackbooted police officer, could refuse to provide his/her name (whether that refusal could be a crime). Answer = Yes.

(To be read, as should all Supreme Court search and seizure decisions, to the sound of "Taps" playing.) Until yesterday, the court had never clearly said what police may require of a citizen in a Terry stop -- although in a famous concurrence to Terry, Justice Byron R. White had said there is no obligation to respond to police questions.
The point: reading a little Public Opinions every day can make you smarter.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Those Lazy US Workers 

Via the Associated Press:
U.S. workers have fewer legal rights to time off for family matters than workers in most other countries, and rank near the bottom in pregnancy and sick leave, a Harvard School of Public Health study found. The report, released Wednesday in Washington, D.C., was based on research on 168 countries.

Some disturbing facts: More than 160 countries offer guaranteed paid leave to women for childbirth, according to the study. The U.S. Family Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to about half of all mothers and nothing for the rest, the study said.

139 countries mandate paid sick leave, with 117 of them guaranteeing at least one week. The United States does not guarantee time off for illness.
Forty-five countries, not including the United States, ensure that fathers either receive paid paternity leave or have a right to paid paternity leave, the study said.

Nice going America.

Witness in Martha Stewart Case Being Tried for Perjury! 

Via the NYTimes:
Larry Stewart, a U.S. Secret Service laboratory director, "faces two counts of perjury for testifying in February that he was involved in examinations of the worksheet. He actually was consulted only briefly and did not do the actual work, court documents said."

You all will recall that this government-funded joke testified that Bacanovic's notation to sell Martha's ImClone stock "at 60" was written in "different ink".

The Government cheats. Even when it doesn't have to.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Law in the Time of Cholera -- the Torture Memo 

When propaganda leads to confusion.

Much has been written and said about the so called torture memo (pdf file).

However, as usual, the proper focus is not the talking heads' focus. The proper focus is not that the memo dares to argue that certain interrogation techniques are in accordance with US LAW (they likely are). If this and other recent events has shown anything, it is that the LAW has long countenanced these and other similarly disturbing activities. Public Opinion on these matters is formed not by the law as it is (or by some etherial notion of what it once "was") but by rhetoric and propaganda.

For Example:
1) The Patriot Act is roundly denounced as being the harbinger of martial law. Public Opinion --> "You can't do that!" In reality, the Act only marginally increased the powers of law enforcement, and the Constitution's language (as interpreted by precedent) likely does not reach these expansions of power.

2) Many were shocked to hear that the US would detain foreign persons as "enemy combatants", and that it would hold them, without charge or trial, for as long as it wished in Guantanamo Bay. Public Opinion --> "You can't do that!" Charges were levied that this action violated the Geneva Convention, and US Constitutional Law. The public was more shocked, perhaps, to learn that the Geneva Convention's language is incredibly vague, and US law has never been held to apply outside US borders (The Sup. Ct. is poised to reaffirm this fact, not necessarily based on partisan voting, but on fucking precedent -- as we learn that the US did something similar after the second World War).

3) Moral indignation accompanied the Bush administration's decision to detain American citizens and hold them without access to counsel, and without charging them. Public Opinion --> "You can't do that!" Oh no? Ask Jose Padilla if they can.

4) Lastly, the "torture memo" is held up as some sort of smoking gun -- the evidence proving that the Bush administration is evil or Un-American. Public Opinion --> "You can't do that!" Sorry, but the memo merely summarizes the LAW, and the LAW apparently does not prohibit, in any black letter sense, the high-stress positions and sensory deprivations.

If Public Opinion does not spring from actual LAW, then where does it come from? Simply put, it comes from propaganda (or "principles" for those folks perferring euphamisms). Why must the US defeat and kill the Russians? Germans? Japanese? Vietnamese? Chinese? Guatamalans? Nicaraguans, etc.? Because "they" want to rule the world! Because "they" arrest their own citizens in the middle of night
-- using stormtroopers!
-- who spy on their own people!
-- who break down the front door of their house!
-- and send them to prison without trial!
-- without access to a lawyer!
-- or without a "fair trial"!
-- and they TORTURE THEM!

This is what we tell the children of American society. "So you see, little Johnny, that is why we must sweep the world clean of these evil doers." Trouble is, Johnny gets a little confused when he grows up and sees his own government doing the things only the "evil-doers" do. Of course, it is only a mild inconvenience. Johnny is quickly reprogrammed with hollow arguments "distinguishing" the two situations -- and right back to work you go!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Chomsky on Reagan 

A puppet, controlled by his "advisors".
"One does not blame an actor for the content of the words that come from his mouth. When we speak of the policies of the Reagan administration, then, we are not referring to the figure set up to front for them by an administration whose major strength was in public relations."

Sound familiar? Via ZNet.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Dead Man Walkin' --  

Kop has already did a solid and succinct job of dissecting Reagan, but having been inundated with all this funereal propaganda about what a swell guy he was (I just heard a talking head say: “he appealed to average Americans because he was an average American…”), I feel compelled to post my dissent here. It has recently been suggested, by some, that I am overly fawning in my Chomsky posts. Perhaps, but if you want to see true sycophantism -- turn on your TV set. Seriously, who do I have to blow to get this obsequious bullshit off of my TV screen?

The Reagan legacy, a synopsis – eliminated the FCC’s fairness doctrine, lowered taxes on the wealthiest Americans, cut benefits to the poorest Americans, dramatically increased the military budget, packed the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues, and worked illegally to destroy a popular movements in the Latin America.

1) In the mid 1980’s, Reagan eliminated the FCC’s “fairness doctrine”, which required radio and tv air-time for dissenting views. Thus, by the 1990’s, “talk radio” listeners were treated only to daily tirades and misinformation vomited by right-wing nut jobs.

2) Reagan allocated over $1 trillion dollars to the military budget in his first four years in office. Reagan cut $140 billion in social programs for the poorest Americans, meanwhile he increased “defense” spending by $181 billion in the same period. His tax cuts of $190 billion went, largely, to the wealthiest Americans.

In essence, Reagan introduced the economic policy of “cut and spend”, with the “cut” only applicable to the poorest Americans and the “spend” applicable only to weapons contractors. Reagan claimed that his dramatic tax cuts would result in a balanced budget because the tax cuts would stimulate the economy and generate new revenue. Sound familiar? It didn’t work then either.

Reagan launched the attack on so-called “Welfare” in America. He slashed AFDC, food stamps, and health care for the poor through Medicare. Not to worry, argued Reagan, private enterprise would take care of poverty! His presidency marked the beginning of the disinformation campaign against welfare – convincing most Americans that their hard-earned tax dollars went largely to fund baby-making schemes in the heart of America’s inner cities. In reality, only a small percentage of tax money goes (or went) to pay for “welfare”, most goes to “defense” (offense) spending.

3) Prior to Reagan’s arrival: the death penalty was unconstitutional in the United States; Roe v. Wade had yet to be severely curtailed; affirmative action was alive and well. Reagan named Williams Rehnquist the Chief Justice and appointed Clarence Thomas.

4) Most disgustingly, the Reagan administration funded an illegal war, with your tax dollars, against the people of Nicaragua. Shortly before Reagan entered office, a revolution took place in Nicaragua where the hugely popular Sandinista movement overthrew the corrupt Somoza government. US public opinion was against military involvement in Nicaragua, despite that fact, the Reagan administration, through the CIA, funded the “contras”. The contras had no support in their own country, and were forced to operate from another US client state, Honduras. From there, they raided Nicaragua’s farms and villages, killing men, women and children. Torture, multilation, and rape were common practice. In 1984, in violation of international and US law, the Reagan administration gave the green light to mine the harbors of Nicaragua.

The US Congress, shortly thereafter, made it illegal to support “directly or indirectly, the military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua.” The Reagan administration ignored this law, and began covertly funding their indiscretions in Nicaragua via arms sales to Iran (in return for money and the release of hostages in Lebanon). The money went directly to fund the contras civilian warfare in Nicaragua; popularly known as the “Iran-contra affair”.

Reagan repeatedly lied to the American people about his administration’s illegal actions with respect to Nicaragua and the contras. Reagan was never impeached, or in any way held accountable for his actions. I still remember, as many of you likely do also, his testimony to Congress, consisting largely, if not solely, of “I don’t recall”.

He was not a great man, despite what the talking heads say. Many words come to mind to describe what he and his cronies did (and are still doing under Bush II), but “wisdom” is definitely not one of them. I know it’s not cool to pick on old dead guys, but it also isn’t cool to pretend someone was fucking Winston Churchill when they were more like Warren Harding.

Prediction: this man’s death will now play prominently in the Bush II reelection campaign. Hell, if they had their druthers, they’d prop his stuffed corpse on the platform at the NYC convention this summer.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The "New" Imperial Grand Strategy 

Chomsky breakin it muthafuckin down. A truly amazing read.
The phrase "new imperial grand strategy" is not mine. It has a much more interesting source: the leading establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. The invasion of Iraq was virtually announced in Sept 2002, along with the Bush Administration's National Security Strategy, which declared the intention to dominate the world for the indefinite future and to destroy any potential challenge to US domination. The UN was informed that it could be "relevant" if it authorized what Washington would do anyway, or else it could become a debating society, as Administration moderate Colin Powell instructed them. The invasion of Iraq was to be the first test of the new doctrine announced in the NSS, "the petri dish in which this experiment in pre-emptive policy grew," the New York Times reported as the experiment was declared a grand success a year ago.

The doctrine and its implementation in Iraq elicited unprecedented protest around the world, including the foreign policy elite at home. In Foreign Affairs, the "new imperial grand strategy" was immediately criticized as a threat to the world and to the US. Elite criticism was remarkably broad, but on narrow grounds: the principle is not wrong, but the style and implementation are dangerous, a threat to US interests. The basic thrust of the criticism was captured by Madeleine Albright, also in Foreign Affairs. She pointed out that every President has a similar doctrine, but keeps it in his back pocket, to be used when necessary. It is a serious error to smash people in face with it, and to implement it in brazen defiance even of allies, let alone rest of world. That is simply foolish, another illustration of the dangerous combination of "arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence."

-- snip --

There is a curious performance underway right now among Western commentators, who are solemnly debating whether the Bush administration downgraded the "war on terror" in favor of its ambitions in Iraq. The only surprising aspect of the revelations of former Bush administration officials that provoked the debate is that anyone finds them surprising - particularly right now, when it is so clear that by invading Iraq the administration did just that: knowingly increased the threat of terror to achieve their goals in Iraq....should there be any surprise that terror should be downgraded in favor of the invasion of Iraq? Or that Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld-Cheney and associates were pressuring the intelligence community to come up with some shreds of evidence to justify invasion, Blair and Straw as well: Iraqi links to terror, WMD, anything would do. It is rather striking that as one after another pretext collapses, and the leadership announces a new one, commentary follows dutifully along, always conspicuously avoiding the obvious reason, which is virtually unmentionable. Among Western intellectuals, that is; not in Iraq. US polls in Baghdad found that a large majority assumed that the motive for the invasion was to take control of Iraq's resources and reorganize the Middle East in accord with US interests. It is not unusual for those at the wrong end of the club to have a clearer understanding of the world in which they live.

There's much more in this article; probably the longest we've seen from Chomsky in 6 months. Go.

Michael Moore Trailer -- Fahrenheit 911 

It gives me comfort to know this guy is still out there swinging away.


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