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The Times, Habeas Corpus, and those Bad Ol’ Terrorists

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The Times continues its faux-reporting over the “controversy” that has erupted over whether we should act like tyrants and keep “terror suspects” in cages indefinitely without trial, or act like decent adults and follow the rule of law. Previously, The Times came out in support of the former option, happily announcing that “Detainees will be Held, but not Tried” – but as the political winds shift, so do does the leading newspaper, which now plumps for the worst aspects of both, much like President Obama. They even invoked the mysterious “experts”, who, apparently, do not include the Supreme Court.

As Jane Mayer expertly analyzed in a recent New Yorker, the Justice Department is now in a state of civil war. One one side, Attorney General Eric Holder, who advocates that “terror suspects” be vetted in a court of law to determine what, if anything, they’re guilty of. He is joined by a majority of our Supreme Court, human-rights activists, and other so-called sympathizers of terrorism. Opposing him stands Rahm Emanuel, the President’s chief of staff, who contends these “enemy combatants” deserve no quarter and should be tried, without evidence, before a “military tribunal” after being held indefinitely (after an interrogation by torture). Joining Mr. Emanual, ironically, is the Tea Party faction, along with “Republicans” in general, all of whom claim that allowing suspects of terrorism a fair trial stands tantamount to treason.

President Obama, as is his wont, has opted for a “middle path”, as The Times reports today. Some detainees, specifically those whom he is sure to convict, will be publicly tried, and the rest will just be held indefinitely because it’s impossible to convict anyone you’ve tortured a confession out of without looking like a butcher.

Granting civilian trials to some “terrorists” and secretly sentencing the others creates a multi-tiered justice system wherein only the suspects for whom conviction is assured will be allowed to go to trial. This is pre-judgment and worse.  It it is a system that does away with even the pretense of caring whether or not these detainees are actually guilty. The government clearly seeks a few nefarious-looking Terrorists to be convicted by a civilian jury – thus proving that “the system works” – and then machinery to convict the rest of the suspects who could not be tried by jury because they were interrogated by torture and their cases would be thrown out (as, indeed, many have already).

It’s worth remembering that a vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were guilty of nothing more than bad luck. An ex-Bush official is on record saying that most of the people we held there were totally innocent.

But beyond this, The Times completely neglects to mention that these military commissions are illegal. The Supreme court has ruled, in numerous landmark cases, that the whole military commissions process is unconstitutional.  Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively nullifies the necessary sections of the Military Commissions Act, and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld restored Habeas Corpus and Sixth Amendment rights (the right to a speedy trial) to detainees.

In fact, the majority opinion of Hamdan states that all detainees be given a “regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples“, and clearly states that the commissions system set up in Guantanamo does not fit that requirement.

Any article discussing discussing military commissions has the duty to mention these cases, but since they’re  inconvenient to the prevailing narrative, they become “non-newsworthy”. I’m sure the “experts” they quote (nearly all Bush flunkies) know better.

One hears often from opponents of civil liberties that it’s “borderline criminal” to read a terrorism suspect his rights, that such actions provide “comfort to the enemy”, or as Ms. Palin thundered in her memorable Tea Party speech, that we’re allowing Terrorists who “hate our freedoms” to “lawyer up”. As Scott Brown, Massachusetts Senator and Tea Party darling once remarked: “Some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us. I disagree.”

But of course it is not for this charlatan to decide, but for the Supreme Court, who, unfortunately for Mr. Brown, has consistently ruled in favor of detainee rights. And for the record, the Constitution prescribes the relevant clauses to protect the rights of people who have been accused of a crime but not yet found guilty, much like these so-called “terrorists”. Until convicted in a court of law, these people are, by definition, guilty of nothing.

The reasoning employed by the Palin-Brown faction makes the dangerous assumption that anyone the government accuses of terrorism magically becomes a terrorist. In the warped mind of a Tea Partier, suspicion is proof. This works fine for most people, so long as it’s only brown Arabs with weird squiggly writing whom we lock up in cages with no trial, but the danger of promoting totalitarian practices is that you never quite know against whom they’ll be used next.


It’s also worth mentioning that every other country that has had problems with terrorism – India, Greece, Spain, etc. – have all found ways to deal with it within their already existing legal structures. They saw no need to create new levels of “justice” wherein some suspects get trials and others simply go to jail forever.

Sarah Palin: Political Scientist

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Apropos Ms. Palin’s recent entry into political commentary, I think it’s important to remember this lengthy article in October’s Vanity Fair, written by none other than Ms. Palin’s once (but not future) son-in-law, the man who impregnated her daughter, Mr. Levi Johnson.

The public saw Levi only once, following the bizarre announcement that Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant during the 2008 election. He made a single appearance at the Republican National Convention, which the article suggests he was basically forced to do, and nobody really heard from him again. Until now.

Palin comes across in Mr. Johnson’s article as a careerist par-none, a person for whom the next step in the executive (here, political) ladder is their sole driving force, who would be willing to sacrifice anything and tell any lie to get ahead, for whom even her children and (soon-to-be) grandchildren are little more than political pawns. It seems likely that Mr. Johnson has some ax to grind with Ms. Palin, as the bulk of the article states how she never had time for her children or family – but he levels some charges which, if true, would be fantastically outrageous.

You may remember, for instance, the short-lived speculation that Ms. Palin’s most recent son, Trig, was actually her daughter’s. This turned out not to be true, but a similar scheme almost went into play. As Levi explains:

“You’ve got to listen to what my mom just said.” Sarah told me she had a great idea: we would keep it a secret—nobody would know that Bristol was pregnant. She told me that once Bristol had the baby she and Todd would adopt him. That way, she said, Bristol and I didn’t have to worry about anything.

Sarah kept mentioning this plan. She was nagging—she wouldn’t give up. She would say, “So, are you gonna let me adopt him?” We both kept telling her we were definitely not going to let her adopt the baby. I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good.

Truly absurd.

And let’s not forget why Ms. Palin quit her governorship of Alaska, despite having two more years to serve. In her resignation speech, she mumbled something about dead fish not swimming with the stream, or something like that – but Levi gives us another take:

[After the election], Sarah was sad for a while. She walked around the house pouting. I had assumed she was going to go back to her job as governor, but a week or two after she got back she started talking about how nice it would be to quit and write a book or do a show and make “triple the money.” It was, to her, “not as hard.” She would blatantly say, “I want to just take this money and quit being governor.”

Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes more sense.

The article is worth reading in full, but any of the coverage on Ms. Palin should give some idea of her intellectual rigor. This is a woman who, in 2008 was unable to explain the Bush Doctrine, someone who didn’t know what the Federal Reserve did, who had only a vague grasp of the dynamics of the Cold War, who could not explain why there was a North and South Korea, why we’re best friends with “communist” China, or even what the phrase “checks and balances” means.

When pressed on these issues, Ms. Palin, of course, points to her faux-blue collar background – the whole “I didn’t get to go to a fancy college” line, but we’re talking about a basic grasp of high school history here. Nevertheless, I’m sure Fox News will find her commentary most valuable.

A grim, misanthropic version of myself hopes she wins the Presidency in 2010. She would be no more than we deserve, and, much more than the Bush scion, would lay bare the decadence of our political culture. Already her popularity and soon-to-be status as a bona-fide political “journalist” betrays the wide and bottomless pit in which we now carry our discourse.

Written by pavanvan

January 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Sarah Palin: Fox News Anchor

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The most intelligent woman in politics today will be taking her message to Fox News soon.

Of course, she won’t resign from the Republican Party, and carries fervent hopes for a 2012 Presidential bid.

I don’t have much more to say right now – I’m still in shock – but somehow I don’t think that’s how “fair and balanced” reporting is really supposed to work.

Written by pavanvan

January 12, 2010 at 8:49 am

Posted in Politics

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