pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I am disgusted, but not; sadly, surprised.

Backstory on Peter Watt's Arrest

The bare facts, as I know them, of the result


I am, in a very quiet way, pissed off. Antonin Scalia would say I have no right, a jury, duly constituted looked at the law, looked at the evidence and decided he had broken it.

Which is true, insofar as it goes. It, of course (this is Scalia), fails to account for systemic injustices which can exisit independently of the inherent justice of a law (and I don't think assaulting a cop, nor resisting arrest, shouldn't be discouraged).

I said pretty much all I want/need to say on the subject in the first post, but I'll hit the high points of how the system is stacked against anyone in Peter Watt's position.

1: The nature of things is that people tend to believe that people who are arrested are guilty.
2: Cops tend to be respected, and so given greater weight when they testify.
3: Cops are trained to testify.
4: Cops lie.

The last, I realise, is the most controversial. They have, after all, taken an oath to tell the truth. They are, by and large, honorable people. They are interested in the public good.

And... they lie. The evidence for it is overwhelming. Studies have shown it to be implicitly encouraged. Common sense tells us that those cops who shade the truth are more likely to have more of their case end with, "bad guys" getting what they deserve.

There is another thing, which I waited to list.

5: Cops have incentives to lie in cases like this.

Not only is there the question of just what they did (because if the accused didn't deserve to be arrested. If the accused didn't resist, then the actions of the cops are morally suspect, if not outright wrong).

Which is an incentive to lie, because they face personal exposure (lawsuits) and professional harm (sanctions). The 'system' also has incentive to favor them (lawsuits/loss of respect).

Juries also have an incentive to believe the cops. We don't like to believe the custodians of our liberty are capricious. We don't want to believe the only thing between us and a couple of years in prison is the whim of a cop.

My honest take, Peter Watts did committ an offense, one so egregious the Border Patrol couldn't stand to let it go; contempt of cop. He compounded the error by not taking his lumps and going quietly into the night. No, he maintained his innocence. That's a threat to the relationship we've been allowing cops to force onto us (there used to be jurisdictions where one couldn't be convicted of resisting arrest for a false charge; since the arrest was unreasonable. For good reason that no longer exists anywhere, but the flip-side it, it's a lot harder to get justice for wrongful arrests. There are also legal tricks by which cops can make some arrests disappear, I know this because I was arrested on a false complaint. The cops were, in that regard, blameless. But they so botched the actual execution of the arrest that the potential for me to have made a decent sum [after paying the lawyers] that they used a piece of the legal code to, "unarrest me". Never mind that the justifications in that part of the code didn't apply to me, and now there is an implication I was an habitual user of illegal drugs in my record. That's the price I pay for having an arrest, mostly, go away).

The real travesty here isn't the miscarriage of justice I think happened. It's not that cops beat him, and covered it up (which is what I think happened), it's that we, as a society, are allowing them, enabling them, and rewarding them (which only encourages them) to do this.

The upshot is... we have fucked things up. We are allowing cops to be even more arbitrary than their position as the arbiters of offense (not law, but if they choose not to arrest, then it's almost a given that no prosecution will take place) makes possible.

Honestly, if I were a foreigner... I don't know that I would be willing to travel to the States (absent a diplomatic passport). I don't think I can (dearly as I would like to see any number of people) really encourage people (even citizens of the US) to cross the borders. I don't like the idea that they only way to avoid becoming an example of how the cops treat people who don't "behave" is to meekly, abjectly, give them license to do whatever the hell they please.

(Peter's comments on this)
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
Today they finally said this was torture.

For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air.

No weasel words, no scare quotes. A simple declaration of fact.

No slaps, no waterboard, no hypothermia, just isolation, deprivation and persistent noise; while in a stressed position. What, one wonders, can so mild a torture regime (no one even pretended they were going to hurt him, or kill him; much less actually inflicted pain, "equal to amputation or organ failure.") produce?

"“I was grilled day and night, over and over, week in and week out, and in the end, to get [him] and his gang off my back, I confessed to both charges. The charges, of course, were ridiculous. I never participated in germ warfare and neither did anyone else.

Whoa... it got a false confession. But how?

I will regret what I did in that cell the rest of my life,” [he] continued. “But let me say this: it was not really me... who signed that paper. It was a mentality reduced to putty.”

A mentality reduced to putty.

From a bit of dark and damp. Some time in handcuffs, with a whistling noise. That broke him? What a wuss.

He wasn't a wuss of course he was a victim of torture.


Damn straight. So what made the the New York Times willing to call a spade a spade? The reason the New York Times is willing to call it torture, not, "techniques some decry as torture", is it was done to an American. Capt. Harold Fischer, USAF. It was done by the Chinese. It was, in fact, the very model for the system we put in place in Guantanamo, and which managed to get to Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib (which I think happened because people who had been at Gitmo ended up working in both those places; they'd been taught to do something, and they did what they'd been taught. That's what I mean when I say there were systemic problems).

The Right Wing Wurlitzer is going to be running at full-speed, explaining that this is different. The Chinese weren't looking for the truth, the Americans weren't, "bad guys" trying to overthrow the Chinese; they were soldiers, merely doing their duty, America is different.

Nonsense. These are also the people who say, "Rules are rules, and actions have consequences." The party of Three Strikes, and Mandatory Sentencing. "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time" (and yes, I know those ideas have percolated out to the greater society, but that's where they started; it's where they are the strongest model of how to run the nation).

On this topic I agree. Torture is torture, no matter who does it. Those who do it, need to be called to account. There need to be investigations. Not blue-ribbon commissions, criminal investigations. No agenda, find the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

The Right is doing a lot of tu quoque nonsense too. Trying to say Pelosi, and Murtha, and the rest of the Democratic leadership knew; and that means we can't prosecute. Others have said we knew and that we didn't rise up, as a mass, in outrage, means we accept it, and therefore it's ok, no one needs to investigate (and certainly no one needs to go to Prison; a real one, not the sort of minimum security ones that people like Irve Libby would have ended up in if his boss's boss hadn't given him a don't even go to jail card).

Bullshit. This is a big deal. To quote a previous scandal, it's not the torture (though, were it just the torture, that would be enough). It's about making the president somehow above the law. It's about having an adminsitration which flouted the laws, and when caught says, "Yes, we did it, so what?"

If Pelosi, Murtha, etc., were briefed in detail. If they were given information enough to know it was torture, and they signed off on it, try them too. For conspiracy, if nothing else.

I suspect they are in the clear. Those were classified briefings. The CIA got to pick and choose what they said, and the people who got them were forbidden to talk about what they were told (on pain of prison... and who doubts the Bush Administration would have gone after them? Just look at Thomas Tamm). I suspect the CIA shaded things, and made it look as though they were being harsh, but not crossing the lines.

I also suspect they don't have as solid a grounding in how interrogation works, or what defines torture, as they need to actually know if something crosses those lines.

Should they have done something. Yes. They should have done what they are paid to do, be a counterweight to the presidency. Exercise the oversight which was more than just their job, more even than their responsibility. It was their duty.

But this is a time for looking forward, so lets look forward; to a time when we can say we fucked up, and we fixed it.

Because we tortured, and we admitted it, and the world knows it.
pecunium: (Loch Icon)
I've not been paying a whole lot of attention to it.

What I do know, is I'd really rather not have one of the usual suspects get the nod. We have a court made up of Ivory Tower Academics. This is bad. The Court is asked to address all sorts of things, which have both legal aspects, and practical aspects in the real world. It behooves us to have justices who have spent some time in the real world.

Used to be that was the case. O'Connor had been a politician. Frankfurter had been an Ass't Secretary of war, and a prosecutor, before he became a professor at Harvard. Earl Warren was Governor of California, William Douglas was Chairman of the S.E.C. and Lewis Powell President of the U.S. Bar Association.

Powell was appointed to the bench in 1972. He was the last justice to have served in private practice. Hugo Black was the last to have been in the House (he was also one of the few justices one could sometimes call. If it was a first amendment case, related to free speech, the gov't lost his vote) He died in 1971.

There have been 108 people appointed to the court (two of them resigned as justices, and were later appointed chief justice). 40 of them were not judges before they were appointed to the court.

In the past 30 years this has changed. The path to the court has narrowed. Go to a Name Law School. Clerk for a Justice, teach at a Name Law School. Get appointed to the Federal Bench, make friends; hope.

I don't think this has been for the best. The court doesn't reflect the makeup of the nation.

Where are the present justices from? The East Coast (seven of nine). Where did they go to School? Harvard (six of nine). What did they do before they were appointed to the court? Sat on Appeals Courts (nine of nine). About half the population is female, one of the justices is. Something like 20 percent of the population is hispanic, none of the justices are.

This is a nation of immigrants, I don't think we have any justices who are closer than grandparents to an immigrant forebear.

These are all things to ponder. The law is not some mystical thing which happens in classrooms and courts, it's the nitty-gritty of streetlife (right now the court is looking at two cases about life sentences for minors; someone may manage to bring a 14th amendment claim to the differential treatment of crack vs. powder cocaine). It's what determines who can marry whom (someone might manage to revisit the ruling which outlaws polygamy... the underlying reasoning [that the disparity of men and women made it socially destabilising to have one man taking more than one woman] isn't what it was).

It shapes what sorts of contracts we get, the nature of our stock markets, and the way we do business with each other. The law defines torture.

We live in a nation, "planted thick with laws," and ought to be glad of it. We also ought to have arbiters of those laws who appreciate just what the decisions they make about them does to the people who have to live inside them.
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I am not sure that reading Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear was the best thing to be doing last night, when I got done with reading, and writing, about the memos the Obama adminstration released yesterday. Strange dreams.

But I read them, all 80 pages of 'em.

I was beginning to wonder at myself. It wasn’t until I was deep into the third memo (which is a detailing of the various “techniques” being used, and the rationalisations for them being legal, that I really started to be disgusted. It was the detailing of how sleep deprivation was to be enforced which got me. I can’t imagine doing that to someone. I just can’t.

Part of that is years of being intimate with torture. There is no way to be a good interrogator and not look into torture. To be a good interrogator one has to be curious, and torture is the uncle we don’t like to talk about, because he’s a little off.

It’s not that I’ve not walked right up to that line. In some example exercises I came right up to it. And I stopped the event. The subject was willing, and I wasn’t going to do anything which caused permanent physical, or mental, harm, but if I’d done it, I’d have been on the other side of the lines I’d drawn. It was tempting, seductively so. If I’d done it, he’d have talked. He was getting ready to cry. I hadn’t touched him. I hadn’t even fixed him to the chair (which probably made it worse, he could move, but he couldn’t get away). I had absolute power over him (insofar as the LT would have let me go, which; it turns out, was further than I was willing to let me go).

Torture has a long history, some of it is as object lesson (Henry VIII didn’t arrange for people to suffer in their dying because it was useful in collecting information. There was the one whom he promised he wouldn’t cut down to draw and quarter until after he was dead, then he put him in a cage, and hanged it from a post; letting him die over the course of days; true to his word, but still a terrible vengeance), some of it was because “higher principles” were at stake (the Inquisition was saving souls; the cost of bodies was a small price to pay).

Some of it was really subtle. The Inquisition has become infamous for its tortures (many of which were recounted in Protestant pamphlets... no ax to grind there). There are a couple of parallels to the present. Only the truly resistant, who the inquisitor was certain were hiding something, were to be tortured (compare this to the third memo which says, "Far from being constitutionally arbitrary the interrogation techniques at issue here are employed by the CIA only as reasonably deemed necessary to protect against grave threats to United States interests, a determination that is made at CIA headquarters, with input from the on scene interrogation team, pursuant to careful screening procedures that ensure the techniques will be used as little as possible on as few detainees as possible. Since they also claimed these techniques are only used on a detainee who, until time of capture, we have reason to believe: (1) is a senior member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda associated terrorist group (Jemaah Islamiyyah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al Zarqawi Group, etc,); (2) has knowledge of imminent terrorist threats against the USA, its military forces, its citizens and organizations, or its allies; or that has had direct involvement in planning and preparing terrorist actions against the USA or its allies, or assisting the al-Qaeda leadership in planning and preparing such terrorist actions; and (3) if released, constitutes a clear 'and continuing threat to the USA or its allies." i.e. to say they only use these things when they have enough knowledge to know this is a “ticking bomb” situation)

The first torture was showing the instruments. Letting the subject ponder the pains they were to face the next day. That was considered torture. It was, legally, counted as torture. None of this pretending that only things which leave permanent mental scars or are excrutiatingly painful, or which have as their primary intent the causing of pain. Nope. Making someone think about being twisted, burned, half-drowned, all counted at torture. In that the Inquisition was more honest, and fair, than we pretend to be today.

And a confession gained by way of torture wasn’t admissible in the Canon Courts. It had to be repeated in front of the judge. Given that recanting was grounds for more torture it’s interesting how many people did recant. That’s why the church was reluctant to use it.

All of this is known to me. I’ve read of all sorts of tortures. Some of what finally got to me was the clinical nature of the reports. It was banal. It was no different, in the tone, than reading a memo on the best way to arrange for an easement to allow someone to get from the highway to the beach. It was the evil of small minds. They were asked a question (can we find a theory which makes it legal to call this, “not-torture”) and they answered it, and ignored the greater questions (should we find a theory which makes it legal to call it, “not-torture).

The saving grace in this mess is the military lawyers, pretty much, refused to go along. They protested the torture, and when they faced “evidence” collected from torture, they refused to use it.

This shit can’t be allowed to stand. We have to haul it out into the light. In the second memo they admit that not less than 25 prisoners were subjected to those techniques. Sleep dep, “dousing” (where water, as cold as 41°F is sprayed on a naked prisoner, in a room as cold as 64°F), slaps, grabs, being bounced off walls, confinement in small containers, “stress positions” and all the rest, are done for 1-3 hours at time, 2-3 times a day (well, apart from the sleep dep, that could be done for 180 hours; just over a week, in the finally approved forms), and the topper, waterboarding, could be done for up to twelve minutes of total drowning time.

We admit we did it. We know it happened. We know people did those things. We know other people sanctioned them.

And we know they are wrong. The actions of those who did the approving are those of people who know they were wrong. Classifying something Top Secret/NOFORN is not the sort of thing which ends up on legal theories, as a general rule.

I, as someone who did that job for 16 years, who taught it for 14, I want to see prosecutions. I want trials. I hope for convictions. I say this certain that I know people who were involved in interrogations which used these techniques.

I say this knowing that I like some of the people who may have used some of these techniques. I don’t think all of them evil. I think some of them young and misguided. I think the people who drafted these memos are evil. I think the people who asked for these memos are evil. I think they deserve a lot more grief than I think they are going to get.

In a perfect world, they would go to prison, and the folks at the bottom would get a serious evaluation, and sentences reflective of both the limited scope of action they had; the poor guidance should be mitigating (they were told it was legal, and in keeping with the Geneva Conventions). A ton of community service, and a sealed record (or an expungement) is in order for some.

Others... those who did things which led to death... lock ‘em up.

We need to do this. For ourselves, and for those who were wronged. We have a lot of innocent people who were called, “the worst of the worst,” and treated in ways we wouldn’t treat animals. They aren’t going to be so willing to forgive and forget. We have to make amends.
pecunium: (Default)
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage -- and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.
New York Times

It's wonderful. Overriding the veto. That's outstanding. They passed the law, and they meant it. The representatives of the people have spoken out in behalf of the people.

Separate is not equal. They paved the way once, and they are still busting trail.

I can only hope the Calif. Supremes are as true to the ideals of the Constitutions they have to use.
pecunium: (Default)
Like I said, they made this thing solid, covered all the bases and put it to bed.

* The state failed to demonstrate that there was a specific and compelling government interest in prohibiting marriage between people of the same gender.

* The state's claim that gay people are fundamentally different because gay couples cannot procreate doesn't hold water; the fundamental fact is that both homosexuals and heterosexuals seeking marriage are in committed relationships, and thus are in similar circumstances- yet treated differently.

* The state's claim that the gay marriage ban does not discriminate against sexual preference or gender is, dressed up in legal terms, bullshit.

* Laws addressing factors that have been the subject of past unjust discrimination must meet a higher constitutional standard- strict scrutiny rather than the presumption of constitutionality. Homosexuality falls under this category because:
(1) homosexuals have been deliberately and methodically discriminated against;
(2) homosexuality does not affect their ability to participate in society;
(3) sexual orientation is not a choice, but a fundamental part of an individual's personality; and
(4) homosexuals are a minority with inadequate political power to defend their own rights in the political process.
At minimum, these factors require that the gay marriage ban be judged under an intermediate level of scrutiny- in other words, the government has to show an important government objective is being met by the ban.

* The state's claim that upholding tradition is an important government objective is bullshit; tradition is only legally important when it's being upheld for some other purpose, not for its own merit.

* The state's claim that the gay marriage ban provides the optimum environment for children in families is bullshit; the law doesn't ban child molesters, violent felons, or single parents from raising kids, nor does it bar unmarried gay people from doing so. Furthermore, the state didn't even bother to demonstrate that a gay marriage ban is actually good for children of heterosexual couples- whereas the plaintiffs brought studies showing that same-sex couples were about as good as mixed-sex couples for raising children.

* The state's claim that banning gay marriage promotes procreation is bullshit; the state failed to demonstrate that prohibiting homosexuals from marrying does anything to encourage procreation. (Personal note: there's nothing said about whether or not promoting procreation is a valid government interest in the first place.)

* The state's claim that banning gay marriage strengthens straight marriage is bullshit; there's no evidence for the proposition.

* The state's claim that denying the legal benefits of marriage to homosexuals conserves state resources is bullshit; similar savings could be made by discriminating against blacks, Catholics, etc. in the same fashion.

* Religious arguments on gay marriage have no place in the courts whatever, especially since there are religious arguments on both sides.

* Homosexuals are people too. As such, the law can't treat them differently from everyone else.

For those who want to read the whole thing, it's right here as a .pdf.
pecunium: (Default)
So, not to put to fine a point on it, the McCain Amendment is as worthless as I said it was.

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks. Further, in light of the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2001 in Alexander v. Sandoval, and noting that the text and structure of Title X do not create a private right of action to enforce Title X, the executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action. Finally, given the decision of the Congress reflected in subsections 1005(e) and 1005(h) that the amendments made to section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, shall apply to past, present, and future actions, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in that section, and noting that section 1005 does not confer any constitutional right upon an alien detained abroad as an enemy combatant, the executive branch shall construe section 1005 to preclude the Federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over any existing or future action, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in section 1005.

That's what the president said in his signing statement on the bill.

He reserves the right to make it up as he goes along, and Congress, the Courts, the Constitution, and We; the People, can go piss up a rope.

He, after all, will be doing it for our own good, and that trumps all.

Further, if I am reading the decision referred to correctly, there is, per the Administration no way for anyone to enjoin; nor petition for redress, since the restriction is; as interpreted, placed only so long as the Executive deems it expedient (Alexander v Sandoval is a piece of Scalia's less clear writing, explaining why a petitioner has no right to make the intial case. Hinging on layers of meaning one [who is only as versed in the law as I am, an amateur who reads it for pleasure] might say it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but I suspect it's a trifle less opaque, but just a trifle). It will be for the courts to decide whether any appeal of violations of this law are allowed to be heard, but from my reading of that statment the White House position is, "We won't torture anyone unless we have to, at which point it will be legal, because the President says so, and if you have any problem with that, you can pound sand, because we also decided these people aren't entitled to any civil rights (I guess they aren't as inalienable as all that). So it's going to be an uphill battle.

(p.s. Hilzoy has more, at Obsidian Wings Comments there can be interesting, but the signal to noise ratio is often high)

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pecunium: (Default)
I just took a look at the text of the McCain Amendment Bush agreed to, and the rhetoric coming out of the White House.

McCain, and the press, have been played; the White House got everything it wanted, and more.

The important text is, "it shall be a defense that such officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces or other agent did not know that the practices were unlawful and a person of ordinary sense and understanding would not know the practices were unlawful."

Now, that's a small thing, for those in the Army. The regulations, presently in place, make it a crime. But the other text makes, even that, negotiable, because § (a) IN GENERAL.--No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

So all they need to do to make torture legal (sort of, we're still signatories to a couple of pesky treaties which make torture illegal) is add a chapter to FM 34-52. They can even classify it, so no one not in the Army can point to any sanctioned torture. Which would make, "I was only following orders," an absolute defense in an American court, be it civil or military.

And if we doubt that, there's what Hadley said about the amendment, ""The discussion has been less of the text of the McCain amendment as it was originally submitted, and more discussion about the protections for the men and women, both in uniform and civilians, who are engaged in activities involving detainees and interrogations."

So the concern isn't what we do to prisoners, but rather how we protect the people who might be abusing them.

But the services are likely to resist such a change, because it puts people service members at more risk (we won't even go into what I think of such a relaxing, given that as an interrogator I could expect some special forms of payback, no matter what I may personally have done), but, under the Yoo/Gonzales doctrine of the inherent powers of the presidency (see the whole "we don't need no stinkin' warrants to wiretap and read the e-mails of citizens we think might be in touch with terrorists) to set aside such laws as he sees fit, and do whatever he wants in the prosecution of a war (because once Congress authorises force [no need to even go so far as to get a declaration of war] the Prez, can do anything he thinks useful in pursuit of that aim, and the only thing congress can do is cut the funding. The best part is that he doesn't have to tell them what it is, nor from whence the funds come. They wrote him a , mostly-blank, check, and he gets to keep as many sets of books as he likes. It's all for our own good).

Under this principle, "If the president orders in, in time of "war", it's not illegal, then "a reasonable person" could construe the command to torture someone as a lawful order.

This is better than the CIA getting a bye, no everyone gets a bye. Jury nullification as a tenet of the law, and the "ticking bomb" as an article of faith. I can see the summation now:

"Yes, he did a terrible thing (and our hearts go out to Mr. Doe, and his family, it was an honest mistake) but he's not a monster, look at his record. He's an honorable man [yea, they are all honorable men], and had good reason to believe Mr. Doe had knowledge of a plot which was going to kill hundreds, perhaps even thousands. What sort of callous creature would he have been, unfeeling; and unthinking, to not take every available means to try to save those people? His superiors told him the information was crucial, and that he was the only person who could stop it. All he had to do was do what needed to be done to get the information from Mr. Doe"

At which point the college bull-session becomes an article of law. "If you knew killing someone would save the lives of millions, would you do it?" I can see the heated debate in the jury room. Take twelve people, who's only knowledge of interrogation is what they got from 24, Kelly's Heroes, NYPD Blue, and movies with Arnold and Harrison Ford, and I can't guarantee, but I'd be willing to lay a year's salary; at odds, that the best you can hope for as a prosecutor is a hung jury.

"If he has the knowledge would you refuse to torture him, and let all those people die?" is going to be the topic in deliberations. They aren't going to be haggling about the fine points of law, or the mechanics of actually getting useful information. No, it's going to be about babies in coffins and mere hours to save them, no matter what the cost.

There's a story about Sparta. The King of Persia was bearing down on them, and his emmisary has come to negotiate a surrender. He tells the Kings of Sparta, "If His Majesty takes the city by storm His soldiers will rape your women, defile your daughters and kill your sons. Your city willl be torn asunder; not one brick will left atop another and the burnt desolation of it will be the last you see of it as you are led away to slavery."

And the Kings of Sparta looked back at him.


There's a lot of power in that word.


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One of the things Judge Alito is proud of is his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, back in the mid seventies.

hilzoy, at Obsidian Wings has a post about it. It supports the general trend I see that Alito is against things I think are good.

Some exerpts:

"-- In 1973, CAP mailed a letter to parents of freshmen implying that their sons and daughters were living in "cohabitation," rather than simply coeducational dorms.

— In 1975, a CAP board member tried to disrupt Annual Giving by writing to alumni in the business community to consider whether their gifts were "being used to undermine, subvert, and otherwise discredit the very businesses which are helping fund private education.""

Those aren't just hilzoy's take on the matter, those are quotations from the Daily Princetonian.

hilzoy also points to Steven Dujack, of the Princetonian, who says, "So in 2005, we know that in 1985, Alito belonged to a group that was dedicated to pointlessly interfering with the functioning of a university because its student body had representative numbers of women and minorities, as required by law. A group which, for its entire existence, used as its only tactics dissembling and dirty tricks; the list above doesn't begin to do justice in describing the organization's destructiveness. A lot of people were hurt in the process. A great university was damaged."

hilzoy (a Princeton alum, from the time in which CAP was active) points out the things which are lost to those of us looking back and seeing CAP as a strange bit of folderol, people making a stink about things which didn't really matter, To understand CAP, you really have to understand that until the late 60s, the almost total absence of black students at Princeton was a feature, not a bug. It was one of the reasons people went there.

Consider, against this backdrop, the following

"Prospect" was founded in October 1972 by the then-newly-formed CAP, which was co-chaired by Asa Bushnell '21 and Shelby Cullom Davis '30. The latter, who was the University's largest donor at the time, was a strong traditionalist, firmly opposed to the many of the new directions Princeton was taking, including coeducation.

He wrote in "Prospect": "May I recall, and with some nostalgia, my father's 50th reunion, a body of men, relatively homogenous in interests and backgrounds, who had known and liked each other over the years during which they had contributed much in spirit and substance to the greatness of Princeton," according to an account in "The Chosen," a book by Jerome Karabel on the history of admissions at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

"I cannot envisage a similar happening in the future," Davis added, "with an undergraduate student population of approximately 40% women and minorities, such as the Administration has proposed."


"An alumnus wrote in 1974 in CAP’s magazine that “We had trusted the admissions office to select young men who could and would become part of the great Princeton tradition. In my day, [Dean of Student Affairs] Andy Brown would have been called to task for his open love affair with minorities.”

For a sense of Prospect's general level of discourse:

"People nowadays just don't seem to know their place," fretted a 1983 Prospect essay titled "In Defense of Elitism." "Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

And this:

"CAP supported a quota system to ensure that the vast majority of students would continue to be men. Asa Bushnell, then chairman of CAP, told the New York Times in 1974 that “Many Princeton graduates are unhappy over the fact that the administration has seen fit to abrogate the virtual guarantee that 800 [out of roughly 1,100] would continue to be the number of males in each freshman class.”

And for those conservatives who oppose affirmative action on the grounds that we should pay no attention to gender or ethnicity:

"Another article published that same year bemoaned the fact that "the makeup of the Princeton student body has changed drastically for the worse" in recent years--Princeton had begun admitting women in 1969--and wondered aloud what might happen if the university adopted a "sex-blind" policy "removing limits on the number of women." In an unsuccessful effort to forestall this frightening development, the executive committee of CAP published a statement in December 1973 that affirmed unequivocally, "Concerned Alumni of Princeton opposes adoption of a sex-blind admission policy."

Some will say this doesn't really matter, because it was on the job application where Alito claims he was just playing to the refs, doing what anyone would do to get a job (this is what those of us interested in calling things by name would call either misrepresenting oneself, or lying... neither of which; as they are self-confessed, leads me to place much faith in the answers he gives today. Past behavior often being indicitive of present and future behavior. If he'd lie to get a little job, why won't he lie to get a bigger job, one which others have said he really wants, to the point that he was described as being very unhappy when Harriet Meirs was named).

But it does, because the membership in CAP is consistent with his other statements, and his written opinions. Alito has a track record of saying, and supporting the views that women, and minorities (and that would seem to extend to religious, not just ethnic and racial) don't have the same rights as white men, nor even the same standig before the courts.

Which is against the principles of the country, and the motto above the Court, "Equal Justice Under Law".

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pecunium: (camo at halloween)
It matters.

It probably matters more than any other right we have.

It goes back to the very beginnings of the ideas the grand experiment the U.S. of A sprang from.

No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in anyway destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers

To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

Those passages are from the Magna Carta, all the way back in 1215 (emphasis added).

Senator Graham says we have to deny the right of these prisoners, to demand justification for their being held, because they are, "clogging" the courts with their pleas for justice. How many... a few hundred. If the courts are so busy that a couple of hundred petitions bring them to a ginding halt, then we're so fucked it isn't funny.

Where, one wonders will this theft of rights end? Who will next be on the list of those who can be locked up without release, or charge, or reason? When will the gov't decide there are citizens who aren't to be allowed to walk the streets, not for what they have done, but for what they have been accused?

Am I waxing hyperbolic? A tad, but not so much as I wish it were the case.

This is primal. It is worse than torture. It's about freedom, liberty and the rule of law.

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

Winston Churchill

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself."

Thomas Paine

It's true. If you doubt this, then look to Padilla. He was held for months before we were told about it. From a comment I heard on the news, it was only to "wag the dog" that we were told. His lawyers weren't allowed to speak with him. Ponder that. He was held, for months, without charges. Kept in a navy brig, in solitary, and not allowed to speak to his lawyers.

He's a citizen.

We didn't treat Göering, and the rest of the Nazi powerful who didn't kill themselves before capture this way. We had the courage of our faith in being right. We tried them in the light, making certain the world could see how fairly they were treated. Some, were hanged (Göering cheated the noose, with suicide by poison) some were imprisioned. Some were, to the shock of many, acquitted.

Stalin wondered at the idea. His plan was to shoot them all. Cheaper than a trial, and not the least risk of them being acquitted.

The law won.

Some say we can't afford to let these people go, because they might want to attack us. So what? Which essential liberties are we going to forsake next in our search for some mythic security? The Nazis did far more harm than bin Laden and his ilk will ever manage; are we to say then that such minor injuries (in comparison to the hundreds of millions who died because of the Nazis) as the few thousands we might lose to some attack in the future is worth our principles?

I sure as hell hope not.

Worse (from that spurious line of defense) such things make us less safe.

To go to a war story, we arrested a guy in April of 2003, in the plain sight of his family. They watched him go to a checkpoint to ask a question. They then saw him, and his companions hauled away.

When they went to the Army (or perhaps the CPA) to find out why, they were told we hadn't done it. They were given a list of maybes (maybe it was Ba'athists, maybe it was some Sunni with a grudge, perhaps it was some rival Shi'a group [the guy was a big name in the south of Baghdad) but it most certainly wasn't the U.S. Army.

Only it was.

We talked to him (he was very polite, and seemed to understand that shit happens and it wasn't personal) and we took him home.

Now, let's say we hadn't. Let's say his family never saw him again (we'll ignore his congregation/adherents). Think they might have nursed a grudge? I do. Heck, I'm certain of it. As certain as I am that Abu Ghraib made more insurgents and terrorists (worldwide) than it saved lives. I will wager the high-handed treatment of prisoners will, over time, kill more Americans, here; in the States, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, than any lives saved by the information those prisoners might reveal.

And that's only the pragmatic part.

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:6-8

Do justice, love mercy; is that too much to ask?

We have innocents in GitMo. We admit it.

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later.

Detainees Deserve Court Trials Washington Post

Adel has been in prison for four years. Not only is he innocent, we rewarded the men who condemned him. This sort of thing used to exist in Russia, in the France of the Terror, it was called denouncing. I suppose we are better than Revolutionary France, we; after all, aren't sending the denounced to Madame Guillotine, but rather keeping them in cells, depriving them of human contact, isolating them from family, religion and the world.

Even after we acquit them.

Justice delayed is worse than justice denied, because to delay it is to keep something which ought to be done from being done; when you know it should be done: "Well, yeah, we could make it so the Pinto won't blow up when it gets rear ended, but that would cost money, and we'll probably pay out less in lawsuits than it would cost to prevent the problem."

This must be fought.

If not now, when?
If not me, who?

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pecunium: (Default)
I thought the folks in charge were clueless when I was in Iraq (don't get me started on how V Corps managed EPWs during the shooting war), but as I look at what is being bruited about in the national fora, I ponder the shortest sentence in the Bible, "Jesus wept."

I'm a soldier. I don't talk about what that means much, mostly because it is a needful job, but dirty.

In a nutshell what I do is kill people.

To quote Shakespeare, "I could be bounded up in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

But I manage to avoid those bad dreams (as to most of the rest of my fellows) because I am bounded by more than that nutshell (rules are not the enemy... they are tools).

I have things like the Geneva Conventions and I have accepted a wealth of tradition, some of which must go back to the very first armies... one of those traditions is that non-combatants are spared (in the early days non-combatant was a bit more vague a concept, but those who were such got off more lightly than those who weren't, but I digress).

Which is why when I see things like this my bile rises and I want to scream (this, is that scream).

"Try to put yourself in the mind of the killer, or of the guy with the plastic bag. You are part of Saddam's vast apparatus of rape squads, torture teams and mass-grave fillers. Every time you walk down the street, people tremble in fear. Everything else in society is arbitrary, but you are absolute. When you kill, your craving for power and significance is sated. You are infused with the joy of domination....

What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence.

Somehow, over the next six months, until the Iraqis are capable of their own defense, the Bush administration is going to have to remind us again and again that Iraq is the Battle of Midway in the war on terror, the crucial turning point where either we will crush the terrorists' spirit or they will crush ours.

The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away. It is our responsibility to recognize the dark realities of human nature, while still preserving our idealistic faith in a better Middle East."

November 4, 2003

So, to eradicate the last holdouts of the evil aspects of Hussein's Iraq we have to (for just a little while) replace them with our boys, doing similar work.

After all this is not going to be done with the niceties of Stateside Police Procedures, "...the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause."

It sounds like the guy in the bank saying, "Don't make me shoot these people, if you do the blood is on your hands."

But it won't be, it will be on the hands of the troops who are convinced to commit them. It may not get to My Lai as policy, but how will we decide the practical aspects of the brutality? I don't think we'll resort to summary decapitation, but we've already engaged in hostage taking (a COL left a note that a man's family was being held, pending his turning himself in... a violation of the Geneva Conventions).

Will it stop there? I doubt it. Israel did away with the rational of, "the ticking bomb" when dealing with Palestinians because they all became people who could be justifiably, "coerced."

And the Israeli Army says that such tactics are bad policy, they cause the troubles they are used to cure (Valium does that, one of the listed side effects is anxiety, but I digress).

What dreams will we foist on those who become not merely bound in that nutshell, but trapped?



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May 2016

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