Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Courage of a Torturer's Convictions

I posted an answer to the rightie blogger who called waterboarding "pouring water in people's faces," as if it were a prank at a swimming pool, or like taking a shower.

But as I was writing, I got all fired up by his sneering remark about how courageous it is to oppose torture when facing a ruthless enemy when he doesn't even have the courage to come out and say he supports what he really supports.

The pro-torture crowd does not have the courage to face up to what it is they support. Instead -- and not just to avoid legal liability, but I think to shield their consciences from the knowledge of what they are supporting -- they redefine what torture is, and what the torture involves so it doesn't seem so bad.

If they had the moral courage, then like the above rightie blogger, they wouldn't pretend that waterboarding is just getting water splashed in the face

Rumsfeld wouldn't pretend that standing on carpet all day for a job (come on, Rummy, you really did sit down and walk around during your gruelling day -- did you ever take Ibuprofen for that sore back or knee as well?) is anything like standing on a cement floor in chains or kneeling on gravel for even half a day.

Rush Limbaugh wouldn't pretend that debasing bound prisoners who know that others around them have been beaten, raped and killed is anything like frat boys who willingly participate in hazing rituals run by their friends that they could opt out of.

If this crowd were so sure of the moral rightness of their position, they would fully embrace the reality of torture and not try to downplay how bad it is or deny that it is happening.

But they do downplay it, comparing torture to events most of us have experienced at some time or other, that what we're doing may be stressful and uncomfortable, but it's not like anyone is dying.

I guess all those al-Qaeda detainees (or maybe that innocent person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time) are just pussies for caving in to things that rightie bloggers, clerks at checkout stands, and radio talk show hosts have to deal with all the time.

Even more on torture:

In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.

According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.

...

The sources said that in that case [not Libbi] a young, untrained junior officer caused the death of one detainee at a mud fort dubbed the "salt pit" that is used as a prison. They say the death occurred when the prisoner was left to stand naked throughout the harsh Afghanistan night after being doused with cold water. He died, they say, of hypothermia.

According to the sources, a second CIA detainee died in Iraq and a third detainee died following harsh interrogation by Department of Defense personnel and contractors in Iraq. CIA sources said that in the DOD case, the interrogation was harsh, but did not involve the CIA.

More:

On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

More killing:

Time magazine has reported of the coverup by the CIA of an Iraqi who died after being tortured in Abu Ghraib prison.

Friday, December 30, 2005

California Saved

Boy, it's a good thing the people of California booted Gray Davis from office because of the $38 billion deficit that Arnold reduced to $8 billion.

Is the sarcasm reading? Do you sense there might be an inverse relationship between those numbers, a sort of bass-akwardsness?

Click to Atrios.

(Disclosure: I used to get paychecks signed by Gray Davis, State Comptroller, so I have a fondness for him. He enabled me to have happy hour with my friends in college.)

Forgot to Give Credit

The following posts were inspired by posts found through Patrick Ruffini's 2008 Presidential Wire:

Why Does Bush Need the PATRIOT Act?

More "College Hazing" B.S.

Donate for DNC "Dirty Tricks"

A New "ID is Science" Tactic

I should start mentioning names of sources more often in the body of the post even if the link says who it's from.

I'm a baaaaaaad blogger.

Why Does Bush Need the PATRIOT Act?

JWAZ at sqlspace makes an excellent point:
But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example, to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be secretly exceeded by the President?

Indeed. (Hey, this is my first "indeed" post. I can't wait to do "Heh. Indeedy.")

More "College Hazing" B.S.

Waterboarding is just getting water poured on your face, says a rightie blogger, and has the virtue of getting accurate information, since we know of one case where it did. (Well, not entirely accurate. And the info was all historical rather than the "ticking time bomb" scenario we're all waiting for, so no lives were actually saved; except for the torturee's life, since he can't be condemned to death on the basis of confessions extracted from torture.)

But if what the CIA has been doing is fairly harmless, then why would they want to quickly cremate the bodies of prisoners who die under their "care" during harmless pranks?

The CIA has stuck with its overall approaches, defending and in some cases refining them. The agency is working to establish procedures in the event a prisoner dies in custody. One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources.

Oh, and about waterboarding:

On the 18 November 2005, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito described the CIA's "waterboarding" technique as follows in an article posted on the ABC News web site: "The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt. According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess. 'The person believes they[sic] are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law,' said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch." [1]

Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, has treated "a number of people" who had been subjected to forms of near-asphyxiation, including "water-boarding," in which a suspect is bound and immersed in water until he nearly drowns. An interview for the New Yorker states:

He argued that it was indeed torture. Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said. One patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained. "The fear of being killed is a terrifying experience," he said. [2]

For more info on harmelss pranks:

SERE: "The 'sleeping bag technique' has been used by SERE-trained interrogators, leading for example to the death of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush on November 26, 2003. The interrogators cited command authorization of 'stress positions' as justification for using this technique."

"Abuse Tantamount to Torture Was National Policy": "SERE techniques were created to help our servicemembers resist torture by communists; the torture techniques that were being used on our servicemembers were 'designed by communist interrogators...to control a prisoner's will rather than to extract useful intelligence.'" [sometimes they get some useful information, so it's aaaaallll oookkkkaaaayyy]

Donate for DNC "Dirty Tricks"

The DNC is gearing up for 2008, requesting public records on potential presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney's spokesman says it will cost "tens of thousands of dollars," which will be charged to the DNC, to provide fodder to the "dirty tricks attack squad."

So, now aboveboard opposition research is dirty tricks.

I always thought dirty tricks were things like: starting whisper campaigns about child molestation, miscegenation, or mental illness; pretending the opposition party is bugging your office; thwarting a "get out the vote" campaign with hang up calls; shredding registration forms, tricking people to register with a particular party; writing an entire book of lies to smear a political opponent (three more links).

Are my standards too high?

The Failing Dollar and War in Iraq

My eyes glaze over when it comes to economics. But my brother tried explaining fiat currency to me over Christmas, and has recommended a read from March, 2003, right before the Iraq invasion.

We on the left probably remember our own opinions of the reasons for war in Iraq: for oil; hegemony over the oil market, thence over Eurasia; revenge on Hussein. And I do recall the reason of euros versus dollars. I think all those aspect were contributory to the war.

From the link my brother provided, Not Oil, But Dollars vs. Euros, the reasons the author listed for war in Iraq:


  • Safeguard the American economy by returning Iraq to trading oil in US dollars, so the greenback is once again the exclusive oil currency.
  • Send a very clear message to any other oil producers just what will happen to them if they do not stay in the dollar circle. Iran has already received one message -- remember how puzzled you were that in the midst of moderation and secularization, Iran was named as a member of the axis of evil?
  • Place the second largest reserves of oil in the world under direct American control.
  • Provide a secular, subject state where the US can maintain a huge force (perhaps with nominal elements from allies such as Britain and Australia) to dominate the Middle East and its vital oil. This would enable the US to avoid using what it sees as the unreliable Turkey, the politically impossible Israel and surely the next state in its sights, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of al Qaeda and a hotbed of anti-American sentiment.
  • Severe setback the European Union and its euro, the only trading bloc and currency strong enough to attack the USA's dominance of world trade through the dollar.
  • Provide cover for the US to run a covert operation to overturn the democratically elected government of Venezuela and replace it with an America-friendly military supported junta -- and put Venezuala's oil into American hands.

The last one made sense, but it happened in 2002, before the invasion of Iraq. And it didn't go so well for the U.S. And they so far haven't tried again, though Pat Robertson might be up to the task. (pdf link to mad magazine, scroll to page 5).

The article also gives explanations for Britain's and Australia's willing involvement, two things I couldn't figure out. I could only figure Britain's poodle had rolled over because Bush had something big on him. But I recall now that Britain was and still is rejecting the euro.
Australia, of course, has significant US dollar reserves and trades widely in dollars and extensively with America. A fall in the US dollar would reduce Australia's debt, perhaps, but would do nothing for the Australian dollar's value against other currencies. John Howard, the Prime Minister, has long cherished the dream of a free trade agreement with the USA in the hope that Australia can jump on the back of the free ride America gets in trade through the dollar's position as the major trading medium. That would look much less attractive if the euro took over a significant part of the oil trade.

Britain has yet to adopt the euro. If the US takes over Iraq and blocks the euro's incursion into oil trading, Tony Blair will have given his French and German counterparts a bloody nose, and gained more room to manouevre on the issue -- perhaps years more room. Britain would be in a position to demand a better deal from its EU partners for entering the "eurozone" if the new currency could not make the huge value gains guaranteed by a significant role in world oil trading. It might even be in a position to withdraw from Europe and link with America against continental Europe.

However, this part
Second -- in reality, war will cost the USA very little -- or at least, very little over and above normal expenditure. This war is already paid for! All the munitions and equipment have been bought and paid for. The USA would have to spend hardly a cent on new hardware to prosecute this war -- the expenditure will come later when munitions and equipment have to be replaced after the war. But munitions, hardware and so on are being replaced all the time -- contracts are out. Some contracts will simply be brought forward and some others will be ramped up a bit, but spread over a few years, the cost will not be great.

missed one very important consideration: war profiteering. The war is costing tons of money because of corrupt contracting practices, crony capitalism, theft, mismanagment, etc. Billions of dollars are missing, just missing, and we're being asked for more. In terms of fiat currency -- the illusory nature of the dollar -- that still doesn't mean much until the dollar collapses, especially given how much further in debt this Administration's economic policies and warmongering have put us.

The next question would be, besides taking over the world with wars and threats to people who would rather switch to other forms of currency and get their own power to benefit their own people -- in effect, war forever -- what can we do to protect our own economic interests? It's not enough to get off an oil-driven economy and withdraw from Iraq, and stop meddling in the Middle East. The dollar has to be strengthened somehow.

Speaking of which, the above argument about the oil trading being the main booster for the U.S. dollar sure goes a long way to explaining this government's reluctance to aggressively push for alternate fuels, doesn't it?

The author kindly offers suggestions.
Could America agree to share the trading goodies by allowing Europe to have a negotiated part of it? Not very likely, but it is just possible Europe can stare down the USA and force such an outcome. Time will tell. What about Europe taking the statesmanlike, humanitarian and long view, and withdrawing, leaving the oil to the US, with appropriate safeguards for ordinary Iraqis and democracy in Venezuela?

Europe might then be forced to adopt a smarter approach -- perhaps accelerating the development of alternative energy technologies which would reduce the EU's reliance on oil for energy and produce goods it could trade for euros -- shifting the world trade balance.


"What do you think, Patriots?"

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Right Think

We already knew this, but here's another example of the fascistic tendencies of many on the right.
...every phone and computer in America should now come with a warning label: Warning: the privacy of your communications can no longer be guaranteed, by order of President Bush."

That warning wouldn’t bother me one bit. I’ve always assumed the government has access to everything anyway.

The acceptance of full-scale government intrusion because of the wrongheaded mindset: "I've done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to worry about."

It was a reaction to Ted Kennedy's December 22 op-ed, in which he also references the student who claimed to have been visited by Feds after checking out Mao's Little Red Book. The author chastises Kennedy for spreading rumors on the internets and not verifying facts, linking to a story that came out the same day that the student wasn't talking, but that the Feds were denying the story.

Talk about a Derangement Syndrome -- how about the Ted Kennedy Derangement Syndrome, which makes people think Ted Kennedy knows facts that haven't been made public yet?

New Year's Resolution to Get it Wrong

It's a petty resolution, really, but it's a pet peeve. Because so many on the right say "the Democrat Party," "a Democrat President," etc., I've decided to call them Republics.

Example: The Republic Party has been taken over by ideologues bent on destroying our democratic values. George W. Bush is the worst Republic President. Ever.

2005 Year in Review Quiz

Roger Ailes has a six part quiz on the past year. Well, a five part quiz, the last part is a quiz on what will happen in 2006.

There are no answers published yet, but I don't need to know the answers to know I failed miserably. That's what I get for not reading Roger Ailes regularly and not cheating.

A New "ID is Science" Tactic

At least, one I haven't seen before.
ID is not a theory, it is a simple chemical, biological and mathematic test which will in future years relegate evolution to the dung heap of history.

...It appears the Discovery Institute has an even better way of claiming ID is science; change the meaning of "science."
Attempts to locate methodological “invariants” that provide a set of
necessary and sufficient conditions for distinguishing true science from pseudoscience have failed.10 Most philosophers of science now recognize that neither verifiability, nor testability (nor falsifiability), nor the use of lawlike explanation (nor any other criterion) can suffice to define scientific practice.

What is this "science" of which you speak?

Busy Holidays

There has been and will continue to be light posting.

This is our first Christmas so close to family. From December 22 until January 2 is all family, not a break of even a day. Which has been wonderful, but tiring. And now I've got one hell of a cold (damn you again, Joey...second illness my nephew has passed on to my family since Thanksgiving).

Right now my in-laws have my older son at their hotel (the air mattress just doesn't cut it); they were here last night taking care of the boys while my husband was at work. So I went to bed at 7pm and woke up at 2am. I watched the Serenity DVD I got for Christmas, watched the outtakes and intro by Joss Whedon, then came downstairs to blog for a while.

What's going on in the world outside? I've been way out of touch.

When a Wrong Number Goes Right

I hate it when someone who calls the wrong number just hangs up, not even bothering to apologize for making you get out of your comfy chair.

Yesterday I tried to call my mother-in-law's cell phone to tell her, her sister, and her sister's husband not to come over as I was sick. Here's how it went:

Mary: Hello, this is Mary.

Me: Oh, hi Mary, this is Julie.

Mary: Who?

Me: (speaking louder) Julie.

Mary: Oh, well, how are you?

Me: Well, I'm not feeling too well today, I'm actually pretty sick, so I don't think today would be a good day to drop by.

Mary: What?

Me: Mike said you would be dropping by later today, and I don't think today would be a good day.

(silence)

Me: Hello?

Mary: What's your last name?

Me: O.

Mary: I'm Mary M.

Me: (laughing) Oh, I'm so sorry, I thought you were aunt Mary.

Mary: (laughing) That's all right.

Me: Well, Happy Holidays.

Mary: Thank you, and I'm sorry you're not feeling well.

Me: Thank you, 'bye.

Mary: 'Bye.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Right Wing Killed the Messenger

But they were so successful, it amounted to suicide.

For years the right-wingers have been calling the "MSM Liberal Media" liars and spinners, all the while spinning and lying harder than anyone else. And so they reap what they have sown.

My mom, immersed for years in right-wing talk radio and Fox News, responding to my assertions of torture and death at the hands of the U.S. (paraphrasing):
"I don't believe what the Democrats or news stations say. I don't even believe the rightwing talk shows or conservative sources. I don't trust they won't spin the facts. I want to see pictures. I want to see the proof."

WashParkProphet's link to Fox News defending its right to distort the news and lie to the public reminded me of this recent outburst. She was looking over my shoulder when I was writing this, and so I showed her the case of Fox saying they can distort the news.

On one point I do have to give the Wurlitzer their due; they did create a criticial thinker in my mom.

She questioned the sources, so I linked through till I got to the court case which ruled in Fox's favor. She even questioned whether it was Fox Corporation or the affiliate distorting the news. (WTVT is a Fox O&O, so it is Fox Corporation).

And her reaction was basically to call them hypocrites. She also wondered if Bill O'Reilly had any outrage over it.

Letter to Washington Post Poll Editor

Dear Mr. Morin,

I have read a copy of the on-line chat you conducted in which you said that you will not poll on an impeachment of President Bush until a member of Congressional Democratic Leadership calls for Bush's impeachment.

The Senior Chief Deputy Whip, Rep. John Lewis (GA-05), a member of the Democratic Leadership in the House of Representatives, has said Bush should be impeached if he was spying on Americans contrary to law.

Thank you for your time,

Julie O.

Found via AfterDowningStreet.org and CensureBush.org.

Quizzes!

My husband has a mind like a steel trap when it comes to trivia, always crushing the competition.

Roger Ailes has some humbling quizzes.

...These quizzes are Anglo-centric, so we Americans have a cultural handicap, even if we are Anglophiles. I was embarrassed once on a flight to England. I was trying to do a British crossword, and recognized that many of the questions would be very easy if I'd been living in England for a while, watching English TV and reading English periodicals. But I hadn't, so couldn't name personalities or political figures. The flight attendant looked over my shoulder and said, "you don't know the answer to that one?" Not meanly, just because it was common knowledge to him.

Bush's Spying a Clear and Present Danger

Matthew Yglesias puts the domestic spying in context for those who might not see any real harm in a wide-net surveillance program.

Assuming only a 10% error rate in whatever secret program the NSA is running
Say we want to monitor a group of 10,000 people that includes 200 terrorists. We're going to catch 180 actual terrorists plus a whopping 980 innocent people. Thus, out of our total pool of 1,160 "terrorists" only 15.5 percent will genuinely be terrorists.

Consider, also, what our government claims it may do to combat terrorism: label anyone, even a U.S. citizen, an "enemy combatant;" deny basic rights to enemy combatants, such as legal council and confrontation of witnesses; render enemy combatants to locales outside the U.S. for "coercive" interrogation, which is actually torture; imprison enemy combatants indefinitely.

This Administration claims these powers as a Constitutional right and responsibility, outside of regulation and oversight.

Inadequacy of Council Counsel

If it's not a good enough excuse for a man condemned to death, it's not a good enough excuse for King George.

Thanks to WashParkProphet for the correction.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Have a Robert Ingersoll Christmas

The good part of Christmas is not always Christian -- it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural.

Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.
It taught some good things -- the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.

And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.

Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.

I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play. We are too much like the English.

I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good free days -- the more the better.

Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget -- a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds -- a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.

Robert G. Ingersoll

Friday, December 23, 2005

Administration's Broad, Baseless Searches

From several days ago (ah, the holidays), TalkLeft posted the goods on the current Administration justification for the President's usurpation of power.

DOJ says the President's actions were justified and legal by virtue of:
  • Article II of the Constitution
  • The Authorization for the Use of Military Force ("AUMF") of September 18,2001, 115 Stat. 224 (2001)
  • The 2002 FISA Review Court Ruling (background here.)
  • Principles of statutory construction that apply when there's an ambiguity
  • The Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement allowing for warrantless searches upon a showing of special need under the totality of the circumstances.

One Supreme Court case they cite is United States v. United States District Court, which they only used to point out that the Supreme Court differentes between domestic and foreign threats.

But the entirety of that ruling upholds the requirement that the Executive, contrary to the fifth assertion above, cannot be the determiner of what is reasonable, and that warrants are absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of the 4th Amendment.

Some have argued that "[t]he relevant test is not whether it is reasonable to procure a search warrant, but whether the search was reasonable," United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 66 (1950). 16 This view, however, overlooks the second clause of the Amendment. The warrant clause of the Fourth Amendment is not dead
language.
...
The Fourth Amendment contemplates a prior judicial judgment, 18 not the risk that executive discretion may be reasonably exercised. This judicial role accords with our basic constitutional doctrine that individual freedoms will best be preserved through a separation of powers and division of functions among the different branches and levels of Government.

The government in this case argued:

  • National security interests created a special circumstance, and that surveillance was simply being done to collect information, not for prosecution.
  • That the courts were not competent to judge the "complex and subtle factors" involved in determining probable cause.
  • That giving the courts the information necessary to determine probable cause would present a danger to the national security because of the breach of secrecy, and the greater potential for leaks.

The court considered these arguments and rejected them.

The court did suggest that Congress could make a law tailored to the specific needs of national security, the sensitivity of establishing probable cause, and a less stringent time and reporting requirement. The court did not, however, exempt the Executive from seeking a warrant, and did not allow the Executive to perform baseless, broad searches.

Today I found this via Atrios
What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides
actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large
volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to
terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining
operation.

This Administration is so far inside their bubble they continue to hand critics the rope to hang them with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Rehabilitation of Clinton

The rightwing pundits who made names for themselves self-righteously calling for Clinton's impeachment are going to have to twist themselves into salty pretzels, jump through fiery hoops, and dunk themselves in nacho cheese sauce to get out of calling for Bush's impeachment.

It's begun already with the rehabilitation of Clinton.

My argument about why Clinton's offense wasn't impeachable was that it was not an offense that only the President could commit. It wasn't an abuse of his unique power as the President, it didn't materially harm the nation, it wasn't an affront to the Constitution.

The argument for impeachment was that the President lied under oath, tried to suborn perjury, and generally acted sleazy, which demeaned the office of President, and betrayed our trust that the President would never, ever lie to us. It was mainly a "think of the children" argument, but I don't think anyone ever argued that it harmed the security of our nation.

Well, Judge Napolitano, who has thankfully hung up his robes -- since he's already hung up his judgment -- to be a Fox News commentator, says impeachment should only be used against presidents who harm the security of the nation, whatever he thinks that means.

He's changed his tune on Clinton. Whereas once he thought Clinton had "committed a federal felony by lying under oath," he's not so sure anymore.
No. neither of those things, in retrospect, appears to affect the security of the republic. They were both wrong. Clinton's was probably criminal, Bush's may be criminal. I don't think either of them rises to an impeachable offense, like treason or bribery, which is what the Constitution says.

Oh, Clinton's not so bad anymore. Really, what harm did he do?

I don't know where Napolitano gets the idea that an impeachable offense has to affect the security of the nation, though. Bribery isn't necessarily a threat to the security of the nation, but it is a misuse of office at any level. What if the president bribes a journalist to, say, write favorably about an important public policy matter? That is arguably not a threat to national security, and yet it is bribery. But whatever.

I just can't wait to see the tapdancing all the other pundits will be doing in the coming weeks and months. If they previously believed what Clinton did was impeachable, then it must follow that Bush should be impeached.

I think one of the major themes will be "impeachment fatigue." "Sure, what Bush did might warrant impeachment, but I just don't think the American people have the stomach to go through that ordeal again." I think I might actually buy Ann Coulter's next book, "Tiring America: The Liberal Plot to Help the Terrorists Infiltrate a Napping Country."

Remember to bide your time, liberals. It may take a couple of years, so don't get discouraged.

Spurlock Documentary on "War on Science"

Morgan Spurlock, who did the documentary Super Size Me, has optioned Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science for another documentary to be filmed next year.
"There was a time when science was respected by politicians and government officials and when the information obtained through unbiased scientific exploration was used for the better of society," said Spurlock.

"Today, all of that is being ignored, manipulated and used incorrectly to further political agendas. We need the real answers to the big questions."

Another Federal Judge Takes Ball, Nails Creationists

After already being nailed by the people of Dover, PA, the creationists got slammed a second time in a ruling that I just can't paraphrase:
But the judge said: “We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom.”

The disclaimer, he said, "singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource and instructs students to forgo scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."
...
“The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources,” he wrote.

A new Deputy in Mount Airy, North Carolina (click here for his picture in his new job), former board member William Buckingham is so mad he could spit.
“[Darn it, Andy,] I’m still waiting for a judge or anyone to show me anywhere in the Constitution where there’s a separation of church andstate,” he said. “We didn’t lose; we were robbed. [If only I'd had a bullet in my gun, I coulda stopped it from happening.]”

Since the Establishment Clause doesn't do it, here's a starting place, Mr. Buckingham -- The Case for Separation of Church and State.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Federal Judge Takes Ball, Goes Home

He was probably pissed off at all the time he'd wasted sitting by the phone waiting to authorize wiretaps.

A federal judge [U.S. District Judge James Robertson] has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.


He's not the only one who's mad, according to an anonymous source: "What I've heard some of the judges say is they feel they've participated in a Potemkin court." Well, why wouldn't a Potemkin President have a Potemkin court?

Scott McClellan expresses the bewilderment of the Administration at the anger:
"We've already briefed the leadership and the leaders of the relevant committees," McClellan said, "and the attorney general's going back talking to additional members about this so that they do have a better understanding of this authorization and what it's designed to do and how it is narrowly tailored and limited in how it's used."

The President has everything under control. He's made a law, interpreted its applicability and Constitutionality, and has been executing it. And he took the time to explain to the Legislative Branch that they are irrelevant.

Perhaps if Bush were to sit down with the Judicial Branch and explain their irrelevance to them, they wouldn't feel so bad. Except the liberals. They always have to be upset about something.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

King George Defends Domestic Spying; He Must be Impeached

Be afraid, be very afraid.
"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States."

However, the laws and Constitution specifically prohibit warrantless searches in the U.S. The President does not have the power to interpret or make law. He is specifically charged with upholding the laws as written by Congress and interpreted by the Courts: "he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed..."

Streamlining the Government -- Bush has made himself the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches all rolled in one.
Bush's constitutional argument, in the eyes of some legal scholars and previous White House advisers, relies on extraordinary claims of presidential war-making power. Bush said yesterday that the lawfulness of his directives was affirmed by the attorney general and White House counsel, a list that omitted the legislative and judicial branches of government. On occasion the Bush administration has explicitly rejected the authority of courts and Congress to impose boundaries on the power of the commander in chief, describing the president's war-making powers in legal briefs as "plenary" -- a term defined as "full," "complete," and "absolute."

If it were intended that the President have absolute war-making powers, then Congress would not be vested with the power to curb the President's power to make war by their control of raising armies, funding the military, and making "rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."

And though the President is commander in chief of the militia when called into actual service, the Congress will still "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States..."

If Congress gets to discipline and make rules for the military that the President "absolutely" commands, and can say to the President, "you can't use the military that way, we defund the war and will punish officers who follow your unlawful orders," then obviously the President does not have absolute war-making powers.

And if he doesn't have absolute war-making powers over the military, then he certainly doesn't have absolute war-making powers over the 4th Amendment.

What do you do with a President who is flagrantly, unabashedly disregarding the Constitutional limits?

Bush betrayed
Bush is rightfully angry at this betrayal of "classified information." It's a potentially serious betrayal. Impeachment betrayal. Someone has decided the idiot boy king is hurting our country sufficiently to warrant his removal, IMO.

And I agree.

Wikipedia an Accurate Source

It's nearly as accurate as Britannica.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Bit of a King Kong Review; No Spoilers

I'm thinking that the problem wasn't Serenity. It was the audience, who stayed away in droves. Friday night of it's opening weekend, there were about two dozen people in to see King Kong in our theater. And there was hardly anyone in the entire multiplex at all, not even Narnia could put the buns in seats.

I would blame it on the last weekend of shopping before Christmas, gotta get up early for those stores. But I remember Lord of the Rings being packed the last shopping weekend. All three opened right before Christmas.

And when I say I blame the audience, I actually blame the entire movie industry. Movies are too damn expensive. When they were a bit cheaper (in the 80s, early 90s), my family -- especially my mom and I -- would sometimes go to several movies over a weekend. I recall one weekend we went to four movies. And we could do that nearly every weekend if we wanted. Now we have to pick and choose which movies we really need to see on the big screen, the rest having to wait for the DVD rental.

However, getting to the review of King Kong, it does have some problems that would keep the blockbuster audiences away. One, it's three hours long, so the late night showings turn into wee-hours-of-the-morning showings. Two, it's not Lord of the Rings three hours long, making the time fly by, like "wow, it's been three hours already? They could have stuck another half hour on there, and I can't wait a year for the next one." My reaction was more, "yes, she's got a pretty face, do we need so many long close-ups?"

Pacing was its biggest problem. There were too many "moments," too many subtle-acting scenes fraught with meaning and emotion. The point could have been made while shaving off a few minutes here and there. Hell, even many of the action scenes went on a little too long. I wondered to my husband afterward if the Director's Cut edition would actually be shorter than the original. I hope.

But what action scenes! I'm glad no one had a nightvision camera trained on my face, 'cause I don't think I've ever made that many faces or squirmed so much in a movie. Those parts were cool.

And I did enjoy the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong. I don't really recall the first two King Kongs, but my impression of the first one was that Ann was just terrified all the time, and of the second that there was some weird eroticism. This one really conveyed the sense of two lonely creatures finding companionship and family -- at last -- in each other's company, which made it especially poignant.

Overall I thought it was a movie worth seeing. I just wish I had taken a nap beforehand.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"War on Christmas" Debunking

SadlyNo! is helping out Media Matters in the "War on Christmas" debunking with two new debunks.

I had heard of the first one from my mother-in-law when we were discussing whether my son's school was doing a Holiday "thing."

She told me that a subsidized housing facility was forbidding residents from singing carols. My reaction was, "How can they do that?"

They can't, and they didn't. Debunked!

I checked my wall calendar for any Holiday "things" my son's school was doing, and didn't find anything. My mother-in-law and I were upset and disgusted that there was going to be nothing, not even Jingle Bells. But I checked the school schedule, and found out there will be a Holiday "thing" at my son's school, just not for Kindergarteners. But my son told me that they were going to choose a seasonal song, each grade would write some lyrics, and they would perform it at an assembly.

A school in Wisconsin did something similar.

The secularization of Christmas carols? Another attack on Christmas!

Well, not really. Debunked!

"'Merry Christmas' Backlash" Backlash

Some people are exercising their 1st Amendment rights to comment on the sad state the this Season has devolved to. O'Reilly's ratings winner every year is actually hurting people. There's also a video.

"It's horrible, just terrible," says neighbor Joe Nuccio, 79. "He's got Santa Claus with a bloody knife in one hand and a doll's head suspended in the other. That's bloody, too."

Bloody awful, for sure. But Krupnik, who couldn't be reached Thursday, told the Associated Press it's all to make this point: Christmas has become too commercial. Others have made similar points in Orlando (a gutted Rudolph dangling from a tree) and Miami (a hanged St. Nick).

...

Maybe Krupnik is bothered that Christmas has become too commercial, Nuccio says. "I am, too. All this nonsense about whether you should say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.'

"But he shouldn't have done that to Santa."


Add this to the lies that O'Reilly tells about towns that prohibit Christmas clothing, and you've got a ratings slut who seeks to divide our country during a time of year we should be celebrating unity and brotherhood.

Instead of saying, "Oh good, retailers are finally recognizing the diversity of American life, so don't whine and complain, Christians, open your arms for a big seasonal group hug," they keep telling Christians to bitch and moan that the season isn't all about "me me me me me."

See what your madness has led to, O'Reilly? You've pushed people over the edge, and set Santa on a commercialization-killing rampage.

See also:
Anti-Secularist Rap
Jesus Hates American Christmas Traditions
O'Reilly Defends "Happy Holidays;" But Not Really
Christmas is a Secular Holiday, Says O'Reilly
Halloween Under Siege

Senate Dumps PATRIOT Act

The GOP couldn't overcome the filibuster, so the PATRIOT Act is going away December 31.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iraq Invasion: Congress Did Not Have the Same Intelligence

So can we stop the meme now? Is anyone on the Right listening? Helloooo?

From a memo from Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division, as part of an investigation by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service:

Limitations on Congressional Access to Certain National Intelligence

By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority - which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted (1) - to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. (2) As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President (3) - in contrast to Members of Congress (4) - have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress. (5)

In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the President and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions - information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress - that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence.


Via Talking Points Memo

Shekel for an Ex-Mormon?

Vestal Vespa found some great Book of Mormon action figures.

I was raised in a Mormon household, and we had some children's Book of Mormon picture books (which my brother would use as TV dinner lap trays).

Abinadi

I swear these figurines were taken from those illustrations, because some of them look really familiar, especially these two.



There was a cover I particularly remember, of a jaguar in a tree that looked like it was about to leap on some Nephites passing under its branch.





Nephi

BTW, the last conversation I had with someone from the church ended with her snottily saying, "Well then why don't you get excommunicated?"

I think I said something like, "Why should I bother?" And having read about the process of getting excommunicated, I now know why I shouldn't bother.


Quitting the Mormon Church has long been difficult. Excommunication was the only way to sever ties until the 1980s, when a lawsuit forced the church to allow members to have their names stricken from membership rolls.

But in many cases, so-called name removal can wind up taking months or years, require repeated letters and inquiries, and prompt persistent and ongoing visits and calls from fellow Mormons that, some ex-Mormons say, approach harassment and invasion of privacy.

In some cases, like Edwards', disciplinary hearings are called. Members are investigated, their families and acquaintances are questioned, and any transgression and its punishment can be announced by church leaders.

The funny thing is, the reason some want their names removed is because the church will sometimes send over teachers, make phone calls, write letters, and generally harass a member. You're screwed either way!

I think I've moved around enough, and I've changed my name, so they probably don't know where I am. They probably don't know where my parents are, either. And if they found out, I would hope my parents would know enough not to give my name.

As long as they leave me alone, I don't see any reason why I should subject myself to their attentions. I'm very polite and respectful when evangelists come to my door. I simply tell them that I have my own beliefs, which I decline to share, and that suffices. But if the Mormons find out I'm a jack and start harassing me, the "fuck offs" will start.

Update: Who would win in a fight -- Vestal Vespa's Nephi, or Radhole's Einstein riding on a USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D die-cast metal "to-bacc-o" pipe?

Repubs "Debating" Immigration/Fence Bill

The House of Reps is going ahead with a bill to build a Great Wall along the Mexican border to keep out the invading hordes of low-wage workers who do all the invisible jobs that keep the wealthy in their McMansions. It will run from the Pacific to the Gulf.

But the bill still has some reworking ahead. For instance, the GOP is split on whether to include a guest worker program, earned legalization, or birthright citizenship:
A few were unhappy that a provision denying citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants in the United States was not among the first 15 amendments getting a vote. The contentious measure could be offered Friday.

Notice how Sensenbrenner confuses the issue: “Those people who are against this bill don’t want any changes in the existing system except perhaps amnesty, or, excuse me, ‘earned legalization,’ or perhaps citizenship for those who have broken the law.”

Babies can't break the law. Babies can't owe allegiance. Babies are presumptively under U.S. jurisdiction when they are born within U.S. territorial boundaries, and are therefore citizens per the 14th Amendment.

Given the state of court rulings based on common law over birthright citizenship, including the latest in the case of Yaser Hamdi, I think that even if a law denying citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants were passed, it would be successfully challenged as unconstitutional. The GOP will just have to change the 14th Amendment that the GOP passed.

My, how the GOP has changed.

[edited to add following links]

See also:
Outsourced Agriculture
Tancredo: The Problem with Birthright Citizenship
Incentive for Illegal Immigrants
REAL GUEST Act 2005
Human Face on Migrant Workers

Letter to RMN on Bush Misleading to War

Since they're not going to publish this one, I'm publishing it here.

Letter writer Guy Bowman wrote that Paul Campos was misleading us or ignorant by claiming that President Bush misled us into war in Iraq. As evidence, he offers quotes from Richard Miniter's 2004 book, Shadow War, in which CIA Director George Tenet, in February 2004, testified before Congress that multiple reliable sources have stated that Iraq was training al Qaeda in document forgery, bomb making and poisons.

I don't know what that is supposed to prove, except that Tenet lied before Congress. Tenet knew that the information about Iraq training al Qaeda in bomb making and poisonous gases came from al-Libi, a known unreliable source who was tortured for the information he gave, and then recanted. The DIA informed the White House in February 2002 that the information al-Libi provided was suspect and unreliable, and a CIA memo from the same time period shows that Tenet knew that al-Libi had been in no position to have the information he was giving.

Despite knowing these things, Bush made a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 in which he said, "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."
Though the White House knew of the unreliable and suspect information, they sent Colin Powell to the U.N. in February 2003 to testify that the information was true.

Making positive assertions of fact when one knows those "facts" to be suspect is misleading, to put it mildly. If telling the truth about the President is Bush-bashing, then so be it.

But Mr. Bowman was correct on one count: we "Bush-bashers" do live in a parallel universe. It's called the reality-based community, where we know that we won't be able to defeat the terrorists until we get a leader whose policies are also reality-based.

Julie O.


Other letters to RMN:
Defining Liberalism -- Our Duty To Each Other
Turtles All the Way Down

Bill Winter's Blog

Bill Winter is running for Tom Tancredo's seat in 2006. He's got a blog up at his website. Take a look.

Also added:
Events calendar -- there are already two house parties. And he acknowledges Hanukkah as well as Christmas. Oh, the perfidy!

Photo Gallery

Video & Audio clips -- my favorite is where Bill gives Tom a great nickname: "Let's Bomb" Tom.

Cuban Team Blocked from "World" Baseball Classic

Cuban Congresspeople have urged the Treasury Department to block the the Cuban baseball team's access to the U.S. to play in the World Baseball Classic. They suggest, instead, that Cuban baseball defectors already in the U.S. and playing professionally on teams ought to form the Cuban team.

First, I hope Castro does kick it soon and those Cuban Congresspeople and exiles can prove their lack of loyalty or love for the U.S. and leave. Go back to Cuba, reclaim their incredible wealth, and pick up the oppression that lead to revolution where they left off. They are messing up our electoral system by leveraging their political power, infiltrating our government, and using the U.S. to wage a vendetta. They don't want to be Americans, they don't love this country, they lie in their naturalization oaths when they claim to deny any other allegiances.

Second, if we don't allow Cuban baseball players to come to our country, how can they defect? And once they defect, they no longer represent Cuba. Saying American baseball players could represent Cuba just bolsters the fact that Cubans are just using America while they bide their time.

We defeated the Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980. How are we supposed to get some sort of symbolic victory against Castro if we don't allow the Cuban team to play? We shouldn't get to host a "World" Baseball Classic if we're going to use it as a political wedge, just like no one should get to host the Olympics if they are going to try to exclude any teams from playing. It's an insult to the sport and makes the idea of competition a lie.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Birthright Citizenship: The Common Law and Consent

[Since I know most people don't read long posts, I'm placing the money quote at the top, though it appears also near the bottom]

Birthright citizenship is a necessary component of a system of government based on consent and "a voluntary association of individuals." If citizenship is assigned to people based on their parentage, they are denied the ability to consent to be governed. If people owe allegiance to a power from birth, they are not individuals capable of a voluntary association. Consent and voluntary association are thus rendered meaningless, as is our system of government.

A commenter to my posted transcript of Tancredo's birthright citizenship interview brought up the issue of the 14th Amendment, and the clause, "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

The full citizenship clause is as follows:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

I had always read that to mean that, if you are born or naturalized in the United States, you are therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and you are a citizen of both the entire country and the state of residence.

However, opponents of birthright citizenship say that clause means that there are two requirements to citizenship: physical presence in the United States and having no allegiance to another country.

The argument is taken from the comments of Senator Howard, who proposed the Citizenship Clause to the 14th Amendment, as well as the concurrence of other framers:

I do not propose to say anything on that subject except that the question of citizenship has been fully discussed in this body as not to need any further elucidation, in my opinion. This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country.

Sen. Lyman Trumbull
What do we mean by 'complete jurisdiction thereof?' Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.

Trumbull continues, "Can you sue a Navajo Indian in court? Are they in any sense subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States? By no means. We make treaties with them, and therefore they are not subject to our jurisdiction. If they were, we wouldn't make treaties with them...It is only those persons who come completely within our jurisdiction, who are subject to our laws, that we think of making citizens; and there can be no objection to the proposition that such persons should be citizens.

[emph. added]

It looks to me that they are specifically arguing against the citizenship of Native Americans who are born within the boundaries of the United States, but still have the sovereignty of their tribes. Now, however, Native Americans do have such dual citizenship, and treaties with the U.S. are still in force (if not always enforced). Howard made it clear that he excepted people "who belong to the families of" a certain group, but not persons born in the U.S. who "belong to the families of" foreigners or aliens. There then must be a difference between the two. As Trumbull made clear, Native Americans were foreigners and aliens, though they were born in the U.S. to legal residents of the U.S.

Reasonable minds may differ, though. But how reasonable is it to assume that the framers of the 14th Amendment were advocating hereditary nationality rather than arguing against dual citizenship in the unique situation with Native Americans?

In the Hamdi amicus brief (in which the court considered the rights of Yaser Hamdi, who was born in Louisiana while his parents were visiting the U.S., raised outside the U.S. and captured fighting in Afghanistan -- the Court ruled he was a U.S. citizen, BTW) the opponents of birthright citizenship use the "stated intent" of the framers to include jurisdiction to argue that children of non-citizens share their parents' allegiance to a foreign power, and thus are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction. It is a rule of law known as jus sanguinis (right of the blood) in which one's nationality is determined by one's parents' nationality.

This argument ignores a common law practice in the United States and England called jus soli (right of the soil), which means the place of one's birth determines one's nationality, or territorial birthright.

Court decisions prior to ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment point unambiguously to American acceptance of territorial birthright citizenship. As early as 1804, the Supreme Court assumed that all persons born in the United States were citizens of the United States.[73]

...

Because the Framers [of the 14th Amendment] were aware of the territorial common law underpinnings of the Citizenship Clause, it seems dubious to infer lack of foresight for something existing in the common law for hundreds of years.


The reason for jus soli is because

...children born in the United States of illegal immigrants are morally blameless for the illegal actions of their parents and therefore should not be punished for their parents’ actions.[157] This articulation, known as the corruption of blood principle, has been made time and again by the Supreme Court.

Going back to Sen. Howard's statement, it is clear that he understood the principle of jus soli, and agreed with it.

This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States.

[emph. added]

From A Comparative Analysis of the Common Law Basis for Granting Citizenship to Children Born of Illegal Immigrants

The underlying theme of the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause[80] is declarative, and it is not meant to substantively alter the already well-established common law citizenship doctrine.[81] The Court approved this understanding in the 1898 case Wong Kim Ark: “as appears upon the face of the [Fourteenth] [A]mendment, as well as from the history of the times, this was not intended to impose any new restrictions upon citizenship . . . It is declaratory in form, and enabling and extending in effect.”[82]
[emph. added]

It is my opinion that the reason some people do not like the courts interpreting legislation despite the stated intent of legislators is because people do not understand the principle of common law, or the legal system in general. I had planned on writing a post on the difference between Roman law and common law a couple of months ago, but didn't feel up to the task.

But "the stated intent of the legislature" is always an argument I hear when courts are interpreting statutes. Stated intent of legislators is not law. That is why legislators have such huge arguments over the wording of laws. On the floor of the Senate or House, a Congressperson may declare a benign and beneficial intent behind a law; the argument from the other side is that, regardless of stated intent, there may be a particular undesireable effect through the interpretation of the plain language of the law.

So even if one were to interpret the stated intent of the framers to mean jus sanguinis, the plain language of the 14th Amendment, in the context of common law, is jus soli.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the sole interpreter of the U.S. Constitution,[130] and the written Constitution places restrictions on the substance of legislation procured by Congress.[131] Because the terms in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause are not explicitly clear,[132] the Court has turned to common law principles and history.[133] Thus, in American jurisprudence, the common law serves the function of explaining written text in the Constitution.

But opponents to birthright citizenship do not hang all their opposition on the stated intent of the framers. Another argument made in Hamdi is that birthright citizenship is a remnant of feudalism, wherein one owes allegiance, from birth, to the sovereign, an allegiance that cannot be renounced. Since we all have a right to renounce our allegiance to the United States, it therefore follows that we have shirked the feudalism of birthright citizenship, and do not owe allegiance to the sovereign, i.e. the United States.

It appears opponents of birthright citizenship not only must ignore common law, but must make contradictory arguments to justify their position. How can we both owe allegiance solely to the United States at our birth (therefore coming under its "complete jurisdiction"), and yet not owe allegiance to the United States at our birth?

Part of shirking off feudalism and of not owing automatic allegiance is the idea of consent. Again, from Hamdi

...Governments are instituted among particular peoples, comprised of naturally-equal human beings, to secure for themselves certain unalienable rights. Such governments, in order to be legitimate, must be grounded in the consent of the governed—a necessary corollary to the self-evident proposition of equality. Decl. of Ind. ¶ 2. This consent must be present, either explicitly or tacitly, not just in the formation of the government but in the ongoing decision whether to embrace others within the social compact of the particular people. As formulated in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights of 1780:

The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights …. The body-politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.

Mass. Const. of 1780, Preamble (emphasis added). Thus, as Professor Edward Erler has noted:
[T]he social contract requires reciprocal consent. Not only must the individual consent to be governed, but he must also be accepted by the community as a whole. If all persons born within the geographical limits of the United States are to be counted citizens—even those whose parents are in the United States illegally—then this would be tantamount to the conferral of citizenship without the consent of ‘the whole people.'

Ignoring that the Massachusetts Bill of Rights is not U.S. law or reflective of the state of the law in the U.S. generally, I will address this.

It is true that our system of government is founded on the principle of consent. And it is this idea of consent which first made me question the argument that the 14th Amendment codifies jus sanguinis.

Babies cannot consent. They can't owe allegiance to the U.S., or to share in the allegiance of their parents. To say that a child owes automatic allegiance to the country of his parents is in opposition to the notion of "a voluntary association of individuals."

To condition citizenship on consent of the whole society as well as the individual is to defer actual citizenship until adulthood, when the whole society and the individual can look each other over and make a decision on a case-by-case basis. Rather, we give our implied consent by continuing to live in the U.S., getting drivers' licenses, voting, etc. The U.S. as a whole gives us implied consent by not allowing the government to exile anyone to a rock in the ocean. Would we want the society as a whole to judge our worthiness to citizenship?

In fact, another opponent to birthright citizenship uses a quote by Madison to make the case that citizenship is a privilege granted to individuals that can be stripped from us if we are deemed unworthy.

Citizenship is a privilege, not a right as say the right to freedom of religion is, and therefore, can be taken away just as any other privilege can be.

James Madison defined who America seeked [sic] to be citizens among us along with some words of wisdom:

When we are considering the advantages that may result from an easy mode of naturalization, we ought also to consider the cautions necessary to guard against abuse. It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours. But why is this desirable? Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community are not the people we are in want of.[7]

Ignoring that Madison was speaking of naturalization rather than jus soli, this is the outcome of the notion of reciprocal consent, and why it, as an explicit requirement of citizenship, is and should be rejected.

Citizenship is rendered meaningless if we can be judged unworthy by our peers to have that which the fortune of our birth has granted us. We may proclaim our devotion as a society to Natural Rights to life, liberty and property; but what good are Natural Rights if that same society can strip away a claim by birth to participation? What good is a claim by birth to even a child born of U.S. citizens?

Birthright citizenship is a necessary component of a system of government based on consent and "a voluntary association of individuals." If citizenship is assigned to people based on their parentage, they are denied the ability to consent to be governed. If people owe allegiance to a power from birth, they are not individuals capable of a voluntary association. Consent and voluntary association are thus rendered meaningless, as is our system of government.

But if my impassioned, common sense argument of principle doesn't suffice, there's still the common law.

Even if one accepts the consent theory of jurisdiction,[161] it would be contrary to the corruption of blood principle[162] for absence of U.S. consent in the parent’s presence to transfer to the child.

Second, the Supreme Court has not found consent, at least in the formal sense of permission, dispositive with respect to whether one is subject to the jurisdiction under the Citizenship Clause. The consent inference, drawn from sparse wording in Wong Kim Ark,[163] and advocated by opponents of conferring birthright citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants, misconstrues the Court’s long-held position of imputing common law elements into citizenship law.[164] Thus, consent theorists lose sight of the forest but for the trees by failing to account for the distinct primacy of the territorial component inherent in the “subject to the jurisdiction” phrase’s meaning.[165] Furthermore, the U.S. rule of territorial birthright citizenship is fortified by Calvin’s Case, which expounded the territorial nature of ligeance and manifests consent broadly,[166] limited only by the common law exceptions for children born of diplomats and children born of hostile occupying forces.[167] Despite the status of the immigrant parents, jurisdiction over the child is not absent so long as he is present within the territorial definition of the United States. [168] ...
If children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants are judged unworthy of a right of citizenship because of their parents' illegal actions, then no one is safe in their citizenship.

...More on the 14th Amendment.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Anti-Secularist Rap

A new classic, by Kaye Grogan
Christmas is under attack and we must fight back.

Without Christ there wouldn’t be a world adorned with lights.

Without Christ there wouldn’t be Christmas days or nights.

Who are you to tell us that we can’t say Merry Christmas or display the Nativity scene?

And banning children from singing Christmas Carols in school is
downright mean.

See The Poor Man for more.

Wanker of the Year Nominations

The Poor Man opens Wanker of the Year with three nominees: Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, and John Hindrocket (I can't even remember his real name anymore ... Hinderacket? Heinerocker?).

They've also kicked off the Wank of the Year competition, as well as other sub-categories.

The competition is hosted by Kip Winger, Wings Hauser, and Debra Winger. Which makes me wonder why The Poor Man isn't a nominee for a Best Weblog Award.

...I particularly like this Wank of the Year nominee:
Only a few minutes ago, I had the delightful opportunity to read the comment of a fellow who said he wished that white, middle-class, racist, conservative cocksuckers like myself could have been herded into the Superdome Concentration Camp to see how much we like it. Absent, of course, was the fundamental truth of what he plainly does not have the eyes or the imagination to see, namely, that if the Superdome had been filled with white, middle-class, racist, conservative cocksuckers like myself, it would not have been a refinery of horror, but rather a citadel of hope and order and restraint and compassion.

The toilets would have flushed, the lights and air-conditioning would have worked, the dead would have risen, there would have been no rioting, raping or murdering (which there wasn't, anyway -- "Don't get me wrong — bad things happened. But I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything ... 99 percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved.")

More Evidence Bush Administration was Cherry-Picking

More than a year before those 16 words, France had begun telling the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger or other African countries.

"In France, we've always been very careful about both problems of uranium production in Niger and Iraqi attempts to get uranium from Africa," Chouet [French former official] said. "After the first Gulf War, we were very cautious with that problem, as the French government didn't care to be accused of maintaining relations with Saddam in that field."

...

Chouet said the cautions from his agency grew more emphatic over time as the Bush administration bolstered the case for invading Iraq by arguing that Hussein had sought to build a nuclear arsenal using uranium from Niger.

Chouet recalled that his agency was contacted by the CIA in the summer of 2001 — shortly before the attacks of Sept. 11 — as intelligence services in Europe and North America became more concerned about chatter from known terrorist sympathizers. CIA officials asked their French counterparts to check that uranium in Niger and elsewhere was secure. The former CIA official confirmed Chouet's account of this exchange.

Then twice in 2002, Chouet said, the CIA contacted the French again for similar help. By mid-2002, Chouet recalled, the request was more urgent and more specific. The CIA was asking questions about a particular agreement purportedly signed by Nigerian officials to sell 500 metric tons of uranium to Iraq.

Chouet dispatched a five- or six-man team to Niger to double-check any reports of a sale or an attempt to purchase uranium. The team found none.

Chouet and his staff noticed that the details of the allegation matched those in fraudulent documents that an Italian informant earlier had offered to sell to the French.

...

When Bush gave his State of the Union address in January 2003, citing a report from the British that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium in Africa, other French officials were flabbergasted.

One government official said that French experts viewed the statement attributed to the British as "totally crazy because, in our view, there was no backup for this." Nonetheless, he said, the French once again launched an investigation, turning things "upside-down trying to find out what was going on."

...

The British government maintains that its conclusions were based not on the forged documents but on other, more reliable sources. In fact, British officials have said that they reached their conclusions long before the forged documents surfaced.

Still, Chouet said in the interview that the question from CIA officials in the summer of 2002 seemed to follow almost word for word from the documents in question. He said that an Italian intelligence source, Rocco Martino, had tried to sell the documents to the French, but that in a matter of days French analysts determined the documents had been forged.

"We thought they [the Americans] were in possession of the documents," Chouet said. "The words were very similar." The former CIA official said that in fact the U.S. had been offered the same documents in 2001 but had quickly rejected them as forgeries.

...

White House officials scrambled to explain how the 16 words found their way into the 2003 speech when so much doubt surrounded the claims. Ultimately, then-deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley took responsibility for allowing them to remain.

On June 17, 2003, five months after Bush's State of the Union, the CIA clarified its position on whether Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. "Since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad," the agency said in an internal memorandum that was disclosed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Bush critics now say that — in light of the warnings from the French and others — the White House owes the public a better explanation.



[Emphasis added]

The CIA had been repeatedly told the Niger documents were not based in reality since 2001, and had in fact determined for themselves the documents were forgeries in 2001. At the very least, they knew the documents were forgeries in 2002. The CIA was lying about when they learned of the forgeries and the lack of evidence to help get Bush off the hook.

Another source the Bush Administration relied on for evidence that Iraq was seeking nukes material WMD was "Curveball," who the Germans had warned was unreliable. [Sorry, I had nukes on the brain].

Lieberman: Americans are Undermining Bush's Credibility

Via Atrios. Joe Lieberman, December 7:
It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.

Lieberman is right. A president with no credibility does imperil our nation.

Every day the President lies to our faces about Iraq and the "War on Terror." He knows he's lying. We know he's lying. He knows we know he's lying. The world knows he's lying.

But we're responsible for undermining his credibility?

If we nod our heads in unison, march in lockstep with the lies and propaganda, then we undermine our nation's credibility. We show the world that we, as a whole, are corrupted and wrong, not just under the temporary control of a corrupted leadership that we are doing all, short of a revolution or coup, in our power to curb and change.

O'Reilly Defends "Happy Holidays;" But Not Really

A caller to his radio show claimed a waitress at Olive Garden -- a "red" restaurant, meaning Republican -- wished him "Happy Holidays," so he wanted to punch her in the face and didn't tip her. Audio at Crooks and Liars.

After years of blaming secularists for their "attacks" on Christmas, and fantasizing about hurting and killing people, O'Reilly chastises the guy for being a jerk to an apparent secularist attacking Christmas. After all, says O'Reilly -- who must have upped his dosage to achieve a moment of lucidity -- she doesn't know who her customers are, and wouldn't want to offend a Muslim or Jew by wishing them a "Merry Christmas."

I think a smart business person would want everyone to feel included and welcome, not just one group, and wouldn't make assumptions about a person's beliefs.

But then O'Reilly clarifies his position. Individuals are allowed to say whatever they want, but companies are not. Specifically, he is opposed to companies that "ban" Christmas.

I, however, cannot find any company the American Family Association complains about that bans Christmas. I have seen companies that have decided to use "Happy Holidays" on signs and in advertisements to be more inclusive of their shoppers, and which encourage, not order, their employees to say "Happy Holidays," since they don't know which holiday a person is shopping for.

The AFA lists the companies they threaten to boycott for using "Happy Holidays,"
Kmart, Sears, Kohl's, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, JC Penney, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Office Max, Walgreens, Staples, BJ's, and Dell.

I'm not familiar with what's going on with all those stores, but I'm pretty sure they all have some sort of Christmas-related displays, so they're not "banning" Christmas. Of the stores I've been in this season -- JC Penney, King Sooper's (Kroger), Target -- they all sell Christmas items and have decorations up. I never notice much in the way of Hanukkah decorations, and have never seen Kwanzaa or any type of pagan or other celebration decorations. Christmas still dominates.

Wal-Mart explained their position to the Urban Legends Reference Pages
Wal-Mart is proud to welcome customers of all faith, and celebrants of all holidays.

With more than 138 million customers coming through our stores every week and a variety of holidays that they celebrate throughout this season, "Happy Holidays" is a pleasant greeting that applies to everyone and every celebration. It's simply our way of wishing our customers a good time with their family and friends during this time of year.

So the problem the AFA and O'Reilly have is that stores are not excluding all other religions and celebrations by saying only "Merry Christmas."

And both have stated that they want stores to help spread Christianity to the exclusion of all other religions and celebrations.

From the AFA's boycott form
If they don't care if they offend me by failing to recognize the Reason for the season, there are other companies that do with whom I can do business.

[emphasis added]
They want the whole season.

O'Reilly
...millions of Americans have had enough of denigrating the birth of Jesus.

[emphasis added]
See, acknowledging that not everyone is Christian and worships Christ is a denigration of the birth of Jesus.

And let's look at the essay I got that last quote from.
The federal holiday of Christmas is once again under siege this year by secular forces that want to wipe out any public display of America's Judeo-Christian traditions.

Putting up "Happy Holidays" signs means that Congress will soon be cancelling the federal holiday of Christmas? Christmas is a Judeo-Christian tradition?
Back in 1870, President U.S. Grant signed a law making Christmas a holiday for all American citizens.

Wrong. Back in 1870, Grant signed a law making Christmas a holiday for Federal workers in the District of Columbia. Today, Christmas is still not necessarily a holiday for all American citizens ... neither for a day off or to even get overtime or holiday pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays (federal or otherwise). These benefits are generally a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative).

Those who are covered by the FLSA, signed into law in 1938 and upheld by Supreme Court in 1941 -- which actually is most working Americans -- have President Roosevelt and the labor movement to thank. It was done not to honor or worship Christ, but to protect workers from being exploited by employers. Gee, which, in a way does honor Christ, and his philosophy of protecting the weak. So of course those who support Christmas also support the FLSA, OSHA, and labor unions.
Eighty-five percent of Americans call themselves Christians, and believe me, many of them are not happy with "Happy Holidays" as the imposed greeting of the season.

People who call themselves Christians are greedily claiming the entire season, from October to February, as their own. Screw the 15% who are not happy with the imposed greeting of "Merry Christmas." Except that I doubt all 85% percent of those who call themselves Christians really give a damn.
All these corporate geniuses have to do is incorporate all the greetings into the store brochures and displays. Most Christians are more than happy to acknowledge Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Time or whatever. Use them all, and to all a good night.

What are there, two dozen separate holiday greetings the corporations should have to include in brochures, ads, banners, and store greetings? Well, it would teach patience, and would help the economies of advertisers and printing companies who charge per word. "Happy Holidays" is such a compact, all-encompassing, communist phrase.

See also:
Jesus Hates American Christmas Traditions

Update: My instincts are finely tuned with the pulse of American thought and opinion. 42% of Americans (according to a Fox News poll) think there is a "War on Christmas." That means 43% of Christians think O'Reilly is a dumbass.

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