Monday, May 23, 2011

Oh, crap

Just crap.
The northern Sudanese army has seized a strategic town [called Abyei] along Sudan’s contested north-south border in a serious military escalation that has the potential of igniting an all-out civil war, Western officials said on Sunday. ...

The southern part of Sudan is gearing up to declare independence in July and both northern and southern Sudan claim Abyei, making it one of the most combustible issues between the two sides. The Abyei area produces a small amount of oil but more than that, it has become a potent, emotional symbol for both northern and southern Sudanese. It has been called Sudan’s Jerusalem because of the difficulties of resolving its status.
A column of tanks from the north have seized the town. The southern forces have not said how they will respond, but they have tens of thousands of heavily-armed troops.

The clash follows weeks of attacks by both sides in areas around the town, which has a mixed history: Culturally and ethnically southern, it has been administratively northern for decades and lies on a route that northern nomads use to bring their herds to watering holes.

After a bloody 20-year civil war that saw two million dead and four million refugeed, a peace agreement was reached in 2005 which involved a six-year period of autonomy for the south followed by a plebiscite on independence there. When the vote took place in January, over 95% voted for independence.

Now this. The thought that a peace, an agreement, that what has been so painfully established could all fall apart this close to some kind of closure is almost too much to think about.

Still, there have been stumbles and clashes on this path before. And at one time, simply making that 2005 agreement looked like a miracle. I can only hope that the Sudanese, both of the Muslim north and the Christian-animist south, have one more miracle in them.

Everything you need to know in one headline

In this case, it's about US policy regarding Israel and the Palestinians:
Netanyahu 'Went In Worried, Came Out Encouraged' After White House Meeting, Official Says
There ya go.

And on a related point, what was all that crap about Obama making a reference to "1967 borders?" There was nothing new in what he said, not a phrase, not a word.

So then he goes out and gives a speech that says in essence "Hey, I only said what the US has been saying for how long? What the hey?" And all the Obamabots fall all over themselves in rapturous joy.

For one example, Josh Marshall called it "a proud day for Obama."

For another, at Firedoglake, David Dayen expressed how "happy" he was that
Obama could have taken the easy and familiar way out, and capitulated to those who dishonestly seized upon his words. He chose not to do so.
I'm sorry, but what?

We're supposed to be impressed that Obama bravely, heroically, stood by what has been the inadequate US policy for decades? (In fact, when the US started talking about "agreed swaps," that was a surrender because it legitimized Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which as recently as Bush I we were noting were illegal under international law.)

We're supposed to be grateful and happy, even surprised, because Obama didn't "capitulate" to "dishonesty?"

This is what passes for good news these days?

We are so screwed.

A little more bad news: this, too

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reek and House Speaker John Boner have agreed on a plan to ram through a four-year extension of expiring provisions of the grossly-misnamed Patriot Act, which should be called the Traitor Act for its effects on privacy and civil liberties.
The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.
Yes, indeed, as Glenn Greenwald says,
we wouldn't want to have any messy, unpleasant democratic debates over "the expanded power the law gives to the government."
That would be uncouth. Not at all in keeping with our serious bipartisan "Whatever you say, Mr. Prez" seriousness. And the fact that in February, Harry Reid promised a full week of debate on the renewal? Ancient history, dude! Get over it!
Under the deal, two sections of the so-called USA Patriot Act and a third provision from a related intelligence law would be extended, without any changes, until June 1, 2015.
Failing that renewal, they would expire on Friday. This would mark the second time, the first being just over a year ago, that the provisions have been extended without changes with the approval of President Barack Obama - even though Senator Barack Obama had spoken and voted against them.

One of the three provisions at issue, the one not from the Traitor Act itself, has to do with so-called "lone wolves." Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, doing electronic surveillance on a person involved them being an agent of a foreign government or group. This provision eliminated that requirement - which means that a FISA warrant, both more wide-reaching and in practice even easier to get than a warrant in a criminal investigation, could be directed against any individual foreigner, even if they have no connection to any foreign government or group. This is to be extended even though the White House admitted in March that the provision has not been used a single time in the nearly 10 years it has been in force, which certainly should call its necessity into question.

One of the two Traitor Act provisions involved provides for roving wiretaps, where it is not the phone that is tapped, but, if you will, the person. This allows in practice for "John Doe" warrants where the identity of the person is unknown and agents
can get a warrant that doesn't specify a facility, or a phone number or an account. It doesn't actually name the target. It might describe the target as a username on the Web. ...

[U]nder the Patriot Act, too much discretion is ceded to the investigator. They might say, there's probable cause to think KSM9@yahoo should be under surveillance. But without even knowing who that person is, the investigator gets to decide what other accounts and online identities to wiretap without going back to the court and explaining why there's probable cause that these other accounts are terror-related.
The other Traitor Act provision is Section 215, relating to "tangible things."
It allows investigators to get an order from the FISA court permitting them to compel the production of any tangible thing that is relevant to an investigation.
What's a "tangible thing?" It's anything. Pretty much literally. It's any record or anything else, any actual "thing," that is connected to a suspect in an intelligence investigation or someone in contact with them, even if that other person is not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever. What's more, under the law any such thing is considered to be "presumptively relevant," which means that the judge cannot deny such a request, which of course makes the whole "warrant" business an utter sham.

Both those latter provisions, the ones relating to "lone wolves" and "tangible things," have seen serious abuses.

That is what is thought worthy by our Congressional leaders from both parties to be renewed "with at little debate as possible."
Reid formally unveiled the agreement by filing a cloture petition Thursday afternoon that will force a vote on Monday to bring the legislation to the Senate floor on Monday. Assuming the Senate passes the legislation extending the Patriot Act provisions, the House would vote shortly afterwards....
There is some opposition in both Houses but quite frankly I do not expect it will be enough, especially in the face of arguments like Eric Holder's that the killing of Osama bin Laden could produce retaliation so we need these powers more than ever. In other words, when bin Laden was alive, we needed them because he was alive; now that he's dead, we need them even more because he's dead. And you know damn well most of Congress will go "Yeah, sure, that makes sense."

Why the fuck don't they just have a bonfire of copies of the Constitution and be done with it?

A little more bad news: so is this

In a previous post on Libya and PHC's* seizure of more and more power to use the military as he sees fit regardless of Congressional authorization (or the lack of it), I made one mistake: He did in fact cite a supposed basis for his authority to act.

Unfortunately for him and for truth, that basis was the War Powers Act. That law, adopted in 1973, does authorize the president to engage in military action without prior Congressional approval - but only in the case of, quoting the Act and with appropriate emphasis, "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." None of which, it should be easily agreed even by the most sychophantic of Obama sycophants, applied to Libya. The argument was a lie. A flat-out, power-seeking lie.

Even so, it is what he cited. Which should have meant he'd have to live with it. But the Act has another provision: That authorization is only good for 60 days, after which, again quoting the Act and with emphasis added, if Congressional approval has not been obtained, "the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces" involved. The only exception is for an additional 30-day window to allow for safe withdrawal of forces - obviously unnecessary in this case.

That 60-day limit came on went on Friday with no authorization, no request for authorization - and with barely a peep from Congress.

Indeed, as if to show just how powerless Congress has become - or, more exactly, has made itself with its craven political cowardice - in what strikes me as a deliberate slap, either late on Friday or on Saturday, it's not clear to me which, but in either event after the deadline had passed, the White House sent a letter to Congress, endorsing a resolution of support already kicking around the Senate. That is, the O-crowd, having proved they could and would ignore the deadline, allowed as how, sure, they would graciously accept an endorsement:
I wish to express my support[, PHC's letter said,] for the bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators Kerry, McCain, Levin, Feinstein, Graham, and Lieberman, which would confirm that the Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya....

Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment ...[and]... would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches....
Note and note well: In that carefully-phrased letter no doubt run past a battery of lawyers, there is no hint that such authorization is needed. Only that it would "demonstrate a unity of purpose." It's not even called "authorization," but "engagement, consultation, and support."

True to what Hillary Clinton told a briefing for members of the House back on March 30, the White House intends to simply ignore any attempts by Congress to exercise its Constitutional authority - more exactly and correctly, its Constitutional responsibility. And they are making no secret of it. On the 60th day of the mission,
Pentagon and military officials said the United States’ participation in the Libyan mission was going forward unchanged. That includes the intermittent use of armed Predator drones to fire missiles at Libyan government forces, as happened on Thursday and Friday, they said.
Nor are they making a secret of their contempt for Congressional authority, as
[a]dministration officials offered no theory for why continuing the air war in Libya in the absence of Congressional authorization and beyond the deadline would be lawful.
There is a little bit of Congressional grumbling; on Wednesday, six GOPper senators sent a letter to PHC asking if he intended to comply with the War Powers Act, and Rep. Brad Sherman charged that Obama was trying to "bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States." The ever-reliable Dennis Kucinich has promised to push for a resolution calling for an end to the mission. However, Sen. Dick Lugar, senior GOPper on the Foreign Relations Committee, has said that any such resolution would die in the Senate. And with Harry Reid in no hurry to address the issue and Carl Levin saying he thinks no authorization is needed in the first place, the chances that the little grumbling will be anything more than a little grumbling are, well, "dim" is too bright a description.

And what of the leadership of the House, so brave, so bold, when it comes to spitting on the poor and defending the honor of the sainted rich?
Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), provided the more typical response from congressional leaders regarding Friday’s deadline. Asked if Boehner thinks the White House needs congressional approval to continue U.S. operations in Libya, Steel responded with one sentence.

“The House,” he said, “is not in session this week.”
And so they slink away in their contemptible capitulation, their abhorrent abdication of their duty, as we cross another line into even more centralized authority.

Footnote: The White House also gave another, totally different, rationalization for why this was all on the up-and-up: Presidents have the power, they claimed, to order forces into "limited" military engagements on their own if they decide it is in the national interest.

If anyone is aware of an "I can do it if I think it's a good idea" exception (which sounds suspiciously like "if the president does it, then it's not illegal") in either the War Powers Act or the Constitution, let's hear about it.

Footnote Again
: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." - candidate for president Barack Obama, December 20, 2007

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A little bad news: this is coming too

The ACLU has discovered a little-noticed, largely undiscussed, and extremely dangerous provision inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act as it was being marked up by the House Armed Services Committee last week.

The provision, Section 1034 of the act, would quite literally commit the US to what amounts to endless war all over the world and empower the president (that is, this and every future president) to use US military forces virtually anywhere in the world at virtually any time - including, potentially, within the US itself and against US citizens - without the need for any further authorization.

The NDAA provides authorization for spending money on the military and other "security" related areas; as such, it is what's called a "must-pass" bill - because of course (of course) no one wants the military to not have buckets - hell, truck-fulls - hell, freight trains-full - of money to spend. Which is why the section, inserted quite literally during a midnight markup session by committee chairman Buck McKeon, with no hearings and virtually no debate even within the committee, is so ominous: No one, or at least far too few, will vote against the bill because of this one provision.

What does the provision do?
Under the guise of a “reaffirmation” of authority, Section 1034 of the Chairman’s mark for the NDAA would give the President unchecked authority--and if the section constitutes a declared “war,” possibly the unchecked duty--to use military force worldwide against or within any country in which terrorism suspects reside. ...

The President would be able to use this authority--or might be required to use this authority--regardless of whether there has been any harm to United States citizens, or any attack on the United States or any imminent threat of any attack. There is not even any requirement of any threat whatsoever to the national security of the United States.
Note again: It is unchecked authority "to use military force worldwide against or within any country in which terrorism suspects reside." Not even "operate," but merely "reside." There is no requirement there be an attack or a threat of an attack on the US or its citizens; indeed, there need be no threat at all. The only requirement is that "terrorism suspects" are present.

Such attacks do not need the cooperation or even passive approval of the host government and there is no geographical limit. What's more, there are no objectives given, making it difficult at best to determine just when and how this authorization would expire.

I am not exaggerating: This is a proposal for a conscious, deliberate abdication of Congressional responsibility and authority which would place all legal control over the US military in the hands of a single person who - considering the difficulty presented by finding a nation where there are no "terrorism suspects" present - would be authorized to use that military essentially at any time, in any place, in any way, to any extent, for any length of time they choose. And it may well pass.

So much for my burst of hope.

A little good news: it's coming

I keep saying it - it's coming. It will come.

Full marriage equality will come, full legal equality for LGBT people will come. A time will come when overt bigotry will be no more acceptable here than overt racism is now.
A majority of Americans say in a new poll that same-sex marriage should be legalized, marking the first time for such support since Gallup began tracking the issue in 2004.

Support for gay marriage jumped nine percentage points to 53%, largely due to an increase from independents and Democrats, the Gallup survey showed. ...

The new Gallup Poll showed 69% of Democrats and 59% of independents now support same-sex marriage, both double-digit increases from last year's survey. Nearly 3 in 10 Republicans, or 28%, support gay marriage -- the same showing as last year.
(The necessary adjective "overt" in connection with bigotry, especially considering all the dog-whistling going on with the die-hard birthers, is also why I said full "legal" equality rather than full equality. But don't harsh my buzz.)

Of course, there's still crap like the "don't say gay" bill that has passed the Tennessee Senate - which provoked this brilliant rejoinder from George Takei (Thanks, Daisy!) - but even those are starting to feel like desperate attempts to hold back the tide. Meanwhile, there are more and more occasions like this one from February, where a high school in Minnesota tried to prevent a lesbian couple who were both elected to a "royalty court" for a school pep rally from entering together - only to back down in the face of a suit and then witness the student body cheering as the couple entered.

As Martin Luther King was fond of saying, paraphrasing the early-19th century minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Sometimes the arc is hard to perceive - Parker himself said "My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve." - but, damn it all and despite all my fears and pessimism and
failing hope, it is there.

A little good news: awakening from a coma

Finally, some folks are wising up. Finally, some people are realizing that when it comes to political and social power, words alone won't cut it and even criticism, unconnected to action, is unavailing.
AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka, who heads of one of the nation's most powerful labor unions, today[, Friday,] called current state and federal budget proposals a "despicable canvass of cruelty" and warned of consequences for politicians who even indirectly support them.

"It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside," said Trumka in an address at the National Press Club. "The outcome is the same either way."
I have for I don't know how many years been saying is that there comes a point where even what is supposedly "pretty good" is simply not good enough - and when the best you offer people is the hope that with you things might get worse more slowly than they otherwise might, when your best argument is "god forbid" the "other side" should win an election, that is not good enough.
"If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be - now, in 2012, and beyond," [Trumka] said.
The message, clearly aimed at the O crowd and the rest of the Dimcrats, came down to "If you're not there for us, we won't be there for you." Damn well about - in fact, past - time. Now we just have to see if it's more than words.

Eugene V. Debs famously said "I'd rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don't want and get it." Let's hope that labor has at long last absorbed that wisdom.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just sayin'

A lot of the current thinking on both the pro-freedom and the anti-freedom sides of the abortion debate is that the current Supreme Court may be of a mind to overturn Roe v. Wade - certainly, "the Roberts court" has shown a great willingness to overturn precedent when it suited the ideological agenda of its most reactionary members, despite the lying professions of great love for stare decisis they made during their confirmation hearings.

So the anti-freedom forces in a number of states have been pushing for harsher and harsher restrictions on a woman's freedom to choose. Scott Lemieux, writing at The American Prospect earlier this month, reported that
[f]rom January to March, state legislatures passed 15 laws restricting abortion rights and introduced more than 900 others.
The anti-freedom thinking is that those who support the right to choose will either swallow the new rules - thus limiting abortion rights - or challenge them, opening a legal path leading ultimately to the Supreme Court.

A recent example that illustrates how far this has gone comes from South Dakota. A new anti-freedom bill, signed into law on March 22 and to go into effect July 1, requires a personal consultation between the woman and the doctor who is actually to perform the procedure followed by a 72-hour waiting period and the requirement that the woman "receive counseling" from a "pregnancy help center," which are sham outfits whose goal is to talk women out of abortions.

Beyond the obvious burdens placed particularly on poor women by these rules, the absolutely creepy condescencion oozing out of the bill's supporters is nauseating:

For example, Governor Dennis Daugaard said that "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices," which is generally the kind of language a parent uses to address a child they think is behaving foolishly. I expect we're pretty clear on what Gov. Dog's-arse thinks is a "good choice."

Meanwhile, Rep. Roger Hunt, main sponsor of the law, says that "Women need to just be reminded of the fact there is a natural, legal relationship between them and their child." Now it's not even an "unborn child," it's a "child." I mean, "unborn child" is asinine enough on its face: There is no such thing as an "unborn child." If it's not born, it's not a child. Or is a caterpillar an "unborn butterfly," a tadpole an "unborn frog," and an egg an "unborn chicken?" But this is beyond absurd.

And oh yes, women must be "reminded" of their "relationship" with "their child." Women, the poor dears, just don't understaaaand about relaaaationships. We have to remiiiind them.

And by the way, as of early this month, not a single one of these "pregnancy help centers," including ones that pushed for the bill, have registered to provide the legally-required counseling. Is this because they think the bill won't go into effect due to a court challenge - or do they think it's a means to prevent any abortions by preventing anyone from fulfilling the requirements?

Anyway, one of the reasons I brought this up was because I wanted the chance to say this:

I've always hoped that when one of these putrid things such as the South Dakota bill is introduced, someone in the legislature of whatever state it is would rise and say:
I want to propose a friendly amendment. As my colleague wishes only to insure that women make fully informed decisions[, as is invariably the claim], I'm sure they will happily incorporate this amendment into their bill.

My amendment does two things: One, it replaces every occasion of the incorrect term "unborn baby" or "unborn child" with the medically- and scientifically-correct "fetus." This includes any statement any physician or other provider is required by this law to present or say to the patient.

And two, it requires that in addition to the information presented to the woman about her fetus, she also be fully informed at the same time as to the emotional, physical, and financial risks of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting.

In fact, let's go the whole way: Let's require that every physician be required to fully inform every female patient of child-bearing years of the relative risks of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting on the one hand and abortion on the other.

Again, as my colleague insists that the true purpose of this bill is to enable fully-informed decisions, I'm sure there will be no objection to this amendment.
It would be fun to watch the reaction - especially as I'm quite sure the anti-freedom forces know that the physical risks of pregnancy and childbirth clearly exceed those related to abortions.

Footnote: South Dakota is also that state that in February actually considered a bill that could have made the murder of abortion providers "justifiable homicide."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Footnote to the preceding

You know what is the saddest thing about the Indiana Supreme Court finding that "modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence" means you can't resist illegal police entry to your home?

They may be right. From the New York Times:
The police do not need a warrant to enter a home if they smell burning marijuana, knock loudly, announce themselves and hear what they think is the sound of evidence being destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in an 8-to-1 decision. ...

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said police officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches by kicking down a door after the occupants of an apartment react to hearing that officers are there by seeming to destroy evidence.
What happened was that some police in Lexington, Kentucky, saw a drug deal in a parking lot and went into an apartment complex looking for a suspect. They pounded on the door of the wrong apartment and heard what they claimed were sounds making them think that evidence was being destroyed.
They kicked the door in and found marijuana and cocaine but not the original suspect, who was in a different apartment. ...

The Kentucky Supreme Court suppressed the evidence, saying that any risk of drugs being destroyed was the result of the decision by the police to knock and announce themselves rather than obtain a warrant.
"Warrant?" replied SCOTUS. "What is this 'warrant' thing of which you speak?" On Monday, the Court ruled that
police had acted lawfully and that was all that mattered. The defendant, Hollis D. King, had choices other than destroying evidence, Justice Alito wrote.

He could have chosen not to respond to the knocking in any fashion, Justice Alito wrote. Or he could have come to the door and declined to let the officers enter without a warrant.

“Occupants who choose not to stand on their constitutional rights but instead elect to attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame,” Justice Alito wrote.
Now, the police said they went to that apartment because they smelled burning marijuana. Are we supposed to accept that if King had opened the door and said "You can't come in" that the police, in the face of an even stronger smell of marijuana (assuming their original claim to be true), would simply say, "Oh, okay," and leave?

Or that if they at that point had said they had "probable cause" to enter, Alito would have disagreed?

Or that if someone had gone to get a warrant while cops remained just outside the door, that if in that time they "heard sounds" that made them think "evidence was being destroyed" and the broke down the door, Alito would have disapproved?

Are you joking?

Besides, what constitutes a sound that gives rise to a fear of evidence being destroyed? Of that, Jon Walker at Just Say Now, who tipped me to this news, makes this observation:
The flushing of a toilet, running of a faucet, opening of a plastic bag, ripping of paper, turning on of a stove burner, or even the sound of foot steps if the officer can claim he “believed” the suspect was moving toward a fireplace (which may or may not exist) are all sounds the police use to say they had the suspicion that evidence might be destroyed. I can also assure that almost anytime the police start loudly knocking at the door late at night they are going to hear some noises they could label as reasonable suspicion.
To see how inane this decision is, consider this part of it:
“Where, as here, the police did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment,” [Alito] wrote, “warrantless entry to prevent the destruction of evidence is reasonable and thus allowed.”
In other words, the fact that the police did not threaten to forcibly enter illegally made it legal for them to forcibly enter.

The only dissenter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nailed it:
“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. “In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.” ...

“How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?” she asked.

Footnote: One other thing to point out here is that all these sorts of decisions inevitably, invariably, rely on one assumption: Police always tell the truth and never falsify their reports or their descriptions of events.

I got this bridge, y'see, and it's at a really great price....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The coming darkness

Okay, this is from several days ago but I haven't seen it get much attention and it really does boggle the mind and really really does deserve notice. It's from this past Thursday, when the Indianapolis Star reported this:
People have no right to resist if police officers illegally enter their home, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a decision that overturns centuries of common law.
That's right: The state supreme court of Indiana has ruled that if police illegally force their way into your home, you have no right to resist. You must stand aside and allow them to do it.

Say what?

There must have been some good reason, there must have been. So what was the reasoning, what was the powerful, overwhelming logic that drove the court to "overturn centuries of common law?" Well, here's one part (and hold on for the second part; it's even better):

The court argued that "allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved." Note that it doesn't say that the way to avoid "unnecessarily escalat[ing] the level of violence" is for the cops to follow the law, to follow the rules, no no no; rather, it is for you to passively submit when they break the law and ignore the rules.

And what's your recourse? Sue the cops, says the court.


Yeah, seriously. That's the remedy.

In what higher dimension?

So if cops illegally force their way into your home your only recourse is to sue them - assuming you can even bear the costs involved in pursuing such a suit and by some combination of miracles you have both a judge who isn't going to dismiss on a "good faith" defense (the "Gee, I thought I could" defense) and a jury that won't be swayed by "Do you want your police to be second-guessing themselves when they're out there every day, risking their lives, to protect you and your children from the criminals, rapists, and terrorists? Well, do you?" That's your recourse.

Yeah, I'm sure that will be a real deterrent.

Oh, but there's still the second part, and yes, it's even better:
"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," [Justice Steven] David said.
Leave aside the creepy notion that it can be legitimate "public policy" to ignore your rights and get to the meat. Because, yup, you got it: According to the Indiana Supreme Court, our "modern" legal understanding of the Fourth Amendment says you have no right to resist an "unlawful police entry" into your home.

You have no right to resist illegal actions by police. You have no right to resist abusive state power. Oh, you have a "right" to "protest" after the fact, provided, again, that you have the considerable sums of money required to file such a protest - but no right to resist. Instead, our "modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence" says, you must submit.

And even if you have the fortuitous combination of finances, judge, and jury necessary to make you whole, what of all the others who don't? Power given to the state is power given over all, over everyone. Recourse for the one is recourse just for the one and for no one else. And that is exactly what the court has established here.

This is very bad - especially as state supreme courts often look to decisions of other state supreme courts for guidance. Yes, this is very bad.

Footnote Eins: It was a big week for the Indy Supremes. Two days before that decision, that is, last Tuesday, the court ruled that cops serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if they decide circumstances justify it. Previously, they needed a judge's permission; they needed, that is, a so-called "no-knock" warrant.

Now, they don't and they can decide for themselves without any oversight. Which means that now, in Indiana, this would be fine.

I remember back in the I'm pretty sure it was the Nixon administration when "no-knock" warrants were first discussed - and the whole idea was regarded as controversial. Now, it's just another day at the office - or, rather, the police station.

Footnote Zwei: The only hopeful sign in this was that comments at the IndyStar site about the article were all but universally negative and often harshly so.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another post mortem, B

This time, take a moment to remember how right after 9/11 Osama bin Laden was, in our minds, world public enemy #1.

Then remember how when the Shrub gang couldn't find him he got downplayed. Downplayed so much that Bush himself once said he didn't know where bin Laden was and didn't much care.

Remember how bin Laden was "in hiding," "on the run," "living the life of a fugitive." Remember how he was "out of the loop," how he'd been reduced to a figurehead, how it was now Ayman al-Zawahiri who was the real mastermind. Remember how it was pointed out that bin Laden was so isolated that the compound where he was found had no internet or landline phone connections and how they wouldn't use cellphones because they'd learned how the location could be traced - so his only connection to the outside world was a single trusted courier.

After remembering all that, notice that now that they got bin Laden that suddenly he is again being portrayed as having been a major, a central, even the central figure in anything and everything that had the name al-Qaeda pasted on it right up to the day he was killed.
Though hunted and in hiding, Osama bin Laden remained the driving force behind every recent al-Qaida terror plot, U.S. officials say, citing his private journal and other documents recovered in last week's raid. ...

His personal, handwritten journal and his massive collection of computer files show he helped plan every recent major al-Qaida threat the U.S. is aware of, including plots in Europe last year that had travelers and embassies on high alert, two officials said.
So he's gone from figurehead to head figure, from out of the loop to CEO, in the space of a few days. Why? Because it's good PR, that's why. Because now that he's been caught, it's politically useful to maximize his influence and control, thus making his death that much more of a victory.

All these reports are bullcrap. How can I be so sure that bin Laden was, in fact, a figurehead, a respected "father figure," rather than having any operational control? One good reason is that buried in the 13th graph of that same story is something that flatly contradicts the lede:
Officials have not yet seen any indication that bin Laden had the ability to coordinate timing of attacks across the various al-Qaida affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq and Somalia, and it is also unclear from bin Laden's documents how much the affiliate groups relied on his guidance. The Yemen group, for instance, has embraced the smaller-scale attacks that bin Laden's writings indicate he regarded as unsuccessful. The Yemen branch had already surpassed his central operation as al-Qaida's leading fundraising, propaganda and operational arm.
So he couldn't coordinate anything, it's "unclear" how much others relied on his advice (some of which was outright rejected), and another branch had already become bigger and more influential.

How that translates into Osama bin Laden being "the driving force" behind every recent al-Qaeda plan is rather hard to understand. But the point is, we're not supposed to think it through that far.

Meanwhile, CIA drone strikes into Pakistan continue.

Another post mortem, A

Two final (at least for now) observations on the death of Osama bin Laden.

First, here, is that the attack on the compound where bin Laden was holed up was repeatedly described as a “firefight.” For example, White House press secretary Jay Carney said ""There were many people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight." He also told reporters that the commandos were "met with a great deal of resistance."

An unnamed senior defense official claimed that "For most of the period there, there was a firefight." And CIA Director Leon Panetta said "It was a firefight going up that compound."

Of bin Laden himself, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said "He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in." Brennan also claimed that bin Laden was “hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield."

Um, yeah. Except none of that was true. It came out not long after that the attackers met far less resistance than the administration originally claimed. In fact, only one man even fired a gun at them. He was quickly killed, after which the SEALs swept the two houses in the compound, in the course of which they killed three more people, none of who, it appears, were armed.

That's not counting bin Laden himself, who also was unarmed.

What's more, it developed he was not “hiding” behind anyone; what happened is that when the SEALs entered the room where bin Laden was, a woman - probably one of his wives - rushed them. At one point the story was they shot her in calf; later it was said they said grabbed her because they were afraid she might be wearing a suicide vest.

Bin Laden, again, was unarmed. So why was he shot twice? Because, we were told, even though he was unarmed, he "resisted." He was shot in first in the chest and then in the face because he "resisted." But how did he "resist," especially how did he continue to "resist" after being shot the first time? At first, the White House wouldn't say.

But then it came out that the "capture contingencies" involved in the operation
related to a possibility thought to be highly unlikely: a humble and abject surrender, in which the al Qaeda founder would put his hands up, raise a white flag and beg not to be shot.
So simply failing to "beg not to be shot," is "resistance."

Clearly, that didn't sound good. So there was a lot of shifting of shuffling. Leon Panetta said bin Laden made "some threatening moves that were made that clearly represented a clear threat to our guys. And that's the reason they fired." But wouldn't say just what those "moves" were.

That wasn't so good, either, So then it became that the commandos feared he was reaching for a nearby weapon. Later it became he “lunged” for a weapon. Which still left the issue of how he continued to "resist" (or reach or lunge) after being shot in the chest at close range.

Somewhere around this time Jay Carney said he would no longer provide details of the operation.

Gee, I wonder why.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Footnote to a Follow-up

This follow-up, to be exact:
One of the things I mentioned in the previous post was "testosterone-driven posturing" visible in the celebrations in the wake of the announcement of Osama bin Laden having been killed. The truth is, I was genuinely disturbed by some of what I saw. ...

[T]he whole, the overall, sense was one of "America kicks ass, man!" It was "We got 'em, man!" It was "Hey, loser! You suck!"
It's nice to find that there were others who felt the same and who, after "the initial giddiness settled a bit," got support from still others. Maybe we're not quite as far gone as I thought. Hope springs and all that.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Footnote to the preceding, Everything You Need to Know in One Word

In this case, everything you need to know about what's wrong with our major news media. Quoting from the previous post:
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed that this was not a kill-only mission....
Um, what? He confirmed it? Not "said" or "stated" or "agreed" or "repeated," but "confirmed?" So even in the face of contrary information, contrary sources, whatever the "official" source says is to be taken as true? The default position is that the "official" position is the true and correct one and the more "official" it is the truer and more correct it is?

With news media so deferential to power, no wonder Americans continue to be so woefully uninformed.

A follow-up to the follow-up

In response to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said bin Laden "epitomized evil" and had been "brought to justice." In addition to holding that the Nazi gas chambers or the killing fields of Cambodia still clearly outclass anything bin Laden dared dream of (and finding it noteworthy that a database on the World War II Holocaust went online on the same day as Reid's statement), the fact is that bin Laden was not "brought to justice." He was killed.

In fact, a Reuters report by Mark Hosenball said that the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound was a kill mission, that capturing him alive was never in the cards.

But oh no, we can't have that! Americans are too pure for anything like that! Or so an unnamed administration official insisted:
No U.S. forces go in and, if someone surrenders to them, will kill them,” the official says. “There was a presumption that it would likely end in a kill,” the official continued, citing the U.S. government’s expectation that Bin Laden would resist capture. “But to say that it was a kill mission is wrong.” ...

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed that this was not a kill-only mission.... ”We certainly were planning for the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote,” Brennan said of capturing Bin Laden alive. ”If we had the opportunity to take him alive we would have done that.”
So it wasn't a "kill" mission, it was merely a mission in which any outcome other than a kill was "remote."

Thus, there was a kill despite the fact that by the White House's own description, bin Laden was unarmed.

Oh but wait! He may have been unarmed, but he "resisted." He was shot in the chest and the face because he "resisted." How did he resist, especially how did he continue to resist after being shot the first time? The White House outright refuses to say. Maybe this is why:
In planning the operation, a senior U.S. defense official told a background briefing, "there were certainly capture contingencies, as there must be." But U.S. officials said that the "capture contingencies" related to a possibility thought to be highly unlikely: a humble and abject surrender, in which the al Qaeda founder would put his hands up, raise a white flag and beg not to be shot. There has been no evidence presented that anything like this happened.
So simply not being afraid to die, failing to "beg not to be shot," is "resistance." Really. It is. Really.
"Resistance does not require a firearm," [White House spokesman Jay Carney] said. "I'm sure more details will be provided as they become available."
Or as soon as they come up with a good story about how "about two dozen Navy Seals and CIA enablers" were unable to overpower one unarmed man.

"Not a kill mission," my ass.


No, not a Footnote, a follow-up.

One of the things I mentioned in the previous post was "testosterone-driven posturing" visible in the celebrations in the wake of the announcement of Osama bin Laden having been killed. The truth is, I was genuinely disturbed by some of what I saw.

One reason is a bit hard to explain clearly, although Pamela Gerloff, writing at the Huffington Post, makes a good run at it: I simply can't find it in myself to celebrate the death of a human being. I don't care who it was. I can feel relief at a death (sometimes even, for example with my mother, who suffered for years before she died, a grateful relief), I can be glad they are off the scene, I can even in some cases feel - as Canadian PM Stephen Harper said he felt in this case - "sober satisfation." But outright pleasure? No. Not me.

But that is precisely what a lot of the celebrants showed: outright pleasure. Not relief, not a sense of greater safety or security, not a sense that things might be better for us and the rest of the world, nothing about the future. No, just pleasure. Out in the streets chanting "USA! USA!" and singing "nah-nah-nah-nah, hey hey hey, goodbye," used by winners to mock losers.

Which is what it came down to. I have seen films of, I head read accounts of, my folks told me some stories of, the spontaneous celebrations that broke out on V-E Day and V-J Day. And yes, while there were people out in the streets waving flags, the entire atmosphere was one of joyous relief: I'm going home! Or My husband/father/son/brother is coming home! It's over!

But not here, not this time. There was no sense of relief, no sense of "things will be better now." No, the whole, the overall, sense was one of "America kicks ass, man!" It was "We got 'em, man!" It was "Hey, loser! You suck!" What we saw on those streets was not patriotism, it was jingoism.

No, not everyone was guilty of that; of course not and don't be silly. But enough. Enough, in fact, that the truth is that it expressed a constant underlying current in American thinking, one that puts me in greater fear of our future as an at least reasonably free society than Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda or any of the other lesser-known outfits ever did or could. Al-Qaeda can kill us, it can even kill a lot of us, but it - but terrorism - is utterly incapable of killing who we are as a people, utterly unable to kill whatever ideals to which we still cling. We can only do that to ourselves. And I fear that there are far too many among us who are more than willing to do precisely that.

Two other things for now:

One is the question of what difference bin Laden's death will make in terrorism in the world. (Note well that here I am using "terrorism" in the media-approved sense of "non-state" terrorism, under which governments, which have terrorized more people than the "terrorists" by orders of magnitude, need not apply.) The answer is: Probably none at all, either one way or the other. It will make no more difference than the capture of Saddam Hussein made a difference in post-war Iraq.

One reason is that years ago, al-Qaeda was already being described more as a "brand" than an organization, more an ideology than a particular group. If you wanted to feel yourself part of this "great campaign," you called yourself al-Qaeda. It has been years since there was some central coordination in what were described as (or even self-claimed to be) "al-Qaeda" attacks. What's more, bin Laden himself had for some time been pretty much out of the operational loop. He was more a figurehead than a controlling influence, marking the effect of his death as psychological rather than practical. Which means that you've gone from a living symbol to a dead martyr. I doubt it will make a difference.

The other thing is that I knew as soon as I read that the original tip that lead, years later, to locating bin Laden came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while he was in a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe, I knew that the after-the-fact justifications for torture would be close behind. And indeed they were:
The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA's so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.

"We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day," said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.
See? See? Torture good! Secret prisons good! All because one tiny, at first glance irrelevant, bit of information (the nickname of a courier) was combined with years of patient intelligence and investigative work to produce a flashy result that ultimately will very very likely not make a damned bit of difference - and even though that information was not gained through torture but through "standard interrogation."

But who cares? America kicks ass, man!

Actually, There Is A Footnote: In the time between when he authorized the strike and when it actually got underway, PHC* visited the tornado-ravaged area of Alabama, spoke at a college commencement, distributed his one-liners and the correspondent's dinner, and played a half-round of golf. Say what you want about him (and I have and will), you gotta admit, he's got a good poker face.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

Monday, May 02, 2011

The news that will blot out everything else for the next several days

Apparently, Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by a US special ops team that raided a mansion where he had holed up some 100 km outside Islamabad.

I'll withhold certainty for a few hours: Remember the several times we "got" Saddam Hussein, at least one of which involved a body, before we finally did. Still, the claim is that DNA tests have already been done and the O. team seems in general more cautious about this kind of announcement than the Shrub gang was, so it's most likely correct.

The expected jubilation and testosterone-driven posturing have already broken out in the streets and the domestic political gains and losses are already being tallied.

I'm sure there will be more to say and more than enough voices to say it, but I wanted to get this out there now:
President Barack Obama warned Americans on Sunday night to remain vigilant even after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and while there are no known credible threats, the risk of attacks remains.
On an occasion like this, the expansion of executive authority, the extra-legal military interventions in Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya, the torture regime, the secret prisons, the wiretapping, the growth of the Department for the Protection of the Fatherland, the whole widening apparatus of the national security state, freezes - for just one instant, its power, its legitimacy, suspended for less than a breath. Then it relaxes and carries on.

So there is one major difference between the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama bin Laden: The national security state hoped Saddam's capture would be the end of that war. That same national security state is hoping that bin Laden's death will not be the end of this one.
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