Archive for September 28th, 2006

Bruce Ackerman has a fantastic summary of some of the disturbing components to the torture legislation the spineless GOP Senators – including Conrad Burns – will soon pass:

The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops “during an armed conflict,” it also allows him to seize anybody who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Like the language in the Patriot Act, the language in this bill is disturbingly vague. What does “hostilities against the United States” mean? Could a US citizen be labeled an “enemy combatant” for, say, clashing with police during a protest against federal policy? For simply being arrested at a protest? And could anyone who donates money to organizations that actively and openly protest federal policy be “material” supporters of said “enemy combatants”?

As Dave Neiwert noted, the decision on how this law will be used comes down to one man: George W Bush. Ackerman:

But the bill also reinforces the presidential claims, made in the Padilla case, that the commander in chief has the right to designate a U.S. citizen on American soil as an enemy combatant and subject him to military justice. Congress is poised to authorized this presidential overreaching. Under existing constitutional doctrine, this show of explicit congressional support would be a key factor that the Supreme Court would consider in assessing the limits of presidential authority.

Got that? If Congress rubberstamps Bush’s authority over all U.S. citizens, then the Supreme Court will likely go along, assuming that the will of the electorate is being aptly represented by its representatives.

Ackerman concludes:

This is no time to play politics with our fundamental freedoms. Even without this massive congressional expansion of the class of enemy combatants, it is by no means clear that the present Supreme Court will protect the Bill of Rights. The Korematsu case — upholding the military detention of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II — has never been explicitly overruled. It will be tough for the high court to condemn this notorious decision, especially if passions are inflamed by another terrorist incident. But congressional support of presidential power will make it much easier to extend the Korematsu decision to future mass seizures.

Though it may not feel that way, we are living at a moment of relative calm. It would be tragic if the Republican leadership rammed through an election-year measure that would haunt all of us on the morning after the next terrorist attack.

Few, if any, would argue that the Bush administration is currently using its wide scope of power to crack down on domestic dissent. But that’s not the problem. This Congress is about to hand the U.S. presidency the tools for establishing a dictatorship.

Am I saying Bush will start a dictatorship the day after this bill passes? Unlikely. Am I saying Bush wants to establish a dictatorship? Or does the President really believe this legislation will be an effective tool against terrorism, period? It’s impossible to say. What isn’t debatable is that our nation was founded on the principle that our leaders aren’t to be trusted. That’s why our constitutional architects built into our government a system of checks and balances, so that even in time of crisis, our democracy would remain intact.

It would be shameful to dishonor the men who fell in war to protect the liberties and freedoms that will be threatened by this piece of legislation the Republican-controlled Senate is prepared to pass.

Again, this is fine time to quote Lincoln, who seemed to understand better than any current member of government what is at stake this week:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Don’t let party loyalty triumph. Do the right thing.

On polls

Earlier today I linked to an article, the top 12 traps that keep progressives from winning elections. Blah de blah-blah. Seen, heard this stuff for…years?…now. Old news.

I did like this section on polls, which is why I linked to the article:

Many progressives slavishly follow polls. The job of leaders is to lead, not follow. Besides, contrary to popular belief, polls in themselves do not present accurate empirical evidence. Polls are only as accurate as the framing of their questions, which is often inadequate. Real leaders don’t use polls to find out what positions to take; they lead people to new positions.


This makes a lot of sense, especially now with some Democrats shying away from Iraq and national security. The reality is that GOP rhetoric has grown increasingly stale on this topic (see “Burns, Conrad, et al.”), and Democrats have the opportunity to actually lead in setting policy for dealing with the war and terrorists.

Then there’s universal health care, which, if you believe this report, is popular with a majority of Americans, yet no one dares utter a word in its favor. Go figure. An opportunity to be bold, to do good, and score popularity points? The problem with the issue is that it’s volatile; just look what happens every time I mention it on this site: the fiscal Spartans descend like a pack of harpies on the comments. (I still don’t understand why: single-payer systems work, better and cheaper. Maybe because its success would disprove their ideology.)

Be bold. Ignore the polls, and speak out on what you believe. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

A little while ago, I wrote a post on the NRA’s support of Senator Conrad Burns, and how it was an obvious partisan move, placing the Republican party above the Second Amendment.

There was a little fussing from the usual suspects in the comments, saying that Tester’s in the “party of gun control,” and by golly he’d fold up and sell you and your right to bear arms down the first left-leaning river he could find!

So, let’s deal with specifics, shall we? When recently pinged about a number of gun-related legislation, Tester’s camp answered. Let’s take a look…

On the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, which prohibits federal officials from confiscating legal firearms during time of national emergency?

Jon believes the right to bear arms is not conditioned on any situation and should not be curtailed.

On the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which “prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products”?

Jon believes in personal responsibility and accountability and opposes any efforts to shut down the manufacture of firearms.

On the “Brady II” bill (politically unfeasible for almost a decade now) provisions increasing taxes on ammunition or a federal “arsenal” license?

Jon does not support new license requirements or taxes on firearms or ammunition.

On the Washington DC ban of handguns, enacted in 1976?

Jon opposes the DC Gun Ban.

On concealed weapons?

Jon supports the right of citizens to lawfully carry concealed weapons.

And in summary:

Jon Tester strongly believes in our Second Amendment rights. As a gun owner and custom butcher Jon made his living with a gun for 25 years. As a legislator Tester voted repeatedly to protect gun rights. In the United States Senate, Jon will stand up to anyone — Republican or Democrat — who wants to take away Montanans’ gun rights.

Now I’ve said this before, personally I’m more “squishy” on gun control than your typical Montanan. For example, I’m not crazy about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act because I think manufacturers should be held accountable for marketing and manufacturing practices that panders to, say, crime. (“Saturday night specials”?) I also think communities might have a good reason to have temporary and targeted bans.

But the point here isn’t my views, it’s Jon Tester’s. Jon is absolutely in favor of Second Amendment rights, even more so than Senator Burns, who’s a big proponent of the Patriot Act. So if you’re waffling on Tester over the issue of gun rights, waffle no longer.

The question, of course, remains. Why does the NRA continue to support Burns over Tester, even though Tester’s record on gun control is better?


Cece sent off her complaint to the FEC regarding the Butte seating scandal. Nice work.

Wulfgar! mulls over Sinrud’s drive-by campaigning and his new sure-fire proposal for the state legislature.

David Crisp’s profile of Jon Tester.

JEFF realizes an ugly truth: he and Bill O’Reilly just don’t see eye-to-eye.

Colby mulls over Iraqi opinion on our presence in their country. Hm…sixty percent approve of killing US soldiers…haven’t heard the “hearts and minds” rhetoric from the Bush administration lately…hm…

From that poll and others, Ezra Klein concludes that President Bush is really a uniter, not a divider.

The Democratic leadership begins its stand against torture. Is anybody else weirded out that we’re even having this discussion?

Obama does make a stand in favor of civil liberties. Good to see the Dems growing a backbone.

Cafferty mulls torture and the Presidential self-pardon…and comes away disgusted. “What are we becoming?” Indeed.

Kossak mcjoan urges Dems to filibuster the torture bill. I agree: make them go on the record supporting torture.

And guess who decides if you’re an “enemy combatant”? The decider, that’s who.

Tristero: We have a rogue president.

Meanwhile, the Republican leadership is still trying to deceive you.

Olbermann responds to the NY Post’shumorous send-up” of the commentator’s death threat. Did they interfere with an investigation? They certainly came out looking like *ssholes.

The TSA detains an airline passenger for…well…writing “[TSA secretary] Kip Hawley is an idiot” on his bag. Talk about self-reinforcing behavior.

More tales of war profiteering in Iraq and a government indifferent to corruption.

Health premiums up twice the rate of inflation and wages. Oh, and a federal advisory panel recommended that “all Americans have access to affordable health care by 2012.” What’s that noise?…*crickets*

Twelve traps that keep progressives from winning.”

A mainstream journalist demonstrates his complete ignorance about blogs. I could understand this attitude in..say…2004…but now???

Fox News Personality Quiz! What a lineup!

We must rid the world of art, lest a child see — *gasp* — a nude body! Seriously, these people are a parody of themselves.

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