Friday, September 29, 2006

A Different Country Today...

Concerned about the Detainee Treatment bill that was just passed in the Senate last night, I turned to a trusted source for some guidance, to hear if the experts think this thing is as bad as it seems to me. Here's Molly Ivins' take on what went down:

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has "has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." Quick, define "purposefully and materially." One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspect's right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon "degenerates into a playground for sadists." But not unbridled sadism -- you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving "severe pain" and substituted "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain."

I wonder what Gerry Spence's take is on this new legislation and where it leaves us as a nation? After all, he's seen the cutting edge of raw government power up close, going up against and defeating a federal prosecutor by the name of Giuliani in the Imelda Marcos case and seen the lengths prosecutors and law enforcement will go to to secure convictions in cases like Randy Weaver's and more recently, Brandon Mayfield's. In short, at times like these, you turn to the experts for solace, but something tells me Mr. Spence's take won't be heartwarming.

Sadly, I think when it's now illegal to "purposefully and materially support[] hostilities against the United States" it's time to start thinking about whether it's worth it to leave comments critical of the current administration on the internet. The truth, it turns out, will not set you free, but might get you locked up.

Now you respond that I'm exagerating, that they won't be coming for you or me soon, but the point is that they could, they now have that power and there's not much we could do about it if they did. No right to challenge our designation as an enemy combatant in court even if we are American citizens, no right to a trial and no right to be free from torture in the interim. Well, actually we'll be free from "serious pain" but still subject to "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain." How heartwarming. And now it's sanctioned by Congress. Let the games begin, they are thinking today, wondering how far they can truly take this new power that's been handed to them.

That's the point Molly Ivins misses, I think. If Jose Padilla, an American citizen, can be designated as an "enemy combatant," held indefinitely at Gitmo, subjected to "extreme physical pain," without a right to challenge his detention by a writ of habeas corpus, the same thing could happen to you or I. We're just a couple steps away from that, and yesterday we made a giant leap in that direction, with 12 Democratic Senators supporting this retroactive change in the law.

Think the people in power won't to push their new powers to their limits and beyond? Here's today's Washington Post's summary of the GOP spin on the Detainee Treatment Bill's nearly party line votes. (h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Republicans, especially in the House, plan to use the military commission and wiretapping legislation as a one-two punch against Democrats this fall. The legislative action prompted extraordinarily blunt language from House GOP leaders, foreshadowing a major theme for the campaign.Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) issued a written statement on Wednesday declaring [emphasis in original]: "Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of MORE rights for terrorists."GOP leaders continued such attacks after the wiretapping vote. "For the second time in just two days, House Democrats have voted to protect the rights of terrorists," Hastert said last night, while Boehner lashed out at what he called "the Democrats' irrational opposition to strong national security policies."

In other words, supporting the rights guaranteed in the Constitution will be marketed as supporting the rights of "terrorists."

Get it. "If you're not with 'us,' you're with the terrorists," is now the law of the land.

And those who "purposefully and materially support[] hostilities against the United States," can be indefinitely held as "enemy combatants," tortured, without a right to challenge their detentions and without the right to trials based on the rules of evidence or on the exclusionary rule.

In short, we woke up in a different country today. We've exchanged liberty for perceived security and, forgetting about history, are now doomed to repeat it. The notion that "It Can't Happen Here" is about to be tested by people already corrupted by power and recently handed even more than they imagined.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I sure hope I am...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

First They Came for the Jews...

It's difficult for me to put into words the way I feel about passage in the House, and probable passage in the Senate of the so-called Detainee Treatment Bill. Fortunately, a few good bloggers provide us with some insight into just how bad things are about to get.

First, Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would A Patriot Act? (and the blog Unclaimed Territory), writes in a post entitled "The legalization of torture and permanent detention ,

There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the
side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in
the United States. Period. Primary responsibility for this fact lies
with the authoritarian Bush administration and its sickeningly submissive
loyalists in Congress. That is true enough. But there is no point in trying
to obscure that fact that it's happening with the cowardly collusion of the
Senate Democratic leadership, which quite likely could have stopped this
travesty via filibuster if it chose to (it certainly could have

There is a profound and fundamental difference between an Executive
engaging in shadowy acts of lawlessness and abuses of power
on the one hand, and, on the other, having the American people, through their
Congress, endorse, embrace and legalize that behavior out in the open, with
barely a peep of real protest. Our laws reflect our values and beliefs. And our
laws are about to explicitly codify one of the most dangerous and defining
powers of tyranny -- one of the very powers this country was founded in order to

Second, Tristero, who writes at Digby's Hullaballoo writes...

The truth is that the United States government is presently holding,
torturing, and even murdering countless numbers of people who have no chance
in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The
government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is
no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to
pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for
toilet paper.
If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest
language, he'd yawn. The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has
been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election).
Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The
bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some
influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had
a mandate, but as if Bush was a dictator.
If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows
Bush would keep on torturing. Better to vote to pass and preserve the
appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very
thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is
beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly
awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged.
If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the
Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is
beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of
doomsday novels. And this brings up the dilemma of a post Nov. 7 world.
Apparently, one if not both houses of Congress may be controlled by
Now what? You think Bush is gonna get impeached? Put on trial for
war crimes? Forget it. You think they're gonna repeal the pro-torture law
they're about to pass? You can almost certainly forget that, too. Remember:
it is crucial to maintain the illusion that Congress still has some say, as
it was in November of 2002 about the Bush/Iraq war.If, for some reason,
Congress does decide to move against Bush in some substantive way, there
will be hell to pay. Those of us who well remember Watergate remember that
while it was genuinely thrilling to have Nixon caught, disgraced, and
removed, it was also a time of extreme tension.
Would Nixon tough the impeachment trial out, causing the country incalculable
harm? It looked for quite a long time that he would. About Bush, there is no
doubt. Since the day after the 2000 election, Bush and his goons have been
playing chicken with the very structure of the United States Government,
double-daring anyone to try and stop them. If Congress does try - and I'm not
talking little things like wrecking Social Security, that'll happen and a
dictator can afford to let things like that wait a while, I'm talking atomic
bang bang and thumbscrews - he will force the private Constitutional crisis into
the open. And there is no guarantee that Bush will lose.And that is the truth.
The Congress has been given an awful choice: Vote to approve torture and the
suspension of habeas or show the world that yes, you really do have no genuine
power to check Bush. Of course, all of Congress should vote against the bill
anyway. But they won't.

When I open the paper today, I read that the Senate is discussing a bill regarding "detainee treatment" of "terrorists" but nothing about the suspension of habeas corpus contained in the bill nor anything about the President willingness to hold American citizens indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” denying them their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights in the process.

The “Decider” assures us that despite his willingness to violate our own laws as part of the war on terror, his powers will never be used against us. Yet Glenn Greenwald described a little-discussed portion of the much-discussed NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) which described Iraq as a “cause celebre” of terrorist groups throughout the world.

The now-declassified summary of the National
Intelligence Estimate
(PDF) on "Trends in Global Terrorism" focuses almost
exclusively on Islamic extremists. But inserted at the very end is this one
overlooked, though seemingly quite important, passage that identifies other
terrorist threats:
"Anti-U.S. and anti-globalization sentiment is on the
rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist,
nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US
interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely,
and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise
attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to
pinpoint." It continues: "We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly
use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train and obtain
logistical and financial support."
Prior to 9/11, the worst terrorist attack
on U.S. soil was in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal
building in pursuit of his right-wing, anti-federal-government agenda. But there
is nothing in the NIE findings about right-wing or anti-government groups.
Instead, there is a rather stark warning about the danger of "leftist" groups
using the Internet to engage in terrorist attacks against the United States. Is
there any basis at all for that warning?
There have been scattered reports over the last several years that the Bush
administration's anti-terrorism programs have targeted domestic political groups
solely because such groups espouse views contrary to the administration's. That
this claim about "leftist" terrorist groups made it into the NIE summary is
particularly significant in light of the torture and detention bill that is
likely soon to be enacted into law. That bill defines "enemy combatant" very broadly (and the definition may be
even broader by the time it is enacted) and could easily encompass
domestic groups perceived by the administration to be supporting a "terrorist

In other words, the power of a President who willingly violates the law and the sanction of this action by the Congress, in this “detainee” treatment bill could easily come back to haunt us very soon.

What do you do when you are confronted with a President who willingly breaks the law, a Congress who is afraid of being labeled soft on terror and thus lacks the will to restrain this rogue President, with an electorate who either will gladly give up liberty for the sake of security or lacks the information necessary to make a good decision because of a corporately-dominated news media?

The best answer comes from a poem attributed to a Pastor, and not the kind of Pastor who talks about Jesus while simultaneously condoning torture. Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote a simple, yet terrifying, poem describing the rise of Fascism in Germany.

First They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

God Bless the U.S.A.? - Waterboarding, Secret Prisons Would Authorized by Congress Under "Deal"

According to ABC News' Blog, the Blotter, yesterday's "compromise" on CIA interrogations would, if enacted, legalize waterboarding and allow secret CIA "blacksite" prisons to continue to operate. According to Brian Ross ( the man who was told, anonymously in May, that the government was tracking his phone calls ) in this morning's blog entry:

[T]he CIA has used a series of six increasingly harsh interrogation techniques
that begin with a slap to the face and end with ... water boarding, in
which a prisoner is made to feel he is drowning
. President Bush and the
CIA have repeatedly maintained the procedures are not torture and have saved
American lives. Human rights groups maintain the procedures constitute
... torture, and the U.S. military has banned its personnel from using
water boarding. Today's congressional deal, if signed into law, would
allow the CIA to continue the six techniques
and to continue to run secret
prisons overseas
for select terror suspects.

In short, if this "deal" becomes law, the American people, via our representatives in Congress, would be legalizing techniques banned by the U.S. military and considered torture by most of the world. The CIA would get what it wants, assurance that its agents would not one day be prosecuted for war crimes, and the President would get what he wants, Congressional approval to allow "the program" to continue in its current form.

As Glenn Greenwald notes,
the only genuinely important fact one needs to know about the "compromise"
reached by the glorious leaders of our Ruling Party: namely, the President
had only one objective with these "negotiations," which was to ensure that
the CIA's torture program could continue, and that goal has been fulfilled
in its entirety.

Tristero, one of the contributors to Digby's blog, summarized the significance of this "compromise" nicely:
  • How does it feel knowing that your government will pass laws permitting the
    violation of the Geneva Conventions against torture?
  • How does it feel knowing the taxes you pay from money you earned are going
    towards the salary of legally sanctioned torturers?
  • How does it feel knowing that the only political party with an organization
    large enough to stand in opposition to the American fascists in charge of this
    country's legislature and executive were actually boasting that they were not
    going to get involved in one of the most important moral debates of our
  • And how does it feel to have George W. Bush, that paragon of moral probity,
    mental stability, and well-informed intelligence, granted the legal right to
    determine what is and isn't torture?

    I'll tell you how I feel. I am outraged and ashamed.
Me too.

The Russian Proverb, which states that "you should choose your enemies carefully for you will become like them," is eerily true today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

F the T-Warrior

I love the name "F Warriors," and the story behind it, but it appears Bill O'Reilly was inspired by the name and has taken to calling himself the "T Warrior", short for Traditional. As this article from ABC states O'Reilly described the inspiration for the new nickname came from a:
war pitting traditional Americans — those who believe the United States is noble
— against those who are secular progressives and believe the country is
fundamentally flawed. "It's the traditionalists who really want to keep
the country pretty much the way it is," O'Reilly said. "Against the secular
progressives who want drastic change. … They control the media."...When "20/20"
pointed out that he had one of the loudest voices in the media, O'Reilly said he
and his fellow traditionalists were outnumbered and had been since the days of
Walter Cronkite.

You got that? It's not the folks who think the obtaining a warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment is contrary to the necessities of the War on Terror, or who think that the Geneva Conventions are "quaint," who have had 3 federal judges rule against them, or who think that "the founders intended that wrongheaded or obsolete legislation and judicial decisions would be checked by presidential action" that want drastic change. They, the "traditionalists," "want to keep the country pretty much the way it is."

And the guy whose show, according to the article, draws "cable TV's biggest audience" believes that it's the "secular progressives" who "want drastic change" and "control the media."

On the bright side, at least his network is Fair and Balanced.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"How can you be an American citizen and not be completely outraged, embarrassed, and disgusted by this conduct?"

This quote came from Glenn Greenwald's "Unclaimed Territory" blog today, in an article that summarizes the state we find ourselves in today, with the head of state we elected. He is, of course, commenting on the release of Maher Arar from American custody today. Yesterday, a Canadian justice found "that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada." Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was taken into custody by the U.S. at JFK while changing planes and was sent, via an "extraordinary rendition" to Syria where he was beaten repeatedly with a steel cable.

Read Greenwald's entire post for a summary of other instances in which the U.S. government has detained foreign nationals without trial, only to later release them. For example:
" Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen who alleges -- with the support of German
prosecutors -- that the U.S. Government abducted him, drugged him, flew him to
multiple different torture-using countries (and shuttled him at least to Kabul, Baghdad, and Skopje, Macedonia) as part of the administration's "rendition" program, only to then release him after five months when the U.S. realized it had abducted the wrong person."
then there is the case of Mustafa Osama Nasr, who was abducted by the CIA off the streets of Milan and flown to Egypt to be tortured, which prompted Italian prosecutors to issue arrest warrants for the 13 CIA officers responsible for this kidnapping within Italy.

Juxtapose these cases with other headlines from this week such as "U.S. Holds AP Photographer in Iraq 5 Mos" and "U.S. war prisons legal vacuum for 14,000.", and it's hard to miss Greenwald's point, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NPR: "Why No Death Penalty for Marines?"

On NPR's Morning Edition this morning, Jon McChesney posed the question, "why isn't Pfc. John Jodka facing the death penalty?" referring to the Marine Corps' announcement that the option was "off the table" for Jodka in the case of Marines charged with killing an Iraqi civilian.

The reporter did not have a good answer and stated something about that information not being released at this time. But I had an answer. I knew that it was the hard work and extrem advocacy of criminal defense lawyers like Joey Low whose work behind the scenes persuaded the government to decide against pursuing the ultimate punishment for these young soldiers sent into a quagmire, most of whom before they could legally order a cold one.

Joey Low does not represent Jodka, but represents a co-defendant, Corporal Marshall Magincalda, and this article details how the government declined to seek the death penalty against him on August 30.

It's not often that the government, which is currently in dire need of scapegoats, agrees to such a deal and it's always the result of hard work and strong advocacy. I don't have any idea how these deals came about, but wanted to point out that Mr. Low has had quite a couple of months: being the subject of a Supreme Court case involving the right to counsel and playing a huge role in saving the life of a young Marine facing the death penalty. Truly Amazing.

Reflections on 9/11 - By the King of the Row

The following is Dick Verlasky's reflections on 9/11. Sorry it's a few days late. Thanks, brother, for taking your own advice and "stand[ing] up and express[ing] the truth that needs to be told." You're right; that's what it's gonna take...

"It is impossible today not to think back upon September 11, 2001. What sets this year apart from last year, the year before and so on, is beyond me. Except that it's a mid-term election year and the Bush Administration returns to 9-11 like the most afflicted obsessive-compulsive to something that has worked for them in the past. Like most folks I suspect, I remember vividly where I was on 9-11.

I had just finished a trial two days earlier and was muddling through the trial lawyers' version of post partum depression when my wife called me on her cell phone. She's a fourth grade teacher. She called to tell me that something terrible had happened and that I should turn on the TV. I did and sat spellbound watching CNN disbelieving what I was seeing.

I did not know anyone who died in the World Trade Towers that day. I had been there on several occasions, once with my wife, and dutifully took many photographs from the observation decks. I even stayed at the Vista View International Hotel whose 42 stories at the base of the South Tower looked miniscule compared to the two towers. From the bar you could watch airplanes on final descent into Newark.

I had sloshed down a couple of beers at the beer garden on the main floor under the trade towers while watching the evening's commuters walking briskly like automatons across this level and then down to the trains which took them home to the suburbs. Their faces were without emotion, their gaze set upon their feet, yet, like ants, they avoided colliding with those automatons coming from the opposite direction. It was unique, indeed fascinating to me, no doubt related to the fact that I came from a small town which, with considerable luck, would never reach the automaton stage.

In the afternoon I began to cry. It wasn't because I thought I might know someone who had died, it was because I knew what was about to happen. Only by the greatest luck, I did not end up going to Vietnam when I was young. I had resigned myself to that fate. I had qualified to be a Navy pilot, but it was a five year commitment. I decided I would take two years via the draft which meant 13 months as a grunt in the bush. But I lucked out and didn't get the call.

I cried because I remember Vietnam. I recall who made the money . . . and I recall who paid the price. Middle aged folks had well paying jobs, fat cats got fatter. You people paid the cost, mostly the poor paid the cost. I knew that this same fear would lead to the same results. A small percentage of Americans would die and become disabled while the so called military-industrial complex made the money. Blood for cash!! It happened then, I knew it was coming again. And this is why I cried.

Yesterday I listened to Vice President Cheney claiming that the Bush Administration has done "a hellofva job" because there hasn't been a new attack upon the US. It is like claiming that the Bush Administration is responsible for all of the trees that have fallen silently in the forest with no one to hear them fall. Today I suffered through an interview on CNN with Karen Hughes, point woman for bullshit. She spoke nothing of the truth; she spoke only of further misinformation in an effort to keep the Rs in power.

How shameful is that? Almost 50% of people polled recently continue to believe that Saddam Hussein attacked America on 9-11. We are doomed with people that dumb, with people that dumb who decide elections in this country. It is hopeless unless educated people stand up and express the truth that needs to be told."

Monday, September 11, 2006

My 9/11 Ranting

The following is a comment I left at David Feige's blog, in response to his personal story about being a p.d. in NYC and walking into downtown, against the tide of people running out.

It's a bit of a rant and I should clean it up a little, but don't have time right now. I would love to hear your comments if you have the time to get to the end. I may end up on a watch list for this, but what the hell. Speak up now or forever hold your tongue...

"It sounds crazy, I know, but aside from running to my car to go pick up my daughters from school when they announced that the courthouse was closing, I vividly remember commenting to a fellow public defender that "this will trigger the biggest assault on civil liberties and the Constitution that we've ever seen."

I don't know what made me think of that at that moment. I think it's probably the experiences I've had as a public defender that made me think of the way the Fourth Amendment, that our ancestors fought so hard to achieve and uphold, would continue to become collateral damage in the war on drugs, on crime, and finally on terror.

I probably should have been thinking of something else at that point, and a big part of me just wanted to go home and be safe with my family. But another part of me knew we, as a nation, in our justifiable rage, would probably end up tearing down the sacred documents our country was founded upon in our quest to preserve the "American" way of life, as if it were necessary to tear down the Constitution in order to save it, as Cheney seems to believe.

What really scared me about my comment was my colleague's (also a public defender) response to it: She said, "well, I'd be willing to give up my civil liberties if that's what it takes to be safe." What's scary about that is that public defender's know, probably more than any other profession, the way we must necessarily balance individual rights with the interests of the state and how necessary the exclusionary rule is to ensuring that the police don't overreach and violate the Constitution as they attempt to stop people from violating the law.

My colleague, even though she sees firsthand the way the police will "testi-lie" and justify this as necessary for the "good guys" going after the bad, was still willing to sacrifice liberty for the sake of security. As all public defenders should know, those who make this trade, without even considering the consequences, deserve neither.

And my worst fears were realized. Who would have thought we would seriously debate whether to use torture to extract information, to confront a government that holds prisoners, even U.S. citizens indefinitely as "enemy combatants," that the Atty General would be threatening to jail journalists for reporting on their government's secret, unconstitutional domestic spying programs, that we would use this day as an excuse to invade a country, unprovoked, to violate the Geneva conventions and alienate the world's empathy while placing tens of thousands of our troops in a quagmire that's killing thousands of them?

Thankfully we're seeing some "pushback" from the judicial branch against a group of neocons who believes in the unitary power the executive branch, and a minimum of pushback from the legislative branch.

But today Time reports that Karl Rove's "hail mary" play to retain power begins, and that the tragic events of 9-11 will be used not only to portray the other party as soft on terror, but to bring members of his own party, who still harbor antiquated ideas about the rule of law or the enforcement of the Constitution, back into line.

I'm fearful of another attack and motivated by the people who so needlessly and violently were murdered that day five years ago. But I'm also worried about where the next five years will take us, and whether that bargain my colleague made in her moment of fear, will continue to cause us to sacrifice the things our country stands for (the rule of law, the Constitution, checks and balances against a tyrant gathering too much power) in the name of making us all feel safer.

Today, rather than watching that fictional propaganda piece the Disney company is providing to the GOP just months before the election, google "Operation Northwoods" and read the recently declassified documents that discuss what bargains an overzealous, fearful military industrial complex was willing to make to motivate the American people into becoming fearful and thus easily manipulated.

As chilling as the events of 9-11 were, consider that the joint chiefs of staff were unanimously willing to murder American citizens in this country to create a climate of fear that would allow us to invade Cuba. Seriously, you can see the documents that verify this online in PDF format.

I'm not insinuating that 9-11 was an inside job, only pointing out that it is documented that the state will at times use the end to justify the means.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and those who are willing to trade this precious, hard-fought freedom for security, (or to allow a small group of men the power to run roughshod over the Constitution and the traditions of this country, limiting liberties here while trying to create democracy abroad at the point of a gun) deserve neither one.

The real test of 9-11 will be the subtle one. The obvious test is whether we will defend ourselves. But the less obvious, subtle test is whether we will unwittingly destroy the American way of life, destroy freedom in this sweet land of liberty, as we hand power over to those who would exploit our fears to enhance their own portfolios and their own grip on power, who would destroy what is good and different about this country in the name of saving it for their gated community neighbors.

A Russian proverb summarizes this idea nicely: "Choose your enemies carefully for you will become like them."

John McCain says what got him through torture was his belief that his country was different than that of his captors, that his nation valued something different and unique among nations. What's made us different is our willingness to uphold individual rights and to balance these against the state to keep the state's power sufficiently checked and anti-tyrannical.

Hopefully as a nation we will realize that, more than ever before, our Constitution is under assault, our leaders are hellbent on clinging to power and willing to exploit our fears to accomplish this, and our media not doing its job in educating us about these challenges to our way of life.

It's true that there are enemies out there trying to destroy us and that we need to defend ourselves from them. But it's also true that if we destroy our nation's ideals in the process, they win and we have only ourselves to blame.

Our enemies struck us five years ago, harder than ever before, but it's also true that in the last five years "we have met the enemy and he is us."

Hopefully we can win the War on Terror without killing off what makes us different as a nation.

Hopefully we can defeat our enemies without truly becoming like them in the end...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Mexico Regional Info - Private Prison Money's Effect There

Here is the info on the upcoming New Mexico Regional Seminar on Direct Exam:

When: Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
How Much: Room, board and materials for $1,375. (20.5 CLE hours including 2 hours for Ethics in most states.
Where: Glorietta Conference Center in Glorietta, New Mexico, outside of Santa Fe.

Gerry will be in attendance as will Katlin, Don and Joshua K.

On the subject of New Mexico, "While [its] landscape may make the state the Land of Enchantment, its rapidly growing rates of incarceration have been utterly disenchanting. What’s worse, New Mexico is at the top of the nation’s list for privatizing prisons; nearly one-half of the state’s prisons and jails are run by corporations." This according to this article from today's In These Times. The article continues...

The key shift [of private corrections companies] is that “the prison industry has gone from a we-can-save-you-money pitch to an economic-development model pitch.” In other words... “you need [their] prisons for jobs.” If political donations are any measure, economically challenged and poverty-stricken states like New Mexico are a great target.

Here is a link to an L.A. Times series about a topic close to my heart, Public Defenders.

And here is a link to a NYTimes piece on Bush's acknowledgement of CIA "black site" secret prisons.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Articles You May Have Missed

Several things you might have missed:

(1) NPR did a story this morning about law professor Neil Katyal who spent $40,000 of his own money to defend a Guantanamo detainee named Hamdan. Along with Lt. Cmdr. Swift, Katyal took what was described as a guaranteed loss of a case and turned it into one of the most significant supreme Court cases of our time. Katyal was given something in return however. As the articles states,

Katyal went to Guantanamo to meet his client for the first time. Hamdan, who comes from a culture of gifts, gave the lawyer what Katyal calls "literally the
only possessions he had," a few prized sweets -- a date and some raisins.

He had just one question for the lawyer: "Why are you doing this?" As Katyal recounts the meeting, he told Hamdan: "I am doing this for you because my parents came from India to America" for one simple reason, "America doesn't treat people differently because of where they come from. We fought a civil war in part about the idea that all people are guaranteed certain rights, and chief among those is a right to a fair trial."

(2) On Saturday, writing in a Washington Post editorial appropriately entitled "Put My Son on Trial -- or Free Him," Khalid Al-Odah summarizes his demands....

Our demand has been to charge and try them, or to release them. Give the
prisoners due process so their guilt or innocence can be determined fairly. In a
country that presumes innocence, it is categorically unjust to imprison so many
who are probably innocent to punish so few who may be guilty.
Describing his son, Al-Odah writes...
My son is not a terrorist. He was, in fact, a great admirer of American
political values and legal principles before he was kidnapped and
sent to Guantanamo
. Our family is nonetheless willing to undergo the ordeal of trial and judgment, if only the U.S. government would allow it to happen.

Al-Odah founded the Kuwaiti Family Committee to secure the legal rights of foreign nationals imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

(3) Keith Olbermann is a Murrow for our times. Here is a link to his blog entry which rebuts Don Rumsfeld's recent speech to the American Legion, in which Rummy invoked images of WWII appeasers as being similar to opponents to W's GWOT.
Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their
cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both
personally, and politically. And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes? In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?
If you don't catch Olberman's Countdown on MSNBC, you're missing out as it's unlike every other mainstream news show out there and a lot like his quote from above, all delivered with wit and insight.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Vioxx Empire Strikes Back and other stories...

I'll be away for most of the weekend, but leave you with a few links to stories of interest as photo of a Pakistani boy working in a factory, making Nike soccer balls. I thought this was a good song to commemerate Labor Day and to remember Big Bill Haywood's line about "Eight hours of work, eight hours to play. Eight hours to sleep, eight dollars a day." Please add your comments. It would be nice to get a discussion going.

Vioxx Reversal: Here is a link to the NYT article on the reversal of the $50 million verdict in a vioxx case as "grossly excessive." The jury awarded the retired FBI agent $1 million in punitive damages and $50 mil in compensatories. The finding of liability was upheld.

More Bad News from Iraq: NYT Headline "More Grim News from Iraq" A sample sums it up: "The assessment provides bad news on a variety of fronts. It said that Al Qaeda is active despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because of the group’s “cellular structure,” that the Sunni insurgency is strong and that militias are undiminished."

Finally, here is a link to the opinion from a Mississippi federal judge's ruling that a couple's insurance policy doesn't cover "water and water borne damages." As the news summary leading into the opinion notes "The legal decision could affect thousands of similiar Nationwide Mutual Insurance policyholders affected by Hurricane Katrina."

Have a great and safe Labor Day weekend!

Friday, September 01, 2006

What do you think?

As your TLC '05 brother, I gotta disagree with you when you say that the people who think the listserve has fallen into "mission creep" are "complete failures as lawyers."

That's taking it a little too far, isn't it? Failures for voicing their opinions? I value their opinions as much as I value yours, brother.

I love the list serve and like you I see the articles and links as "gifts from those who send them to us." You, and many others, make this thing interesting even though, like all families, we don't always agree. I think we have to "take the bitter with the better," like all families should, and focus our fight outside rather than in.

But, can we grant the critics of the current listserve that a lot of things are off topic and perhaps distracting to the most busy among us?

Here's an idea: I created a blog called "In the Moment: A Blog for TLC Warriors" that can be found at

It's brand new today, and the first post is this email. I can easily transfer emails from the listserve to the blog, but I won't do so without the sender's permission.

What do you think? Is this something worth trying? I'd love to hear your feedback, either at the blog or via email.

Your TLC Brother-
Dave Tarrell