05/04/2011 archive

Can the US Return to the Pre-9/11 Rule of Law?

Dahlia Lithwick, a lawyer and senior editor at Slate, spoke with Cenk Uygur about returning the rule of law to thus country now that Osama bin Laden is dead. She calls for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises to close Guantanamo, end military tribunal in lieu of Article III trials. In her article at Slate she discusses “Closing Pandora’s Box” ending the euphemistic “was on terror”:

The killing of Osama bin Laden has, for a brief instant, united an America that seemed permanently torn in two over birth certificates, the deficit, and the Donald. We can debate whether there should have been a trial, whether Americans ought to be dancing in the streets, whether it was legal to kill him, or even whether it matters whether it was legal to kill him. But we all appear to basically agree that the world is a far better place because the man responsible for one of the most vicious attacks in U.S. history is no longer in it.

So now what? Legally speaking, there are two broad lessons to derive from the Obama administration’s latest salvo in the war on terror. One is that it shows the need to continue operating outside legal norms indefinitely. The other is that it allows us to declare a symbolic victory over terrorism and return once more to the pre-9/11 regime in which the rule of law is inviolate.


About all we can say with certainty is this: We tortured. We live in a world in which we must contend with information obtained by torture. We now need to decide whether we want to continue to live that way. Writers from ideological backgrounds as diverse as Matt Yglesias and Ross Douthat argue that it is time to return to the paradigm abandoned after 9/11. Let’s put the 9/11 attacks and the existential threat it created behind us. With Bin Laden’s death, let’s simply agree that the objectives of the Bush administration’s massive anti-terror campaign have finally been achieved, and that the time for extra-legal, extra-judicial government programs-from torture, to illegal surveillance, to indefinite detention, to secret trials, to nontrials, to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay-has now passed. There will be no better marker for the end of this era. There will be no better time to inform the world that our flirtation with a system of shadow-laws was merely situational and that the situation now is over.

Although, I agree with Ms. Lithwick that President Obama has a grand opportunity to fulfill some of his campaign promises ending many of the extra-legal abuses of the Bush administration and his own, I disagree on others. Without prosecuting US war criminals — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, all the lawyers and military commanders — the United States will never regain the stature it once had in the world in Human Rights. Pretending it never happened not going to make all the violations of International and US law go away. It is unrealistic to think it will.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”

Wednesday is Ladies” Day. Scroll down for the Gentlemen.

Katrina vanden Heuvel Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare!

It’s been a common refrain of politicians in Washington for as long as the capitol has been unpopular: “It’s good to get outside the Beltway, good to go get back to the real America.” But in recent days that cliché might feel a bit stale for Republican House members, who voted last month for Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Inside the Beltway, Ryan is called “courageous,” a “visionary,” a “serious man,” for having the bravery to put forth a budget that pays for tax cuts for the wealthy by ending Medicare as we know it. Back home in his district, he’s becoming known as the leader of the most serious assault on seniors since President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.

In April, Ryan was greeted, not with the outsized praise of New York Times columnist David Brooks at his town hall in Milton, Wisconsin, but instead, with sustained boos. On Friday, according to Politico, he asked police to remove a man from his town hall because the man refused to stop yelling about the impact the Ryan budget would have on Medicare.

Steph Sterling: They’re Forcing “Forcible Rape” On Us Again

In February, a firestorm erupted over efforts by anti-choice Members of Congress to narrow the long-standing “rape” exception to the ban on the use of federal funds for abortion.  Hailed by Speaker John Boehner as one of the top priorities for the new Congress, H.R. 3 allowed federal funding for abortion only in circumstances where the woman could prove she was the victim of “forcible” rape, taking us back to a time when just saying ‘no’ wasn’t enough.

The public was rightly outraged, and House Republicans were forced to delete the offending language from the bill. The public assumed that the issue had been put to rest.

Not so:  operating under the radar and far from public view, these anti-choice Members found another, more devious way to narrow the rape exception and exclude some of the most vulnerable rape victims from receiving the care they need.

Laura Flanders: Is BP Too Big To Fail?

Now to the opposite of cuts. Over a year after the biggest oil spill in US history and even as criminal investigations continue, BP is still receiving millions of dollars in government contracts.

That’s according to a new story by Jason Leopold at Truthout, who notes that only last week Air BP, a division of the oil company responsible for the oil spill causing problems in the Gulf of Mexico, was awarded a $42 million contract to supply fuel to Dover Air Force Base.

While Leopold was unable to confirm that that fuel was going to supply planes headed to Libya, what he did find was that the contract was given under “unusual and compelling urgency,” which means that the government found the need so important that they limited the bids.

Amy Goodman: Accomplish the Mission: Bring the Troops Home

On May 1, the U.S. president addressed the nation, announcing a military victory. May 1, 2003, that is, when President George W. Bush, in his form-fitting flight suit, strode onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln. Under the banner announcing “Mission Accomplished,” he declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

That was eight years to the day before President Barack Obama, without flight suit or swagger, made the surprise announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. military operation (in a wealthy suburb of Pakistan, notably, not Afghanistan).

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in U.S. history. News outlets now summarily report that “The Taliban have begun their annual spring offensive,” as if it were the release of a spring line of clothes. The fact is, this season has all the markings of the most violent of the war, or as the brave reporter Anand Gopal told me Tuesday from Kabul: “Every year has been more violent than the year before that, so it’s just continuing that trend. And I suspect the same to be said for the summer. It will likely be the most violent summer since 2001.”

Allison Kilkenny: Eighty-Nine Arrested Protesting Paul Ryan’s Medicaid Cuts

Capitol Police arrested eighty-nine disability rights activists on Monday following the group’s occupation of the Cannon House Office Building rotunda.

The disability rights group ADAPT staged the event to protest Representative Paul Ryan’s Medicaid cuts, which would force people with disabilities to live in nursing homes rather than in their own houses.

Additionally, the House-passed budget resolution would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce the program’s spending by more than $700 billion over ten years.

New York Times Editorial: Party Like It’s 2013

Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are having a campaign fund-raiser this week.

Starting on Wednesday, the committee’s majority is expected to pass bills to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the most important innovations in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The bureau has one purpose: to shield consumers from unfair, misleading and deceptive lending. The purpose of the Republican bills is twofold. One is to deprive the agency of the power to fulfill its mission. Another is to attract campaign money. As long as the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats, the bills are unlikely to become law. But by advancing them in the House, Republicans can demonstrate how thoroughly they would dismantle reform if they controlled Washington and, in the process, rake in Wall Street donations.

Peter Rothberg: World Press Freedom Day

Nearly two decades ago, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day as a reminder that free, independent press is essential to democracy and is a fundamental human right.

In honor of that occasion, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has organized a conference today at the Newseum in Washington, DC, with a focus on how Internet and digital platforms are contributing to freedom of expression, democratic governance and sustainable development across the globe.

On This Day In History May 4

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 4 is the 124th day of the year (125th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 241 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1970, At Kent State University, 100 National Guardsmen fire their rifles into a group of students, killing four and wounding 11. This incident occurred in the aftermath of President Richard Nixon’s April 30 announcement that U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had been ordered to execute an “incursion” into Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese bases there. In protest, a wave of demonstrations and disturbances erupted on college campuses across the country.

There were no warnings when the Guardsmen opened fire. 60 rounds were fire into the crowd of demonstrators. After an investigation, all the charges were dropped against the National Guard in 1974.

New audio from the day of the shootings has been released on a website dubbed KentState1970.org. The site also features images of the historic day’s tragic events.


DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 3, 2011-


Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare

New York City’s last Republican strong hold, House District NY-13 that encompasses Staten Island and a small part of Brooklyn, elected a Tea Party Republican in November by a slim majority. Mr. Grimm, a former FBI agent, held his first town hall meetings during the Easter/Passover Congressional break and he got an earful about his support of the Ryan Budget and the privatization of Medicare. Needless to say, his Brooklyn constituents were not pleased and like many of his cohorts that want to end Medicare, he was strongly criticized. His second meeting on Staten Island was better screened to keep most of his critics outside and he was careful to only take questions from hand selected “guests”.

What Happens in Brooklyn When You Try to Cut Medicare

The crowd lay in wait for him with sharpened reports from the Congressional Budget Office, incendiary printouts from liberal blogs, and even a few lethal rolled-up newspapers with articles about the House plan. Mr. Grimm was left standing, but only after 90 minutes of high-decibel debate, during which a school security guard had to threaten to remove several citizens vibrating with anger about Medicare.

It began when he asked the crowd of about 100 people whether they believed the nation faced a debt crisis. A woman near the front row responded that the nation faced a revenue crisis. Someone else shouted out that taxes were too low, and a third person shouted that it was all President George W. Bush’s fault for cutting taxes on the rich. There was a big round of applause, and with that the evening became a battle of statistics and worldviews, in perhaps the only section of the city divided enough to match the national debate.

“Adjust Medicare, don’t kill it!” shouted one woman. “The program just isn’t sustainable,” Mr. Grimm said, trying to control his meeting. “That’s a flat-out lie,” said a man in a Communications Workers of America shirt.

Around the country, Republican lawmakers on recess have encountered bitter opposition as they meet with constituents infuriated at their Medicare vote. Republicans have complained that the town meetings have been targeted by Democratic activist groups like MoveOn. It’s true, but the criticism is no less legitimate than when members of the Tea Party swarmed town halls in 2009 at the height of the health care debate.

Many of Mr. Grimm’s critics at the Brooklyn meeting were wearing union shirts, or reading from printouts. One woman who almost got thrown out for shouting is a regular contributor to the Daily Kos Web site. A few said in interviews that they lived in more affluent sections of the borough. But just as many appeared to be Mr. Grimm’s constituents, and said they had grave concerns about his vote to cut the safety net while benefiting the rich.

With any luck, this will be Grimm’s only term in the House.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Libya rebel city tense as Kadhafi ultimatum expires

by Marc Bastian, AFP

27 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (AFP) – The besieged Libyan rebel city of Misrata was relatively calm Tuesday but braced for new attacks by Moamer Kadhafi’s forces as an ultimatum to surrender expired, a day after shelling killed 14 people.

However, fighting continued in the Al-Ghiran and Zawiat al-Mahjub areas near the airport, which rebels have been trying to capture from Kadhafi forces based there.

In their eastern stronghold of Benghazi, the rebels warned that they would soon run out of funds unless Western governments make them a $3 billion loan secured on frozen Kadhafi regime assets.