06/24/2014 archive

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”.

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Jameel Jaffer: Obama’s ‘drone memo’ is finally public. Now show us the library of secret law

To this administration, transparency comes in the form of deleted pages. But too much of America’s legal excuse for killing an American citizen remains classified

Large parts of the memo – almost a third of it – have been redacted. The first 11 pages, which describe the government’s allegations against al-Awlaki, are redacted in their entirety. Throughout the remainder of the memo, citations, sentences and even whole paragraphs have been stripped out, in some cases to protect genuine sources and methods but in others to obscure the precedents underlying the government’s legal arguments. The redactions in the drone memo’s footnotes are perhaps the most disturbing, because they suggest the existence of an entire body of secret law, a veritable library of authoritative legal opinions produced by Justice Department lawyers but withheld from the American public.

In one instance, the long sought-after drone memo references another legal memo that concluded that al-Awlaki’s American citizenship did not “preclude the contemplated lethal action.” From this reference, we can deduce that the OLC authored a separate drone memo assessing – and dispensing with – the proposition that an American citizen had the right not to be deprived of his life without some form of judicial process. But that earlier memo, treated by the executive branch as binding law, is still secret.

The American public will not be able to evaluate the lethal drone program without far more information:

New York Times Editorial Board: A Thin Rationale for Drone Killings

The Obama administration on Monday reluctantly released its justification for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, whom it considered a terrorist, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. But the rationale provides little confidence that the lethal action was taken with real care. [..]

Blithely accepting such assurances at face value is why these kinds of killings are so troubling, and why we have repeatedly urged that an outside party – such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – provide an independent review when a citizen is targeted. How did the Justice Department know that capturing Mr. Awlaki was not feasible, or that the full force of a drone strike was necessary? This memo should never have taken so long to be released, and more documents must be made public. The public is still in the dark on too many vital questions.

Robert Sheer: Where’s Saddam Hussein When the U.S. Needs Him?

John Kerry was doing his best “Casablanca” impersonation, pretending to be police Capt. Renault and was just shocked that Egypt is still a brutal military dictatorship despite our newly revived “historic partnership.”

A day after chatting it up in Cairo on Sunday with now-elected dictator Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who, Kerry assured the world, “gave me a very strong sense of his commitment (to) a re-evaluation of human rights legislation (and) a re-evaluation of the judicial process,” the secretary of state felt compelled to release a statement condemning that process. [..]

The fact that the lead victims of this suppression, the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, eschewed violence in favor of peaceful civic organization and the route of elections carries an alarming message that the United States is not seriously committed to nonviolent means of bringing about social change.

From Egypt, it was off to Baghdad for Kerry to see whether Iraq’s bold effort in democratic nation building could be resuscitated in the face of imminent collapse. The problem there is that Kerry will have trouble locating a military strongman to back. The nostalgic choice might be someone like Saddam Hussein. He too was a secular military strongman who very effectively controlled religiously motivated parties, but he’s no longer available.

Dan Gillmor: The ‘right to be forgotten’ doesn’t mean we should be censoring Google results

Everyone does stupid things. But we shouldn’t all have the right to pick which parts of our history get deleted from the internet

The right to be forgotten has great allure – yet it isn’t as far removed from censorship as we might want to believe. This will be a true balancing test, of rights versus laws versus norms, and no matter how we resolve it some people will be harmed in some ways. I’m hoping we’ll establish new norms, where we are relentlessly skeptical of allegations, and where we cut each other considerable slack to be human. As my friend Esther Dyson has wisely advised, let’s have a statute of limitations on stupidity.

David Iglesias: Why the Benghazi trial should be held in the shadow of the Twin Towers

Ahmed Abu Khattala is not a war criminal, and his interrogation is not our tortured past. I have seen the worst of Guantánamo, and downtown Manhattan is the place for justice

I’m a former US attorney – yes, one of the eight dismissed during the Bush administration, which left such a stain on America’s reputation.

I’m also a former military commissions prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, where the Bush administration took a few attempts to create a fair system but where few war crimes have been properly prosecuted, even as trials such as that of the 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed languish.

Now, a man named Ahm-0ed Abu Khattala is finishing up a long trip from Benghazi to a New York courtroom, aboard a Navy ship under interrogation by a team of FBI investigators increasingly focused on gathering intelligence and evidence. [..]

And while it’s conceivable that both federal and military commissions could try Khattala for his alleged crimes, Benghazi was not a war, and the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his security detail wasn’t a war crime. Getting the KSM trial out of the shadow of the 9/11 attacks in downtown Manhattan was one thing, but that’s exactly where the Benghazi ringleader should be tried.

The Abu Khattala trial, like all terror prosecutions, should show the world that even the most heinous of crimes should be governed by the rule of law and be governed by precedent and procedure – not politics.

Jeff Winkler: ‘Soccer’ is a virus invading America. Where are all the rowdy football fans?

The US has World Cup fever. It has also replaced a sport’s wonderfully jingoistic hooligans with privileged, cultured followers who’d rather tweet their team’s score than cheer ’em on

Like tuberculosis or veganism, football – soccer, for us plebes – is a virus invading the urban centers of America, slowly destroying my country and its spirit. I mean this with no disrespect to the sport’s international fans. The game is not itself un-American: rather, its American appreciators are unpatriotic – and they are shaming the game’s great nationalistic fans abroad.

Perhaps you are expecting the standard American complaints against football: calling it futball, the frantic running, players crying (everyone knows there’s no crying in baseball), the aggressive metrosexuality, the low scores, France’s participation and, of course, games that simply end in ties. Admittedly, on days of particularly zealous patriotism – the Fourth of July, Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp special – I find the list of accusations against the sport rather incriminating.

But in most countries where watching the game of football is a regular occurrence rather than a quadrennial diversion, they understand – unlike Americans – that its purpose is to incite and, in part, appease the bloodlust of the disenfranchised masses. It’s only in the US that football becomes a wussy game for the effete elite.

The Breakfast Club: 6-24-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

On This Day In History June 24

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.

June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 190 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

Roth v. United States, along with its companion case, Alberts v. California, was a landmark case before the United States Supreme Court which redefined the Constitutional test for determining what constitutes obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment.

Prior history

Under the common law rule that prevailed before Roth, articulated most famously in the 1868 English case Hicklin v. Regina, any material that tended to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences” was deemed “obscene” and could be banned on that basis. Thus, works by Balzac, Flaubert, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence were banned based on isolated passages and the effect they might have on children.

Samuel Roth, who ran a literary business in New York City, was convicted under a federal statute criminalizing the sending of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” materials through the mail for advertising and selling a publication called American Aphrodite (“A Quarterly for the Fancy-Free”) containing literary erotica and nude photography. David Alberts, who ran a mail-order business from Los Angeles, was convicted under a California statute for publishing pictures of “nude and scantily-clad women.” The Court granted a writ of certiorari and affirmed both convictions.

The case

Roth came down as a 6-3 decision, with the opinion of the Court authored by William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Court repudiated the Hicklin test and defined obscenity more strictly, as material whose “dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” Only material meeting this test could be banned as “obscene.” However, Brennan reaffirmed that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and thus upheld the convictions of Roth and Alberts for publishing and sending obscene material over the mail.

Congress could ban material, “utterly without redeeming social importance,” or in other words, “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”

With the Court unable to agree as to what constituted obscenity, the Justices were put in the position of having to personally review almost every obscenity prosecution in the United States, with the Justices gathering for weekly screenings of “obscene” motion pictures (Black and Douglas pointedly refused to participate, believing all the material protected). Meanwhile, pornography and sexually oriented publications proliferated as a result of the Warren Court’s holdings, the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s flowered, and pressure increasingly came to the Court to allow leeway for state and local governments to crack down on obscenity. During his ill-fated bid to become Chief Justice, Justice Abe Fortas was attacked vigorously in Congress by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond for siding with the Warren Court majority in liberalizing protection for pornography. In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon campaigned against the Warren Court, pledging to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court.

The demise of Roth

In Miller v. California (1973), a five-person majority agreed for the first time since Roth as to a test for determining constitutionally unprotected obscenity, superseding the Roth test. By the time Miller was considered in 1973, Brennan had abandoned the Roth test and argued that all obscenity was constitutionally protected, unless distributed to minors or unwilling third-parties.

Moyers and Company: Chaos in Iraq

Andrew Bacevich



Chaos in Iraq

“We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let’s look at what U.S. military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism?”

TDS/TCR (Karl Rove Murders Gay Lover)


Millions for Porn, Not a Penny for Condoms

What?  That’s not what Thomas Jefferson said before authorizing the funds for the U.S.S. Constitution?  No wonder people look at me funny during Fleet Week.

Transuranic Mystery Flavor

The real news including the 3 part web exclusive interview with Hamid Al Bayati (.pdf), Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, below.