McCain Promises Ideologue Judges

mccain5 John McCain has long rankled social conservatives with his stance on issues such as campaign finance reform and support for some embryonic stem cell research. On Tuesday, he sought to reassure those voters of his conservative credentials as he outlined his philosophy for appointing judges to the federal bench.

In an address at Wake Forest University, McCain pledged to nominate jurists who believe “there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power” and who are “faithful in all things to the Constitution of the United States.”

McCain added that he would choose nominees with “a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint.”

By way of example, McCain said he would look for people in the cast of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., and his friend the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. He called them “jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference.”

Some Democratic leaders immediately denounced McCain’s speech. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, accused McCain of pandering to the far right. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that McCain voted for every one of President Bush’s activist judges and said McCain “promises hundreds more just like them.”

Inserted from <LA Times>

Roberts, Alito and Rehnquist do not represent judicial restraint.  They are ideologue rightists.  Rehnquist was so aligned with right wing bigotry that he signed compacts on two separate properties that he once owned promising not to sell them to a person of color.  At other times, McConJob has held up Scalia and Thomas as role models for judges.  If he gets the opportunity to appoint one more ideologue to SCOTUS, we can kiss the Constitution goodbye forever.

Not only is McConJob a threat to the Constitution, but also he showed further signs of dementia.

7McCainDementia During his speech on judicial philosophy today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared to have what Fox News’s Brit Hume would likely describe as a “senior moment.” In his prepared remarks, McCain intended to thank “the students and faculty of Wake Forest University” for their hospitality. But as the AP reports, when he delivered the speech, “he appeared confused about where he was for a moment“:

He appeared confused about where he was for a moment Tuesday, saying, “I appreciate the hospitality of the students and faculty of West Virginia,” then correcting himself to say Wake Forest as the audience laughed.

Wake Forest University is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Inserted from <Think Progress>

I can’t speak for anyone else, but don’t you want a President who at least knows where he or she is?

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SCOTUS Goose Steps on Voter ID

29voterid Finally, the country will be rescued from its long nightmare struggle with voter fraud! And if certain voters find it harder to get their ballot cast, then so be it.

From the AP:

The Supreme Court has ruled that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights. The decision validates Republican-inspired voter ID laws.

The court vote 6-3 to uphold Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement. Democrats and civil rights groups say the law would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

As those who have followed this issue will remember, this is not a surprise. As Jeffrey Toobin put it early this year:

As a general matter, in recent years the Court has been reluctant to find what is charged in this case: a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws. (The notable exception, to belabor the issue, was for a plaintiff named George W. Bush.) In the end, though, it will not be the judiciary that rescues democracy; whatever the obstacles, the problems with the ballot box must be solved at the ballot box.

A little more detail in an update from the AP:

The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'” Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented….

“We cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters,” Stevens said.

Stevens’ opinion suggests that the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.

But in dissent, Souter said Indiana’s voter ID law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state’s citizens.”

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

It election fraud, not counting the GOP fraud of rigged voting machines, were a problem in this country, this statute would make sense, but there has been no evidence that it is.  To the contrary, lack of voter participation is an issue.  Since the GOP would not invent a solution for which there is no problem, the problem must be a different one and it is.  Poor, minority and disabled voters vote overwhelming for Democrats, and the GOP wants to disenfranchise as many as possible.  This is a huge step backwards for voting rights.  For disabled people and people without transportation to either report in person to a DMV before voting or to their county election HQ within days after casting a provisional ballot is an extreme hardship.

McCain has promised to appoint Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.  Can our nation survive another justice of their ilk?

It’s not Torture When We Do It

torture The Geneva Conventions’ ban on “outrages against personal dignity” does not automatically apply to terrorism suspects in the custody of U.S. intelligence agencies, the Justice Department has suggested to Congress in recent letters that lay out the Bush administration’s interpretation of the international treaty.

Lawyers for the department, offering insight into the legal basis for the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, reasserted in the letters the Bush administration’s long-held view that it has considerable leeway in deciding how the conventions’ rules apply to the harsh questioning of combatants in the war on terrorism.

While the United States is legally bound by the conventions’ Common Article 3 and its requirement to treat detainees humanely, the definition of humane treatment can vary, depending on the detainee’s identity and the importance of the information he possesses, a Justice Department official wrote last September and this March to a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

“Some prohibitions . . . such as the prohibition on ‘outrages against personal dignity,’ do invite the consideration of the circumstances surrounding the action,” Brian A. Benczkowski, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, asserted in one of the letters.

Benczkowski’s letters were provided to The Washington Post by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who asked the Justice Department to explain the legal foundation for President Bush’s executive order last year authorizing the CIA’s continued interrogation of terrorism suspects. The existence of the letters was first reported last night by the New York Times.

A spokeswoman for Wyden said the administration’s suggestion that the Geneva Conventions could be selectively applied was “stunning.”

The Geneva Convention in most cases is the only shield that Americans have when they are captured overseas,” the spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, said in a phone interview. “And for the president to say that it is acceptable to interpret Geneva on a sliding scale means that he thinks that it is acceptable for other countries to do the same. Senator Wyden — and I believe any other reasonable individual — finds that argument appalling.“… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Like my Senator, I also find the notion that the ban on torture is selective appalling.  Bush, every administrator who facilitated torture, and every legislator who voted in favor of torture, including McConJob, are all criminals.

Supply-side Jesus Required in Iraq

26Christian2 When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, declined to comment on the case, saying, “The department does not discuss pending litigation.”

Specialist Hall’s lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military’s religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. In general, the armed forces have regulations, Ms. Lainez said, that respect “the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs.”

To Specialist Hall and other critics of the military, the guidelines have done little to change a culture they say tilts heavily toward evangelical Christianity. Controversies have continued to flare, largely over tactics used by evangelicals to promote their faith. Perhaps the most high-profile incident involved seven officers, including four generals, who appeared, in uniform and in violation of military regulations, in a 2006 fund-raising video for the Christian Embassy, an evangelical Bible study group.

“They don’t trust you because they think you are unreliable and might break, since you don’t have God to rely on,” Specialist Hall said of those who proselytize in the military. “The message is, ‘It’s a Christian nation, and you need to recognize that.’ ”

Soft-spoken and younger looking than his 23 years, Specialist Hall began a chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers at Camp Speicher, near Tikrit, to support others like him.

At the July meeting, Major Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Specialist Hall said. When he finished, Major Welborn said, according to the statement: “I love you guys; I just want the best for you. One day you will see the truth and know what I mean.”

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, “I’d love to tell my side of the story because it’s such a false story.”

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the meeting, said in an e-mail message: “Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything.”

It is unclear how widespread religious discrimination or proselytizing is in the armed forces, constitutional law experts and leaders of veterans’ groups said. No one has independently studied the issue, and service members are reluctant to come forward because of possible backlash, those experts said… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

26ChristianFascism Were this a single isolated incident, I would be inclined to pass it off as one man’s fanaticism, but in context with ongoing attempts by the Bush/GOP  Reich to proselytize out troops, this can only be viewed as an intentional violation of the Constitution by the GOP.

I documented HERE, that according to the Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously approved by the US Senate on June 7, 1797, the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.  Thus the claims made by Major Welborn are lies.

Speaking as a Christian, I’m all for Christianity, but the dogma of the religious right is not Christian.  Their attempts to impose their supply-side gospel of hate, war, death, bigotry, greed, and intolerance is criminal.

Who Hates Women and Minorities?

GOPKKK Yesterday I posted an article HERE, supporting the Fair Pay Act. The right ring ideologues on the Supreme Court enabled pay discrimination against women and minorities by misinterpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the GOP filibustered the Fair pay Act, and it was defeated. Here is the complete list of Senators who believe that pay discrimination should continue:

Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX),Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Dole (R-NC), Domenici (R-NM), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Kyl (R-AZ), Lugar (R-IN), Martinez (R-FL), McConnell (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK), Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Stevens (R-AK), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA), and Wicker (R-MS)

Hagel (R-NE) and McCain (R-AZ) did not vote, but you won’t believe what McDubya had to say!!

mccain2 McCain explained his opposition to the bill by claiming it “opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.” He added that instead of legislation allowing women to fight for equal pay, they simply need “education and training“:

“They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else,” McCain said. “And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them.

“It’s a vicious cycle that’s affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least,” he said.

… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

If McHypocrite and the GOP have their way, you ladies won’t worry your pretty little heads about equal pay, anf you minorities will head for the back of the bus. Is there any place in the Senate or the White House for people with such an attitude?

I say NO! What do you say? What are you going to do about it?

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

FBI Deceived Congress on NSLs

16fbi Counterterrorism officials in FBI headquarters slowed an investigation into a possible conspirator in the 2005 London bombings by forcing a field agent to return documents acquired from a U.S. university. Why? Because the agent received the documents through a lawful subpoena, while headquarters wanted him to demand the records under the USA Patriot Act, using a power the FBI did not have, but desperately wanted.

When a North Carolina State University lawyer correctly rejected the second records demand, the FBI obtained another subpoena. Two weeks later, the delay was cited by FBI director Robert Mueller in congressional testimony as proof that the USA Patriot Act needed to be expanded.

The strange episode is recounted in newly declassified documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents shed new light on how senior FBI officials’ determination to gain independence from judicial oversight slowed its own investigation, and led the bureau’s director to offer inaccurate testimony to Congress. The revelations are likely to play a key role in Capitol Hill hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on the FBI’s use of so-called national security letters, or NSLs

At issue is the FBI’s probe of a former chemistry graduate student at North Carolina State University who was then suspected aiding the deadly attack. The student has since been cleared of any involvement.

The agent investigating the student in the Charlotte, North Carolina field office obtained a grand jury subpoena demanding some university records on the student. But he was then advised by superiors in Washington DC to return the papers and draft an NSL demanding the documents instead.

Under the USA Patriot Act, FBI counterterrorism investigators can self-issue such letters to get phone records, portions of credit reports and bank records, simply by certifying that the records are relevant to an investigation. Unlike subpoenas, NSLs do not require probable cause, and at the time obliged the recipient to not discuss the demand with anyone, ever. In contrast, gag orders attached to grand jury subpoenas have expiration dates.

FBI agents have relied heavily on the power, issuing more than 100,000 NSLs in 2004 and 2005 combined. The first audit of the FBI’s use of the power found the agents became sloppy in their use of the power and one HQ office went rogue and issued hundreds of fake emergency requests for phone records.

The problem in the bombing case: the NSL demanded the university’s health records on the student. Even under the USA Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the NSL’s reach, university records and health records are exempt, making the order from headquarters a sure-fire path to delay.

The FBI even has sample letters for each of the 11 kinds of records NSL can be used to obtain. To comply with the demand from Washington, the Charlotte agent had to modify a sample letter intended for internet records.

The university, which had readily turned over the records in response to a subpoena, rejected the illegal NSL. Two weeks later, Mueller, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, portrayed the university as intransigent and said the incident showed the FBI needed the power to force the turnover of all sorts of records without having to involve the court system.

“Now in my mind, we should not, in that circumstance have to show somebody that this was an emergency,” Mueller testified on July 27, 2005. “We should’ve been able to have a document, an administrative subpoena that we took to the university and got those records immediately.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Wired News>

In a nutshell. the FBI had the records they wanted, legally obtained through a court-ordered subpoena, gave them back, issued an illegal NSL, were properly denied, obtained another court-ordered subpoena and got the same records they had the first time. Then Mueller lied to Congress, saying that the delay in obtaining these records justified expanding the Patriot Act.

In translation, this Bush/GOP minion lied to Congress to support the ongoing GOP agenda to transform our nation into a totalitarian police state.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Constitution: Can We Keep It?

14supreme_court Though little discussed on the campaign trail, a crucial issue to be decided in November is whether the United States will return to its traditions as a constitutional Republic respecting “unalienable” human rights or whether it will finish a transformation into a frightened nation governed by an all-powerful President who can do whatever he wants during the open-ended “war on terror.”

That reality was underscored on April 1 with the release of a five-year-old legal opinion from former Justice Department official John Yoo asserting that President George W. Bush possessed nearly unlimited authority as Commander in Chief, including the power to have military interrogators abuse terror suspects.

While most news coverage of Yoo’s March 14, 2003, memo has focused on the legal gymnastics justifying harsh treatment of detainees — including possible use of mind-altering drugs — the centerpiece of Yoo’s argument is that at a time of war the President’s powers are essentially unfettered.

Yoo’s memo fits with views expressed by Bush (“The Decider”) and many of his top legal advisers. Yoo’s opinion also appears to be shared by four conservative Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — just one vote shy of a majority.

Yoo’s military interrogation memo — and a similar one he penned for the CIA on torture — were withdrawn by Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith after he succeeded Yoo as the top official at the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel later in 2003. Goldsmith considered Yoo’s legal reasoning flawed.

But Goldsmith subsequently was pushed out of the job, and Bush is seeking to fill the vacancy with Steven Bradbury, who signed off on Yoo’s “torture memos” while holding a lower position in the Office of Legal Counsel.

In other words, Bush has not given up on his vision of grandiose presidential powers that let him act more like an English monarch before the Magna Carta, who could pick out anyone under his domain and throw the person into prison with no due process and no protection against torture or other abuse.

Under the Bush-Yoo theories, all Bush has to do is pronounce a detainee “an unlawful enemy combatant” — whether a U.S. citizen or not, whether there is any credible evidence or not — and the person loses all human rights.

As radical — and as shocking — as these theories may seem to many Americans, Bush is within one vote on the U.S. Supreme Court of having his vision enshrined as “constitutional.”

One More Vote

bush_burns_constitution If one more vacancy occurs among the five “non-imperial” justices — and the replacement is in line with Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-and-Alito — the U.S. Constitution could be effectively altered to eliminate key individual liberties — from habeas corpus and other fair-trial rights to bans on “cruel and unusual” punishment to protections against self-incrimination and “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Though civics books tell us that the Constitution can only be amended by two-thirds votes of the House and Senate and approval by three-quarters of the states, the reality is that five ideologues on the U.S. Supreme Court can alter the nation’s founding document by simply voting as a bloc.

And since the “war on terror” is unlike other wars — in that the enemy is vaguely defined, the duration could be forever and the war’s location can be anywhere — the Bush-Yoo logic suggests that the de facto suspension of the American constitutional Republic is not just a short-term emergency measure.

Instead, the shift from a Republic, with legal protections of individual rights, to an Empire, led by an Executive who can operate without any constraints, would be permanent. As long as the President says some danger lurks out there, he or she could assert “plenary” — or total — powers as commander in chief.

In his memo, Yoo argued that the 9/11 attacks “triggered” America’s “right to self-defense.” Therefore, he wrote: “If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“In that case, we believe that he could argue that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Yoo further argued that even abuses that would “shock the conscience” — one of Bush’s standards for what might be considered torture — could be mitigated by a subjective evaluation of the circumstances.

In other words, if the President or a subordinate judged the detainee to represent some imminent threat or to be particularly odious, they would have an even freer hand to act as they saw fit. Those judgments about shocking the conscience would be left, again, to the Executive to decide unilaterally.

Yoo’s two memos were the underpinnings of the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the CIA’s secret detention facilities.

The memos gave legal protection to U.S. interrogators and guards who stripped detainees naked, hooded them, put ladies underpants on their heads, paraded them in the nude, beat them, subjected them to extremes of hot and cold, put them into painful stress positions, deprived them of sleep, threatened them with death and — in three acknowledged cases — flooded their covered faces with water in a simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

[For more details, see Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Shielding Abuses

bush-gop-goosestep Yoo’s memos shielded interrogators from U.S. military intelligence and the CIA, but did not spare the night guards at Abu Ghraib, who got stiff prison terms after they made the cardinal mistake of photographing the humiliation they inflicted on Iraqi detainees and letting the pictures reach the public.

In a comment to the Washington Post, Thomas J. Romig, who was the Army’s judge advocate general in 2003, said Yoo’s military interrogation memo appears to argue that there are no rules in a time of war, a concept that Romig said he found “downright offensive.” [Washington Post, April 2, 2008]

But the greater legacy from Yoo — who is now a professor of law at the University of California in Berkeley — and his imperial legal theories is that they have been embraced by many Bush supporters and four right-wing Supreme Court justices.

Though Bush may not get another chance to further shape the Supreme Court with the appointment of another Roberts or Alito, his successor likely will. For some Americans angered by Bush’s assault on the Constitution, John McCain’s past support for Bush’s judicial appointments may represent one of the strongest reasons to vote against him.

The future of the American Republic may be at stake… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <AlterNet>

mccain From what I understand 30% of Clinton supporters have polled that they would vote for McFuhrer rather than Obama, and 25% of Obama supporters would vote for McFuhrer rather than Clinton. Personally, I think these numbers are highly exaggerated, because heightened emotions, and I believe that once the fury of the contest is over, folks will calm down and think rationally again.

McFuhrer has promised that, if elected, he will appoint Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas to the Court. This is the one more vote in question. I don’t care how angry you are at Clinton. I don’t care how much you dislike Obama. Given the certainty that a McFuhrer victory will transform our nation into a fascist police state, a vote in November for anyone other that the winner between Clinton and Obama is an act of political suicide.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus