22 September 2006 · Comments Off on Compromise on Torture · Categories: Uncategorized

Quoting from today’s Local Rag about the compromise between morality and torture:

The agreement contains concessions by both sides, though the White House yielded ground on two of the most contentious issues: It agreed to drop a provision that would have narrowly interpreted international standards of prisoner treatment and another allowing defendants to be convicted on evidence they never see.

The accord, however, explicitly states that the president has the authority to enforce Geneva Convention standards and enumerates acts that constitute a war crime, including torture, rape, biological experiments, and cruel and inhuman treatment. (Wait for the “signing statement”–ed.)

The agreement would grant Congress’ permission for Bush to convene military tribunals to prosecute terrorism suspects, a process the Supreme Court had blocked in June because it had not been authorized by lawmakers.

During those trials, coerced testimony would be admissible if a judge allows and if it was obtained before cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment was forbidden by a 2005 law. Bush wanted to allow all such testimony, while three maverick Republican senators – John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – had wanted to exclude it.

As a political move, this might have made sense, much as in a chess game, sacrificing the Queen can make sense.

In this case, though, the Queen (not using testimony obtained through torture, for torture is what it is, despite any alternative terms which may be used to describe it) is moral rectitude and American and–dare I say it?–Christian–values, and the sacrifice is to darkness.

Those who would torture or condone or defend torture deserve contempt, not compromise.

I recognize that domestic political realities make such a compromise seem necessary. And that says something about what our political realities have become.

But I reserve my right to be violently ill at this betrayal of the values on which this nation was founded.

Note this story about George Washington (who, unlike the current Federal Administration, which wins battles but is losing the war, lost battles, but won the war):

“During the Revolutionary War, the historian David Hackett Fischer noted, Gen. George Washington had ‘often reminded his men that they were an army of liberty and freedom, and that the rights of humanity for which they were fighting should extend even to their enemies.’ This compassion toward prisoners was extended by Washington expressly in the face of the cruel British handling of American captives. Washington ordered Lt. Col. Samuel Blachley Webb, in a passage quoted by Fischer, ‘Treat them with humanity, and Let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren.'”

The current George is not a Washington.

He is a III:

(H)e methodically weakened the Whig (traditional Republican?) party through bribery, coercion and patronage. . . . (M)en of mediocre talent and servile minds were hand-picked by George as Cabinet members, acting as little more than yes-men.

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From today’s Local Rag:

At stores across the region yesterday, parents were dismayed to find shelves bare of T.M.X. Elmo, the 10th anniversary incarnation of the furry, red doll unveiled by Fisher-Price just 24 hours before.

Going online, shoppers soon learned that the shortage was made even worse by a raid on retail outlets by speculators who had listed an army of Elmos on eBay.

More than 20,000 T.M.X. Elmos – the initials stand for Tickle Me “Extreme” – were for sale on the Internet auction site at 5:35 p.m. yesterday, according to eBay Marketplace Research, which monitors listing, bidding and pricing on the site. And more than 7,000 Elmos had already been sold, at prices up to $355.

(snip)

“I’ll probably buy one on the Net,” Garrison said, though the major retailers weren’t offering much hope there, either. “I don’t even know what it does. I just know the first Tickle Me Elmo was a big success.”

Who the heck are the parents here?

Of course, I’m the guy who, back in the Power Rangers days, showed up early at the last remaining store in Upper Delaware with Power Rangers costumes to get one for Second Son.

It was the Red Ranger, if I recall correctly. And that Hallowe’en, we had more Power Rangers on our street than Ney has bribes.

But, dammit, I paid list price and not a penny more.

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21 September 2006 · Comments Off on Busy · Categories: Uncategorized

We were busy today in the greater software and hardware support sphere. The boss asked me to take a look at our website (“Frank, do you know HTML?” “I know HTML 3.0; I’m weak on HTML 4.0 and xml.” Then I showed him my website–with the swimming mermaid–and he said, “Take a look at the website.”)

So when I wasn’t answering phone calls from persons who had broken our application or couldn’t find Windows Explorer with both hands, I was diagramming the website to get a feel for it, using Dia. which is an Open Source flow-charting program.

(Almost all the software I use on my PC is open source. Slackware rocks.)

But I did get a chance to do a little reading over lunch, and I thought that Dan Froomkin’s column from yesterday is worth a glance. Note that Froomkin does not cover the White House; that is, he won’t be found at White House briefings and the like.

He covers coverage of the White House.

I guess in the geeky world that Opie and I inhabit, it would be referred to as Meta-Coverage.

On the dominant issue of our time, the president is in denial.

By most reliable accounts, three and a half years into the U.S. occupation, Iraq is in chaos — if not in a state of civil war, then awfully close. But President Bush insists it’s not so. White House Briefing

He says the people he talks to assure him that the press coverage about how bad things are in Iraq is not to be trusted.

You might think that the enormous gulf between Bush’s perceptions and reality on such a life-and-death topic would be, well, newsworthy. But if members of the Washington press corps consider it news at all, apparently it’s old news. They report Bush’s assertions about Iraq without noting that his fundamental assessment of the situation is dramatically contradicted by the reporting from their own colleagues on the ground.

And in the rare circumstances when they directly confront the president with observations that conflict with his own, they let it drop too quickly.

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20 September 2006 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

Here.

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20 September 2006 · Comments Off on Don’t Know When To Stop · Categories: It Is To Laugh

Once too often to the trough:

A light-fingered California crook has been convicted of stealing computers from a courthouse while on trial for computer theft.

Jon Houston Eipp, 39, of Novato, pleaded guilty on Monday to the computer theft crimes along with various burglary, theft, and drug possession offences. He faces up to five years in jail.

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20 September 2006 · Comments Off on And So It Begins. Anew. · Categories: Uncategorized

The character assassination machine that masquerades as a political party has begun to unload on John McCain for having the temerity to, well, be John McCain.

During the 2000 primary season, Bush loyalists spread word that McCain was mentally unstable, courtesy of his stint as a POW in Hanoi. But once McCain surrendered and endorsed his rival, talk about his alleged nuttiness ceased. Now, suddenly, it is back again. On Fox News last night, former New York senator Al D’Amato told Bill O’Reilly that McCain is still nutty from his POW experience: “Bill, I give John McCain a pass on this (torture issue) only because I think he was so traumatized by the events that took place (in Hanoi), that he doesn’t even really want to, or is in a position to, consider the impact” of how his Geneva defense would harm the war on terror.

Meanwhile, McCain was roasted the other day in New Hampshire, the state that will hold the first GOP presidential primary . . . .

(snip)

But that was a tame assessment, when compared to the hue and cry from Rush Limbaugh, who is warning on the air that McCain’s behavior “is going to go down as the event that will result in us getting hit again, and if we do, and if McCain, et al., prevail, I can tell you where fingers are going to be pointed.”

I am not a big John McCain fan. At the same time, those people who try to classify him as “just another pol” because, for heaven’s sake, he’s made some compromises and mistakes, miss the point and process of politics. He has certainly demonstrated he has a stopping point, beyond which he will not be pushed, and certain principles and beliefs that he will not compromise.

I would think those who oppose him on this (or any other issue) could find a better way to do so than by starting scurrilous rumors.

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19 September 2006 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

Read this.

(By the way, it’s only tangetially political.)

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19 September 2006 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

It’s sometimes difficult to find–er–clarity in the current Federal Administrator’s words, so Jon Stewart provides a translator:

From youtube.com

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19 September 2006 · Comments Off on Wish I Had Some of It · Categories: Uncategorized

My Life Is Worth…


$598,500

Tip to Phillybits

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19 September 2006 · Comments Off on How Many More? (Updated) · Categories: Uncategorized

Today’s news:

Canadian intelligence officials passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about a Muslim Canadian citizen, after which U.S. authorities secretly whisked him to Syria, where he was tortured, a judicial report found Monday.

The report, released in Ottawa, was the result of a 2 1/2-year inquiry that represented one of the first public investigations into mistakes made as part of the United States’ “extraordinary rendition” program, which has secretly spirited suspects to foreign countries for interrogation by often brutal methods.

Eugene Robinson:

It’s past time to stop mincing words. The Decider, or maybe we should now call him the Inquisitor, sticks to anodyne euphemisms. He speaks of “alternative” questioning techniques, and his umbrella term for the whole shop of horrors is “the program.” Of course, he won’t fully detail the methods that were used in the secret CIA prisons — and who knows where else? — but various sources have said they have included not just the infamous “waterboarding,” which the administration apparently will reluctantly forswear, but also sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, bombardment with ear-splitting noise and other assaults that cause not just mental duress but physical agony. That is torture, and to call it anything else is a lie.

It is not possible for our elected representatives to hold any sort of honorable “debate” over torture. Bush says he is waging a “struggle for civilization,” but civilized nations do not debate slavery or genocide, and they don’t debate torture, either. This spectacle insults and dishonors every American.

Addendum, 2/19/2006

Froomkin on editorial comments around the USA.

The Washington Post on General Powell’s position.

Phillybits and Josh Marshall on John Yoo’s justifications for torture.

Glenn Greenwald on Thomas Sowell’s justifications of torture and other inhumane treatment.

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18 September 2006 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

Keith Olbermann tonight on the current Federal Administrator’s temper tantrums:

The President of the United States owes this country an apology.

It will not be offered, of course.

He does not realize its necessity.

There are now none around him who would tell him or could.

The last of them, it appears, was the very man whose letter provoked the President into the conduct, for which the apology is essential.

An apology is this President’s only hope of regaining the slightest measure of confidence, of what has been, for nearly two years, a clear majority of his people.

Not “confidence” in his policies nor in his designs nor even in something as narrowly focused as which vision of torture shall prevail — his, or that of the man who has sent him into apoplexy, Colin Powell.

In a larger sense, the President needs to regain our confidence, that he has some basic understanding of what this country represents — of what it must maintain if we are to defeat not only terrorists, but if we are also to defeat what is ever more increasingly apparent, as an attempt to re-define the way we live here, and what we mean, when we say the word “freedom.”

Because it is evident now that, if not its architect, this President intends to be the contractor, for this narrowing of the definition of freedom.

The President revealed this last Friday, as he fairly spat through his teeth, words of unrestrained fury directed at the man who was once the very symbol of his administration, who was once an ambassador from this administration to its critics, as he had once been an ambassador from the military to its critics.

The former Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, had written, simply and candidly and without anger, that “the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”

This President’s response included not merely what is apparently the Presidential equivalent of threatening to hold one’s breath, but within it contained one particularly chilling phrase.

Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state feels this way, don’t you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you’re following a flawed strategy?

“If there’s any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it’s flawed logic,” Bush said. “It’s just — I simply can’t accept that. It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.

Of course it’s acceptable to think that there’s “any kind of comparison.”

And in this particular debate, it is not only acceptable, it is obviously necessary.

Even if Mr. Powell never made the comparison in his letter.

Some will think that our actions at Abu Ghraib, or in Guantanamo, or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, are all too comparable to the actions of the extremists.

Some will think that there is no similarity, or, if there is one, it is to the slightest and most unavoidable of degrees.

What all of us will agree on, is that we have the right — we have the duty — to think about the comparison.

And, most importantly, that the other guy, whose opinion about this we cannot fathom, has exactly the same right as we do: to think — and say — what his mind and his heart and his conscience tell him, is right.

All of us agree about that.

Except, it seems, this President.

With increasing rage, he and his administration have begun to tell us, we are not permitted to disagree with them, that we cannot be right. That Colin Powell cannot be right.

And then there was that one, most awful phrase.

In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years – the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.

“It’s unacceptable to think,” he said.

It is never unacceptable to think.

And when a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path — one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.

That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think.

Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth.

It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights.

This is a frightening, and a dangerous, delusion, Mr. President.

If Mr. Powell’s letter — cautionary, concerned, predominantly supportive — can induce from you such wrath and such intolerance, what would you say were this statement to be shouted to you by a reporter, or written to you by a colleague?

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.”

Those incendiary thoughts came, of course, from a prior holder of your job, Mr. Bush.

They were the words of Thomas Jefferson.

He put them in the Declaration of Independence.

Mr. Bush, what would you say to something that anti-thetical to the status quo just now?

Would you call it “unacceptable” for Jefferson to think such things, or to write them?

Between your confidence in your infallibility, sir, and your demonizing of dissent, and now these rages better suited to a thwarted three-year old, you have left the unnerving sense of a White House coming unglued – a chilling suspicion that perhaps we have not seen the peak of the anger; that we can no longer forecast what next will be said to, or about, anyone who disagrees.

Or what will next be done to them.

On this newscast last Friday night, Constitiutional law Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, suggested that at some point in the near future some of the “detainees” transferred from secret CIA cells to Guantanamo, will finally get to tell the Red Cross that they have indeed been tortured.

Thus the debate over the Geneva Conventions, is in fact not about further interrogations of detainees, but about those already conducted, and the possible liability of the administration, for them.

That, certainly, could explain Mr. Bush’s fury.

That, at this point, is speculative.

But at least it provides an alternative possibility as to why the President’s words were at such variance from the entire history of this country.

For, there needs to be some other explanation, Mr. Bush, than that you truly believe we should live in a United States of America in which a thought is unacceptable.

There needs to be a delegation of responsible leaders — Republicans or otherwise — who can sit you down as Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott once sat Richard Nixon down – and explain the reality of the situation you have created.

There needs to be an apology from the President of the United States.

And more than one.

But, Mr. Bush, the others — for warnings unheeded five years ago, for war unjustified four years ago, for battle unprepared three years ago — they are not weighted with the urgency and necessity of this one.

We must know that, to you, thought with which you disagree — and even voice with which you disagree and even action with which you disagree — are still sacrosanct to you.

The philosopher Voltaire once insisted to another author, “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” Since the nation’s birth, Mr. Bush, we have misquoted and even embellished that statement, but we have served ourselves well, by subscribing to its essence.

Oddly, there are other words of Voltaire’s that are more pertinent still, just now.

“Think for yourselves,” he wrote, “and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”

Apologize, sir, for even hinting at an America where a few have that privilege to think and the rest of us get yelled at by the President.

Anything else, Mr. Bush, is truly unacceptable.

But, clearly, to the current Federal Administration, the only allowable thoughts are thoughts which agree with them.

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18 September 2006 · Comments Off on Clarity My A–Oh, Never Mind · Categories: Uncategorized

So the current Federal Administrator says he wants clarity about what constitutes torture:

President Bush fought back Friday against a Republican revolt in the Senate over tough anti-terror legislation and rejected warnings that the United States had lost the high moral ground to adversaries. “It’s flawed logic,” he snapped.

Bush urged lawmakers to quickly approve legislation authorizing military tribunals and harsh interrogations of terror suspects in order to shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which set international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war.

The sophistry of this comment, indeed, of the whole position which it encapsulates, leaves me speechless. No, not speechless.

Disgusted beyond words.

What should separate us from barbarians–and terrorists–is the ability to know through our values what constitutes torture–and other crimes against humanity.

I very much fear that someone who cannot recognize torture when he or she sees it, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart’s famous comment about pornography, is beyond the pale of civilization.

Any thinking person sees that the current Federal Administrator’s demand for “clarity” on torture is actually a demand for loopholes through which to drive electric wires, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and the other mistreatments which shall forever be linked to the current Federal Administration and will also be forever a betrayal of the values upon which my country was founded.

But, if he wants clarity, here are some comments; follow the link to have your bones chilled:

Tom Malinowski, citing descriptions of Stalin’s torture dens:

He might begin with Robert Conquest’s classic work on Stalin, “The Great Terror.” Conquest wrote: “When there was time, the basic [Soviet Secret police] method for obtaining confessions and breaking the accused man was the ‘conveyor’ — continual interrogation by relays of police for hours and days on end. As with many phenomena of the Stalin period, it has the advantage that it could not easily be condemned by any simple principle. Clearly, it amounted to unfair pressure after a certain time and to actual physical torture later still, but when? . . . At any rate, after even twelve hours, it is extremely uncomfortable. After a day, it becomes very hard. And after two or three days, the victim is actually physically poisoned by fatigue. It was as painful as any torture.”

Conquest stated: “Interrogation usually took place at night and with the accused just roused — often only fifteen minutes after going to sleep. The glaring lights at the interrogation had a disorientating effect.” He quoted a Czech prisoner, Evzen Loebl, who described “having to be on his feet eighteen hours a day, sixteen of which were devoted to interrogation. During the six-hour sleep period, the warder pounded on the door every ten minutes. . . . If the banging did not wake him, a kick from the warder would. After two or three weeks, his feet were swollen and every inch of his body ached at the slightest touch; even washing became a torture.”

A company–well, it’s more than a platoon, though maybe not as much as a company–of retired generals sees the current Federal Administrator’s desire for “clarity” as the hypocrital double-speak that it is. After stating that the standards are already clear, they point out that:

. . . that clarity will be short-lived if the approach taken by Administration’s bill prevails. In contrast to the Pentagon’s new rules on detainee treatment, the bill would limit our definition of Common Article 3’s terms by introducing a flexible, sliding scale that might allow certain coercive interrogation techniques under some circumstances, while forbidding them under others. This would replace an absolute standard – Common Article 3 — with a relative one. To do so will only create further confusion.

Moreover, were we to take this step, we would be viewed by the rest of the world as having formally renounced the clear strictures of the Geneva Conventions. Our enemies would be encouraged to interpret the Conventions in their own way as well, placing our troops in jeopardy in future conflicts. And American moral authority in the war would be further damaged.

George Orwell said it: The object of torture is torture.

And the current Federal Administration is enamored of torture for the same reason it was enamored with invading Iraq: Because it thinks it is above and beyond the law.

God help us all.

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18 September 2006 · Comments Off on Ford Employees Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief · Categories: Uncategorized

Job openings at Home Depot:

The Home Depot Inc., the nation’s largest home improvement store chain, says it is hiring more than 1,000 new employees across the country as part of its latest effort to improve its stores.

The Atlanta-based company said in a hiring advisory it issued Monday that it is seeking in particular applicants with specialty, skilled trades and professional contracting backgrounds for full-time and part-time jobs in numerous departments.

Of course, the persons who might benefit are the skilled craftspersons, many of whom may be protected financially under their contract.

Guess all those laid-off managers will still be out-of-luck.

Want fries with that?

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18 September 2006 · Comments Off on Need a Nice Starter Home . . . · Categories: Uncategorized

. . . on the Island?

It’s possible to get close to the water on the South Shore of Nassau County in Long Beach. For example, a two-bedroom contemporary on Lincoln Boulevard listed at $499,000 sold for near the asking price, says listing agent Donna Nardi, with Prudential Douglas Elliman in Long Beach. The Hampton-style contemporary featured a marble fireplace, hardwood floors, manicured gardens with slate patio and a backyard deck. It’s about a five-minute walk to the beach and is on the bay side of Long Beach.

“It’s affordable, and it doesn’t need a lot of work,” Nardi says. “It’s a good starter house for a young couple or a single person.”

I think that’s probably twice the appraised value of my own little hovel (no, not the family farm in the title bar, the house I actually live in deep in Megalopolis).

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17 September 2006 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

The Local Rag got it right today. From the Editorial Board:

There’s no question, as President Bush told the nation a few days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, that “we’re fighting for our way of life and our ability to live in freedom.” Not all of the threats, though, are from al-Qaeda.

Another is represented by antiterror proposals which, if they became law, would imperil American freedoms and values.

(snip)

These proposals are bad policy, counterproductive to the fight against terrorism, and constitutionally dubious.

Equally troubling are the blatantly political timing and the reckless rhetoric of Bush and many Republican congressional leaders:.

Not willing to go along with whatever we want? Then you’re for the terrorists….

Those terrorists are superhuman, so we need extralegal powers to fight them. Don’t ask questions. Just be afraid, be very afraid.

For example, House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) mused to reporters about whether Democrats in Congress were “more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people.”

Since when did dissent on fundamental issues of how America upholds core values of liberty and democracy become unpatriotic?

It’s particularly cynical to toy with such life-and-death issues for political purposes. If you want to mess with the Constitution to get votes in a midterm, folks, stick to flag-burning.

This kind of toxic, Karl Rove nonsense has worked before. This time, though, more true patriots in the Republican Party are refusing to go along.

(snip)

Remember: When politically hyped fear leads this nation to do harm to its democratic traditions, its guarantee of justice for all, and its moral authority, that just helps al-Qaeda achieve its propaganda aims. Why aid the enemy?

And from the op-ed page, a retired Federal Judge argues for American values:

We are told this legislation is required by the demands of national security, and that permitting the courts to play their traditional role will somehow undermine the military in fighting terrorism. This expressed concern is a myth. The guards of Guantánamo are not, as far as we know, furnishing the detainees with cell phones. For decades, federal courts have managed civil and criminal cases involving classified and top-secret information without compromising the rule of law. Federal judges have ample tools for controlling and safeguarding the flow of information in court, and Guantánamo cases can be handled without difficulty.

Furthermore, depriving the courts of habeas jurisdiction will jeopardize the judiciary’s ability to ensure that detentions are not grounded on torture. No person in a civilized country should be convicted based on evidence wrung from him by brute force. But what good is this for the prisoner who is never tried? Best estimates are that, among the hundreds of prisoners at Guantánamo, only two or three dozen will ever be brought to trial. The rest will simply be held, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Stripping district courts of habeas jurisdiction would allow the president to hold prisoners based on the same coerced evidence that could not be used against them at trial. In fact, it creates an incentive to hold prisoners without trial.

Finally, eliminating habeas jurisdiction would raise serious concerns under the Suspension Clause of the Constitution, which governs when habeas corpus may be suspended. It has been suspended only four times in our nation’s history, and never under circumstances like the present. Congress cannot suspend the writ at will, even during wartime, but only in “Cases of Rebellion or Invasion [where] the public Safety may require it.” Congress would thus be skating on thin constitutional ice if it deprived the federal courts of their power to hear the cases of Guantánamo detainees. At a minimum, it would guarantee that these cases would be mired in litigation for years to come. If the goal is to bring these cases to a speedy conclusion, eliminating habeas would be counterproductive.

And Tony Auth draws a picture for those who cannot understand from words how poisonous the current Federal Administration is to the values and polity of the United States of America:

The First Dose Is Free

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