4/25/13

Getting a bit of a grip on reality

McCain and Ayotte, having temporarily (we hope) lost their minds regarding the classification of Tsarnaev as an 'enemy combatant,' have turned their attention to other matters:

CIA had Tsarnaev's name put in terror watchlist after being contacted by Russians

Two top Republican senators are now calling for a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Boston Marathon bombings, as lawmakers question whether enough was done to prevent the attack.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, requested the hearing Wednesday, saying "it has become increasingly apparent that more questions need to be answered regarding the failure to prevent this tragedy."

I'd agree with that.

Hopefully McCain and Ayotte have got their fever-pitch flag-waving under control and are thinking a bit more critically now. Of course, all that nonsense about Tsarnaev did have a certain appeal to the far right especially. Gotta keep the base happy, doncher know.






4/23/13

Shame on the GOP

We've been hearing the flag-waving super-patriots of the GOP making all kinds of noises about the Obamanian Decision not to consider Tsarnaev an 'enemy combatant.'

There is nothing tying Tsarnaev to any group as an actor in the Boston bombings. Unless, of course, the lack of such connection is all part of a vast left-wing conspiracy ...

The GOP wants to deny a US citizen his Constitutional rights so they can be free of such constraints in order to extract 'intelligence' from Tsarnaev.

I have always believed that the biggest internal threat to this country is not the far left, but the far right. We have a history of dancing with facists; all you have to do is examine political activity and associations in the first part of the 20th century and through the McCarthy witch hunts to see that.

Mix that far right borderline fascism with religion, and you get a far more dangerous combination than mere socialism. Though I have yet to hear The Inquisitors invoke the name of God in their righteously patriotic quest for 'intelligence,' the inability of the GOP to separate religion from their political platform and agenda is enough to suggest that they think they are on a mission from God.

John McCain, of all people, should know better than this. After all the time he spent in Hoa Lo prison - the Hanoi Hilton - you would think that he, of all people, would understand what this nation stands for ... and it isn't playing games with the Constitution so the government can extract 'intelligence.'

I believe we will find there is more than enough evidence to legitimately allow our criminal justice system, despite its 'issues', to put Tsarnaev away for the rest of his life. Perhaps he'll even get the death sentence, though from my perspective, the idea of him sitting in his little cell at ADX Florence for the rest of his miserable life seems a much more fitting Final Solution to the Tsarnaev 'problem.'

McCain and his henchpersons, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, will just have to put their waterboarding tools, rubber hoses, pliers, electrodes, and what-have-you away for another day and another opportunity.

Shame on McCain. Shame on Graham. Shame on Ayotte. And shame on the GOP.

4/21/13

An enemy combatant

Some of the GOP Congresscritters are wanting to have Dzhokhar Tsarnaev declared an enemy combatant. That means that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can be detained, denied the rights inherent in US citizenship.

Those GOP Congresscritters are Lindsay Graham, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte.

But like it or not, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in fact a US citizen.

The 'enemy combatant' thing is really blurry, but one thing is clear - it has heretofore not been a status applied against a US citizen for crimes committed on US soil.

Following a number of court cases and rulings, we find this definition of 'enemy combatant' in the 2004 Rules for Combat Status Tribunals:

‘Enemy combatant’ shall mean an individual who was part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who has committed belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy combat forces.

Tsarnaev so far does not meet any of the requirements of that definition. So far, Tsarnaev has committed murder and felonious assaults against a number of people, within the state of Massachusetts.

It may come to pass that there is a direct link between Tsarnaev and some external 'enemy combat forces,' but so far it isn't there.

Then we have 'lawful enemy combatants' and 'unlawful enemy combatants.' These are defined by the Military Commissions Act of 2006:

 "The term 'unlawful enemy combatant' means —
        (i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al-Qaida, or associated forces); or
        (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense."

    "The term 'lawful enemy combatant' means a person who is —
        (A) a member of the regular forces of a State party engaged in hostilities against the United States;
        (B) a member of a militia, volunteer corps, or organized resistance movement belonging to a State party engaged in such hostilities, which are under responsible command, wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carry their arms openly, and abide by the law of war; or
        (C) a member of a regular armed force who professes allegiance to a government engaged in such hostilities, but not recognized by the United States."


But after that, we have Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008). That's the one in which the US Supreme Court held that the Military Commissions Act was unconstitutional in that it restricted or denied detainees' use of habeas corpus and access to the federal court system. In that case, the court ruled that detainees could have access to the federal courts, and could submit petitions of habeas corpus, and restored the protection of the Constitution.

The Military Commissions Act was amended in 2009 to reflect the findings in Boumediene v. Bush. Nonetheless, the ACLU noted that the act still falls short of providing the protections of the Constitution.

You can say what you wish about the ACLU, but consider that we now have at least three US senators calling for  a US citizen, who has committed crimes on US soil (let's skip the 'allegedly'), to be essentially denied those Constitutional rights.

How does Tsarnaev's citizenship status affect all this? So far, I have not heard any sensible discussion on that.What I am hearing is three US senators - Republicans - calling for a declaration before the blood at the various crime scenes has even congealed. Aren't these the guys who have done so much complaining about 'knee jerk' emotional reactions by the Obmananians?

These people need to get a grip. Tsarnaev isn't going anywhere. A knee-jerk reaction here can easily lead to policies and practices that assault our Constitutional rights far more than ill-conceived background checks for gun sales.

I believe our criminal justice system is well-suited for handling Tsarnaev as it stands. Our 'tribunal' of senators needs to get a collective grip, and put their jackboots away.


4/20/13

Exigent circumstances - the public safety exception ...

 ... or, "Where's the gun?"

The talking heads on the cable and other 'news' outlets are showing themselves to be the compleat twits they really are.

They're making noises about Suspect 2 getting off because he wasn't 'read his Miranda rights.'

First, they aren't 'Miranda rights.' They are 'constitutional rights', of which the suspect is advised per the findings of the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

Second, a suspect must be under custodial arrest before the Miranda ruling kicks in. I believe we can all agree that Suspect 2 was in that state at the time any interrogation took place. Interestingly, any statements an arrestee makes that are not in response to interrogation may in fact be used, falling outside of Miranda. To trigger Miranda, one must a) be under arrest and b) interrogated. Spontaneous comments by the arrestee not in reaction to interrogation are fully admissible. This is why the worst thing a cop can do sometimes is actually advise the thug per Miranda. The advisement is nothing less than a 'shut up, fool' warning. So long as the officer asks no questions - for example, during transport to the PD - anything the arrestee spews forth is admissible. There are, however, a number of cases that establish what constitutes 'arrest' and what constitutes 'interrogation,' and one should not 'play cute' in trying to get an arrestee to talk.

Miranda is not triggered by 'focus of suspicion' though a lot of cops still believe that even in this day and age. Certainly one gets that impression from all the cops shows, but that doesn't make them right. It just illustrates the ignorance of the script writers.

Third, there are a number of what are called 'exigent circumstances' that can preclude the need for a warrant for search and/or seizure, and for interrogation of an arrestee.

Here is a good examination specifically of the public safety exemption to Miranda:

FBI - The Public Safety Exemption to Miranda

This article is found in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, which may be found in magazine racks in police department bathrooms across the land, right next to Car and Driver, American Rifleman, the latest Gall's catalog, and other such professional reading matter.

However, the public safety exemption is temporary, and applies only to interrogation that directly affects circumstances presenting an imminent danger to the public. This is important, because once that 'imminent danger' dissipates, the public safety exemption no longer applies.

Meanwhile, Suspect 2 ain't getting off anything, unless you consider that for the rest of his miserable life the only way he's going to be 'getting off' will be as the result of whacking off in the federal prison over in Florence. Given that he is only 19, that looks to be a very very very long time indeed to be staring the walls in his little cell.


4/18/13

Obama's hissy fit

Obama threw a bit of a hissy fit yesterday, putting up a bit of a temper tantrum over the failure of the Senate to pass the amendment package to his 'gun bill'.

"All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington," Obama said, in his usual petulant, accusatory manner.

"The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill," Obama said. He said the claims "upset" some gun owners who in turn "intimidated" senators. 

I don't think 'the gun lobby and its allies' willfully lied about the bill. I am one of those 'allies.' I don't believe they lied. I think they looked out for my interests as a citizen and a gun owner. They also looked out for the interests of the gun and ammunition manufacturers. That's what they are supposed to do. As for 'intimidating' senators, I prefer to think of my communications as 'remonstrating' and 'petitioning.' And I doubt that I intimidated anyone. OTOH, several million of us may well have accomplished just that

The master of Chicago-style politics should understand intimidation quite well.

Obama said that 90% of gun owners favor expanded background checks. That's a bit of an overstatement, but it is fairly accurate, which is surprising, coming from this president. Most of the polls show somewhere about 85%, perhaps a bit higher, of gun owners supporting expanded background checks. I do. Yep. I do indeed. I even support some kind of mandatory gun safety training before a citizen can own a gun. The main argument against that is that it interferes with a constitutional right. I think that can be worked out.

I've been a police firearms instructor for well over twenty-five years. I see a safety training requirement as 'common sense.' I see a requirement that guns be stored securely in some manner as 'common sense,' too, but these are things that need to be discussed and debated at length, not jammed down our throats as an emotional knee jerk reaction, with a smarmy 'I won and you lost' attitude on the part of our president, surrounded by political props in the form of the parents of dead children and sycophantic police administrators.

I agree with these guys:

"I believe very strongly that our current background check system needs strengthening and improving, particularly in areas that could keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms," Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., one of those opposed, said in a statement. 

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, echoed Heller in a statement released following the vote saying "Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, we all wanted to find answers that would reduce crime and prevent the next senseless act of violence. Unfortunately, the Senate did not consider any proposals that would achieve these objectives."

I am also pleased that both of our US senators, Michael Bennett and Mark Udall,voted against the Feinstein amendment That is the one that would have re-instituted the ban on so-called 'assault weapons'.

OK then. Get back to the legislative drawing board and come up with something that will accomplish these objectives. And Mr. President? The problem with you is not that you don't like guns. The problem with you is that you don't like people who like guns. That would be people like me and a good many of my neighbors.

Meanwhile, Obama and Michael Bloomberg should go back to dealing with the pressing issues of the day, like banning high capacity soda feeding devices.

More on gun control:

NRA Beats Major Gun Proposals?
The NRA
Recalling Giron
John Morse: Ignore them
John Morse, Angela Giron, and 'threats'
Giron v. Magpul

4/15/13

A year with Henri Nouwen

Leece begins a new series on one of our favorite theological scribblers:

A year with Henri Nouwen

4/11/13

Mitch McConnell misses a chance at PMS



Operative claims liberal group Progress Kentucky behind secret McConnell recording



It's beginning to look like Butthead and Beavis just walked into the building, and stood there in the hall with their iPhone, and recorded the whole thing.

The whole affair just illustrates what losers both parties are. The Republicans, for their slimy commentary and lack of comptetence in running their 'campaign headquarters' and the Dems, for their dumb tactics.

The Repubs look totally clueless:

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told Fox News that there is a video camera in the lobby where anybody would have to pass through to get to the second floor, where the meeting in question took place.

"They certainly were not authorized to be there, if they were indeed there," Benton said of the Progress Kentucky operatives. 

"... not authorized to be there ..." implies that there was some kind of security in place, to prevent the unwashed masses and Democrats from just wandering in and having a good listen.

So how did a couple of Dem operatives manage to wander in, up to the second floor, and stand in the hall listening, recording with a phone ...

and no one noticed?

Benton sounds like an incompetent buffoon. He's so busy pointing fingers everywhere that he has completely missed that he and McConnell and their henchmen sound like a bunch of spoiled frat boys punking the opposition for the election of the chapter Beer Monitor.

Hey Benton ... Mitch ... guys, how about a couple of cheap shots about PMS and women candidates? Were you so busy trashing the opposition over mental health issues you missed that one?

4/9/13

Mitch McConnell, Ashley Judd, and the vicious hypocrisy of the Christian Right


The Republican Party hasn't learned a thing.

Despite the New Republican Manifesto, it's the same old Republican garbage. They haven't learned a thing.

Mitch McConnell is throwing a hissy fit over a 'secret tape' recorded during a 'private' Republican strategy meeting.

An excerpt from the article:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign has contacted the FBI after a recording of a private strategy meeting was published Tuesday in a liberal publication, claiming the campaign was the victim of "Watergate-style tactics" to bug the office.

and then we have:

"We've always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond," Benton said in a statement Tuesday. "Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation."

 The Republicans are jumping to the conclusion that it was a Watergate-like burgle and planting of listening devices ... by the Democrats.

They are presuming that the office was bugged. By the Democrats.  But it could have simply been an 'operative' in the room, one of those 'aides', who taped it, and then sold it or gave it to Mother Jones. No one knows at this point.

But  here's the thing. While McConnell and his entourage are ranting away, with no proof at all, about the Democrats bugging the Republicans, spokesperson Benton says this:

"We've always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell ..."

Yet from the Mother Jones article, we have these snippets from the tape:

"She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s," one strategist said. 

One aide also said Judd is "critical ... of traditional Christianity." 

"She sort of views it as sort of a vestige of patriarchy," the aide continued. "She says Christianity gives a God like a man, presented and discussed exclusively with male imagery, which legitimizes and seals male power, the intention to dominate even if that intention is nowhere visible."

"Nowhere visible?" Is he kidding? Judd's description of "traditional Christianity" is right on the money. All you have to do is Google the text string 'women in the christian church', with or without the quotes, and you will come up with such mainstream Christian thinking as is challenged in this:

Women in the Christian Church

The thought processes we see in the traditionalist view of women and the Christian churches are the same ones that cherry-pick verses from Leviticus to justify the worst kind of un-Christian hate-mongering.

But here's the thing ... as usual, the Republicans cannot separate religion from politics. Not only that, but they cannot separate their traditional, patriarchal view of religion from politics. And not only that, they can't even see that they how badly they are behaving. Would anyone like to bet that the Republicans wouldn't come back with "Well, the Democrats do it ...", as though that were justification for taking such cheap shots at Judd? So much for the moral high ground from the Party of Family Values. Or is it the Party of American Values? 

Worse ... they are in an uproar over the Democrats doing them dirt by bugging their office ... allegedly bugging their office, since there is not one shred of proof of that at this point ... while planning the worst sort of smear tactics against Judd. Is McConnell upset because someone leaked the content of the meeting? Or is he upset because he and his cronies are exposed for the vicious political animals that they really are, hiding behind a thin veneer of 'Christian' religion?

Can you not just feel the Christian love, from the Senate Minority leader and the Republican Party? Can you not just feel the political and moral righteousness?

So much for the New Republican Manifesto.

4/5/13

Peckers and coin tosses



Coin toss? Really?

I don't think the Nork army is to be trifled with:

The Conventional Military Balance on the Korean Peninsula

An excerpt:

Nonetheless, despite shortages of spare parts, fuel and training time, North Korea’s conventional capabilities pose a significant threat to allied forces and South Korea’s population. For example, North Korea’s artillery capability does not require sophisticated tactics nor modes of operation to pose a threat to Seoul. In any conflict, North Korean artillery, firing from fortified positions near the DMZ, could initially deliver a heavy bombardment on the South Korean capital. Allied counter-battery fire and air strikes would eventually reduce North Korea’s artillery capability, but not before significant damage and high casualties had been inflicted on Seoul. Similarly, the North Korean air force could launch surprise attacks against military and civilian targets throughout South Korea before allied air superiority was established. The potential delivery of chemical or biological weapons by artillery, short-range missiles and aerial bombs is an additional threat – especially to unprotected civilians. 

NORK military, reserves, and paramilitary forces present a ratio of 387 such forces per 1000 of their population. The level of discipline in the NORK armed forces and general population is downright Spartan in its intensity.

The US presents a ratio of 7 per 1000. But we do watch a lot of really great reality shows ...

The population's mindset over there is totally different. The midget is kind of cute when he starts posturing and spewing ... but if the balloon goes up, blood is going to run in rivers on both sides.

Taking on the Norks wouldn't quite be the same as kicking a bunch of dumbass ragheads to the curb.  Yeah, I know 'ragheads' is considered offensive, but work with me on it. I'm playing the saber-rattling, hand-over-heart, all-American super-patriot here.

And even said ragheads weren't all that much of a piece of cake. People think the casualty list from the Bush-Obama wars is high? In modern day replay of "Heartbreak Ridge," you can figure that number for the first day, and not even add in the civilian body count.

I'm starting to hear all that Gulf of Tonkin rhetoric again. What was it LBJ said he was going to do about Ho? "Ah'm a-gonna cut his pecker off ..." or something like that? Yep. He really did. Here are two references to that:

The Folly of War: American Foreign Policy 1898-2005

Out of Weakness: Healing the wounds that drive us to war

and then there was his questionable move of flopping his wang out as a demonstration of the main reason why Ho would never win. Johnson's Johnson was bigger. So there. That per Arthur Goldberg.

Yep. Johnson really did that.

It played very well with the saber-rattlers. Very studly.

I really can't wait for The Big O to start making jokes about black guys having bigger dicks than Nork midgets.

That's the signal that it's time to lock our sons and daughters, our grandkids, in the cellar so as to keep all the flag-wavers from offering them up as human sacrifices to the Great God of "Patriotism."

In World War II, the Japanese were considered to be incompetent buck-toothed Orientals. The island campaigns of the Pacific taught us a different lesson. In Korea, the 'gooks' weren't a real threat, until 25 June 1950 presented a somewhat different perspective. But then, we had MacArthur and the landing at Inchon, and by God we showed them then, didn't we? All the way to the  Yalu, and then the 'chinks' came in ... and there we are today ... with sixty years worth of corpses littering the landscape like so much organic fertilizer.

I'd rather all the all-American super-patriots zipped their pants and put the testosterone supplements back on the shelf. If we're going to get into it with the Norks, let's do it for better reasons than whose Johnson is bigger. Set the middle-school bluster aside. Let's not use all those cool football analogies. We aren't talking about a sports event with lot of award-winning commercials, and hot babes in wet t-shirts having orgasms on hotter cars while sensuously slurping down The Best Carl's Jr Has To Offer. We're talking about blood running in rivers, and the destruction of at least two nations. Again.

I'd rather they kept it nice and clean. Like, you know ... find a SEAL team that isn't too busy with book and movie deals and send 'em in to quietly cut the midget's throat. Or maybe cut his pecker off?