Brief updates

When I wrote my angry rant yesterday, I had been hoping that Slate's Dahlia Lithwick would have written something about the case involving prosecutors and absolute immunity.  Now she has.  I'll just give you her takeaway line:

The question for the court today is whether it is ultimately more
worried about chilling prosecutors who want to introduce possibly
fabricated evidence or giving them good reason—and the absolute
freedom—to do so.

Meanwhile, also in Slate, Tim Noah takes up the issue of pro-life House Democrats trying to derail health reform.  I like this part:

Granted, money is fungible. Federal money that a private health
insurance plan doesn't spend on abortions frees up nonfederal money
that it does. But as Time's Amy Sullivan recently noted,
not even Focus on Family meets Stupak's exacting standard. Principal,
the health insurer for the Christian-right group's employees, covers
abortions. "Even if the specific plan Focus uses for its employees
doesn't include abortion coverage—and I'm assuming it doesn't—the
organization and its employees still pay premiums to a company that
funds abortions," Sullivan wrote. "If health reform proposals have a
fungibility problem, then Focus does as well."

 

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Stimulate US

Paul Krugman has been making the case (quite effectively, in my opinion) for some time that we need more economic stimulus. In Salon, Robert Reich has a nice column discussing the political imperative of this on the Blue Dogs, who are always whining about budget deficits in totally nonsensical ways (of course, all else being equal you'd prefer a deficit to a surplus, but right now, all else is definitely not equal).  It is their own re-elections most imperiled by a lack of a stimulus.  Only question is if they are smart enough to realize that (I suspect not).  Anyway, Reich nicely lays out the case:

 

Let's be clear about this. The national rate of unemployment will
almost surely hit 10 percent; we'll know Friday whether it already has.
This is more a psychological and political threshold than an economic
one (it doesn't include everyone who's too discouraged to look for
work, or working part time who'd rather be working full time, or
working fewer hours in an ostensible full-time job, or otherwise fully
employed but being paid less; the Bureau of Labor Statistics' payroll
survey, also due Friday, provides a more accurate picture). But it
nonetheless represents a degree of hardship this country hasn't seen in
decades.

Public approval of Obama’s handling of the
economy has slipped to 46 percent in an Oct. 30-Nov. 1 CNN poll, from
59 percent in March. Remember, Obama was elected in part because the
public didn't have confidence in McCain's ability to manage the
economy. In exit polls last November, almost two-thirds of voters
listed the economy as the nation's top issue. If the job numbers don't
start moving in the right direction, not only will Obama's poll ratings
continue to drop but congressional Dems will all be in trouble.

That
should be Obama's selling point to the Blue Dogs. He should tell them
the economy needs a bigger stimulus in order to show improved job
numbers by the mid-term elections. And he should make sure they
understand that they're more politically endangered next November if
the the job numbers aren't moving in the right direction by then than
if they vote for a larger stimulus now.

That's the case.  Let's see if Obama makes it and the Blue Dogs listen.

What the hell kind of country do we live in?!!

Apparently one in which government officials can torture totally innocent people with impunity if they think the person might be a terrorist and one in which prosecutors are granted complete immunity to frame someone for murder.  Hyperbole?  Sadly, no– just today's news.  Truly, truly depressing.  Each of these totally deserves their own post, but I thought I'd combine because it truly says something about the sad state of our democracy.  

First, the torture bit.  The facts, courtesy of Glenn Greenwald:

  Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian
descent.  A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal's
McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he's 17 years old.  In
2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover
at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of
being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and
without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then
(d) was "rendered" — despite his pleas that he would be tortured — to
Syria, to be interrogated and tortured.  He remained in Syria for the
next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions
imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured.  Everyone acknowledges
that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of
nothing…

In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar
for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government
paid him $9 million in compensation.  That was preceded by a full
investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed  Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian
descent.  A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal's
McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he's 17 years old.  In
2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover
at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of
being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and
without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then
(d) was "rendered" — despite his pleas that he would be tortured — to
Syria, to be interrogated and tortured.  He remained in Syria for the
next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions
imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured.  Everyone acknowledges
that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of
nothing…

In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar
for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government
paid him $9 million in compensation.  That was preceded by a full
investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense…

So, what did the American 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decide?  Sorry, despite the fact that Canada published two phone books worth of material on this case, Arar could not sue the U.S Government in order to protect "state secrets."  Sorry, it is no secret how craven and dismissive of liberty our government has become.  Like the constitutional scholar he is, Greenwald sums it up brilliantly:

In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want
in the national security context — even violate the law and purposely
cause someone to be tortured — and courts should honor and defer to
their actions by refusing to scrutinize them. 
(emphasis mine)

Reflecting the type of people who fill our judiciary, the judges in the
majority also invented the most morally depraved bureaucratic
requirements for Arar to proceed with his case and then claimed he had
failed to meet them.  Arar did not, for instance, have the names of the
individuals who detained and abused him at JFK, which the majority said
he must have.  As Judge Sack in dissent said of that requirement:  it
"means government miscreants may avoid [] liability altogether through
the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury" (p. 27; emphasis added).

If you are not disgusted, you don't deserve your rights.  On a similarly, though not quite as depressing note, the Supreme Court just heard oral arguments in a case in which prosecutors knowingly framed two innocent men and sent them to jail for life, but they argue, and the Obama administration joins them, that prosecutors have absolute immunity in such matters.  Hey, maybe we just need to let prosecutors loose on terrorists.  They can waterboard them, threaten family members, all sorts of good stuff.  That would surely bring in lots of credible and valuable confessions!  Anyway, NPR had a a agreat story on the matter today.  You can listen or read it at the link.  Please do.  Really.

The bright side on this one, is that maybe, just maybe, the US Supreme Court will rule that prosecutors are not actually a law unto themselves.  I'm not holding my breath on that, though.  Sigh.

Fun with google

Generally speaking, I quite like the auto-complete feature on google.  Here's a fun article in Slate that's a bit of amateur sociology, e.g., the different suggestions you get typing in "how 2" versus "how do I" etc.  Pretty interesting.  A sample

How 2

vs.

How Might One

 

 

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