Saturday, November 03, 2007

The traitorous Feinstein and Schumer. Shame on them!

The WaPo reports:

"The nomination fight over attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey effectively came to an end yesterday, as two key Senate Democrats parted from their colleagues and announced their support for the former judge despite his controversial statements on torture.

The orchestrated announcements by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) virtually guarantee that Mukasey will be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, to be followed by his likely confirmation in the full Senate later in the month."

May the names of Schumer and Feinstein go down in the annals of infamy. Nice job handing a lame duck president with no public support another crushing victory. And it's especially galling that with these votes for Bush Feinstien and Schumer are basically saying that torture is A-OK. That's the message W. is going to take from this.

But not to worry, Chucky Schumer says "Mukasey told him in a private meeting yesterday that he would enforce any anti-waterboarding law passed by Congress." Well, that should be good enough for the rest of us, right? He didn't seem to know exactly what waterboaring was a week ago, but now he's ready to enforce a ban if Congress passes a law.

Of course, if Congress were to pass a bill outlawing waterboarding (the chances of that actually happening being very slim from this scardy-cat Congress) Mukasey wouldn't have an opportunity to enforce it because W. would just nullify the law with a signing statement.

But, isn't waterboarding already illegal under US law? What about Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions? When the Senate ratifies a treaty, that's the law of the land, right? The Supreme Court in its Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling said Article 3 applied to detainees at Gitmo.

Mukasey, though, isn't so sure. According to an article in the NYT regarding his testimony to Congress he favors a narrow reading Hamdan. The legal director Human Rights First is quoted saying "He seems to be leaving room for the argument made in the torture memos that the executive does have room to violate the Geneva Conventions."

Oh yes, the torture memo, which is still in effect. What is he going to do about them? Who knows.

But Chuck and Diane say he can be trusted.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gun violence in Philadelphia: Three cops shot in a week. Is there a problem?

During the all the media hoopla surrounding the Democratic presidential debates at Drexel University on Tuesday, Chris Mathews of MSNBC's Hardball interviewed Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who, after deftly dodging Mathew’s question about the possibility of his being a potential vice-presidential candidate, said about the debates:

"I'd love the presidential debates to focus on urban issues. We haven't heard One Word on crime, or education or housing."

After what happened in Philadelphia shortly after he said this it seems his critique was absolutely right on point. Not hearing anything about issues that actually affect real people in their day to day lives from the Democratic candidates is exactly what's wrong with these debates. The problem with discussing crime, for example, is that it might lead to talk of gun control, and that's another third rail -- thanks to the gobs of money the NRA poisons the political well with -- that no Democrat will dare take a ride on.

Better to steer the conversation toward abstractions like the War on Terror and Senate resolutions calling Iran's military a terrorist organization than deal with the actual terrorism transpiring everyday on the main streets of America.

A case in point: As the debates wrapped up, a recently released murderer of a six-year old shot three people -- assassination style -- and then he shot the Philadelphia police responding to the shootings, mere blocks from where the candidates were speaking. As the audience filed out they were greeted by police sirens and helicopters swooping overhead as police searched for the shooter. (Hours later it was later determined that the shooter had tried to escape by jumping into the Schuylkill River and had drowned in the process.)

Less than 12 hours later, at 10:30 am Thursday morning, as the first officer, Mariano Santiago, was recovering from a gun shot wound to the shoulder, another police officer, Charles Cassidy, was shot in the head (he died this morning) while interrupting a robbery at a Dunkin' Doughnuts. The killer in this case has yet to be apprehended and is roaming the streets of Philadelphia armed with the fallen officer's firearm. (During the initial manhunt for the shooter, 54 Philadelphia schools were locked down and a local university canceled night time classes.)

These two incidents of police officers being shot follows the shooting on Sunday of yet another Philly police officer in front of a rowdy nightclub in West Philly. These shootings, as shocking as they are, are nothing really out of the ordinary in Philadelphia, however. Homicides in Philly today stands at 334 people killed, the vast majority by firearms, which is 2 more than the same time last year. Gun violence is clearly out of control in Philadelphia but as mightily as the police, the mayor and city council members struggle to get Harrisburg to allow the city to enact a gun ban, they are thwarted by the gun lobby and rural Pennsylvanians who want their right to have a hunting rifle protected.

[Incidentally, I think the NRA's theory that if more people were armed there would be less crime is pretty much out the window at this point. All three officers shot this week were armed and yet they got shot. Also, Officer Gary Skerski (from the neighborhood) who was gunned down last year responding to a robbery call at a bar was armed, as well. So there goes that.]

Overall, according to the Inquirer, cops’ getting shot is up 39% around the country this year, up to 61, as criminals become more brazen and willing to kill police. The fact the Jerome Walker, the man who shot officer Santiago in Center City, had just gotten out of prison no long ago, after serving 11 years for shooting a six year old girl, demonstrates to me that the current "get tough" strategy of fighting crime isn't working.

Just as locking up every adult male in Iraq simply bred more jihadis and insurgents in Iraq, so too, it appears, locking up violent offenders simply to punish them in overcrowded prisons is breeding domestic insurgents willing to kill anyone, even a cop, without compunction. Perhaps, if the prison system wasn't overwhelmed with 2 million Americans, 41% of whom are non-violent drug offenders, there would be more resources available to prevent truly violent criminals pouring into the streets without anything but the skills they learned in crime university.

When the shooting and killing of police officers, the thin blue line that protects our communities from the brutes that we've created in our prisons, becomes a routine occurrence, our society breaks down. I'm all for locking up the really violent recidivists for the rest of their lives, but simply warehousing people who have mental or drug problems with these brutes for a certain period of time and then unleashing them on unsuspecting citizens is the height of irresponsibility.

Political talking points like "zero tolerance," "get tough" sound great on paper but they don't deal with the underlying social ills that are affecting our society. Mental patients shouldn't be behind bars with violent criminals. They and drug abusers need medical help, not punishment. As long as we continue to ignore the serious issues of mental illness and drug abuse -- and, naturally, not spend money on them -- we're all going to be walking targets for our own ignorance and fear.

These chickens are coming home to roost right on our door steps and the police officers who are dying to protect us are the canaries in the mine we ignore at our own peril.

[Note: I found a web site that lists the postions on Gun Control of the various candidates. Hillary apparently talks a good game about Gun Control, it would be nice if she'd ever actually pushed for it more forcefully.]

[Note: Human Rights Watch: "One in six U.S. prisoners is mentally ill. . .The rate of mental illness in the prison population is three times higher than in the general population. . . prisons are dangerous and damaging places for mentally ill people. Other prisoners victimize and exploit them. Prison staff often punish mentally ill offenders for symptoms of their illness – such as being noisy or refusing orders, or even self-mutilation and attempted suicide. Mentally ill prisoners are more likely than others to end up housed in especially harsh conditions, such as isolation, that can push them over the edge into acute psychosis."]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The amnesty administration.

IPS news reports that former Sec Def Donald Rumsfeld (aka Rummy) made a quick skedaddle out of France and into Germany just as several human rights organizations filed a criminal complaint against him in a French court accusing him of "ordering and authorizing" torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.


"U.S. embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against man who spearheaded President George W. Bush's "war on terror" for six years."

Boy, the State Department has their hands full these days helping criminals (war and otherwise) escape justice. At the very same time they're shielding Rummy from the long arm of the law, the WaPo reports today that they're also giving the Blackwater USA employees involved in the Sep. 16 massacre in Baghdad a pass as well.

It turns out that during interviews about the incident by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security the guards were given immunity from being prosecuted for their statements about the incident. Congress, needless to say, is having a field day with this latest State Department folly.

Naturally, Sean McCormick has tried to play down the significance of the immunity agreement. "The kinds of, quote, 'immunity' that I've seen reported in the press would not preclude a successful criminal prosecution." Right, but according to a law enforcement official quoted in the WaPo, the deal has made the DOJ's investigation "a lot more complicated and difficult."

To ensure no one knows anything about anything for a long, long time, DOJ spokesperson Dean Boyd says: "The Justice Department and the FBI cannot discuss the facts of the Blackwater case, which is under active investigation. However, any suggestion that the Blackwater employees in question have been given immunity from federal criminal prosecution is inaccurate."

See how that works? It's just like how W. kept dodging questions about the Plame leak: It's under investigation so we can't say anything. [AFP]

Very neat. And where exactly is Rummy, anyway? Is he hiding out with Henry Kissinger, who has also made a rapid retreat from France a few years back.

These criminal masterminds are very good at this, especially with Department of State's assistance.

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