Speechless

Just like Maddow after Jindal, I am rendered speechless by the DOJ memos released on Monday. Most were by my former Con Law professor; among the notable exceptions was the repudiation of these policies last October.

Holy Constitutional Law, Batman.

* DOJ – Office of Legal Counsel memos

* NYT (3/3)
* LAT (3/3)
* links to the memos with brief annotations at salon.com

* Jack Balkin @ Balkinization (3/3 7am)
* Scott Horton @ Harper’s (3/3 716am)
* Dan Froomkin @ the Washington Post (3/3 12:52 pm)
* Glenn Greenwald, 3/3

sweet (day 1: stop the bush regulations)

sweet:

Obama halts all regulations pending review

17 hours ago AP 2009/01/20

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Barack Obama’s first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama’s White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The waning days of former President Bush’s administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

(also? i loved that whitehouse.gov flipped over right about noon. badgerbag tells me that the old robots.txt was like 2500 lines long, but the one is only a couple of lines long. heh.)

do people ever actually *read* Roe & Casey?

Ross Douthat’s op-ed in the NYT is a showcase for the deceptive rhetoric of the right. The piece is a long paean to the supposed reasonableness and willingness to compromise of the anti-choice movement. He wraps up by attempting to lay the “blame” on Roe and Casey for the “failure” of Americans to reach peace on safe and legal abortion:

But no such compromise is possible so long as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey remain on the books. These decisions are monuments to pro-choice absolutism, and for pro-lifers to accept them means accepting that no serious legal restrictions on abortion will ever be possible — no matter what the polls say, and no matter how many hearts and minds pro-lifers change.

Wow. Where to begin.

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reasonable limits on presidential pardoning power

I’m contemplating Bush’s potential pardon of his various underlings for their roles in torture or other illegal actions, and I’m angry.

The Presidential pardoning power can be and should be used for humanitarian reasons — for mercy, or for justice, when for whatever reason those are not available through ordinary means. There’s also a good argument for using it for “national reconciliation” — e.g., pardoning the Viet Nam draft dodgers, or (gag) pardoning Nixon. (Those situations are clearly distinguishable, obviously, but even though I firmly disagree with the Nixon pardon, it’s a reasonable argument.)

But the pardoning power should not be available for use to eliminate responsibility for one’s own misdeeds, and for members of the government that includes actions committed on orders. Members of the government already receive a wide variety of protections for “following orders”. Use of the Presidential pardon power to pardon those who followed one’s own illegal orders is the worst kind of self-dealing, and it places the President above the law. Since “[t]he President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it’s clear that impeachment for such crimes was envisioned. Yet pardoning one’s underlings for their illegal activities render it virtually impossible to prosecute the superior that ordered the actions — the President thus protects himself from any such impeachment or other prosecution.

It’s regularly stated that the Presidential pardon power is “plenary” and virtually unlimited, but there must be some level of absurdity. Can the President pardon himself for, say, ordering the massacre of Congress and the suspension of the Constitution? Or bribe an investigative commission and then pardon himself for doing so? Well, yeah. Bush I showed us that they can, with his Iran-Contra pardons. So here we go again. There is just no fucking justice or accountability for members of this administration. God that makes me angry.

update 2/28: See, this is why I should save my wrath until after the fact. I could have used it so much more effectively ….

the bush administration: destroying the media environment and the real environment, again

The NYT tells us today about Kevin Martin & the FCC’s new plan to relax the cross-ownership rules, which restrict large corporations from dominating entire urban markets. And, on the same page, on the same day, a story that has all the classic hallmarks of the Bush approach to the environment: scuttle environmental protection schemes that are working, destroy wildlife, and lie about science. New battle of logging vs. spotted owls

god I’m tired. 460 more days is a very long time.

riveting

James Comey’s testimony Tuesday before Congress was riveting.

Requiem for habeas corpus

Sometimes one despairs and relies on others to speak truth to power. Many have done so with respect to with respect to the “Military Commissions Act of 2006″, but Kent Keith Olbermann‘s was particularly eloquent.

update: Ahem. Apparently that’s Keith Olbermann, and Kent Brockman. Another sign of aging, because I would never ordinarily confuse the grey/blonde Simpson’s reporter with the grey/blonde MSNBC reporter.

sunday morning reading
  • Forbes apparently publishes an annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities and creators. They note that Shakespeare would be way up there:

    [Forbes] calculated what the Bard’s heirs might collect each year if he were still under copyright and estimated it at $15 million with over 5,000 performances of his plays and hundreds of thousands of books sold in the last year.

  • the medium lobster has the highest respect for slate columnist michael kinsey, who can’t understand the plame scandal, because it’s very confusing:

    True, the Plame scandal is simple enough to be summarized in one sentence,[1] but the devil is in the details.

    footnote 1. “White House staffers leaked a covert CIA agent’s name to the press in an attempt to discredit a critic of the flawed intelligence used to support the Iraq War.”

    The problem really boils down to the fact that the plame scandal is very confusing and Not Very Sexy:

    Outing CIA agents, silencing war critics, covering for the false pretext of a false war – it’s all too cerebral to have the kind of mass entertainment value that is the raison d’être of the American criminal justice system. Where’s the heart, the soul, the semen-stained dress?

    Also,

    Mr. Kinsley is also troubled by the impossible paradox of press freedom the Plame scandal presents. Should reporter-source privelege be an implied contract in which a journalist protects her source’s identity in exchange for reliable information, or should it be an absolutist right wantonly abused by state officials to disinform the populace, crush their critics, and commit crimes from beyond the veil of a shield law? Mr. Kinsley can’t quite decide.

morning tea round-up
  • Yahoo!’s historically less-than-stellar track record of protecting user privacy is made much, much worse by this news: Yahoo! turned over a user’s identity information to the Chinese government, and now journalist Shi Tao has been sentenced to ten years for “e-mailing a government’s plan to restrict media coverage around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre”. [SJ Merc 10/2 editorial; see also Xeni Jardin in the LAT 10/9; and Open Letter to Jerry Yang, Yahoo!, from Liu Xiaobo, 2005 Oct. 7. ] The Merc thinks it’s “hard to blame Yahoo!” for this but wants them to more aggressively lobby on behalf of human rights. Me, I don’t find it hard to “blame” Yahoo! for what they did. The individuals at Yahoo! who made the decision to hand over accurate information made a choice: company profits and business model over the freedom of a journalist. I guess they were just doing what they were told. [link from ping]

  • The Bush Admin. has never really had a sense of humor about parodies. The latest brouhaha is about The Onion’s use of the presidential seal. [cnn 10/26] White House spokesperson Trent Duffy:

    “When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified. … You cannot pick and choose where to enforce that rule. It’s important that the seal or any White House insignia not be used inappropriately.”

    The Onion editor-in-chief, Scott Dikkers:

    “I’ve been seeing the presidential seal used in comedy programs most of my life and to my knowledge none of them have been asked not to use it by the White House. … I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama … rather than comedians. I don’t think we pose much of a threat.”

  • George Takei - Live Queer and Prosper

    George Takei (“Mr.
    Sulu”) vamps it up.

    Mr. Sulu George Takei is gay! His new role in “Equus” apparently “inspire[d] him” to come out. I have to say, I am deeply gratified to finally have some queer representation on Star Trek. Although looking at this picture, it seems like the official coming out was, well, redundant. [Jason Schultz has a nice photo for Sulu fans, and SFGate 11/10 has a lot more details.]

    Between Mr. Sulu Takei and WNBA triple-MVP winner Sheryl Swoopes, National Coming Out Day came out a little late, but strong. [Women's Hoops blog links to lots of Swoopes coverage.]

  • Research about five years ago showed that even as women athletes were setting records and breaking into new fields, sports photographers were increasingly minimizing and downplaying women’s athleticism. (Also at Women’s eNews. See also Womens Sports Foundation. That was in 2000, and a flurry of scholarship around that time evaluated that phenomena. A year or so later, the Smithsonian launched a traveling tour of sports photography of female athletes, Game Face (which I caught in DC at the time). Women’s ascendance in sports in the last five years has continued apace, and I wonder if there have been follow-up studies….

  • Chinese women bloggers are doing the sex blog thing. (This is at least the second or third such similar article on Asian women bloggers and sexuality that I’ve seen in the last year or so. News coverage about the Chinese government frowning or cracking down on this or that is fairly routine, I know. But I can’t help but wonder how much of the coverage is due to the starting! shocking! news that Asian women bloggers are blogging about sex, and how much of it is because white Western journalists are surprised to see such goings-on. Hey, I’m told that even in Boston, beans do it.)

  • Speaking of blogging, the NYT is trying to get “hip” to this newfangled “blogging” thing, and you can really see the results. In one article recently, the Times “jazzed up” their content with “hyperlinks”: the article included one link on the name of a state to NYT coverage about that state. And yesterday & today the coverage of the Scooter Libby resignation made me snigger with this bullet point: “Reactions: Bush. Cheney. Bloggers.” But I shouldn’t make fun, because the NYT also gave me a happy moment with its briefly-posted blurb for the Scooter Libby thing, which went something like this: “Scooter Libby indicted; steps down; Bush-Cheney no comment; Karl Rove not indicted.” The mere fact that Karl Rove’s non-indictment is news sends a warm glow all the way down to my toes, and I thank the NYT for that little moment of joy.

  • National science standards groups are registering their disapproval of Kansas’ new “science plus! religion” standards. Unfortunately, they’re using copyright to do so. [nyt 10/28]

  • The Washington Post trashes the E-Rate, the telecomm. tax-funded grant to schools & libraries for Internet access. [WPost 10/27]

disappeared information
the media spins

“[The media] would still roll over for Bush in tonight’s debate, if only he had told his lies crisply and with folksy assurance.”

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Good commentary on torture memo justifications from fafblog!

From Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog., Saturday 12-June-2004:

Torture: A last recourse we may require sooner and sooner

The Medium Lobster has been disquieted of late at by the latest round of Iraq torture scandal news. There has been much uproar – among that irritating minority which have not been studiously scrutinizing the week’s top story, the beatification of Ronald Reagan, at least – regarding the powers of the president and the incompatibility of torture with a liberal democracy. In the midst of all this, the Medium Lobster would like to offer those with cooler heads some perspective as to the merits of harsh interrogation.

Imagine there is some weapon of mass destruction planted by terrorists in the heart of a city, ready to go off – a “ticking bomb,” if you will. Would it be wrong to torture a terrorist to find the location of such a device and save the millions of lives at risk? Hardly. Now, what if instead of torturing a terrorist, interrogators had to torture a confederate of that terrorist – some associate who would know where the terrorist was so they could locate that ticking bomb? Is that dirtying of our hands such a high price to ask in the goal to protect millions? I think not. Now, what if instead of a terrorist’s comrade, interrogators have a terrorist’s relative or neighbor? Is it still justified to go as far to save innocent lives? I should hope so! And what if that terrorist has a lot of relatives and neighbors – hundreds, even? Would it be wrong to grant blanket authority to torture hundreds of prisoners knowing full well that any of them could have the crucial information required to save a city? Certainly not! And what if the threat we’re faced with is not a bomb at all but an even more pernicious threat – a rogue nation with the potential capability to someday construct that bomb? Would it not be America’s right – no, her duty – to invade that country, occupy it, and set up a system of torture-like interrogations to rid that country of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction once and for all? Absolutely!

Indeed, the most unsettling question being raised by these latest news items is not the issue of torture itself, but the question of whether America will be strong enough to use that torture to defeat the enemies of life and liberty. The Medium Lobster can only hope that this great nation will retain its nerve.