Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fourth Amendment? What Fourth Amendment?

As Jack Balkin at Balkinization points out, the Cheney plan to use the military to arrest terrorists in the United States amounted to a suspension of the Fourth Amendment.

The central problem with the Cheney/Yoo/Addington theory was that it allowed the President to declare anyone in the United States an enemy combatant. Then, once the President made this declaration, the person would lose all their civil rights. The military could arrest and imprison the person without charges or any of the procedural protections of the Bill of Rights; it could torture them for information (under the theory that these techniques did not shock the conscience under the Eighth Amendment), and it could hold them indefinitely in a military prison. The problem with the Cheney/Yoo/Addington theory, in short, was that it embraced elements of military dictatorship within the United States.

Frankly, until Republicans come to terms with this, I really can't see trusting them with executive ranch power again. Ever.

Video proves police corruption

The more these kinds of things happen the mroe I think video should be a regular part of all police operations. It will protect the good gops and deter the bad ones.

Cheney wanted to send the Army into Buffalo!!!

Can you imagine!!

It would have been quite the wake-up call, I suppose. And suppose they had screwed up? Imagine if there was collateral damage in Buffalo?

And I wonder if the military brass would have been willing to go along? I suspect that there would have been a real pushback on this one, had it gone that far.

My God, Cheney was out of control.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pressure on Peters

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a contributing editor at Armed Forces Journal and regular talking head on cable TV for his military "expertise," sometimes has worthwhile things to say, although often I find myself disagreeing with him.

But his recent appearances on cable shows where he appears to encourage the Taliban to actually execute a captured American soldier (that Peters apparently suspects is a 'deserter' for God knows what reason) is one of the most appalling things to occur among the punditry in quite some time. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention from mainstream media, but the online media is abuzz. One can only imagine what it would have been like if someone from the "Left" said something like that.

In any case, a Congressman has now weighed in, which may very well become a tipping point.

Links here:

I honestly can't fathom what Peters is thinking here, but I don't see any justification at all for it, even of the solider was a deserter.

Friday, July 10, 2009

US like Rome in decline?

It's one of those popular little political analogies, comparing the United States to late Republican Rome, or alternatively, to Imperial Rome.

While there certainly are some interesting parallels, especially in the relative political, military and economic dominance of the world,* it's easy to get carried away.

Firstly, it's highly debatable whether the US is in decline at all. Every generation feels its crisis are unprecedented and that things were better in the old days -- moral rot and all that. Now, I won't argue that everything is great in the USA. Some things are better and some things are worse, but we should also remember that the good old days including things like lynchings, disenfranchisement, sexism, racism, civil war etc. If there's truly a decline going on, we're not well-placed to spot it. I think the decline was very well along in Rome before people recognized it.

And Rome was different in many critical ways from the US. This doesn't make the US immune from decline, but it does suggest that it will decline in different ways and from different causes. Personally, I think analogies to Britain's experience may be more on target.

Among the differences that I think are critical is that the US is a federal republic, not a city state that acquired and empire. There's necessarily a different relationship between the parts and the whole. The US is, geo-politically, an island and naval power, secure from physical invasion. Rome was a land power, with very long and indefensible borders. Despite regional differences and ethnic politics, the US is a remarkably homogeneous society and culture, while Roman culture, while widespread, was often confined to the elites and did not displace local cultures in many places. Finally, technology and cultural development have created a far different world from 2,000 years ago, making analogies questionable. To the extent that human nature has not changed, you can learn something from Rome's experiences, just as Plato's Republic can be mined for insights today. But too much as changed to make that your primary source material. There are no steppe barbarians to keep at bay.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin to hang it up

Wow. Palin is resigning as governor.

It doesn't make any rational sense, but little that Palin has done has made sense, so it's possible that this is some "strategic" move on her part.

On the other hand, many are wondering if there's some bombshell about to drop. If it is, it would have to be a pretty big one, given that even Sanford's sorry saga hasn't been enough to get him out of office.

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica