"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bush makes bad guys disappear

Above the law
The Bush administration is arguing that it has the right to lock up U.S. citizens forever -- without evidence, witnesses, lawyers or trials. If the Supreme Court agrees, will this still be America?

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By Tim Grieve

April 28, 2004 | U.S. Supreme Court justices listened skeptically last week as Solicitor General Ted Olson argued that foreign detainees being held in U.S. military facilities in Guantánamo Bay have no right to seek relief from U.S. courts. Wednesday, Olson will be back before the court, this time arguing in two historic cases that the government has the authority to lock up U.S. citizens, too -- without charges, without a lawyer, without a trial, without any rights at all -- simply by declaring them "enemy combatants" in the administration's war on terror.

Having government agents sweep U.S. citizens off the streets and into prison cells, holding them incommunicado for as long as the government likes -- it sounds like a dark fantasy of life in a totalitarian state, the kind of thing we're supposed to be fighting against in Iraq. But this is no fantasy. In the cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, the Bush administration is advancing a vision of governmental power that is both far-reaching and unprecedented, at least in the United States of America. And it is a vision -- like the one the administration articulated Tuesday during Supreme Court arguments on the secrecy of Vice President Cheney's energy task force -- that leaves sole discretion, sole authority, and almost unfettered power in the hands of the executive branch.

It's easy to become blasé about liberties lost in the Ashcroft era. The lines between foreign intelligence efforts and criminal investigations have been blurred; the government has more power to snoop, to search, to study your financial transactions and examine your reading habits; foreigners have been detained, immigrants deported. "There are so many things," says Elliot Mincberg, legal director for the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way.

But the administration's arguments in the Padilla and Hamdi cases have activists and analysts on both the left and the right alarmed all over again. Timothy Lynch, director of the conservative Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice, says the Bush administration is advancing a "sweeping theory of executive power" that could lead to "dangerous" legal precedents. "If the administration were to prevail in Hamdi and Padilla, there would be no limit to the number of people who could be arrested here totally outside the normal criminal process, people arrested without arrest warrants, people not going before judges, people being held in solitary confinement in prison facilities right here in the United States," he said.

see the rest at salon

Sunday, April 25, 2004

How do you spell 'Paranoid' H-O-M-E-L-A-N-D-S-E-C-U-R-I-T-Y

came across this at work through a link a homepage for a university in Texas. Apparently all Texans must be on the lookout for 'suspicious' stuff like:
-Someone showing unusual interest in utilities, government buildings, historic buildings or similar infrastructure. Pay particular attention to someone photographing, videotaping, inquiring about security, drawing diagrams or making notes about such facilities. If they say they are architecture students don't believe them
-Suspicious or abandoned packages, luggage or mail in a crowded place, such as an airport, office building or shopping center. If you find an unclaimed bag in the middle of Lubbock or some other little cowtown, its probably a bomb left by the A-rabs, not just a bag of dirty laudry someone forgot while loading their car
-A stranger loitering in your neighborhood or a vehicle cruising the streets repeatedly. Are you sure those guys in the black and white car are really cops? Maybe the IDs are fake. They could be terrorists! or worse, students from out of town!
-Someone peering into cars or the windows of a home. Only terrorists, criminals and salesmen are curious to know if anyone is home
-A high volume of traffic going to and coming from a home on a daily basis. Obvious the sign of a drug dealer, terrorist, amway distributer, large family or popular teenager
-Someone loitering around schools, parks or secluded areas. Only terrorists spend time hanging out in the park
-Strange odors coming from a house or building. Tell the Special Agent in Charge of the armed seige that your goulash always smell like that, I'm sure he'll understand
-Open or broken doors and windows at a closed business or an unoccupied residence. How do I know its an unoccupied residence if I don't look in the windows?
-Someone tampering with electrical, gas or sewer systems without an identifiable company vehicle and uniform. Like the FBI agent that is installing your phone tap

Mean people suck, mean cops really suck

For some cops any challenge to their authority, any arguement or attitude, seems to be considered a threat to their safety and therefore an excuse to use force. Admittedly there are bad apples in every profession, but I think the jobs seems to attract a certain type of bully that all too often is given carte blanche to boss people around and hurt them if they don't obey. The cops that did this should not be scolded or reprimanded or disciplined. They should be kicked off the force and arrested for assault and battery.

From the The Oregonian (Portland Ore.)

by Steve Duin

Even blind old ladies terrify the cops
Sunday, April 25, 2004
S he was 71 years old.
She was blind.
She needed her 94-year-old mother to come to her rescue.

And in the middle of the dogfight -- in which Eunice Crowder was pepper-sprayed, Tasered and knocked to the ground by Portland's courageous men in blue -- the poor woman's fake right eye popped out of its socket and was bouncing around in the dirt.

How vicious and ugly can the Portland police get? Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner. This 2003 case is so blatant, the use of force so excessive, the threat of liability so intimidating that the city just approved a $145,000 settlement.

But all those gung-ho fans of the cops can relax. Nothing has changed. Nothing will upset the status quo.

The cops aren't apologizing.

The cops aren't embarrassed.

The cops haven't been disciplined.

And the cops are still insisting, to the bitter end, that they "reasonably believed" this blind ol' bat was a threat to their safety and macho culture.

Eunice Crowder, you see, didn't follow orders. Eunice was uncooperative. Worried a city employee was hauling away a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon, she had the nerve to feel her way toward the trailer in which her yard debris was being tossed.

Enter the police. Eunice, who is hard of hearing, ignored the calls of Officers Robert Miller and Eric Zajac to leave the trailer. When she tried, unsuccessfully, to bite the hands that were laid on her, she was knocked to the ground.

When she kicked out at the cops, she was pepper-sprayed in the face with such force that her prosthetic marble eye was dislodged. As she lay on her stomach, she was Tased four times with Zajac's electric stun gun.

And when Nellie Scott, Eunice's 94-year-old mother, tried to rinse out her daughter's eye with water from a two-quart Tupperware bowl, what does Miller do? According to Ernie Warren Jr., Eunice's lawyer, the cop pushed Nellie up against a fence and accused her of planning to use the water as a weapon.

Paranoia runs deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid . . .

Afraid and belligerent. "Cops have changed," Warren said. "When I grew up, they weren't people who huddled together and their only friends were the cops. You had access to them all the time. You weren't afraid of them."

What did Police Chief Derrick Foxworth have to say about the case? "This did not turn out the way we wanted it to turn out," Foxworth said Friday. "Looking back, and I know the officers feel this as well, they may have done something differently. We would have wanted the minimal amount of force to have been used. But I feel we need to recognize Ms. Crowder has some responsibility. She contributed to the situation."

Granted. But Eunice was 71. She was blind. That probably explains why a judge threw out all charges against her and why the city, in a stone-cold panic, settled ASAP.

"This was like fighting Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder," Warren said. "It wasn't a fair fight."

No, but it was another excuse to haul out the usual code words about the cops' "reasonable" belief that they were justified to use a "reasonable amount of force to defend themselves."

If you have a different definition of "reasonable," you just don't understand the Portland police. You need to remember the words of Robert King, head of the police union, defending Officer Jason Sery in the March shooting of James Jahar Perez:

"What sets us apart from people like most of you is that you'll never face a situation in your job where -- in less than 10 seconds -- the routine can turn to truly life-threatening," King wrote. "When that happens to us, when we have to make that ultimate split-second decision, we don't just ask for your understanding, we ask for your support."

She was 71 years old. She was blind. She was lucky, I guess, that these cops -- set apart from people like most of us -- didn't make the usual split-second decision and draw their guns.