A helpful video to explain to your friends and family why gay marriage would be just as bad as dropping the atom bomb on Nagasaki:

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This is hilarious! Governor Hairdo is marketing his enormous cojones.

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An interesting side-discussion about whether we should prosecute Bush and his cronies came up via email in connection with the comments section in an earlier post.

I initially asked the following question:

I’m curious to know whether you believe that Cheney-Gonzalez-Feith tribunals might be warranted. If we take as a given that the Bush Administration likely authorized the torture of prisoners in contravention of U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions, wouldn’t tribunals be warranted?

Mason, a reader, answered as follows:

For the sake of argument … absolutely not. In terms of an international tribunal, beside the principle of sovereign immunity, there’s a basic tenet in our Anglo-American jurisprudence that the only permissible government authority is one derived from the consent of the governed. The U.S. is not a party to the ICC – no jurisdiction there. The judges of the other main international court, the ICJ, are elected by the members of the General Assembly; I can’t think of any rational justification to permit someone elected by the likes of Sudan, Congo, Iran, Russia, Pakistan or Zimbabwe conceit to sit in judgment over any American official.

As to U.S. law, the idea of domestic tribunals is similarly a bad idea. Think about the pragmatic consideration behind the Constitutional prohibition of Bills of Attainder. It’s just a terrible precedent to criminalize disagreements over policy; you don’t want to initiate a cycle where every 8 or 12 years, whenever the opposition party takes over the reins of government, they initiate criminal prosecutions of their former political adversaries.

Look at the British experience – the British were civilized when they abandoned the tradition of sending former ministers to the Tower for a beheading – better to kick ‘em upstairs, give ‘em a George’s Cross and let ‘em sip gin in retirement.

Here’s my response as to his argument about prosecutions in the U.S. (I largely agreed with him on the international side of things):

On the U.S. side of the equation, I disagree. To start out with, what exactly do you think a President (and, by extension, the Vice President, Cabinet officials, OLC + DOJ lawyers, etc.) needs to do in order to be legally liable under criminal law? Taken another way, in what areas would a President/other officials not be above the rule of law?

Your comments on the English experience with Bills of Attainder is apt, but only up to a certain point. When we’re dealing with disagreements over policy, of course I agree that we shouldn’t subject ourselves to an every-eight-years witch hunt when a new party comes to power.

But what about in the circumstance where an official (say, the President and Vice President) specifically and willfully violates the U.S. Constitution, a criminal law or an international treaty?

Torture is and has been illegal in this country and under international law for a long time. [Edit: Check out this Washington University Law Review article on the subject of the illegality of waterboarding.] Looking to history, we executed Japanese officers for ordering the waterboarding of our troops back in WWII.

Is waterboarding only bad when foreign governments do it? Are only foreign officials subject to the rule of law when they order that our soldiers be tortured? At what point do we hold our own government officials responsible for violating these laws?

You must realize that the logical extension of your argument is that the President and his advisers should enjoy absolute immunity for everything done that is arguably related to their official duties, no matter how intentional the violation of the rule of law.

As a side note, what were your opinions on Clinton’s impeachment? If you were to present to me a hypothetical country, where the government holds an official to account for perjury but refuses to hold another official to account for the willful violation of the country’s constitution, criminal laws and international treaties that prohibit torturing people — I wouldn’t find this hypothetical country very appealing.

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Dan Froomkin does a great job in today’s Washington Post of summing up the ignominious legacy of U.S. Premier George W. Bush:

He took the nation to a war of choice under false pretenses — and left troops in harm’s way on two fields of battle. He embraced torture as an interrogation tactic and turned the world’s champion of human dignity into an outlaw nation and international pariah. He watched with detachment as a major American city went under water. He was ostensibly at the helm as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression took hold. He went from being the most popular to the most disappointing president, having squandered a unique opportunity to unite the country and even the world behind a shared agenda after Sept. 11. He set a new precedent for avoiding the general public in favor of screened audiences and seemed to occupy an alternate reality. He took his own political party from seeming permanent majority status to where it is today. And he deliberately politicized the federal government, circumvented the traditional policymaking process, ignored expert advice and suppressed dissent, leaving behind a broken government.

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If you’re interested, there is a great discussion going on in the comments section of a post I wrote last week: A Fundamental Truth About Israel/Palestine.

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Glenn Greenwald points us to an excellent little snippet from a seminal Supreme Court case dealing with the admissibility of coerced confessions:

‘Coercing the supposed state’s criminals into confessions and using such confessions so coerced from them against them in trials has been the curse of all countries. It was the chief iniquity, the crowning infamy of the Star Chamber, and the Inquisition, and other similar institutions. The Constitution recognized the evils that lay behind these practices and prohibited them in this country. . . . The duty of maintaining constitutional rights of a person on trial for his life rises above mere rules of procedure, and wherever the court is clearly satisfied that such violations exist, it will refuse to sanction such violations and will apply the corrective.’ — Fisher v. State, 145 Miss. 116, 134, 110 So. 361, 365

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The Buffalo Beast released its annual 50 Most Loathsome People in America list. My favorite:

43. You

Charges: You think it’s your patriotic duty to spend money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. You think Hillary lost because of sexism, when it’s actually because she’s just a bad liar. You think Iraq is better off now than before we invaded, and don’t understand why they’re so ungrateful. You think Tim Russert was a great journalist. You’re hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from “The View.” You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American.

Exhibit A: You’re more upset by Miley Cyrus’s glamour shots than the fact that you are a grown adult who is upset about Miley Cyrus.

Sentence: Invaded and occupied by Canada; all military units busy overseas without enough fuel to get back.

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Okay, so maybe my studying for the bar is making me a bit cranky. But every time I read stories recounting the Republicans’ overt strategy to obstruct Obama’s stimulus plan in order to place him at the helm of a sinking ship so that they can, in four years, point to him and yell ‘FAIL!’, I always get an image in my head of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Considering that Bush and the Republican-led Congress drove us so far into the ditch, why are they considered to have any credible say in the matter?

Here’s a flavor of how Republicans view their noble, high-minded, ‘Country First’ historical imperative:

At least some Republicans are starting to muster an anti-stimulus drive, claiming that President-elect Obama’s package will not help the economy. Their drive is centered on what they claim is a careful rereading of the history of the New Deal. According to their account, President Roosevelt’s policies actually lengthened the Great Depression.

In their story, we would have been better off if we just left the market to adjust by itself… [F]rom the standpoint of Republicans, the more ominous lesson of the New Deal policies is that it left the Democrats firmly in power for more than 20 years. The Republicans did not regain the White House until 1952, 20 years after President Roosevelt was first elected…

[T]he Republicans can be expected to adopt a strategy aimed at delaying and diluting the stimulus. We can expect their leaders to find every conceivable argument to slow down the spending that the economy desperately needs right now to prevent further job loss. While some of their concerns may be legitimate – we should all support efforts to restrain wasteful pork barrel spending and rein in corruption – these concerns should not be the basis for obstructing stimulus. The public should be careful to distinguish legitimate concerns from simple delaying tactics.

In short, we should realize that the main concern of some of those opposed to stimulus may not be that it will fail, but rather that it will succeed. Most of us don’t have the same set of concerns.

Yep, while our economy teeters on the brink of collapse, Republicans fiddle their obstructionist song in the craven interest of preserving what little is left of their political power.

‘Country First’ my ass…

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