The Talking Dog

April 30, 2006, In the long run, we're all dead

That observation was famously by the late John Maynard Keynes; the economist believed to be the greatest of all Keynesians, American giant John Kenneth Galbraith (for more reasons than his 6'8" stature.) has died, at age 97.

Galbraith gave our vocabularies terms like "conventional wisdom" and "countervailing power," he gave our libraries The Affluent Society, he gave our nation service as an advisor of Presidents from FDR to Clinton, and as Ambassador to India in the 1960's, and he gave academia decades of service as an economics professor at Harvard, not to mention numerous seminal works of economics, including probably popularizing the field more than anyone else.

In my younger days, before exposure to many of the formative trials and tribulations that a grown-up in this country (and its workforce) endures, I thought somewhat less of Professor Galbraith than I do now (of course, my pet motto is "If you're not a liberal at 21, you have no heart; if you are a liberal at 40, you have no money...")

But it appears that Galbraith was invariably right, right and right again... about just about everything. The fact is, the American life-style is intrinsically self-destructive in any number of ways: environmentally, socially, politically...
We get to the point now where we measure our well-being by just how rapidly we can despoil everything and everyone else...

Consider this flowing prose, written in the 1950's:

The family which takes its mauve and cerise, air-conditioned, power-steered, and power-braked automobile out for a tour passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by litter, blighted buildings, billboards, and posts for wires that should long since have been put underground."

"They picnic," he added, "on exquisitely packaged food from a portable icebox by a polluted stream and go on to spend the night in a park which is a menace to public health and morals. Just before dozing off on an air mattress, beneath a nylon tent, amid the stench of decaying refuse, they may reflect vaguely on the curious unevenness of their blessings."

Well, well. In other words, there is a limit to unbridled capitalism... externalities, be they environmental degradation, or social inequity, or provision of adequate public services, must be responsibly addressed, or the quality of overall existence will be duly compromised. Can you imagine that?

And Galbraith was from an era when even humor was at a level somewhat higher than our current era's (I'm referring to the pathetic and whiny Bush part, not to the Colbert part, which was, of course, brilliant.)

Anyway, when a 1961 New York Times profile referred to him as "arrogant", Galbraith complained to President Kennedy that "I didn't see why they had to call me arrogant," the president answered, "I don't see why not. Everybody else does."

The liberal elite is one powerful voice weaker, now. R.I.P. Professor Galbraith.

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April 29, 2006, Saturday talking dog blogging (take 10)

And so we find ourselves starting to reach down to characters like Barnyard Dawg, protector of the chicken-house from such predators as right wing chickenhawk Henery Hawk, and Southern blowhard rooster (my guess is a Zell Miller-type DINO) Foghorn Leghorn. Some of you have suggested that I consider Snoop Doggy Dogg for this feature, but I have learned that he is not a talking dog at all, but a rather troubled human being. Hence, the rap on him is he ain't a dog... sorry Snoop fans.

The thing with Barnyard Dawg is, like other Warner Brothers talking dogs such as Sam the Sheepdog (pictured with his co-worker Ralph, who is better known as Wile E. Coyote), Dawg is very smart, very effective at what he does... indeed, the only classic Warner Brothers character more downright intelligent than the talking dogs might be uber-character Bugs Bunny himself (not merely the greatest of all cartoon characters, but indeed, the greatest of all anthropomorphised animals)...

And of course, all talking dogs are, by definition, more intelligent than talking (or at least chattering) asses, such as the one profiled at my post at American Street this week. But then, that's why you're here in the first place...

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April 28, 2006, Sez WHO?

Hard exactly what to make of the third major A.Q. figure to recently release a videotape, today, on an "extremist website", in this case a video by Al Qaeda overall "number two" and the man widely viewed as its "operational" head supervillain, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

This taunting videotape arrives shortly after similar tapes from OBL himself and Al Qaeda in Iraq (TM) leader Zarqawi... coming as it does in a bloody April for American troops, as well as a particularly bloody political period for the Bush Administration as the lethal combination of high oil prices, GOP corruption, legislative malaise... and that Iraq thing... take their toll. (Who knows... maybe Americans are even upset at the insane prospect of aggressive nuclear war against Iran... anything is possible, after all...)

Ironically, just as Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are constantly saying that American troops have "broken the back of the insurgency" in Iraq, Zawahiri now says that the seemingly never ending series of suicide bombings and other attacks on Americans, British coalition partners and Iraqi troops has... broken the back of the American operation in Iraq. Think of all this as the Global Schoolyard Taunt.

The troubling question is, simply, "why now"? A.Q. hasn't blown up anything outside of the Arab world lately (though it seems to have been pretty lethal in Egypt of late)... is it planning something big soon in that department? Could it be seeking to undermine the savior of Iraq (and possibly the mid-terms) Iraqi PM designate Al-Maliki? Just wtf is with A.Q.?

Let me not mince words: A.Q. has made these sorts of announcements in the past at times that have conveniently inured for the benefit of the Bush Administration (such as right before the 2004 election.) One can observe that helping to stir up American voters' fears and emotions in such a way as to play in to Karl Rove's documented strategy of "all terror all the time" has resulted in a very sick symbiotic relationship between Al Qaeda and our Imperium Government. (There are those who suspect there is an even closer relationship going back to the President's well-documented business dealings with the bin Laden family.)

It doesn't matter, really. Something is up. Frankly, we're over six months before the mid-terms... as such, the timing signifies something... but what exactly?

One wonders (well, you may wonder; I'm reasonably certain of it) as to whether all this sudden A.Q. chattiness has anything to do with this guy. Stick around, as they say...

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April 27, 2006, Not Underestimating the Stupidity of the American People

Nope. Republicans of the current era could never, ever be accused of that. The uninformed electorate is our best customer, to paraphrase a New York area men's clothing store's tagline. Thus, it should come as no surprise that some of the brilliant ideas for dealing with high oil prices that have emerged from the geniuses in the Republican majority in the senate include a $100 "gas tax holiday" (in the form of a Treasury sponsored rebate check... thank you for driving an SUV) or more funding for "alternative fuels"... the President, down on the Gulf Coast for another photo op suggested drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Ironically, the President's suggestion is the only thing that effects the actual mechanics of oil prices, to wit, "supply and demand," in that ANWR will, at least, improve our domestic supply, albeit a little, at tremendous cost (environmental, social, etc.) and a long time from now... but at least it's something.

Once again, of course, this is a big shell-game. We know why gasoline prices are going up... even the populist blaming of "greed" won't cut it, because we can presume that oil refiners and gasoline retailers and everyone else in the chain always wants to maximize their revenues and profits... but are limited by what the traffic will bear and what the other guy will charge. The underlying fundamentals here, of course, are increased demand from industrializing nations in Asia (that would be mainly India and China, but there are others), and fear of uncertainty in oil supply (that would be because of horrendously irresponsible American foreign policy, mostly associated with Iraq and Iran right now, but overall... not providing much comfort to international markets or anyone else.) Billmon has this wonderful discussion of the long term implications of our national military aggression energy policy.

To their credit, the Republicans have recognized a big source of possible public discontent, and are trying to "do something." Notice that what they won't do, for example, might be a dreaded windfall profits tax... no, no... can't do that. Nothing that might, for example, help close the deficit, even a little, or help steer market incentives even slightly away from consuming as much oil as fast as possible... no, no... unthinkable.

Of course, Democrats have an easy answer, if they want to play it. (They won't, of course: the word chickenshit comes to mind.) Yes, my idea is simply to fund the entire defense budget at the pump... think of it as a user fee. While gas prices would increase, of course, the income tax refund to taxpayers would be self-funding (unlike the Republican plan, which, as always, would be funded by Beijing) and market mechanisms would quickly force Americans to conserve and seek cheaper forms of fuel.

And Democrats can, as a group, vow that if they obtain the majority (especially in the all-important House-- far more important than the Senate-- though only Republicans understand that), that they will impeach (not necessarily remove-- but not necessarily not remove) the twin-cancers at our nation's head named "Bush" and "Cheney", or at least tie Mr. Rove up with committee subpoenas every day for the remainder of the Bush presidency which would have the same effect. But of course, that would involve ignoring the expensive consultants and professional chattering asses, and actually listening to the voters... and hence, is about as likely as my defense funding measure.

Oh well... how will you spend your $100 gas tax holiday?

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April 26, 2006, Operation Iraq Leaving

I'm sure you're all aware that the original name of the Excellent Iraq Adventure (TM) was none other than "Operation Iraqi Liberation (TM)". The problem with such a name is obvious: it creates a subliminal dissonance in constantly saying "it's not about oil" when the brand name you chose for it has a convenient acronym of O.I.L. (Hence "Operation Iraqi Freedom"-- OIF-- was born.)

Anyway, I guess we need to come up with something like "Operation Hold the House" or "Operation Fool the Rubes So we can Win the Mid-terms" or something like that. Because reminiscent of the old SNL bit of "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is still Secretary of Defense, and during a visit to Iraq, talks of reducing troop strength to under 100,000 Americans are underway.

While reducing the level of USA troops in Iraq to under 99,000 by Columbus Day is, because of the political necessity to do so, a certainty, I am betting that the new savior of the universe, Mr. Al-Maliki, will "ask" us to reduce our troops to under 60,000 by the end of the year. I won't bet much, of course... perhaps 50, 75 cents maybe? Roughly the amount by which the current average price of gasoline will decline by Labor Day (after going up a bit by July 4th).

Gotta win those mid-terms. Or else.

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April 26, 2006, Meet the New Face of Official Obfuscation

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April 25, 2006, Jack the Ripper Named Medical Examiner

Banking that there is no limit to the stupidity of at least a plurality of the American people (and on this point, I may well agree with them), the Bush Administration announced an investigation into possible price-gouging-at-the-pump as the reason for the nation's record high retail gasoline prices (in marginal, not-inflation-adjusted) terms. This, of course, follows the kabuki-like "pressure" to do so from GOP Congressional leaders which I recently alluded to in this post over at the American Street.

Oy. Bush foreign policy and energy policy have almost been designed to drive up the price of oil (just as his tax cuts have been designed to drive up the deficit). As such, it is a very, very silly (and wasteful) endeavor to ask the Bush Administration to "investigate" the causes of higher gasoline prices (just as it was a very silly exercise to ask the Bush Administration-- or, frankly, anyone it named to an "independent" commission) to "investigate" the underlying causes of 9-11, Plamegate, or anything else where yon Bush Administration bore some degree of complicity ranging from "a lot" to "total".

And so here we are again. Anyone who isn't a moron (that would be the majority of the American people-- though sadly, not a vast majority) knows damned well that uncertainty of supply in the Middle East caused by our little war of aggression in Iraq and talk of our larger war of aggression against Iran, makes people afraid of the stability of oil supply. Throw in OBL making a convenient (convenient for Karl Rove, that is) reappearance, timed with multiple bombings at a resort in Egypt, increased demand in India and China, and the fact that Americans refuse to buy smaller cars because we would rather launch a "preemptive nuclear war" rather than suffer the indignity of driving Honda Civics as opposed to Chevy Blazers... and yes it is that simple (and that stupid)... and voila, higher gasoline prices are pretty much a gimme.

Ironic, of course, to see that the Republicans will, in the interest of saving their political asses, go after one of their mainstay constituencies, "small businesses", to wit, gasoline retailers (most of whom, IIRC, are franchies of, rather than owned by) large oil companies... but then, political necessity has already dictated burning CIA agents, soldiers, veterans... why stop now? After all... there's a mid-term election to win...

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April 24, 2006, Supreme ironies: when the law gives you lemons, make lemonade

Such is the rather upbeat take by our friend Scott Lemieux of a trend among recent lower federal courts to ignore the weasel words of the infamous Supreme Court Bush v. Gore decision, and actually use the decision itself for the proposition that the precious rights of voters shall not be diluted by legislative schemes intended to do so, such as recently, one in Ohio duly voided by the Sixth Circuit (based in Cincinatti). The Supreme Court, much like some of my employers used to do when giving some particular day as a holiday, would say "this applies today, but has no precedential value". Ironically, in (as many of us feel, anyway) undermining the principle that "every vote counts", the Supreme Court may have afforded an appropriate basis for lower courts to vindicate that right.

Ah, but the Supreme Court of the United States is not just another idle decision-maker looking for a specific outcome in one case (or one holiday): it is the Supreme Court of the United States, the one court in this country that all others must follow, because it alone is the final (and supreme) arbiter of all federal laws (including the United States Constitution). As such, its decisions are entitled to deference-- even when a majority of the High Court pretends its not.

And there we have it. The courthouse that, during the course of my career, I have been most likely to appear in (and for a while, served as a special master in) the New York County Supreme Court building located at 60 Centre Street in New York (thanks to such shows as Night Court, and Law and Order, one of the most photographed public buildings in the world) dates from around the 1930's, and has an interesting motto (from a letter written by George Washington, the only President inaugurated in New York County) on its friese: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government."

But what, pray tell, is "the true administration of justice"? I submit to you that it is simply deference to authority. Nothing more, nothing less. A good judge is not a one-person (or three-person, or nine-person) legislature, or constitutional convention. A good judge is quite the opposite. A good judge is the most humble and diligent servant of the legislature and constitutional convention.

The job of the judge is to apply "the law" to a given set of facts in the dispute before him or her, and based on that law, to reach a decision accordingly. It is not the judge's job to ascertain the outcome that they prefer, and then play word-games called "the law" to justify that outcome. Many of us believe that the Supreme Court did precisely that in Bush v. Gore... but as Scott observes, after a while, followers of "the rule of law" can work even that sort of thing in to what they must, for appropriately just outcomes.

The judge must, of course, first determine what "the law" is; if it is a legislative pronouncement, the judge's job is not to second-guess the legislature, with but one exception. That one critical exception is if the legislature has exceeded its authority. And the legislature's authority comes from only place: the (applicable) constitution that created it, whether the United States Constitution, or any of the 50-states' own constitutions. And when the legislature exceeds its authority, it becomes the judge's job to rule the legislature out of order. But, if the legislature has acted within its authority, and the legislature's act mandates a given outcome, even if the judge finds the outcome of the case before it not to its liking, even downright offensive (or worse, politically unpopular) the judge has no authority to reach a different outcome. If the legislature has exceeded its authority, and the framers of our Constitution have mandated a given outcome, then the judge is obliged to strike the law down as unconstitutional, no matter how politically popular the law may be.

Even more troubling than a legislature exceeding its authority is our current situation, what I believe to be an executive running amok and a legislature of the same party with no political will to rein in the executive. Under these circumstances, where the executive has exceeded its authority (which, quite frankly is far more circumscribed by our constitution than the legislature's, not less) it is even more critical that courts find that authority has been exceeded, and invalidate such unauthorized conduct.

But alas, too many judges, appointed by the same politicians whose unilateral pronouncements they are later asked to judge, revert to the "outcome determinative" approach, and do their jobs backwards: not using "the law" as the guiding light for their decision, but as a semantic dodge to justify their preferred outcomes. Most ominous was a statement by our now Chief Justice during his confirmation hearings to the effect that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact" as if such a stupid phrase justified the executive abusing the rights of citizens and aliens alike. Let me make this easy: when the executive exceeds its authority, it is entitled to no deference whatsoever.

And hence, we have our problem with the "political litmus tests" that have been applied to judges. What really matters is not the politics of the judge at issue, but the integrity of the judge to the system: not to the players. I'm not sure either "liberals" or "conservatives" fathom this, but a judge's personal politics should be wholly irrelevant to their service as a judge, and to a really good judge: the law is what matters and drives the outcome-- not vice versa. This is why, despite the plaudits of such weasels as Chuck Schumer and other Democratic Weasels, Sandra Day O'Connor was a terrible justice (though an incredibly brilliant woman nonetheless). She frequently stretched and tortured the law simply to get to outcomes she liked. Given her frequent role as a "swing" justice between four justices (two appointed by Democrats, two by Republicans) who almost always act the way judges are supposed to and follow the law even if they don't like it and four (sometimes only three, depending on what Kennedy had for breakfast-- all appointed by Republicans) who only follow the law if they do like it... her muddled thought processes (and they were muddled precisely because she consistently did not follow "the simple rule": law first, outcome second) have, alas, become "the law of the land" in a great many critical areas.

And this sort of thing has thrown many people off-- including many very intelligent and learned people-- as to what the law is. Again, its a means, ends thing. The law is just a means: the means to implement choices made by others (specifically, choices made by the legislature, or in rare cases, made by the constitutional framers.) All too often, the public believes that the judges are simply implementing their own choices, and all too often, this is true (and the Bush v. Gore majority was all but trying to tell us that this is exactly what they were doing.) But this just means that they were not doing their jobs as judges: they were succumbing to "outcome first, law as after-thought to justify outcome." Ironically, this most extreme form of judicial activism tends to be (by no means exclusively, as anyone who practices in New York City will tell you) in so-called "conservative" judges.

Anyway, it is the supreme irony (thanks to Mrs. TD for that suggested title) that lower court judges are now doing their job by finding "the law" in the voting rights area even where that law was the product of five Supreme Court justices "making it up" in order to screw voters out of their voting rights. As Scott observes, the sweetest irony of all will be if, or when, the three remaining justices who were in the majority of Bush v. Gore have to review a case that came up to them on the authority of their own handiwork. Personally, I can't wait for that day...

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April 22, 2006, Saturday Talking Dog Blogging (IX)

This week, we'll give you that adorable "family values" setting Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy (a/k/a Dear Old Dad). Unlike some of our entries where the subject's being, you know, a talking dog, is actually a fascinating metaphor (like Mr. Peabody, for example), these two could have been any animal, or even people... I understand that in the usual Hanna Barbera recycling process, they were derived from some talking mice (no not these...)

While superficially, I am reminded of perhaps myself and the Loquacious Pup, there are a number of immediate striking differences. First, like many patriarchal 1950's era fantasies ("My Three Sons" being the classic, which persisted through at least the '70's on t.v.), Doggy Daddy is a single dad; men of that era seemed unable to maneuver the tasks of child-rearing if some woman were around (other than a paid woman, to raise them, or for comic relief, of course.) Second, although Doggy Daddy has a distinct New York accent (as its intended to be Durante, I'll say "Bronx"), the two apparently live in the suburbs. Third, Doggy Daddy is kind of an idiot, and is really in way, way over his head... Augie Doggie frequently extricates the pair from nasty pickles that they got into because of Doggy Daddy's incompetence.

Come to think of it, an incompetent Daddy Party seems to be dominating our political discourse these days, does it not? A constituency clinging to it out of irrational sentiment, rather than because it does any kind of actual good job... even at providing the most basic of security. And putting on a regional accent to do it, no less...

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you "family values" of the talking dog genre: every bit as effective as "family values" of any other genre.

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April 21, 2006, CIA Boss Goss: Leaker Tossed... Truth Lost...

The CIA announced that a veteran CIA employee (the Associated Press asserts that her name is Mary McCarthy...last assigned to the CIA's inspector general's office looking into allegations of torture at prisons in Iraq) was fired for speaking to reporters about the CIA ghost prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize to Dana Priest of the Washington Post.

As we know, there are good leaks, that support the parochial interests of the Bush family, their principal campaign contributors, and their family retainers... and there are bad leaks, that, well, don't.

This apparently was a bad leak, and Mr. Goss (one of the aforementioned family retainers)... felt he had to take action... I mean, these revelations were, you know... embarrassing... (I'd suggest that, if true, Ms. McCarthy is owed at a minimum a Congressional medal of freedom, and in any event, our eternal gratitude for opening our eyes to yet another abominable abuse of governmental power supposedly in our name to protect us from "terrorists." But... no one seems to be listening to my suggestions...)

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April 21, 2006, Under new management

It would seem that a deal is in the offing, to wit, the unpopular-among-the-Sunnis-Kurds-and-Bushmen Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has agreed to step aside and make way for his fellow Dawa party member Jawad al-Maliki to assume the post.

This, as we all know, will be the instant panacea we have all been hoping for, and within days, in addition to all remaining Iraqi schools being painted and hospitals rebuilt, the oil infrastructure will be quickly restored, security will be in place, Shiite death squads and militias will promptly disband, Sunni insurgents will turn in their weapons, water and electricity will be provided regularly, and American forces will be welcomed with flowers, parades, and free pie too.

And Iraq will thereby avert a civil war, which of course, it is not in now.

And Iran will see that we mean business, and back down, before we have to launch nuclear weapons at it.

And the President will find the real Plame leaker. And O.J. will find the real killer. And the Gulf Coast will be rebuilt by next Thursday. And gasoline prices will revert to under $2 per gallon. And tax rates will decline more, while the deficit is reduced to zero. And everyone will be a millionaire.

We should have found this al-Maliki guy sooner.

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April 20, 2006, Cuba Un-Hooding (Junior)

The Pentagon released another list of names of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While the Pentagon insists that of the 558 names, only around 490 or so are still detained there, this list is, evidently, the most comprehensive to date.

The Government's rationale for not releasing the names of those detained by a supposedly free and law-abiding society before (before it was compelled to do so in legal action brought by the Associated Press) was that "we would be giving al Qaeda a heads up" somehow by even revealing the names. That somehow the organization that we are all supposed to be deathly afraid of because of its ruthless competence can't figure out who among its members have missed the last few meetings and should be presumed to be dead or have been captured.

Indeed-- we might be giving A.Q. a heads up that we were actually still a free country that abided by its own laws-- that its efforts to have us destroy ourselves by abandoning the rule of law have not gone nearly as well as they actually have. The purpose of our government's policies in the war on terror have little or nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and everything to do with making the law simply an outcome-driven word game to enable any government to scrap constitutional protections for us all in the name of any "emergency" of its own conjuring.

I learned in high school (and then again in college and law school) that our Constitution, unlike that of most countries, does not have an executive "suspension clause." Even in the direst of emergencies, due process of law (as measured by habeas corpus if nothing else) must go on, and can only be scrapped by Congress in the event of rebellion or invasion if our courts are not open and functioning. At least, we don't have a written suspension clause, anyway.

Until recently, apparently. When a one-off terrorist attack under gravely suspicious circumstances (indicating the grossest of negligence or worse by our own government) somehow justifies that same government taking autocratic powers upon itself. And yet, many, probably most, Americans, are foolish enough to take the words of the President ("these are really bad guys") on their face, permitting the President to hold men (and he holds that this right includes legal residents and citizens) without rights, forever, without subjecting these words to the tests of proof that we would otherwise require to sustain parking tickets.

Our Constitution's protections, like the protections of the Geneva Conventions and every other treaty we have ratified and foolishly thought were the law of our land... are now evidently... quaint... The Constitution became the suicide pact of our republic... when we abandoned it out of misguided fear or political expediency.

Let's just hope that all this isn't irreversible, and that we will be permitted to look back on these events as the national shame that they deserve to be.

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April 20, 2006, Hu you gonna call?

That might be good old Beijing and the People's Republic of China's leader, Hu Jintao. The President urged the Chinese leader to take up a greater role in negotiating and resolving issues surrounding North Korea and Iran, the world's two current most irritating problems (aside from the President himself, of course).

Evidently, a Falun Gong protestor (sporting a media pass originally issued to someone named Gannon) made her way in and started screaming at the two autocrats during a White House omerta ceremony. (Bush later apologized to Hu for our having a far less efficient state security apparatus than that of Beijing, where protestors are shot in the open.)

I guess it makes perfect sense to ask your financial sugar daddy to be your diplomatic sugar daddy, even as your sugar daddy does things like thwarting UN Security Council efforts to thwart Darfur genocide by blocking sanctions against Sudan, blocking strong UN action against Iran, and of course, sporting its own always impressive human rights record, including recent revelations that good old Yahoo! was helpful in jailing a dissident writer in China.

Let's just say that when you owe as much money as we do to Beijing... you don't ask too many questions... one answer to all our woes, however, would seem to be... "Hu".

Update: While irony died a long time ago, we would be remiss if we did not point out that New York's own Wen Yi Wang, could face up to six months in prison on misdemeanor charges for shouting at Chinese leader Hu Jintao to stop repressing Falun Gong (truth is no defense when the Emperor is embarassed in front of his banker.) This proves what we suspected, of course, to wit, the President's imploring of Hu to embrace "freedom" and "democracy" is, in fact, little more than a show for the benefit of the rubes. Both concepts remain somewhat illusory to Presidents Hu and Bush, but apparently, it is some kind of a tradition for American presidents to implore Chinese leaders to embrace "freedom" and "democracy". Whatever they are.

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April 19, 2006, All in the family

As part of their presentation, defense lawyers for madman Zacarias Moussaoui played tapes of his sisters, both of whom are institutionalized in France for schizophrenia.

The defense also called an expert psychiatrist, who concluded that paranoid schnizophrenic Zacarias Moussaoui is, in fact, a paranoid schizophrenic, and the defense called some 9-11 victims' relatives who evidently do not believe that executing the first Arab we can find is somehow an advancement of divine, or even earthly justice.

For its part, the prosecution noted that at least one of Moussaoui's brother is not a paranoid schizophrenic, and like, who will they believe... him, or their lying eyes? Further, the prosecution contended that Moussaoui's irrational beliefs could just be the result of religious fundamentalism of the kind that in America we call "healthy family values..." though when identical levels of irrationality surface in Arabs, we call it eeeeevilllllll.

In other words, what virtually every trial judge in virtually every trial tells the jurors, to wit, judge the case before you on the evidence you see and not with your heart or your emotions or your spleen... is precisely what the government does not want (and does not expect... I don't either, btw) the jury to do. Rather, someone has got to pay for 9-11, and, well, Moussaoui is a wonderfully convenient bogeyman, who is crazy enough to actually believe the crap he told the jury...

Sadly, the jury will likely believe it as well. And, unless Judge Brinkema follows the law (for which she would likely be reversed by the Imperial Supporters of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond) Mr. Moussaoui will likely be sentenced to death for a crime for which FBI agents have already established in this case that he is not legally responsible (i.e., the testimony was that no matter what evidence of a plot was presented the Bureau's higher ups were simply inclined not to believe it; there is no reason to assume that anything Moussaoui could have said would have altered that outcome... in short, the Government failed to meet its "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden on this critical point.)

It remains unclear if Moussaoui can be executed before the necessary deadline of January 20, 2009, after which we will, presumably, have a functioning adult in the White House, and hence, the odds of Mr. Moussaoui's execution will decline precipitously.

But there you go.

Update: Surprise, surprise, but the government has stipulated with the defense that, in fact, there is no evidence at all that Richard Reid was involved in a suicide plot with Moussaoui (as Moussaoui testified in order to buy himself this phase of the death penalty trial). Another legal nail in the coffin of the government's death penalty case that we can expect to be duly overlooked by jury and judge alike.

Indeed, while Moussaoui was, at one time, part of a broader plot involving training A.Q. members to fly airplanes, it is clear that he was "out of the loop" on September 11th and details of it; he might well have proven a valuable intelligence asset (assuming, of course, that our government ever had any interest in such things as actual intelligence) and had he been played that way... instead, we have elected to make him a scapegoat... because someone's got to pay for 9-11, after all... and a paranoid schizophrenic delusional Arab who fits the bill and seemingly even wants us to hate him is just too good to pass up.

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April 19, 2006, White House Mini-Shake Up

Given the announcement of White House spokesman Scott McLellan's resignation, and Karl Rove's reduction in duties as part of the package, I can only think of one man worthy of replacing Scotty.

Meet the new White House Press Secretary:

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April 16, 2006, TD Blog Interview with Jonathan Hafetz

As the Moussaoui trial and the recent Supreme Court arguments in the Hamdan case remind us, many aspects of the "war on terror" are being fought in the legal system-- and unfortunately for a society that supposedly values the rule of law-- a number of battles that the Bush Administration has elected to pursue around the legal system. Jonathan Hafetz, now an associate counsel at (my alma mater) New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty & National Security Project, is representing clients in several of those areas, including a Qatari client at Guantanamo Bay, a Qatari client now held in the same naval brig that long housed Jose Padilla, and an American citizen held in Iraq that our military wants to turn over to Iraqi authorities where he might well be tortured. Mr. Hafetz has also written extensively on legal aspects of the war on terror, including a recent piece in the New York Law Journal on the case of Arar v. Bush, involving the policy of "extraordinary rendition." (By coincidence, both Mr. Hafetz and I are coaches in the same youth soccer league, and our teams will likely face each other later in the season.)

On April 11, 2006, I had the privilege of speaking to Mr. Hafetz by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected by Mr. Haftetz.

The Talking Dog: My obligatory first question is "where were you on September 11th"?

Jonathan Hafetz: It was my oldest son’s first day of pre-school. I was dropping him off at his school in Brooklyn Heights. We heard a loud noise. Someone had a radio, and we heard the terrible news. At that point, we started to see the smoke come across from Manhattan, and we made our way home.

The Talking Dog: I'll follow that with, if you can tell me (without disclosing anything privileged or classified, the same ground rule for all my questions), where some of your clients were, including the forgotten man, Mr. Saleh Al-Marri , and your Guantanamo detainee client, his brother Jarallah Al-Marri was on 9-11?

Jonathan Hafetz: I’m not exactly sure where Jarallah Al-Marri was on that date, but he was not in the United States.; I know he had been in Pakistan for some period of time. As to his brother, Ali Al-Marri, he was a student. He had come to the United States to obtain his masters degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and that’s where he was. He was arrested at home in Peoria in December 2001 as a material witness. He was charged in the Southern District of New York in February of 2002 on various charges including commercial fraud and giving false statements to the FBI. He was prosecuted for 16 months, and then the prosecution was dismissed in this venue, and he was reindicted in the Central District of Illinois. Then, as of June 23, 2003, the criminal case was dismissed by the government when the President unilaterally declared Ali al-Marri an enemy combatant and ordered that he be transferred to the naval brig in South Carolina where he has been held ever since...

The Talking Dog: I think it’s quite an understatement to say that Ali Al-Marri’s case has received less publicity than Jose Padilla, who was held at the same brig on the same basis, but it seems his case is really under the radar... (I first learned of it during my interview with Josh Dratel, counsel to Gitmo detainee David Hicks.) Can you comment on that, and can you tell us the current status of his case, which I take it is in the form of a habeas corpus petition in South Carolina?

Jonathan Hafetz: Certainly, his case has received less publicity than Padilla, who is, of course, a citizen, whereas Al-Marri is a legal immigrant. The fact is, the government’s argument as a basis for holding him is the same as Padilla: that the entire United States is a battlefield in the administration’s "war on terror." While the Hamdi case concerned a citizen engaged in hostilities on a foreign battlefield, thus far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the legality of the government’s detaining a civilian arrested in the United States itself (and it avoided the opportunity to do so recently in Padilla’s appeal).

As to Ali’s case, the District Court Judge Floyd, the same judge who ruled in Padilla’s case, denied our motion for summary judgment but ruled the courthouse doors were open for Mr. al-Marri to challenge the government’s allegations. We are presently litigating Al-Marri’s entitlement to due process to challenge the government’s factual basis for those allegations, and demanding a hearing consistent with due process of law.

The Talking Dog: Is it not the case that this is a still-live case presenting virtually the identical issue as Padilla (which the Supreme Court just ducked)?

Jonathan Hafetz: Certainly, the issue is very much live, and presents a danger to us all insofar as the government is asserting the right to strip any one of us of all due process rights and constitutional protections. So yes, that is definitely still the case– Al-Marri’s immigration status as opposed to citizenship doesn’t change that.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell us the current status of your Guantanamo-detained client, Jarallah Al-Marri, and your impressions of Guantanamo, if any?

Jonathan Hafetz: At the moment, there is a habeas corpus petition on his behalf pending in the District of Columbia federal district court. There are a number of cases that are up on appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court that will likely have a profound impact on his legal status, and indeed, on the status of all the Guantanamo detainees; his case is not in that group right now.

I have met Jarallah and been to Guantanamo a number of times. My general impressions... Guantanamo is unique. It was constructed as a military prison, to house individuals not charged with any crime... it was intended to be outside of the ordinary legal framework and legal protections. It demonstrates how the "war on terror" is being prosecuted in a manner inconsistent with the rule of law. Jarallah has been kept in extremely restricted circumstances...

The Talking Dog: Camp 5 at Guantanamo?

Jonathan Hafetz: Correct, he has been held at Camp 5, the most restrictive camp, in complete isolation, lights on 24-7, he can’t sleep, he has lost 30-35 lbs. in the time he was been confined there. He was on hunger strike for three weeks last summer, and was force-fed with an i.v. Before arriving at Guantanamo, he was held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he was beaten by U.S. officials, threatened with death, and hit with a 2X4, before being shortshackled and placed on the long flight to Cuba.

The Talking Dog: Let me turn to another client you are representing, and let me ask you where your representation of Shawqi Omar stands now. He is an American-Kuwaiti dual national detained in Iraq, accused of being an associate of purported Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi, Omar is still now held there, and the United States military wants to turn him over to Iraqi authorities, where I understand you contend that he will be tortured. Has Judge Urbina (of D.C. federal district court) ruled on the application to transfer Omar?

Jonathan Hafetz: In February of 2006, Judge Urbina, a federal district court judge in Washington, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the government from transferring Mr. Omar from military custody (of American or coalition forces) to Iraqi custody. Judge Urbina rejected the government’s arguments as to jurisdiction and found he had jurisdiction and that he could address the merits of Omar’s habeas corpus petition. Now we are litigating to obtain access to him and information about his detention and related matters. But there is jurisdiction, and the case is proceeding.

The government wants to hand Omar over to the Iraqis– for trial...

The Talking Dog: Now let me confirm– Omar is a citizen, correct? Do we even have an extradition treaty with the newly sovereign Iraq?

Jonathan Hafetz: Correct, Omar is an American citizen. I believe we do have a treaty in effect with Iraq, but that’s not really the issue here. Extradition is a formal procedure, with a judicially supervised process. Here, no real procedure is followed– this is an “extra-legal” transfer being proposed– if you will– a rendition.

The Talking Dog: Before I jump to discussing the Arar case on extraordinary rendition, does Omar’s case turn on the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)?

Jonathan Hafetz: That’s an interesting question, but the TVPA has not been pleaded. We are proceeding under the federal habeas corpus statute and the U.S. Constitution. I should note that the government has tried to evade our petition, by trying to transfer Omar to Iraqi custody, but Judge Urbina has enjoined that...

The Talking Dog: Has the government appealed the preliminary injunction against transferring Omar?

Jonathan Hafetz: The government just filed a notice of appeal. [Note: the notice of appeal was filed late last week, during the editing process of this interview, after my telephone conversation with Mr. Hafetz.]

The Talking Dog: I'd like to use that as my segue into discussing the Arar case, about which you wrote a discussion and critique in the March 15th edition of the New York Law Journal. The district court judge David Trager found that Mr. Arar, the Canadian-Syrian dual national detained at Kennedy Airport in transit between Switzerland and Canada, subsequently held incommunicado for two weeks and transferred via Jordan to Syria, where he claims he was placed in a coffin sized cell and tortured for around a year, could not maintain a so-called Bivens action against the officials responsible for the decision to transfer him to Syria under either the applicable statute (the Torture Victims Protection Act) or under the Constitution. Let me start with what I view as a distinction between Mr. Arar and Mr. Omar. Mr. Omar is an American citizen, and as such, by the TVPA statute, apparently cannot be transferred by the United States to an authority that will torture him, and Judge Urbina would probably be incorrect if he permitted Omar's transfer to Iraqi authorities (assuming he accepted the likelihood that Iraqi authorities would torture him). Mr. Arar is not a U.S. national, and as such, that statute does not, on its own terms cover him--and Judge Trager correctly held that it did not. Do I have that right? And if not, why not?

Jonathan Hafetz: My understanding was that the basis of the TVPA holding was that Mr. Arar’s rendition was not "under color of foreign law" as required by that statute. Certainly, the court discussed citizenship– finding that congress did not intend to extend the Alien Tort Claims Act to this kind of case by its silence... but the court found citizenship alone was not dispositive. What the case actually turned on was "color of foreign law"... So Arar could possibly sue Syrian (or even Jordanian) officials for their role in his transport and torture under the TVPA, but not American officials, who were operating under American law, or at least, American policy.

The Talking Dog: In Arar, Judge Trager applied a judicially made exception to Bivens (that being the case permitting lawsuits against federal officials for violations by them of constitutional rights) based on "situations counseling caution" finding that, among other things, Mr. Arar had minimal rights as a foreign national seeking transit through the United States rather than entry, that the limited rights he had (which included the right to due process of law-- which the court found applied to him) are outweighed by the interests of national security and evidently the interests of not embarassing the governments of both the United States and Canada (which, in my interview with him, Rick Wilson criticized for not standing up for Canadian national Omar Khadr when I interviewed him, making me wonder if there isn't some unspoken cooperation between Canada and the Bush Administration in the War on Terror that they would really prefer remained unspoken.) My question (if I ever get it out!) is this: under his analysis, Judge Trager ostensibly held that the only protection for an American citizen being subject to "extraordinary rendition" or shipment to another nation that would abuse and torture him or her, is statutory-- the Torture Victims Protection Act, discussed before. Hence, under his analysis, if that statute were repealed (as it could be by Act of Congress), there would be no protection for aliens or citizens from the government's "providential" decision to "rendition" them to another country for torture, which sounds anathema to our Constitution as a whole, the Bill of Rights in particular, and lots of other things. Is my analysis correct? Is that the fundamental problem in applying the same analysis to Mr. Arar? If not, what is, and could you please identify the other problems with the decision in Arar?

Jonathan Hafetz:: Any comment by me on Canada’s involvement would be speculation. That’s just it: the government could have claimed a state secret’s privilege to preclude inquiry into that area, but Judge Trager went so far as to hold that merely invoking the exception might somehow undermine national security.

Regarding the Bivens exception for situations counseling caution, as I wrote in the Law Journal, that exception is governed by a case called Chappell v. Wallace, which concerns matters purely internal to the military, such as discipline within the services. In short, Judge Trager incorrectly expanded this narrow exception to Bivens to deny Mr. Arar a remedy, even where Judge Trager assumed that his treatment was probably unconstitutional.

Now, this is a damages action, of course. Judge Trager discussed injunctive relief, and noted that injunctive relief may be available, but he would not entertain a damages action...

The Talking Dog: But in Arar’s case, the government misled his lawyers about where he was, and transferred him without telling them, so they weren’t in a position to even know that they had to bring an injunction action...

Jonathan Hafetz: That’s exactly right. And that’s a critical detail of what’s extraordinarily troubling about this decision: there is no check by the judiciary on the executive’s ability to do virtually anything it wants to anyone as long as it invokes “national security” in doing so.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else that my readers or the American public needs to know about Guantanamo Bay or the government's detention policy associated with the war on terror or related matters that I haven't asked you, but should have, or otherwise needs to be discussed?

Jonathan Hafetz: The United States of America, since its inception, has stood for the rule of law. The actions of our government associated with the war on terror– notably, the arbitrary deprivations of due process, in violation of the Constitution, laws and treaty obligations– have fundamentally jeopardized that. What has been done has undermined our standing in the world, and is not an effective use of our resources, either. We have been holding some men over 4 ½ years, without charge or trial or any notion of due process, and insist on our right to detain them for life, even though they have never been, and may never be, charged with crimes. The war on terror will doubtless present us with more challenges. One of those challenges should not be the sacrifice of the rule of law.

The Talking Dog: Mr. Hafetz, thank you for being generous with your time.

Jonathan Hafetz: Thank you for doing this.

Readers may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Joshua Denbeaux,
Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing other Guantanamo detainees) and with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), and with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, to be of interest.

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April 16, 2006, Why, it's almost if our government is writing this script...

As the Iraqi death-toll mounts on all sides, as more and generals call for the ouster of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and as talk turns to a possible welcome diversion in the form of a war of aggression against Iran, the Iranians are showing a public face almost designed to justify such an act, from the
recent announcement that uranimum had been enriched by Iran to recent shriill calls by (in actuality powerless) front-man "President" Mahmoud Ahmanidedjad for "the end of the Zionist state" to today's announcement that an Iranian group had signed up 200 potential "martyrs" for suicide missions against the U.S. and U.K. should Iran be attacked...

Let's stop a second, shall we. Just stop.

After the crap we were fed by Iranian-allied stooges like Ahmad Chalabi, and after all the convenient help the Iranian regime has given to Bush family members and allies over the year, from way back when Iran conveniently refused to end the Iranian hostage crisis until moments after St. Ron was in office, to "Iran-Contra," to Mr. Chalabi's "intelligence," to support for Hizbollah and other terrorists, to the Danish cartoon flap, to the present... the rhetorical sputum spewing from Iran these days sure sounds like it was scripted by the Bush Administration or its allies (probably U.S. taxpayer funded allies at that) to justify ill-will toward Iran at this convenient moment of record low presidential approval ratings a few months before the all-important mid-term elections...

Now just why might that be?

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April 15, 2006, Saturday Talking Dog Blogging (Vol. VIII)

This week's Saturday talking dog blogging brings us to a special case, that of South Carolina's United States Senator (the only talking dog, to my knowledge, ever elected to any kind of office, let alone to the United States Senate).

While there are those who think of Senator Huckleberry as a principled conservative, I can no longer do that in good conscience. While I might have been willing to abide Huckleberry's role as a "house manager" for the Clinton impeachment on the basis of
"principle", albeit misguided principle (back when he was just "Congressman Huckleberry") the abomination he and Senator Kyl pushed through (while misleading co-sponsor Senator Levin) to Senator McCain's anti-torture bill, the "Graham Levin amendment" designed to unconstitutionally (and immorally) strip federal court jurisdiction from those our government arbitrarily detains in the "war on terror" has pretty much relegated him to the special class of people (or canines) I call "war criminals."

As an Air Force JAG officer himself, the senator should have been more sensitive to the call of retired military officers decrying our arbitrary treatment of those captured...

Oh well... Oh my darlin'...

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April 14, 2006, MBA Governance

Not exactly fair to all MBA holders, or even Harvard MBA holders, that the President of the United States is among their ranks. Unfortunately, he would seem to represent an all too prevalent trend among American managers, of rewarding friends and cronies from the same social circles regardless of (and indeed, frequently despite of, or at best, oblivious of) their actual job performance. Hence, executive compensation continues to head to the stratosphere, even as stock prices, earnings and other measures of corporate performance do not, and layoffs and plant closings increase, even as top executive compensation increases more.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that, just as after Abu Ghraib, and numerous other times that any normal president would have asked his SecDef to resign, in the face of criticism by a number of recently retired generals and other senior military officers, and even as it becomes apparent to all but committed partisans and Bush cultists that Iraq is devolving into a hopeless civil war and American casualties will go on mounting, the President chose this time to extend a personal vote of confidence to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Not much else to say, really... except... this also comes shortly after contentions have emerged regarding Iran plans, involving Mr. Rumsfeld.

If the contentions made by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker regarding Bush Administration plans to deploy "tactical" nuclear weapons against Iran are true, and Mr. Rumsfeld is participating in those plans (or even knows about them and is not stopping them), then he is an extraordinarily dangerous psychopath and would-be mass murderer who must not only be fired, but probably stopped at all costs. If Bush and/or Cheney are privy to those same plans or conversation, well... ditto. (The good news is that the President has, at least, attempted to deny these contentions, so far. The fact is, offensive use of nuclear weapons by this country is not even a legitimate option to be discussed.)

I don't know why I have to say this, since it should be self-evident to any functioning homo-sapien, but Americans, of late, seem to have problems in that area. The offensive use of nuclear weapons, for any reason, let alone the perverse reason of preventing nuclear proliferation, would qualify as the gravest crime against humanity since the Holocaust... and would put this country in the same league as the Rwandan Hutus, the Khmer Rouge, the Third Reich...

Anyone who participated in such an act would be guilty of crimes against humanity. Period. The only purpose for such weapons is deterrence, or God help us if deterrence fails, retaliation against a nuclear attack. Period.

If, after the misguided Iraq adventure, we haven't learned that "preemption" is no longer a legitimate means of "defense" (particularly when it is deemed the first and only means of conflict resolution-- i.e., "diplomacy" is simply used to by time in order to build-up to "preemption")... if this "preemptive regime change" of another country is the only means of defending this country... then I am afraid that this country is no longer worth defending.

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April 14, 2006, Moussaoui "Defense": Please Kill Me

As I expected, the-now-convicted 9-11 plotter Zaccarias Moussaoui took the stand in his own "defense" (as I fully expected, ignoring my advice) and proceeded to say he was sorry the 9-11 attacks didn't kill even more Americans, that the testimony of relatives of those killed on 9-11 was "disgusting" and otherwise ingratiated himself with the jury sufficiently to get the jury to return that death sentence he seems to want, which, quite frankly, was a foregone conclusion from the moment Moussaoui took the stand in the first part of the penalty phase to tell us about a (most improbable) plot between himself and "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid to pilot and crash a 5th airplane.

And there we have it. Judge Leonie Brinkema will be left with an interesting problem: as a matter of law, she knows bloody well that the FBI agent's testimony in the first part of the case clinched it vis a vis the government's theory that "but for" Mr. Moussaoui's silence as to the 9-11 plot, it would have been thwarted and lives saved, FBI upper management would hear none of it, even as other elements of the plot were reported to it... as such, as a matter of law, Moussaoui's complete candor wouldn't have likely changed anything, and the government has failed to prove its case. (Think about it a moment: his testimony of a plot with shoe-bomber Richard Reid sounds implausible now, even after the 9-11 attacks; beforehand, it would have certainly been dismissed as crackpot.)

Judge Brinkema also knows that the bloodthirsty Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond (there's no other way to describe a court more willing to toe the political line than to follow the damned law) will undoubtedly reverse any non-death finding (unless its by the jury, in which case, it can't.)
Or she can rubber stamp the jury, and wash her hands of it, making the arguably-not-fit-to-stand-trial Mr. Moussaoui face a death sentence herself.

My guess is she'll do that (though I think she has the integrity not to). Mr. Moussaoui, like Timothy McVeigh, is hardly a sympathetic figure (though the latter was unquestionably responsible for the horrible deaths of 168 people including dozens of children, whereas Mr. Moussaoui's role is more murky). That will probably be sufficient to sustain the death penalty, which will probably be carried out in 3 or 4 years.

The President will doubtless try to move things along so that he can enjoy the show on his own watch (we love a good execution...) And, just as we lost any possibility for Mr. McVeigh to tell us any actual useful details of his crime (and ended the torment we could subject him to during life imprisonment), so it will be with Mr. Moussaoui.

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April 13, 2006, Let's roll: alternative version

And so the Moussaoui circus continued in a suburban courtroom near the nation's capitol, with federal prosecutors giving the first public recital of the Flight 93 cockpit voice recorder. No question that the passengers and crew of that flight fought heroically to resist the hijackers, who were heading the aircraft toward a target in the Washington area widely believed to be the Capitol building; still not dispositive (I don't think) as to exactly how the plane came down, or even whether the passengers made it through the cockpit door, particularly with the substantial inaudible and garbled parts of the tape. But this was certainly an interesting way to publicly release this tape for the first time exactly 55 months and a day after 9-11.

Of course, in an ideal (or at least... an alternative) world, Mr. Moussaoui will put on a better defense than "please kill me." Indeed, he would not have taken the stand at the first (causation) phase of the penalty section of his trial, and the government's case against him would have fallen like the misconduct laden house of cards it was. But there you go. Mr. Moussaoui nonetheless stands as a testament to arbitrariness: presumably, a purported 9/11 plotter is more dangerous than the hundreds of uselesss schmucks we are holding at Gitmo, for example, or elsewhere, who are deprived of due process because they are "the worst of the worst" and too dangerous to risk trying in a court with any kind of "fairness"... and yet, we see that the criminal justice system functions to the point where it can not only obtain a conviction, but a probable death sentence.

Nonetheless, I'd like to present a hypothetical defense of Moussaoui, even at this late stage, based on a possible "reasonable doubt" alternative theory of the case. While he will put on his own "defense"... I will offer mine. For my version, we can presume that Mr. Moussaoui has fired his lawyers again, and is addressing the court himself. [BTW, I happen to consider Moussaoui a dangerous mad-man, though the government's prosecution of him has been rife with misconduct, and the limited theory of "but for" his misleading FBI agents, the events of 9-11 could have been thwarted has, to my mind, already been shown to be bunk by an FBI agent's testimony that higher-ups in the Bureau wanted to ignore any evidence of any kind of a plot... it seems unlikely that even a fully candid Mr. Moussaoui-- before 9-11-- could have changed their already well-made-up minds.] Anyway, my hypothetical defense presentation follows here:

Judge Brinkema: Mr. Moussaoui, I caution you, I will not allow my courtroom to be turned into [more of] a circus.

Moussaoui: Your Honor, am I not entitled to put on a defense? Must the Government not prove all elements of their case beyond a reasonable doubt?

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui, but you are cautioned. Before you put on evidence, I insist you make an offer of proof-- lay out your case for me, so that I may rule what portions can be presented to the jury.

Moussaoui: Your Honor, we have just heard the flight 93 cockpit voice recorder. But there is reasonable doubt there...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui, what are you driving at?

Moussaoui: There is a substantial and growing body of evidence that Flight 93 was shot down by your own air force.. If nothing else, the large volume of pieces spread over a large area is consistent with that... The debris field and other evidence on the ground are not consistent with the story told about that crash...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui, what does it matter why or how the plane went down if your actions by lying to federal investigators prevented them from foiling the hijacking?

Moussaoui: Well, given that there is some doubt as to the facts of the plane crash, or of course, whether your air force was an intervening superceding event by shooting it down...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui, but you are citing crackpot sources...

Moussaoui: Is that not for the jury to decide on their veracity? Is it not a matter of my merely having to demonstrate that there is reasonable doubt with the case presented against me?

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui... proceed.

Moussaoui: Thank you, Your Honor. You understand that I have not raised the "more prejudicial than probative" argument to the Government's presentation of these various sounds and images of September 11th designed to inflame the jury's passions, just as your government did so to inflame passions to win elections...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sustained [for a change]. Mr. Moussaoui... confine yourself to this case.

Moussaoui: A thousand pardons, Your Honor. Your Honor, I think there is enough doubt about the events of flight 93... I'd like to address some aspects of the Pentagon and World Trade Center collapses...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui... proceed.

Moussaoui: Of course, there are doubts as to the whole events of that day... for one, the pilot flying the plane was an idiot (like me) [laughter] and couldn't have executed such a deft maneuver as steering a large 757 into a low building... let alone a mostly unoccupied part of that building... and others think it was a 2-engine Cessna plane...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Go on...

Moussaoui: But just as the Pentagon crash seemed designed to kill as few people as possible (while still killing people), the World Trade Center... event... seemed designed to kill as many people as possible... for one thing, many engineers believe that the Trade Center towers did not fall from the plane crashes, but from controlled demolition explosions...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui... proceed.

Moussaoui: Indeed, Your Honor, the report I just provided identifies the primary defects in the official account of the WTC collapses, and its sister theories. These problems were entirely ignored by The 9/11 Commission Report (2004), so the government appointees must have found it difficult to account for the following facts (I am quoting from the report, Your Honor):

Fire had never before caused steel-frame buildings to collapse except for the three buildings on 9/11, nor has fire collapsed any steel high rise since 9/11. The fires, especially in the South Tower and WTC-7, were small. WTC-7 was unharmed by an airplane and had only minor fires on the seventh and twelfth floors of this 47-story steel building yet it collapsed in less than 10 seconds. WTC-5 and WTC-6 had raging fires but did not collapse despite much thinner steel beams (pp. 68–9). In a PBS documentary, Larry Silverstein, the WTC lease-holder, recalled talking to the fire department commander on 9/11 about WTC-7 and said, "…maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it," slang for demolish it. FEMA, given the uninviting task of explaining the collapse of Building 7 with mention of demolition verboten admitted that the best it could come up with had "only a low probability of occurrence." It’s difficult if not impossible for hydrocarbon fires like those fed by jet fuel (kerosene) to raise the temperature of steel close to melting. Professional demolition, by contrast, can explain all of these facts and more. Demolition means placing explosives throughout a building, and detonating them in sequence to weaken "the structure so it collapses or folds in upon itself" (p. 44). In conventional demolitions gravity does most of the work, although it probably did a minority on 9/11, so heavily were the towers honeycombed with explosives. Each WTC building collapse occurred at virtually free-fall speed (approximately 10 seconds or less). Each building collapsed, for the most part, into its own footprint. Virtually all the concrete (an estimated 100,000 tons in each tower) on every floor was pulverized into a very fine dust, a phenomenon that requires enormous energy and could not be caused by gravity alone ("…workers can’t even find concrete. ‘It’s all dust,’ [the official] said"). Dust exploded horizontally for a couple hundred feet, as did debris, at the beginning of each tower’s collapse. Collapses were total, leaving none of the massive core columns sticking up hundreds of feet into the air. Salvage experts were amazed at how small the debris stacks were. The steel beams and columns came down in sections under 30 feet long and had no signs of "softening"; there was little left but shorn sections of steel and a few bits of concrete. Photos and videos of the collapses all show "demolition waves," meaning "confluent rows of small explosions" along floors (blast sequences). According to many witnesses, explosions occurred within the buildings. Each collapse had detectable seismic vibrations suggestive of underground explosions, similar to the 2.3 earthquake magnitude from a demolition like the Seattle Kingdome (p. 108). Each collapse produced molten steel identical to that generated by explosives, resulting in "hot spots" that persisted for months (the two hottest spots at WTC-2 and WTC-7 were approximately 1,350o F five days after being continuously flooded with water, a temperature high enough to melt aluminum (p. 70). Controlled demolition would have required unimpeded access to the WTC, access to explosives, avoiding detection, and the expertise to orchestrate the deadly destruction from a nearby secure location. Such access before 9/11 likely depended on complicity by one or more WTC security companies. These companies focus on "access control" and as security specialist Wayne Black says, "When you have a security contract, you know the inner workings of everything." Stratesec, a now-defunct company that had security contracts at the World Trade Center and Dulles International Airport, should be investigated, among others, because of the strange coincidence that President Bush’s brother, Marvin P. Bush, and his cousin, Wirt D. Walker III, were principals in the company, with Walker acting as CEO from 1999 until January 2002 and Marvin reportedly in New York on 9/11. At least one report claims that a "power down" condition prevailed on September 8–9 (pdf, p. 45) at WTC to complete a "cabling upgrade," presenting an opportunity to plant explosives with low risk of detection. A related point is that demolition companies go to considerable expense to wire steel-framed skyscrapers with explosives to produce safe implosions, and they would love to do it more cheaply by simply setting two small fires like those that (allegedly) caved in building 7. Apparently, the terrorist-inventors have kept this new technology secret

I realize that some will consider this more stuff of crackpots... but consider a member of your own Congress was willingly to permit the publication of similar doubts... consider why your President's brother, who was in New York that day and who also had ties to the company providing security to the Trade Center (and United Airlines... and Dulles Airport) and to a major insurer of the Trade Center... ask yourself about why war games, including in New York, were scheduled that day by your government... consider the removal of bomb-sniffing dogs from the Trade Center just days before the attack...

Judge Brinkema: Why don't you wrap it up, Mr. Moussaoui?

Moussaoui: Yes, Your Honor... there are other accounts that should give pause to the government's version of the events of that day... which coupled with its documented misconduct in this very prosecution... requires a finding that the government's version of anything should be per se tinged with reasonable doubt...

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge Brinkema: Sit down [you twit]. Alright Mr. Moussaoui... we are in recess, while I consider what I have just heard.

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April 10, 2006, Reality fails our expectations... again...

One of the many stated goals of American intervention in Iraq held up by knee-jerk supporters of the Imperium when the whole WMD thing kind of went to s**t was, of course, the arrogant holding up of ink-stained thumbs (and a bunch of fat-cat m****r f****rs who never did two minutes of public service of any kind, let alone military service, holding up "purple heart band-aids") because "we were bringing democracy to the Middle East."

After our... reluctance to embrace the Islamist regime elected in Iraq or the Hamas led government in the Palestinian territories, and with Egypt reversing earlier promises to open up democratic channels by cracking down... it appears that our grand ambitions of bringing democracy to the Middle East are going a tad unsatisfied.

I recall somewhere way back when the President was asked how he would react if the Iraqis decided to elect an Islamist party or parties (presumably closely aligned with arch-current-bogey-nation Iran), he responded "that'll never happen," or something to that effect.

There were those of us who were appalled at the combination of arrogance in bringing "democracy" to another nation at gunpoint and utter cluelessness about how people in such a circumstance would react. The answer is, they reacted exactly the same way Americans did when pressed with purportedly existential threats: they voted not merely jingoistically, but tribally. In Iraq's case, they voted for parties they felt would most likely keep them alive against their enemies. In Palestine, Hamas had a somewhat better record of providing social services than the hopelessly corrupt Fatah movement, but Palestinians also voted for the toughest m*****r f****rs on the block when it came to dealing with Israelis, even if not apparently in their self interests to do so. But this is precisely what Americans did in 2004: polls showed that most Americans agreed more with John Kerry than George W. Bush on virtually all issues but one... but the one concerned existential security.

Needless to say, it should come as no surprise, as a result of our own nation's unilateral actions in Iraq, we have destablized the region (not to mention brought all kinds of bad s**t upon the Iraqi people) that the people in that region, given a choice, would go immediately for something they think of as most likely to provide some level of security above any other interests.

As I said: the people of the United States did so. Why should we assume any other group of people, when given the choice, wouldn't do the same? It's amazing that the Bush team could figure out what would happen here well enough to win an election, but somehow had no idea it would happen anywhere else... just amazing.

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April 9, 2006, Thus Runs the Spin Cycle... or Whitewash-ington strikes again

Senator Arlen Spector, fresh off of a not necessarily masterful but nonetheless effective job of managing to obfuscate the President's brazenly illegal wiretapping and other eavesdropping on American citizens in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") now proposes a means of commencing the whitewash of the President's deliberate instructions to leak extremely sensitive classified information to ex-Times reporter Judith Miller via her boyfriend Administration contact, ex-Vice-Presidential chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby... by "demanding" that the President and Vice-President "publicly speak" and tell the American people what happened.

Here's the problem with the "fair and balanced" paradigm, or "you have to hear both sides" nonsense that has infested our monopolized, corporatist main-stream avenues of journalism, and as such, governmental leaders can play it to tell us that "if only we hear all sides we can judge for ourselves." As a courtroom lawyer myself (from time to time), I recognize this for the "trial" model: hear all sides, and the truth will emerge.

Well, no. No. NO. NO. A thousand times no.

In court, invariably, someone is telling the truth, and someone isn't telling the truth. Period. If the facts are not really in dispute, then the parties will ordinarily stipulate to that, and dump the case on the judge's lap to decide based on the law. When the parties can't do this, of course, they require a trial to either a judge or jury to decide what the facts are. The courtroom model. The parties disagree with the facts. On occasion, both sides honestly recount what happened, and the jury sorts out the nuances between them. Mostly, though, one side or the other (or all too frequently, both) lie their asses off, and the jury pretty much has to decide who they like better... or all too often, who they despise least.

Why do I take this long diversion? Because Senator Spector is trying to use emotional concepts of "fairness" derived from the courtroom model to "hear out" the President and Vice-President, as if this will be ameliorative. So, I have to call bullshit before we start. The President and Vice-President have elected not to deny Mr. Libby's statement to the grand jury, which became public through the round-about route of being mentioned nearly 20 pages into the special prosecutor's response to a discovery motion by Mr. Libby to seek access to sensitive documents and other evidence.

As such, we need not hear the President's or the Vice-President's "explanations". We know what they did. They have had over three years to explain. They have a functioning press apparatus, and a most sympathetic media, for the most part. Their story is out. We know what happened. We have no need to hear from them.

I'll bottom line it for you: the President who said he had no idea who the leaker is but he wanted to find and deal with the leaker and whose Administration wants to radically increase efforts to seek criminal penalties for leaks and handed over incredibly sensitive intelligence data willy nilly to Judith Miller to politically justify its decision to go to war in Iraq and to discredit political opponent Joe Wilson, and of course, to keep things stirred up just over a year before the 2004 presidential election.

Got all that? Of course you did-- you knew it already. No need to "hear everyone out". We know the facts: the White House has chosen not to deny them. We needn't hear the justification for those facts-- we know that too. "We're at war" will be what we'll hear, and therefore, "good leaks protect us" whereas "bad leaks threaten us".

In short-- the courtroom model. There's "the truth," and there's "lying your ass off." I think, with the President's approval at 36% and dropping, the American people are coming round to a verdict...

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April 8, 2006, Saturday talking dog blogging (7th edition)

And so we come to the third leg of the iron triangle of the great GOP Big Tent coalition, the "corporatist" wing (the other two being the "law and order" and "religious right" wings), as epitomized by the corporatist paradigm, in his own case, frequently as a consultant (which, as you know, begins with "con"), Dogbert, purportedly the pet but actually the master of Scott Adams' comic strip's title character, Dilbert.

Originally named "Dildog", a high risk name vis a vis the religious right wing, Dogbert, like many in the corporatist wing of the GOP, is obsessed with his own power; interestingly, Dogbert is reminiscent of a character in Family Guy, the megalomaniac infant Stewie, rather than the talking dog Brian Griffin. Unlike the other extremely intelligent member of the instant genre, Hector Peabody, Dogbert does not use his power benignly. Further, while Peabody doesn't mislead anyone about his relationship with the boy Sherman (Sherman is Peabody's pet, whereas Dilbert is, officially, Dogbert's master), Dogbert, like the Republican corporatists, insists that his accumulating of wealth and power somehow inures to the benefit of others, even when the accumulation is at their very expense.

(Unlike, say, Dick Cheney or Tom DeLay, Dogbert isn't all bad, as he frequently does intervene to save Dilbert from various situations from time to time. Of course, he often also intervenes to steal any woman in which Dilbert is even marginally interested as well, just as the rich kid in high school or those fraternity assholes you know used to do... hey... nobody's perfect.) Anyway...

We as a nation can now bask in the glory of having elected an M.B.A. president (and corporate executive vice-president), which means, per se, that we have competent managers who are careful stewards of the business of our government, so we needn't give the management of our government another thought.

Of course, once in a while, we have to stop and take a look at just what it is that it really takes to make it really big in American business, or for that matter, American society. Our elected leaders... or Dogbert... give us a pretty good idea.

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April 6, 2006, A White House in Desperate Need of Plumbers

Apparently, the rumor mill that surrounds the very, very secretive Plame-gate special prosecutor Patrick FitzGerald was hinting that something big was coming; many expected an imminent Rove indictment (which may yet happen.)

But nobody (I don't think) saw this coming: a revelation that the President himself authorized Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose some of the most closely guarded secrets of government (so secret the President refused to turn them over to Congress), to wit, parts of the National Intelligence Estimate, which Libby disclosed to Judith Miller as part of the campaign to justify the Iraq war.

Obviously, this is a case of "9-11 changed everything", because, thus far, the mirth and merriment had gone as far as Dick Cheney, and seemingly stopped... nothing arguably an "impeachable offense" (except for those "technical" FISA violations... and a few other minor things) had emerged before... this, however, sure looks like it might be one (not to worry: the "investigation" will be the usual whitewash.) For those who, like me, are fascinated by this sort of thing, you can look at FitzGerald's web site and at the relevant document, revealed of all places in a discovery motion.

Fascinating reading: only three people even knew that the relevant document was being tacitly declassified: Libby, the Vice-President... and the President himself. Amazing. While not directly implicated in the leaking of Plame's identity itself, this clearly shows that great lengths were gone to-- relevaling super-secret information-- to justify the war and to discredit Joe Wilson-- at the very, tippy tippy top level-- the Oval Office itself.

The President's insistence that he would look for-- and deal with-- "the leaker(s)" would seem to belong in the same league as O.J. looking for the real killer.
This won't go anywhere, of course (it being the post 9-11 world, and all)... but man... this is an unbelievably huge development. If we actually had accountability in our government, some very, very important should be very, very worried right now.

Since we don't... no worries!

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April 5, 2006, TD Blog Interview with Joshua Denbeaux

In February and March of this year, a pair of ground-breaking reports pertaining to detainees at Guantanamo Bay were issued by a team from Seton Hall University Law School in Newark, New Jersey, led by the tandem of attorneys Joshua Denbeaux of the law firm of Denbeaux & Denbeaux of Westwood, New Jersey and his father, Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, with assistance by a number of Seton Hall law students (David Gratz, John Gregorek, Matthew Darby, Shana Edwards, Shane Hartman, Daniel Mann and Helen Skinner). For the first time, the reports laid out a detailed analysis and evaluation of data recently made public as a result of recent litigations concerning Guantanamo Bay detainees, including the government's accusations and the government's recounting of the circumstances of capture.

The first report analyzed publicly released combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) documents reflecting data pertaining to the 517 men still detained at Guantanamo Bay Cuba pursuant to the "war on terror", and concluded that contrary to many statements by the Pentagon and Bush Administration that the detainees were "captured on the battlefield" and represented "the worst of the worst," the data shows, among other things, that 55% of detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or coalition allies, only 5% of detainees were captured by the American military (86% were captured by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and then turned over to American custody at a time when the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies), only 8% of detainees are characterized as al Qaeda fighters, with 40% of the remaining detainees having no definitive connection with al Qaeda and 18% with no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban, and 60% are held because they are "associated with" groups the government asserts are terrorist organizations (though only 8% are identified as "fighters for" any group.)

The second report analyzed the 72 organizations with which the detainees are purportedly affiliated as identified by the Department of Defense (DOD) in the CSRT data, and cross-checks those groups against the State Department Designated and Other Foreign Terrorist Organizations Lists and the Patriot Act Terrorist Exclusion List (intended to be used to exclude terrorists from the United States). The report notes that fully 52 of these groups on the DOD list, or 72%, are not on either of the other two lists, while an additional 18% of the groups are on one of the two lists, but not both, and hence, members of 64 of the 72 groups would be admitted to the U.S. based on one or the other list, though membership in these groups is used as a basis to continue holding Guantanamo detainees.

On March 29, 2006, I had the privilege of speaking to Joshua Denbeaux, one of the lead authors of the Seton Hall studies, by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected where appropriate by Mr. Denbeaux.

The Talking Dog My obligatory first question is "where were you on September 11th?"

Joshua Denbeaux: I was in court, preparing to select a jury in Middlesex County, [New Brunswick], New Jersey. In court that morning, there were rumors from people in the courthouse that something major was happening. Some people's cel-phones were working-- I recall one of my clients spoke to their aunt, who was watching television in Kingston. There was fear in the courthouse. I went to the clerk's office, asking to be excused for the day so that I could leave ahead of a very long trip back to my office, and the clerk told me that everyone was going to be released, because no jurors were responding to calls: there was only one television in the courthouse, in the jury assembly area, and all the jurors were glued to the television set.

The Talking Dog Your reports indicate that you represent two detainees at Guanatanamo. I understand they are Tunisian nationals. Can you briefly tell me their names, what they are charged with, and whether you've met them? Let me know if you can't answer because the question or answer might impinge on something privileged or classified that you can't discuss.

Joshua Denbeaux: My clients are Rafik Alhami and Mohammed Abdul Rahman. We are counsel on a habeas corpus petition now pending in federal court in Washington, D.C., whose status is that it has been stayed by the District of Columbia Circuit, pending the outcome of appeals including a number of habeas petitions. As to what my clients are charged with, or accused of having done, because I am privy to both classified and non-classified information about that, I don't think I can answer that. They are not currently scheduled to be tried by the military commissions. I have met my clients during one extended vistit to Guantanamo. I traveled down to Guantanamo with my father, and we met our clients in the meeting rooms they have set up, and we did indeed turn over our notes to be mailed to Virginia pursuant to the security protocols they have.

The Talking Dog Speaking of classified, I have read a criticism of your report by a Pentagon spokesman who contends it is inaccurate because you didn't rely on classified information... how do you respond to that?

Joshua Denbeaux: Our reports are based on the publicly released, declassified CSRT summaries. I respond to such a "criticism" by asking what is the government's point? Is there classified information that rebuts the publicly available declassified information? The government has never said that our analysis is wrong. Either admit that we are correct, or show us how we are wrong. Claiming that we haven't seen classified information is utterly irrelevant, and if this changes anything, then the Government has an even bigger credibility problem than it already does.

The Talking Dog Let me ask you about extrapolations in your reports. Let me start with something in your executive summary, where you state that only 5% of detainees were captured by U.S. forces, but in your report's body, there is a statement that the government's evidence is that 93% of detainees were not apprehended by the United States... what's the basis of that discrepancy (and is it that 2% were captured by US coalition members)?

Joshua Denbeaux: Given the limitations of the data as provided, there is no option but to extrapolate. We certainly have no reason not to believe that the provenance of those of unknown capture, for example, is very different, percentage-wise, from those whose provenance is disclosed, and we so indicate in the report. By the way, let me give full credit to the students who assisted my father and I in preparation of the reports; they put in a tremendous effort and did a lot of heavy lifting. As to your specific question, yes, it appears that the additional 2% were captured by the British or other coalition allies, as opposed to Pakistan or the Northern Alliance who captured the vast majority of detainees.

The Talking Dog Your report notes that only ten detainees have been charged with violations of the laws of war. Is there any reason, based on what we know, to legitimately conclude they are the "worst of the worst", let alone that they justify holding over 500 people not charged with anything?

Joshua Denbeaux: Based on the way the data is released, it is impossible to tie the particular allegations to particular detainees. Our report makes pretty clear that the government's own disclosure shows that only 45% of the detainees are accused of any hostile act at all. Thus, the other 55% are, by definition, not "the worst of the worst". What's interesting is that the Government often speaks of holding these men so that they are not "returned to the battlefield". Well, for most of these guys, if they were "returned" to the battlefield, it would be the first time they were ever there! This "captured on the battlefield" allegation made by the President and others, as shown by the data, is just not true for most of the detainees. Indeed, at this point, it appears that repetition of this allegation is intentionally and knowingly false... could it be invented by our government to justify the continuation of Guantanamo?

Our second report makes clear what the basis for holding most of these people is association with groups that supposedly have ties to terrorism. And yet, it is clear that the Defense Department is not relying on the lists of terrorist organizations that we use to keep people out of the United States in order to generate the lists of groups that it deems a sufficient basis to hold the Guantanamo detainees. I am reasonably certain that our analysis is the first time that these lists have been cross-checked against each other-- including by the government itself!

The Talking Dog Are you aware of any other public sources besides your own report (and possibly the National Journal) that have done the kind of analysis you and the Seton Hall team did with respect to this data?

Joshua Denbeaux: While I have nothing but admiration and respect for the National Journal and Murray Waas, our report is the only fully comprehensive evaluation of the CSRT data of its kind that I am aware of.

The Talking Dog Is there anything else my readers or the American public need to know about this subject that I haven't asked you, or do you have any other comments?

Joshua Denbeaux: Sure. There are three things, three possibilities based on what we know as a result of our analyses of the publicly released data.

The first possibility for why the list of terrorist organizations relied upon by the Pentagon to hold these detainees does not match either the State Department or Patriot Act (Homeland Security) terrorist exclusion lists is because the DOD is simply making it up-- it has decided that association with groups makes someone per se an enemy combatant, and there are 164 detainees so "associated" with groups not on either State or Patriot Act lists. One can say it "smells like" the DOD interrogated all of the Guantanamo detainees, established what organizations these men were "associated with", and then, after the fact, determined that these were "terrorist organizations"; this is certainly consistent with the large discrepency between DOD's list and the others-- indeed, only 20 of the organizations on DOD's lists are on either of State's or Patriot Act lists; 52 out of 72 organizations don't show up on either State or Patriot Act list, and yet, are deemed sufficient basis to hold Guantanamo detainees indefinitely.

The second possibility is also troubling: maybe the Defense Department is right. Maybe these really are terrorist organizations. In that case, what is the State Department doing maintaining lists that allow these people into the country? As far as we know, members of the 52 organizations on DOD's list, but not on either of the other two lists, can enter the country. Are we allowing terrorists to freely come in?

The third possibility is that both sets of lists are screwed up-- that we are both holding innocent people at Guantanamo, and the government is not fully holding up our security by admitting people into the country that it shouldn't be.

The Talking Dog: That was incredibly informative, and please accept my thanks on behalf of myself and all of our readers.

Readers may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing other Guantanamo detainees) and with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), and with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, to be of interest.

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April 4, 2006, More "restoring honor and integrity to the government"

Deputy press secretary for the Department of Not Doing Anything At All to Help in the Event of a Crisis Homeland Security Brian Doyle was indicted in Polk County, Florida and awaits extradition on charges that he attempted to seduce what he believed to be a 14-year old girl over the internet.

Obviously, he didn't have enough to do as deputy press secretary to Michael Chertoff's... department. We already had domestic policy advisor Claude Allen resign after shop-lifting charges, the Vice-President's chief of staff Scooter Libby, of course, resigned for Plamegate after indictment by the special prosecutor (who may not be done yet), and there are the whole panoply of charges swimming around the Abramoff scandal, some inextricably intertwined with the "retiring" Tom "Jesus" DeLay.

But as far as I recall, the one thing you could say about the crop of Bushies and their Republican allies, in contrast to Clinton, was that it was never about sex. (Don't ask me why that ever made a difference; the irritating combination of prurience and prudishness endemic in this country is a wonder to the rest of the world... and not in a good way.)

Well, guess what? This one is about sex. And the grossest kind of sex: icky sexual advances toward what Mr. Doyle believed to be a 14-year old girl (he is 55). I guess the Bush Administration will write him off as an isolated incident and a very minor player in the great scheme of things.

We'll try not to let this awful news dampen the good news that virtually all of the benefit of the '03 round of investment tax cuts went to taxpayers with incomes over $10 million per year... While Doyle may be a disgusting pervert (entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty... as if!)... at least the job of the President's (and the Republican Congress's) tax cuts ensuring that the rich don't pay taxes at rates any higher than poor people continues unabated.

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April 4, 2006, Hitteth and Runneth...

The Bug-man goeth... Former House Majority Leader DeLay will not be seeking reelection to his House seat. Who says Justice DeLay'ed is justice denied? While there's little good we can say about Mr. DeLay, we can all wish him a hearty, "Good riddance, Tom." You've spent your life bringing the level of discourse in Washington from bad down to the level of your other career killing the cockroaches.

Moussaoui to frieth... somebody's got to pay for 9-11, right? A federal jury found Zaccarias Moussaoui death-penalty-eligible. Moussaoui of course is the buffoonish French national who was nabbed in Minnesota and was held on immigration violations after he went to a flight school and told them he only wanted to fly the plane-- not learn to take off or land-- and just as the government's case was collapsing in front of him because of its own misconduct, Moussaoui insisted on taking the stand and implicating himself in a plot that may well have never existed, largely because he just likes the attention... The jury will now hear emotional pleas from 9-11 victims... let the games begin. Let's face it... Moussaoui... in a conspiracy with Richard Reid, the failed shoebomber? Somewhat laughable. Which is it... if we believe a word of what he said (the only possible legal basis to fry him is to accept his testimony on its face) then, we must accept that the fearsome Al Qaeda is sending (easily thwartable) stooges at us (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk...) If this is the case, then AQ can't be this fearsome all-competent- super-force that warrants killing thousands of our troops, trashing our constitution and handing over our economy to Halliburton and Bechtel and borrowing from Beijing and Tokyo to do it now, is it? The head explodeth... Unless you're willing to believe that this is all just a show-trial and circus... that the "terrorist threat" as it is has been wildly overblown to keep the public irrationally ired up so that they will continue not to think, and continue to vote for the bad-ass mean Daddy Party ("the party that does something, even if what it does is at best useless and at worse makes us more vulnerable") and let its leadership steal with impunity "to protect us"... Naaaaa....

The Supreme Court ducketh... by a 6-3 vote, review is denied in the most important case of our lives, that of ex-"dirty bomber" and detained "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilla. (For more background, try our interviews with Padilla lawyers Donna Newman and Andrew Patel.) Padilla was, of course, the only American citizen ever picked up in the United States and held purely in the manner of a police state, as a so-called "enemy combatant". The Government indicted him on a nebulous conspiracy, fearing it would lose before the High Court if it didn't do so. In this case, only Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer were willing to bet that Antonin Scalia had sufficient integrity to follow an opinion he wrote in dissent in Hamdi; the age-wise wily Justice Stevens thought otherwise, and didn't want to take the chance on Milligan (the case upholding the doctrine of habeas corpus for all against a power-mad government... i.e., the Constitution's clause that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended absent rebellion or invasion means exactly that) being formally overruled and our nation being formally declared a dictatorship... on balance, I'm not sure I disagree with him on that.

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April 1, 2006, Saturday talking dog blogging VI

You'll recall that last week we focused on the law and order branch of the great big tent ruling Republican coalition. This week, we will focus on the religious extremist branch of the ruling party. Pictured above are two of the iconic images of the American Christianist movement, Davey and Goliath, in the image above, shown testing a home-made improvised explosive device.

Originally inocuous, the Lutheran Church produced a series of stop-action clay-mation animated shows featuring Davey Hansen and his family (sister Sally, parents John and Elaine), and the family leader, the all-powerful talking family dog, Goliath. The episodes seemed straightforward: simple stories, with generally happy endings because moral precepts were followed, in easy to understand language and action. Indeed, it would be hard to find a television program more sappily dripping with "family values."

This, of course, would be the perfect overlay to insert secret codes to advance a dark, violent movement (while being a hell of a lot more tasteful than the Manson family's use of the Beatles' Helter Skelter, or other decadent music.) While virtually every second of every episode, particularly Goliath's facial ticks, are pregnant with subtext and secret meaning to the initiated, I will just discuss a few particular influences on one long-time viewer:

The Wild Goat: Davey and Goliath rescue a wild goat that was trapped under a heavy tree branch. Secret message: deal with largest terror attack in American history by reading story about goat.

On the Line: Davey makes a string telephone and talks to his unseen parents to show his friends how it's possible to talk to God when God is invisible. Secret message: You don't need a dumb-ass string-- you're always talking to the big guy.

Officer Bob: Davey breaks his bike when he disobeys Officer Bob's warning about not riding on the handlebars. Secret message: Didn't quite get this one.

Happy Landing: Davey compares his neighbor Hank to God after watching him do his job as an air traffic controller, but Hank quickly sets Davey straight. Secret message: Hank is not God.

Man of the House: When John & Elaine Hansen leave the house for the day, Davey and Sally get permission to stay by themselves. Davey soon learns rights and responsibility go hand in hand. Secret message: Just "April fooling" with you on that one... everyone knows that rights follow the Golden Rule... he who has the gold rules!

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