Human Rights Watch: George W. Bush Should Be Prosecuted Over Torture |
The U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Watch is calling on foreign governments to prosecute President Bush, Vice President Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former CIA director George Tenet for authorizing “torture, abduction and other mistreatment of prisoners.” HRW released a report today stating that “there is enough strong evidence from the information made public over the past five years” to suggest “serious violations of U.S. and international law,” and that prosecution is required “if the U.S. hopes to wipe away the stain of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and reaffirm the primacy of the rule of law.” The report’s author Reed Brody is requesting that foreign governments pursue investigations because “there is no longer any movement on the part of the Obama administration to live up to its responsibilities to investigate these cases when the evidence just keeps piling up.”
As Major League Baseball’s top players gather in Phoenix for the sport’s annual All-Star Game tonight, they will be joined by protesters who aren’t nearly as happy to be there. Immigrants rights groups are expecting hundreds to convene outside Chase Field before the game to protest Senate Bill 1070, the extreme anti-immigrant law passed by Arizona’s legislature in 2010.
An assortment of progressive activists and organizations — including America’s Voice, National Council of La Raza, and the AFL-CIO — called on MLB commissioner Bud Selig to move the game when the law passed last year. MLB declined to change the venue, but Salvador Reza, of the Puente Movement, said the groups will use the national stage to let fans and players know that the law has had a devastating effect on the state:
“Even though the All-Star Game still continued — it wasn’t stopped supposedly because part of SB1070 was blocked — parts are still in effect and still causing a lot of havoc in the streets,” Reza said.
“Arizona is still a hateful state, Arizona is still separating families. There are other ways of solving the situation.”
Another group, Somos America, will pass out white ribbons to fans entering the stadium as another form of protest.
Though MLB players are reticent to participate in any form of protest — even those who previously said they might — the efforts opposing SB 1070 are gaining momentum again. Election officials recently certified recall petitions against state Senate President Russell Pearce (R), who drove the effort to pass the law, and a federal appeals court struck down some of the law’s most damaging provisions in April.
Lo and behold! As we celebrated this Fourth of July amidst the debt ceiling fight, the netroots and progressive pundits suddenly discovered the Constitution’s relevance in fiscal matters. It doesn’t seem that long ago, because it wasn’t that long ago, that they ridiculed the very idea of constitutional limits on Congress in economic policy making. [...] Of the new House rule requiring a statement of constitutional authority for bills, Ian Millhiser wrote at ThinkProgress that “the constitutional lunatics are now in charge of the Republican asylum.” He said it was completely unnecessary for Congress to cite constitutional justification for its actions because Article I of the Constitution gives Congress broad authority and it leaves budgeting decisions almost entirely to the judgment of Congress.
But now that the Republican Congress is exercising this broad authority, Millhiser, and others at the Huffington post and the New Republic, have suddenly discovered that in one instance the Constitution supposedly limits Congress’ economic powers…that section four of the Fourteenth Amendment—the validity of the public debt of the U.S. shall not be questioned, they think that makes the debt ceiling unconstitutional.
I am, of course, honored that Mr. Limbaugh considers me such an important public figure that I deserve mention on his show — my resume will benefit greatly from this new credential — but I do wish he would take the time to find out what I actually think about the Constitution before he discusses my views.
For one thing, I’ve never claimed the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. I did praise the White House when they appeared to be exploring whether the Constitution could save the country from a catastrophic default — a responsible president will explore all possible avenues to avoid disaster, even if some of those explorations prove fruitless — but I also concluded that no one knows whether the debt ceiling would survive constitutional scrutiny because this question has “never been tested in court.”
In other words, Limbaugh’s attack is nothing more than another sign of just how little interest conservatives have in following the actual Constitution. Even the Supreme Court’s most strident conservative rejects Limbaugh’s lunatic view of the Constitution, and yet he insists that there must be something wrong with people who think that we should follow the Constitution as written.
Even as the recession leaves more and more Americans unable to pay for legal services, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee is considering a proposal to cut federal funding for legal aid to the poor by 26 percent in the coming fiscal year. If passed, the bill would trim the budget of the Legal Services Corporation down to its 1999 levels and deprive 235,000 people of access to much-needed legal services.
“The proposed cut would prove to be especially damaging to low-income persons whose health and safety are at risk—the elderly, the victims of domestic violence, the disabled, children, veterans and others—by denying them access to justice…At LSC programs, requests for assistance are increasing. The poverty population eligible for civil legal assistance has grown by 17 percent since 2008, to an all-time high of 63 million Americans. And funding from non-federal sources is decreasing. This is not the time to undercut the fundamental American commitment to equal justice for all,” [LSC president] Mr. [James] Sandman said.
[...] From 2009 to 2010, foreclosure cases were up 20 percent at LSC-funded programs; unemployment compensation cases increased 10.5 percent; landlord-tenant disputes rose by 7.7 percent; bankruptcy, debt relief and consumer finance cases were up by nearly 5 percent, and domestic violence cases increased by 5 percent.
This attack on legal aid services for the poor, however, hasn’t been limited just to the House Appropriations Committee. GOP governors and lawmakers have also turned to legal aid when looking to make stringent budget cuts.
New Jersey Gov. Christie (R-NJ) drew fire last week for cutting state money for Legal Services by $5 million, forcing the nonprofit “to cut at least 50 staffers and serve at least 5,500 fewer clients.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) vetoed a bipartisan provision to increase legal aid funding by $1 million. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and his state legislature refused to extend a $4-hike in the state’s justice information fee that provided an additional $3.63 million for indigent civil legal needs over the course of fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
Even before conservatives began this latest attack on legal services for the poor, low-income American’s legal needs went unmet more than 80 percent of the time. These new cuts will contribute further to building a justice system where only the wealthy and the well-connected are allowed to participate.
Michele Bachmann with THE FAMiLY LEADER head Bob Vander Plaats
The head of THE FAMiLY LEADER, the group that produced the “Marriage Vow” pledge signed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), confirmed Monday that the group would “like to have a ban on pornography.” Bob Vander Plaats made the statement to Salon’s Justin Elliott, while maintaining that the group’s recent pledge did not require such a ban.
At an Iowa campaign stop, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) offered a truly bizarre explanation for an even more bizarre proposal — Congress should simply forbid the Supreme Court to hear cases he doesn’t want them to hear because there is no Supreme Court in the Constitution:
GINGRICH: In the American system, if you read the Constitution correctly — this is why I wrote “A Nation Like No Other” — if you read the Federalist Papers correctly, the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction. It’s written directly in the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton promises, I think it’s Number 78, that the judiciary branch is the weakest of the three branches. There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. There’s the court which is the Supreme of the judicial branch, but it’s not supreme over the legislative and executive branch. We now have this entire national elite that wants us to believe that any five lawyers are a Constitutional convention. That is profoundly un-American and profoundly wrong.
First of all, Gingrich should take a moment to actually read the Constitution before he pretends to know what is in it. Article III of the Constitution begins “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court,” so his claim that there is no Supreme Court in the Constitution is just plain wrong.
Second, Gingrich’s proposal to simply strip the Court of jurisdiction to hear cases he doesn’t like is nothing less that a direct attack on the Constitution itself. Although there is some very old precedent suggesting that the original Constitution allows Congress to reduce the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times since the Constitution was ratified. If Congress could strip the Court’s ability to hear free speech cases, or to prevent race discrimination, or to combat slavery, or to ensure that gay Americans are afforded the same equal protection of the law as everyone else, then it would have the power to erase entire amendments from the Constitution. The Constitution unambiguously does not give Congress this power.
Moreover, Gingrich’s court stripping proposal is as unoriginal as it is unconstitutional. His fellow presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) endorsed the exact same plan two months ago, and Bachmann herself was merely aping a court stripping agenda pushed by the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) in the 1980s. Bachmann’s terrible idea is no more constitutional now that Gingrich has signed onto it than it was when she first embraced it.
Opponents of South Carolina Voter ID Law Ask Justice Department To Declare It Illegal |
Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Greenville, South Carolina Rainbow PUSH Coalition and members of the state Senate Democratic Caucus announced Monday that they have sent separate letters to the Justice Department asking it to declare the state’s new voter ID law illegal. “This legislation marks a return to the state’s past of disenfranchising voters,” wrote state Senate Democratic Leader John Land in his letter on behalf of the Democratic Caucus. Under the Voting Rights Act, DOJ must approve changes in voting laws in states with discriminatory pasts, including South Carolina. Jackson, meanwhile, is attempting to meet with members of Congress over the issue. Sixteen U.S. senators petitioned Attorney General Eric Holder last week, asking him to examine voter ID laws across the country to see if they violate the VRA.
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Reagan-appointed former Chief Judge Deanell Tacha called upon the Senate to confirm former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six to her old seat on the Tenth Circuit. Senate Republicans attacked Six because he refused to lead a witch hunt against Planned Parenthood while he was attorney general.
Several Wisconsin women’s groups will rally at the capitol today to call upon Justice David Prosser to step aside until the investigation into his alleged assault of a fellow justice is resolved.