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June 26, 2005

Hiatus

My lovely wife and I will be vacationing in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas for the next 5 days. Please check back next Sunday.

Posted by Rick | June 26, 2005 11:59 PM | Just A Thought

Stick'em Up And Give Us Your Land - We Need A New Mall

This week the Supreme Court handed down a chilling decision in KELO ET AL. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON ET AL., which will continue to weaken the rights of private property owners in the face of greedy developers and spendthrift state and local governments.

Held: The city’s proposed disposition of petitioners’ property qualifies as a “public use” within the meaning of the Takings Clause. Pp. 6–20. (a) Though the city could not take petitioners’ land simply to confer a private benefit on a particular private party, see, e.g., Midkiff, 467 U.S., at 245, the takings at issue here would be executed pursuant to a carefully considered development plan, which was not adopted “to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals,” ibid. Moreover, while the city is not planning to open the condemned land—at least not in its entirety—to use by the general public, this “Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the . . . public.” Id., at 244. Rather, it has embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.” See, e.g., Fallbrook Irrigation Dist. v. Bradley, 164 U. S. 112, 158–164. Without exception, the Court has defined that concept broadly, reflecting its longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments as to what public needs justify the use of the takings power. Berman, 348 U. S. 26; Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229; Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co., 467 U. S. 986. Pp. 6–13. (b) The city’s determination that the area at issue was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to deference. The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue. As with other exercises in urban planning and development, the city is trying to coordinate a variety of commercial, residential, and recreational land uses, with the hope that they will form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. To effectuate this plan, the city has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the plan’s comprehensive character, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of this Court’s review in such cases, it is appropriate here, as it was in Berman, to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the Fifth Amendment. P. 13. (c) Petitioners’ proposal that the Court adopt a new bright-line rule that economic development does not qualify as a public use is sup-ported by neither precedent nor logic. Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted governmental function, and there is no principled way of distinguishing it from the other public purposes the Court has recognized. See, e.g., Berman, 348 U. S., at 24. Also rejected is petitioners’ argument that for takings of this kind the Court should require a “reasonable certainty” that the expected public benefits will actually accrue. Such a rule would represent an even greater departure from the Court’s precedent. E.g., Midkiff, 467 U. S., at 242. The disadvantages of a heightened form of review are especially pronounced in this type of case, where orderly implementation of a comprehensive plan requires all interested par-ties’ legal rights to be established before new construction can commence. The Court declines to second-guess the wisdom of the means the city has selected to effectuate its plan. Berman, 348 U. S., at 26. Pp. 13–20. 268 Conn. 1, 843 A. 2d 500, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion. O’CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

At issue was a clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which provides:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process, of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." (emphasis added)

Having been the victim of a local entity taking a property in which I had an interest under the guise of "public purpose," I empathize with the property owners who now face eviction.

The majority opinion written by Justice Stevens which relied upon at least three suspect rulings from past Supreme Court cases including Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229 (1984), Berman v. Parker, 348 U. S. 26 (1954), and Strickley v. High-land Boy Gold Mining Co., 200 U. S. 527, 531 (1906), stated:

...when this Court began applying the Fifth Amendment to the States at the close of the 19th century, it embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.”

“Public purpose” seems to have evolved into government willing to use its power to enrich itself and shopping mall developers at the expense of the little land owner. We're not talking about railroad right-of-ways, or land for dams, bridges, or power plants. This is about governmental greed and power.

If someone wants to develop land for a shopping mall, why shouldn't they be forced to give the property owners a share of the project rather than being allowed to condemn the property and pay off the owner at a reduced price, then rezoning the property, effectively enriching the condemning entity.

You can read the entire Supreme Court decision here.

Posted by Rick | June 26, 2005 12:04 AM | Social Studies

June 25, 2005

Subliminal Message Discovered In Democratic Rhetoric

Mona Charen, writing for townhall.com, comments on the problem liberals in the United States seem to have with patriotism toward their own country. In a no-holds-barred article she writes:

A measure of anti-Americanism has come to infect the left worldwide, and American liberals not only partake, they are the most assiduous popularizers of America hatred this side of Al-Jazeera.

and this:

It continues to defy explanation why liberals, who theoretically love liberty, equality, tolerance and moderation, should find so much to despise in their own country, which represents the fullest expression of those virtues anywhere on the globe. Perhaps it is because, as Robert Frost said, "A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel."

While Frost undoubtedly gives too much credit to liberals in the above quote, it is obvious that with every passing day; with every Congressional hearing; with every speech; with every interview; the liberals’ underlying, almost subliminal, message is 'America isn’t worth fighting for.' Liberals would love to turn tail and run, cry Uncle! if you will, from the tough fight against terrorism we are engaged in. They believe that the Muslim worms shooting and blowing up stuff in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing so because of injustices inflicted on people all over the world by America and are therefore justified in their bloody behavior. They believe that if we all went to couples therapy together, all this hatred and bloodshed would disappear and we could put a flower in the end of every gun. Please join hands now and sing: Michael Allah row the boat ashore, hallelujah...

Today the Democrats seem to be concerned that we are having a problem recruiting enough young men and women for our Armed Services, yet when we call upon the brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen to fight for our way of life, our democracy, our republic, the Democratic voices have nothing but criticism, scorn, and derision in their tone. Saying you support the military is one thing, but for most Democrats, it's really nothing more that empty rhetoric. The petty criticisms leveled against, and the second-guessing of, our soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay in the past 18 months by the Democrats have been beyond the pale, pathetic crap. Without a doubt, their inflammatory rhetoric is one of the main reasons our young men and women currently have second thoughts about joining the military.

I have no problem with the Democrats disagreeing with the Social Security proposals put forth by Republicans, although I would like to hear how they would fix the looming crisis. If there are honest disagreements over judicial and other appointments, Democrats should make their concerns known, as long as the disagreements are honest and not merely obstructionist. I do have a problem with the Democrats who joined with the Republicans 3 days after the attacks on 9/11/2001 and voted 98-0 in the Senate and 420-1 in the House of Representatives to allow the President to use all necessary force against those who were responsible and now call for us to cut and run. The vote taken 3 days after 9/11 meant nothing to the Democrats. That vote was just tough talk, bit is seems for Democratic leaders, talk is cheap, and that is all they are prepared to do.

The Democrats who now complain that the war in Iraq, and, to a lessor extent, Afghanistan is a quagmire and has become "series of gross errors and mistakes," or who call incessantly for the Secretary of Defense to resign seem to have a greater allegiance to the terrorists than our military and our country. We have taken the fight on terror to Iraq and Afghanistan rather than let the Muslim radicals bring the fight to our shores as they did in 1993 when they bombed the World Trade Center, and in 2001 when they actually brought it down, killing over 3,000 Americans in the process. The Democrats just won't be satisfied until we are being bombed and shot at by every two-bit Muslim radical on every street-corner in America. When the battle against terror is on Main Street, USA, whose quagmire will that be?

Posted by Rick | June 25, 2005 09:47 AM | Political Science

June 21, 2005

Durbin Apologizes

From Senator Dick Durbin's own web site, I am posting his published statement that he gave on the floor of the Senate today. If you would like to hear him giving his statement, you can go to Radio Blogger and click on his posted remarks which will take you to an audio clip of the Senator ‘apologizing.’.

DURBIN APOLOGIZES ON SENATE FLOOR FOR GUANTÁNAMO BAY ANALOGIES
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today made the following statement on the floor of the United States Senate:

"More than most people, a Senator lives by his words, words are the coin of the realm in our profession. Occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words."

"On June 14, I took the floor of the Senate to speak about genuine heartfelt concerns about the treatment of prisoners and detainees at Guantánamo and other places. I raised legitimate concerns that others have raised, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the policies of this administration and whether they truly do serve our needs to make America safer and more secure, whether, in fact, some of the policies might, in fact, endanger our troops, or in some ways disparage the image of America around the world."

"During the course of that presentation, I read an e-mail from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was discovered to exist last August, and has now been produced as part of the Freedom of Information Act. After reading the horrible details in that memo, which characterized the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo, I then, on my own, my own words, made some characterizations about that memo. I made reference to the Nazis, Soviets and other repressive regimes."

"Mr. President, I have come to understand that was a very poor choice of words. I tried to make this very clear last Friday that I understood to those analogies to the Nazis, Soviets and others were poorly chosen. I issued a release which I thought made my intentions and my inner-most feeling as clear as I possibly could."

"Let me read to you what I said. ‘I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said causes anybody to misunderstand my true feelings. Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support.’"

"“Mr. President, it is very clear that even though I thought I had said something that clarified the situation, to many people it was still unclear. I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy."

"I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. I went to Iraq just a few months ago with Senator Harry Reid and a bipartisan Senate delegation. When you look in the eyes of the soldiers you see your son and daughter. They are the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them."

"Some may believe that my remarks crossed a line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies."

"There's usually a quote from Abraham Lincoln that you can turn to in moments like this. Maybe this is the right one. Lincoln said, ‘If the end brings me out right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, 10,000 angels swearing I was right wouldn't make any difference.’"

"In the end, I don't want anything that I may have said detract from the love for my country, my respect for those who bravely risk their lives each day for our security, and this Senate which I am so honored to serve as a member. I offer my apology for those offended by my words. I promise to speak out on the issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the nation."

I particularly liked the line: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed a line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies."

It seems that it would have been a more appropriate apology if he believed that he crossed the line.

Posted by Rick | June 21, 2005 10:51 PM | Political Science

Good News - Bad News

Apparently, when you travel to London these days, the food offered there has improved quite a bit. In an article published June 21, 2005, in the Christian Science Monitor, Mark Rice-Oxley writes:

London is rapidly evolving into one of the most exciting places in the world to dine, say top chefs and food critics - even the French.

Now for the bad news from the same article, quoting Jay Raynor, a food critic and author of the novel Eating Crow:

London has a massive concentration of very very good restaurants, but outside of London" you would starve if you tried to find a good meal.

Of course, I live in Las Vegas, and have eaten at many of the finest restaurants in town and would put them up against any restaurants anywhere in the world. Even London...

Posted by Rick | June 21, 2005 12:19 AM | Just A Thought

June 19, 2005

Close Guantánamo Bay - Relocate To Maricopa County, Arizona

I am in agreement with the bleeding heart liberals that we should close the storage facility at Guantánamo Bay. During all the chatter this past week I have heard talking heads make some pretty ridiculous suggestions. One handwringer said, without cracking even a smile, that we should move them to Guam. What!? Amnesty International can't find Guam?

I think we should move the human waste we currently store at the lovely facility at Gitmo to Attica, Rikers Island, or any one of America's other exceptionally fine prisons or local jails. Let them get a taste of a real American prison. In an article printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 23, 2005, Paul Pringle, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, wrote about food at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles that includes a sack lunch:

The bag held two pieces of tired-looking processed turkey, two slices of wheat bread, two cookies, an apple and carrots. It is a typical lunch. Breakfast is mainly bran flakes and milk, hard-boiled eggs, a bun, jelly and fruit juice.

The jail stopped serving hot oatmeal last year to trim $1.5 million from its annual food budget, which is $22.9 million -- or $2.25 per day per inmate, less than that of California's state prisons ($2.45) and federal penitentiaries ($2.78).

Doesn't sound like the glazed chicken sometimes served at Guantánamo Bay does it? Carol Rosenberg, writing for Knight Ridder Newspapers, wrote in an article published at CentreDaily.com on June 8, 2005:

In its campaign to portray the Guantánamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects as humane, the Bush administration has made a rare disclosure: The Pentagon is spending $2.5 million a year to provide a proper Muslim meal to each prisoner behind the razor wire in isolated Cuba.

That's $12.68 a day in meals for each suspect.

and this:

Since soon after the prison opened in January 2002, the Pentagon has emphasized that the U.S. military provides prisoners with Qurans and Muslim-approved halal meat to portray it as sensitive to Islam. Commanders early on posted markers pointing toward Mecca, for prayer, and airlifted in 125 pounds of halal lamb for a special stew to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast.

and this:

In contrast, the Miami-Dade Corrections Department spends $2.19 a day on each prisoner's food - or $3.60 if you calculate salaries and equipment, says Cmdr. Debbie Graham.

If a Miami-Dade prisoner requires a kosher meal, which is similar to Islam's no-pork halal diet, the county spends an additional $3 per prisoner for a prepackaged dinner at night.

and finally this:

Blackner provided a sample from Guantánamo's culturally sensitive menu: whole wheat bagels, fresh fruit, rice pilaf, chicken breast in orange sauce, string cheese, vegetable patties, dates, baklava and yams.

Ms. Rosenberg went on to report that "prisoners get 2,600 calories a day" and during Ramadan, "prisoners get nuts, honey and extra rations." By contrast, the military spends only about $8.25 a day to feed the soldiers who guard the Muslim maggots.

My vote for the warden of any prison holding tough-guy terrorists would be the current sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio. Chris Summers, writing for the BBC News on Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, wrote:

Sheriff Arpaio's prison policies have made headlines across the United States. He reinstated chain gangs, for women and juveniles, as well as men, forces inmates to wear pink underwear and the old fashioned black and white hooped uniforms, and hit on the idea of housing minor offenders in a huge "Tent City" in the desert.

Forget the chain gangs and the fact that Sheriff Joe feeds his prisoners on less than $1.00 a day, the terrorist-loving liberals would probably run screaming to Amnesty International that the pink underwear provided to the prisoners was 'torture.'

Shaun Attwood, a British citizen who served two years in Sheriff Joe's jail before pleading guilty to money laundering and drug charges and being transferred to a state prison, has a weblog, Jon's Jail Journal, maintained by his father Derick in which he described the conditions of his confinement. Read and enjoy!!

Posted by Rick | June 19, 2005 05:44 PM | Political Science

June 17, 2005

Senator Richard Durbin's Complete Remarks On Detainees

Considering the firestorm that followed Senator Richard Durbin's (D-IL) remarks made this past Tuesday on the floor of the Senate, I think Durbin's complete remarks are worth reading, if only for the twisted rationale of the left, which will obviously do anything it can to discredit the Bush administration regardless of the consequenses to our troops or our international reputation. Tripe of this sort only encourages our enemies and strengthens the resolve of those who would do away with our great democracy.

Here are Senator Richard Durbin’s complete remarks on Guantánamo Bay and detainees held there from The Congressional Record of June 14, 2005: (emphasis mine)

(Page: S6593)

Mr. President, there has been a lot of discussion in recent days about whether to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. This debate misses the point. It is not a question of whether detainees are held at Guantánamo Bay or some other location. The question is how we should treat those who have been detained there. Whether we treat them according to the law or not does not depend on their address. It depends on our policy as a nation.

How should we treat them? This is not a new question. We are not writing on a blank slate. We have entered into treaties over the years, saying this is how we will treat wartime detainees. The United States has ratified these treaties. They are the law of the land as much as any statute we passed. They have served our country well in past wars. We have held ourselves to be a civilized country, willing to play by the rules, even in time of war.

Unfortunately, without even consulting Congress, the Bush administration unilaterally decided to set aside these treaties and create their own rules about the treatment of prisoners.

Frankly, this Congress has failed to hold the administration accountable for its failure to follow the law of the land when it comes to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees.

I am a member of the Judiciary Committee. For two years, I have asked for hearings on this issue. I am glad Chairman Specter will hold a hearing on wartime detention policies tomorrow. I thank him for taking this step. I wish other members of his party would be willing to hold this administration accountable as well.

It is worth reflecting for a moment about how we have reached this point. Many people who read history remember, as World War II began with the attack on Pearl Harbor, a country in fear after being attacked decided one way to protect America was to gather together Japanese Americans and literally imprison them, put them in internment camps for fear they would be traitors and turn on the United States. We did that. Thousands of lives were changed. Thousands of businesses destroyed. Thousands of people, good American citizens, who happened to be of Japanese ancestry, were treated like common criminals.

It took almost 40 years for us to acknowledge that we were wrong, to admit that these people should never have been imprisoned. It was a shameful period in American history and one that very few, if any, try to defend today.

I believe the torture techniques that have been used at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and other places fall into that same category. I am confident, sadly confident, as I stand here, that decades from now people will look back and say: What were they thinking? America, this great, kind leader of a nation, treated people who were detained and imprisoned, interrogated people in the crudest way? I am afraid this is going to be one of the bitter legacies of the invasion of Iraq.

We were attacked on September 11, 2001. We were clearly at war.

We have held prisoners in every armed conflict in which we have engaged. The law was clear, but some of the President's top advisers questioned whether we should follow it or whether we should write new standards.

Alberto Gonzales, then-White House chief counsel, recommended to the President the Geneva Convention should not apply to the war on terrorism.

Colin Powell, who was then Secretary of State, objected strenuously to Alberto Gonzales' conclusions. I give him credit. Colin Powell argued that we could effectively fight the war on terrorism and still follow the law, still comply with the Geneva Conventions. In a memo to Alberto Gonzales, Secretary Powell pointed out the Geneva Conventions would not limit our ability to question the detainees or hold them even indefinitely. He pointed out that under Geneva Conventions, members of al-Qaida and other terrorists would not be considered prisoners of war.

There is a lot of confusion about that so let me repeat it. The Geneva Conventions do not give POW status to terrorists.

In his memo to Gonzales, Secretary Powell went on to say setting aside the Geneva Conventions "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice ..... and undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops ..... It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain."

When you look at the negative publicity about Guantánamo, Secretary Colin Powell was prophetic.

Unfortunately, the President rejected Secretary Powell's wise counsel, and instead accepted Alberto Gonzales' recommendation, issuing a memo setting aside the Geneva Conventions and concluding that we needed "new thinking in the law of war."

After the President decided to ignore Geneva Conventions, the administration unilaterally created a new detention policy. They claim the right to seize anyone, including even American citizens, anywhere in the world, including in the United States, and hold them until the end of the war on terrorism, whenever that may be.

For example, they have even argued in court they have the right to indefinitely detain an elderly lady from Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charity that helps orphans but actually is a front that finances terrorism.

They claim a person detained in the war on terrorism has no legal rights--no right to a lawyer, no right to see the evidence against them, no right to challenge their detention. In fact, the Government has claimed detainees have no right to challenge their detention, even if they claim they were being tortured or executed.

This violates the Geneva Conventions, which protect everyone captured during wartime.

The official commentary on the convention states:

Nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law.

That is clear as it can be. But it was clearly rejected by the Bush administration when Alberto Gonzales as White House counsel recommended otherwise.

U.S. military lawyers called this detention system "a legal black hole." The Red Cross concluded, "U.S. authorities have placed the internees in Guantánamo beyond the law."

Using their new detention policy, the administration has detained thousands of individuals in secret detention centers all around the world, some of them unknown to Members of Congress. While it is the most well-known, Guantánamo Bay is only one of them. Most have been captured in Afghanistan and Iraq, but some people who never raised arms against us have been taken prisoner far from the battlefield.

Who are the Guantánamo detainees? Back in 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld described them as "the hardest of the hard core." However, the administration has since released many of them, and it has now become clear that Secretary Rumsfeld's assertion was not completely true.

Military sources, according to the media, indicate that many detainees have no connection to al-Qaida or the Taliban and were sent to Guantánamo over the objections of intelligence personnel who recommended their release. One military officer said:

We're basically condemning these guys to a long-term imprisonment. If they weren't terrorists before, they certainly could be now.

Last year, in two landmark decisions, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's detention policy. The Court held that the detainees' claims that they were detained for over two years without charge and without access to counsel "unquestionably describe custody in violation of the Constitution, or laws or treaties of the United States."

The Court also held that an American citizen held as an enemy combatant must be told the basis for his detention and have a fair opportunity to challenge the Government's claims. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority:

A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens.

You would think that would be obvious, wouldn't you? But yet, this administration, in this war, has viewed it much differently.

I had hoped the Supreme Court decision would change the administration policy. Unfortunately, the administration has resisted complying with the Supreme Court's decision.

(Page: S6594)

The administration acknowledges detainees can challenge their detention in court, but it still claims that once they get to court, they have no legal rights. In other words, the administration believes a detainee can get to the courthouse door but cannot come inside.

A Federal court has already held the administration has failed to comply with the Supreme Court's rulings. The court concluded that the detainees do have legal rights, and the administration's policies "deprive the detainees of sufficient notice of the factual bases for their detention and deny them a fair opportunity to challenge their incarceration."

The administration also established a new interrogation policy that allows cruel and inhuman interrogation techniques.

Remember what Secretary of State Colin Powell said? It is not a matter of following the law because we said we would, it is a matter of how our troops will be treated in the future. That is something often overlooked here. If we want standards of civilized conduct to be applied to Americans captured in a warlike situation, we have to extend the same manner and type of treatment to those whom we detain, our prisoners.

Secretary Rumsfeld approved numerous abusive interrogation tactics against prisoners in Guantánamo. The Red Cross concluded that the use of those methods was "a form of torture."

The United States, which each year issues a human rights report, holding the world accountable for outrageous conduct, is engaged in the same outrageous conduct when it comes to these prisoners.

Numerous FBI agents who observed interrogations at Guantánamo Bay complained to their supervisors. In one e-mail that has been made public, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using "torture techniques."

That phrase did not come from a reporter or politician. It came from an FBI agent describing what Americans were doing to these prisoners.

With no input from Congress, the administration set aside our treaty obligations and secretly created new rules for detention and interrogation. They claim the courts have no right to review these rules. But under our Constitution, it is Congress's job to make the laws, and the court's job to judge whether they are constitutional.

This administration wants all the power: legislator, executive, and judge. Our founding father were warned us about the dangers of the Executive Branch violating the separation of powers during wartime. James Madison wrote:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Other Presidents have overreached during times of war, claiming legislative powers, but the courts have reined them back in. During the Korean war, President Truman, faced with a steel strike, issued an Executive order to seize and operate the Nation's steel mills. The Supreme Court found that the seizure was an unconstitutional infringement on the Congress's lawmaking power. Justice Hugo Black, writing for the majority, said:

The Constitution is neither silent nor equivocal about who shall make the laws which the President is to execute ..... The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good times and bad.

To win the war on terrorism, we must remain true to the principles upon which our country was founded. This Administration's detention and interrogation policies are placing our troops at risk and making it harder to combat terrorism.

Former Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, a man I call a good friend and a man I served with in the House of Representatives, is a unique individual. He is one of the most cheerful people you would ever want to meet. You would never know, when you meet him, he was an Air Force pilot taken prisoner of war in Vietnam and spent 6 1/2 years in a Vietnamese prison. Here is what he said about this issue in a letter that he sent to me. Pete Peterson wrote:

From my 6 1/2 years of captivity in Vietnam, I know what life in a foreign prison is like. To a large degree, I credit the Geneva Conventions for my survival. ..... This is one reason the United States has led the world in upholding treaties governing the status and care of enemy prisoners: because these standards also protect us. ..... We need absolute clarity that America will continue to set the gold standard in the treatment of prisoners in wartime.

Abusive detention and interrogation policies make it much more difficult to win the support of people around the world, particularly those in the Muslim world. The war on terrorism is not a popularity contest, but anti-American sentiment breeds sympathy for anti-American terrorist organizations and makes it far easier for them to recruit young terrorists.

Polls show that Muslims have positive attitudes toward the American people and our values. However, overall, favorable ratings toward the United States and its Government are very low. This is driven largely by the negative attitudes toward the policies of this administration.

Muslims respect our values, but we must convince them that our actions reflect these values. That's why the Ð9/11 Commission recommended:

We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.

What should we do? Imagine if the President had followed Colin Powell's advice and respected our treaty obligations. How would things have been different?

We still would have the ability to hold detainees and to interrogate them aggressively. Members of al-Qaida would not be prisoners of war. We would be able to do everything we need to do to keep our country safe. The difference is, we would not have damaged our reputation in the international community in the process.

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here--I almost hesitate to put them in the RECORD, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. ..... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 3 additional minutes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. DURBIN. It is not too late. I hope we will learn from history. I hope we will change course. The President could declare the United States will apply the Geneva Conventions to the war on terrorism. He could declare, as he should, that the United States will not, under any circumstances, subject any detainee to torture, or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The administration could give all detainees a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention before a neutral decision maker.

Such a change of course would dramatically improve our image and it would make us safer. I hope this administration will choose that course. If they do not, Congress must step in.

The issue debated in the press today misses the point. The issue is not about closing Guantánamo Bay. It is not a question of the address of these prisoners. It is a question of how we treat these prisoners. To close down Guantánamo and ship these prisoners off to

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undisclosed locations in other countries, beyond the reach of publicity, beyond the reach of any surveillance, is to give up on the most basic and fundamental commitment to justice and fairness, a commitment we made when we signed the Geneva Convention and said the United States accepts it as the law of the land, a commitment which we have made over and over again when it comes to the issue of torture. To criticize the rest of the world for using torture and to turn a blind eye to what we are doing in this war is wrong, and it is not American.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln, one of our greatest Presidents, suspended habeas corpus, which gives prisoners the right to challenge their detention. The Supreme Court stood up to the President and said prisoners have the right to judicial review even during war.

Let me read what that Court said:

The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions could be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism.

Mr. President, those words still ring true today. The Constitution is a law for this administration, equally in war and in peace. If the Constitution could withstand the Civil War, when our Nation was literally divided against itself, surely it will withstand the war on terrorism.

I yield the floor.

Posted by Rick | June 17, 2005 01:27 PM | Political Science

June 15, 2005

Clinton Taking Intern Applications For '08?

I'll get you that application as soon as I'm done with this book signing.This AP story from YahooNews is too funny for words:

Former President Bill Clinton, left, talks with Ball St. student Erin Graham of Muncie, Ind., as he signs her copy of his autobiography, 'My Life Bill Clinton' in Indianapolis, Wednesday, June 8, 2005. Clinton will also give a speech in Indianapolis tonight.







    AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Posted by Rick | June 15, 2005 03:30 AM | Just A Thought

The Long Goodbye

Did you hear how much I made on the oil-for-food deal?

Reuters is reporting that there is a smoking gun in the form of a memo which may very well be Kofi Annan's undoing.

A newly disclosed memo appeared to cast doubt on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's insistence he was unaware of a bid by a Swiss firm that employed his son for a lucrative contract under the scandal-tainted U.N. oil-for-food program.

If this memo proves out it should be only a matter of time before Annan resigns.

Posted by Rick | June 15, 2005 02:17 AM | Political Science

June 13, 2005

New Flash : Michael Jackson Not Guilty?!

I was wrong when I predicted that Michael Jackson would be found guilty when testimony of prior bad acts was allowed into the Michael Jackson trial. Michael Jackson has been found not guilty on all counts and will be heading back to Neverland a vindicated man.

News Alert: A sleep over will be held at Neverland to celebrate the verdict. Warm milk and cookies will be served to a dozen or so of Mikey's closest adolescent friends before being tucked in.

Posted by Rick | June 13, 2005 02:19 PM | Social Studies

Just A Little Nip And Tuck

A week ago last Thursday, I visited a surgeon's office for the first time with a small complaint. After a brief examination, the doctor acknowledged that I did, in fact, need a minor bit of surgery. When I asked if it could be done the following week on Friday, he said he did not see why not, and I was in the operating room at 7:30 A.M. last Friday. Then I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal on the Canadian medical system that I found very interesting:

"Access to a waiting list is not access to health care," wrote Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for the 4-3 Court last week. Canadians wait an average of 17.9 weeks for surgery and other therapeutic treatments, according the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute.

A good friend of mine who happens to be a doctor near Toronto indicated to me that the wait for a surgery like mine could be as long as three years in Canada!! Would the liberals in Congress be willing to wait that long for their health care? I think not... Just as Congress has the ability to opt out of Social Security and invest in the stock market for their retirement accounts, I'm sure they would make sure only the common folk would be on the socialized medicine waiting list.

Posted by Rick | June 13, 2005 02:10 PM | Social Studies

This 'Torture' Is Just Too Much

TIME Magazine has obtained an interrogation log from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that purportedly includes a moment-by-moment account of a detainee believed to have been the '20th hijacker' in which the treatment meted out is beyond horrific:

The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.

While most of the past descriptions of torture were no worse than fraternity hazings meted out at university campuses every year, even I must admit that having to listen to Christina Aguilera is a torture far worse than anything I can imagine, except perhaps having to listen to Jessica Simpson. The interrogators have gone too far and they must be stopped at all costs before our credibility before the world is diminished beyond repair.

Posted by Rick | June 13, 2005 12:14 AM | Social Studies

June 9, 2005

Things Never Really Change

Andrew G. Bostom, in an extremely interesting article at The American Thinker, quotes noted archaeologist, explorer, and former British intelligence officer, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), "who traveled extensively in the Middle East":

We are now in the middle of a full-blown Jihad, that is to say we have against us the fiercest prejudices of a people in a primeval state of civilization.

Gertrude Bell, Baghdad, Iraq, September 5, 1920

Really goes to show that no matter how much things seem to change, the more things remain the same.

Posted by Rick | June 9, 2005 02:54 AM | Social Studies

Someone Should Teach Them Some Respect

While we wring our hands over alleged mistreatment of the Holy Qur'an at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, American Muslims show their respect for the country they are living in by filming their desecration of its flag, the American flag - the flag of the country that brought freedom to millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan within the last three years. WorldNetDaily has an article that describes the demonstration in detail.

I have no idea why we give the detainees at Guantánamo Bay the book they use to justify their war against us in the first place. If they want something to read, we should make sure they have a Bible to sooth their souls.

Amnesty International's web site has a bile-filled article on Guantánamo Bay that begins:

Hypocrisy, an overarching war mentality and a disregard for basic human rights principles and international legal obligations continue to mark the USA's "war on terror". Serious human rights violations are the inevitable result.

The detention camp at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba has become a symbol of the US administration’s refusal to put human rights and the rule of law at the heart of its response to the atrocities of 11 September 2001. Hundreds of people of around 35 different nationalities remain held in effect in a legal black hole, many without access to any court, legal counsel or family visits.

As evidence of torture and widespread cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment mounts, it is more urgent than ever that the US Government bring the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and any other facilities it is operating outside the USA into full compliance with international law and standards. The only alternative is to close them down.

Shouldn't Amnesty International have a page decrying the beheadings, the car bombs, the suicide bombers, and the wholesale murders of innocent men, women and children murdered by these wacko Muslims?

Posted by Rick | June 9, 2005 01:22 AM | Social Studies

June 7, 2005

What Were They Thinking

The standoff on the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles today, which stopped traffic in both directions for over 4 hours, seemed as if it would never end. No one but the perpetrator, who ended up stunned and suffered a few dog bites, was hurt, but the traffic snarl had to cost businesses millions in wages and lost revenues. The police need to figure out a way to speed things like this up or terrorists/troublemakers could shut down our economy without killing themselves or blowing up any buildings. Can you imagine if 5 guys all did the same thing at the same time on 5 different highways and/or bridges in Los Angeles or New York for a week? CHAOS!

Posted by Rick | June 7, 2005 06:30 PM | Just A Thought

Not The Brightest Bulb

In a story on MSNBC, the Associated Press is reporting that John Kerry didn't fare so well at Yale. Apparently the joke between Kerry and his father (far funnier to Kerry than his father I'm sure) was D stood for distinction. Kerry had 4 D's his freshman year and ended up with a 76 over-all grade point average at graduation.

In what has to be a devistating blow to the self-described 'intellectual' left, President Bush actually had a higher grade average at graduation than Kerry with a 77.

Posted by Rick | June 7, 2005 12:24 PM | Just A Thought

June 4, 2005

Tom Ridge's Legacy At Homeland Security Needs Some Polishing

Tommy Ridge making sure everything is 'just so' as he prepares to exit The Department of Homeland Security

It appears that Tom Ridge's legacy at Homeland Security will not be a pretty one. The CNews is running a story by the Associated Press that leads:

Investigations by the U.S. Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog yielded the arrests of 146 workers and grant recipients and identified $18.5 million in unsupported costs during a six-month period that began last fall.

I have written about the fiscal abuses at the Department of Homeland Security before and this report doesn't surprise me in the least.

Hopefully, new Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff will have more luck running the still fledgling department. We wish him well.

Note: Interestingly, one of Tom Ridge’s first acts as a private citizen was to accept a cushy position on Home Depot’s board of directors. Home Depot was one of the main beneficiaries of ridiculous fear mongering recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security, reminiscent of school children hiding under their desks in the event of a nuclear attack, that resulted in a huge increase in sales of duct tape, plastic sheeting and batteries. MarketWatch reported:

Home Depot, in fact, went so far as to set up special Homeland Security displays nears it entrances to tout sales of duct tape, plastic sheeting, batteries and bottled water, among other safe-room supplies.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported the compensation in 2003 for the part-time position Ridge accepted was as follows:

Home Depot's board members are paid an annual retainer of $90,000. On top of that, directors receive $2,000 for attending a board meeting and $1,000 for committee meetings. The company pays an additional $5,000 to chairmen of any of its committees, except for the audit committee, whose chairman gets $10,000.

In Ridge’s second corporate affiliation since leaving his position at Homeland Security, the Mercury News reported:

Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is joining the board of directors of Savi Technology, a private Sunnyvale company that provides radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

On April 11, 2004, David Asman of Fox News, said:

Since Savi is a private company, they don’t have to disclose how much they’re paying Mr. Ridge. But he doesn’t come cheap. Home Depot’s paying him $120,000 as a director, and Savi could be paying him more than that.

Washington is known for its revolving door between government service and private sector companies that rely on government contracts. Happens all the time. But that doesn’t make it any easier for us taxpayers to swallow.

You can read more about Savi Technology here.

Posted by Rick | June 4, 2005 09:58 AM | Political Science

June 3, 2005

Dean Delusional In D.C.

At the Take Back America Conference held in Washington D.C., this week, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean came up with some real doozies. Here are some samples of his delusional, delirious diatribe:

While Dean was speaking about some of the long lines voters, both Republicans and Democrats, faced in the last election, Dean seemed to think that Republicans could endure the long lines better than Democrats and said this:

Republicans can do that better because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives.

(Note to Howard Dean: This from the party of John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Jay Rockefeller and Teddy Kennedy?!)

then this:

We've suffered a couple of serious defeats, but we're energized because we know that our vision for America is much better than the dark, difficult and dishonest vision that the Republican Party offers America.

(Note to Howard Dean: It would be helpful if you would tell us what your vision is if you have one. Seems to me that you lost the last Presidential election because your candidate kept saying he had a plan that was better than Bush's but would never tell us exactly what it was.)

and in reference to the ethics investigation of Tom DeLay, Dean said:

We need to get rid of the culture of corruption and abuse of power in Washington.

(Note to Howard Dean: I understand that taking trips paid for by lobbyists is not the right thing for Congressmen to do. It seems most of the trips Congressmen take are nothing more than glorified vacations and should all be eliminated. If the trip DeLay took was paid for by lobbyist with DeLay's knowledge, he should be reprimanded and made to pay for it with his own money. Frankly, all the 'fact-finding' trips should be eliminated unless approved by some type of oversight committee. However, I really don't think that trips taken by Congressmen are the biggest problem we have with corruption and abuse of power in Washington. It seems to me that the Democratic Senators’ filibusters that are holding up the business of the nation are a far worse abuse of power.)

You can read Dean's complete remarks here.

Posted by Rick | June 3, 2005 01:27 AM | Political Science

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