Re: Ashcroft, Looking Out for You


Amazing, so does this mean that the it's unspoken position of our government that (a) it's better for the supreme court to pick the president than the people and (b) the president, once installed, should have (1) no oversight and (2) as little transparency as possible?

And they tell US to move to another country? We just want to keep living in the same one we had!

Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 1:42 AM
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I keep being amazed by the rationalization that we're at war and thus, need to skip the usual provisions to accomplish legislation or take other action. First, we never declared war officially (gray area I know). Second, even if you accept that we did declare war, it was supposedly on Iraq and supposedly "Mission Accomplished." I know Ashcroft, et. al. are really talking about the war on terror, which to me places them on even shakier ground with regard to using war as an excuse for more executive power. I agree with Michael--where's my country?

Posted by: Laura | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 6:14 AM
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The assumption here is that Ashcroft knows, understands, or cares about what he is talking about. A fansy dressing of the topic of the law and feeding it to the American people is one thing, actually knowing and understanding it is another. Sadly, one of the highest legal seats in this nation, the Attorney General's, is occupied by someone who, in my opinion, neither knows, nor understands the very law that he was chosen to enforce and protect. Article III of the Constitution provides "limited powers," to the federal government. In order for any federal action to be legitimate, it must be authorized by the Constitution. It is under the same Article (III) that the Constituion authorizes the Courts to have judicial power over all "cases and controversies," which include cases and controversies "in which the United States is a party". This is where Citizens get their right to sue the U.S. government in federal courts. Ashcroft wants to limit this. We also know of the powers of the President, or the "executive power," from Article II of the Constitution. If the president appoints someone like Ashcroft, it is by way of the Presidential executive functions under Article II, which incules functions that are delegated to the "executive branch," like the office of the Attorney General. It sad and ironic, that Ashcroft, who gets his powers from the Constitution of the United States, is trying to usurp and limit the scope of the Constitutional rigths under the guise of war and by misleading the American people. I don't think Ashcroft really knows, understands, or cares about the Fundamental Rights, granted to the Citizens under the Constitution. I don't think he knows, understands or cares what the Bill of Rights (first 10 Amendments to the Constitution), are. I don't believe he knows, understands, or cares about Procedural or Substantive Due Process. I don't belive he knows, understands, or cares about the seperation of powers, etc. The justification that Ashcroft uses, no matter how he wants to dress it up, is not reasonable in my opinion to limit the rights of the people under the Constitution. Otherwise, what is the difference between the United States, and other fundamental regiems that incidentally happen to have a Constitution too, but have limited and usurped its powers, for a variety of reasons, some of which are the same bullshit reasons that Mr. Ashcorupt is offering the American People. What Ashcorupt is doing is using a very very limited power under Article II to destroy what this nation has built into its Constitution, for generations. Let's not be fooled by thinking that he knows, understands, or cares about what he says.

Posted by: Veiled | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 7:19 AM
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Cripes. Can someone please let me know when it becomes acceptable to compare moderate Republicans who supported Bush to the Vichy French?

Also, Ogged - Iranian, against the President, and vocal about it? You might want to set up an "Oggwatch" counter that counts how many days you haven't been "disappeared." So your readers can keep track. Maybe we could even get a pool going.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 10:38 AM
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This has occurred to me, SCMT, not so much as a blogger, but just as a muslim. Not to worry though, baa swears he'll spring me from the detention camp.

And Veiled, I think that's a good point. The speech was very much red meat for the Federalist Society. But John Ashcroft the man doesn't have to know, care, or believe what he says in order to make a difference in what other people do and want. The speech really was a "make the trains run on time" exhortation to increase executive power.

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 1:05 PM
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So here's a prediction. Four years from now, there will have been no wide violations of civil rights, no state campaigns of intimidation against American Muslims, no jailing of dissidents. I predict debate about the right level of due process for suspected terrorists, debate about about whether the amount of power vested in the executive , but overall fewer than 500 people will effected by the controversial decisions.

If not, I'll start armor plating the ogged-recue van. I love it when a plan comes together.

Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 1:15 PM
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You might be right, if there isn't another attack. If there is, particularly if it's in the "heartland," this place will be unrecognizable.

In any case, I'm not quite as worried about short term abuses as about long term structural changes. e.g., more executive power, more partisan courts, less congressional oversight, etc. These are pernicious, precisely because they often don't have obvious immediate consequences. (I don't mean to set this up as an unverifiable hypothesis; I do think we can point to things--like Ashcroft's speech--that wouldn't have been mainstream even several years ago.)

But thanks for the rescue offer. Just make sure the van has a DVD player for the back seat, so I can watch "The Siege" while we speed North.

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 2:37 PM
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Along the lines of what Ogged said, here's another prediction: You can't predict the dangers of of an executive branch who's power has moved beyond what have traditionally been thought of as constitutional bounds.

Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 11-13-04 3:34 PM
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"Four years from now, there will have been no wide violations of civil rights, no state campaigns of intimidation against American Muslims, no jailing of dissidents. I predict debate about the right level of due process for suspected terrorists, debate about about whether the amount of power vested in the executive , but overall fewer than 500 people will effected by the controversial decisions. "

I assume you know that you'd have been very wrong if you made that prediction ("fewer than 500 people) in 2000, yes?

Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-14-04 2:42 AM
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(even if you only count people residing in the U.S., and don't count Gitmo as inside the U.S., it's > 500)

Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-14-04 2:44 AM
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I never really understand the logic of "it only effects a few people" arguments about obvious violations of the most basic American rights. For one thing, one of the signal advantages of American democracy is its recognition of the potential for a tyranny of the majority. As a lover of dystopian fantasies, let me suggest the following scenario:

1. After a decade during which the Christian Right runs wild, the majority of the country swings wildly in the other direction.

2. Out of sheer anger, and fed by some historical claims made by Bush foes about the importance of this election, gangs of people go out and select one "guilty" Christian Right member in each of the states that Bush won in 2004. After being found guilty in kangaroo courts, the selected is crucified (upside down, to indicate the selected's inherent heresy) and the cross set on fire while the selected is still alive. (Alternatively, you can choose either a Matthew Sheppard or a James Byrd punishment if it seems more realistic).

As I understand it, under your formulation, the rights of (at most) 30-odd people have been violated, and so we probably shouldn't be too concerned. I have to admit, that's way, way too much for me to accept. I'm not sure I even have to get to arguments about "chilling effects" and "injuries to the larger community."

Is there some nuance that I'm missing that makes a right to counsel and a hearing prior to indefinite detention less troubling?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-04 1:15 PM
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I should add that it's not clear to me, on the basis of the most troubling of the Padilla assertions, why the military has to let anyone know that they are detaining someone as an "enemy combatant." I could be (and sort of hope I am) really wrong about this, so feel free to brutally correct as necessary.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-04 1:18 PM
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I don't want to accuse you of blind It-Can't-Happen-Hearism, baa, just as I don't want to engage in simplistic and stupid Bush-is-Hitlerism either. But would you mind fleshing out a little why you don't think there's anything to worry about?

I'm not hiding under the bed or anything, but I do have a deep sense of unease of the direction the country has taken since 9/11, and of the potential for further travel in that direction.

An administration that asserts that setting aside the law is an inherent power of the president, and that just won election to a second term, with its party in control of both houses of Congress, strikes me as at least worrying.

Do you think they don't really mean what they say? Or that institutional mechanisms, such as the courts, will prevent excesses? I'd very much like to feel more at ease than I do now, but I haven't seen much evidence that I should.

Posted by: Mitch Mills | Link to this comment | 11-14-04 2:00 PM
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Mitch: Why am I sanguine? Because I think the Hamdi and Padilla cases are pretty vexed, but not yet on the side of crazy. Because I think there really does need to be readjustment of our standards of civil liberties to meet a terrorist threat, and because I see lots of people worried about what could happen in principle, and less so complaining about things that have actually happened to US citizens. What to do about the folks in Guantanamo Bay is just a really, really hard question. And while I don't like the idea of foreign combatants being held in some complete legal netherworld, it's hard for me to figure out what the right answer is. Benajamin Wittes had a nice piece int he Atlantic some time ago talking abotu these issues which is pretty close to my perspective.

Katherine: who are the 500 US citizens who have been effected in this way? Perhaps we are operating from a different base of facts, and I'd be pleased to be informed.

SomecallmeTim: Well let's just say that (# of people) * (horrificness of treatment) * (justification) * (level of process) should give some sense of how worried I get. Obviously, murdering 30 people in kangeroo courts is not acceptible. But we aren't doing this, at all. Nor are we (to my knowledge) jailing 500 US citizens via kangeroo courts. Rather, there's a situation that is low on people, decent on treatment, decent on justification, and low on process. So I don't see the hand of the fascist state closing in, at all.

But enough of me talking. I want to hear from you guys. Predict me a prediction. What are some violations of civil liberties you expect in the next four years?

Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-04 7:03 AM
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You didn't say "U.S. citizens", you said "people." I didn't say "even if you restrict it U.S. citizens", I said "even if you restrict it to people residing in the United States".

Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-15-04 3:57 PM
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(I am talking about, specifically, the mass detentions and deportations of Muslim and Arab immigrants, and the abuses in detention facilities like the Brooklyn MDC.

If those are unfamiliar to you I'd be happy to provide links.

I think most people do overstate the extent to which the war has led to abuses against U.S. citizens, but understate, or are not aware of, the extent to which it has led to harm to immigrants or foreigners.)

Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-15-04 4:00 PM
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Fair enough. And I think your basic point that US citizne s have had little to fear, others more so, is correct. I can't say I've kept myself abreast of this topic, however, and would be interested in the links you consider most informative.

Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 11-15-04 4:05 PM
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