Friday, June 13, 2008

Brain meltdown

Every time Pretty Lady reads another piece of journalism, discussing the recent Supreme Court Decision to uphold the standard of habeas corpus, she experiences another episode of cognitive-dissonance-induced vertigo. She does not understand why it is the alleged conservative, constitutionalist judges that are dissenting the decision to Uphold The Constitution.

Of the two dissenting opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia’s was the more apocalyptic, predicting “devastating” and “disastrous consequences” from the decision. “It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” he said. “The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He said the decision was based not on principle, “but rather an inflated notion of judicial supremacy.”

Chief Justice Roberts, in somewhat milder tones, said the decision represented “overreaching” that was “particularly egregious” and left the court open to “charges of judicial activism.” The decision, he said, “is not really about the detainees at all, but about control of federal policy regarding enemy combatants.” The public will “lose a bit more control over the conduct of this nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges,” he added.

Excuse me? It is 'judicial activism' for the court to exercise its Constitutionally designed prerogative for checking a rogue executive branch, which decides to unilaterally decimate the Constitution, after six years of judicious deliberation?

Perplexed, she wandered over to NRO to see what the alleged conservatives over there had to say about it. Not a great deal, as it turns out.

The thing that has been bothering Pretty Lady, at the back of her mind, ever since this whole distressing terrorism/Guantanamo Bay/Iraq war/Abu Ghraib thing began, is that surely not every prisoner at these places is a terrorist. It simply is not logistically or mathematically possible. She has known enough law-enforcement agents of various stripes to understand that these are not the sharpest tacks in the box, by any means; furthermore, they have a lack of imagination and psychological perspicacity that virtually guarantees that they're going to be picking up a bunch of hapless schlubs who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong color skin, and accusing them of terrorism.

Furthermore, it has been established that training in police interrogation tactics does NOT increase the veracity of the information extracted; it merely increases the internal conviction of the interrogator that he's got a guilty one. (Pretty Lady read this in a hardcover book in a very nice bookstore in Grand Central Station; she cannot remember the title, the author or what the book looked like. If anyone can enlighten her, please do.)

So why on earth are these alleged conservatives so vociferously objecting to painfully slow, cautious, labyrinthine procedures that may eventually set a few wrongly-accused schlubs free?

Possibly because by the time they get done with us, they will have sufficient motivation to become anti-American terrorists?


George Pal said...

The first check or balance to a rogue Executive branch should/must be the Legislative branch.

Of what avail can/should the Judicial branch be. If there is nothing in the Constitution that speaks to the detention and treatment of foreign battlefield detainees (and international conventions re such are being met) then what's to be done. The "conservative" judges have it right - not on moral grounds, but this is not a moral question - it's a legal one. The judges, in this case, as in so many recent cases, are just itching at the chance at divining yet another Constitutional penumbra (shudder).

The great sainted Mr. Lincoln also suspended Habeus Corpus (denying his own fellow citizens - not foreign battle detainees). The Supreme Court stepped in and over-ruled the Executive branch's action. They did not, however, leave it at that. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated that only Congress (the Legislative branch) had the power to suspend Habeus Corpus. Congress did so shortly thereafter.

One might deduce the present day Congress' silence on this matter (actual votes - not soliloquies to the cameras) denotes consent to the actions of the Executive branch. On the other hand one might deduce that this Congress is made up of posturing cowards who desperately do not want to take a stand one way or the other. Either way, other than tangentially, this is not a matter for the Judiciary.

Pretty Lady said...

and international conventions re such are being met

They. Are. NOT. Being. Met.


Regardless of the use of banned interrogation techniques, however, which is not directly related to this particular decision, what I learned in my conservative, elite private institution in Government class was that it is well within the rights of the Supreme Court, and indeed the task of the Supreme Court, to decide whether a particular governmental action is Constitutional or not.

The thing that so greatly bothers me about the 'foreign battle detainees' justification for suspending all prisoners' rights indefinitely, is that there is no way that any citizen can either prove that a detainee was actually engaging in battle, or that he wasn't, in the current context. When a prisoner of war is captured, in a conventional war, he is usually engaging in obvious acts of war, such as shooting at people and throwing grenades and such.

At this point, and given the gross corruption, overreaching, cluelessness, opacity, stonewalling, mendacity, spin and unwillingness to entertain alternate perspectives that has been overwhelmingly demonstrated by this administration, we have NO REASON to believe that all the detainees at Guanatamo are ACTUALLY foreign combatants. These people are capable of convincing themselves of anything. There MUST be a system in place for challenging their actions, or there is nothing to prevent the executive branch from simply declaring YOU, George, or ME, Pretty Lady, to be an 'enemy combatant' and flinging us into a cell forever and ever, and doing horrible things to us because we refuse to cop to our 'enemy combatant' status.

Congress has indeed been exceptionally cowardly on this matter, and this is why we are busy campaigning to throw the bastards out.

Chris Rywalt said...

The main problem at this point is one of nomenclature. (I sometimes think all problems come down to nomenclature and arguments thereabout.) The problem is that the word "conservative" no longer means what it used to mean and no one's invented a better one to take its place. So when people say they're "conservative," they no longer mean they really like Teddy Roosevelt and his policies, and in fact they may not even be able to define "conservation."

But it is what we're stuck with. So at this point you have to accept that people calling themselves "conservative" are going to do amazingly non-conservative things, like interpret the Constitution to mean "the Executive branch can do whatever they want, up to and including using this document as toilet tissue."

You also have to accept people using apostrophes in plurals, confusing "your" and "you're," "its" and "it's," using "however" to hold down the center of run-on sentences, and spelling "lose" with two ohs.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I'm copyediting.

Chris Rywalt said...

Oh, but the Supreme Court decision was good news, wasn't it?

Pretty Lady said...

Good news, a little, and late, but better than nothing.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND the two-o 'lose.' I see it everywhere, I've even posted on it, and people keep DOING it. Arghhhh! How can they be such idiots?

Chris Rywalt said...

I may be bad with names but I'm damned good with remembering pet peeves.