Saturday, November 24, 2007

what the old man said made some sense...

"I feel strongly that there ought to be fair justice."

George W. Bush
Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2007

The good people at Slate, with whom I am so frequently in unity, regularly runs a feature called "Bushisms." It holds the President up to ridicule for stumbling over his words. The quotation above is cited there as an example of the President's frequent inability to express himself coherently.

There are times I think that it's not fair to do this kind of thing to him. It's well known that he is mixing up what he says and we all know what he means. He is not really so inept as to think that "Is our children learning?" is acually correct, although I don't buy this thing about him "actually being a brilliant guy." He is not the sweetest peach in the box, but he is not a moron, and he is not a village idiot come a wanderin' out o' Texas.

So, since we all agree he is bright enough to find his rear with both hands, it aseems to me sometimes that ridiculing him for his inevitable slips of the tongue is a little like making fun of a stutterer.

And, in the case of this particular statement, I think it may not actually be a mistake--I think I agree with what the President actually said.

If one thinks of "justice" as a product, a commodity, an outcome that is dealt out by a court (in effect, as a decision) then there is such a thing as fair and unfair "justice." I am sure that many people don't feel that the judgment that was made in their case was "justice" (ask anyone involved in a divorce or, perhaps, about a traffic ticket) and that there are many who feel that factors other than pure equity or pure application of law to facts are often determinative--especially when members of one group come up against those of another, or against the state (which amounts, of course, to coming up against another group).

The Old Testament prophets were always talking about "judgment" in this sense when they decried justice for sale, through bribery ("gifts") and favoritism toward the powerful (as opposed to doing what the law said in regard to widows and orphans).

So, justice is a synonym for "fair" only when it is not corrupt, when the decisions, the judgments handed down by the courts, are consistent with the policies of the various constitutions of the states and the federal governent and of the laws that flow from them. If those policies are frustrated in the administration of justice then, indeed, it is fair to say that justice is "unfair."

So, like the President, I feel strongly that there ought to be fair justice. Fudge--I do hate it when I find I agree with him about something. Well, he can't be wrong all the time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

on waterboarding and why it cannot be torture...

Waterboarding cannot be torture and keep a long line of people--from privates to the President of the United States--out of legal trouble; criminal legal trouble.

Waterboarding has been successfully prosecuted by the American government for more than 100 years with both its own citizens and members of at least one foreign army as defendents. The crime charged was torture. People went, as they say, down for this one.

As a great American prophet used to say, "You can look it up."

If the new attorney general nominee had said that waterboarding was torture, during his confirmation hearings, then the attorney general nominee would have been saying that Americans committed the crime of torture and that the President was complicit in that he ordered the crime be committed.

Conspiracy? Accomplice liability? Pick 'em, but charge him: let the jury decide--that would be my prosecutorial strategy (of course, I was only a prosecutor for a very short period of time and never got beyond driving under the influence cases more than a time or two).

The President has been called a lot of dirty names, so far, but it seems that one of them might (should?) be "defendant."

That can't be good.

At least, it can't be good from his point of view.

What is good from the President's point of view is that he appears to be able to have the same "complete confidence" in this new attorney general that he had in the old one. It was confusing to hear the President express such confidence in Mr. Gonzales, someone who was held in almost total contempt by almost everyone. How could anyone have such confidence in the ability of such a person to function as attorney general?

Well, silly me, it was not AG the AG's ability to function as AG in which Mr. Bush had such complete confidence. It was, rather, in the many times proven ability of AG the AG to lie, forget and do whatever else was necessary to keep anyone who was trying to figure things out from following the converging trails back to Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney...whomever. AG was trustworthy in that his loyal service to the Bush administration was not constrained by the perimeters of either law or ethics. (And Mr Gonzales may, yet, be going to go down for this. Perhaps he should hope he is indicted and convicted before Mr. Bush is. If the prosecution moves adroitly Scooter Libby may be the only law breaker in this administration who will benefit from a presidential pardon. The "pardoner" may be in need of a pardon, himself, before they are in a position to benefit from one.)

What also cannot be good, aside from the direct results of employing torture--getting a bunch of bogus information upon which to lay dumb plans and build stupid policies--is the (at least) one inevitable result of employing torture: others will do it to our military people and we will have absolutely no legs--moral or legal--to stand upon if we let this "just go by."

Way to go, George.

Just one more way in which the integrity of the Republic and the Constitution upon which is is based has been compromised and perhaps broken beyond all repair. Which successor of yours will have the grounding, the moral compass, to resist going through all the doors you (and Mr. Cheney) have opened and legitimized?

We are going to be paying for your presidency for a long time to come, in more ways than one.

It all comes from riding a high horse down the low road, from telling everyone you are off clearing brush when, actually, you are off planting more in which you can hide.

President Bush has shown himself to be the kind of person who, when he speaks, one can safely assume that the opposite of what he says is true. In fact, it is at one's peril that one relies on the truth of anything he says. He is the kind of person once described as one whose dog will not come when he whistles.