Archive

October 30th, 2016

Two messy Gitmo trials land at Supreme Court Step

    Two important Guantanamo military commission cases are hovering on the edge of review by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the bad news is, both involve claims of legal overreach by government prosecutors. One defendant says he can't be tried for the USS Cole bombing in 2000, because the U.S. wasn't at war with al-Qaida until Sept. 11, 2001. The other says he can't be convicted of a conspiracy that didn't come to fruition because international law doesn't recognize such a crime.

    So far, neither defendant has prevailed in the lower courts, and it's hard to say exactly how the Supreme Court would rule if it takes either of the cases. But what's noteworthy is that, no matter the outcome, these two Guantanamo trials are going to end up tainted in the eyes of future legal scholars and analysts. Apart from general concerns about victors' justice, both cases reveal the U.S. government making up creative legal theories as it goes in the hopes of regularizing the al-Qaida military commissions.

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Trump's conspiracy theories sound anti-Semitic. Does he even realize it?

    Donald Trump is not known for pulling his punches. Sexist? He boasts about groping women and agrees that his daughter Ivanka is a great "piece of ass." Racist? Mexicans are "rapists" and can't be trusted to make just legal decisions. Immigrants? They're "bad hombres" who traffic drugs and slaughter innocent American citizens on the streets. Muslims? Exclude them all or face a bloodbath. Hillary Clinton threatens gun ownership? "Second amendment people" might be able to do something about that.

    In the past few weeks, Trump has begun leveling accusations that smack of anti-Semitism, too, but much less openly than the xenophobia he has directed at other groups all through the campaign. The conspiracy theories Trump has been talking up recently play on long-standing tropes used against Jews for decades or even centuries, and the echoes are unmistakable for many of Trump's alt-right followers and for Jews who are familiar with the history of anti-Semitism. But his language veils the bigotry in a much more subtle way than when Trump talks about Mexicans or Muslims - so much so that it's not clear that Trump himself fully understands the implications of what he's saying.

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Trump is the Nation’s Abuser-in-Chief

    As an emotional abuse survivor, I get an eerie feeling watching Donald Trump.

    In fact, a checklist of 30 tactics used by an emotionally abusive partner, published by the blog Live Bold and Bloom, reads like Donald Trump’s debate prep to-do list.

    One of the telltale signs of such abuse, for example, is rooted in humiliation:

    “They humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people.”

    This seems to be a cornerstone of Trump’s political speech — like making fun of a disabled reporter, or placing the women who accuse Hillary Clinton’s husband of sexual misconduct in the audience at the last debate. (I wonder if Trump has ever heard that expression about glass houses and throwing stones.)

    “They accuse you or blame you for things you know aren’t true.”

    For example, accusing Hillary of laughing at a rape victim, which she didn’t do.

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Time To Move On From The Trump Reality Election Show

    Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter if Donald Trump accepts the results of the November election. No concession speech -- can anybody imagine the big blowhard delivering one? -- is legally required. The Electoral College will certify the vote in December and the new president will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, whether Trump likes it or not.

    That goes for his more fervid supporters, too.

    According to a recent CBS News poll, upwards of 80 percent of Texas Republicans claim to believe that only voter fraud can prevent Trump from winning. Florida Republicans, too. Numbers like those prompted the Washington Post's conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin to urge anti-Trump Republicans not to make the mistake of staying home on Nov. 8.

    "The bigger the margin by which he loses," she writes, "the more preposterous Trump's claim that the election is fixed. Indeed, it's more important for Republicans -- if they want to get back their party -- to vote against Trump than it is for Democrats."

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These grumpy voters prefer none of the above

    One question put to a dozen "persuadable voters" in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday night didn't elicit a single response: Which presidential candidate do you like? Another, though, produced a unanimous show of hands: Do you dislike both?

    The voters had been assembled by Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster who has led focus groups for decades. He termed the session, conducted for the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, "unbelievably negative."

    The participants were chosen to represent the small group of voters who remain undecided or open to persuasion just two weeks before Election Day. "They watch these two candidates and find little or nothing on which to commend them," Hart said.

    There's negativity toward the end of any hard-fought election campaign. At this juncture in 1980, though, undecided voters would have debated the virtues and shortcomings of Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter, as they would have with Barack Obama or John McCain in 2008. The Charlotte voters, all of whom indicated that they expected to vote, found no virtues to debate.

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The Dark Days of Donald Trump

    Do you think Donald Trump has given up?

    It was a little strange to see him campaigning Wednesday in that critical swing state of ... Washington, D.C.

    “He’s coming to open a hotel that’s under budget and ahead of schedule,” campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, insisting it was all a part of the presidential sales pitch.

    Blitzer noted mildly that the hotel had actually been open for some time.

    “This is the grand official opening,” Conway insisted.

    Aren’t you beginning to feel a little sympathy for Conway? Until recently she was just that terrible Trump talking head, but now she seems like a woman laboring valiantly under an impossible burden.

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Remembering Tom Hayden, radical reformer and public servant

    The death at 76 of Tom Hayden has taken from the scene an influential student radical of the 1960s who pivoted to orthodox politics as an influential California state senator, where he carried on his dedication to anti-war and other liberal principles.

    I first encountered Hayden in Newark, N.J., when he was a community organizer in a poor black section of the city. He was fresh out of the University of Michigan and an early leader of Students for a Democratic Society, SDS.

    Hayden was the chief drafter of its Port Huron Statement in 1962, which declared it represented a "generation bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit."

    At its founding convention on the shores of Lake Huron, SDS called for creation of "a democracy of individual participation" in which each person would "share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life."

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Megyn Kelly's killer moment with Gingrich was a welcome return to badassery

    More magazine's final issue last March showed a lovely - and quite serious - face with a memorable headline: "Lessons From America's Most Beautiful Badass."

    The face belonged to Megyn Kelly, perhaps the hottest property in TV news and the host of Fox News's "The Kelly File."

    Kelly hasn't always lived up to her steel-spined reputation. Her much-touted special with Donald Trump last May was an exercise in mutual promotion that featured softball questions and cutesy laughs with the candidate, and ended in a cringe-worthy preview of her soon-to-be-published book.

    But Tuesday night, Kelly once again showed what she can do in her best moments. Her interview with former House speaker and current Trump ally Newt Gingrich offered a rarely seen mic-drop. They sparred, mesmerizingly, over the allegations of Trump's sexual misconduct.

    Gingrich tried to dismiss the topic - and diss the interviewer: "You are fascinated with sex, and you don't care about public policy."

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Magical thinking won't stop climate change

    World leaders have started to generate some real optimism with their efforts to address global climate change. What's troubling, though, is how far we remain from getting carbon emissions under control -- and how much wishful thinking is still required to believe we can do so.

    The Paris agreement on climate change has garnered the national signatories needed to go into force on Nov. 4. Some economists see it as a promising framework for cooperation among many different countries, especially if those not pulling their weight suffer penalties such as trade sanctions. There's even talk of aiming for the more ambitious goal of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius or less of their pre-industrial level, as opposed to the currently agreed 2 percent. Meanwhile, another major international deal has been reached to phase out greenhouse gases used in refrigeration systems, and solar energy technology continues its rapid advance.

    For all the progress, though, the gap between what needs to happen and what is happening remains large. Worse, it's growing.

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Farmers have tech on their side but weeds have evolution

    Some 12,000 years ago, with the invention of farming, humans started a war against weeds -- and the weeds are still a step ahead. As farmers advanced from using hard labor to protect their crops to using chemicals and genetic engineering, the weeds survived thanks to the oldest weapon known to living things: evolution. Now, while scientists work on new technology to ward off the weedy menace, some worry they're speeding up the development of heartier, more herbicide-resistant foes.

    Weeds may seem benign compared to crop-eating insects, but they pose a major threat to agriculture. They compete for scarce resources with crops, sucking water and nutrients out of the soil they share. Ton for ton, farmers use more weed killers than any other kind of pesticide. Without weed control, some crop yields would be cut in half.

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