Here are 50 despicable things George W. Bush did before and after 9/11

October 21, 2015 by  
Filed under General News

source:Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.

1. He stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount that would have awarded the presidency to Vice-President Al Gore if all votes were counted. National news organizations verified that outcome long after Bush had been sworn in.

2. Bush’s lies started in that race. Bush ran for office claiming he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Even though he received fewer popular votes than Gore, he quickly claimed he had the mandate from the American public to push his right-wing agenda.

3. He covered up his past. He was a party boy, the scion of a powerful political family who got away with being a deserter during the Vietnam War. He was reportedly AWOL for over a year from his assigned unit, the Texas Air National Guard, which other military outfits called the “Champagne Division.”

4. He loved the death penalty. As Texas governor from 1995-2000, he signed the most execution orders of any governor in U.S. history—152 people, including the mentally ill and women who were domestic abuse victims. He spared one man’s life, a serial killer.

5. He was a corporate shill from Day 1. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by raising more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time. He lunched with CEOs who would jet into Austin to “educate” him about their political wish lists.

6. He gutted global political progress. He pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, saying that abiding by the agreement would “harm our economy and hurt our workers.”

7. He embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I.

8. He ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. He ignored the Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing titled, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” Meanwhile, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president.

9. Ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists. The Bush administration had twice as many FBI agents assigned to the war on drugs than fighting terrorism before 9/11, and kept thousands in that role after the terror attacks.

10. “My Pet Goat.” He kept reading a picture book to grade-schoolers at a Florida school for seven minutes after his top aides told him that the World Trade Centers had been attacked in 9/11. Then Air Force One flew away from the school, vanishing for hours after the attack.

11. Squandered global goodwill after 9/11. Bush thumbed his nose at world sympathy for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by declaring a global war on terrorism and declaring “you are either with us or against us.”

12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan. The Bush administration soon started beating war drums for an attack on Iraq, where there was no proven Al Qaeda link, instead of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 bombers had trained and Osama bin Laden was based. His 2002 State of the Union speech declared that Iraq was part of an “Axis of Evil.”

13. Attacked United Nation weapons inspectors. The march to war in Iraq started with White House attacks on the credibility of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, whose claims that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons proved to be true.

14. He flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons. In a major speech in October 2002, he said that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. with bombs that could range from chemical weapons to nuclear devices. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he said.

15. He ignored the U.N. and launched a war. The Bush administration tried to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize an attack on Iraq, which it refused to do. Bush then decided to lead a “preemptive” attack regardless of international consequences. He did not wait for any congressional authorization to launch a war.

16. Abandoned international Criminal Court. Before invading Iraq, Bush told the U.N. that the U.S. was withdrawing from ratifying the International Criminal Court Treaty to protect American troops from persecution and to allow it to pursue preemptive war.

17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N. The highly decorated soldier turned Secretary of State presented false evidence at the U.N. as the American mainstream media began its jingoistic drumbeat to launch a war of choice on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

18. He launched a war on CIA whistleblowers. When a former ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed saying there was no nuclear threat from Iraq, the White House retaliated by leaking the name and destroying the career of his wife, Valerie Plame, one of the CIA’s top national security experts.

19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker. Before leaving office, Bush pardoned the vice president’s top staffer, Scooter Libby, for leaking Plame’s name to the press.

20. Bush launched the second Iraq War. In April 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq for the second time in two decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation and transition to civilian rule was seen as Baghdad was looted while troops guarded the oil ministry, suggesting this war was fought for oil riches, not terrorism.

22. The war did not make the U.S. safer. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus report of the heads of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies) asserted that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and had worsened the terror threat.

23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests from protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs, the military did not sufficiently equip its soldiers in Iraq, leading to an epidemic of brain injuries.

24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare “mission accomplished” to surprising troops in Baghdad with a Thanksgiving turkey that was a table decoration used as a prop, Bush defended his war of choice by using soldiers as PR props.

25. He never attended soldiers’ funerals. For years after the war started, Bush never attended a funeral even though as of June 2005, 144 soldiers (of the 1,700 killed thus far) were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, about two miles from the White House.

26. Meanwhile, war profiteering surged. The list of top Bush administration officials whose former corporate employers made billions in Pentagon contracts starts with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, which made $39.5 billion, and included his daughter, Liz Cheney, who ran a $300 million Middle East partnership program.

27. Bush ignored international ban on torture. Suspected terrorists were captured and tortured by the U.S. military in Baghdad’s Abu Gharib prison, in the highest profile example of how the Bush White House ignored international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, that banned torture, and created a secret system of detention that was unmasked when photos made their way to the American media outlets.

28. Created the blackhole at Gitmo and renditions. The Bush White House created the offshore military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as secret detention sites in eastern Europe to evade domestic and military justice systems. Many of the men still jailed in Cuba were turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.

29. Bush violated U.S. Constitution as well. The Bush White House ignored basic civil liberties, most notably by launching a massive domestic spying program where millions of Americans’ online activities were monitored with the help of big telecom companies. The government had no search warrant or court authority for its electronic dragnet.

30. Iraq war created federal debt crisis. The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, when the long-term medical costs are added in for wounded veterans, a March 2013 report by a Harvard researcher has estimated. Earlier reports said the wars cost $2 billion a week.

31. He cut veterans’ healthcare funding. At the height of the Iraq war, the White House cut funding for veterans’ healthcare by several billion dollars, slashed more than one billion from military housing and opposed extending healthcare to National Guard families, even as they were repeatedly tapped for extended and repeat overseas deployments.

32. Then Bush decided to cut income taxes. In 2001 and 2003, a series of bills lowered income tax rates, cutting federal revenues as the cost of the foreign wars escalated. The tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, with roughly one-quarter going to the top one percent of incomes compared to 8.9% going to the middle 20 percent. The cuts were supposed to expire in 2013, but most are still on the books.

33. Assault on reproductive rights. From the earliest days of his first term, the Bush White House led a prolonged assault on reproductive rights. He cut funds for U.N. family planning programs, barred military bases from offering abortions, put right-wing evangelicals in regulatory positions where they rejected new birth control drugs, and issued regulations making fetuses—but not women—eligible for federal healthcare.

34. Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students. His administration froze Pell Grants for years and tightened eligibility for loans, affecting 1.5 million low-income students. He also eliminated other federal job training programs that targeted young people.

35. Turned corporations loose on environment. Bush’s environmental record was truly appalling, starting with abandoning a campaign pledge to tax carbon emissions and then withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club lists 300 actions his staff took to undermine federal laws, from cutting enforcement budgets to putting industry lobbyists in charge of agencies to keeping energy policies secret.

36.. Said evolution was a theory—like intelligent design. One of his most inflammatory comments was saying that public schools should teach that evolution is a theory with as much validity as the religious belief in intelligent design, or God’s active hand in creating life.

37. Misguided school reform effort. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative made preparation for standardized tests and resulting test scores the top priority in schools, to the dismay of legions of educators who felt that there was more to learning than taking tests.

38. Appointed flank of right-wing judges. Bush’s two Supreme Court picks—Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito—have reliably sided with pro-business interests and social conservatives. He also elevated U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering to an appeals court, despite his known segregationist views.

39. Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section. Bush’s Justice Department appointees led a multi-year effort to prosecute so-called voter fraud, including firing seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.

40. Meanwhile average household incomes fell. When Bush took office in 2000, median household incomes were $52,500. In 2008, they were $50,303, a drop of 4.2 percent, making Bush the only recent two-term president to preside over such a drop.

41. And millions more fell below the poverty line. When Bill Clinton left office, 31.6 million Americans were living in poverty. When Bush left office, there were 39.8 million, according to the U.S. Census, an increase of 26.1 percent. The Census said two-thirds of that growth occurred before the economic downturn of 2008.

42. Poverty among children also exploded. The Census also found that 11.6 million children lived below the poverty line when Clinton left office. Under Bush, that number grew by 21 percent to 14.1 million.

43. Millions more lacked access to healthcare. Following these poverty trends, the number of Americans without health insurance was 38.4 million when Clinton left office. When Bush left, that figure had grown by nearly 8 million to 46.3 million, the Census found. Those with employer-provided benefits fell every year he was in office.

44. Bush let black New Orleans drown. Hurricane Katrina exposed Bush’s attitude toward the poor. He didn’t visit the city after the storm destroyed the poorest sections. He praised his Federal Emergency Management Agency director for doing a “heck of a job” as the federal government did little to help thousands in the storm’s aftermath and rebuilding.

45. Yet pandered to religious right. Months before Katrina hit, Bush flew back to the White House to sign a bill to try to stop the comatose Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed, saying the sanctity of life was at stake.

46. Set record for fewest press conferences. During his first term that was defined by the 9/11 attacks, he had the fewest press conferences of any modern president and had never met with the New York Times editorial board.

47. But took the most vacation time. Reporters analyzing Bush’s record found that he took off 1,020 days in two four-year terms—more than one out of every three days. No other modern president comes close. Bush also set the record for the longest vacation among modern presidents—five weeks, the Washington Post noted.

48. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Not since Richard Nixon’s White House and the era of the Watergate burglary and expansion of the Vietnam War have there been as many power-hungry and arrogant operators holding the levers of power. Cheney ran the White House; Rove the political operation for corporations and the religious right; and Rumsfeld oversaw the wars.

49. He’s escaped accountability for his actions. From Iraq war General Tommy Franks’ declaration that “we don’t do body counts” to numerous efforts to impeach Bush and top administration officials—primarily over launching the war in Iraq—he has never been held to account in any official domestic or international tribunal.

50. He may have stolen the 2004 election as well. The closest Bush came to a public referendum on his presidency was the 2004 election, which came down to the swing state of Ohio. There the GOP’s voter suppression tactics rivaled Florida in 2000 and many unresolved questions remain about whether the former GOP Secretary of State altered the Election Night totals from rural Bible Belt counties.

The Supreme Court Has Just Given The Police Another Way To Search Your House Without A Warrant

March 2, 2014 by  
Filed under General News

The Supreme Court Has Just Given The Police Another Way To Search Your House Without A Warrant (via Techdirt)

A few days ago, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively grants law enforcement and investigative agencies the power to search your home without a warrant. Here’s what led to this unfortunate bit of precedent. At issue in Fernandez…

Read more

Supreme Court Bombshell: No Right to Remain Silent

June 27, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:thenewamerican.com

The Supreme Court handed down a decision on June 17 that has been ignored by most media outlets, despite its devastating effect on one of the most fundamental rights protected by the Constitution.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices ruled that a person no longer has the right to remain silent as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. In relevant part, the Fifth Amendment mandates that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas v. Texas, that part of the Bill of Rights has been excised — and has joined the list of so many other fundamental liberties that now lie on the scrap heap of history.

Here’s a little background of the circumstances of the Salinas case, as told by Slate:

Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses — only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings. Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.

At trial, Salinas did not testify, but prosecutors described his reportedly uncomfortable reaction to the question about his shotgun. Salinas argued this violated his Fifth Amendment rights: He had remained silent, and the Supreme Court had previously made clear that prosecutors can’t bring up a defendant’s refusal to answer the state’s questions. This time around, however, Justice Samuel Alito blithely responded that Salinas was “free to leave” and did not assert his right to remain silent. He was silent. But somehow, without a lawyer, and without being told his rights, he should have affirmatively “invoked” his right to not answer questions. Two other justices signed on to Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the judgment, but for a different reason; they think Salinas had no rights at all to invoke before his arrest (they also object to Miranda itself). The upshot is another terrible Roberts Court ruling on confessions. In 2010 the court held that a suspect did not sufficiently invoke the right to remain silent when he stubbornly refused to talk, after receiving his Miranda warnings, during two hours of questioning.

Consider the ripple effect of the Salinas decision. Specifically, imagine how this ruling will alter the entire landscape of rights — including Miranda — and how they are applied (or not applied) to those accused of serious crimes. Here’s one potential application singled out by the Atlantic:

You know what’s a much more recent wrinkle to the potential precedent effect of today’s ruling? A case like that of the younger Boston Marathon suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who reportedly sat through 16 hours of questioning before he was read his Miranda rights. Had Tsarnaev, who was recovering from serious injuries at the time, remained silent during questioning without explicitly invoking his Fifth Amendment, prosecutors could, under the Salinas ruling, now use that silence to their advantage.

Guilty or not, suspects in the United States no longer have the right to remain silent. If they remain silent, moreover, that silence will now be interpreted as guilt and will indeed — despite what you see on television court and cop dramas — be used against that person in a court of law. Even, in fact, the highest court in the land.

full article:

All Three Branches Agree: Big Brother Is the New Normal

October 30, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source:wired.com

Despite Hurricane Sandy, the Supreme Court on Monday entertained oral arguments on whether it should halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications, a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.

The hearing marked the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed any case touching on the eavesdropping program that was secretly employed by the President George W. Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, and largely codified into law years later.

Just three weeks ago that the Supreme Court closed a six-year-old chapter in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s bid to hold the nation’s telecoms liable for allegedly providing the National Security Agency with backdoors to eavesdrop, without warrants, on Americans’ electronic communications in violation of federal law. The justices, without comment, declined to review a lower court’s December decision dismissing the EFF’s lawsuit. At the center of the dispute was legislation retroactively immunizing the telcos from being sued for cooperating with the government in Bush’s warrantless spy program.

Fast forward to Monday, and the court took the historic step of hearing a post-September 11 spying case. Judging by the high court’s deference to Congress in general and how it killed the EFF spy case weeks ago, we likely already know the outcome of this highly complex issue now before the justices: Warrantless spying is expected to continue unabated for years, and possibly forever.

University of Baltimore legal scholar Garrett Epps in a Sunday blog post in the Atlantic asked in a headline whether “Big Brother is the New Normal?” His own affirmative answer is spot-on:

“Whatever the court decides, Big Brother will still be watching. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know,” he said. “Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

Let’s start with summarizing the legal issue before that Supreme Court.

The same law that immunized the telcos is before the justices. This time, however, another section of the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf) is at issue. The act, subject to a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed to be outside the United States. Communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

There’s more.

The FISA Amendments Act generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, a secret tribunal set up in the wake of President Richard M. Nixon-era eavesdropping, to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests. The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application.

Yet none of these details are even before the Supreme Court.

Instead, the fight is about something much simpler.

The Obama administration argues that the ACLU and a host of other groups don’t have the legal standing to even bring a challenge.

A lower court agreed, ruling the ACLU, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, The Nation magazine, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union and other plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case because they could not demonstrate that they were subject to the eavesdropping.

The groups appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that they often work with overseas dissidents who might be targets of the National Security Agency program. Instead of speaking with those people on the phone or through e-mails, the groups asserted that they have had to make expensive overseas trips in a bid to maintain attorney-client confidentiality. The plaintiffs, some of them journalists, also claim the 2008 legislation chills their speech, and violates their Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

Without ruling on the merits of the case, the appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs last year that they have ample reason to fear the surveillance program, and thus have legal standing to pursue their claim.

That’s it.

That’s what this case before the justices is all about, whether a lawsuit can be brought at all. The courts are years away, if ever, of entertaining the constitutional merits of the law in question. So the spying will continue unabated no matter how the Supreme Court decides Monday’s arguments.

The government’s argument can be reduced to this scary proposition: You can’t sue us for secretly spying on you because there’s no way for you to prove it. Case closed.

Now the thing is, the spying law expires at the end of the year, if Congress fails to re-authorize it.

But that’s not going to happen.

learn more:http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/10/big-brother-new-normal/

Americans already detained under NDAA?

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source rt

The plaintiffs that are suing US President Barack Obama over his insistence on keeping the National Defense Authorization Act on the books said Thursday that they fear Americans are already being held indefinitely and without trial under the NDAA.

US President Barack Obama refrained from even once commenting on his efforts to keep his power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge when he appeared on Reddit.com recently and urged users to “Ask Me Anything.” His opponents in the matter aren’t shying away from speaking up online, though.

The plaintiffs in the case to ban the White House from imprisoning Americans indefinitely without trial or due justice took to Reddit on Thursday to answer questions involving the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2012, or the NDAA, and blamed corrupt media for letting the Obama administration maintain its ability to book Americans in military prisons without charge.

On December 31, 2011, President Obama authorized the NDAA, and with it he approved a controversial provision that permits the government to indefinitely detain US citizens without trial for mere allegations of ties to suspected terrorists. Journalists and activists filed a lawsuit against the president earlier this year over the provision, Section 1021, which US Federal Judge Katherine Forrest in turn agreed was unconstitutional. Last month Judge Forrest decided that an earlier, temporary injunction on the clause should be made permanent, but the Obama Justice Department pleaded for an emergency stay only hours later. A lone federal appeals judge has since heard that plea and has momentarily blocked Judge Forrest’s injunction. Now pending the results of an appeals panel’s formal investigation, the NDAA’s indefinite detention provision remains on the books.

On Thursday, the plaintiffs in the case — journalist Chris Hedges, activist Tangerine Bolen, Pentagon Papers leaker Dan Ellsberg, their attorneys and others — told users of Reddit to ask them anything.

“The Obama DOJ has vigorously opposed these efforts, and immediately appealed her ruling and requested an emergency stay on the injunction – claiming the US would incur ‘irreparable harm’ if the president lost the power to use Section 1021 – and detain anyone, anywhere until the end of hostilities on a whim. This case will probably make its way to the Supreme Court,” the plaintiffs acknowledged in their introduction.

From there, President Obama’s opponents in federal court combed through hundreds of posts to answer questions regarding the NDAA over the course of several hours. And although the plaintiffs have not exactly been silent with the status of their fight since suing the White House earlier this year, the insight they offered on Reddit provided a fresh update on the case against the NDAA amid some of the government’s most unusual legal maneuvers yet.

Offering his take on the case, Hedges said that he even believes the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause is already being used to imprison Americans, “because they filed an emergency appeal.”

“If the Obama administration simply appealed it, as we expected, it would have raised this red flag,” Hedges added. “But since they were so aggressive it means that once Judge Forrest declared the law invalid, if they were using it, as we expect, they could be held in contempt of court. This was quite disturbing, for it means, I suspect, that US citizens, probably dual nationals, are being held in military detention facilities almost certainly overseas and maybe at home.”

“The signing statement is the most ridiculous part to this for me. He writes this statement saying he’s not happy about the power existing, but then his administration fights so hard to keep that specific power in place,” Reddit user devilrobotjesus responded.

“If Obama didn’t want it to happen, he would not have signed it, especially after stating that he would veto it,” co-counsel Carl Mayer explained. Mayer has represented the plaintiffs in the case of Hedges v. Obama and said that he plans on continuing his pursuit to take indefinite detention off the books.

“We will do whatever it takes,” Mayers added. “We are prepared for a Supreme Court battle.”

Activist and journalist Tangerine Bolen is also insistent on prevailing over the Obama administration, but says “The biggest obstruction to our winning this case . . . is our broken systems.” Bolen blames a lack of media coverage, insufficient public awareness “and the government behaving very badly, even in court, on the record,” for the difficulties the plaintiffs have had to endure, adding that the Obama administration’s constant missteps have been noticed by no one except “seven plaintiffs, four attorneys, one federal judge and the activists who have been following this case.”

“Amazing,” she added.

Journalist Chris Hedges extrapolated on Bolen’s opinion, singling out “a corporate-owned system of information” for not informing Americans that they can be imprisoned without trial at this very moment.

read more:http://rt.com/usa/news/ndaa-reddit-plaintiffs-hedges-143/

Conservatives warily ponder prospect of an ‘Obama court’

September 26, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source: Tom Curry, NBC News national affairs writer

There are still 42 days and four debates left before the presidential election and many signs point to a close outcome, but recent polling both nationally and in key battleground states like Ohio has conservatives concerned about the impact President Obama could have on the judiciary in a second term.

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin joins Morning Joe to discuss President Obama’s relationship with the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and his ruling on the Affordable Care Act, and the relationships the justices have with one another.

So far Obama has appointed 159 judges to the federal bench, including his two Supreme Court selections, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

With Sotomayor and Kagan, Obama simply replaced two members of the liberal bloc on the court (John Paul Stevens and David Souter) with two younger liberals. But most of the Obama-appointed judges – 127 of them – are trial judges who exert less influence on the broad direction of the law than do appeals court judges or Supreme Court justices.

Recommended: Obama denounces violence in Middle East, calls for tolerance and democracy

Both on the Supreme Court – where “swing vote” Justice Anthony Kennedy and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia are age 76 – and on the courts of appeal, where there are now 14 vacancies, Obama would be able to nudge the courts in a progressive direction if he wins a second term.

read more:http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/25/14098358-conservatives-warily-ponder-prospect-of-an-obama-court?lite&ocid=msnhp

Court: Former Bush official cannot be sued over ‘enemy combatant’ memos

May 3, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

source CNN:

Washington (CNN) — A convicted American terrorist plotter and his mother lost another legal round Wednesday in their efforts to hold accountable a former Bush administration official who issued legal memos supporting harsh interrogation techniques for suspected enemy combatants.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit from Jose Padilla and his mother, Estela Lebron, who claimed the man’s constitutional rights were violated when he was held for years in solitary confinement at a military prison in South Carolina.

The issue was whether John Yoo, who worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, deserved “qualified immunity” as a government official from such suits. A federal judge earlier had said the litigation could proceed.

But a three-judge appeals panel disagreed.

“Under recent Supreme Court law, however, we are compelled to conclude that, regardless of the legality of Padilla’s detention and the wisdom of Yoo’s judgments, at the time he acted the law was not sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he was doing violated the plaintiffs’ rights,” the court said.

Padilla was originally arrested a decade ago on accusations he planned to set off radioactive “dirty bombs” in the United States.

The Chicago native had been held for 3 1/2 years as an “enemy combatant” in military confinement, without being charged in that alleged plot. It was that detention that prompted Padilla in 2008 to file a civil lawsuit, alleging the administration’s “unlawful” policies violated his constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen. He said he suffered severe physical and mental abuse during his years of isolation in military detention, and wanted to hold individual officials such as Yoo accountable.

The Supreme Court in 2004 had heard Padilla’s original appeal over his enemy combatant status, claiming he deserved a chance to contest his military detention on constitutional grounds.

Supreme Court building to get face-lift

He was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as he returned from overseas, where he had been living. He was detained as a material witness in the September 11, 2001, attacks investigation.

President George W. Bush designated him an “enemy combatant” the following month and turned him over to the military. He was one of the few terror suspects designated by the United States as an enemy combatant since 9/11. Padilla was then held in a South Carolina naval brig before the government brought criminal charges against him.

The Obama administration has since abandoned using the term “enemy combatant.”

full story

Indiana Governor Signs Bill Allowing Citizens To Use Deadly Force Against Police Officers Into Law

April 4, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

By Stephen D. Foster Jr:

Republican Governor Mitch Daniels has signed Senate Enrolled Act 1 into law in Indiana. The new law allows citizens to use deadly force against police officers they think are illegally entering their homes. Earlier this month, Addicting Info reported  that the bill had passed the Senate. Republicans say the bill is designed to keep police safe, but Democrats say the bill will lead to the wanton killing of police officers.   Rep. Craig Fry, a Democrat, says the bill “is going to cause people to die and it’s too late after somebody dies for a jury to sort it out. Somebody’s going to die, whether it’s a police officer or an individual who thinks a police officer is entering their home unlawfully. People are going to die.”   Fry’s colleague, Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson, a former police captain, says the bill would create an “open season on law enforcement,” and it is opposed by “1,250 state police officers and 14,000 men and women in blue, brown and green.”

 

The new law reverses a state Supreme Court ruling that homeowners do not have the right to use force against law enforcement officials who they believe are illegally entering their homes. According to the Evansville Courier Press, an Evansville resident fought a police officer who followed him into his house during a domestic dispute call. “The state Supreme Court found that officers sometimes enter homes without warrants for reasons protected by the law, such as pursuing suspects or preventing the destruction of evidence. In these situations, we find it unwise to allow a homeowner to adjudge the legality of police conduct in the heat of the moment,” the court said. “As we decline to recognize a right to resist unlawful police entry into a home, we decline to recognize a right to batter a police officer as a part of that resistance.”   While announcing his decision to sign the bill into law, Governor Daniels tried to claim that the law doesn’t declare an open season on police officers.   “Today is an important day to say: Indiana’s outstanding law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect all Hoosiers. The right thing to do is cooperate with them in every way possible. This law is not an invitation to use violence or force against law enforcement officers. In fact, it restricts when an individual can use force, specifically deadly force, on an officer, so don’t try anything. Chances are overwhelming you will be breaking the law and wind up in far worse trouble as a result.”   But Governor Daniels is merely attempting to put political spin on a bad bill. Indeed, Daniels admits that he nearly vetoed it precisely because the bill could be grossly misinterpreted and could lead to killings of police and citizens. This law is basically a loophole for citizens to kill police officers and claim self-defense. There are many people out there who think no police officers have the right to enter homes or property, even if there is a warrant.   As the state Supreme Court said, sometimes police officers have to enter homes to prevent the destruction of evidence or to prevent someone from grabbing a weapon in their home to use against police or someone else. Sometimes police must pursue suspects in their homes. But this bill reverses that ruling and gives those suspects the legal authority to slay police officers. It’s the equivalent of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that led to the killing of Trayvon Martin. In that incident, George Zimmerman believed he had the legal right to gun down a kid for walking through the neighborhood simply for being a young African American male strolling around the community at night. Zimmerman, believing the innocent boy to be a threat, followed him and then shot him to death. Because of the Florida law, Zimmerman remains a free man because he can claim self-defense. This Indiana law will allow people to do the same thing to police officers on their property and in their homes. It makes the already dangerous job of law enforcement even more dangerous and will ultimately lead to the legal murder of police officers who are just trying to do their job.

 

EPA tramples personal property rights, orders couple to fork over $75,000 a day for phony ‘violations’

March 29, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

NaturalNews) An Idaho couple that was ordered recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop building a house on their own property and pay fines of up to $75,000 a day until the property was returned back to its original condition, has been granted due process and a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling is a first as it now allows property owners to challenge the EPA’s violation allegations prior to, rather than after, enforcement actions are taken.

In 2005, Mike and Chantell Sackett purchased three-quarters of an acre plot of land near Priest Lake, Idaho, upon which they planned to build a modest, three-bedroom house. After jumping through all the proper regulatory hoops, which included obtaining permits and verification that the land was suitable for building a structure in compliance with local and federal law, the Sacketts broke ground on their house in 2007.

But the process quickly went awry when EPA officials showed up at the property after gravel, dirt, and other materials had already been brought in, and ordered the Sacketts to produce a permit showing that they were allowed to build a structure in a so-called “wetlands” area. The Sacketts tried to explain that the site was not located in a wetlands area and that all the proper permits had been filed, but the officials still ordered them to restore the site back to its original condition or else face up to $75,000 a day in fines.

EPA compliance orders operate outside constitutional bounds, and are a threat to individual liberty and private property rights Because of the unconstitutional way in which EPA compliance orders are structured, the Sacketts had no way of challenging the one issued to them prior to the federal government taking enforcement action against them if they continued to build their house. If the EPA decides one day, for instance, that your property is in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) — even if it is not — the agency can demand that you pay thousands of dollars in fines without due process or any sort of trial.

But thanks to a unanimous Supreme Court decision in the Sackett case, property owners have at least regained their constitutional right to due process in challenging the validity of arbitrary compliance orders before any enforcement action is taken. And the decision sets a precedent for all other property owners who may one day face the regulatory wrath of an out-of-control EPA that routinely acts outside constitutional bounds.

The Sacketts, however, may still end up having to comply with the EPA’s order anyway, should a judge end up deciding that the property is a wetland and declare that the Sacketts’ land modifications constitute CWA violations. It can only be hoped that common sense justice, rather than police state tyranny, will prevail in this important case.

“With an annual budget of $10 billion of your tax dollars and 17,000 agents at its disposal, is the EPA so inefficient that it is incapable of designating the lot a wetland before the Sacketts purchased it?” asks Geoff Cutler from The Pilot in a recent piece on the case. “The EPA was created with the noble cause of cleaning out pollution from our waterways. Where did it get police state authority to essentially take away lawfully purchased private property?”

Sources for this article include:

http://www.thepilot.com

http://www.npr.org

http://www.cnbc.com/id/46808695

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/035381_EPA_property_rights_violations.html#ixzz1qVN9ptfk

Montana Supreme Court upholds ban on corporate political spending

January 2, 2012 by  
Filed under General News

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday upheld a ban on corporate political expenditures in state elections, which came under fire after the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling.

The court held the 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission did not render the Montana ban unconstitutional, reversing a lower court’s ruling.

The Citizens United ruling held that corporations had the same First Amendment rights as people and that political spending was free speech. The ruling allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, so long as their actions were not directly coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.

Full Article