February 23, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Panetta, Cheney and Manadal al-Jamadi

This week Jane Mayer interviewed CIA Chief Leon Panetta in The New Yorker.  The mainstream press highlighted Panetta’s comment about Cheney’s dire predictions: “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

Buried on P.57 is the news about 3 prisoners who died in our hands, by our hand.  And in particular, Manadel al-Jamadi, about whom we know nothing.  Except that he was hung blindfolded, by his wrists, his ribs broken. He died that way, November 2, 2003, basically crucified.  Panetta--Cheney

In my piece for the article I looked at the stressers on Panetta.  You could also consider  the stressers on the CIA: those between the moral voice of Obama and the pull of Cheney and those he left behind.  And to then consider Manadal al-Jamadi and . . . how many others.

Panetta Final550

Barr’s Mitzvah

TroyBob Barr on Troy Davis.  A death penalty supporter, ex-Congressman Barr lives to regret a bill he co-wrote that blocks appeals and gets down to the killing. Under this law courts are refusing to hear witnesses who now recant their testimony.  In this recent Times column he mourns the foolish application of this bill in the rush to execution of Davis, very probably an innocent man.  As a result the state of Georgia can schedule his execution at any time now.

Published: May 31, 2009

THERE is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.

Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.

After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.

This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.

With the effective death penalty act, Congress limited the number of habeas corpus petitions that a defendant could file, and set a time after which those petitions could no longer be filed. But nothing in the statute should have left the courts with the impression that they were barred from hearing claims of actual innocence like Troy Davis’s.

It would seem in everyone’s interest to find out as best we can what really happened that night 20 years ago in a dim parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was shot dead. With no murder weapon, surveillance videotape or DNA evidence left behind, the jury that judged Mr. Davis had to weigh the conflicting testimony of several eyewitnesses to sift out the gunman from the onlookers who had nothing to do with the heinous crime.

A litany of affidavits from prosecution witnesses now tell of an investigation that was focused not on scrutinizing all suspects, but on building a case against Mr. Davis. One witness, for instance, has said she testified against Mr. Davis because she was on parole and was afraid the police would send her back to prison if she did not cooperate.

So far, the federal courts have said it is enough that the state courts reviewed the affidavits of the witnesses who recanted their testimony. This reasoning is misplaced in a capital case. Reading an affidavit is a far cry from seeing a witness testify in open court.

Because Mr. Davis’s claim of innocence has never been heard in a court, the Supreme Court should remand his case to a federal district court and order an evidentiary hearing. (I was among those who signed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Davis.) Only a hearing where witnesses are subject to cross-examination will put this case to rest.

Although the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last fall, the court declined to review the case itself, and its intervention still has not provided an opportunity for Mr. Davis to have a hearing on new evidence. This has become a matter of no small urgency: Georgia could set an execution date at any time.

I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.

Nobody Expects . . . The Enlightenment

obama-sun11The last days we and the world have been trying to digest the Obama Cairo Speech. Here’s my two and a half cents.
I think it’s been so hard for people to make out what happened because he did so many things they’d never in their lives seen before.  Primarily, I think, it was the sight of the most powerful politician in the world conducting his nation’s business with the premise that pure reason is his best argument.  That an appeal to the ability of people involved in tribal, small-bore obsessions to step back and see the large picture for long enough to actually change their behavior.  At other times this can be foolhardy state-craft.  The bet here is that the world has had enough of the old way and will give a new approach 5 good minutes.  By crafting the speech as well as he did, he put the ray of light and heat on the world of Islamic, Iranian and Israeli resentment and reminded them that their worlds are interconnected.  This would only be possible, perhaps, right now and with this president; a man who understands all these worlds, appearing on the barren landscape of the last 9 years. This could change the game. For Netanyahu, he no longer has a US cover for inertia.  His government could fall if he deals, so he may calculate falling for a cause may be worth it.  Besides who wants Avigdor Leiberman in your face all the time anyway? For Ahmadinejad, who faces a tough election, Obama removed the polarity, and therefore, perhaps, the oxygen for hate.  He may have to go now too.  And Bin Ladin perhaps, compared to Obama, starts to seem less real.  In any case, his show is old and may not get the viewers he used to.  I want to blog about the war in Afghanistan, the use of mercenaries and the murderous (and counterproductive) remote control bombs.  It’s time to nail Obama on that and other things.  But for now, there must be an acknowledgement of this miracle.  A president from the age of reason, telling truth to a candid world, in its own language.  I really can’t recall a president doing that (JFK comes close but would never mention that we have been about overthrowing governments.  Well natch).
In this moment I have to say, as a citizen of Planet Earth I am very, very proud of him.

Words Have Consequences (w/ update)

.gun The tragic assassination of Dr. George Tiller in a Wichita, Kansas church on Sunday has caused much soul-searching and the open discussion about how we speak to each other in this country.  No one has articulated this better than Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God”. A former member of the Christian Right and now a whistleblower, he writes of recollections of his own father, evangelist Francis Schaeffer as well as the other luminaries of the movement.  Schaeffer Sr., he has written, said that the use of force would be justified against abortion doctors. Frank Schaeffer said in an amazing interview with Rachel Maddow, “there is a direct line between what we said and this murder.”  He mentions the campaign of Bill O’Reilly of Fox News (seen in my little animation gif) and others in labeling the doctor, “Tiller the Baby Killer” among other things.  The reaction of some like Randall Terry tip their hand shockingly. With the NRA stronger than ever, the USA needs to focus on home-grown terror as much as any other kind.

And oh yes.