Thursday, November 19, 2009

But What If They're Acquitted?


The Rule of Law

Apparently I need to stop watching U.S. Television. Or at least reasonable facsimiles thereof, because I keep getting embroiled in wasting braincells on the hyped up controversies of Cable News I was so happy to leave behind (to adopt the Thai versions, which involve more riots, and fewer words I understand).

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to stand trial in New York City, they say, before immediately following the most ancient rule of steady and intelligent journalism: Running in little circles of panic and shouting. (When your faced with danger, when beset by doubt, run in little circles, wave your arms and shout!)

I think it is a terribly damning statement of the culture America has let itself adopt that the biggest story of a news cycle when we're trying to get health care for the approximately seventy four trillion people in the U.S. who can't afford it is people losing their shit about Obama bowing to a diminutive Japanese figurehead and someone getting a normal trial.

Giuliani was on Fox News talking about how it is a terrible idea, that the terrorists can use this to recruit. I was frothing at the mouth for those statements, unchecked by fact or reason as they are, before he dropped the big whammy: "We don't often take criminals back to the scene of the crime."

Now according to the Golden God of Information, Wikipedia, Rudy Giuliani graduated cum laude from the New York University School of Law in 1968. But clearly this is a malicious lie made up by trolls on the internet wishing to smear the reputation of the NYU School of Law, because I find it hard to imagine that you could spend 3 years there, make law review, and receive a J.D. with honors and not have heard of a couple of things.

Like Juris-fricking-diction. You know, that thing where you tend to be tried in the same area you committed the crime in, jackass? If I murder someone in Denver they normally don't send me to Portland for the trial!

Now, as my brother will be quick to point out, there are circumstances where you do move jurisdiction, such as when it can be proven that a defendant will not be able to get a fair or impartial trial in the area he should be tried in, necessitating the change to an area where they can. And had Rudy been arguing this point, that the likelihood of Sheikh Mohammed getting a totally impartial trial in New York is somewhere between 'My bed turning to solid gold in the next twenty minutes' and 'Me waking up in the morning in the body of a 75 year old German woman named Gertrude von Hohffensteffen', I would have respected him for it. As it stands, however, it strikes me as both a particularly moronic bit of political grandstanding and a particularly damning review of the legal curriculum at NYU.

But my favorite argument came, unsurprisingly, from the actual paid commentators of Fox News. Aside from the 'turning New York prisons into terrorist training camps' trite, my absolute favorite was run several times along these lines: 'What if he is acquitted' or 'What if it's thrown out for technicalities'. Because what it boils down to is 'What if we've fucked up so badly we don't get to kill him?'

We've had this guy since 2003, and we have him on record admitting that he was part of it. If we can't build a case that will stand up to cross examination, or if we blow this because we don't follow the rules, then we deserve to lose. We've had him for six years, people, and the government isn't that incompetent.

But more than that it bothers me we have to make this argument at all. You can't argue that someone shouldn't have a trial just because someone might not be found guilty, or we don't have a rule of law. I can even understand the necessity of military courts and tribunals, but I also think it's important to keep in our minds that the military tribunal should not be the first and most common court of the land. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed doesn't represent a recognized nation, state or army, and no state of war existed when his crimes were committed. It may well have been an act of war but first and foremost it was an attack on the citizens of this country in general and of New York City in particular, and it is in the name of those citizens that the trial should be held.

And all philosophical points aside, what do you think the odds are that a group of New Yorkers is going to find him not guilty in a building mere blocks away from Ground Zero? And, as John Stewart pointed out, what do you think would happen if he was found not guilty and they had to let him out on to the streets of New York City? There isn't a jurisdiction, a judge or a jury in America that would find him innocent. We could send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a trial by jury in the leper colony on island of Molokai, Hawaii and he would still get the chair. And when he goes in to prison, do you think its' more likely that he'll start a new gang, or get shanked in the prison yard? Let's be real here, people.

If we blow this case because we try to bend the rules then we deserve all of the scorn and dire consequences that will follow. The best way to combat the lies and hate spread by these terrorists is to give them this trial, to follow every law and procedure and inane little dance so that everything is above the board. Let them be shown that the American legal system works and extends its protection even to the lowest scum before they're found guilty in the single fairest trial we have ever produced. Let's show the world that the Rule of Law still has a place in America.

Because that is what this is about. This is the proper place to try him, in the court of the People. An open court, subject to oversight and regulation, not a shadowed council behind locked doors. We will not be judged based on how well we uphold that rule to the criminals we like, but to the ones we would like to string up from a tree. And if we don't do this, if we hide or lie or shadow ourselves on this issue, then we deserve the consequences. You cannot argue someone should not get their fair trial because they might get off, because then you don't have the rule of law. Then you have star chambers, and secret councils, and shadowy tribunals, and all of the things that should scare the shit out of people, as opposed to whether or not Obama is a socialist. Because if we give up this we have a lot of things, but they aren't American, and they certainly aren't Just.

Friday, November 13, 2009




I've been watching a lot of Glenn Beck and Fox News recently. Or at least I've been watching a lot of the coverage that the Daily Show has of Glenn Beck and Fox News, which I'll be the first to admit likely doesn't show me the whole spectrum of their opinions. But I've been trying to keep up with the health care debate to find out if I might actually have some when I go back to the states, and a lot of what has been said well and truly pisses me off.

I've been a card carrying Democrat since I registered to vote for the 2004 election, and anyone who was surprised I registered as a Democrat clearly hadn't been paying attention. And at not one point in the time I have been a member of the Democratic party have I ever woken up in the morning and said 'Golly, you know what I hate? Liberty. And freedom can suck my balls.' Not once.

I love freedom, and when it comes to liberty not only have I had the Kool-Aid but I've made some to share. I believe whole heartedly in a Government that cannot restrict my right to practice whatever religion I want, that cannot tell me what I have to believe, and that cannot tell me who I can or cannot get married to. I believe in a government whose right's extend to my bedroom or my body only in circumstances where I am trying to set them on fire or the rough equivalents, because dammit that's what freedom means. It means if I want to have gay sex up and down the states of California, Louisiana and Mississippi I can damn well do so; if I want to marry someone named Roger and adopt a child so long as we promise (the same as any other adoptive couple) not to screw the kid up substantially more than we individually are screwed up that Roger and I can have our chance to give that child years of therapy the same as everyone else. Not, to assuage my mother, that I'm planning on marrying someone named Roger.

It is not a contravention of liberty for the government to say 'Hey, if you can't afford to keep yourself from dying of the common cold every year, we'll pass a buck or two'. Do you think for a moment that a majority of Americans would choose to have their health care run by the government if they could help it? I wouldn't take a government issued piece of toilet paper if I could help it, since I'd probably have to sign for triplicate and wait in line for an hour, by which point the issue likely would have resolved itself in any case.

And I'm sorry, it isn't a dire Nazi-esque abrogation of your rights to have to pay five dollars a year to make sure fifty million Americans can afford to get a freaking flu shot and some preventive maintenance. While the GOP is railing about how much this is going to cost, let's remember how much a 500 million dollar and unto this point entirely defective missile defense program could buy at RiteAid; do you think we could get some chicken soup with all that money spent on wiretapping phones so the FBI knows exactly when I'm calling a phone sex line, dirty g-men that they are? I bet we could get at least a bowl, how about you.

We're accused of trying to force everyone to walk in lockstep with our morality, but it is the Catholic church in D.C. that is saying they will be unable to provide shelter and services if that city passes laws allowing same sex marriages as it has been talking about. Because paying for up to 1/6th of the U.S. population to be able to stop from getting the Herp is clearly the work of Lucifer, but holding tens of thousand of people hostage to your close minded morality simply because thinking about gay marriage makes you uncomfortably tingly is fine, Archbishop? Way to turn the other cheek you sanctimonious prig. Do you think Jesus is up there in heaven going "Way to go, that is exactly what I meant by 'turn the other cheek' and 'love thy neighbor'. When I talked to the Samaritans, who were pariahs from Jewish society for a difference in belief they were born in to, I totally would have just pimp slapped em if they had been gay."

But two things really get me. One of them I've been arguing for years, and as always one of the best views on it comes from the West Wing, which I will crib from heavily and without notation, MLA or Chicago style (haha, suck that liberal arts education). Liberal. When in the course of our history did Liberal become a bad word, and why in the hell did we let it happen?

Liberalism has been the driving force behind this country since day 1. Liberalism is challenging the status quo when it doesn't work to make it work better, and not just hanging on to something because it's how we've done it for a while now. Liberalism took a group of people in the British colony of America and made them say 'What if we actually had a say in the governance of this land we're on, and the people writing the laws have only seen in paintings'. Liberalism passed the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act when the industries that were poisoning our world had no desire to change the way it was. Liberalism gave women the right to vote, gave the same Medicare to our seniors that they love while going to town hall meetings and saying they don't support government health care.

And liberalism freed the slaves.

Yes, I went there. And yes it was a Republican President who freed the slaves, but under no definition ever set forth at the time would Abraham Lincoln have been conservative on the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln may have said some things that we scratch our heads at now but he was miles to the left of a majority of the country for a long time on his beliefs of slavery.

The Republican party was founded by liberals, by men who saw the status quo sucked musket balls and wanted to throw it out the window if that is what it took. It was founded by Democrats who were sick of the South's stagnation and control of the party, by Whigs who were tired of nobody wanting to even talk about slavery, and by Free Soilers who wanted the whole thing to stop. Men of conscience and character who were not afraid to look at the way things were and loudly say 'Bollocks'.

So by God in Heaven I am a Liberal and I am proud of it, because time and time again when there is a need for men of conscience and character to lead the country in to a new age, to say 'Hell no' to an outdated system that no longer protects the freedoms and liberties of our citizens, it will be the Liberals leading the charge. Because we are at the vanguard of rights for all citizens regardless of their race, their gender, their religion or their sexuality. Because we are willing to examine ideas from outside our experience and judge if they have merit, rather than dismissing them with a knee jerk ideological reaction. A true liberal can be in favor of sensible gun ownership, gay rights, small government where applicable, universal health care, and supporting the troops. And I am proud to be all of those things, I will always be proud to support those things, and I will no longer allow men of small mind and smaller character to take what I am and turn it in to a curse word.

And God Dammit if I see one more person comparing health care (universal, intergalactic, socialized, antisocial or otherwise) to the Nazis I am going to declare a Jewhad on their asses and just go sixteen different kinds of crazy, got it?