November 16, 2007

Waterboarding, or the "water cure," has been with us since the Inquisition, and has always been regarded as a particularly heinous and cruel form of torture. If you don't believe me, perhaps this state supreme court decision from the 1920's which overturned a murder conviction might give you pause:

The state offered the testimony above set forth, also testimony of confessions made by the appellant, Fisher. When the testimony was offered the witnesses tendered testified that the confessions were free and voluntary. No objections were offered to this testimony at that time, but subsequently the defendant, after the state had rested, introduced the sheriff, who testified that, he was sent for one night to come and receive a confession of the appellant in the jail; that he went there for that purpose; that when he reached the jail he found a number of parties in the jail; that they had the appellant down upon the floor, tied, and were administering the water cure, a specie of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country. The sheriff testified that he told these people not to hurt the appellant, and that the process was new to him as he witnessed it being administered to the appellant.

Several persons were introduced by the appellant who testified as to the presence of the parties in the jail and the administering of the water cure to Fisher and others jointly charged with the offense with him. The defendant also introduced a witness by the name of Hicks Ellis, who testified that he was in the party which administered the water cure to the appellant, and secured the confession thereby.


We are satisfied that the court erred in receiving the confessions under the circumstances disclosed in this record. The Constitution of the state provides in section 26, among other things, that “the accused shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself.” This guaranty is violated whenever a confession is illegally extorted from a person accused of crime. In White v. State, 129 Miss. 182, 91 So. 903, 24 A. L. R. 699, the court, in the first syllabus of that case, held:

Confessions induced by fear, though not aroused by spoken threats, are nevertheless involuntary, because the fear which takes away the freedom may arise solely from the conditions and circumstances surrounding the confessor.”
That case, in the methods resorted to to procure the confession, is a good deal like the one before us. There an ignorant negro boy was arrested, brought to the scene of a horrible murder, and after he was released by the authorities fell into the hands of infuriated citizens, who took him into a store building where the bloody corpse lay and a crowd of armed men were assembled, to obtain a confession. The boy confessed to one of the men, and then his hands were tied behind him, he was placed upon the floor, and a white man stood upon his body and administered to him the water cure, which consisted of pouring water into his nose. The court held that this confession was unlawfully obtained, and was therefore involuntary. It also held, in the third syllabus of the case, that:
Where confessions were obtained at the scene of the murder by threats, duress, and physical violence, it was error to refuse to allow defendant's counsel to introduce testimony showing a connection between such involuntary confessions, and another confession to some of the same parties subsequently made at the jail to show that the same influence obtained in the latter confession rendering it involuntary.”

The bleeding heart judges who made that ruling, incidentally, were the members of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Eighty years later, a practice that was deemed too barbaric to justify even in the deepest part of Dixie, at a time when lynching was still a daily part of life in that state and much of the membership of the judiciary had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, is now a confirmed practice of the United States of America, something the President and the Attorney General will not say is torture. [link via Hit&Run]

November 15, 2007

Fighting Islamofascism: The Home Front

As Congress debates setting conditions on continuing to fund a seemingly open-ended commitment to propping up the Iraqi government, it's important to realize that our brave men and women must sometimes fight the same battle at home, as we have come to learn the last two Saturdays:
"It's important to realize that our young men have been fighting pitched battles against religious fanatics who have been brainwashed into a culture that seeks to destroy all other ways of life," Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said Monday. "That's just the way Notre Dame football is, the way it's always been. You can't reason with people like that. You destroy them as completely, remorselessly, and quickly as you can."

"Naturally, the young men of our service academy will find the situation infinitely more complex when they're deployed to Iraq," Navy head coach Paul Johnson added. "Compare football to war all you want, but unlike when you go into South Bend, winning in Baghdad means winning the hearts and minds of the people, not pursuing some sort of scorched-earth policy."
From The Onion, natch.

November 14, 2007

In 1988, perhaps even more important than the "Willie Horton" controversy* in electing the first George Bush to the Presidency was a flap over his opponent, Michael Dukakis, vetoing a law that would have forced school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then-Governor Dukakis rightly pointed out that such a law was flagrantly unconstitutional, scoring points with the converted but failing to understand that such a rationale had no spin potential whatsoever, and in fact made him seem weak for putting Warren Court procedural tenets above compelling grade schoolers to recite patriotic and religious doggerel like automatons.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the same thing is coming out of Hillary Clinton's camp today regarding John Edwards' promise that he will seek to strip members of Congress of their health care privileges unless they pass a comparable bill for all Americans. Even if the "27th Amendment" to the Constitution can be considered a "real" amendment, what difference does it make in terms of framing the agenda for the next President? It's a political winner, for the same reasons that the Pledge issue was the turning point for Vice President Bush in '88.

If Congress fails to act, the membership will have a toxic issue on their hands, and Edwards, as President, will have the bully pulpit to ream them for their inaction. And considering that if Edwards wins the Presidency, it will be highly likely that the next session of Congress will have an even larger Democratic majority, doing nothing on the issue will send a public signal that our legislators, Democrat and Republican alike, are under the thumbs of the special interests. [link via Kausfiles]

*Scare quotes used to remind the reader that there was no such person as "Willie Horton," other than the retired outfielder for the Detroit Tigers; the furlowed rapist's name was William Horton, and received the dimunitive nickname only after Ailes, Atwater and crew went to work not-so-subtly reminding Americans that the convict in question was, like the more famous baseball player, black.
U.S.A. !!! U.S.A. !!! First the Dixie Chicks; now this.

November 13, 2007

Impeach Kent !! Appears the Manny Real of Texas is an a bit of hot water. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

November 12, 2007

Sweet Smell of Success: That would be my bro Jim, who's profiled this week in the New Yorker, in a story about the All-Ages club he runs in downtown L.A., The Smell. This month's Vanity Fair also has a blurb about the club, as part of its run-down on the local music scene.