[Illustration by KENT BARRET]
JOHN YOO IN THE INQUIRER: Obama’s nominee will keep the liberal pack intact. But liberals want more. They want a progressive thinker who can challenge Scalia and Thomas and their revolutionary ideas for modern constitutional law. While a witty man and elegant writer, Souter did not pen any landmark opinions that will be remembered in the decades to come. The liberal wing of the court has yet to produce a worthy heir to the mantle of Chief Justice Earl Warren or Justice William Brennan.
Obama promises something different. In 2007, candidate Obama declared that his judges would “recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African American or gay or disabled or old.” When he announced Souter’s retirement, the president stated he would nominate “someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives.” Empathy is “an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”
In his 2005 confirmation hearings, Roberts compared judges to neutral umpires in a baseball game. Sen. Obama did not vote to confirm Roberts or Alito, but now proposes to appoint a Great Empathizer who will call balls and strikes with a strike zone that depends on the sex, race, and social and economic background of the players. Nothing could be more damaging to the fairness of the game, or to the idea of a rule of law that is blind to the identity of the parties before it.
Empathy has a proper place in other areas of life, such as medicine or charitable work. And the law does take account of a party’s identity when necessary – in deciding whether someone has suffered racial or gender discrimination, for example. But judges should not apply these rules differently in individual cases because of the skin color, or sex, or religion of the plaintiff or defendant. MORE
WIKIPEDIA: Yoo is best known for his work from 2001 to 2003 in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under the George W. Bush Administration. In the Justice Department, Yoo’s expansive view of Presidential power led to a close relationship with the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. Yoo played a significant role in the legal justification for the Bush Administration’s policy in the War on Terror, arguing that prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions does not apply to enemy combatants captured during the War in Afghanistan and held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, asserting executive authority to undertake waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques“, arguing that the President was not bound by the War Crimes Act, and providing a legal opinion backing the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
DAILY BEAST: Spanish prosecutors will seek criminal charges against Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantánamo. Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. [...] The six defendants—in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith—are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in “the war on terror.” MORE
SALON: The fact that John Yoo is a Professor of Law at Berkeley and is treated as a respectable, serious expert by our media institutions, reflects the complete destruction over the last eight years of whatever moral authority the United States possessed. Comporting with long-held stereotypes of two-bit tyrannies, we’re now a country that literally exempts our highest political officials from the rule of law, and have decided that there should be no consequences when they commit serious felonies. John Yoo’s Memorandum, as intended, directly led to — caused — a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush’s White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney’s counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes. If writing memoranda authorizing torture — actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture — doesn’t make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does? MORE
SALON: After Donald Rumsfeld testified on the Hill about Abu Ghraib in May, there was talk of more photos and video in the Pentagon’s custody more horrific than anything made public so far. “If these are released to the public, obviously it’s going to make matters worse,” Rumsfeld said. Since then, the Washington Post has disclosed some new details and images of abuse at the prison. But if Seymour Hersh is right, it all gets much worse. Hersh gave a speech last week to the ACLU making the charge that children were sodomized in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon has tape of it. MORE
SALON: Professor Yoo, who I am embarrassed to say holds a tenured position at the law school of my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, was already known as the official who provided a legal fig leaf behind which the Bush administration tortured inmates at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. His legal misdeeds are widely known, but now they have been exposed chapter and verse. Among the new memos is one written in 2001, in which Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations undertaken during a “war on terror.“In other words, bye-bye, Bill of Rights. This is a prescription for a police state, where not just the police but the Army can kick your door down without a warrant or probable cause, as long as the president says he’s fighting “terror.” MORE
BRENDAN CALLING: So I’m beginning to think that Brian Tierney’s sole motivation for buying the Philadelphia Inquirer was to kill the newspaper. That certainly explains a lot, from taking huge bonuses while the paper foundered into bankruptcy to his peculiar picks for editorial contributors: namely, the most discredited names in the right wing nuthouse. and Phawker reminds us about one of the WORST yet: John Yoo, now a biweekly contributor to the Stinky. MORE
YOUNG PHILLY POLITICS: Following a week where a set of Inquirer reporters wrote an amazing, explosive series on the BRT, again proving the necessity of a vibrant local media, Brian Tierney continues to totally embarrass the Inquirer, by giving a platform to noted war criminal and total jackass, John Yoo. MORE
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: Still, we wonder why the Inky keeps giving op-ed space to John Yoo. Yoo, of course, is the Bush Administration lawyer who wrote many of the memos giving legal cover to the president for acts of torture against terror suspects. He left the administration to become a law professor at Berkeley, which supposedly makes him an authority on matters of the law. Except… Yoo’s memos were so over-the-top bad in their reasoning that they were later withdrawn by the Bush Administration. And they were so over-the-top bad that an internal Justice Department report — again, initiated by the Bush Administration — is reportedly recommending that Yoo lose his license to practice law. In other words: Yoo is controversial not merely because he has controversial ideas. He’s controversial because his shoddy work was below the standards of his profession. All of this is common knowledge, even if no formal action has yet been taken. So the question remains: Why would the Inquirer be putting this man forth as a font of authority to its readers? MORE
DAILY NEWS: Former U. S. Sen. Rick Santorum is collecting $1,750 a shot for the columns that appear every other week in the Inquirer, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The checks are sent to a post office box in Great Falls, Va. – close to a Starbucks, we figure. MORE
MEDIA MATTERS: A) Everybody knows about the dismal state of the newspaper business. Against that backdrop, writing Santorum $40K worth of checks annually for a quickie column is absurd. B) Even if newspapers were flush with cash, the Santorum pay scale is so far out of whack for the newspaper industry it’s crazy. Obviously major dailies, such as the New York Times, pay their staff columnists very well. But Santorum’s not on staff. He’s a glorified freelancer and major dailies often pay freelancers $300 per-column. So why $1,750 for Santorum? Or newspapers pick up syndicated columns and pay a laughably small amount for those; often less than $50. But the Inquirer’s paying (or was paying, pre-bankruptcy) Santorum $40K annually? Makes no sense. MORE
PHAWKER: Back in the fall when we wrote the WHY WHITEY CAN’T VOTE op-ed for the Inquirer, it was the number one most read piece for two or three days in a row, generating something like 54, 000-plus hits before going viral, resulting in offers to appear on talk radio shows from here to Seattle and culminating with the surreal spectacle of Britt Hume reading it out loud on Fox News. If memory serves, we were paid the princely sum of $150. Offers to contribute further commentary to the editorial page were politely declined, which is odd for a paper losing readers by the hour. For reasons unclear, it has since been purged from the Inquirer’s archives. Mercifully, the British still know how to do this newspaper thing — provocative content that draws eyeballs and sparks debate is considered a plus, while greedhead owners that impose a right wing agenda via executive suite edict is not — and the Guardian bought up reprint rights and asked for more. Curiously, the British still have a healthy newspaper industry while ours is circling the drain. Coincidence?
PHAWKER: First Santorum, now Yoo. Increasingly, the Inquirer’s editorial page has become the place where the last eight years go to die. What’s next? Replacing Craig LaBan with Dick Cheney? Tom DeLay’s pitbull movie reviews? Karl Rove reviving the Marley & Me franchise? Phawker says honk it you DON’T love torture:
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