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DirkGently

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Orlando
Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 04:59 PM
Number of posts: 12,151

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Everyone has a stake in using events like these

to reinforce some theory of how we ought to be doing things, or what we're doing wrong already.

It's kind of perverse, trying to shoehorn every perceived tragedy or victory into something about religion or immigration or war or civil rights. We miss the forest for the trees.

People want to think that if only we had less religion, or more guns, or fewer immigrants, or harsher punishment, then somehow we could make sure things like this never happen.

But we can't make sure. This case proves no one's argument. Taking off our shoes in the airport won't fix it. Keeping out Mexican workers won't fix it. Military tribunals and harsh interrogation won't fix it. Even blaming the NRA and rightwing loons won't fix it.

As for catching these guys, we got lucky. We ID'd them with a store security cam, and then they panicked and shot a cop who wasn't even looking for them.

It's uncomfortable knowing we are always vulnerable, but there it is.

Well, yes. Miranda is a procedural protection against coercion.


The reasoning behind excluding evidence when people aren't overtly reminded of their rights is that people in custody can easily be coerced and intimidated into saying basically anything. It's such a pervasive problem that the Court decided that without an affirmative requirement that suspects be told they don't have to speak, don't have to confess, and can call for an attorney, that we can't trust any evidence gathered without it.

Reading Quarles, it's bad jurisprudence based on difficult facts -- a common source of bad law. Someone was going to walk if evidence following the excited question, "Where's the gun?" was thrown out. It's vague as hell. There's a line about how the exception won't be hard for police to apply because, basically, they will just know.

What the administration has done goes further than the existing law though. They've decided terror suspects automatically fall under the exception. And who is a "terror suspect" is of course determined without any due process.

So now we've got a policy that says we don't need the core safeguard against coercion where someone is accused of terrorism. Which begs the question -- what is that we're planning to do that requires that an entire category of suspects of loosely defined crimes don't need to be protected from coercion?

It's a small thing in a way -- I sense triangulation and political calculation here. It's a way for this administration to reassure rightwingers that accused terrorists are being stripped of some of the rights of citizens, which they so dearly want to justify --without embracing the nebulous, no-holds-barred "detainee" status or military courts.

But it's still a radical departure from normal American civil protections. And questionable as to what it's really for. The only difference between reminding someone of their rights and then questioning them, and questioning them without reminding them, is that it lets authorities briefly pretend a suspect doesn't have the right not to respond, yet still use whatever is said in court. Unless you want to use actual coercion of course.

So which is it? Do we need to try to fool terror suspects into thinking they must answer "public safety" questions, or do we want to coerce them, lie about it, and use the coerced evidence in court?

Neither answer seems like good policy to me.


It matters when we modify civil protections over terrorism.


This is a big part of the conversation we've been having since Bush. Do we need to lower the bar on Constitutional protections in order to deal with terrorism? When? By how much? We've started down a road where the Executive interprets the law differently when terrorism is involved, and we need to keep paying attention to the question.

Every time something horrendous happens, people say every kind of "Screw that guy, he did ____." Okay. But we think everyone we arrest did something.

If we're going to decide that in certain cases we're so sure, or the crime is so bad, that we don't need to worry about the accused being treated as though they might not be guilty we need to at least pay attention to how and when we're doing that.

We have a problem with the creeping acceptance of insane rationales for greed.

You don't compromise with a crazy, damaging idea, or embrace it as a reasonable position, in order to get along.

We did it with welfare, when the rightwingers made up welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and it hurt people and cost us all.

We did with pensions, which undercut the entire purpose of retirement savings and replaced it with a profit center for investment firms that pulls the rug out from under retirees during every bust / bubble cycle.

We're doing it with education, pretending that unions and bad teaching, and not poor economic conditions and inept parenting, are the root of our problems.

Now we're doing it with SS, perhaps the most successful government endeavor in our history, pretending it is a government handout that's costing taxpayers money and must inevitably be eviscerated to make way for real giveaways to defense contractors and oil companies.

We've heard that privatization will fix prisons and the military, but what it really does is get GIs electrocuted in the shower and send children to literal work camps.

Every one of these carefully crafted, completely untrue rationales have one goal: Shifting costs to the public and benefits to private interests. None of it works the way it was represented to, because it was never supposed to. These are lies invented to rationalize greed, and every time a Democrat or progressive agrees to consider them, we lend weight and legitimacy to our own demise.

That's why it's a problem when we put these things "on the table." Yes, we know -- Republicans and their campaign-financing masters really, really, really want to take taxpayer money for themselves to solidify their own power, and to hurt working people and unions and the elderly. Please please please?

Our answer can't be that we'll consider it. Or go partway. Or try it out. Or trade it for a possible future breadcrumb of sanity.

We cannot afford to legitimize big lies like these by even pretending they are in good faith, or have any possible benefit. Every time we do, we're putting a noose around our collective necks and offering to kick the chair away.

For what, exactly? To seem reasonable? To make nice? What do we get out of being reasonable or making nice with people who would see us all dead for another nickel in their pockets?

NOT ACCEPTABLE is right.
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