I haven’t been paying much attention, even though I probably should, to the latest developments with the “torture bill” in Congress. But Andrew Sullivan is paying attention, and he’s not happy:
Late last night, before nodding off, I wondered, as I often do, whether I’d hyperbolized the threat from the looming detention-torture bill. “Legalizing tyranny” is a very strong phrase and I don’t want to cry wolf. In the sense that this president intends to seize random Americans and rush them into black sites and torture them at will, it’s hyperbole. But in a deeper sense, I think it’s completely accurate. The system we’re talking about is to do with wartime. A president in the past has had the option of seizing enemy combatants on a battlefield and detaining them without charge as POWs. There’s no threat to liberty there. What’s new is that in this war, enemy combatants have been designated as such not just on the battlefield - but anywhere in the world. What’s new is that they are no longer entitled to POW status. What’s new is that this war is for ever. So any changes are not just for a time-limited emergency but threaten to alter basic balances in constitutional order. What’s also new is that torture is now allowed on the down-low, on the president’s authority. And what’s also new is that an enemy combatant may or may not be an American citizen.
Put all that together and you really do have the danger of taking emergency measures for wartime and transforming a peace-time constitution into an essentially martial system, where every citizen or non-citizen can be apprehended at will and detained without charge. I repeat: this is a huge deal. It really should be a huge deal for conservatives who care about restraining government power. Its vulnerability to abuse is enormous; sanctioned torture, history tells us, never remains hermetically sealed. It always spreads. It eats away at decency and law and civility. If the president sincerely believes that torture is our most potent weapon in this war, and that habeas corpus is a quaint relic from the past, then we are in far greater peril than even the most dire pessimists believe.
Here’s an excerpt from Sullivan’s earlier post, referenced above:
How do I put this in words as clearly as possible. If the U.S. government decides, for reasons of its own, that you are an “illegal enemy combatant,” i.e. that you are someone who “has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” they can detain you without charges indefinitely, granting you no legal recourse except to a military tribunal, and, under the proposed bill, “disappear” and torture you. This is not just restricted to aliens or foreigners, but applies to U.S. citizens as well. It can happen anywhere in the U.S. at any time. We are all at potential risk.
Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: “purposefully supported” hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters.
Is Sullivan right? We link, you decide.
P.S. For the record: I don’t doubt for a moment that Bush & co. have good intentions in pushing this bill. Oh, sure, they want to expand their own power, but their primary reason for doing so is because they believe it’s important, even necessary, to winning the war on terror. Their intentions aren’t the issue. Nor is the issue whether any liberties can ever, under any circumstances, be curtailed for the sake of security; of course they can. The issue is whether this particular expansion of executive power, this particular curtailment of liberties, is going too far, whether the potential for abuse is too high and the checks on that potential too sparse. My inclination is to agree with Sullivan on that point, but as I said, I don’t know much about it, so I’m genuinely curious what others think. It would help if we could keep the “Bush = Hitler” stuff, and the “Andrew Sullivan is a lily-livered liberal in conservative clothing” [UPDATE: …and also the “Andrew Sullivan is engaging in self-righteous moral preening”] stuff, out of it.
P.P.S. And let’s also see if we can avoid references to George Orwell, misquotations of Thomas Jefferson, references to anyone being “anti-American,” and discussions of anyone’s ethnicity.
P.P.P.S. This isn’t about Andrew Sullivan. It isn’t about George W. Bush. It isn’t about “the right” (much less “the neocons”). It isn’t about “the left” (or the MSM or the “nutroots” or anything else). I already know what most of the regulars on this blog feel about those topics. What I’m interested in is people’s opinions of the substance of this particular issue. It’s an important enough issue that I think we should be able to talk about it without bringing in irrelevancies and side-issues. I realize that’s probably asking too much, but hey, it can’t hurt to ask.
A female student wounded by a gunman during a school siege has died from her injuries, CNN confirms. Visit CNN for the latest.
A hostage situation at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, is over after police stormed the school, CNN affiliate KUSA reported. The station said the gunman is dead. Visit CNN for the latest.
Up to now the Conventional Wisdom (CW) has been that the Dems have a very good chance to retake the House but will have a much harder time picking up the six seats necessary to take over the Senate. Is it possible this is backwards–that the Dems actually have a better chance of taking the Senate than the House?
Look, for example, at Slate’s Election Scorecard. It’s quite easy to imagine Dems taking three of the four “tossup” seats (Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee) in a mild wave. Then if they either hold New Jersey or take Virginia, they’ve won control. Picking up 15 seats in the House, on the other hand, looks much tougher than it did a month or two ago.
John McIntyre is one of the first to draw the seemingly perverse conclusion:
The Democrats’ odds of capturing the Senate have actually improved the last two months at the same time their national numbers vis-ÃƒÂ -vis the Republicans have declined.
The better analogy politically for 2006 may be 1986 when the Democrats picked up 8 Senate seats and only 5 House seats. [snip] … Democrats might be headed for better success in the Senate than the House.
Why would that be? How could the “out” party have a greater chance of gaining 6 out of 100 senators than a mere 15 out of 435 representatives? There are at least three obvious possible reasons: 1) Gerrymandering: GOPs have taken advantage of their greater ability to draw House district lines to protect their incumbents against a Democratic “wave.” But, as McIntyre notes, you can’t gerrymander a Senate district. Incumbents have to run statewide. 2) Altitude: Local issues may have more purchase the closer you are to the local level–i.e. in House contests. Senators are way up there where the national winds blow. This year, the national winds favor Dems, while the GOPs are hoping for a “local” election. 3) Demons: It’s easier for Republicans to run against San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi (and Conyers and Rangel, et. al) than against Harry Reid.
Makes sense to me.
Dallas Cowboys star Terrell Owens says “there was no suicide attempt” when he took pills that left him hospitalized. Visit CNN for the latest.
Authorities confirm a bomb squad and SWAT team sent to a school in Bailey, Colorado, after shots reported, The Associated Press reports. Visit CNN for the latest.
No, this isn’t a blog post from 1999 that somehow got elevated to the top of the page. (I didn’t have a blog in 1999.) This is the real deal, breaking news happening right now at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, which less than 40 miles from Columbine. According to KUSA, the local NBC affiliate:
Park County Sheriff’s Department says a gunman is inside Platte Canyon High School. He has said he has a bomb and is holding people hostage. Medical support has been requested. At least four area schools are on lock down. SKY9 in en route to Platte Canyon High School.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department sent a bomb squad to Platte Canyon High School, and placed SWAT on stand-by after reports of possible gun fire inside the school.
Fitzsimmons Middle School is confirmed to be in lockdown and is located in close proximity to Platte Canyon High School. Conifer High School is also confirmed to be in lockdown.
Jan Howard, the assistant to the superintendent, has said that Highway 285 was closed down to facilitate evacuations and there are no reports of any injuries at this time.
UPDATE, 3:11 PM: According to CNN Headline News, there are 470+ students enrolled at the high school and another 300+ at the nearby middle school. Two local elementary schools are also in “lockdown” mode, presumably as a precaution.
UPDATE, 3:16 PM: CNN Headline News quotes a Park County sheriff’s dispatcher as saying that an adult is inside the high school with a backpack that he claims is a bomb, and a hostage.
UPDATE, 3:18 PM: Here’s a Google Maps satellite view of the two schools in question, which are literally right next to each other.
UPDATE, 3:19 PM: He is holding four hostages, according to CNN Headline News.
UPDATE, 3:26 PM: Now the AP is saying “at least five” people were originally taken hostage, according to CNN, but then at least one hostage, a girl, was released.
The hostage-taker is an adult male, and he “may be a parent.”
UPDATE, 3:31 PM: The Sheriff’s Department is “shying away” from the report that shots were fired, according to the KUSA live feed.
All the other high-school kids (i.e., the non-hostages) have been evacuated, have apparently been moved over to the middle school next door (?).
UPDATE, 3:34 PM: Report that shots were fired is “just a rumor,” says KUSA. Park County official said they don’t know whether shots were fired.
UPDATE, 3:59 PM: CNN is interviewing Tom Locke, an editor at a local newspaper called The Flume. He says the students will be bussed shortly to an elementary school a ways away. Now they have a live shot of a school bus, apparently taking students away.
On the air, Locke repeated much of what The Flume is reporting:
[R]adio dispatch reports starting at about 11:45 a.m. indicated that an adult male had fired a shot in a high school second-floor classroom after a teacher had refused to do what he asked. … The dispatcher described a situation in which the male had a “black squarish looking gun and fired one shot when the teacher refused to do what he asked.” At 11:50 a.m., the dispatcher said that the teacher had left the room five minutes before, but that students were still in the room with the man. [Jan Howard, assistant to school district superintendent Jim Walpole] could not confirm whether a shot had been fired. Flume reporter Cate Malek, who was at the scene, could not reach anyone there who could comment on the situation. She confirmed that U.S. 285 is blocked between the administration building and Fitzsimmons Middle School, which are 3.6 miles west of downtown Bailey.
UPDATE, 4:14 PM: Drudge is now linking to this Denver Post article:
A gunman took five people hostage, and is still holding at least two of them at a Park County school. Several shots have been fired.
Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol, said it is unclear if anyone was injured at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey.
Clem said five students were taken hostage at gunpoint in a classroom. The suspect has released one of the five, a girl, he said.
“There were some shots fired,” said Eric Wynn, CSP spokesman. He said the suspect is a 35-year-old man.
CNN Headline News is showing live images of students filing onto school buses in an orderly manner.
UPDATE, 4:44 PM: According to, uh, some sort of official spokesman on MSNBC, there was only one shot fired, and it was fired at the ceiling. However, Jackie Kelley of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department says there was “more than one” shot fired.
There are two hostages at this point, both female high-school students. They are “OK.” No injuries at this point. “There were initially six hostages, and four were released.” Unknown whether the six hostages were all students; from other reports, I think it may have been a teacher and five students.
The evacuated students are now at Deer Creek Elementary School.
Typhoon Xangsane is currently pounding the Phillipines with Category 4 winds today. It was a tropical storm just 24 hours ago, and has intensified to a Category 4 typhoon. This was definitely not expected since the the typhoon was hugging the coast overnight. It had previously been anticipated to make landfall as a Category one at best! Worse yet, it is anticipated to hit Manila, the most populated area. It is forecast to weaken before that, however.
Jeff Masters has more.
There also is a new wave about 500 miles to the east of the northern Lesser Antilles islands, and 96L has strengthened and it is close to tropical depression status. Both disturbances are expected to turn out to sea. Again, Jeff Masters has more on this as well.
The anniversary of Hurricane Rita’s landfall near Lake Charles, Louisiana recently passed without much notice in the media, and without any mention on this blog. I certainly remember well the weekend of Rita’s landfall, as it occurred during the most hectic week of my life, and I noticed the anniversary’s approach, but I was remiss in failing to blog about it. Brian Neudorff blogged about it, though. Also, Gus Van Horn sends along a three-part post on his own personal Rita evacuation story: Part I, Part II and Part III.
You can read my posts about Hurricane Rita from last year in my Rita category.
Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer revealed yesterday that he’s the father of her newborn baby. (Hat tip: Jessica Cowans.) Bonus: the lawyer’s name is Howard Stern. No, he’s not that Howard Stern, but I almost had you with the headline, didn’t I?
Said Stern, “Anna and I have been in a relationship and we love each other, and it’s been going on for a very long time, and because of my relationship as her lawyer, we felt that it was best to keep everything hidden.” Well, that makes sense. If there’s one thing they teach us in Professional Responsibility, it’s that whenever there’s a possible conflict of interest, or any other ethical problem really, it’s always best to keep it hidden. Wait, that’s not right…
Anyway, why should we care about this? Er, I’m not sure. All I know is that Anna Nicole Smith has enormous boobs, and she once married some old rich dude for his money, and she went to the Supreme Court because of it, and Clarence Thomas stared at her chest. Okay, I don’t actually “know” that last part, but I’ll bet it happened. Also, Smith has been in the news lately because her 20-year-old son, Daniel Wayne Smith, mysteriously (and some say suspiciously) died at her bedside just days after the birth of the baby whose paternity is now in question. None of which actually makes any of this validly newsworthy, but did I mention she has enormous boobs?