The End of the Best Latin Thing in America

Quietly, without any fuss, and certainly without any hearings, the United States Senate voted Thursday to eliminate habeas corpus. It’s nothing special, nothing that you should get all worked up about; it’s just the foundation of what separates a first-world nation from a third-world nation.

Habeas corpus grants a prisoner the right to have a hearing before a judge to determine whether or not that prisoner is wrongly imprisoned, and on Thursday, in an amendment to “Bill S. 1042” brought by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the Senate voted to kill it.

But don’t worry–they only voted to eliminate it for terrorism suspects down in Guantánamo Bay prison, certainly nothing to do with you, unless the authorities happen to have some reason to suspect you and drag you there, or to one of the illegal gulags that Dick Cheney is so intent that the CIA be allowed to maintain overseas.

I mean, Jesus Christ, this is only something that’s been around since the Magna Carta (1215), and the Goddamn Senate just votes 49-42 to kill it, after an hour’s debate? Even fricking John McCain voted to kill it!

Amazingly, more Democrats voted in favor of the hideous rights-destroying amendment than Republicans voted against it:

Democrats crossing over to kill habeas corpus:
    Joseph Lieberman
    Ben Nelson
    Kent Conrad
    Ron Wyden
    Mary Landrieu

Republicans crossing over to save it:
    Arlen Specter
    Gordon Smith
    Lincoln Chafee
    John Sununu

Read the Full Story at the New York Times:
“Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees”
November 11, 2005

Read the News Release from the ACLU:
“ACLU Urges Congress to Reject Court Stripping Measure; Proposal Denies Detainees the Right to Challenge the Use of Torture”
November 10, 2005

Of course, as Industry Figure John Blackburn points out, we’ve still got a lot of Latin left in the U.S.: “Caveat emptor, for example, is so safe it’s not funny.”

Diagnosis: Intrigue!

Step with me into the WABAC Machine, all the way back to the year 2000. There I was, forced to sit in a chair, head down, for months, while my many eye surgeries healed. And when I at last returned to work, I found that it was suddenly Incredibly Painful to walk with my coworkers in the afternoon. It eventually disappeared, only to return every year or so. I saw the doctor about it twice in 2003, but the first time my regular doctor was out of town (and I like him better than his partner), and the second time he thought that it was probably my flat feet causing all the commotion.

Time passed. The pain and other symptoms came and went, and came again, and eventually I decided that I really had to go see him again. I called on Thursday: “He’s out tomorrow, would you like to see his partner that you don’t like as much?” “No, it’s him or nobody.” “All right, well, you’ll have to wait until Wednesday.”

So, I went in today, and to me, it was a little bit like an episode of House, M.D.:

“Doc, my foot hurts when I walk. I think I could stand on it all day, no problem, and I think that I could even walk a great distance, but if I try to push it just a little harder than some magic threshold, then my left foot starts to hurt, and pain radiates up the outside of my left leg, to maybe boot height. It seems to get worse when I weigh more, and better when I weigh less.”


At this point, I can see him thinking that he’s still got stuff left on his plate to rule out. I trot out the other interesting symptom: “When the bad thing starts to happen, and after it’s been going on for a while, I start having a lot of trouble lifting my foot. You know how, when you walk, you normally like to land first on your heel and kind of roll the foot onto the ground, to minimize the slamming. When the bad thing starts to happen, my foot eventually just starts slapping the pavement like a dead thing.”

“Ha!” [He is super-interested, now] “Does your foot tingle?”

“It tingles like anything!”

“Have you had any back pain?”

“No…” Wait, yes! Especially several weeks ago, but even now there’s a little pain, and a little on the left side, now that you mention it.

“I think you’ve got a back problem. That dropped foot is especially significant. I’ll have Michael come in and test you, and then we’ll probably want an X-ray.”

Michael comes in. He has a little machine with electrodes, one of which he attaches to my back. Then he starts holding an electrode to various parts of my good leg, and slowly cranking up the dial to increase the electricity. I’m supposed to tell him when I first feel it. When he gets to the lower left leg, it really obviously takes a lot longer for me to notice it. He retests that area several times.

Afterwards, grinning, he shows me the numbers: “Can you spot the problem?”


Top             12                12
Upper Middle    14                14
Lower Middle    16                16
Lowest          60                16

Me: “Hey, what’s that 60 doing?”

“It was an 80 at first, but when I retested you, you got it twice in a row at 60, so I gave you a 60. That’s one irritated nerve. I’m not going to say you’ve got a problem with your back, but…you’ve got a problem with your back. We’re going to take an X-ray, now.”

A technician took a series of X-rays, and then the doctor came back to talk about it:

“You’ve got some bad discs, especially at L5 (you can see how this area doesn’t look so great on your X-ray, too). We can’t really tell from the X-ray how bad it is; we’d have to do an MRI to tell for sure. But the disc (or discs) are probably poking out from the spine, and pressing on a nerve that runs to your leg. The harder you exercise, the more the disc squozes out and presses on the nerve, causing pain, numbness, and that dropped foot. If it’s too bad, we’ll have to refer you to a surgeon for an operation. But if it’s less bad, then we might refer you to get a shot into the disc to reduce the swelling.

“But for now, since your problem is only intermittent, and only comes on if you exercise too hard, we might just treat it conservatively: get an Inversion Table, which allows you to lie down suspended from your ankles, to decompress your back, and I’m going to recommend a physical therapist to instruct you on some Yoga to strengthen your back muscles. And lose some weight!”

While this sounds like it’s going to be something of a pain, it is Extremely Satisfying to have a diagnosis that explains all the symptoms. And I badly frightened the X-ray tech, when he asked me, after having taken the first set of shots, “So why are you getting pictures of your back?” “Because my foot hurts!”

Third Front

“For a fun second-term drinking game, chug a beer whenever you hear the phrase, ‘contentious but futile protest vote by the Democrats’. By the time Jeb Bush is elected, you’ll be so wasted that you won’t even notice the war in Syria.”
–Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, January 26, 2005.

“And, of course, the go-to blog for Syria is that of Josh Landis, who is burning up the track these days with a series of newsworthy revelations about US/Syria relations.”
–Juan Cole, Informed Comment, October 24, 2005.

Josh Landis, today: The following two articles ratchet up the pressure on Syria. It is very hard to believe that this is more than bark or that the US is still capable of biting Syria militarily. Neither the military, nor public are in the mood for opening another front. Most likely, the talk of war is an effort to scare Syria into taking some tough decisions. It may well be directed more at Europe than at Syria. We have heard nothing about what sanctions are being developed to punish Syria should it be accused by Mehlis of non-cooperation. Perhaps this silence is because Europe is reluctant to impose more than the lightest of “smart sanctions.” In this case by threatening military action in Syria, Washington may actually be raising the pressure on its European allies to get serious about sanctions or America will go crazy in Syria. America cannot actual[ly] abandon Europe and the UN again to launch a unilateral military strike. It would undo all the relation-mending that has gone on between the two. On the other hand – Who knows?

The two articles that he links to are pretty scary. The first is from Yedioth Ahronoth, the most widely circulated paper in Israel:

The American administration is determined to punish Bashar Assad and remove him. This is what Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz heard from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld last Friday in Washington.

People who were at the meeting said Rumsfeld and his advisers blame Assad for letting terrorists cross the border into Iraq and help kill American soldiers. The Israeli side said it is better to let Assad stay, along the lines of better the devil you know. But people at the meeting said the Americans showed no interest in who would replace Assad, and their goal is to remove him from power, and used the word “devil” to describe him

Yedioth Ahronoth
“Rumsfeld tells Mofaz: We’ll kick Assad out”
November 8, 2005

And the second, from The Washington Post:

Last year, U.S. intelligence agencies and military planners received instructions to prepare up-to-date target lists for Syria and to increase their preparations for potential military operations against Damascus…

Eary Warning By William M. Arkin
“Wag the Damascus?”
The Washington Post Online
November 7, 2005

As for Josh Landis’s remark that it’s hard to conceive that these actions are much more than posturing, I have to say that I’ve given up on underestimating the craziness of this crew.

Read the Full Post at Josh Landis’s
November 8, 2005

Because Only a Republican Judge Can Judge a Corrupt Republican

Unbelievably, Tom Delay successfully forced the judge in his money-laundering case to step down yesterday, on the basis that the judge had contributed to some Democratic causes in the past.

Their next move, apparently, is to petition the court to move the trial out of Austin (a liberal college town), because only in a Republican county can a Republican judge fairly judge a Republican criminal.

Judges in Texas run for office, and evidence presented in court showed that they routinely contribute to Republican and Democratic political campaigns. But Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s lead lawyer, said Judge Perkins’s gifts to Democratic groups that vilify Mr. DeLay as a way of soliciting contributions, as well as his donation to the liberal group, created the appearance of bias, compelling a recusal under Texas law…

Ronnie Earle, the district attorney prosecuting Mr. DeLay, defended Judge Perkins and castigated Mr. DeLay, who has often accused Mr. Earle, a Democrat, of pursuing a political vendetta.

“The law expresses no need for judges to check their citizenship at the door,” Mr. Earle argued. He called Judge Perkins’s contributions “paltry, not a fraction what this defendant is capable of raising for his causes, including intimidating judges with whom he disagrees.”

Read the Full Story at The New York Times
“Judge in DeLay Case Is Ordered to Recuse Himself”
November 2, 2005