Military commissions have always been controversial in U.S. history, and no more so than in the past 10 years. Military commissions have traditionally been defined as executive branch courts, created by necessity under a system where ordinary courts are not functioning, such as during a rebellion or military occupation of a foreign country. They are distinct from ordinary criminal trials and the regular military system of justice, the courts-martial, the latter being generally required to “apply the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts” under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Constitutional problems with the Bush (and now Obama) military commissions were accurately explained by Chad DeVeaux of Western State University Law School:

Such commissions, which may most accurately be categorized as “Article II courts,” deviate widely from civilian courts. Ordinarily inviolate procedural protections are disregarded. Juries are denied. The right of appellate review is circumscribed. The universal common-law prohibition against the admission of hearsay, even multiple hearsay, and un-sworn evidence is not honored. Most critically, the structural independence enjoyed by Article III courts and even state jurists is wholly absent. Military commissions are inquisitorial in nature. Military judges and even the commission members themselves fall within the direct chain of command of the President and his proxies and ultimately depend on favorable reviews from these superiors for promotion and career advancement.

Presidents Bush and Obama have created a vigorous public debate since the September 11 attacks over whether suspects in the “war on terror” are entitled to a regular criminal trial, court-martial (the regular military justice system), or a “military commission” trial, or whether they are entitled to a trial at all. A “military commission” is traditionally an executive branch (or Article II) court, created to try war criminals in a time and place where there are no criminal or ordinary military courts to try suspects. But Congress has explicitly authorized them twice since the September 11 attacks.

Bush’s and Obama’s actions since 2001 raise a number of fundamental constitutional questions: Can the President — as Bush tried to do — detain an American citizen indefinitely without trial? Can the President — as Obama claims — kill American citizens without trial? Are Bush’s and Obama’s efforts to detain foreigners indefinitely without trial constitutional? When, if ever, is a “military commission” constitutional? Can U.S. citizens be subject to a military commission? How about foreigners? Do the Bush/Obama military commissions follow the Constitution? And finally, putting aside constitutional principles, are military commissions more effective on a practical level in punishing suspected terrorists? The following are 11 constitutional principles about the trial rights of Americans and foreigners during the “war on terror.”

Nevada has long been known as the easiest place in America to get a divorce — and a quick marriage. After a couple has had a “quickie” marriage and the marriage license has been mailed to them, the union is still not technically valid until either a clergyman or a justice of the peace in the state has performed a marriage ceremony and the officiant and the couple have signed the marriage license and it has been mailed to the proper government agency for validation.

All that this law requires is that the clergyman performing the wedding provide proof that he is affiliated with a church or religious organization. The legal role allowed by Nevada law to a man of the cloth, however, is too much for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed suit in Clark County, contending that allowing priests, ministers, and rabbis to marry people in Nevada violates the so-called separation of church and state prohibitions in the Constitution.

Herman Cain’s unexpected victory in Saturday’s Florida Straw Poll has the media, especially the so-called “conservative” media, quite excited. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole each won this contest, and each eventually received their party’s presidential nomination. Thus, so goes the conventional reasoning, this poll is not without its share of significance as far as the end result of the GOP primaries is concerned.

As usual, in covering this story, the pundits and “journalists” reveal both their proclivity for sensationalizing events and their seemingly insuperable cognitive challenges.

That there is a coincidence between two events most certainly does not establish that there is a causal relation between them. In other words, that three Republican presidential aspirers won both the Florida Straw Poll and, subsequently, their party’s nomination does not mean that the one event caused or predicted the other. There is a complex of factors, and one factor in particular, that this argument from prediction omits: namely, the fact that Reagan, Bush I, and Dole were all competitive in their respective races at the time that they achieved victory in Florida. The painful truth of the matter is that, judging from his polling numbers thus far, Cain hasn’t been serious competition for anyone.

The hint given to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein by their mysterious informant “Deep Throat” regarding President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal was: “Follow the money.” If the same counsel is followed today with regard to President Obama’s fundraising, the discoveries are disturbing.

With the Solyndra controversy still unraveling,  President Obama has moved undauntedly on to the next suspicious entanglement with corporate beneficiaries of federal largesse.

 It is being reported that in a couple of weeks President Obama will be the benefactor of a fundraiser being organized by a Missouri businessman “whose company benefited from a $107-million federal tax credit to develop a wind power facility in his state.”
 
The name of this Friend of Barack is well-known in the Show Me State and in Democratic Party circles. Tom Carnahan is the 42-year-old son of the former Governor of Missouri Mel Carnahan and former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan. The younger Carnahan was an attorney and is the founder of Wind Capital Group.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare appears to be headed for the Supreme Court, which could end up ruling on the case in 2012, just as President Barack Obama is running for reelection.

In August a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Florida judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. (The panel overturned his finding that the entire law is unconstitutional, however.) The Obama administration — the defendant in the case brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business — had the option of requesting a hearing by the entire 11th Circuit Court; but it chose not to do so by the September 26 deadline, which indicates that it is probably going to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

“If the court accepts the case before January,” observes Politico, “it is likely to be put on the calendar to be heard in the spring. A decision would likely be postponed until June.” That would, of course, put it smack in the middle of an election year in which the prime architect of the law is one of the candidates, raising the question of why the administration chose not to seek a ruling by the full 11th Circuit, which probably would have delayed a Supreme Court ruling until 2013.
 

A new Gallup poll found a record-breaking 81 percent of Americans dissatisfied with the U.S. government’s performance, as the economy remains stagnant and the country’s fiscal integrity wanes. The polling company noted: 

Americans’ various ratings of political leadership in Washington add up to a profoundly negative review of government — something that would seem unhealthy for the country to endure for an extended period.

Nevertheless, with another budget showdown looking inevitable and a contentious presidential election year getting underway, it appears the ratings reviewed here could get worse before they improve.

A relatively new trend, American discontent with the way Congress and the White House govern, has significantly deepened. In 2003, 59 percent of Americans approved of the federal government’s overall performance, while only 39 percent disapproved. An analysis of the past few years presents an upward curve in dissatisfaction with the federal government, particularly as war in the Middle East endures and as the U.S. economy remains stale.

Sam Antonio, Liberty News Network, interviews Angela Keaton of Antiwar.com at LPAC 2011.

Rick Perry’s suspect record as governor of Texas, his love for doling out public funds to illegal aliens, his fondness for lining the pockets of his political allies, and his neo-con attitude toward the perpetuation of foreign wars should be enough to dissuade constitutionalists from voting for the Republican presidential hopeful. As if that weren’t enough, Perry’s recent debate performances may be driving the final nails in the governor’s presidential prospects.

Those once considering voting for Rick Perry are now tying their hopes to one of his colleagues after the erstwhile “front runner” has proven himself not only incapable of parrying the barrage of attacks coming at him from his competitors. Herman Cain, the reputed winner of the most recent televised job interview, told Fox News that Perry’s performance was “was not up to primetime.”

Surprisingly, Perry himself is copping to the charges of bending under the pressure of the long presidential campaign. At a conference of GOP activists in Michigan, Perry admitted that his debate performances were consistently sub par and less impressive than those of his Republican rivals.

Liberals are doing such a good job of bashing Barack Obama, we conservatives can just stand aside and watch. And isn’t it fun?

The most dramatic rejection of Obama’s policies occurred in New York’s 9th congressional district last week. Republican businessman Bob Turner defeated his Democratic opponent, State Assemblyman David Weprin, by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. This was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Weiner, who resigned in disgrace over a sexting scandal.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to put an optimistic spin on the outcome by saying, “It’s a very difficult district for Democrats.” Come on, Debbie, try another one. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by a margin of three to one. The seat had been in Democratic hands since 1923.

Turner very wisely made the election a mandate on Obama’s failed policies. When he did, a majority of voters gave the President a decisive thumbs-down.

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