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Thom TillisWell, this is off to a good start. Senator-elect Thom Tillis is already staking  out a less-than-courageous profile in his new job by essentially parroting the absurd remarks of his new colleague Richard Burr on the CIA torture report and attempting to make it a partisan issue — even though people of both major parties clearly bear responsibility for the atrocities.

Tillis gets a small measure of credit for admitting the torture — what he calls “those practices” — was wrong, but then he makes the illogical assertion that releasing the information will hurt American “credibility.”

Uh, excuse us Senator-elect. but here’s what will enhance American credibility going forward: telling the truth and not torturing people. As this morning’s editorial in the Wilmington Star News correctly notes:

“We pride ourselves on our sense of morality, justice and humanity, and should feel shame that the inhumane tactics described in the report were sanctioned on our behalf.

Moreover, they didn’t work. The report, which was gleaned from more than 6 million pages of information, found that in most cases subjecting enemy combatants to brutality produced no useful information.

That is hardly a revelation. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spent 51/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has repeatedly denounced torture and other harsh tactics as cruel and ineffective. His observations have been backed up by experienced military interrogators who said that many captives will make up stories or offer bad information just to stop the physical or mental pain….

We cannot profess to be of superior moral fiber if we embrace the same disregard for human life and dignity that compels us to label terrorists as evil.”

Unlike Richard Burr, North Carolina’s new senator has six years to worry about re-election. You’d think he could take a break from partisan demagoguery for at least the first few months of his time in D.C.

Commentary

Richard Burr 2It’s nothing new for Senator Richard Burr to express embarrassing views or to engage in inexplicable political behavior, but the senator’s comments yesterday on the horrific findings in the new report on the CIA’s un-American torture program hit a new low.

As you can read for yourself here and here, the torture report details a long, disturbing (and ineffective!) list of disgraceful actions taken in the name of the American people. Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully described the actions of the CIA and its contractors in this morning’s lead editorial as “brutal and illegal.”

Sadly, however, Burr, the soon-to-be chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, opted to turn the findings into partisan political fodder by describing them as “a blatant smear on the Bush administration,” and unnecessary because  the information was “already known by the vast majority of Americans.”

You got that? People acting in our name did this:

“CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

and this:

“(1) the attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) waterboard, (10) use of diapers, (11) use of insects, and (12) mock burial.”

but according to Richard Burr, it’s no biggie and shining the light of day on such horrific information is “political.”

One shudders to imagine what kind of behavior Burr would be outraged by. It’s a sad state of affairs that a man with such an off-kilter moral compass now stands near the top of the American foreign policy establishment.

Commentary

Loretta BiggsLoretta Copeland Biggs, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. District Judge in North Carolina’s Middle District, has not yet been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biggs appeared before the Committee on November 13 for her scheduled hearing and is now waiting on approval by the Committee. If she is approved by the Committee, Biggs’s nomination will then be forwarded to the Senate floor where it will be considered and voted on by the full Senate.  This entire process must occur within the next few weeks in order for Biggs to be confirmed before the Senate’s lame-duck session ends. Nominees who aren’t confirmed this month will have to do it all over again next year, starting with being renominated.

Currently, it seems to be taking approximately a month between when hearings are held and when the Committee approves a candidate. Unfortunately, there is no exact timeline for how long this may take because there are many permitted ways to stall and obstruct the process. At the Committee’s last hearing, for instance, Charles Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa, unnecessarily decided to delay approval of nine judicial nominees for a week. This in turn delayed scheduling a vote on the Senate floor and will delay the eventual vote itself (which generally seems to occur two to three months later).

These delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. Read More

Commentary
Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

Uncategorized

The latest news story from NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey — “All white and overwhelmingly male: Latest departure leaves NC federal courts among lest diverse in the nation” — contains a lot of information that will leave caring and thinking people frustrated and even ticked off, but this passage stands out:

James Beaty, the lone African-American judge on the state’s federal district court, stepped down from his position on the state’s Middle District – which covers the areas from Durham to Winston-Salem – moving to senior status at the end of June.

The result?

North Carolina has one of the whitest and least diverse groups of federal district court judges in the country.

That’s a perception problem for the courts at the very least, particularly given that the ugliness of racial politics has resurfaced in North Carolina.

As Andrew Cohen points out in his article in The Atlantic last November, asking why there aren’t more black judges in the South:

“Indeed, at a time when minorities are being disenfranchised by Republican officials in Florida and Alabama and other Southern states, the continuing lack of black representation on our federal benches sends another strong message of a tolerance for unequal justice.”

And if that doesn’t get you fired up, check out this graphic: Read More