The habeas lawyers were not doing their constitutional duty to defend unpopular criminal defendants. They were using the federal courts as a tool to undermine our military’s ability to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield in a time of war.

Marc Thiessen WaPo

Obama Spokesman Defends Criticism of Court at Speech

Boomberg – By Joe Sobczyk

President Barack Obama’s spokesman defended the president’s criticism of a Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address after Chief Justice John Roberts called the scene at the speech “very troubling.”

Roberts, responding to a question from a student at the University of Alabama school of law today, said the atmosphere at the address to a joint session of Congress has “degenerated into a political pep rally,” the Associated Press reported.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to Roberts’ comment, said in a statement, “What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans.”

That’s why Obama “spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response,” Gibbs said.

In his Jan. 27 address, Obama criticized a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court that lifted limits on corporate political spending. Obama said it would “open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”

In the audience as Obama spoke were six justices. Only Justice Samuel Alito, who voted with court majority in the case, reacted, shaking his head and mouthing, “that’s not true.”

Many Democratic lawmakers applauded the president’s remark.

Roberts said yesterday that the president’s criticism of one branch of government amid cheers from another branch made him question why the justices attend the state-of-the-union address, AP reported. While saying he had “no problems” with criticism of the court, “there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum.”

Justices to hear case involving Fred Phelps’ protests at military funerals


TOPEKA | The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case involving Fred Phelps and his Topeka congregation, whose protests at military funerals have angered families across the country.

The court said it would consider an appeal from the father of a slain Marine who hopes to reinstate a $5 million verdict against the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church.

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., successfully sued the church in a Maryland federal court in 2007 arguing its funeral protest was an invasion of privacy that caused his family emotional distress.

But last fall an appeals court reversed the $5 million verdict, ruling the church’s protests were protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court will hear Snyder’s appeal this fall.

“It’s freedom of speech to some,” said Snyder, whose son Matthew was killed in Iraq. “To me it’s not what my son fought for. They’re kicking people in the face when they’re already down on the ground. All I was trying to do was bury my son.”

Westboro, an unaffiliated church with fewer than 100 members, went from local curiosity to national notoriety after it began protesting military funerals. Church members believe the deaths of military personnel — as well as tsunamis, Hurricane Katrina and the 2006 Amish school shooting — are God’s punishment for the tolerance of homosexuality.

It’s a theology summed up on their hand-painted protest signs: Thank God for 9/11; America is Doomed; and Thank God for Dead Troops.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church leader and daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, said her sister Margie Phelps is likely to argue the church’s case before the Supreme Court. Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps are licensed attorneys.

Phelps-Roper said it’s God’s will that the church gets to appear before the nation’s highest court. Regardless of the ruling, she said it’s a “win-win” for the publicity-hungry church.

“You know how hard we’ve worked to get in front of them?” she said. “We came to the kingdom for this hour.”

For constitutional law scholars, the case promises fireworks. Funeral protests pose unique legal questions, and the ruling could have implications for the many state laws passed to curb Westboro’s actions, said Richard Levy, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Kansas.

“This is a hot area of First Amendment law,” Levy said. “There are a lot of issues swirling around this type of case, and the court may feel it should step in and clarify the law.”

The case also may not fall along the court’s traditional fault lines, Levy predicted. “I don’t know what the conservative or liberal position is on a case like this,” he said.

Snyder said he had never heard of Westboro Baptist Church before it announced plans to protest his son’s funeral in Westminster, Md.

The day of the funeral, Snyder was forced to enter the church’s service entrance to avoid protesters. Not knowing what to expect from the Kansas congregation, local police set up a mobile command post and deployed a SWAT team, Snyder recalled.

Even though his mind was on his son, Snyder said he couldn’t ignore the protesters and their signs. One proclaimed that his son was “raised for the devil.”

“You don’t stand 30 feet from the entrance to a church with a sign depicting two men having anal intercourse,” Snyder said. “That wasn’t freedom of speech; it was harassment.”

Phelps-Roper, however, isn’t remorseful. Her church has protested similar funerals across the country for years.

Just last week, she was in Washington picketing a memorial service for the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha and protesting in front of the Supreme Court.

Westboro’s adherents argue that the First Amendment is designed to protect speech the majority may not want to hear. But Phelps-Roper is ambivalent, noting that man’s law won’t matter much when America meets divine wrath.

“Her destruction is imminent,” she said. Laughing, she added: “And it’s going to be marvelous.”

Conservatives rally behind SEALs accused of mistreating Iraqi

Wash Post – By Craig Whitlock

Three Navy SEALs are facing courts-martial on charges that they mistreated an Iraqi prisoner suspected in the deaths of four Blackwater security guards whose charred bodies were dragged through the city of Fallujah in 2004.

U.S. military officials have charged one of the SEALs with punching the prisoner, Ahmed Hashim Abed, after he was taken into custody Sept. 1 in Iraq. All three SEALs have been charged with dereliction of duty and lying to Navy investigators to cover up the incident.

The case has prompted an outcry from conservative members of Congress and members of the military’s secretive Special Operations Forces, who say the Navy commandos are innocent. More than 40 members of Congress — nearly all of them Republicans — have signed letters calling upon the Pentagon to exonerate the SEALs, while accusing military leaders of bending over backward to protect a prisoner believed responsible for one of the most gruesome slayings of Americans in Iraq.

“These people are laying their lives on the line, and they can’t go into a combat situation with kid gloves on,” Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said Thursday at a Capitol Hill news conference. The SEALs, he added, “should be hailed as heroes for doing their job.”

Advocates for the accused SEALs — Petty Officer 1st Class Julio A. Huertas Jr., Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew V. McCabe and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan E. Keefe — said they have collected more than 150,000 signatures on petitions calling for an end to the court-martial proceedings.

The case has also become a hot topic among conservative bloggers, who say it is an example of how the military brass has become too averse to using hardball tactics against terrorists.

“We don’t have the governmental guts to let these guys walk away from what they did, if they did anything at all,” said Larry Bailey, a retired Navy captain and former SEAL.

Military officials have said that the alleged cover-up was more serious than the alleged crime, acknowledging that Abed was not badly hurt.

“The more disconcerting allegations are those related to the Sailors’ attempts to cover-up the incident, particularly in what appears to be an effort to influence the testimony of a witness,” Army Maj. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commander of Special Operations Command Central, wrote in a Dec. 15 letter to Burton.

Lawyers involved in the case said that witness — another Navy petty officer — reported that McCabe punched Abed in the stomach while he was being held at a detention center at Camp Schweidler.

He had been apprehended several hours earlier after the SEALs found him asleep in a safe house in Anbar province, according to military officials and lawyers in the case.

Abed was the target of a long-running manhunt by special forces. One of the Blackwater guards killed in Fallujah in 2004 was a former SEAL.

McCabe, the SEAL accused of punching Abed in the stomach, is scheduled to be tried in Norfolk in May. Keefe and Huertas have requested that their trials take place in Iraq so that Abed can be called as a witness. Abed is in the custody of Iraqi authorities.

Military officials had sought to punish the three SEALs administratively, which probably would have resulted in a reprimand or reassignment.

The SEALs, however, requested a trial as a chance to exonerate themselves, saying that the administrative punishment would have derailed their careers.

Member Ltr to Gen Cleveland – Navy SEALS Court Martial

Stand Up for SEALs Standing Up for Us

First the Obama Administration opened up the possibility of prosecuting CIA interrogators doing their jobs seeking information from terrorists. Then they tried to go after the Bush Administration lawyers who acted in good faith to protect us in the months after 9/11. Now some of the military brass are court-martialing three brave Navy SEALs for allegedly throwing a single punch at Iraqi terrorist leader Ahmed Hashim Abed. This is wrong. The Washington Times got it right: Save the SEALs.

These brave warriors belong in combat, not in the courthouse. They captured the most wanted terrorist in Iraq. We may never know how many other heroic missions they undertook on behalf of our country. The charges should be dropped, and they should be returned to their unit – with our gratitude for their service.

Stand up for the SEALs who are standing up for us! – Sarah Palin

Lindsay Who?

Lohan Sues E*Trade Over Super Bowl Commercial


Lindsay Lohan is suing E*Trade Financial over a popular television commercial that made its debut during Super Bowl XLIV and has appeared subsequently during coverage of the Winter Olympics and other programs.

The lawsuit was reported on Tuesday by The New York Post, which said it was filed in State Supreme Court in Nassau County, south of New York City. The lawsuit asks for damages of $100 million and an injunction to prevent the commercial from appearing again.

The commercial first appeared on Feb. 7, during the CBS coverage of the Super Bowl, and is another spot in a series that features talking babies. The commercial marked the debut of a new infant to replace the one that appeared in the previous spots. In the commercial, a baby boy and a baby girl are chatting over a video camera.

He explains he did not call her last night because he was taking care of his portfolio. She asks, suspiciously, “And that milkaholic Lindsay wasn’t over?” The baby boy replies, “Lindsay?” At that point, a second baby girl enters the frame, in front of the boy, and says, “Milk-a-what?” In her lawsuit, Ms. Lohan said the second baby girl was modeled after her because the one-word name “Lindsay” was identified with her.

Pam Erickson, a spokeswoman for E*Trade, wrote in an e-mail message seeking comment about the lawsuit, “We have not yet seen the complaint, so are unable to comment.” The agency for E*Trade is Grey New York, part of the Grey unit of the Grey Group, owned by WPP.

After an e-mail message seeking comment was sent to Owen Dougherty, a spokesman for Grey, he replied, “We never comment on litigation, however unfounded.” An article on Tuesday afternoon on suggested that Ms. Lohan may be decided to sue because of comments she received on Twitter that criticized the spot and suggested she take legal action.

However, the article reported that Ms. Lohan’s subsequent comments on Twitter implied she was not upset about the commercial. The article cited an example of Ms. Lohan writing this reply: “hahahaha vitamin D never tasted so good!”

E*Trade ran two commercials from Grey New York during Super Bowl XLIV and others before and after the game. The spots, including the one over which Mr. Lohan is suing, can be watched on YouTube along with video clips described as outtakes from the spots.

Man sues airline for not looking at his scrotum


MONTREAL – A Westmount resident’s lawsuit against Air Transat, for failure to provide him with appropriated medical attention during a flight, was dismissed in small claims court this past Tuesday.

His illness? Sudden and mysterious bleeding in the area between his legs.

The curious incident occurred February 15, 2008 during a flight from Montreal to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Marcel Cote was comfortably seated in business class an hour after takeoff when, for some unknown reason, he felt enough discomfort to make an emergency visit to the washroom, where he discovered spots of blood on his body.

In a panic, Cote asked for the help of a flight attendant, who quickly came to his side. When the passenger noticed that the agent was female, he asked to be assisted by a male attendant because the bleeding seemed to be coming from his genital area.

When the male attendant came to him, Cote then asked to be closely examined so that the exact nature of the problem can be determined. The employee declined, giving him absorbent paper instead.

Indignant and distressed, Cote quickly expressed his wish to see a doctor.

Before supplying him with sanitary towels, the members of the flight crew told him they would contact a physician if the illness was grave enough. On arriving in Puerto Vallarta three hours later, Mr. Cote met with a travel agent he knew and she took him to the hospital in a taxi. He was examined by a doctor who determined Cote had a ruptured vein near his scrotum. Three stitches were needed to close the wound.

What started off as a dream trip to a Southern paradise with his wife, in the end turned into a nightmare Cote said, claiming the incident ruined his vacation and has made him anxious about flying.

Cote sued Air Transat and the employees on the flight that day, accusing them of failing to provide appropriate medical assistance, seeking damages of $8,000 for the anguish he suffered as a result of their neglect.

But judge Michele Pauze rejected Cote’s case.

In her decision, she said she agreed with arguments offered by Air Transat representative Chantal Chlala, who explained to the court that flight attendants do not have the right to examine passengers, and even less to make a diagnosis.

“It was not incumbent upon a flight attendant to conduct the medical examination of a passenger, a measure reserved for the medical profession,” wrote judge Pauzé.

Although she conceded that Cote could very well have experienced troubling moments in the episode, the judge maintained that “nothing in the facts (put before us) proves that that the situation was dangerous or worrisome to the point of requiring the immediate attention of a doctor.”

Not only did Pauze rule against Cote, she also ordered him to pay for the court costs incurred by Air Transat, amounting to $189.

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