Adam Serwer

Is Kagan A "Legal Progressive?"

A few months ago, trying to calm liberal anxieties about the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan , Vice President Joe Biden 's Chief of Staff Ron Klain said that “Elena is clearly a legal progressive." Adopting the Glenn Beck definition of "progressive" as "crypto-fascist," Sen. Jeff Sessions grillled Kagan on whether she identified that way. She responded by saying she didn't know what a "legal progressive" was: "Senator Sessions, I honestly don't know what that label means. I've worked in two Democratic administrations. ... You can tell something about me and my political views from that. ... I love my good friend Ron Klain. But I guess I think people should be allowed to label themselves." Now I can appreciate Kagan not wanting to be included in Sessions' definition of "legal progressive." In fact, I'm not sure the label is actually one I've ever heard liberals other than Klain, use, and I think he simply meant to signal to liberals that Kagan is "one of them." But is it really...

Not Looking Forward.

A brief followup to my earlier post . The Tory-Lib Dem coalition in Britain isn't as interested in "looking forward" on torture as the Obama administration: A judge-led inquiry is to be held into claims British security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects, the BBC understands. [...] The inquiry will offer compensation to those people who are found to have been the victims of torture carried out by foreign security services but with the knowledge of intelligence officials. Keep in mind that the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review the case of Mahar Arar , a Canadian national who was tortured after being transferred from American to Syrian custody. In doing so they avoided a definitive ruling that extraordinary rendition is illegal. They also left it to Congress and the White House to devise a remedy for Arar, who wasn't in any way connected to terror. Arar's lawyers are optimistic this will happen, although it hasn't yet. But they're moving slowly by any...

A Note About Comments.

A number of readers have sent me e-mails noting that the comments section isn't working. Comments should be working now, but in order to comment you'll have to provide an e-mail address. Also, if anyone is having trouble with RSS, shoot me an e-mail and let me know what reader you're using.

Torture And Pay Grades.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on the conviction of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge , who tortured criminal suspects in his custody and covered it up for decades: At long last, a measure of justice was delivered today when a jury returned a verdict of guilty against Jon Burge on obstruction of justice and perjury. The verdict necessarily found that torture and abuse occurred in police districts in the city of Chicago in the 1980s. It’s disgraceful that torture happened and sad that it took so long to bring Burge to justice, and the only thing that would have been worse is if this measure of justice never happened. The Justice Department's summary of how Burge treated his victims: During the trial, several victims testified that they had been tortured by Burge and other officers who worked for him in area two of the CPD. Various witnesses testified that the officers administered electric shocks to their genitals, suffocated them with typewriter covers, threatened them with loaded...

Which Lines Of Attack On Kagan Appeared Yesterday?

Yesterday I wrote a guide to the GOP lines of attack on Solicitor General Elena Kagan . So which ones made an appearance? Kagan hates the military. This one made an appearance, but it wasn't harped on as much as I would have thought. The harshest words for Kagan on this subject came from Sen. Jeff Sessions , who said, "Her actions punished the military and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageously fighting two wars overseas." I don't suppose it "demeans" service members to have to hide their sexual orientation while sacrificing their lives for their country, does it? GOP vs. Thurgood/Kagan's an activist. I was completely wrong about the GOP not going after Thurgood Marshall , the nation's first black Supreme Court justice and an American hero whose whose career was basically a long line of legal victories for racial equality and civil rights. Sen. Jon Kyl complained , "When she was working in the Clinton administration, she encouraged a colleague working on a speech about...


The Ink Spots, I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire Jill Scott is a better singer than Erykah Badu , no matter what G.D. says. More on this tomorrow. You work with the moderate Muslims you have, not the liberal ones you wish you had. Osama Bin Laden hunter Gary Faulkner wants to go back to Pakistan. Adolf Hitler wasn't all that charismatic or particularly good at winning elections. Most likely the only time I'll recommend something at Big Government. Torturer found guilty . Good first day.

Sargent On Weigel.

I told myself I wasn't going to write anything else about the Dave Weigel matter today, but Greg Sargent 's rebuke to his anonymous colleagues whining to Jeffrey Goldberg about those awful new bloggers is worth noting. Here are some of the statements given to Goldberg: "This is really about the serial stupidity of allowing these bloggers to trade on the name of the Washington Post ." "It makes me crazy when I see these guys referred to as reporters. They're anything but. And they hurt the newspaper when they claim to be reporters." Sargent responds : The cowardly hiding behind anonymonity is pathetic enough. But let's take on the substance of this. I submit that someone can be a "real" reporter if he or she is accurate on the facts and fairly represents the positions of subjects; if he or she has a decent sense of what's newsworthy and important to readers; and if readers come away from his or her stuff feeling more informed than they were before. I remember a time when there was...

The Mehserle Trial.

Julianne Hing 's dispatches from the trial of Johannes Mehserle , the BART police officer who was caught on video shooting an unarmed Oscar Grant in San Francisco last year, are really quite striking: The night he shot Grant, [Mehserle] didn't really want to come into work. Not just because New Year's Eve was an all hands on deck night and no one ever got it off, but because there was something else weighing on him. "Normally, I wouldn't have minded it, but not so much that night," Mehserle said. "You had some issues going on at home, with your girlfriend, right?" Rains asked. "Yeah, she was put on bed rest that night," Mehserle offered. "But you went to work anyway," Rains said. And by the time he came home to his pregnant girlfriend the next day, Mehserle had killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed father who had a fiancée of his own, and a daughter named Tatiana. Read the whole thing . -- A. Serwer

A Gun Rights Case Liberals Wanted To Lose, Just Not Like This.

After the Supreme Court ruled that there is an individual right to bear arms in the Heller case overturning the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., it was just a matter of time before a legal challenge to gun restrictions would offer the opportunity for the court to expand gun rights to the states. The chance came quickly in the form of McDonald v. Chicago , challenging the city's handgun ban, which was overturned along ideological lines in a 5-4 decision. The question wasn't so much whether the court would rule that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to the states, so much as whether it would do so under the "due process" or " privileges or immunities *" clauses of the 14th Amendment. The latter has been dormant for years as a result of an 1873 ruling that said the "privileges or immunities" clause that was meant to ensure the protections in the Bill of Rights applied to the states didn't. The result was that these rights were "selectively incorporated" over the years...

On Byrd.

I'm not a particularly forgiving person, and "former member of the KKK" is right up there with "former member of al-Qaeda" in terms of people I'd want to associate myself with. Still, it's hard not to look at Sen. Robert Byrd 's journey from KKK leader to supporting the first black president of the United States as a uniquely American story, and one that encapsulates the essential moral journey of this country over the course of the past 100 years. We've gone from the kind of country that elects Klansmen to the Senate, to the kind of country that elects black men to the presidency. There's a danger in patting ourselves on the back too much that we avoid the challenges that are still present, but this still seems like a moment to take stock in how much has changed over the course of Byrd's 92 years. As for the political implications of Byrd's passing, Nate Silver can explain .

Toilet-Training Watch.

Dave Weigel resigned from The Washington Post after saying mean things about some Republicans in private, but writing blog posts comparing Solicitor General Elena Kagan to a prostitute is the kind of thing that gets you invited by Republicans to testify at her Senate confirmation hearing. Also, you should take a moment and read my preview piece on Kagan's confirmation hearings, which start today.

War, War Everywhere.

I'm in agreement with Marcy Wheeler that Jake Tapper , in an otherwise excellent and thorough interview with CIA Chief Leon Panetta , failed to get to the one of the key questions regarding the use of drones in the targeted killings of suspected enemy targets. I think even most staunch opponents to the use of drones would concede, if grudgingly, that the use of drones in Pakistan is probably legal, given that the Pakistani government has given their approval and that the border areas of Pakistan are basically an extension of the ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan. Unfortunately Tapper limited his question to whether the use of drones in Pakistan is legal: TAPPER: I know you can't discuss certain classified operations or even acknowledge them, but even since you've been here today, we've heard about another drone strike in Pakistan and there's been much criticism of the predator drone program, of the CIA. The United Nations official Phil Alston earlier this month said quote, "In a...

Secret Origins.

So, I haven't really done this in a while. Before I joined The American Prospect , I had a pseudonymous blog called Too Sense, which was named after an angry little pseudonymous zine I published in high school. That blog was mostly focused on race, but it helped me get a job here at TAP straight out of journalism school, an opportunity I was very lucky to have. I've spent the last two years writing for our group blog, TAPPED . Having written for TAPPED for so long, I think I may have forgotten how to helm a solo blog, but I suspect I'll figure it out as we go along. Since joining TAP, I've mainly written about civil rights, human rights, and criminal justice. In general, I'd say I've focused on how America manages the people who are feared and despised by large segments of society, whether it's the more than 7 million Americans in some phase of the correctional system, suspected terror detainees at Gitmo, undocumented immigrants , or even American Muslims trying to build places of...