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The jaw dropper of the day has been Texas Governor Rick Perry's announcement--and refusal to disavow--that he may be contemplating secession (or a similar process) for the Lone Star State. But members of the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature must be wondering what all the fuss is about.

On April 1 of this year, the Georgia Senate passed a resolution affirming their belief that the U.S. government is on the verge of nullifying the Constitution--that, for instance if Congress passes any "[f]urther infringements on the right to keep and bear arms," that'll be it, in their eyes, for the olll' U.S. of A:

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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) just appeared on the Ed Schultz show on MSNBC, and he was asked about Michele Bachmann's allegation that the "Flying Imams" -- the six Muslim men who were removed from a plane at the Minneapolis airport in late November 2006 -- were suspicious characters who had in fact been in town for Ellison's victory party.

(The relevance here is that Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress. And the men were in town for a conference held a week and a half after Ellison's election. And they were released after it was found they posed no threat.)

Schultz billed Bachmann's allegation as part of his regular "Psycho Talk" feature, and asked Ellison if it was true. "This is not true," said Ellison. "I think it could even be called 'Psycho Talk.'"

Just before Ellison's appearance, his press secretary Rick Jauert told me that the Congressman had tried to call Bachmann to discuss this. She wasn't available, so he left her a note. "He's just not gonna engage her," said Jauert.

From one of the May 2005 OLC memos by Steven Bradbury:

Nudity. This technique is used to cause psychological discomfort, particularly if a detainee, for cultural or other reasons, is especially modest ... [I]nterrogators can exploit the detainee's fear of being seen naked. In addition, female officers involved in the interrogation process may see the detainees naked; and for purposes of our analysis, we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by female.

When Michele Bachmann talks...somebody obviously likes it. It turns out that Bachmann had a very good first-quarter fundraising: She raised about $310,000, and has $224,000 in cash-on-hand.

Now keep in mind that the Upper Midwest has fairly cheap media rates, and the first full quarter after a presidential campaign typically sees low levels of political contributions across the board. Against that backdrop, this is simply marvelous.

At first glance it looks like most of it came from Minnesota, but she also received donations from all across the country: New York, Arizona, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, California, Colorado, New Jersey and elsewhere.

So just remember: Michele Bachmann genuinely speaks for an awful lot of people -- enough to fund her campaigns handsomely, and enough people geographically located in this district to elect her.

(Via Minnesota Independent.)

A few minutes ago, I spoke with Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Noting that Perry hadn't spoken of imminent secession, I asked her what sort of scenario the governor envisioned when he spoke at the Austin Tea Party, and what the legal ramifications of such a move would be. She sought to assure me that Perry does not want Texas to secede, and directed me to this blog post.

This is interesting that this has really kind of bubbled up, to uh... I refer people back to my statement, and I gotta a charge out of it. I was kinda thinking that, maybe the same people who hadn't been reading the constitution right were reading that article and they got the wrong impression about what I said.

Clearly, I stated that we have a great union. And Texas is part of a great union. I see no reason for that to change. I think that may not be the exact quote, but that is, in essence what I said.

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Here's the official Bush legal rationale for waterboarding -- which Eric Holder recently confirmed was torture -- from that 2002 memo by Jay Bybee.

Finally, you would like to use a technique called the "waterboard." In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual's blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of "suffocation and incipient panic," i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths. the sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout. You have orally informed us that this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is not in fact drowning. You have also orally informed us that it is likely that this procedure would not last more than twenty minutes in any one application.

As we understand it, when the waterboard is used, the subject's body responds as if the subject were drowning -- even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. as we explained in the Section 2340A Memorandum, "pain and suffering" as used in Section 2340 is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of "pain" as distinguished from "suffering".... The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict "severe pain and suffering". Even if one were to parse the stature more "finely" to attempt to treat suffering as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe suffering. The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.

Of course, thanks to today's announcement by DOJ, CIA officers can't be prosecuted for this.

The latest score in the NY-20 special election, as absentee ballots are being counted, has Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican candidate Jim Tedisco by 178 votes, up from a 167-vote lead this morning.

The counties are either completely done or almost done with counting up the votes, and this stage of the process could be finished up tomorrow.

The next step will be on Monday, when review and potential counting begins for the 1,200 absentee-ballot envelopes that have been challenged, and thus kept out of the count for now. A key ruling yesterday by Judge James V. Brands makes it likely that the vast majority of these challenges will be overruled, and the votes will be counted.

From the available evidence it looks like the Tedisco camp challenged more ballots than Murphy's people did -- but not all counties have divulged the breakdown, most notably Saratoga County with its 740 total challenges. If this general assumption were to turn out to be correct, then the most probable outcome would be that Murphy will pick up additional net votes.

Here's a taste of the Bush administration's legal rationale, exemplified in one excerpt from the 2002 OLC memo written by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al Qaeda member:

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual's ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted. (our itals)

If you have time, comb through the memos yourselves (they're here) and let us know what else you find.

It's worth making sure we don't lose sight of the apparent price that the Obama administration paid to the intelligence community to mollify them over the release of the torture memos: a pledge not to prosecute agency personnel for waterboarding.

Here's a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led the fight against torture, calling the decision "one of the deepest disappointments of this administration".

CCR Decries Immunity for Torture, Secrecy

April 16, 2009, New York - In response to President Obama's decision to guarantee immunity to CIA officials who carried out the drowning torture known as waterboarding, which his attorney general has classified as torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

"It is one of the deepest disappointments of this administration that it appears unwilling to uphold the law where crimes have been committed by former officials. Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted. In the president's statement today, the most troubling contradiction is the contrast of the words, 'This is a time for reflection, not retribution,' followed shortly by, 'The United States is a nation of laws.' Government officials broke very serious laws: for there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again."

Since the first days of the public revelations regarding the Bush administration's torture program, the Center for Constitutional Rights has made efforts to hold high level officials and their lawyers accountable for their crimes. CCR, along with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), has tried three times, twice in Germany and once in France, to bring criminal cases in Europe against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, and former White House Counsel/Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as the other lawyers who were part of the conspiracy that authorized the torture program in Guantanamo, Iraq, secret CIA sites, and elsewhere. The German case is still pending. CCR also has torture cases pending in U.S. courts.

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Here are the OLC torture memos just released by the Justice Department...

An 18-page memo [PDF], dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

A 46-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

A 20-page memo [PDF], dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

A 40-page memo [PDF], dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

Go to it!