No Comment — May 14, 2009, 9:21 am

The Jay Bybee Question

Today, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy announced that Judge Jay Bybee, notwithstanding the interviews he has granted to newspapers, has refused the committee’s invitation to appear and explain his role in preparation of the torture memoranda. Leahy observes:

Since Judge Bybee, through his lawyers, has declined to testify before the Committee at this time about his role in the drafting and authorization of memoranda from the Office of Legal Counsel that permitted torture, I can only presume that he has no exonerating information to provide. Judge Bybee must know that the presumption in our civil law is that when a person fails to come forward with information in his possession that is relevant to a matter, it is presumed to be because the information is negative and not helpful to his cause.

Testifying voluntary before the Judiciary Committee about these now-public memoranda is one way in which Judge Bybee could have helped complete the record of what happened and why but he refused. This is especially inappropriate given that Judge Bybee has hardly maintained silence about these matters.

Will the House now open impeachment proceedings? Today at the National Press Club in Washington, I joined in a panel discussion of the impeachment issue with Michael Frisch, Ethics Counsel at Georgetown University Law Center, and Michael Gerhardt, Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law and Director of the Center for Law and Government at the University of North Carolina. Alliance for Justice Director Nan Aron moderated the panel. You can watch it here.

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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