June 28, 2004
Land of the Free
Today the United States Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to the Patriot Act. In several opinions, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of prisoners to petition our courts -- through the writ of habeas corpus -- for a determination of whether that prisoner is being held in confinement with good reason. This will prevent the potentially indefinite detention of individuals who have been accused of terrorist activity and force the government to make an adequate case against these prisoners or to set them free.
Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The judges of England developed the writ of habeas corpus largely to preserve these immunities from executive restraint. Consistent with the historic purpose of the writ, this Court has recognized the federal courts' power to review applications for habeas relief in a wide variety of cases involving Executive detention, in wartime as well as in times of peace. The Court has, for example, entertained the habeas petitions of an American citizen who plotted an attack on military installations during the Civil War and of admitted enemy aliens convicted of war crimes during a declared war and held in the United States and its insular possessions.Rasul et al. v. Bush, President of the United States, et al., No. 03-334, June 28, 2004. Justice Stevens, writing for the Court, Justices O'Connor, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg joining and Justice Kennedy concurring.
Newsweek recently reported that 20 million unmarried American women, a group polls have found are more liberal than the average person, did not vote in the 2000 presidential election. Anna Quindlen, the author of the article, wryly noted that “If [John Kerry] reached out to those women as aerobically as George W. Bush has to evangelicals, Kerry could be working on his Inaugural speech right now.”
It appears that the political concerns of women, in general, are more closely aligned with John Kerry, than with George Bush. The AFL-CIO recently issued a report on a wide survey of working women polled across the nation and across educational and income levels. Here’s a few interesting facts for you. Since the Bush administration took office: (1) women have lost 2.2 million private sector jobs. The majority of these jobs has been in the manufacturing industry (traditionally the jobs with the best pay and benefits); (2) the workers’ share of health care costs has grown almost 50 percent; (3) 1.8M workers have been jobless for at least 6 mos. time – this number has tripled since 2000 when Clinton was in office.
Nine of the ten women surveyed by the AFL-CIO want to see: (1) overtime pay guaranteed; (2) limits on CEO compensation; (3) stronger laws preventing unequal pay and discrimination. Forty percent of working women work evenings, nights, and weekends. Three out of ten women make all or almost all of their family’s income. Three in five earn fifty percent or more of their families income. Ninety percent of women surveyed noted that jobs with good pay and benefits are hard to find. The AFL-CIO’s least surprising observation is that college educated working women are more insulated from job loss and have better access to benefits, than women who do not hold a college degree.
June 24, 2004
Do the right thing? or Do “gentle souls” dispassionately write about torture?
Today’s New York Times reports about the dispassionate (and horrifying) conclusions of Jay S. Bybee, the author of the Bush Administration memo on torture that suggested “even if the [American inflicting pain on a prisoner of war] knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent," to be successfully prosecuted for torture. Bybee narrowly defined torture as pain like that accompanying “death, organ failure or the permanent impairment of a significant body function.” Finally, Bybee argued that George W. Bush was free, as commander in chief, to order torture notwithstanding treaties and laws barring it.
At the time the memo was written Bybee, 50, served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, an elite unit of the Justice Department that advises the executive branch on the law. Bybee left the Office of Legal Counsel, after the Bush Administration successfully nominated and seated Bybee on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. When asked how he’d liked to be remembered Bybee answered “I would like my headstone to read, ‘He always tried to do the right thing.’” Really?
Judge Bybee’s friends argue in his defense that Judge Bybee is not, a dominant personality, but rather a “gentle soul.” Maybe the Republican party should have turned to the dominant personality of John McCain for advice on the acceptable manner in which to treat a prisoner of war, and kept the "gentle soul" out of such discourse.
June 23, 2004
How is this relevant?
Jack Ryan -- the Illinois GOP nominee for the United States Senate -- is a millionaire former investment banker who left the business world to teach at a Roman Catholic school in the inner city of Chicago. Ryan is under current attack, in the national press. Mr. Ryan's political views are not at issue. Instead the thunderstorm was created by four year old allegations made by Mr. Ryan's former wife, during a child custody battle, that Mr. Ryan had forced his former wife to have sex in front of others.
I am offended by this sort of discourse in our political process. First, any allegations made in custody or divorce proceedings should not be made a part of the public record unless the allegations are found by a court of law to be true and making those findings public would prevent injury to another. Second, sexual practices have no place in the consideration of whether or not someone is fit for public office.
This sort of discourse focuses the vote on something that it completely irrelevant and away from whether or not the candidate would actually promote his or her consituents interests. It is in all our interests to elect candidates who will treat the unempowered with respect (children, prisoners, elderly, etc.). However, wives -- who can purchase their own property, earn their own wages, vote, hold public office, practice birth control, and terminate pregnancies -- all without the influence of their husbands no longer find themselves among among the ranks of the unempowered.
June 18, 2004
Count the Cost
The Washington Post has published photos (when available) and brief biographies of the men and women of the United States Military who have lost their lives in Iraq. Take a look here.
Double Speak, Part Two
President Bush's February 2003 insistence that Iraq was "harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner" has been reduced to the level of "numerous contacts" in light of yesterday's finding by the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission, and announced by Thomas H. Kean (R), the panel's chairman, that "there is no credible evidence that we can discover, after a long investigation, that Iraq and Saddam Hussein in any way were part of the attack on the United States."
In a February 2003 radio address, President Bush said: "Iraq has sent bombmaking and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. And an al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad."
In response to yesterday's revelations by the 9/11 commission President Bush said "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush said. Read more here.
I sort of miss the days when the only thing our President was lying about was blow jobs.
June 17, 2004
The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq. Today's Washington Post article reporting this fact features a photo of Vice President Cheney, speach, on Monday, June 14, 2004, just four days ago insisting that Saddam Hussein "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."
The current administration is either lying to the American people or so completely out of touch with reality that it cannot effectively serve this nation.
The same day that Vice President Cheney revealed his complete ignorance as to the absence of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussien, President Bush praised Bill Clinton, a the White House unveiling of Clinton's presidential portrait, for his knowledge, compassion and ``the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president.'' Perhaps President Bush is setting a precedent of gracious remembrance by a succeeding president.
June 07, 2004
While the collective attention of the United States is fixed on Iraq, today's Washington Post reports, it is likely that nearly one million non-Arab Africans will soon die at the hand of the Arab controlled Sudanese government. Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, declared that in an optimistic scenario -- meaning one in which significant relief is delivered -- some 300,000 people might perish. That is the equivalent of Sept. 11, 2001, 100 times over. The worst-case scenario, according to Mr. Natsios, is a death toll that approaches 1 million. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees, the death toll in Sudan is higher than the combined fatalities of Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, and Algeria.
Colin Powell has a long standing history of sympathy for those targeted for genocide in the area. You can reach him here.
Sudan is Africa's largest country. The Dufar region of Sudan is located just below Egypt to the east of Libya and Chad and to the northwest of Ethiopia. The government and its Janjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa—often in cold blood—raped women, and destroyed villages, food stocks and other supplies essential to the civilian population. They have driven more than one million civilians, mostly farmers, into camps and settlements in Darfur where they live on the very edge of survival, hostage to Janjaweed abuses. More than 110,000 others have fled to neighbouring Chad but the vast majority of war victims remain trapped in Darfur.
The Sudanese states plan is "to systematically destroy cultures and languages" of Sudan's non-Arab peoples. A state sponsored project, the Mashru' Altawajuh Alhadari project of civilising orientation, had the "ultimate goal of cleansing that country from all its indigenous peoples regardless of their colour, religion, ethnicity, etc., and creating a pure Arab society," the group claims. Several militias had been created to achieve this "goal".
Meanwhile, the Sudanese government continues to prevent unimpeded humanitarian access to the displaced people still inside Sudan. A new UN assessment of one previously inaccessible town in southern Darfur found that the government is “deliberately starving” civilians. Armed guards are preventing the civilians from receiving food from outside or venturing forth in search of food. In just this one town, according to the UN officials, eight or nine children are dying every day from malnutrition. And it “is but one of several locations (in Darfur) where civilians are living under similar conditions without having been able to communicate their ordeal to the humanitarian community.”
The United States recognized the acts of the Khartoum government of Sudan as genocidal in October of 2002. But the Washington Post reports that the United States, Britain and Norway in their efforts to broker and implement a north-south peace and so have shrunk from pressuring the northern government for greater access to Darfur. Outsiders pretend to believe that a team of 60 or 100 observers from the African Union will be enough to end the atrocities in Darfur, a region the size of France, and they pretend to hope that Sudan will grant full humanitarian access without being bullied into doing so.
Make no mistake about it, racism of the clearest nature is at the heart of the Khartoum government’s actions. In Sudan’s Darfur region, the Khartoum government supports Arab militias in their massacre of Fur and other non-Arab indigenous people termed "slaves". A racist attitude towards these peoples from many of the politically dominant Sudanese Arabs has been documented on many occasions and the terms 'abd (male slave) and khadim (female slave) are frequently used to describe non-Arabs.
June 03, 2004
Although a lifelong dog-lover, recently this dog has been frustrated by the seemingly constant morning barking of her Bouvier and Boxer companions. This morning’s Washington Post contained an article on the calming affect that rescue dogs are having in Ohio prisons. It’s a heartwarming article that is worth a read. It certainly reminded me of the comfort that my own dogs provide to me.
June 02, 2004
Am I Free to Leave?
If you are a seventeen year old boy whose parents are waiting while you are being interrogated for two hours by the police, a state court might properly find that you need not be told that you have the right to remain silent or the right to an attorney, before the police solicit a confession from you.
Yesterday, by a vote of 5 to 4 (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy & O’Connor), the United States Supreme Court ruled that the California Court of Appeal did not have to factor in the youth and inexperience of 17 year old Michael Alvarado, when it decided that he was not clearly in custody during his two-hour session with a detective. The requirement that police advise interviewees of their rights applies only to those who are under arrest or who, under the circumstances, reasonably believe they are not free to leave.
Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, relied upon this Court’s long established view of federalism and decided that federal law requires federal courts to accept constitutional decisions by state courts unless they are clearly unreasonable or violate Supreme Court precedent.
However, in conceding that "fair-minded jurists could disagree over whether Alvarado was in custody" Kennedy all but admitted that another set of jurists might have found that Alvarado was in custody, Miranda, as modified by the Court's subsquent decisions, controlled and Alvarado’s confession was tainted in that he was not told of his right to remain silent.
Today’s Washington Post reminds all of us that our rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present with us prevent convictions of the innocent by citing the case of five New York teenagers who wrongly served prison sentences for the 1989 beating and rape of the woman who became known as the Central Park jogger. Those five young men later recanted their confessions and it was later discovered that DNA evidence proved their confessions – and convictions – to be false.
Justice O'Connor, wrote a short concurring opinion in which she qualified her vote by noting that, although Alvarado was nearly 18, "there may be cases in which a suspect's age will be relevant to the Miranda 'custody' inquiry." Writing for the dissent, Justice Breyer (jointed by Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg) agreed with O’Connor saying noting that "[c]ommon sense, and an understanding of the law's basic purpose in this area, are enough to make clear that Alvarado's age . . . is also relevant to the inquiry." "What reasonable person in the circumstances . . . could have thought to himself, 'Well, anytime I want to leave I can just get up and walk out?'”
In the final analysis, six members of the United States Supreme Court found that "there may be cases in which a suspect's age will be relevant to the Miranda 'custody' inquiry." In light of the Patriot Act, and its abuses, the debate over the protections of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments is is far from over. The rights contained in these amendments are: (1) no arrest after unreasonable search and seizure or without probably cause; (2) no arrest without grand jury indictment or for crimes of which you've already been tried, you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself, and the government can't take your property without paying for it; (3) the right to a speedy trial, effective assistance of counsel, and the right to confront your accusers, respectively.