Thursday, March 13, 2003

Delma Banks, Jr. Update. The US Supreme Court has granted an indefinate stay of execution for Delma Banks, Jr., who was scheduled to become the 300th person executed in Texas since 1982 last night. Read the story here from the New York Times. Mr. Banks is hardly out of trouble, though. It appears that the Court is split on whether or not the hear the case themselves. If they decide not to, it would immediately end the stay, and the execution could be rescheduled for any time after thirty days.

We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Britain's Latest Proposal. The latest move in the drive for UN approval of war with Iraq has been made by Britain. The New York Times has the story. The idea is that Saddam Hussein has a specific amount of time to perform several specific actions in order to avert war. The concept behind this plan is sound, I think, but we've got to look at the details. One of the hurdles Saddam has to overcome is mentioned explicitly in the Times story: "The six conditions, for instance, included a demand that the Iraqi leader appear on television to make a public declaration in Arabic that he has been concealing weapons of mass destruction but has now made a "strategic decision" to disarm."

This struck me as rather odd. Think about it: if the goal is disarmament, what possible difference would it make whether or not Saddam goes on television to tell everyone in Arabic that he has disarmed? Personally, as someone who supports disarmament, I don't care what Saddam says in Arabic on television, I only care that he disarms.

Let me speculate about this one: the goal here was to create a condition that Saddam would never meet. Saddam is a dictator who rules by force and propaganda. Admitting that he is disarming would be a huge political liability for Saddam. I'm trying to think of an American example that might cover this, but I can't. The closest I can come to is forcing Bush to admit that he lost the 2000 election. Even that, however, would be unlikely to incite Bush's assassination. Saddam admitting to his own people, presumably the target audience of this broadcast, that he has caved to international pressure would most likely lead to his assassination. Which is fine as far as it goes, but that's exactly why Saddam will never do it. And that is why it's in the proposal.

Think about this: giving Saddam a condition that he will never meet is exactly the same as directly authorizing war, in practice. That's why France will not support any resolution that involves an ultimatum. This proposal will go nowhere, and it highlights the massive division on the Security Council. The US and UK are looking for nothing other than a way to get a war started as soon as possible. Just about everyone else is looking for a way to avert war. The problem is that the US has not been able to convince very many countries either that 1) disarmament without war is impossible, or that 2) disarmament without regime change is impossible. All of these "compromises" coming out of the UK fail to address this fundamental disagreement, but they serve their purpose by making it appear that the US is bending over backwards to prevent war, when they're actually bending over backwards to start a war.
A Stunning Development. Balkinization reports that Jose Padilla will be allowed to have a lawyer. This is a huge rebuke to the Ashcroft Justice Department, and I'm a little surprised. First of all, the judge who made this ruling seems pretty adamant about it: '"Lest any confusion remain, this is not a suggestion or a request that Padilla be permitted to consult with counsel, and it is certainly not an invitation to conduct a further `dialogue' about whether he will be permitted to do so. It is a ruling -- a determination -- that he will be permitted to do so," the judge said,' according to the New York Times. Second of all, federal judges are often highly deferential to the "political" branches during times of national crisis. Consider the fact that the US Supreme Court upheld the decision during WWII to gather up all Asians living on the west coast (whether US citizens or not) and confine them to internment camps.

What this says to me is that, at least in the eyes of this particular judge, the Justice Department is way out of line on this one. Thank goodness. I have no sympathy for Jose Padilla, who, even if he is cleared of these terrorism charges, is a pretty unsavory guy. But a country that allows its government to lock up its citizens on criminal suspicion, while denying that citizen his Constitutional right to representation by counsel, is not a country that I would call "free".
Bigotry Watch. Yes, it's another round of Bigotry Watch, where stupid, insensitive, and outright racist comments are publicly scorned. Guess what... it's even a Democrat this time. Rep. James Moran Jr. of Virginia, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, suggested in recent statements that American Jews are responsible for the U.S. policy toward war in Iraq, and that they could turn this policy around if they chose, and that they should.

Listen, you can criticize Ariel Sharon; that's not anti-Semitism. You can criticize Israel; that's not anti-Semitism. You can say that Israel should get out of the West Bank and Gaza and give the Palestinians an independent state of their own; that's not anti-Semitism. You can even criticize the U.S. government for being too cozy with Israel; that's not anti-Semitism. But you cannot suggest or imply, much less flat out state, that American foreign policy is being dictated by the desires of American Jews, who have the power to single-handly end the push for war in this country. That sounds an awful lot like anti-Semitism to me. Not to mention a little nuts.

I don't live in Virginia, so obviously, Jim Moran is not my Congressman. Therefore, you won't hear me calling on him to resign his seat in the House of Representatives, just like you didn't hear me call on Trent Lott to resign his Senate seat. But shit, comments like that are simply not acceptable.

Anyway, read the story for yourself, from yesterday's Washington Post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Don't Believe the Hype. Get ready, folks, there a shitstorm of disinformation coming your way once again from the Republican Party and their media cronies. The topic this time: so-called "partial-birth abortions". I say "so-called" because the term was made up by a pro-life Republican politician and doesn't really mean anything. But that's another story.

Today's story can be found at an excellent blog amusingly titled "Alas, a Blog", under a post published earlier today called "What does the partial-birth abortion ban actually ban?." If you said "partial-birth abortions", then you're a sucker. Follow the link.

Let me make my position very clear on this issue: I think that late-term abortions, performed in the third trimester of pregnancy, particularly after the fetus has reached a point of viability, should be banned except in cases that involve threats to the life or health of the mother. In other words, they should only occur when they are medically necessary to the mother. Honestly, I don't see how anyone could possibly have a problem with this position. Except that the ban isn't really necessary, because but for cases of medical necessitate, I'm not sure how much abortions like these happen anyway. But, if people want a ban, that's fine with me.

What's up before the Senate now, and likely to pass according to the Washington Post, is a bill that doesn't ban many late-term, post-viability abortions, but does ban many abortions which can in no way be described as "partial-birth", including abortions that take place before the third-trimester and before the fetus becomes viable. Futhermore, the bill contains an exception for cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but not the health of the mother. Think of it this way: you want to write a bill that applies to all even one-digit numbers. You write a bill that ends up apply to all numbers from 3 to 7. Is this a good bill?

Of course, it's worse than that. In fact, this bill seems to be unconstitutional, and I expect many of its supporters in Congress know it. In Stenberg v. Carhart, decided in June 2000, the US Supreme Court overturned a Nebraska law which banned partial-birth abortions, but did not provide an exception for the health of the mother. The Court ruled, 5-4, that any such law must create a "health of the mother" exception in order to be Constitutional. This bill carries no such exception.

A fraud is being perpetrated on the American people by the Republicans in Congress. They are trying to capitalize on the reasonable revulsion most of us feel for so-called "partial-birth abortions", which are extremely gruesome. But don't let them fool you. This bill will ban many more abortions than merely these, and many of these it will not ban at all. This is not a "partial-birth abortion" ban, and anyone who tells you otherwise must be either a liar or a sucker.

Thanks to Ampersand at Alas, a Blog, for bringing this issue to my attention.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Sullivan v. New York Times. Andrew Sullivan argues that international pressure against Saddam Hussein is being undermined by disunity in the UN Security and here at home. Honestly, I think he's right about that. But for some reason, he only blames one side. He says "To be sure, we don't have absolute maximum pressure. We have a divided security council, massive peace demos and papers like the New York Times already bailing on a united front."

So what is the Times supposed to do... pretend they think Bush is right for the sake of national unity, even though they honestly believe Bush is wrong? What kind of journalism is that? Of course, this is just a trickle-down argument from the Republicans in government. When the much lauded post-9/11 "spirit of bipartisanship" broke down, whose fault was it? Democrats, obviously, because the Democrats stopped agreeing with Bush.

Why do these concepts always cut the same way? Under a Republican president, bipartisanship never means mutual compromise; it means the Democrats have to agree with the what the Republicans have wanted all along. Sullivan's argument is the same. Bush doesn't have to temper his policy, or even his approach, to secure international backing; rather, everyone else has to support Bush on Bush's terms. What utter bullshit! The world, and the country, are divided because Bush is divisive. The problem isn't that Bush is wrong (though, obviously, I think he is). The problem is that Bush is bullying rather than persuading, he's threatening rather than arguing. If there is a divided front in the country, or in the world, and if that divided front is playing into Saddam's hands, then it is a failure of diplomacy to be laid squarely at Bush's feet.

[The title of this post is an inside joke to Law-geeks that I've been hoping to use for months now.]
Judicial Killing in Texas. It's a classic example of why the death penalty in this country is hopelessly broken. A black man is accused of killing a white boy in Texas in 1980. Case closed. Kill the bastard.

Trouble is, the evidence against the defendant was based on two highly uncredible witnesses: a hardcore drug addict, and a felon hoping to swing a deal with the prosecutors. Prosecutors broker deals with snitches all the time, but the jury is usually supposed to be told about this arrangement, if I'm not mistaken. But not this time. The prosecution deliberately concealed the deal, because they needed the testimony and knew that it wouldn't be credible if the deal were known. On top of that, the defendant has an alibi putting him in Dallas, a three-hours drive from the crime scene, at the time of death.

He's going to die on Wednesday. Bob Herbert has the story.

Tell me again that death row inmates should have less opportunity for appeal, I dare you.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Sad Day. My grandmother passed away last night. It's a bit of a shock. She was extremely healthy, and not just for someone of her age. My family often joked that she would outlive all of us, and it seemed likely. But, I think, sometimes, when someone is just ready to go, well... I'm holding up ok, and my parents really seem to have it together. I'm still pretty shaken up, though.

I've decided, out of pure foolishness I expect, to come in to Rutgers this morning to finish working on my appellate brief, which is due tomorrow. I don't know if I can do it. I may have to request a postponement. Believe me, if you thought analyzing section 309(c)(2)(A) of the Clean Water Act was dry and technical before, try dealing with it in a state like this.

I'm sure all of my readers have been through family losses of their own; I'm not trying to elicit sympathy. But I wanted to get all of this down. I feel a little better having done so.