Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Talking About Activist Judges

January 22, 2010

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority re-wrote the Constitution to give corporations — never mentioned in the Constitution — the same right to influence the electoral process as ‘We the People.’ As the NYT’s Adam Liptak explains,

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court … ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The justices did what many, on both sides of the aisle, feared for months it would do: hold that long-standing restrictions on corporate campaign spending violate the First Amendment.

The five opinions in Thursday’s decision ran to more than 180 pages, with Justice John Paul Stevens contributing a passionate 90-page dissent. In sometimes halting fashion, he summarized it for some 20 minutes from the bench on Thursday morning.

Joined by the other three members of the court’s liberal wing, Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings.

The only (tiny) silver lining is that the ruling leaves the door open for legislative measures to push back against excessive influence of corporate funding:

Eight of the justices did agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements, at least in the absence of proof of threats or reprisals. “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” Justice Kennedy wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented on this point.


A Preventable Problem

January 13, 2010

The Economist reports a hair-raising Bureau of Justice Statistics study on prison rape in juvenile facilities that found “12% of juvenile prisoners report being sexually abused, more than 10% of them by staff”:

THE recent report on rape in juvenile facilities from the Bureau of Justice Statistics makes for horrific reading: 12% of juvenile prisoners report being sexually abused, more than 10% of them by staff (the surprising nugget within this subgroup is that 95%—95%!—of that 10% report having been victimised by female staff). Non-heterosexual inmates report a higher rate of abuse by another youth (12.5%) than their heterosexual counterparts (1.3%). Abuse is also not distributed evenly among facilities: at three of them—one each in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey—at least 33% of inmates report being abused, while 18% of facilities surveyed had no reported incidents of sexual abuse.

There is no doubt our Justice and Penal systems need a serious overhaul, in particular concerning juveniles. On this front we are the only advanced democracy to sentence juveniles to life.

More Imagination To Execute Than To Question Death Penalty

January 5, 2010

A recent article in the The Kansas City Star grabbed my attention:

After a failed execution in September, the state of Ohio may have revolutionized capital punishment in America when it put a different inmate to death last month.

It executed Kenneth Biros on Dec. 8 with a single drug, marking the first time in the United States that a lethal injection was not done with a three-drug “cocktail” that has been the subject of numerous legal challenges in recent years.

Missouri and Kansas prison officials say they have no immediate plans to change their protocols, which employ the three-drug method. But death penalty experts think it’s highly likely that other states will follow Ohio’s lead.

In light of the number of DNA based exonerations, including some death row inmates, that have taken place in recent years, I wish there would be more energy in reforming our justice and penal systems rather than wasting time on imagining new ways to kill. It’s time we drop the death penalty all together. No other “advanced democracy” applies it anymore.

The Jihadists Who Have Recanted

November 18, 2009

The Independent’s Johann Hari goes where others don’t. Read the whole, gripping, brilliant, beautifully written piece, the following exerts are just an introduction.

A wave of young British Islamists who trained to fight – who cheered as their friends bombed this country – have recanted. Now they are using everything they learned on the inside, to stop the jihad.

Seventeen former radical Islamists have “come out” in the past 12 months and have begun to fight back. Would they be able to tell me the reasons that pulled them into jihadism, and out again? Could they be the key to understanding – and defusing – Western jihadism? I have spent three months exploring their world and befriending their leading figures. Their story sprawls from forgotten English seaside towns to the jails of Egypt’s dictatorship and the icy mountains of Afghanistan – and back again.

The first story Johann recounts is that of the well-educated English Jihadist Usama Hassan, who was indoctrinated in Wahabbist Islam and spent the 1990s guiding other Muslims toward Jihad in Afghanistan and Bosnia. But Hassan’s fanaticism began to waver as he witnessed his fellow Jihadists killing one another. The 7/7 bombings in London shook him. The discrepancy between the world he had constructed in his head and the world his eyes and ears saw around him began to lead to the classic moment that many revolutionaries face as they contemplate the horror they have unleashed:

As he watched the news of the Luxor massacre in Egypt or Hamas suicide-bombings of pizzerias in Tel Aviv, “It just became more and more difficult to justify that.” He found himself thinking about the Jewish friends he had made at school. “They were just like me – human beings. And we had a lot in common. The dietary laws, and the identity issues, and the fear of racism.” As he heard the growing Islamist chants at demonstrations – “The Jews are the enemy of God,” they yelled – something, he says, began to sag inside him.

This critical insight from Johann’s piece on Western Jihadists explains how Guantanamo Bay was the biggest victory for Jihadism since 9/11. In fact, Cheney’s war crimes have endangered our civilization more profoundly than 9/11.

Once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community – they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 – from Guantanamo to Iraq – made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think – anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

But the converse was – they stressed – also true. When they saw ordinary Westerners trying to uphold human rights, their jihadism began to stutter. Almost all of them said that they doubted their Islamism when they saw a million non-Muslims march in London to oppose the Iraq War: “How could we demonise people who obviously opposed aggression against Muslims?” asks Hadiya.

Britain’s foreign policy also helped tug them towards Islamism in another way. Once these teenagers decided to go looking for a harder, tougher Islamist identity, they found a well-oiled state machine waiting to feed it. Usman Raja says: “Saudi literature is everywhere in Britain, and it’s free. When I started exploring my Muslim identity, when I was looking for something more, all the books were Saudi. In the bookshops, in the libraries. All of them. Back when I was fighting, I could go and get a car, open the boot up, and get it filled up with free literature from the Saudis, saying exactly what I believed. Who can compete with that?”

He says the Saudi message is particularly comforting to disorientated young Muslims in the West. “It tells you – you’re in this state of sin. But the sin doesn’t belong to you, it’s not your fault – it’s Western society’s fault. It isn’t your fault that you’re sinning, because the girl had the miniskirt on. It wasn’t you. It’s not your fault that you’re drug dealing. The music, your peers, the people around you – it’s their fault.”

This does not mean giving Islamism the slightest quarter; it does not mean avoiding an aggressive and persistent attempt to identify and monitor Jihadist groups and individuals; it does not mean softening a global campaign to find and target and if necessary kill Islamist enemies bent on our destruction. And it does not mean denying the real murderous intent of these people, or their vile anti-Semitism or their religious inspiration. It does mean using our strengths as a Western civilization to defang a corruption of true religious faith:

All of them said doubt began to seep in because they couldn’t shake certain basic realities from their minds. The first and plainest was that ordinary Westerners were not the evil, Muslim-hating cardboard kaffir presented by the Wahabis.

Usman, for one, finally stopped wanting to be a suicide bomber because of the kindness of an old white man.

Usman’s mother had moved in next door to an elderly man called Tony, who was known in the neighbourhood as a spiteful, nasty grump. One day, Usman was teaching his little brother to box in the garden when he noticed the old man watching him from across the fence. “I used to box when I was in the Navy,” he said. He started to give them tips and before long, he was building a boxing ring in their shed.

Tony died not long before 9/11, and Usman was sent to help clear out his belongings. In Tony’s closet, he found a present wrapped and ready for his little brother’s birthday: a pair of boxing gloves. “And I thought – that is humanity right there. That’s an aspect of the divine that’s in every human being. How can I want to kill people like him? How can I call him kaffir?”

Plus Ca Change … Ctd

October 17, 2009

It’s the 21st century, but apparently no one’s told Keith Bardwell.

A white Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Is that so. Bardwell lets black people use his bathroom and he has “piles” of black friends?

Well, in that case, I suppose there’s nothing objectionable here at all.

Apparently, couples that want to get married will call Bardwell to make arrangements. He’ll ask if they’re a mixed-race couple, and then refuse to help them if they answer the “wrong” way. As Bardwell sees it, society won’t accept their kids: “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

What a good point. The societal stigma on kids from mixed-race couples is so overwhelming, those kids would never have an opportunity to, say, grow up and someday seek the presidency of the United States. Oh wait.

The couple that Bardwell turned down last week intends to consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint. They’ve already received some support from the ACLU, which has sought an investigation from the Louisiana Judiciary Committee.

A Woman’s Right

October 15, 2009

The Economist reports that restrictive abortion laws do not prevent abortion and lead to higher rates of unsafe procedures.


If this alone doesn’t convince you abortion should be legal. and hence safe, because of moral principals, Andrew Sullivan over at The Atlantic compiled a remarkable series of testimonies under the title It’s So Personal.

Orly Taitz Sanctioned for $20,000

October 13, 2009

The Washington Independent’s David Weigel reports that the “Birther queen” has finally been slapped with a five-figure fine for “wasting the judicial resources” of the Middle District of Georgia, where she’d filed one of her numerous lawsuits demanding that President Obama prove his citizenship before deploying soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan. The judgment calls Taitz’s case and tactics “delusional”.

Judge Clay Land of the U.S. District Court in the Middle District Of Georgia goes on for some length — the order is 43 pages — explaining his reasoning:

When a lawyer files complaints and motions without a reasonable basis for believing that they are supported by existing law or a modification or extension of existing law, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer uses the courts as a platform for a political agenda disconnected from any legitimate legal cause of action, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer personally attacks opposing parties and disrespects the integrity of the judiciary, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer recklessly accuses a judge of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct with no supporting evidence beyond her dissatisfaction with the judge’s rulings, that lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law. When a lawyer abuses her privilege to practice law, that lawyer ceases to advance her cause or the ends of justice.

Although I am glad of this ruling because the monkey business had to be stopped, I am afraid this will also elevate her to the status of martyr in Crazy World.

Update (10.13.2009)
TPM has a response from Mrs Wacko. She seems to want to put herself into real trouble. I wonder how long her husband will be ready to bankroll her hobby once it starts to cost real money.

Update II (10.14.2009)
Joy Behar hopped on the Orly Taitz train last night, interviewing the Birther attorney for her new show. Noting the judge described Taitz as delusional, Behar asked Taitz to respond:

Taitz: Absolutely no. It’s a delusional and corrupt judge.

Behar: But he was appointed by George Bush. Just FYI.

Taitz: Listen, people make mistakes, what can I say.

Watch (starts about :40 into the clip):

Private Prison Developers Prey On Desperate Towns

October 13, 2009

Justin Elliott over at TPM has an excellent piece about the private correction industry and how they are ripping millions from small towns.

“They look for an impoverished town that’s desperate,” says Frank Smith of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes prison privatization. “They come in looking very impressive, saying, ‘We’ll make money rain from the skies.’ In fact, they don’t care whether it works or not.”

Supreme Court To Consider Juvenile ‘Lifers’

September 29, 2009

David G. Savage reports:

Joe Sullivan was 13 years old when he and two older boys broke into a home, where they robbed and raped an elderly woman. After a one-day trial in 1989, Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.

Terrance Graham was 16 when he and two others robbed a restaurant. When he was arrested again a year later for a home break-in, a Florida judge said he was incorrigible. In 2005, Graham received a life term with no parole.

The two young convicts represent an American phenomenon, one the Supreme Court is set to reconsider in the fall term that opens Oct. 5. At issue is whether it is cruel and unusual punishment to imprison a minor until he or she dies when the crime does not involve murder.

According to Amnesty International, “The United States is the only country in the world that does not comply with the norm against imposing life-without-parole sentences on juveniles.”

PBS Frontline also reported on the subject in 2007 and there is no doubt in my mind our justice system is on the wrong path on the matter.

Marine Officer Who Set Up Guantanamo Prison Dismayed By What It Has Become

September 29, 2009

Gen. Michael Lehnert
Retiring Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, charged with setting up Gitmo in 2001, speaks out:

“Once they were out of the fight, I felt we had a moral responsibility to care for them in a humane fashion,” Lehnert said. “I think it’s extremely important how we treat prisoners.” Lehnert recalled talking to young Marines who thought the detainees were being treated too well. “They said, ‘They wouldn’t treat us this way,’ ” Lehnert said. “I said ‘You’re correct, and that is entirely irrelevant. If we treat them that way [as they might treat U.S. prisoners], then we become them.’ ” Shortly after leaving Guantanamo, Lehnert said he concluded that the detention center should be shut down as soon as possible, a position that he holds more strongly now. “I think we should close it down,” he said. “I think the information we’re getting is not worth the international beating we’re taking.”