Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Habeas… what?

June 17, 2008 5 comments

A telling quote from John McCain:

We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material. And we are going to be bollixed up in a way that is terribly unfortunate, because we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases.

Is it possible, is it even conceivable, that United States Senator John McCain doesn’t know what “habeas corpus” means?  Because his statement certainly suggests that he does not.  He sounds way too ignorant to be voting on Supreme Court justices, let alone appointing them.  He’s a perfect example of how far an engaging smile and a heroic story will take you in American politics.

The right wing keeps using the word; “Freedom”, but I do not think it means what they think it means.  Our whole country was founded on the notion of limits to power.  The king had a nasty habit of dropping people into black holes of imprisonment without a trial.  They might be bad, bad, horrible people or they might just be an embarrassment to the king, with the same result and there was no recourse.  It had nothing to do with prison conditions.

It fascinates me that people on the right wing distrust the government so much in everything else, yet they’re willing to let the government have unlimited powers to “keep them safe”.  When did our government become so trustworthy that it could operate without oversight?

Categories: Law, Politics

One out of a hundred Americans in prison

March 1, 2008 10 comments

The Pew Center On The States reports that about one out of a hundred Americans are in jail or prison right now.  That means an even more appalling percentage will have prison records and cannot participate in our economy beyond a minimal (or illegal) level.  It’s more than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, more than any of those countries we’re accustomed to regarding as examples of oppression.

The article says we spend “more than $49 billion” to be the worldwide imprisonment leader but that’s just the up-front cost.  By exiling so many people from the legitimate economy and creating a vast criminal infrastructure for common street drugs (let’s face it this is mostly about drugs) the cost to our economy will dwarf the cost of damaging it.  The war on drugs is a giant hemmoraging injury to our economy.  We have to stop it. 

If only there were some historical example we could learn from, where the war on a drug turned out to be more damaging than the drug itself.  Hmm… it seems there must be something but I can’t quite remember what it is.  Maybe I should go have a few beers and forget the whole thing.


  • ***Dave, Paul, and Les open up major cans of whup-ass following the Pew report.

  • One out of six federal inmates is in for marijuana-related offenses, more than are in for violent crime.
  • I don’t actually drink beer; that was just snark.
  • The War On Drugs falls disproportionately on the poor and on people of color.
  • Baltimore Sun report on this story gives the following example:
    There are 23,342 people incarcerated in Maryland, according to the Pew report. “And roughly 70 percent of them are in prison for drug or drug-related offenses,” Anderson said. “And of that 70 percent, 92 percent are African-American.”

  • WCBSTV report on this story
Categories: Law, Politics

Washington DC gun ban to be reconsidered

November 20, 2007 21 comments

Since 1976, the US Capital (Motto: “Ain’t got no representation but still paying taxes”) has banned the possession of handguns.  So unlike other American cities, hardly anyone is ever murdered there.  Criminals break other laws, but for some reason they just meekly obey the gun laws. This has given rise to a uniquely DC tradition, the “Whiffle-bat mugging.”

That may be about to change next spring, as the Supreme Court considers the DC gun law.  The supes will decide if DC’s ban is constitutional.  If they go thumbs-down, the law goes and gun shops will be open before you can say ‘nightie-night’.

Just imagine what that could mean!  The gun-free utopia of Washington DC could become like other American cities.  Emergency rooms, unaccustomed to seeing gunshot wounds, would have to study up on the latest rescue techniques.  But it won’t be all bad.  Honest citizens will start packing, and according to the NRA, crime will virtually disappear as ordinary citizens routinely get the drop on hardened criminals. 

OK, you may have gotten the idea I’m not being completely serious about this news story.  What do you think?  Should the ban stay or go?  Does it matter?


Categories: Law, Politics

USS Cole plotter “released”

October 27, 2007 12 comments

Yemen seems like a pretty good country, as emerging poverty-stricken Islamist democracies go.  At least they elect their leaders and they’re trying for economic reform. But you know the drill – no law may contradict the Quran, etc.  And then they let that USS Cole bombing conspirator Jamal al-Badawi off lightly, after first giving him a death sentence, then commuting it to 15 years, then he escapes, and turns himself in for “virtual house arrest”.  Next I suppose he’ll be allowed out into town and eventually he’ll just drift out of sight.

Funny thing is, you can indeed be executed in Yemen for being gay.  But conspire to blow up a ship and kill 17 sailors and it’s “house arrest” for you.  According to AP reports, “Witnesses said al-Badawi was “receiving well-wishers at his home” in Aden, Yemen”.

If al-Badawi ever shows his face around here, you can make a cool $5m for turning him in.  Somehow I doubt the US would forget to keep him locked up.

Categories: Law, Politics

The Smear This Time

October 7, 2007 Comments off

Remember Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas?  He went to the Supreme Court, she went to a teaching career, and later testified about his character in Senate confirmation hearings.

In his new memoir and on 60 Minutes, Thomas felt the need to say demeaning and derogatory things against his former accuser, even though he won that contest in the overwhelmingly male Senate.  And Anita Hill, dragged back into the spotlight, replies.

Do I believe Hill instead of Thomas out of some liberal bias?  Possibly.  But I’ve known guys like that, and her description of his behavior rang true.  And since the hearings, her testimony has been corroborated.

(From Joe Irvin’s blog, which is so consistently good that I’m putting it in the Sidebar Spotlight for a while.  He has a knack for finding interesting stuff).

Categories: Law, Politics

Sagging brains against baggy pants

August 30, 2007 7 comments

OK, I’ll just be honest and say that I think baggy-pants styles look moronic.  But illegal? 

In Delcambre, Louisiana, wearing sagging pants will cost you $500 or maybe even land you in jail.

Who thought up this law?  A Democrat?  A Republican? What was their reasoning?  I want details! 

Categories: Law, Politics

No Smoking

August 13, 2007 4 comments

The ordinance has survived several challenges, and will soon be statewide.  I have no political point to make here, except this is one of the more visually interesting “No Smoking” signs I’ve ever seen and it looks surreal when placed on both the inside and outside of the door.

The expression on the guy’s face seems to say; “There are few pleasures to be had, but my pipe and the long, solitary walk back to the outpost where I stand vigil.”

Categories: Law, Politics

An increasingly conservative Supreme

July 18, 2007 35 comments

I’ve heard many of my liberal friends less than happy about the number of Supreme Court spots our president will have filled when his term rolls to its ignominious end.  And while it does bother me, I’m not upset by it because I think we’ve relied too heavily on the courts.  The editorial “Supreme success” in the 7 July Economist says it pretty well:

There is no doubt that the new court will annoy liberal America.  It will punch holes in the wall between church and state.  It will uphold some restrictions on abortion.  But the frustrations will not prove as painful as they might seem.  By confirming the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, for example, the court has brought abortion practice more closely into line with popular opinion and internattional practice.  The court could even force liberals to rediscover the lost art of popular persuasion.  And it will force them to be more imaginative in advancing their core ideas.  Its prejudice against race-based affirmative action will force the left to think of better ways of dealing with poverty.  Liberals might experiment with income-based affirmative action, for example, or with vouchers that give more money to the poor.  All of which might do liberalism more good than harm. (emphasis mine)

Mind you, I don’t put much stock in complaints about “activist judges” (which is really any judge who does something you don’t like).  But we liberals are, in our own way, as addicted to force as the faux-conservatives currently running the show.  Conservatives got into power by a long process of persuasion – dishonest persuasion, to be sure, but they got people to vote for them by framing the issues in a way that resonated with voters.  Only the costly and abject failure of “conservative” policies finally tossed the ball over the liberal side of the net, and liberals are busy fumbling it.  We’ve never been good at reaching public opinion, and it’s high time we started studyin’ up on it. 

Categories: Law, Politics

Really serious accountability in China

May 29, 2007 3 comments

Remember Janet Reno taking “full responsibility” for Waco and Ruby Ridge, but not doing a damn thing about either one of them?  Remember “Heckuva Job” Brownie after Katrina?  Notice how Oliver North is a big TV hero these days?  Sometimes it seems we take accountability rather lightly in our country.

Not China, though.  Let your agency get corrupt and screw up the trust that other countries have in your exports, causing billions of dollars of consequences and driving thousands into poverty, and you’re in deep sludge:  Former Chinese FDA director sentenced to death.  And 31 others have been charged in the corruption case.  Somehow I doubt they can expect a light slap on the wrist, either.

Categories: Law, Politics

Is six months long enough?

March 22, 2007 4 comments

A guy’s making some progress with a woman at a bar.  She goes to the restroom and he puts white powder in her beer.  The waitress sees him do it.  He’s obviously dropping a date-rape drug and after he’s nailed, the judge gives him a year, of which he only serves six months.  Read the whole incredible story.

From Feminist Law Professors from Pharyngula

Categories: Law, Politics