Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Unless of course, the judge ISN'T a racist...
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.

With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need
when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.

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posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Lindsey Graham: Sotomayor should apologize to white people
We have truly entered the Bizarro World of right wing politics. Senator Lindsey Graham, who represents South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, and a former bastion of slavery and Jim Crow, has now officially demanded that Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize to all white men for making them feel bad.

Yep. That's it. I've now heard it all.

BTW, I wonder if that nut-bag Tom Tancredo will now call Miss Lindsey a quasi member of the KKK for having addressed La Raza on the subject of immigration reform back in 2007...?

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
Judge Sotomayor? How NICE
Did you notice how nice, effusive and positive the elected Republicans were to Judge Sotomayor on the Sunday shows today? I think our children IS learning... Well, except for Mitch McConnell. I think he was just born mean...

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posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
Friday, May 29, 2009
Limbaugh attacks Cornyn, calls Native Americans 'clowns'
And this is the guy worried about a "racist" getting onto the Supreme Court? Rush Limbaugh, famous for his positive attitude toward ethnic minorities, has done it again. His attack on John Cornyn, whose conservative credentials he questioned today, was expected. After all, Cornyn made the seminal mistake of disagreeing with Boss Limbaugh for likening Judge Sonia Sotomayor to David Duke. But then, El Rushbo up and swallowed the "golden microphone":
Rush got the final hour started with "one more thing" about Sonia Sotomayor -- a mental exercise: "She said that because she is a Latina, because she is a Hispanic woman, that she'd -- because of the richness of that experience, she'd be a better judge than a white guy. What if she had said because of her rich experiences as a Latina, as a Hispanic woman, that she'd be a better judge than a black guy? What do you think the reaction to that might have been?"
Go on ...
"If we want to talk about richness of experience, there's a group of people that were here before we got here, gang: the Indians, the Native Americans, the chiefs, the redskins. I don't see any of them being put up on the courts. Talk about a richness of experience -- hell, these clowns beat Custer. They have cred. You don't see them being put up, do you?"
Oh, that's not good.

Meanwhile, how long before the White House knuckles under to the wussified Old School Democrats and force Judge Sotomayor to issue a meek and full throated apology to white people everywhere, even as they're winning this debate??? The media, from Politico to the New York Times to the loathsome New Republic, is already doing its part to cow the would-be Justice on the "wise Latina" issue, and so far, Robert Gibbs is playing along.

UPDATE: So is Barack.

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posted by JReid @ 6:01 PM  
Countering the oppression of the white man
The right's self-sabotage just won't end. Also from Salon:
RedState's editor, Erick Erickson, felt compelled to stand up for white men on Wednesday. "I dunno, Sotomayor," he wrote on Twitter. "Considering white males engineered Western Civ, you'd think they'd have a handle on things to be able to make decisions."

Not surprisingly, the idea of trying to block a Latina judge from the Supreme Court by stirring up resentment over affirmative action doesn't strike many observers as the best way to appeal to Latino voters. "If Sonia Sotomayor's name were John Smith, she'd be just as qualified, and no one would be charging affirmative action or reverse racism," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who left John McCain's presidential campaign last year because he didn't want to help it go negative against Obama. "To suggest as much is itself racist. And I think most Americans see right through the smoke screen."

The White House -- which wouldn't comment for this story -- isn't exactly trying to avoid reminding people of Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage, preferably with a soft-focus lens that plays up the historic nature of her nomination. If conservatives overreach in opposing her, the administration won't complain. "Latino voters are responding with a tremendous sense of pride and appreciation," said Fernand Amandi, executive vice president of Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic polling firm that surveyed Latino voters for Obama's campaign last year. "The Hispanic community -- especially after the immigration issue -- is very sensitive to dog-whistle attack politics. During the immigration debate, Hispanics were never directly attacked or called out, but the message they received was they were not wanted here." The dog-whistle line may have already been crossed; it's not exactly a hidden message to call someone a race hustler.

Republicans who actually have to win elections don't seem interested in engaging in the backlash politics. "The approach that many of the senators and leadership is taking is, well, you know, let's give her a fair hearing and see what she has to say," said GOP pollster Glen Bolger. "It's really hard to stop this kind of nomination [with only 40 Senate seats], and then there's the political Hispanic angle." A Republican consultant who advises GOP candidates on winning Latino votes, Lionel Sosa, said he expected most senators to ask plenty of questions about Sotomayor, then support her. "For Republicans to mount a filibuster is foolhardy," he said. "If a Republican doesn't care about getting reelected, and a Republican doesn't care about the image of the Republican Party, they may vote against her, but I think in the end, we'll see who the smart ones are and who the not so smart ones are by how they cast their votes."
Dog ... whistle...

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posted by JReid @ 12:57 PM  
Whither the Republican Senators on Sotomayor?
Here's a brief look at the Republican 40-40 club (with 2010 election info courtesy of and demographic data from Specifically, take a look at where the "hope to be re-elected" stand, so far, on Judge Sotomayor. Those running for re-election or other office in 2010 are starred. The Hispanic population rank -HPR- for the states where a Senator is up for re-election are in red.)

The up-shot, while the wingers outside the Beltway are busy fitting themselves for white hoods and straight jackets (and placing the few black and brown members of the GOP into one hell of a stress position), Republicans who actually have to get elected (or re-elected) to office are (mostly) keeping their powder dry. Here's where they stand so far:
  1. Lamar Alexander (TN) - He says he won't pre-judge.

  2. John Barrasso (WY) - Barrasso is as doctrinaire a right winger as there ever was, but so far he has released no official statements on Sotomayor. Maybe she could win him over by toting a firearm into the hearings?

  3. *Robert Bennett (UT) / HPR: 23 - Up for re-election. Safe seat. Both he and Orrin Hatch voted for Judge Sotomayor in 1998, though Hatch accused her of being a dastardly liberal. This time, Bennett is facing a primary challenge from his right flank, and he and Hatch may vote no on general political principle. So far, Hatch has been doing all the talking out of Utah, with Bennett releasing only the mildest of one-sentence statements.

  4. Kit Bond (MO) - Retiring from Senate. Abstained from vote in '98. Reacting with "caution" this time.

  5. Sam Brownback (KS) - Retiring from Senate. (He voted no on Sotomayor in '98 and remains "troubled" by her...)

  6. *Jim Bunning (KY) / HPR: 38 - Up for what could be the wierdest re-election campaigns of 2010, Crazy Jim Bunning has no statements up on his website concerning Sotomayor, and so far has refused to comment altogether.

  7. *Richard Burr (NC) / HPR: 10 - One term Senator up for re-election in cursed seat (it's changed hands more times than Angelina Jolie...) in a state with the 10th largest Hispanic population in the U.S. Gulp...

  8. Saxby Chamblis (GA) - See Johnny Isaakson, below.

  9. *Tom Coburn (OK) / HPR: 28 - Up for re-election. (His statement on Sotomayor. Cheat sheet: expresses doubts, but says give her a "fair and dignified hearing.")

  10. Thad Cochran (MS) - Voted yes on Sotomayor in '98.

  11. Susan Collins (ME) - Voted yes on Sotomayor in '98. Hard to believe she wouldn't do so again.

  12. Bob Corker (TN) - Non-committal so far. Says he'll examine her record.

  13. John Cornyn (TX) - Still facing a backlash from the right over his quick endorsement of Charlie Crist, you could imagine him opposing Sotomayor just to appease the RedState crowd.

  14. *Mike Crapo (ID) / HPR: 30 - Up for what should be an easy re-election. He and his fellow Idahoan are thinking the Sotomayor nomination over.

  15. *Jim DeMint (SC) / HPR: 35 - Up for re-election in a safe seat. Has said Sotomayor's writings raise "serious questions," but that he'll withhold judgement until the hearings.

  16. John Ensign (NV) - Says he'll work through the process, to make sure the former Yale law review editor and Princeton Summa Cum Laude has the "right intellect" to be a Supreme Court justice. Riiiight.... Someone must have pointed out how odd that sounds, because the official statement on his website is a lot more clipped.

  17. Michael Enzi (WY) - Enzi was a "no" vote in '98. And he's from Wyoming...

  18. Lindsey Graham (SC) - Miss Lindsey issued a sunny statement about how much he looks forward to "meeting" and questioning Judge Sotomayor. He wasn't there in '98, and his best buddy John McCain was a "no" back then, so it's hard to know which way he'll go (no pun intended.)

  19. *Chuck Grassley (IA) / HPR: 31 - Up for re-election to a safe seat. He issued a perfunctory statement about applying the law, not politics, and then went on to predict that Sotomayor will be confirmed.

  20. Judd Gregg (NH) - Quit on Obama in 2009, quitting on the Senate in 2010. He voted yes on Sotomayor in '98.

  21. Orrin Hatch (UT) - Voted yes on Sotomayor in '98.

  22. *Kay Bailey Hutchinson (TX) / HPR: 2 - Running for Gov. of Texas ... the state with the second largest Hispanic population in the U.S., and against one of the dimmest political bulbs on earth. On Sotomayor, says she looks forward to a "fair and open confirmation process" and little more.)

  23. James Inhofe (OK) - Not up for re-election until 2012. However, on Sotomayor, says her story is inspiring, wants a closer look at her record.

  24. *Johnny Isaakson (GA) / HPR: 11 - Up for re-election, but hell, it's Georgia. Still, the state has the 11th largest Hispanic population in the U.S., and why make it an issue? Isaakson issued a guarded, content-free statement on the Sotomayor nom. His fellow Georgia Senator, Saxby "Trash the Veteran" Chambliss, has left the door open to voting for her, too.

  25. Mike Johanns (NE) - Also non-committal so far.

  26. John Kyl (AZ) - He voted no on Sotomayor in '98, because he said he couldn't be sure she wouldn't decide cases based on "preconceived ideas." Plus, every time I see him on television, he comes across as kind of a jerk (he's already floated the idea of mounting a filibuster against Sotomayor's nomination.) I'm putting him down as a "no."

  27. Richard Lugar (IN) - Another yes vote for Sotomayor back in '98, and someone who has been singled out as an ally by President Obama. It would be hard to imagine him voting down her nomination.

  28. Mel Martinez (FL) - Melly Mel is retiring from the Senate, but if he ever wants to show his face in this state again, he'll vote "aye."

  29. *John McCain (AZ) / HPR: 5 - Re-election try will give him new opportunities to suspend his campaign. Arizona has the fifth largest Hispanic population in the U.S., however, which may be why he was a bit cagey with Hannity on the subject of Sotomayor the other day. That said, he and John Kyl both voted against her nomination to the Court of Appeals in '98.)

  30. Mitch McConnell (KY) - He was a "no" vote in '98, and if he thinks as much of Judge Sotomayor as he does of U.S. auto workers, he's probably a "no" again this time.

  31. *Lisa Murkowski (AK) / HPR: 42 - Up for re-election after being appointed by her dad. She's a smart pol, though, and on Sotomayor, probably the most open minded of the GOP Senators, especially given the fact that there's not a significant Hispanic population in her state. She firmly opposes any attempt to filibuster the nomination.

  32. James Risch (ID) - Who is james Risch? No, sorry, he and Crapo say they'll think it over.

  33. Pat Roberts (KS) - Another "no" vote from '98. He's already on record saying he will do so again, and he's not scared of her, even if she IS Hispanic!!! Why wait for the hearings when you can decide on a talk radio show?

  34. Jeff Sessions (AL) - The top Republican on Judiciary will lead the opposition case against Sotomayor. He was tough on her during the confirmation hearings in '97, and voted against her elevation to the 2nd Circuit in '98. No reason to believe he won't repeat both this time. Hopefully our old Confederate friend will be able to resist calling her "girl."

  35. Richard Shelby (AL) - Up for re-election but considered safe. He voted no on Sotomayor in '98 but has been pretty non-committal so far this time. Let's hope he can restrain himself from demanding Sotomayor's birth certificate...

  36. Olympia Snowe (ME) - Voted "yes" in '98. Will probably vote as Collins does, and that's probably a yes.

  37. *John Thune (SD) / HPR: 47 - Up for re-election (he's the guy who beat Tom Daschle, and don't think Democrats don't want revenge...) He issued a boilerplate conservative statement about not legislating from the bench, but hasn't exactly said he'd oppose Sotomayor, either.

  38. *David Vitter (LA) / HPR: 33 - Up for re-election in 2010. His state ranks #33 in Hispanic population and he's running against a former porn star. Still, Mr. Magic Pants would be a prime Democratic target, if only the D's could find someone to run who isn't related to Mary Landrieu. On Sotomayor, our saucy friend praises the historic nomination, and says he looks forward to giving her a "thorough review." You know ... that wouldn't sound gross coming from was someone else...

  39. George Voinovich (OH) - Retiring after two terms. Non-committal, but so far not negative on Sotomayor.

  40. Roger Wicker (MS) - Just got elected last year after being appointed by Haley Barbour in 2007, so not up for re-election until 2014. Still, on Sotomayor, says "treat her fairly."
For more analysis on how the Senate GOPers might vote in a futile attempt to stop Sotomayor, click here and here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
Judge Sonia: She's no Clarence Thomas
Joe Conasan takes the lash to the Sotomayor opposition over at Salon, describing the right's unpleasant experience with choosing a Justice simply because of the color of his skin, rather than the content of his intellect:

... why do some of Sotomayor's nastiest adversaries imagine that the public will accept these false characterizations of her intelligence and credentials? Perhaps that instinct follows from the right's own sad experiences with Republican affirmative action -- most notably in the matter of Justice Thomas, who embodied all of the problems that conservatives perceived in the pursuit of ethnic diversity. When the wingnuts attack Sotomayor with inaccurate stereotypes, they're projecting onto her the shortcomings of their own beloved Clarence.

Eighteen years ago, the Senate confirmation of Thomas earned historic notoriety for its bizarre descent into conflicting recollections of sexual harassment and pornographic banter. But the lingering question about the man selected to replace the legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall was whether he fulfilled the White House description of him as "the most qualified [candidate] at this time." As Thomas confessed in his memoir a few years ago, "Even I had my doubts about so extravagant a claim."

So extravagant was Bush's assertion as to verge on comical. Far from being the "most qualified," Thomas was a nominee with no experience on the bench beyond the 18 months he had served on the U.S. District Court of Appeals. He had never written a significant legal brief or article. He had achieved no distinction in private practice or law enforcement. He had never even argued a case in federal court, let alone at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conasan's damning conclusion about Thomas:

... Flash forward now to the discussions within the first Bush administration over how to replace Marshall, the liberal lion whose departure provided conservatives with a chance to spin the direction of the court. Every account of those deliberations indicates that Bush and his aides went through a list of potential African-American nominees to the high court -- and rejected politically moderate judges with better qualifications than Thomas, such as Amalya Kearse. They picked him because they had to fill a "black seat" on the court, and because he was prepared to enforce their ideology on the court -- a function he has reliably performed in lockstep with Justice Antonin Scalia.

In other words, Thomas was chosen from a Bush White House shortlist that excluded white males – supposedly a profound sin when committed by the Obama White House in selecting Sotomayor.

Yet the right can never bring its corrosive racial skepticism to bear on Thomas, a man who had proven his willingness to parrot reactionary bromides. He is the single most prominent beneficiary of the quest for diversity in American history, but he is their diversity candidate -- and thus deserved elevation, if not as a distinguished jurist, then because he had suffered discrimination as a conservative.

Meanwhile, Rich Lowry takes a shot at becoming the winger voice of reason:

My advice, which tracks with that of others today, is: 1) Don't call her names, and yes, "stupid" and "racist" are names; 2) Don't whine about the double standard when a) it's just a fact that a white male can't say the kind of things she did in her "Latina lecture" and survive (if you don't understand why, you haven't paid attention to American history) and b) liberal Democrats can get away with viciously opposing a Latino nominee like Miguel Estrada without paying a real political price because Latinos aren't primed to believe that liberal Democrats are hostile to them and their interests (plus, the public doesn't really pay attention to appeals-court nominees); 3) Do treat her personally with an extra measure of respect because old-fashioned people — and thank goodness, there are still a lot of them out there — will expect a woman to get more deference than a man.

Good luck with that, man. And his pal Mark "Change Her Name to Suddamyah" Krikorian (and how DO you pronounce "Krikorian" in American, anyway...? ... tries to become the winger
sidekick of reason:
I think Krauthammer's right in his column today: "Use the upcoming hearings not to deny her the seat, but to illuminate her views. . . . The argument should be elevated, respectful, and entirely about judicial philosophy." (My own observations about her name had nothing to do with her as such.) Gingrich, Limbaugh, and Tancredo crying "racist" isn't going to help at all. I know that's unfair, because any kind of Republican nominee, even a Hispanic woman judge, would already have been crucified based on the comments Judge Sotomayor has made, and any on the Left who deny that are simply lying. But that's the reality of the battlespace we're in.
Well what DID your name change thing have to do with, then, Krikorian? An inability to pronounce compound words??? Dude, your name is KRIKORIAN...!

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posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tony Scalia: the courts ARE where the law is made...
An Uh-oh from the Huffpo...
... das it turns out, Sotomayor needn't worry about talking about how policy is made at the appeals level on videotape. Why, some justices on the Supreme Court have said the same thing and baked it into their judicial decisions. Like, say, noted leftist jurist Antonin Scalia, who, in the majority opinion of 2002 case Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, wrote:
This complete separation of the judiciary from the enterprise of "representative government" might have some truth in those countries where judges neither make law themselves nor set aside the laws enacted by the legislature. It is not a true picture of the American system. Not only do state-court judges possess the power to "make" common law, but they have the immense power to shape the States' constitutions as well. See, e.g., Baker v. State, 170 Vt. 194, 744 A. 2d 864 (1999). Which is precisely why the election of state judges became popular.

In footnote 12, Scalia elaborated (emphasis added):

Although Justice [John Paul] Stevens at times appears to agree with Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg's premise that the judiciary is completely separated from the enterprise of representative government, post, at 3 ("[E]very good judge is fully aware of the distinction between the law and a personal point of view"), he eventually appears to concede that the separation does not hold true for many judges who sit on courts of last resort, post, at 3 ("If he is not a judge on the highest court in the State, he has an obligation to follow the precedent of that court, not his personal views or public opinion polls"); post, at 3, n. 2. Even if the policy making capacity of judges were limited to courts of last resort, that would only prove that the announce clause fails strict scrutiny. "[I]f announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for the State Supreme Court might be" protected speech, post, at 3, n. 2, then-even if announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for a lower court were not protected speech, ibid.-the announce clause would not be narrowly tailored, since it applies to high- and low-court candidates alike. In fact, however, the judges of inferior courts often "make law," since the precedent of the highest court does not cover every situation, and not every case is reviewed. Justice Stevens has repeatedly expressed the view that a settled course of lower court opinions binds the highest court. See, e.g., Reves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56, 74 (1990) (concurring opinion); McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 376--377 (1987) (dissenting opinion).

This all comes courtesy of HuffPost reader Doug Schafer, who is of the opinion that journalists ought to avail themselves of this citation from Scalia whenever the "judges don't make law" canard arises. I agree!

Next, we'll find out Scalia's decision-making is influenced by his Italian heritage ... like Sam Alito...

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posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
CNN 'shook' by Olbermann: reading full Sotomayor statement now
Keith Olbermann stung CNN last night for parroting, out of context, the right wing's out of context lies about Judge Sotomayor for her statement during a speech that she would hope that, in a given situation:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
CNN anchor Don Lemon is reading the full text of Sotomayor's speech now. In context, the relevant passage, which was part of a talk on the importance of having more ethnic diversity on the bench, reads this way:
In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.
In other words, she wasn't saying that a Latina judge would reach better conclusions generally, in all things, but that in matters where race and gender are material to the case, she would hope that a woman judge of color would bring life experiences to the table that would enable her to make a more "wise" decision than her colleague who "hadn't lived that life." There is nothing even remotely controversial about that. I would think that a white male former firefighter who became a judge would bring a different sensibility and understanding to the Ricci case, enabling that judge to inform his colleagues who had never run into a burning building.

Greg Sargent at The Plumline, Glenn Greenwald and others have well documented the right's demented attacks on Sotomayor, including the new trope, that she's Che Guevara in a judge's robe (or more pruriently online, the "La Raza" judge.) And they've documented the dishonesty of neocon faux liberals like Jeffrey Rosen at The New Republic, for spreading baseless gossip in order to get the right wing fires going.

Meanwhile, the Tapped blog at the American Prospect says it about as well as can be said, in answering the "affirmative action" smears against Judge Sonia, which are a think veneer over what has become a rather embarassing fit of white male self-victimization:

In short, everyone agrees that Sotomayor is an idiot, based on an anonymous quote solicited by Rosen, who admits that he hasn't "read enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions to have a confident sense of them," and that he hasn't "talked to enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s detractors and supporters to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths."

This is exactly what affirmative action is meant to correct: People coming to the arbitrary conclusion that someone is "an idiot" despite all evidence to the contrary, except if you consider not being a white man evidence. Sotomayor's detractors see themselves as Frank Riccis, white men whose greatness isn't recognized because we're too busy giving brown people who can't tie their shoes certificates of achievement. But the truth is that in life and in employment, discrimination rarely manifests itself the way it did against Ricci, as something as easy to quantify as an unfair test. It's far more insidious -- a rumor, a feeling, a notion that the person standing in front of you who doesn't look like you is just "dumb and obnoxious." So you throw their resume in the "no" pile because you don't like their name, you seat them in the back of the class, you promote another person. You just can't really explain why. It's... just a feeling.

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posted by JReid @ 1:04 PM  
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Alito, Thomas and the dreaded flashback
The right ought to be careful which ethnic Supreme Court nominees it skewers. There will always be others, like Sam Alito, whose ethnic peculiarities it once loved. Not to mention Clarence Thomas, who should be the two word answer to anyone cynical enough to question Sonia Sotomayor's qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court. Thomas was as unqualified as Sotomayor is overqualified (Alan Dershowitz once called him "the most incompetent, unqualified justice who ever served in [my] lifetime..." adding: "He doesn't read newspapers. He gets his news from Rush Limbaugh..."); as intellectually shallow as she is second in her class at Princeton sharp, and as whiney and self indulgent a "token" hire as you're ever going to get. And yet, Black winger Thomas Sowell was once moved to say this about him:
His outstanding academic record in college, his graduation from one of the top law schools in the country, his experience as an attorney both in government and in the corporate world, his years of heading a federal agency, and his service as a judge on the most influential federal circuit court in the country count for nothing, as far as the left is concerned.

Many, if not most, Supreme Court justices have not had as good a record of qualifications. But Clarence Thomas is considered “unqualified” because the Left cannot accept his qualifications without a major shock to their whole vision of the world — and of themselves.
Substitute "her" for "him" and "right" for "left" in the above passage, and Sowell could be Glenn Greenwald writing about Sonia Sotomayor. Go figure. And former president Poppy Bush once expounded on another characteristic of Clarence's that we now know to be subversive: namely, empathy...
"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."
And he'd keep on showing that empathy, if only Nino Scalia would let him talk...

My vote is: let's have the Senate quickly seat Sonia Sotomayor on the Court, and then President Obama can get to work finding a Black justice to further diversify the court... (ahem)

Meanwhile, TPM D.C. finds that Clarence Thomas was once "empathetic" too...

And look who's attacking Judge Sotomayor now: none other than future war crimes defendant John Yoo! His worry ... and this is rich ... she'll be too "results-oriented." Oh, you mean like this results oriented Supreme Court ruling? ... or those "results oriented" torture memos, eh Mr. War Criminal?

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posted by JReid @ 10:18 PM  
It's official: Sonia Sotomayor has driven the wingers insane
Aye, dios mio! Could this be the most dangerous meal in America?

It hasn't even been 24 hours, and Republicans have already begun hurling themselves off the crazy cliff over Sonia Sotomayor...

They're calling her a brown lady racist...

They're deploying Tweety Gingrich...

And generally losing their (less intellectually capable, yet) natural winger minds!

UPDATE: Tom Tancredo thinks Miami is a third world country because we have too many Hispanics living here ... AND Sonia Sotomayor "appears to be a racist." Boom, goes the dynamite!

UPDATE 2: Karl Rove re-ignites the Permanent Republican Majority by calling Judge Sotomayor a "schoolmarm!" That'll really attract the ladies to the GOP!

Pat Buchanan pours some out for his white, male homies...

More GOP crazy: Mark Kirkorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies says the way to Stop.That.Judge is to mispronounce her name ... on purpose!!! You know, just the way we won the Iraq war by calling that country "Eye-RAAAK" instead of "Ih-Rahk," the way the Eye-RAAAK-ees do.

Yeah. That'll teach her to be so damned ... Hispanic!

UPDATE: We can now look forward to the strongest, most decisive argument sure to be leveled against Sotomayor at her confirmation hearings: the "patitas de cerdo con garbanzo" (y much arroz) challenge:
Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.
Thank you. Thank you, GOP.


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posted by JReid @ 5:51 PM  
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Republicans would be crazy to attack Judge Sotomayor ... but they'll probably do it anyway
Would the Republican Party, already shrinking away to nothingness under the weight of a demographic tsunami, dare to oppose what would be the first Hispanic and only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court? Would they risk alienating the multiple interest groups who will be galvanized by the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, including not only Latinos and women, but also Catholics (not to mention New Yorkers and Yankees fans...?) The short answer is no, they wouldn't, unless of course they are collectively insane. And yet, the arguments against Judge Sonia Sotomayor are already gathering, and none of them is helpful ... to the GOPI:

1. She's "temperamental." Not that anyone knows what that means, but Media Matters caught the neocons at TNR attacking Sotomayor without even pretending to do anything more journalistically rigorous than quoting random people who clearly aren't fond of her. Unfortunately for the right, attacking Judge Sotomayor's "temperament" will ring awfully familiar, and not in a good way, in the ears of women, who are used to hearing their strength conviction read by some old school dudes as a tendancy toward tantrums.

2. She doesn't like white people. Righties have already begun dissecting Sotomayor's membership in Hispanic organizations at Princeton and her general empathy for fellow Latinos as somehow disqualifying. John Perazzo wrote ominously in Front Page Magazine about one of those membership organizations:
The other group to which Sotomayor belonged, Princeton’s Third World Center (TWC), was established in 1971 “to provide a social, cultural and political environment that reflects the needs and concerns of students of color at the University.” A 1978 Princeton publication explained that the TWC had arisen chiefly to address the fact that “the University’s cultural and social organizations have largely been shaped by students from families nurtured in the Anglo-American and European traditions,” and that consequently “it has not always been easy for students from different backgrounds to enter the mainstream of campus life.”
Oooh ... sounds subversive ... The other knock on Sotomayor in the race case is the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, the now infamous New Haven firefighter case that raises the specter of affirmative action, "reverse discrimination," and more bluntly, black guys taking white guys' job opportunities away (or in this case, the government doing it.) Sotomayor, who ruled against the white firefighters who filed a discrimination suit after a test they passed was thrown out because from the City of New Haven's perspective, not enough minorities passed, was featured in a Willie Horton style web ad claiming she "didn't give a fair shake to firefighters not promoted on the basis of race." Personally, I think that the city of New Haven was wrong to throw out that test because they didn't like the demographics of the passing scores. But going after Sotomayor on the basis of this racially charged case will only make Republicans look hostile in the eyes of Black and Brown people, something they need no more of at this stage.

3. She's a token. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia has been heard to opine that “the next nominee to the Court will be a female Protestant Hispanic”. Funny stuff, Nino. And expect more wingers to complain that Sotomayor is not a white guy, and was selected by the other non-white guy wingers loathe (Barack Obama) on that basis. But again, conservatives do themselves no favors by attacking the fastest growing ethnic and voter group in the nation, in order to placate the dwindling number of Angry White Men, all of whom already vote Republican.

4. She's an "activist judge," (which is code for, she's a liberal.) For this one, the righties say they have videotaped evidence, namely a talk Sotomayor gave at Duke University in which she dared to say this:
“All of the Legal Defense Funds out there — they’re looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is — Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don’t “make law,” I know. [audience laughter] Okay, I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it. I’m, you know. [audience laughter]”
To this I'd have to say, so what? The judge properly asserted that the courts don't make law. But she was guilty of a bit of "truthiness," in that in many ways, our courts do set policy. From Brown v. Board, which undid racial separation in schools, to Roe v. Wade, which clearly altered national policy on abortion. Like it or not, courts, by interpreting the laws made by legislators, do in effect, make policy. Today, for instance, the California Supreme Court will decide if voters in that state had the right to decide that state's marriage laws. As inartful as Sotomayor's statement about the power of our court system was, it was in essence, true, and hardly disqualifying. Besides, since the right has already charicterized Barack Obama as a Marxist, I'm not sure there's room to place Sotomayor much to his left.

Most importantly, Judge Sotomayor is bringing a heavyweight resume to the table: 17 years on the federal bench, educated at Princeton and Yale, editor of the Yale Law Review (President Harvard Law Review had to love that), not to mention her incredible life story, rising from the projects in the South Bronx to potentially, the highest court in the land. Given her qualifications, and her back story, the right bears a hell of a lot at risk in potentially attacking this nominee. Whether they do it anyway will tell you a lot about the mental state of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Meanwhile, the GOP has tried to stop Sotomayor's ascent before, namely, back in 1998:
Senate Republican staff aides said Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader, has agreed to hold up a vote on the nomination as part of an elaborate political calculus; if she were easily confirmed to the appeals court, they said, that would put her in a position to be named to the Supreme Court. And Senate Republicans think that they would then have a difficult time opposing a Hispanic woman who had just been confirmed by the full Senate.

''Basically, we think that putting her on the appeals court puts her in the batter's box to be nominated to the Supreme Court,'' said one senior Republican staff aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''If Clinton nominated her it would put several of our senators in a real difficult position.''
At that time, Pat Leahy described Republican opposition to her this way:
'Their reasons are stupid at best and cowardly at worst,'' he said.

''What they are saying is that they have a brilliant judge who also happens to be a woman and Hispanic, and they haven't the guts to stand up and argue publicly against her on the floor,'' Senator Leahy said. ''They just want to hide in their cloakrooms and do her in quietly.''
Let's see who's hiding in the cloakrooms this time.

Cross-posted at Open Salon.

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posted by JReid @ 9:07 AM  
Sotomayor is the SUPCO pick
No surprises from No Drama Obama. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who hails from the Bronx, and whose educational credentials include Princeton and Yale, will be his SupCo pick. Latino vote in 2012: check. Women? Check. Catholics? Check. Good pick? Definitely. Judge Sotomayor is more than qualified, and she is an historic nominee with a down to earth background. Per the ABA journal:

A political centrist, the Bronx-born Sotomayor has been re­garded as a potential high court nominee by several presidents, both Republican and Democrat. Reared by her widowed mother after the death of her father, a tool-and-die worker, she has an attractive life narrative and an even more attractive resumé.

She was an editor of the Yale Law Review, did heavy lifting as a prosecutor under legendary New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and worked in private practice as an intellectual property litigator.

She was first appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, then to the appeals court by President Clinton. In 1995, she won the gratitude of baseball fans by issuing an injunction against team owners, setting the stage for the end of the eight-month strike that led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

Interestingly enough, all of the final four on the short list were women, according to the NY Times:

If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

The president reached his decision over the long Memorial Day weekend, aides said, but it was not disclosed until Tuesday morning when he informed his advisers of his choice less than three hours before the announcement was scheduled to take place.

The president narrowed his list to four, according to people close to the selection process, including Federal Appeals Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
BTW, did you notice how quickly Joe Scarborough warmed up to Judge Sotomayor when he was reminded, I suppose by his producers, that she was originally put on the federal bench by Poppy Bush?

More on the judge:

A Puerto Rican woman with 16 years of court experience who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Sotomayor is a graduate of Yale Law and an editor of the Yale Law Review. She shares a biographical footnote with Souter: they both were appointed by George H. W. Bush -- Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1992. Sotomayor was elevated to the appeals court by President Clinton.

Sotomayor spent five years as a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney before going into private practice as a commercial litigator. During that time she also served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and State of New York Mortgage Agency, where she helped provide mortgage insurance coverage to low-income housing and AIDS hospices.

She left for the U.S. District Court in 1992. At the time, Sotomayor told the New York Times that she was inspired to become a judge by an episode of "Perry Mason."

BTW, how wrong could Ben Smith possibly be? He has obliterated the post as of today, but not long ago, Hispanic Business Magazine busted him writing this:

"There's some basically vacuous, but plausible, conventional wisdom saying that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a likely pick," he wrote. "I'd suspect, though, that Obama will be tempted to pick one of the prominent legal minds whom he knows personally, and whose philosophy he likes, given his own engagement with legal theory."

Oops! Meanwhile, Media Matters has cataloged the right's prefab attacks on her.

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posted by JReid @ 8:46 AM  
Friday, May 01, 2009
Friday reading: Justice David Souter
A quick bio of the retiring Justice here. (He's a Harvard man and Rhodes Scholar, former A.G. of New Hampshire, lifelong bachelor, nominated by George Bush I, and disappointing the wingers ever since...) More here. Souter is hardly a liberal, and his decisions have veered from those that please the left (on vouchers) to those that please big corporations and developers (on downloading and "takings"):
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002): Wrote a fierce dissent arguing that school voucher programs violate the First Amendment's establishment clause.

MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster (2005): Wrote a unanimous 9-0 ruling stating that peer-to-peer Internet file databases that profit from distribution of copyrighted materials can be sued for copyright infringement.

Kelo v. City of New London (2005): Joined a 5-4 majority ruling which stated that cities may condemn privately-owned real estate as part of a redevelopment plan under eminent domain, with "just compensation" given under the Fifth Amendment. Although Justice Stevens wrote the unpopular ruling, Souter was targeted in a special way by officials in his hometown of Weare, New Hampshire, who attempted to claim his family home under eminent domain and turn it into a "Lost Liberty Hotel." The proposal, which in any case clearly exceeded the boundaries set under Kelo and never would have passed constitutional muster, was defeated by a 3-to-1 margin in a March 2006 ballot initiative.
More Souter decisions can be found here.

Replacing him will likely involve all-out war for the wingers, who are already sizing up and attempting to knock down, potential nominees. This morning, Glenn Beck had a guy on from National Review who even named Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of the president's and fellow Harvard man, on the basis of his "racial extremism." The guy stumbled around when asked for examples... The other potential front-runners are all women:
At the top of the most-mentioned lists are federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York, who is both female and Hispanic; Elena Kagan, Obama's solicitor general, who may not have been in the job long enough to go to the Court, and Diane Wood, a judge on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit who worked in the Justice Department under both Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Also mentioned: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).
And the wingers hate them all ... More on the potential picks, including Gov. Patrick, at the WaPo.

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posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Here we go .... Souter will soon resign
Move over media inflated swine flu overreaction ... let the Supreme Court silly season begin.

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posted by JReid @ 11:21 PM  
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sunday best
My four must-reads for today:

Sy Hersh has a new article about the Bush administration's stepped-up covert operations against Iran:

L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at the economic up-trends and down-trends for two states; Virginia and West Virginia, and plumbs the ramifications for Democrats and Republicans:

... "Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties," said Bill Bishop, author of "The Big Sort." "There are all these things telling people they should be around people like themselves. And every four years, this has political consequences."

Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.

But in general, where economic dynamism is concentrated, Democrats are gaining. Bishop found that Gore and Kerry did much better in the 21 metro areas that produced the most new patents than in less tech-oriented cities. Virginia Tech demographer Robert E. Lang found that Kerry did better in the 20 metro areas most linked to the global economy -- based on business networks, shipping and airport activity -- than in metro areas as a whole.

Thomas Franks' next book could well be called, "What's the matter with West Virginia..." Also, Frank Rich of the New York Times, wonders who really would benefit if a terror attack were to occur before the election, starting with a deconstruction of McCain's top strategist, Charlie "a terror attack would help us out" Black:
In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign’s perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it “help” if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?
Rich goes on to critique the "terror = M-c-win" strategery of Karl Rove, saying that should the unthinkable occur:
... voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.

Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.

Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks.

Then there is the McCain camp’s star fearmonger, Rudy Giuliani, who has lately taken to railing about Mr. Obama’s supposed failure to learn the lessons of the first twin towers bombing. The lesson America’s Mayor took away from that 1993 attack was to insist that New York City’s emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center. No less an authority than John Lehman, a 9/11 commission member who also serves on the McCain team, has mocked New York’s pre-9/11 emergency plans as “not worthy of the Boy Scouts.”

If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it.
"The company you keep" will be a theme this year, and not just for Barack Obama... Back at the WaPo, an article that breaks no news, but which states an obvious conclusion that will have major implications for the campaign: a McCain win could push the Supreme Court to the right. Say it isn't so!


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posted by JReid @ 4:39 PM  
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The militia, everywhere
Talk about the courts inventing new rights never before seen in the Constitution ... turns out each of us has the right to a bazooka..!

The truly insane Wayne LaPierre was on "Hardball" tonight confirming press accounts about his next plan, post D.C. v. Heller: they're going to start suing other cities to take down their gun restriction laws. And the first case? The NRA will soon, perhaps even starting tomorrow, seek to "rearm Chicago," and  overturn a San Francisco law banning people living in public housing projects from owning firearms. Say the NRA's ironically named chief lobbyist, Chris Cox:
"When the Supreme Court says 'all Americans,' it includes those who aren't fortunate enough to afford a 24/7 security detail like Barack Obama," Cox said, working in a dig at the Democratic nominee. Obama's campaign today backed away from a previous statement, made last year by an aide, that Obama supported D.C.'s ban.
Now, I don't know how many projects Chris has been to, but let's assume San Francisco's are much like many in other cities, including here in South Florida -- sometimes calm, if hard-scrabble, but too often run down and dangerous. So raise your hand if you think it's a good idea to bring more guns into, say, Dunbar Village , where the teens who assaulted a young mother and her son last year could theoretically have found a gun to steal, along with that family's innocence. [And before the gun nuts start braying that had the mother in Dunbar had a gun, she could have shot her assailants, I cede the point. However, keep in mind that the teens who attacked her lured her outside, leaving no way for her to get her hands on a gun. Perhaps they'd prefer that her 12-year-old son grabbed the gun, and maybe shot ... whom? Statistics suggest his only victim would have been himself or his mom.]

And surely LaPierre and company would like to see more states pass laws like Florida's "castle doctrine," which lets members of the "well armed militia" that now apparently includes us all, shoot first and ask questions later (gun nuts seem to love the idea of "good citizens shooting the bad guys dead, and not waiting around for the cops," though most of them are at best, armchair cowboys, and most "good citizens" don't have the training that police do ... hence ... the fact that they're the police...) Maybe, now that we're all living in Wayne's world, we could all get guns and go back to settling our disputes like they did in the Wild West.  Maybe crazy Zell Miller has gotten his wish, and we now live in a time when you can challenge a man to a duel... Or perhaps we could all buy rocket launchers or tommy guns and parade them in the streets. That'd show the criminals!  Wouldn't it? And how should law enforcement react to the notion that the NRA would like to see a gun in every American home, car, workplace and even church? Sure makes traffic stops or responses to domestic incidents more "interesting..."

Truly, there will be blood on the hands of five Supreme Court justices, the NRA and their gun nut supporters, if, as in the case of the late assault weapons ban, their advocacy puts more guns, and more death, on the streets. 

And make no mistake, now that the gun lobbyists have found five jurists filled with enough NRA Kool-Aid to turn the entire nation into a militia, you'd better believe they're looking to strip away the "well regulated" part of the Late, Great, United States Constitution, next... (may it rest in peace.)

I'll leave you with two clips from an editorial in last week's Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Who dies in greater numbers from firearms, police in the line of duty or preschoolers?

The answer — contained in a searing new report by the Children's Defense Fund — is surprising and disturbing. In 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, guns killed 69 preschoolers, compared with 53 law enforcement officers.

That's just one of the alarming facts in the Washington-based child advocacy group's "Protect Children, Not Guns" report. Among the others:

• Since 1979, gun violence has taken the lives of 104,419 children and teens.

• A black male has a one-in-72 chance of being killed by a firearm before age 30; a while male has a one-in-344 chance.

• While black children are more likely to be victims of firearm homicides, whites are more likely to use a gun to commit suicide. Eight times as many white kids committed suicide by gun as blacks.

The danger posed by guns to America's youth is on the rise. In 2005, 3,006 children and teens died from firearms, compared with 2,825 in 2004. That's the first increase in gun deaths among children since 1994 and since the longstanding assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

The children lost to guns in 2005 would fill 120 public school classrooms. Despite the bloodshed, the issue of gun safety has not become a focal point in the 2008 presidential race. And hardly anyone running for office in Georgia — where it becomes legal next month for permit-holders to carry firearms in restaurants and on MARTA — mentions guns except to eagerly note that they own them.

The silence speaks to the sway of a gun lobby that fights any regulation, even modest laws designed to keep weapons away from children. And that silence is deadly, contributing to the ease with which guns are finding their way into the hands of kids and teens, with fatal consequences.

"Imagine a tragedy like the Virginia Tech shooting occurring every four days, or a Northern Illinois shooting happening every 15 hours," said Children's Defense Fund president and founder Marian Wright Edelman. Last year's Virginia Tech massacre left 32 people dead, while five students died when a gunman opened fire at Northern Illinois University in February. ...
And this one's for Tony Scalia, and his ode to the handgun:
... Opponents of gun laws argue that it's America's culture of violence that necessitates the need for unfettered access to firearms. They argue that widespread gun ownership and quick access to firearms keeps communities safe and violence at bay.

If that's true, why does the United States lead the developed world in gun deaths? Why do more 10- to 19-year-olds in America die from gunshot wounds than any other cause except car accidents?

If guns equal safety, shouldn't the U.S. have fewer casualties and injuries, since our society is so well-armed? That's a calculus problem that the gun lobby refuses to tackle, because it fears the answer: More guns on the streets doesn't lead to greater safety. It leads only to more gun violence.

A 2002 study on firearm deaths by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that children ages 5 to 14 died at higher rates in states with more guns. The study found that children in the five states with the highest levels of gun ownership — Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia — were 16 times more likely to die from unintentional firearm injury, seven times more likely to die from firearm suicide and three times more likely to die from firearm homicide than children in the five states with the lowest levels of ownership, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware.

Consider, too, that while 11,344 Americans were murdered with a firearm in 2004, Australia suffered only 56 gun homicides and England and Wales had 73.
Imagine, indeed.



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posted by JReid @ 11:04 PM  
Cheney get your gun
Bang! The right is overjoyed as Tony Scalia pens an ode to the gatt

The right is over the moon over the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling striking down D.C.'s gun ban (Cheney is probably strapping up and scoping out his next victim's face as we speak...) though a few cooler heads, even at RedState, point out that the court didn't ratify a right to own any weapon you like (military weapons, tanks, etc., which the truly insane gun nuts think they have a right to.) Scalia, of course, wrote the opinion. The WaPo explains:
The Supreme Court, splitting along ideological lines, today declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns for self-defense, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional.

The 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia represented a monumental change in federal jurisprudence and went beyond what the Bush administration had counseled. It said that the government may impose some restrictions on gun ownership, but that the District's strictest-in-the-nation ban went too far under any interpretation.

Scalia wrote that the Constitution leaves the District a number of options for combating the problem of handgun violence, "including some measures regulating handguns."

"But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table," he continued. "These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

The court also held unconstitutional the requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept disassembled or unloaded or outfitted with a trigger lock. The court called it a "prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

Scalia was joined by the most consistently conservative justices -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Justice John Paul Stevens spoke from the bench to denounce the decision, which he said violated the court's precedent that the Second Amendment refers to a right to bear arms only for military purposes.

He spoke dismissively of the court's "newly discovered right" and said decisions about gun control should be made by legislatures.

"This court should stay out of that political thicket," he said. Stevens was joined in dissent by the court's most consistent liberals: David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

In announcing the opinion, Scalia specifically mentioned that some restrictions on owning and carrying a gun are valid, such as denying the sale to felons or the mentally ill, or restricting the possession of guns in "sensitive places," such as schools.

But he acknowledged that the majority opinion was not setting standards that might be easily apparent to governments deciding how to restrict gun rights. As a result, Scalia said the ruling will probably result in more litigation.
The political responses:
President Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, said in a statement that "the President strongly agrees with the Supreme Court's historic decision today that the Second Amendment protects the individual right of Americans to keep and bear arms. This has been the Administration's long-held view. The President is also pleased that the Court concluded that the DC firearm laws violate that right."

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee quickly put out a statement endorsing the decision, calling it a "landmark victory" for Second Amendment rights. "Today's ruling . . . makes clear that other municipalities like Chicago that have banned handguns have infringed on the constitutional rights of Americans," McCain said.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the Democrats' all but certain nominee, also issued a statement saying that "I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.

"The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe."
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg sounded an optimistic note in his written statement:
In just two years, 320 Democratic, Republican, and independent mayors have come together to support the common sense goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. From the beginning, we have said that fighting illegal guns has nothing to do with the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court upholding those rights will benefit our coalition by finally putting to rest the ideological debates that have for too long obscured an obvious fact: criminals, who have no right to purchase or possess guns, nevertheless have easy access to them. Mayors and police chiefs have a responsibility to crack down on illegal guns and punish gun criminals, and it is encouraging that the Supreme Court recognizes the constitutionality of reasonable regulations that allow for us to carry out those responsibilities.(New York City filed an amicus brief for the District of Columbia.)
And last, but not least, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty:
In a news conference two hours after the court overturned the city's ban on handguns, Fenty (D) said that he will work with the D.C. Council and police department on what happens next.

The mayor added that he believes he speaks for District residents in saying, "We are disappointed in the ruling. We wish it had gone the other way, but we respect the court's" decision.

The District now must create new regulations detailing the process for registering handguns, which the Supreme Court said can be kept in homes for self-defense. The city has regulations already on the books, which have been largely moot because of the gun ban, but those rules likely will be updated and revised, officials said.
More political reactions here.

Meanwhile, the WaPo's Colbert King speaks for the neighborhoods, and the future victims of gun violence who will rue this day:
The record will show that our home-grown shooters have blown through the city's so-called strict handgun ban like John Riggins going up the middle. Over the past 20 years, there have been more than 6,500 homicides in the nation's capital, most committed with firearms, predominantly handguns. In 1976, the year the ban was put in place, the District had 135 gun-related murders, according to CNN. Last year, the number reached 143. Thus far this year, we've had 85 murders.

You thought D.C. stands for "District of Columbia? "Dodge City" is more like it.

If D.C. street thugs are pleased by anything, it's probably the fact that five of the justices -- a slim majority, but that's all it takes to win -- have come around to seeing things their way.

And he has a few choice words for Scalia:
Writing for the majority, Scalia said that the Constitution doesn't allow "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." Folks have a right to keep and bear arms -- and, by golly, a right to use 'em, too, if necessary.

Scalia also wrote this hymn to the handgun: "The American people consider the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon." He went on to argue: "There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: it is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long rifle; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid."

And if machine guns one day should become the weapon of choice for home protection -- what say ye then, Justice Scalia? With the exception of that reference to dialing the police, D.C. street thugs' response to Scalia's ode to the handgun was undoubtedly, "Hear, hear!"

King adds that the NRA, fueled by this "victory," will now go after the gun laws in San Francisco and Chicago. Why not head down here to Miami, guys? We've got plenty of AK-47s on the streets for you to deregulate, and a whole lotta killings, too! Yeehaw!

One more gasp of optimism, also courtesy of the WaPo:
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a group favoring tighter firearms controls, said that the ruling was "quite clearly" a defeat for the organization's legal position. But, he said, there was a silver lining. Although the majority opinion says that handguns can't be banned, it does allow governments to impose restrictions on ownership, Helmke said. He contended that the decision carved out the extremes in the debate over gun rights.

"This takes off the idea that you can have a near-total ban on guns, especially guns for self-defense," Helmke said. "We haven't really pushed that . . . The gun lobby, however, has been trying to say that any step in the common sense direction is part of the slippery slope toward confiscation. In effect, [the Supreme Court] has taken that slippery slope away, and that's where the ruling actually could be a benefit politically to folks who are fighting for common sense gun control."

Let's hope so.

Read the SupCo decision for yourself here.


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posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
The morning read
Good morning, North Korea! So what's in the papers?

The Axis of Evil is down to one member this morning, as George W. Bush rushes North Korea out the door (more on that in this post.)

Also in the Post, something for the bitter gun clingers: the Supreme Court will rule on the D.C. gun ban today. (Politico's Ben Smith says the Obama camp is bracing for the ruling, too, and getting their politics in order.)

On the Hill, a GOP Senator holds up housing reform, demanding that Democrats put more money into renewable energy! ... is it just me, or is that kind of counterintuitive... this guy must be in one hell of a tight re-election race...

And the paper covers the White House's attempts to silence the EPA on automobile emissions. The Post is a couple of days behind the New York Times, which on Monday covered the case of the unopened email.

Staying with the Times, when it comes to unity talks, it's just Barack, Hillary and their lawyers...

The Times also covers the Supco, with the editorial board mounted a defense for yesterday's death penalty/child rape ruling, and the news side covering the SupCo's decision to slash the damage awards in the Exxon Valdez case.

On a local level, the Times reports that officials in the Bronx are looking to have every single citizen tested for H.I.V.

The Los Angeles Times reveals more bad news for the GOP from its poll with Bloomberg. According to the poll, 75% of Americans blame President Bush for the lousy economic times:
Nine percent of respondents said the country's economic condition had improved since Bush became president, compared with 75% who said conditions had worsened. Among Republicans, 42% said the country was worse off, while 26% said it was about the same, and 22% thought economic conditions had improved.

Phillip Thies, a registered Republican and clothing-store owner in Cedar, Mich., who was one of those polled, said the president was doing an able job through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but "right after that, it was steadily, steadily downhill."

"There has been a lack of leadership and a lack of timeliness of leadership, of not being conscious of the magnitude of the problems," Thies said of Bush in a follow-up interview. "He's always a day late and a dollar short."

And McCain wants to continue Bush's policies? Not smart, John. Not smart.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press has a sort of pathetic story about President Bush and his McCain-sized crowd of 300 fans, who helped him raise a whopping $500,000 for Republican candidates -- a lot of money, to be sure, but rather puny for a sitting president, don't you think?

And leave it to the Miami Herald to come up with a story that tracks the nexxus of anthrax, the National Enquirer, and Elvis.

Across the pond, the Guardian reports on Nelson Mandela's criticism of Mugabe (Bill Clinton is in the U.K. attending Mandela's birthday party...) and Mugabe's push-back. And if you think race relations are sticky here in the U.S., check out this story about a BBC executive's big complaint: "too many black faces on TV." Seriously.

And the Independent doesn't disappoint with three intriguing stories on its website:

First, the U.S. isn't the only place where the defense industry has invaded government. In the UK, the paper tells of the arms dealer who used what amounts to a ringer, to gain access to MPs.

The paper also reports on Palestine's richest man, and his drive to see a state for his people before he dies.

And last, but not least, the perils of affirmative action, UK style.

Okay, before I go, here's a quick round of "questions I personally don't need the answer to, but will have to endure hearing on cable news":

1. Is Bill Clinton still mad at Barack Obama?
2. Why did Don Imus say something inflammatory again?
3. Will the netroots stay mad at Barack? (The answer is either "no," or "yes, but they'll vote for him in huge numbers anyway.")


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posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Supreme Court rejects death penalty for child rape
The 5-4 decision is reverberating around the country. At issue was a Louisiana case and law, one of just five such state laws in the U.S. More on the Kennedy case:
Patrick Kennedy was convicted in 2003 of raping his stepdaughter at their home in Harvey, La., outside New Orleans. The girl initially told police she was sorting Girl Scout cookies in the garage when two boys assaulted her.

Police arrested Kennedy a couple of weeks after the March 1998 rape, but more than 20 months passed before the girl identified him as her attacker.

His defense attorney at the time argued that blood testing was inconclusive and that the victim was pressured to change her story.

The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the sentence, saying that "short of first-degree murder, we can think of no other non-homicide crime more deserving" of the death penalty. State Chief Justice Pascal Calogero noted in dissent that the U.S. high court already had made clear that capital punishment could not be imposed without the death of the victim, except possibly for espionage or treason.

A second Louisiana man, Richard Davis was sentenced to death in December for repeatedly raping a 5-year-old girl in Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport. Local prosecutor Lea Hall told jurors: "Execute this man. Justice has a sword and this sword needs to swing today."

The high court's decision leaves intact Kennedy's conviction, but will lead to a new sentence.

The case is Kennedy v. Louisiana, 07-343.
This one's a tough one. Even those of us who oppose the death penalty flinch on the issue when it comes to sexual attacks on children. I assume this will gin up fresh attacks on the Court by the right.


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posted by JReid @ 11:45 AM  
Monday, June 16, 2008
Right wing hysterics overlook the obvious
Newt Gingrich, the gang at Fox News and the neoconservative wack-jobs who brought us the Iraq war are still going bat-crap crazy over the Supreme Courts "welcome back, habeas corpus" ruling. They're spewing irrationalities every where you turn, and even suggesting that Bush simply ignore the ruling. Yeah. That's not unconstitutional... Even poor old John McCain is doing his part, railing against the Court as only a man who must cast a bewitching spell over the hard right of his own party in order to secure their cooperation in November can. Of course, there's always more to the story, which CBS News' Andrew Cohen spells out nicely:
Following the last Supreme Court ruling on this topic, which also struck down stubborn Administration detainee policies, the Senator (a Vietnam torture victim himself) invested no small amount of his own treasured (and well-earned) historical capital to try to broker a deal on the detainees.

And, in late 2006, he did.

It’s called the Military Commissions Act. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, and it was one of two federal statutes undercut by the Justices last Thursday. It’s no wonder the nominee is taking the defeat personally.

After first insisting that federal law clearly and unambiguously outlaw “torture,” McCain suddenly caved to White House pressure on the MCA, allowing the Administration to insert into the law a clause that effectively allows (and, indeed, legally buttresses the efforts of) the executive branch to implement torture as a means of interrogation.

Without McCain’s pander, there would have been no bad law for the Court to strike down last week. Without McCain’s grandiloquent appeal to Democrats and moderates during that lame-duck session, there quite possibly might have been a better law that just might have passed its constitutional test this term.

McCain’s sell-out on the torture language is not the reason the Justices declared the MCA unconstitutional. It is not the reason why the detainees now have more access to federal courts than they did before. But it is emblematic of the larger and much more destructive, seven-year-long sell-out of the legislative branch in the legal fight against terrorism.

And that emblem, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has John McCain’s face on it just in time for the run-up to the general election.
Nice work, John.

I suppose it wouldn't move this crowd to find out that some of the people being detained indefinitely by the U.S. aren't actually terrorists...
GARDEZ, Afghanistan — The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as "the worst of the worst."

But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo's Camp Four who hissed "infidel" and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn't: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

"He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government," a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.

While he was held at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, "When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, 'What is my crime?' the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs."

The McClatchy reporting also documented how U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.
Hm. ... and as for these frightening "terrorists" who are now going to take out an American city (from behind those cage bars in Cuba):

The McClatchy investigation found that top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren't "the worst of the worst." From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there.

Of the 66 detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, the evidence indicates that 34 of them, about 52 percent, had connections with militant groups or activities. At least 23 of those 34, however, were Taliban foot soldiers, conscripts, low-level volunteers or adventure-seekers who knew nothing about global terrorism.

Only seven of the 66 were in positions to have had any ties to al Qaida's leadership, and it isn't clear that any of them knew any terrorists of consequence.

If the former detainees whom McClatchy interviewed are any indication — and several former high-ranking U.S. administration and defense officials said in interviews that they are — most of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren't terrorist masterminds but men who were of no intelligence value in the war on terrorism.

Feeling safe yet? The truly sad thing about this whole sorry business is that few wingers are likely to care whether the people we're holding at Gitmo, including the children, are terrorists or not. For many on the right, it's enough that they are Muslims, and their president (so long as he is a Republican) should, in the estimation of many of the craziest right wingers (and their talk radio listening robots) be able to grab any Muslim, anywhere, anytime, and hold them forever, "as long as the war on terror goes on." And by the way, it will always "go on."



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posted by JReid @ 4:48 PM  
Friday, June 13, 2008
A blow against tyranny
The WaPo's Dan Froomkin quotes from Justice Kennedy's opinion to declare the SUPCO ruling "a blow against tyranny":
In yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision that President Bush cannot deny prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court, there's a key passage about protecting people from despotism.

The passage comes as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is relating the history and origins of the great writ of habeas corpus. Kennedy quotes from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84, which in turn quotes English jurist William Blackstone: "[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone . . . are well worthy of recital: 'To bereave a man of life. . . or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.'"

The majority took aim at the Bushies' argument that the Constitution stops at the water's edge:
The Government's sovereignty-based test raises troubling separation-of-powers concerns, which are illustrated by Guantanamo's political history. Although the United States has maintained complete and uninterrupted control of Guantanamo for over 100 years, the Government's view is that the Constitution has no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed formal sovereignty in its 1903 lease with Cuba. The Nation's basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177. These concerns have particular bearing upon the Suspension Clause question here, for the habeas writ is itself an indispensable mechanism for monitoring the separation of powers
Double amen.

One more clip from the ruling, in which Kennedy and the other four members of the majority lay out the glaring deficiencies in the flimsy rules Congress set up to supposedly give the detainees some semblance of judicial review:
It is uncontroversial, however, that the habeas privilege entitles the prisoner to a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that he is being held pursuant to "the erroneous application or interpretation" of relevant law, INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U. S. 289, 302, and the habeas court must have the power to order the conditional release of an individual unlawfully detained. But more may be required depending on the circumstances. Petitioners identify what they see as myriad deficiencies in the CSRTs, the most relevant being the constraints upon the detainee's ability to rebut the factual basis for the Government's assertion that he is an enemy combatant. At the CSRT stage the detainee has limited means to find or present evidence to challenge the Government's case, does not have the assistance of counsel, and may not be aware of the most critical allegations that the Government relied upon to order his detention. His opportunity to confront witnesses is likely to be more theoretical than real, given that there are no limits on the admission of hearsay. The Court therefore agrees with petitioners that there is considerable risk of error in the tribunal's findings of fact. And given that the consequence of error may be detention for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, the risk is too significant to ignore. Accordingly, for the habeas writ, or its substitute, to function as an effective and meaningful remedy in this context, the court conducting the collateral proceeding must have some ability to correct any errors, to assess the sufficiency of the Government's evidence, and to admit and consider relevant exculpatory evidence that was not introduced during the earlier proceeding.
Amen squared. So what's so controversial about the ruling? For the right, it's the fact that finally, someone, in this case, five justices, have stood up and said that the president of the United States should not have godlike power. His actions must be subject to review. He cannot, like George III, simply spirit people off into the night and hold them indefinitely, giving the detained no recourse, no chance to ask "why are you holding me?" and to say "I'm not guilty." And, equally important, the court has said that the Congress cannot grant the president godlike power, even if in its political cowardice, it is determined to do so.



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posted by JReid @ 3:46 PM  
Habeas hysteria
"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." -- Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush

The authoritarian right has joined Crazy Tony Scalia in going absolutely ape-crap crazy over the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday granting the right of habeas corpus, which had been stripped from the constitution by our current presidential administration and his lackeys in the 109th Congress, to detainees held on the de facto U.S. soil called Guantanamo Bay. Scotusblog publishes one rollicking dissent today from a guy from a right-wing ... er ... "free market"... outfit called the Washington Legal Foundation.

Scalia got the ball rolling in his shrieky dissent yesterday, adopting almost word for word, the Fox News/right wing talk show formulation that "Americans will die" if our eternal detainees are allowed to challenge their endless detention in court.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board weighs in with its hysterical reaction today, directing their ire at Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Ronald Reagan appointee wrote the decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush:
Justice Kennedy's opinion is remarkable in its sweeping disregard for the decisions of both political branches. In a pair of 2006 laws – the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act – Congress and the President had worked out painstaking and good-faith rules for handling enemy combatants during wartime. These rules came in response to previous Supreme Court decisions demanding such procedural care, and they are the most extensive ever granted to prisoners of war.

Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in dissent, "Turns out" the same Justices "were just kidding." Mr. Kennedy now deems those efforts inadequate, based on only the most cursory analysis. As Chief Justice John Roberts makes clear in his dissent, the majority seems to dislike these procedures merely because a judge did not sanctify them. In their place, Justice Kennedy decrees that district court judges should derive their own ad hoc standards for judging habeas petitions. Make it up as you go!

Justice Kennedy declines even to consider what those standards should be, or how they would protect national security over classified information or the sources and methods that led to the detentions. Eventually, as the lower courts work their will amid endless litigation, perhaps President Kennedy will vouchsafe more details in some future case. In the meantime, the likelihood grows that our soldiers will prematurely release combatants who will kill more Americans.
I'm quivering just thinking about it.

To arrive at their predictions of doom, the Journal board cites the cases of German soldiers tried (and executed) by military commissions shortly after World War II, and, wait for it, the detention of 400,000 Japanese Americans who were interred in their own country, by their own country, during that conflict. Correct me if I'm wrong, but citing one of this country's most shameful moments as justification for deleting habeas from the Constitution -- a right that goes back to the freaking Magna Carta, and giving one man -- the president -- the power to detain at will, anyone, anywhere, for as long as he sees fit (and to torture them, at that,) doesn't strike me as very persuasive.

The Boumediene case itself is troubling, involving Lakhdar Boumediene, a man detained by U.S. troops in Bosnia way back in 2002. He has been held in Gitmo ever since -- not charged with a crime, just held in extralegal limbo at the president's discretion. His case was filed along with those of 11 other men, also in limbo in America's gulag by the sea. In December, the BBC reported of Boumediene:
Lakhdar Boumediene, now 41, travelled to Bosnia with five other Algerian men during the civil war in the 1990s, and may have fought with Bosnian forces against the Serbs.

The six stayed in Bosnia, married Bosnian women, were granted citizenship and took jobs working with orphans for various Muslim charities.

In October 2001, the US embassy in Sarajevo asked the Bosnian government to arrest them because of a suspicion they had been involved in a plot to bomb the embassy.

The six men were duly arrested. But after a three-month investigation, in which the Bosnian police searched their apartments, their computers and their documents, there was - according to a report by the New-York-based Center for Constitutional Rights - still no evidence to justify the arrests.

Bosnia's Supreme Court ordered their release, and the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber ruled they had the right to remain in the country and were not to be deported.

However, on the night of 17 January 2002, after they were freed from Bosnian custody, they were seized and rendered to Guantanamo.

Since arriving in Guantanamo, the men have faced repeated allegations of links to al-Qaeda - but the embassy plot has never been mentioned.

It was alleged in a tribunal hearing that an unidentified source had said Mr Boumediene "was known to be one of the closest associates of an al-Qaeda member in Europe".

The men have persistently denied the allegations.

Their lawyers say the source of the bomb-plot allegations was the embittered former brother-in-law of one of the men, who ran a smear campaign against him.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Novak, has said: "It's implausible to say that they are enemy combatants.

"They were fighters during the Bosnian war, but that ended in 1995.

"They may be radical Islamists, but they have definitely not committed any crime."

Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia protest in Sarajevo
Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia have protested in Sarajevo
According to the Washington Post, they were formally exonerated by Bosnian prosecutors in 2004.

The Journal's hysteria board fails to mention any of this, including the exoneration, and the absolute lack of evidence that Mr. Boumediene is an al-Qaida terrorist. And yet:
In March 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to a request for their release from the Bosnian prime minister by saying it was not possible because "they still possess important intelligence data".

All six men have said they have been treated brutally in Guantanamo, subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving prolonged isolation, forced nudity and sleep deprivation.
To what purpose? Are we now to believe that anyone who is Muslim, who has participated in any armed conflict, even the Bosnian conflict in which we fought essentially ON HIS SIDE, is an al-Qaida terrorist or associate? And on that basis, we can detain that person indefinitely, without charges, and torture him?

This, apparently, is the America that the right -- more pointedly, the authoritarian right -- desires. It's an America that is remarkably similar to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, or the old Soviet Union.

The Journal goes on to warn that the SUPCO ruling could lead to the release of people like Mr. Boumediene, who will then turn around and kill Americans. Well let's see ... rendered thousands of miles from home and locked in a cage ... tortured ... interrogated repeatedly about things he says he knows nothing about ... tortured ... held incommunicado without so much as a hearing to explain WHY he's being held ... tortured ... yep. He probably IS likely to want to kill Americans now.

Does the ruling make life complicated for the Bushies? You bet it does:

The court rejected Bush administration arguments that Guantánamo's location put it outside U.S. constitutional protections.

"The United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control over the base, maintains de facto sovereignty over this territory," Kennedy noted.

Kennedy and the four other justices further concluded that the detainees deserved full habeas corpus access to federal courts, despite congressional efforts to curtail it.

In a sense, the court told the administration that its time had run out. For more than four years, government lawyers have struggled to satisfy the court that some sort of process was in place in Guantánamo to separate those detainees who may pose a threat to the United States from those who were innocently caught up in the dragnet cast after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Thursday marked the third time the justices have rejected those efforts as being insufficient. And this time, there won't be a chance for another shot. It was clear from the tenor of the decision that the justices' patience had been exhausted. "Some of these petitioners have been in custody for six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention," Kennedy wrote.

The bulk of the detainees remaining at Guantánamo — about 260 — will have their cases heard individually by U.S. District Court judges in Washington in what's known as a habeas corpus proceeding. In these cases, the government will have the burden of showing why a prisoner should continue to be held without charges. "We think it's unlikely in most of the cases the government will be able to do that," Ratner said.

Compounding the problem will be that any evidence obtained through torture or coercion at Guantánamo is likely to be inadmissible in federal court. The inmate will also have the opportunity to offer exculpatory evidence.

The judge can then order his continued detention without a charge being filed against him; that the government charge the detainee or release him; or that he be released and transferred to another country.

The judge will also have the authority to block a transfer of a prisoner by the Pentagon on the grounds that he may be re-incarcerated or tortured if shipped to his home country, and perhaps order him transferred to a different country.

One of the next big questions — or embarrassments — could focus on what happens to detainees who win their freedom at habeas corpus hearings but have no place to go.

"The brutally frank answer is that we're stuck," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently. "And we're stuck in several ways: Either their home government won't accept them or we are concerned that the home government will let them loose once we return them home."

And yet, the United States, at least the America that existed before 9/11 gave the neocons a green light to build a fascist paradise for themselves and their corporate friends where we used to have a constitutional government, doesn't render, indefinitely hold, and torture people. What the Journal, right wing talk hosts and bloggers, and the rest of the right wing nut-jobs, who are driven by fear, and plied by greed, want, is so profoundly un-American, that these people should not, to coin a phrase, be heard in polite company. The ruling doesn't mean that anyone will be released immediately, but if any are, whatever happens next is squarely the fault of the Bush administration, and the Congress that let them run wild for so long.

Kudos to Anthony Kennedy and the other four members of the sane wing of the Court -- which should from now on be known as the American wing.


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posted by JReid @ 2:38 PM  
Thursday, June 12, 2008
SUPCO upholds pre-Bush American values
Score one for 232 years of pre-Bush American values. By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court rules that George Bush's black site detainees can challenge their indefinite detention in U.S. courts:
In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.
This is the third straight court loss for the Bushies, and their Soviet detention tactics.
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban. ...

...The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.

The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.
Just try and guess what sides the justices were on. Go on, I double dare ya...
In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented.

Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy to form the majority.

Meanwhile, among the justices who don't sound like fill-in hosts for Sean Hannity:

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” I
Keep in mind, John McCain has promised to replicate Scalia, Alito and Roberts, perhaps four times over, if he becomes president... If that happens, we will have left George Bush's post-constitutional age, and entered the Soviet Union full stop, circa 1973.


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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The 11 percent solution
Aussie journalist Russell Coker, whose site you can find here, alerted me to this very interesting article in the Washington Post, putting forward what could be the solution to the nettling question of "what to do with her..."
...It's likely that the next president will face at least one Supreme Court vacancy. Obama should promise Hillary Clinton, now, that if he wins in November, the vacancy will be hers, making her first on a list of one.

Obama and Clinton have wound up agreeing on nearly every major issue during the campaign; at the end of the day, they share many orthodoxies. Unless the Supreme Court were to get mired in minuscule details of what constitutes universal health care, Obama could assume that he'd be pleased with most Clinton votes, certainly on major issues such as abortion.

Obama could also appreciate Clinton's undeniably keen mind. Even Clinton detractors have noted her remarkable mental skills; she would be equal to any legal or intellectual challenge she would face as a justice. The fact that she hasn't served on a bench before would be inconsequential, considering her experience in law and in government.

If Obama were to promise Clinton the first court vacancy, her supporters would actually have a stronger incentive to support him for president than they would if she were going to be vice president. Given the Supreme Court's delicate liberal-conservative balance, she would play a major role in charting the country's future; there is no guarantee that a Clinton vice presidency would achieve such importance.

For nearly a year and a half, Clinton has been fighting a bruising battle. Many appointees and officials from her husband's administration have turned their backs on her; she has lost the support of friends she had every reason to believe would stand by her. She has campaigned tirelessly only to discover that, according to polls, more than half the populace mistrusts her. Yes, she can still hope for 2012 or 2016, but why trust that she will be viewed differently next time around? (A recent CNN "quick poll" found that nearly 70 percent of respondents believed someone other than Clinton would be the first female president.)

Instead of subjecting herself to a long wait and another possible defeat, she could don one of those roomy black robes, make a potentially ineradicable impact on the course of the republic -- and never again have to worry about being liked. ...
Now, I have heard theories about what it would cost to get Hillary Clinton out of the race, and the subject of putting her husband on the Court has come up. This is the first time I've been provoked to think about the Court, rather than the New York governership (too provincial), the Senate Majority Chair (too audacious -- she's down in the 40s in terms of seniority, moving her up would step on a lot of toes...) or the vice presidency (never ... going ... to ... happen. Get over it, Clintonettes.) And you know what? I LIKE IT!

Of course, Obama probably couldn't openly declare his support for handing Clinton 11.1% of the nation's highest court, both because it would energize the right -- particularly the religious right -- on one of their most fundamental issues: activist judges (read "abortion,") but also because it doesn't quite seem appropriate to declare your court nominee before (her) time. But the idea that Clinton could ascend to the SUPCO (hey, since her husband has relinquished the "first black president" title, we could call her the "real holder of the Thurgood Marshall seat...") while not as ground-breaking as becoming the first female president, would give her lasting power and influence, things it's clear she desperately craves. A seat on the Court would put Hillary in a position to extend her influence beyond the limited shelf life of the presidency, while freeing her from that bothersome ambition, which has brought her, and her husband, so low in the esteem of former supporters (myself included.)

So I'd at least back-channel it if I were Obama's team, to top Emily's Listers, to League of Women Voters heads, and through his new pals at NARAL (national -- the local NARAL's are probably still pissed off...) and see what happens. So long as they can find a way to filter the hope of an appointment down through the ranks without blasting it on their MySpace, it just might make a difference.


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posted by JReid @ 8:20 AM  
Monday, July 30, 2007
Roberts' fall was a seizure
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is in the hospital. The seizure is from an unknown cause...

Update: More details have been released about Chief Justice Roberts' seizure:
St. George Ambulance responded to a call at about 2 p.m. Monday of a man who had fallen 5 to 10 feet and landed on a dock, hitting the back of his head. The patient was ashen and was foaming at the mouth. National news report quotes a Supreme Court spokeswoman as saying that Roberts was conscious the entire time of the incident. That spokeswoman has not returned a telephone call to the newspaper.

PBMC issued a statement at about 7 p.m., saying that Roberts was being kept overnight as a precaution and was recovered. He suffered some minor scrapes from the fall, the hospital stated. A comprehensive neurological examination was administered to the chief justice and the seizure was determined to be a benign one, the hospital stated. The chief justice suffered a similar seizure in 1993.

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posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Now they figure it out...
31: The percentage of Americans according to a new ABC/WaPo poll who say the Supreme Court is leaning too far to the right (BTW Bush's approval rating in that poll: 33 percent, with 65 disapproving -- 52 percent strongly so... the highest strong disapproval Bush has faced since he took office.)

Other tidbits from the poll:

58 percent strongly disapprove of the situation in Iraq (68 disapprove period), and a record 56 percent disapprove of the U.S. "campaign against terrorism." Interesting... both all-time highs for those questions.

64 percent disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress, with 34 percent approving; and 51 percent disapprove of the job Democrats are doing, with a much more respectable 46 percent approving. i'd wager that most of the Dems' disapproval stems from their failure to really take on (if not take down) this president. Evidence of that: 63 percent disapprove of the Dems' handling of the situation in Iraq, though the public prefers the Dems to handle Iraq over President Bush by a margin of 55 to 32 percent, and 59 percent of respondents favor withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict.

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posted by JReid @ 6:31 AM  
Friday, June 29, 2007
Affirmative action dealt a blow
The Supreme Court ruling on two elementary school affirmative action programs is rippling across the legal and political landscape. The ruling stated that schools cannot use race as the sole criteria in creating a mix in their school populations. According to the AFP:
By five to four, the justices ruled in favor of white parents whose children were denied places at their nearest schools in Seattle, Washington, and the Kentucky city of Louisville because of such admission policies.

"Simply because the school districts may seek a worthy goal doesn't mean that they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision.

The decision could affect hundreds of US districts that try to give preference to black and other ethnic-minority children, if a school is over-subscribed and is deemed to have enough white children already.
Democrats are hopping mad about the decision, while conservatives are lauding it. More on the ruling from the National Journal here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:37 AM  
Friday, January 05, 2007
The Rehnquist files
Digging further into the files on the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist is interesting, to say the least. I linked to it yesterday, but in case you missed it, here's just a taste:

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s Senate confirmation battles in 1971 and 1986 were more intense and political than previously known, according to a newly released FBI file that also offers dramatic new details about Rehnquist’s 1981 hospitalization and dependence on a painkiller.

The FBI file on Rehnquist, released last week under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that in 1971, as Rehnquist’s confirmation hearings for associate justice approached, the Nixon Justice Department asked the FBI to run a criminal background check on at least two potential witnesses who were expected to testify against Rehnquist. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover approved the request.

In July 1986, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist to be chief justice, the Justice Department asked the FBI to interview witnesses who were preparing to testify that Rehnquist had intimidated minority voters as a Republican Party official in Arizona in the early 1960s. According to a memo in the Rehnquist file, an unnamed FBI official cautioned that the department “should be sensitive to the possibility that Democrats could charge the Republicans of misusing the FBI and intimidating the Democrats’ witnesses.” But then-Assistant Attorney General John Bolton — who more recently served as ambassador to the United Nations — signed off on the request and said he would “accept responsibility should concerns be raised about the role of the FBI.” It is unclear whether the FBI ever interviewed the witnesses.

Also in 1986, the FBI conducted an intensive investigation into Rehnquist’s dependence on Placidyl, a strong painkiller that he had taken since the early 1970s for insomnia and back pain. Rehnquist’s bout with drug dependence had been made public in 1981, when he was hospitalized for his back pain and suffered withdrawal symptoms when he stopped taking the drug.

The FBI’s 1986 report on Rehnquist’s drug dependence was not released at the time of his confirmation, though some Democratic senators wanted it made public. But it is in Rehnquist’s now-public file, and it contains new details about his behavior during his weeklong hospital stay in December 1981. One physician whose name is blocked out told the FBI that Rehnquist expressed “bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him.” ...
Read on, it gets better.

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posted by JReid @ 8:39 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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