Archives: June 2002
Tuesday | July 02, 2002
Trifecta source finally found
It's been a quiet day in the news world today as the nation prepares for its upcoming holiday weekend. I considered blogging about the tragic bombing of an Afghan wedding party, but I don't have the energy. The discussion would lead to the US' dissing of the International Criminal Court, and then to the US' dissing of basically every treaty it has ever signed. And then to the contempt in which most of the world currently holds the US. Sigh. Who has that energy? All I can think about is vacation. Lots of baseball games. Fireworks. Vegan burgers. Nice, happy thoughts...
But then the mystery of the Trifecta was finally solved, and this I had to blog! First some background:
Many media outlets and the blogosphere have been talking for weeks about Bush's tasteless trifecta joke. You know the one. Bush claims that during the campaign he promised not to deficit spend unless the country faced a recession, war, or foreign crisis. Then, to great public approval, he hits his punch line, how he hit "the trifecta!"
People laugh, and great fun is had all around. It’s so funny to make light of people losing their jobs and dying in distant lands. So hilarious!
But the really funny part was that Bush was blatantly lying. He never made the trifecta comment during his campaign. In fact, he persistently claimed that the country would continue to enjoy surpluses despite his tax cut, and that his "trillion dollar" contingency fund would take care of any emergencies. Yet, even after reporters pointed out he was lying, Bush kept making his "joke". Funny.
I never blogged any of this since others were doing it far more effectively (like Spinsanity). But today, the source of the Trifecta comments was finally found.
It was Al Gore.
Now that's funny.
| 02:59 PM | Link
Monday | July 01, 2002
Halliburton under fire
The SEC is investigating Veep Cheney's Halliburton. And the agency, headed by a former lobbyist for the accounting industry promises to be aggressive. Right. Don't believe it. During the Clinton years, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt led industry efforts to open loopholes in corporate oversight laws, and his kid-glove treatment of the Enron debacle inspires nothing in the way of confidence.
In effect, Bush is ordering Pitt to look "aggressive" as the GOP attempts to deflect political heat for the near-daily scandals rocking Wall Street (and Main Street in the form of shrinking portfolios and 401(k)s).
As I've said before, all the action will happen in the class action suits. So far, I count 19 suits filed in the past month alone. Most of these will be consolidated into a single suit, so the number filed is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Cheney will be forced to testify once this case goes to trial. He will pull every trick, every delaying tactic, to avoid testifying in open court, but thanks to Clinton v. Jones, he'll fail. The only question will be whether he can push off any such testimony until after the 2004 elections.
For some background on the Cheney/Halliburton saga, check out this post. And this one.
| 02:45 PM | Link
Ann Coulter's Slander watch
I don't have the fortitude to read Ann Coulter's latest diatribe against the evil scourge of the liberal media. Thankfully, this brave blogger has dedicated significant time to exposing some of the book's most outrageous, er, slanderous passages.
Incidentally, I finally saw the clip of Katie Couric tearing Coulter a new one. It's here if you're interested (make sure to scroll down to get to the video link). It's a real catfight. I especially love the fake smiles both women wear throughout the interview.
| 12:14 PM | Link
More on US v. Quinones
Here's the PDF of the judges opinion in US v. Quinones. (Thanks TalkLeft!)
It's a surprisingly lucid opinion, and most of its arguments are extremely persuasive. These two passages get to the core of the judge's decision (citations omitted):
If protection of innocent people from state-sponsored execution is a protected liberty, and if such protected liberty includes the right of an innocent person not to be deprived, by execution, of the opportunity to demonstrate his innocence, then Congress may not override such liberty absent a far more clear and compelling need than any presented here.
Regarding the DNA testing that has exonerated at least 12 death row inmates since 1993 ... the Government argues that, since such testing is now available prior to trial in many cases, its effect, going forward, will actually be to reduce the risk of mistaken convictions. This completely misses the point. What DNA testing has proved, beyond cavil, is the remarkable degree of fallibility in the basic fact-finding processes on which we rely in criminal cases. In each of the 12 cases of DNA-exoneration of death row inmates referenced in Quinones, the defendant had been found guilty by a unanimous jury that concluded there was proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and in each of the 12 cases the conviction had been affirmed on appeal, and collateral challenges rejected, by numerous courts that had carefully scrutinized the evidence and the manner of conviction. Yet, for all this alleged “due process,” the result, in each and every one of these cases, was the conviction of an innocent person who, because of the death penalty, would shortly have been executed (some came within days of being so) were it not for the fortuitous development of a new scientific technique that happened to be applicable to their particular cases.
This is powerful stuff. The judge doesn't even bother addressing any claims based on the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, the argument is as follows:
- It is unconstitutional to execute innocent people;
- Innocent people get convicted of murder, and are sentenced to death;
- Proper due process must give the innocent the opportunity to prove their innocence (even after conviction);
- It's impossible to assert due process rights after being executed; therefore
- The federal death penalty is unconstitutional.
Note that this case applies only to the federal
death penalty, not the states. However, the due process arguments made here apply equally to all levels of government, and if adopted by the Supreme Court would effectively end Capital Punishment.
| 10:48 AM | Link
Watts to retire
One of the GOP's worst nightmares came true, as Rep. Watts said he won't run for reelection. Watts is the only black Republican in Congress, and the GOP's favorite prop when discussing racially sensitive issues. It's extremely difficult to appeal to non-Anglo voters when your entire cadre of federally elected officials is white.
The GOP must also defend what should've been a safe seat against an expected strong challenge from Democrats. And, with Dick Armey also retiring, it opens up the Republicans to this sort of smart ass sniping from Democrats: "House Republican leaders must know something that the rest of the caucus doesn't, that their chances for holding the majority are slipping away faster than the sand in an hourglass."
| 08:55 AM | Link
Judge: death penalty is unconstitutional
A federal district court judge has ruled the federal death penalty is unconstitutional. Next up is the the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers NY, CT, and VT.
While this news story is short on detail, it seems the judge used the Due Process clause to invalidate capital punishment (as opposed to the prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment"). This is the first time I've seen that argument made, and it should be interesting to see if it sticks as it moves up the appeals courts.
| 08:49 AM | Link
Pledge judge speaks out
Selected bits from a legal newspaper's interview of Judge Alfred Goodwina, the author of the opinion eliminating the words "under God" from the Pledge:
"I never had much confidence in the attention span of elected officials for any kind of deep thinking about important issues. When they pop off after what I call a bumper strip headline, they almost always give a superficial response."
"I'm a little disappointed in our chief executive [Pres. Bush] -- who nobody ever accused of being a deep thinker -- for popping off."
"That was just damage control," Goodwin said about his Thursday order staying the decision in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, even though the case is automatically stayed anyway.
He said that was done for the benefit of the media, who don't understand the intricacies of court rules -- especially TV reporters.
"Their attention span can't handle anything more than a haiku of about four lines. The worse thing about it was that some people said we were caving under pressure."
He also noted that some of the criticism is being fueled by what he called "this wrap-yourself-in-the-flag frenzy."
He added that he wasn't impressed with the media's interpretations of the ruling.
"I wasn't too surprised. I did work for newspapers … so I know how they work."
"The Wall Street Journal gave [the ruling] about a half-inch, which is what it deserved.
| 08:34 AM | Link
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Being a subversive Atheist
I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance while in grade school. We would all stand up, hands over our hearts, and say the words in a monotone drone. I would recite the words out of habit, without any real introspection or understanding of what they meant.
Kind of like when I prayed. If I was ordered to say 10 Hail Marys, I would simply say the words to the prayer 10 times. I might as well have been counting to 100 for all the meaning I assigned the words. There was no emotion and definitely no sincerity.
And I don't think I am alone. That's why I find the furor over the pledge somewhat interesting. It's not as though the pledge is an essential social element binding our nation together. It's a chore half-asleep schoolchildren have to perform, and they do so with little gusto.
MaxSpeak takes this argument further, arguing quite effectively that atheists would do more to advance their cause by leaving the pledge alone:
| 08:10 AM | Link
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While the fellow bringing suit in re: the pledge has a perfect right to go on the way he does without social sanction, a more strategic and devious approach to the matter from an atheist perspective would be to leave the pledge just the way it is. The best way to leach all meaning from religious doctrine is to boil it down to vacuous slogans, then institutionalize these cliches in the spheres of civil proceedings and popular culture.
Sunday | June 30, 2002
Ashcroft, angel of death
The trend nationwide is against the death penalty. The Supreme Court is sounding a retreat, turning a harsh eye on capital punishment, while states across the nation are looking to follow Illinois lead with a moratorium.
So, what is Ashcroft's obsession with death? Since taking office, Ashcroft has overruled his prosecutors 12 times, ordering them to seek the death penalty when they had recommended otherwise. In one case, prosecutors had reached a tentative plea bargain before being ordered by Ashcroft to rescind the offer and seek the defendant's death.
| 08:31 PM | Link
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In what is shaping up to be an interesting administration leak, anonymous officials say that the pre-9-11 Bush Administration didn't have terrorism on its radar screen. Despite intense focus on the problem by the Clinton Administration, Bush's National Security Council discussed terrorism in only two if its first 100 meetings.
So, while the Bushies were interested in restarting the Cold War with North Korea and China, terrorism was barely an afterthought. Missile defense was important. Al Queda was ignored. Restarting nuclear testing was a priority. Securing our airports was not.
Lucky for the administration, the 4th of July weekend is coming up, giving it ample opportunities to sound the terrorism alarm bell.
| 08:11 PM | Link
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