Marvin Wilson sucked his thumb into his adulthood, reads at a second-grade level, has an IQ of 61, doesn’t know the difference between left and right, and as a child couldn’t wear a belt without cutting off his circulation.
This evening, he was executed in Texas.
Even though a decade ago the Supreme Court ruled, in Atkins v. Virginia, that low IQ would exempt a defendant from execution, Texas chooses to interpret that decision in a manner that allows them to poison to death defendants like Wilson:
Texas’s interpretation of Atkins isn’t that mentally disabled people can’t be executed; it’s that there’s a threshold of disability at which execution is no longer acceptable.
Texas’ standards for determining a convicted murderer’s mental competence came from the least scientific document imaginable—a John Steinbeck novel. As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington explained:
The determinants were posited around the character Lennie Small in Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men.
“Most Texas citizens,” the argument ran, “might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt” from execution. By implication anyone less impaired than Steinbeck’s fictional migrant ranch worker should have no constitutional protection.
Over the past month or so, there have been intense debates about whether or not I have a right not to carry health insurance, about whether or not the Founders would have put semi-automatic weapons on their Second Amendment list of approved arms, and — of course — about tax exemptions for a presidential candidate’s Olympics-bound horse.
But let’s remember that virtually no one is debating the morality of the death penalty.
By Ezra Klein
I can describe Mitt Romney’s tax policy promises in two words: mathematically impossible.
Those aren’t my words. They’re the words of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which has conducted the most comprehensive analysis to date of Romney’s tax plan and which bent over backward to make his promises add up. They’re perhaps the two most important words that have been written during this U.S. presidential election.
If you were to distill the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign to a few sentences, you could hardly do better than this statement of purpose from the speech Romney delivered in Detroit, outlining his plan for the economy: “I believe the American people are ready for real leadership. I believe they deserve a bold, conservative plan for reform and economic growth. Unlike President Obama, I actually have one — and I’m not afraid to put it on the table.”
The truth is that Romney is afraid to put his plan on the table. He has promised to reduce the deficit, but refused to identify the spending he would cut. He has promised to reform the tax code, but refused to identify the deductions and loopholes he would eliminate. The only thing he has put on the table is dessert: a promise to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board and to do so without raising the deficit or reducing the taxes paid by the top 1 percent.
The Tax Policy Center took Romney at his word. They also did what he hasn’t done: They put his plan on the table.
Such an important critical analysis of how many liberal democrats and “peace” activists speak against the idea of war but rarely engage in actively criticizing the Empire that enables the possibility, funding and activation of war.
For one, Maddow, a self-described “national security liberal” who is “all about counterterrorism”, writes more like a politician seeking to flatter her US audience than a teller of tough, uncomfortable truths. While at times briefly alluding to its war-filled past, Maddow repeatedly paints a picture of the US as, at heart, a peaceful nation, one with a government structured by its noble founding founders with a “deliberate peaceable bias”. It is only recently, she maintains - post-World War II, but especially since Ronald Reagan - that war and a gargantuan military-industrial complex have been deemed “normal”.
Though many might perceive it as an anti-war work, Maddow’s overriding concern seems to be not so much the wars themselves - certainly not the non-American victims of them, who are never once mentioned - but the modern, unilateral way in which we go about fighting them. Reagan, for example, invaded Grenada without first seeking approval from Congress and armed and funded right-wing insurgents in Nicaragua despite a congressional prohibition, facts she holds responsible for the creation of all that “‘imperial presidency’ malarkey”.
Maddow doesn’t tell her readers any of that. Nor does she advocate a radical break from the system of hierarchical power that allows a few people in Washington - one if you’re a unilateralist, 535 if you’re not - to have the literal power to destroy the world. Rather: “The good news is we don’t need a radical new vision of post-Cold War American power,” she says. “We just need a ‘small c’ conservative return to our constitutional roots, a course correction.”
Just read the damn thing. It takes guts to face the Empire, the big guns that engage in war. Rarely will you find a media personality, political entity or activist questioning the validity of the Empire, of the Super Power. Those who do, have very little control and representation in the spheres where political narratives are established.
Mehreen makes a very good and important point - those who routinely challenge conventional wisdom aren’t given the platforms that those who don’t are. It sounds cynical but it’s a reality. Rachel Maddow is a talk show host on a once heavily pro-war network that still touts neoconservative talking points. The U.S. media is all about access, that is, never angering politicians or government officials in hopes that they’ll appear on and return to your show or allow you to interview them in the future so you get your high ratings, pricey ad spots, and you sell more copies of your printed media. The heads of MSNBC have said that they are “the [Washington] establishment.” This is true of every mainstream cable network and media outlet. The military industrial complex is, arguably, the most powerful and largest actor in U.S. politics so, of course, presenting a challenge to U.S. foreign policy is going to be seen by Washington as unfavorable.
It’s not exactly fair to single Maddow out but using her as an example does a nice job of making the point that even the mainstream media giants who seem to be representative of leftist/progressive viewpoints really aren’t and there are a number of reasons why this is true, including all of the silly patriotic ideals we’ve absorbed, but much of it has to do with the nature of our media and their reluctance to challenge Washington conventional wisdom.(via mohandasgandhi)
Eric Holder, explaining why there’s no constitutional problem with the Obama adminstration’s series of targeted killings overseas.
The whole thing is at once fascinating and absolutely maddening:
Broadly outlining the guidelines the Obama administration has used to conduct lethal drone stikes overseas, Holder said the U.S. government could legally target a senior operational al Qaeda leader who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans if the individual (1) posed an imminent threat of violence; (2) could not feasibly be captured; and (3) if the operation was conducted in line with war principles.
Holder said that the “imminent threat” evaluation had to take into account what would happen if the U.S. missed its window of opportunity and said the Constitution did not require the President to “delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning.”
The question of whether the capture of a terrorist is feasible is “a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question,” said Holder, adding that the “nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide” meant capture wasn’t always possible.
Holder also said that the administration informs members of Congress about counterterrorism activities and the legal framework for targeting individuals for killing, which he said was part of a system of “robust oversight”
“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential - but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war - even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen,” Holder said.
Read the whole piece here.
I understand Holder to be claiming that the administration is providing due process by reviewing these case very thoroughly … but isn’t it pretty clear that the phrase in question, ”due process of law,” taken its entirety, more than implies a judicial review process? Does Holder think he’s going to convince many people who are critical of the policy with this line of reasoning?
The thing is, the guarantee of due process of law has been construed as being applicable to both U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. As early as 1908 in Twining v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court declared, via Justice Moody, that the denial of the first eight amendments, which guarantee a number of judicial rights, is a denial of due process of law precisely because “they are of such a nature that they are included in the conception of due process of law.” In other words, the liberties included in due process of law are of such a high protected status not because they are enumerated in the first eight amendments but because they are fundamental and inalienable rights. One of the conclusions of this case was that it is an inalienable right of those accused of committing a crime being granted a trial heard by a court with proper jurisdiction. The Court has incorporated just about every provision of the Bill of Rights into the Due Process Clause, including the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees certain rights (procedural due process) to the criminally accused. It is beyond absurd to claim these rights guaranteed by the Constitution do not entail a judicial process.
Furthermore, even if one were to grant the Executive the privileges that come with war powers, assuming the conditions of national emergency are sufficient such that said powers be permissible, the assassination of a U.S. citizen (even abroad) is not consistent with the rights of the criminally accused during wartime guaranteed by our Constitution, as has been determined by our Courts. To allow the Executive to completely bypass the judicial process, even during a time in which conditions might be reasonably considered consistent with those of warfare, on the basis that due process does not entail or imply a fair judicial process, goes against the very foundations by which our country was founded and the principles guaranteed by our Constitution that have been consistently upheld by our Courts. Holder and the Obama administration are using an interpretation of the Constitution that completely alienates the Judiciary branch from the process of “bringing alleged terrorists to justice,” placing checks on the Executive, and upholding the Constitution. This interpretation allows the Executive to serve as the Judiciary, violating one of our most basic and fundamental principles of democracy.(via mohandasgandhi)
Europe has lost its moral compass. via Case of Anti-White Racism on Trial in France - ABC News
As protesters massed outside, the spokeswoman for a movement representing immigrants from France’s former colonies went on trial Wednesday for allegedly insulting white French in what may be the first anti-white racism case in France.
The verdict, expected Jan. 25, may turn on a hyphen.
The trial grew out of a legal complaint from a far-right group, the General Alliance Against Racism and Respect for French and Christian Identity, Agrif, against Houria Bouteldja for using a word she invented to refer to white French that she claims was misconstrued. She was charged with “racial injury” and, if convicted, risks up to six months in prison and a maximum €25,000 ($32,500) fine, though courts usually issue far lighter sentences.
Bouteldja, of the movement Indigenes of the Republic, called native white French “souchiens” in a TV interview. The word derives from “souche,” or stock, as native white French are commonly called, but could sound like a hyphenated word meaning “lower than a dog.”
Bouteldja’s remarks on France-3 television station four years ago caused a clamor in large part because they cut straight to long-simmering issues over inequity between white French and French whose origins are in former North African and African colonies — some of whose families took up arms to help France fight during the world wars.
Her Indigenes movement, now a tiny political party, tries to fight racism and promote equal rights for people with roots in “post-colonial immigration.”
I have no words. Read the rest at the link above.
My first thought: Seriously, France?
My second thought: Souchiens is an awesome word in this situation.
Even at this 11th hour – when all of our liberties and freedom are about to go down the drain – many people still don’t understand that the indefinite detention bill passed by Congress allows indefinite detention of Americans on American soil.
The bill is confusing. As Wired noted on December 1st:
It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.”
A retired admiral, Judge Advocate General and Dean Emeritus of the University of New Hampshire School of Law also says that it applies to American citizens on American soil.
The ACLU notes:
Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.
But you don’t have to believe us. Instead, read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”
Another sponsor of the bill – Senator Levin – has also repeatedly said that the bill applies to American citizens on American soil, citing the Supreme Court case of Hamdi which ruled that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants:
“The Supreme Court has recently ruled there is no bar to the United States holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,” said Levin. “This is the Supreme Court speaking.“
Levin again stressed recently that the bill applies to American citizens, and said that it was president Obama who requested that it do so:
Under questioning from Rand Paul, another co-sponsor – John McCain – said that Americans suspected of terrorism could not only be indefinitely detained, but could be sent to Guantanamo:
U.S. Congressman Justin Amash states in a letter to Congress:
The Senate’s [bill] does not even distinguish between American citizens and non-citizens, or between persons caught domestically and abroad. The President’s power, in his discretion, to detain persons he determines have supported associated forces applies just as strongly to Americans seized on U.S. soil as it does to foreigners captured on a far away battlefield.
Two retired 4-star generals (Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar) write in the New York Times:
One provision [in the bill] would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past.
Indeed, Amash accuses lawmakers of attempting to intentionally mislead the American people by writing a bill which appears at first glance to exclude U.S. citizens, when it actually includes us:
Pres. Obama and many Members of Congress believe the President ALREADY has the authority the bill grants him. Legally, of course, he does not. This language was inserted to keep proponents and opponents of the bill appeased, while permitting the President to assert that the improper power he has claimed all along is now in statute.
They will say that American citizens are specifically exempted under the following language in Sec. 1032: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” Don’t be fooled. All this says is that the President is not REQUIRED to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial. It still PERMITS him to do so.
Jon Stewart, on Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and her
strangely not conservativecrusade for paid maternity leave
Anti-“government handouts” until they apply to you, Fox News style. From Jezebel’s article Megyn Kelly Bravely Stands up for Megyn Kelly’s Rights:
While Kelly’s pro-maternity leave stance might seem encouraging, and a prominent woman conservative woman advocating any sort of social program refreshing, it’s not brave or envelope pushing to advocate policies that would be immensely beneficial to yourself. As Jon Stewart pointed out, Kelly isn’t so progressive when it comes to other social programs that would immensely help other populations, as that would be “government intrusion.” Megyn Kelly is about as Girl Power as Sarah Palin or Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
I remember when this happened. And it’s representative of the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality that a lot of conservatives (particularly fiscal conservatives) hang on to. See also: Rick Santorum’s wife’s abortion,* Ayn Rand collecting social security and Medicare, and Newt Gingrich suddenly being the authority on marriage and family values.
*And in case you’ve never read it, the timeless “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion.”