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What Would People Think?

Monday, July 31, 2006

They Made This Thing Called A Music Video

So a byproduct of the fact that I hardly watch any TV (unless it's in the form of a TV series that's already out on DVD) is that I don't see that many music videos. Nonetheless, I thought I'd point out 3 music videos I discovered from 3 bands that I love or believe to have promise.

Eisley - "Memories": Like the band and the song, the video is pretty, dreamy, kinda weird, and hypnotic.

Be Your Own Pet - "Adventure": Okay, so the video's very twisted. But I loooooove the dive-in-face-first hard rock of this band. Not to mention that they are 4 teenagers from my old stomping grounds in Nashville. Among the first venues they played were Guido's and Bongo Java.

Cobra Starship - "Snakes On A Plane (Bring It)": If you haven't heard of the summer's most promising cheesy movie, Snakes On A Plane, you simply don't surf the Internet enough. Well Cobra Starship are clearly already fans. The video is fun and silly, just as I hope the movie will be. (Love the shoutout at the end to Snakes On A Blog. My friend David Barzelay knows the guy that's running that site.)

Note: As of this posting, Christy and I will be getting married in 12 days.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

You Can Just Call Me "Ben, Esquire"

Well, I'm done with the bar. I never had any moments of absolute panic. Which means either that (i) I did well enough to pass or (ii) I've resigned myself to the fact that I just don't know the details of vanishing venue, or when service of process relates back to............ah, hell with it.

My more witty colleague Zhubin Parang had this description of the bar studying process:

It's a mind-numbing process, with a boredom that is uniquely fatiguing. On top of it all is the low-grade but ever-present stress that permeates every waking moment you're not studying. Sure, go to a wedding, but what happens if you're tested on powers of appointment? Watch Simpsons if you have to, but aren't you kinda shaky on intentional infliction of emotional distress? The odds of failing are so low, but the consequences of failing are so high, it's like you're playing Russian Roulette with a thousand-chamber revolver, and that's not a situation that keeps you mentally comfortable with a 9-5 study schedule.

But it's over! And I'm 95% sure I passed! Maybe even 96.3%!

Anyways, I'm sitting in the kitchen listening as my adorable 2-year old nephew Drew (Cars fanatic) is playing happily in the other room while the rest of his family is at Six Flags. He's the most articulate almost-3-year-old I've ever met. And he talks nonstop. I'm told I was like him at that age. Heck I probably still am. I've just moved up in my obsessions from Lightning McQueen to Paul Thomas Anderson.

I'm doing the odds and ends of wedding planning. But I tell ya, right now, it don't feel stressful. I'm feeling FREE! I'm DONE with the doggone bar exam and I couldn't be happier. Have I explained to you how much I hate Commercial Paper. Have I told you why the Rule Against Perpetuities is the most idiotically complex and pointless rule devised by common lawyers to create malpractice in later generations? Well, guess what? I won't tell you now! I shall dedicate myself in the ensuing weeks to developing the ability to once again have interesting conversations.

Tomorrow, I'm flying to hang with Mike for the weekend. It's been a long time since we've seen each other and I'm really looking forward to it. Plus, it's a last single-guy's hurrah and a celebration of finishing the bar exam. So we're gonna celebrate in that wild and crazy Chaffin 316 (our old dorm) kinda way: watching movies, playing music, and hanging out. Perhaps going to concerts. I hear other single guys celebrate in different ways. I can only imagine that they are less fun than what I do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

So It Begins.....

Tomorrow is the first day of the Georgia Bar Exam.

Good luck to all you fellow bar-takers across the nation!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Off To Dallas

I am just about to jump in the car to drive to the airport. Then it's off to Dallas for the weekend.

Christy's maid of honor, Oyamel, is getting married tomorrow. Christy's the maid of honor.

So I'll be celebrating with them....in between studying for the bar. Guess what I'll be doing on the plane!

See y'all on the flip side of this weekend.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Bizarre Dream - and a Long Delayed Introduction

Man, did I ever have a weird dream last night.

I dreamt I got married to a total stranger in one of those Las Vegas Instant Wedding chapels. Not to Christy. But to a total stranger. I don't even remember why I did it in the dream, but I do remember waking up and spending a minute trying to figure out how I would explain this to Christy....before I realized that none of it had ever happened.

Another weird aspect of this dream was that I spent much of it trying to figure out how I was going to explain this wedding to my college....which in the dream was some sort of Bob Jones-esque place which might not look kindly on shotgun weddings. Not that I'm sure it was even a shotgun wedding.

I'm sure psychologists/psychiatrists (I can never remember the difference) would have a field day with this. Me, I need to go to the dentist and then come back and study Commercial Paper (read: checks and promissory notes.......sure we could just call it that, but we're lawyers and we need fancy names for everything). Then, in a few weeks, I'll get married and put this whole weird dream thing behind me. Heck, I'll put it behind me now.

But first......

Speaking of Bob Jones, I realize that I have been unforgivably remiss in introducing an occasional commenter on this blog to my other friends.

Monica Raab and her husband, Chris, stand as living reminders to me that I'm not allowed to stereotype. Both are graduates of Bob Jones University. Chris is about to enter into his 3rd year at Duke Law and has served with me in the Christian Legal Society.

Before I met the Raabs, my only impression of Bob Jones University came from the stories in 2000 that the college did not allow interracial dating. I read their justification for it - based on a truly strained interpretation of the Book of Revelations - and I was not impressed. I imagined the school as intellectual breeding grounds for young Jerry Falwells and Ralph Reeds. (Ralph Reed's political career, Rest In Peace.) I don't know if I ever really thought about what the students were like but, based on that dating policy, I suppose I had this image of a campus full of angry, hateful racists who justified it all in the name of Christ.

Then I met Chris Raab (no relation to some pop culture figure who refers to himself as "Raab Himself"). The first word that popped in my mind when I met him was "earnest." No one I've met has given such first impression of seriousness and sincerity. As I got to know him better, I discovered that while he was, in fact, capable of joking....that impression of sincerity was genuine. He was also kind, friendly and - this being the part made me surprised when I found he was a Bob Jones graduate - thoughtful. He clearly had given much thought to his faith and his views of law and politics. While he is much more conservative than me, he is also open-minded, willing to engage one in serious discussion. I've never known him to engage in the kind of sarcastic, bitter political cheap shots that poison public discourse and which, I'm ashamed to say, I've often been a part of. In a word, he's awesome.

Finally, Chris shattered my last ignorant stereotype of Bob Jones students (that they were all racists) when he told me how glad he was the Bob Jones had dumped the ban on interracial dating before he went there. His then-fiancee, now-wife is part.....Indian, I think. I don't quite remember.

I first met Monica at a lunch a couple months before she and Chris got married, just after he had proposed to her. My single-word first impression of Monica: "firecracker." I mean that in a positive way. Here was an intelligent young woman with a forceful personality who wasn't afraid to let her opinions be known. (Yet another refreshing sign that Bob Jones doesn't create stereotypes.) I'm not calling her abrasive. On the contrary, she exudes a warmth of personality, a kindness, and a seriousness about her faith that made me see why she was a perfect match for Chris. But she does have a wonderfully sharp wit and she knows her own mind. In a word, she's awesome.

I mean, she patterned her wedding dress after one of the dresses in Lord of the Rings. How cool is that?!

(By the way, I've occasionally engaged some of Monica's friends in discussion over at her blog. While they are far more conservative than me, they're no stereotypes either. Not that this adds or detracts from her awesomeness, but Monica tends to take the more liberal view of many issues than her friends.)

I deeply value Chris and Monica's friendship. And I am incredibly touched that they chose to attend my and Christy's wedding since it takes place on the exact date of their one-year wedding anniversary!

So, apologies for not e-introducing the Raabs to my friends sooner.

Oh, by the way, all you readers of my blog who have been invited to my wedding, SEND IN YOUR RSVPS! Even if you are not coming, SEND 'EM IN! Even if you assume I already know you're coming, SEND 'EM IN! I need to know, among other things, what food you are ordering.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Bible Belt: Not the Real Gospel

Inspired by the religious conversations going on over at Kenny's blog, I decided to transcribe a portion of one of my favorite sermons given by Mark Acuff - the pastor of my old church in Chapel Hill (and the father of one of the singers of SpencerAcuff, another in a long line of now-defunct bands that I loved).

Mark was discussing the book of Galatians. That book is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia. The folks in that Church were being taught that Christ's death isn't enough to save us....that, in order to be saved and have a relationship with God, one also needed to follow the Mosaic laws. Paul, a former Pharisee himself, vehemently disagreed and wrote to explain how the Gospel means that Christ's sacrifice is all we need to be restored to God.

This book has often been interpreted to mean that we are saved by faith alone...that we don't need the Mosaic law or any other moral code (important as those are to just living) to be restored into a relationship with God.

Mark Acuff agreed with that interpretation, but he also applied the book to condemn our Bible Belt sub-culture. The Galatians added extra requirements onto the Gospel before one can be called a "Christian" and be right with God....and we in the "Christian" sub-culture are doing the same thing. We tend to be suspicious about anybody who is different from us. Anybody who doesn't look like one of us clean-cut "Christian folk", who can't speak Christian-speak, who isn't a proud American, who cusses...........that person can't be a Christian. Judging by how many of our churches appear racially, we might add "anybody who doesn't look like us"...if we're being honest with ourselves. And so we begin to make the Gospel - which is supposed to be a call to freedom - look like nothing more than a reflection of our Southern Bible-Belt Evangelical culture.

And that's a damn shame. For, in doing so, we are trying to create barriers between people and God. With that, I leave you to Mark's words:

The Gospel is at risk of being swallowed up in a religious sub-culture that looks spiritual. And it looks godly. But it'’s deadly.

You know what the greatest threat to your spiritual life is?

Is it getting drunk and partying? Nope. Is it sleeping around? Nope. A bunch of parents are getting really nervous right now. [Laughter.] Is it getting somebody pregnant or getting pregnant? Nope. Is it getting really fuzzy on what you believe about God because you had your first biology course or your first New Testament course or your first philosophy course? Nope. Is it becoming obsessive about Carolina/Duke/State sports? Probably. [Laughter.]

But actually none of those things come even close. All of those things represent serious detours that may radically alter your life. But, listen, Satan'’s not that obvious. He'’s just not. He'’s clever. He'’s much more subtle than that. You know what the biggest threat to your spiritual life is?

It'’s plugging into Christian ministry - getting involved in church.

"Mark, what are you saying?" If we train you and equip you how to be part of the culture [meaning the Christian sub-culture], we risk becoming Galatians.

"Mark, are you saying we’re not doing the real Gospel?" We may not be doing the real Gospel.

If our Gospel doesn'’t rescue people from this "“present evil age"” it"’s not the real Gospel. If our Gospel just connects us with people just like us - and maintains and sustains our racial divide, our class divide - that'’s not the real Gospel. If our Gospel doesn'’t make us radically hate sin that caused the death of our Savior and so transform our lives into holiness, that'’s not the real Gospel.

If our Gospel doesn'’t change the world, that'’s not the real Gospel.

Some of you watched the Panthers/Patriots game last Sunday? Remember, they said this about Charlotte several times -– my hometown, the Queen City -– more churches per capita than any other city. 500 churches, they said. Do you think that was a statistic about the power of the Gospel or about a religious sub-culture? And there are some great, great churches in Charlotte.

Don'’t you think if that was a statistic about the power of the Gospel it would have had some other words? "“500 churches and I tell you the crime rate in this place is next to nonexistent. The need in this place...they'’re thinking of renaming this city. It shouldn'’t be called Charlotte, the Queen City. It should be called Agape, the city of God'’s incredible love! You can see the light of God'’s worship and praise everywhere in this place."

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Zealous Convert Joins The Ranks of Bloggers

Kenny Ching, the coolest man ever to graduate from Duke Law School & my dear friend, has finally started a blog. This after occasional prodding from me and perhaps more from his wife, Erin.

Kenny and I have had many a long, introspective, thoughtful talk about Christianity, law, politics, and whatever topic pops into our mind. I look forward to trying to continue these talks on the Internet.

I'm also betting that Kenny's example will challenge me, as he often has in real life, to be more open in talking about my faith and theological issues (in addition to my usual political/legal/cultural rantings). Par for the course, his 2nd post of the day is a rumination on attempts to be "good" that amounts to nothing less than a presentation of the Gospel itself. Good for you, buddy!

Welcome to the realm of the opinionated, the verbose, the sarcastic, and the occasionally eloquent. Welcome to the blogosphere.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's a Holiday. Pardon Me As I Celebrate!

Few things can make me quote the Black-Eyed Peas in my title, but this can.

Today the world celebrates the birth of my beloved Christy Resnick. 25 years ago today, she entered this planet, instantly and objectively making America a better place to live.

Also today, I celebrate the fact that it is precisely one month until Christy and I will get married.

Today, Christy's in Nashville getting her bridal portrait done, while I'm in Atlanta studying for the bar exam. But hear this - and, Christy, I hope you're listening - this is the LAST birthday we shall spend apart!

I may add effusive, sappy updates later. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And Now Geneva's In America

Well this I didn't expect! The Bush Administration did a complete 180 and now says the Geneva Conventions apply to detainees in the War on Terror (WoT).

This is a good thing. It sends the right message to the international community that we ARE, after all, a nation of laws....that we are not simply equating might with right. More importantly to me, it's in keeping with American values and respect for human dignity of even the worst people. Furthermore, we aren't really losing that much by choosing to treat detainees according to international law. As John McCain (a man who would know a thing or two about the effects of detainment and torture) argued several months back, mistreatment of prisoners is NOT any more likely to produce good intelligence. So I see only upside to this decision.

Let's also be clear: the Administration didn't HAVE to do this because of the Hamdan decision. In that case, the Supreme Court held that Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to Qaeda detainees, but only in a limited context. That is, the Court held that Congress had required military commissions to comply with the international Law of War. Only then did the Court say that - under that Law of War - the Geneva Conventions apply to detainees. Military commissions that didn't meet the Geneva standards were illegal (at least until Congress says otherwise), but the Court intentionally said nothing about whether treatment of detainees outside of trials had to meet Geneva standards.

Some fellow over on Jeff's blog calling himself NYCMark criticized us for always criticizing the government, never praising it when it got something right. Jeff ably argued against Mark's view in that post, but nevertheless, I'd like to give credit where credit is due here. Even if they felt their back was against the wall, the Administration officials who made the call to treat the detainees under the Geneva Conventions made the right call. It wasn't something they HAD to do under Hamdan, so I applaud them for choosing to do so anyway.

It remains to be seen what effect this will have on any future military commissions.

Speaking of military commissions, Hamdan has produced exactly what I dreamed about: an honest-to-goodness meaningful congressional debate about WoT policy!

I want to stop a moment and appreciate how awesome this is. For years, the President has claimed unilateral authority to create WoT policy out of whole cloth. He claimed that his Commander-in-Chief power (perhaps combined with the Authorization for Use of Military force from 9/18/2001) gave him the authority to - without approval from either of the other branches - decide how detainees will be treated and where they will be kept, declare American citizens enemy combatants and deny them any rights, wiretap people in America without a warrant, kill American citizens connected with Al Qaeda outside the U.S., etc. This was a grave threat to our constitutional order. Instead of the people's elected representatives making law, the President was single-handedly deciding our nation's policy and shaping its reputation. There's a word for executives who ignore and/or openly defy legislators: monarchs.

Luckily, the Supreme Court put a stop (at least partially) to this nonsense in Hamdan, declaring (at least in the context of military commissions) that the President cannot go past the explicit limits set by Congress.

With the responsibility for deciding military tribunal policy so directly placed on their shoulders, Congress seems to be finally stepping up to the plate. Whatever decision Congress makes, I am simply ecstatic that CONGRESS is making the decision. I am even more thrilled that there seems to be an honest exchange of views and debate both within and between parties. (Witness the different views expressed by, say, Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham.) THIS is what democracy looks like, man!

That said, what should Congress decide? There seem to be 3 options developing.

1) Authorize something very near the commissions created by the President. Legally, I think this could be done. There's certainly nothing in Hamdan itself preventing it. However, for all the reasons I praised the Administration's following the Geneva Conventions above - I think such an open defiance of international law would be unwise and counter-productive, even if legally permissible.

2) Start with the model of military courts-martial - which is the system currently used for trying soldiers who break the law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice - and adjust it for the realities of trying people captured on various WoT battlefields. Courts-martial generally involved slightly less rights than civilian courts (although in a few areas, the rights are greater), but FAR more than the military commissions created by the President. For instance, courts martial allow the defendant to be present unless he is disruptive, the President's commissions did not. The courts-martial system could be adjusted to WoT realities. For instance, maybe the rules excluding certain kinds of evidence - like hearsay - could be loosened up a bit. The fact is, it's a bit harder to get the best kinds of evidence from battlefields in Afghanistan, etc. Some military lawyers say that, without these laxer evidence rules, it would be extremely difficult to get convictions of terrorists who commit war crimes. At the moment, this is the approach I favor.

3) Professor Scott Silliman - my National Security Law professor and a moderate, Bush Senior-style Republican - surprised me today by testifying before the Senate in favor of option 3: use normal courts-martial. This approach would simply try detainees accused of war crimes under the same system used to try, say, the perpetrators of Abu Ghraib. Since I'm not sure I'm sold on this view, I'll point you to Prof. Silliman's testimony or his slightly shorter (but pretty much the same) op-ed piece in the Raleigh News & Observer.

This is long, but I hope you took the time to read through it. Got any opinions?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

An Unlikely Collaboration, To Say the Least

From today's NY Times:

Although collaborations happen all the time in pop music, they do not generally involve R & B hitmakers and Senator Orrin G. Hatch.

But the release of a music producer from a Dubai jail this week, quick on the heels of his conviction for drug possession, turns out to be a story of high-level string-pulling on the part of Mr. Hatch, the conservative Utah Republican and songwriter, along with Lionel Richie, the singer; Quincy Jones, the music entrepreneur; and an array of well-connected lawyers, businessmen and others, spanning cities and continents.

This is the kind of story I'm sure the reporters loved writing about. Dallas Austin - mega-producer in the pop world who's worked with the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Pink, TLC, & Gwen Stefani - got arrested in the United Arab Emirates for cocaine possession. BAD place to be caught with drugs.

But that's what friends are for, right? Especially friends including really conservative Senators, '70s pop stars, and highly connected lawyers in Atlanta and Washington.

You can't make this stuff up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Law and Movies: They're What I'm Good For

1. I got me a non-stop week of studying coming up. Damn bar exam. Some people joked that this should be a BAR exam (i.e. testing knowledge of alcoholic beverages) since lawyers are more likely to know about that. Yeah, that would guarantee my failure! Although it would make an interesting conflict between my obsessive study habits and my near-gag reflex at the taste of alcohol.

2. Roger Ebert: Get well soon. Meantime, I found some interest in a compilation of some of his reviews involving Johnny Depp. Depp is the MAN! He's been in bad movies and he's miscalculated on occasion, but he has always been fascinating. Any time I hear about him in a movie, I want to see it. I don't care if he wants to play a 5-year old midget acrobat running for President on the Republican ticket. He can do anything. He's Johnny freakin' Depp!

Survey of my readers: who else fits in that category of actors? "He can do anything! He's ________ freakin' ________!" At the moment only Kevin freakin' Spacey comes to mind. Any other nominations? (Let us not be sexist. Actresses, too. Although at the moment only Meryl freakin' Streep comes to mind.)

3. You're probably already off and running with the movie thoughts, but - in an effort to point out again how monumentally important the Hamdan decision was - I direct you to these analyses on the American Constitution Society's blog.

4. I hope to make my national security law paper - "Can Presidents Kill?" - publishable quality and get it published by my old journal. (They OWE me after all those long nights in the library Bluebooking.) My national security law professor, Scott Silliman, has agreed to help me fix it up. In return, I feel I should shamelessly promote him. He's testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday on how to proceed after Hamdan. Personally, I kind of like being able to say my professor is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Hello, my name is Ben and I'm an elitist." (That is a reference only Kenny and possibly Erin would get.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ronald Stark, The Man

My dad just got promoted!

He's the chief auditor for the University System of Georgia - all 35 Georgia public colleges. For years he's been "Associate Vice Chancellor" or "Assistant Vice Chancellor." Now he's just "Vice Chancellor." He's one of only four people who report directly to the Chancellor of the University System. The pay increase is also nice.

So here's to Dad. Ron Stark, the KING of all things audit!

Caveat: To any random people searching the blogosphere, my father holds very different political opinions from me. Therefore, I will not stand for having you slander him by associating him with my wacky liberal opinions, like this one (which I encourage all my readers to respond to).

The Supreme Court's 4th of July Gift to America

Marbury v. Madison. Brown v. Board of Education. Miranda v. Arizona.

There are few Supreme Court decisions so important, so earth-shattering that their names go down in the history books, memorized by schoolkids long after the original controversy is over. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court, doing its patriotic duty in upholding the democratic order, gave us another one: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

If Hamdan is not quite remembered on the level of Marbury, Brown, and Miranda then it most definitely ranks up with the great wartime separation-of-powers cases: The Prize Cases, the Steel Seizure Case, United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp, and the sadly overlooked case of Little v. Barreme. (Not to mention 2004's much narrower Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.) (You can read about all these cases in my awesome paper: "Can Presidents Kill?")

In Hamdan, the Court ruled that the military commissions - set up by President Bush to try and punish (possibly execute) various alleged terrorists - were illegal because they were not authorized by the Constitution, congressional statutes, or treaties. Important as the issue of military commissions may be, the central holding of this case is the least important part of it. (Indeed, it seems likely that Congress could still authorize military commissions not too different from the ones Bush created.) Let us examine some of the ways the Court has saved the constitutional order:

1. The Court interpreted the Detainee Treatment Act to not apply retroactively. As part of what I once called the Graham Screw Human Rights Amendment, Congress stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus appeals from detainees at Guantanamo Bay. However, it was unclear whether this jurisdiction-stripping law was meant to apply to the cases that had been filed BEFORE the law was passed. Democrats, led by Senator Carl Levin, loudly proclaimed that it was not, while Republicans like Lindsey Graham said that it was. Well, the court said that it did NOT apply to cases which were already on appeal when the Act was passed. This means that the courts will have a chance to rule on literally hundreds of cases about the treatment of detainees in the War on Terror. So maybe Gitmo isn't the legal black hole the administration had hoped.

2. The Court ruled the President's wartime conduct is still limited by laws and treaties. Legislative Supremacy, baby! Rule of Law, punk! This is HUGE. The President has claimed all sorts of powers based on his Commander-in-Chief powers. On a number of occasions, he has claimed the absolute right to determine how detainees are treated, to wiretap people inside the US without a warrant, to try and punish alleged terrorists.............all without legal authorization from Congress. (Often, the Administration would supplement this argument with the flimsy argument that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorized just about any executive action with its vague language.) This was, to me, the most serious and dangerous legal claim made by the Bush Administration. It was a direct challenge to the rule of law and to the constitutional order set up by our Founders. "I'm gonna do this because I feel it's right, legal authority be damned!"

The Court dispatched this argument in a footnote: "Whether or not the President has independent power, absent congressional authorization, to convene military commissions, he may not disregard limitations that Congress has, in proper exercise of its own war powers, placed on his powers." As if that's not enough, Justices Kennedy and Breyer took on this President-as-King argument more directly in their concurring opinions.

The Court found that Congress had already legislated about military commissions when it created the Uniform Code of Military Justice....and it required that such commissions follow the Law of War, which Bush's creation did not. Perhaps Congress will later decide NOT to follow the Law of War and authorize Bush's commissions. But here's the key: no longer can the President claim he is above the political process. If he wants military commissions, he'll have to go to the people's branch and ASK for authorization. He'll have to submit to the bargaining, compromises, and consideration which are all a part of this little thing called the democratic process.

My glee with this point is only increased by the fact that I made this very argument for Legislative Supremacy as a central thesis of my paper, "Can Presidents Kill?"

3. The Court chose to read Congress's current laws as requiring compliance with the international Law of War. See, it's long been held that Congress can violate international law. Well, to be more precise, there's nothing AMERICAN courts can do about the AMERICAN legislature violating international law. Now maybe an INTERNATIONAL forum could rule on such actions. (Not likely, considering we don't submit to most international courts, but that's another story.)

However, even though Congress CAN violate international law, the Court showed a reluctance to assume it HAS done so. It was quite possible to read current Congressional laws as authorizing these commissions....indeed, it wouldn't be a far leap considering almost identical laws were read as authorizing such commissions in World War II. But the Court chose not to read almost identical language in the same way. Why? Because the language made reference to the Law of War....and the Law of War has changed since WWII. In other words, unless Congress explicitly says it's violating international law, the Court will likely hold the President is constrained by the Law of War.

4. The Court held the Geneva Conventions apply to Al Qaeda. The United States is a treaty member of the Geneva Conventions. We have committed ourselves, as a matter of law, to treat detainees and Prisoners of War (POWs) according to certain standards. One of the central concepts of the Bush Administration's War on Terror legal arguments was the claim that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to Al Qaeda. Thus, we can legally waterboard prisoners, force them to stand in painful positions for hours, humiliate them sexually, etc. Or at least, so sayeth the President.

Now, as part of its ruling that the military commissions violate Congress's directive that such commissions follow the Law of War, the Court struck down that central argument. It held that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which provides minimal protections to detainees (much less than full POW status, but probably more than the McCain Amendment and certainly more than Administration policy) applies even to Al Qaeda.

This could even mean that continued treatment of prisoners according to Administration policy constitutes a war crime under the War Crimes Act! Still, it is uncertain whether mistreated detainees would have a remedy in court. The Court's holding was limited to interpreting a portion of the Congressional statute on military commissions. It did not rule on whether detainees have an individual right to sue to stop mistreatment....it just said that the current military trials do not conform to international law.

By the way, let me note that the military commissions were pretty bad. Defendants didn't even have the right to be present while the evidence against them was presented!

There are a LOT of unresolved questions. Can the President simply detain these people indefinitely without trial? What kind of trial would satisfy international law? DO detainees have an individual right to sue to prevent mistreatment? If so, would those lawsuits be limited in any way by the Detainee Treatment Act? Maybe some of these questions will be addressed in the future.

To conclude, less than a week before Independence Day, the Supreme Court gave us the most patriotic gift it could give - human rights, respect for international law, and restoration of the constitutional order.

Note: I meant to write this post for the 4th of July. But, due to wedding-planning circumstances beyond my control - not to mention the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air - I was unable to finish yesterday. Sorry.