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What Would People Think?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Give The Republican His Due

Obviously, my mind is more occupied with the Mayo clinic than with politics these days. That said, I've got to give the Bush Administration its due in North Korea. It looks like they are making solid - if slow, uncertain, and frustrating - progress in getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. And I can't blame them for the slowness, uncertainty, and frustration - that's the nature of negotiations.

I suppose I could blame them for taking so long to get around to negotiating, but still....it's remarkable that the man who once declared North Korea part of the "axis of evil" (implying, ludicrously, he was going to do to North Korea what he did to Iraq), actually had the patience to give Christopher Hill the go-ahead to engage in multilateral negotiations with a mercurial and unpredictable enemy. I'm thankful for the growing influence of the Rice-Hill-Gates crowd over the old Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz crowd.

Ultimately, who knows if the whole thing will work? Kim's far from the most trustworthy negotiating partner and they've broken plenty of pledges in the past. But I'm encouraged that, with vigilant observation and a serious willingness to hold Kim to his word, America and its allies can accomplish something here.

Interesting NYT articles on the issue here, here, and here.

Anyways, back to Mayo prep and to getting ready for work today. Andy wants me to blog about the recent Supreme Court 2nd Amendment decision (or perhaps he just wants to rub it in my face...which I will nevertheless take as an invitation to broadcast my opinions to the world). Indeed, with the Guantanamo Bay habeas decision, the punitive damages for Exxon's oil spill decision, the gun decision, and the death penalty for child rape decision, the Supreme Court's made a series of major decisions this past week or so that are ripe for analysis by my brilliant legal mind. Hopefully, I'll be able to analyze them.

But Time, she is a cruel mistress. (Don't tell Christy I have a mistress!) And I need to work and help Christy prepare for Mayo. That takes top priority.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mayo Bound

So Christy's been having symptoms since late January. Heart palpitations, dizziness, extreme pain in the chest, neck, and back. The symptoms come and go without warning.

And the doctors haven't found a thing. We've been going to a cardiologist who can't find anything wrong and has a horrible bedside manner. We've been to various specialists who can't see beyond their narrow discipline. And it hasn't worked.

So, in addition to prayer, we're trying a new tack. We're headed to the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL branch. Mayo's known for teams of specialists working together. Hopefully, they'll do that for Christy. Hopefully someone's thinking outside the box. So we pray.

The appointment's next Monday. Thoughts and prayers appreciated.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today Is The Greatest....Day for Rule of Law

[Note: Yes, technically the Boumediene v. Bush decision came out yesterday. But I wrote this yesterday and then my Internet went kablooie, so I could only post this today. I'm keeping the "today" language for dramatic effect and to keep the Smashing Pumpkins reference in my title.]

Today is a great day for the rule of law.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States has repeated that the President cannot lock you up without giving a reason, throw away the key, and deny you the right to challenge the basis of your detention in federal court.

Today, the Court has declared that the political branches cannot switch the Constitution on and off at will.

In Boumediene v. Bush, the Court held that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their designation as "enemy combatant" in federal court. Previously, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld the Court said that people designated "enemy combatants" on nothing more than the President's say-so must be given the right to challenge that status before the President can lock them away for eternity. In response, the Pentagon created Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT)- a kangaroo court in which the detainees had no lawyer and no right to actually see the evidence against them.

In addition, a compliant Republican Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act, which - without saying as much - took away the right of habeas corpus: that is, the right to challenge the basis for one's detention. The Constitution allows Congress to do this...if (1) it does so explicitly, and (2) it does so in times of "rebellion or invasion." In the DTA and MCA, Congress limited the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear appeals of CSRTs......but never actually said they were taking away habeas corpus.

"Oh, no you didn't!" says the Supreme Court. If you're going to take away the right to challenge one's imprisonment in court, you have to do it explicitly and do it in times of rebellion/invasion. No tip-toeing around it.

But the important point is this: Now someone held prisoner by nothing more than the President's say-so (backed up by a meaningless, practically unreviewable kangaroo court) will be able to have an independent judiciary review the evidence and determine whether there is actually a real reason for detaining him....whether he, in fact, IS the enemy.

To clear up some confusion: No, this won't throw open the doors to Guantanamo Bay. Contrary to Justice Scalia's alarmist dissent, the Supreme Court didn't order a mass exodus of terrorists. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will probably never be released and rightfully so. The Court only ordered that detainees be given a fair chance to challenge the basis for their detention. KSM and his ilk, if given a fair chance, would still lose.

To clear up another point: this case isn't about military commissions (the military tribunals created to try a small fraction of the detainees for war crimes/terrorism). This case was only about detaining people regardless of whether they are being accused of a crime.

(Personally, when it comes to military commissions, I'd like to see something modeled upon military courts martial, the system used for trying soldier accused of crimes. With a few modifications, they just might work. Courts martial have dealt with issues like classified evidence more than most other forums. In that opinion, I'm basically following the lead of the top Air Force lawyer in the Gulf War, and my former professor, Scott Silliman. I figure he knows a thing or two about the military and military law.)

So, to conclude, today was yet another victory for law, human rights, and common sense. It was another blow to the idea that an unlimited, indefinite, global war means the government has unlimited power.

Ya done good, SCOTUS.