Archive for June, 2006

Entry for June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006

The cartoon is by Steve Sack, the editorial cartoonist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune since 1981.   An archive of his cartoons is available on Cagle’s site.

Justices Roberts and Alito, fans of executive power, don’t yet have enought muscle on the Supreme Court, as Justice Kennedy became the deciding vote in a rebuke of Presiden tBush for the Guantamo military Tribunal.   Dan Frromkin’s summary of news coverage can be found today on his Washington post blog.

 In HAMDAN v. RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, et al.  (Case Number  05-184) argued March 28, 2006 and decided  June 29.  Hamdan argued that he was entitled to a court-martial convened under the U.S. Code of Military Justice or a civilian trial before a federal judge. 

Bush had tried to take Guantanamo Bay out of the Courts Hands by getting the  Detainee Treatment Act of 2005  (H.R. 2863, Title X)  passes as part of the Defense Department appropriation and signed on December 30,2005.    Yo may remember this law for the “signing statement ” in which Bush undercut McCain’s amendment on torture.

The act also provided that  “no court … shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider … an application for … habeas corpus filed by … an alien detained … at Guantanamo Bay”  except for cases pending on the effective date, as was Hamdam’s case. The administration tried to argue that this exeption did not exist. 

Justice Stevens, writing for the 5-3  majority (Roberts abstaining due to the fact he heard a case while on the court of appeals) said,

The Government’s motion to dismiss, based on the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), is denied. … The military commission at issue is not expressly authorized by any congressional Act. … even Quirin did not view that authorization as a sweeping mandate for the President to invoke military commissions whenever he deems them necessary. Rather, Quirin recognized that Congress had simply preserved what power, under the Constitution and the common law of war, the President already had to convene military commissions–with the express condition that he and those under his command comply with the law of war. …The military commission at issue lacks the power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.  …Appointed military defense counsel must be privy to these closed sessions, but may, at the presiding officer’s discretion, be forbidden to reveal to the client what took place therein. Another striking feature is that the rules governing Hamdan’s commission permit the admission of any evidence that, in the presiding officer’s opinion, would have probative value to a reasonable person. Moreover, the accused and his civilian counsel may be denied access to classified and other “protected information,” so long as the presiding officer concludes that the evidence is “probative” and that its admission without the accused’s knowledge would not result in the denial of a full and fair trial. 

 Justice Breyer, with whom Justice Kennedy, Justice Souter, and Justice Ginsburg join, concurring, added,

The dissenters say that today’s decision would “sorely hamper the President’s ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy.” Post, at 29 (opinion of Thomas, J.). They suggest that it undermines our Nation’s ability to “preven[t] future attacks” of the grievous sort that we have already suffered. Post, at 48. That claim leads me to state briefly what I believe the majority sets forth both explicitly and implicitly at greater length. The Court’s conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a “blank check.” Cf. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.

Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine–through democratic means–how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same.

The military issued a press release on its special Gitmo site, saying the ruling would not affect day to day operations.  Tribunals had been suspended June 10 after the suicide of three prisoners.  Of the 450 detained at Guantanimo, only 10  faced commissions on charges of violating the law of war. Charges had been prepared for another four, but they had not yet been arraigned, according to the defense department.

Bush vows to get a law passed in Congress to overturn the decision.

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Entry for June 29, 2006

June 30, 2006

The photo from the BBC is of  other Mrs. Peron.  Isabelita–a former cabaret dancer became the first female president of Argentina when she was sworn in this date in 1974.  Peron, who was supposedly suffering from the flue, died July 1 that year. 

Entry for June 28, 2006

June 30, 2006

The cover art is from the redoubtable Helen Thomas’s new book new book coming out June  20 form Scribner: Watchdogs of Democracy? : The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public

On this day in 2004, the U.S. transferred power back to Iraq.  Yeah, right. 

Entry for June 27, 2006

June 27, 2006

The photo is from CNN. 

The Supreme Court ruled  in 1989 and 1990 that burning and other desecrations of the flag are protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Congress’s response:  amend the constitution.   66 senators voted in favor of Orin Hatch’s (R-UT) Senate Joint Resolution 12.  One more and the measure would have passed.  (I’ll post a link to the vote, as soon as it’s available from Thomas, the Library of Congress’s information service.

The House version was sponsored by that “patriot,” the now-imprisoned Randy “Duke Cunningham (R-CA), who you may remember resigned in tears  November 28, 2005, after he was plead guilty to  taking bribes from defense contractors.   That measure passed by a vote of 286 to 130 June 22, 205.

 Is this pandering?  I think so and so did  today’s  editorial  for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.

When was the last time you saw someone burn a flag in this country? Yes, a rarity. And, by the way, what constitutes desecration of a flag?…It would have been more reassuring had more senators recognized that wrapping yourself in the flag for partisan reasons might be desecration, too. 

 Daniel Inouye, (D-HI)i,  who lost an arm in WWII and  receuved  the Medal of Honor had this to say,

While I take offense at disrespect to the flag, I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech.

Entry for June 26, 2006

June 26, 2006

The above logo is for the film The Big Buy:  Tom Delay’s Stolen Congress being released tomorrow as part of Common Cause and  Public Citizen’s Clean Money Day, urging politicians to take the pledge.  My buddies at Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  are sponsoring one of the premieres in Huntington.

*

Here ‘s an interesting blog I discovered today when I was looking for who had noticed my writings on LLRX.com:

Vox Bibliothecae:  News and Research Tips on Social Justice Issues from the Librarians at the Zimmerman Law Library

Recent postings include:

Entry for June 25, 2006

June 26, 2006

The program today included a panel which included Ms. Kennedy and Susan Frankel-Streit of the Little Flower Catholic Worker Farm/Homestead.  

 After things wrapped up, I headed down the road a bit to attend the  Contra Corners Sunday night dance at the Greenwood Community Center.  The  photo above is of Tom Hinds, the caller.   Playing was  one of my favorite bands,  the Avant Gardeners.   Afterwards, Celeste offered me a bed in her home in nearby Crozet, where prior to retiring  we sipped red wine and enjoyed  her favorite Spanish blue cheese, Valdeon 

Entry for June 24, 2006

June 26, 2006

Above is a photograph of artist/activist  Etta Cetera, whom I met at the The People United’s (website under construction) third annual activist gathering at Shannon Farm Community this weekend. 

This year’s topic, prison reform and abolition, featured a shadow puppet show, “The Hardest Question Ever”  by Pittsburg’s Indicator Species troupe including Etta, who is  also the organizer of Fedup! which documents prison abuses and Book’Em, a group which distributes books to prisoners.

The show mixes  live performers (some in large Bread and Puppets-like masks, chain gang inspired music, and shadow puppets, takes place inside a life-sized d prison cell covered with hundreds of letters written to Book’Em by prisoners requesting books.  Most moving to me were the stories of one young man who murdered his friend while in the throws of some sort of mental illness and another about a firend murdered in an act of random violence, which shows his friends completing his walk, while he joins them in ghost form.

The troupe takes its name from the scientific term which means, according to the American Heritage dictionary,

  1. A species whose presence, absence, or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem as a whole.
  2. A species used to locate another, less visible species.

Also attending was the  board president of Resource, Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD),  Lillie Branch Kennedy, who started RIHD  after helping her son deal as productively as possible with a prison sentence.  Although her son has been transferred to Augusta, he started out at one of the Virginia supermaxes and since that time she has continued to sponsor van trips for relatives to visit their loved ones behind bars at Wallens Ridge in Big Stone Gap and Red Onion.  Mrs. K’s  efforts are included in the Appalshop film, “Up the Ridge,” which I saw at the Appalachian Studies conference in March. 

 In searching for the film info online, I saw that there had been an April  Blacksburg premiere sponsored by Tech’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought (ASPECT), a new PhD program and certificate program, whose faculty includes Betty Fine and Richard Shryock.  I know Betty through her participation in the Save the Nellie’s Cave Community campaign and Richard and his wife Sharon Johnson through their support of the New River Free Press.

Among the others I met were Tom Polumbo and Ann Williams of the Hampton Roads Independent Media Coalition. Patrick Lincoln of Washington DC’s Men Can Stop Rape, poet Peter Gelderloos of SignalFire (who was included in the Nation Book anthology, Letters from Young Activists) , Shell Stern of Charlottesville’s Food Not Bombs and Rhonda Miska, head of social ministry for Charlottesville’s Incarnation Parish.

Entry for June 23, 2006

June 23, 2006

House Republicans temporarily set aside their ambition to abolish the tax completely, after Senate debate June 8 failed to muster the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on H.B. 8, Congressman Kenny Hulshof’s “Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005.”At the request of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,House Ways and Means Committee Chairman; Bill Thomas(R-CA)introduced H.R. 5638, “The Permanent Estate Tax Relief Act of 2006” June 19.

The measure passed June 22 by a vote of 269 to 156. The Congressional Record of the debate starts on page H 4448. It exempts the first five million dollars of an estate from taxation (ten million for couples) starting in 2011, when the total repeal of the estate tax in 2010 sunsets.Estates of up to twenty-five million dollars will be taxed at the capital gains tax rate, currently 15%. Those over that amount will be taxed at twice the rate.The bill also contained a timber industry tax break aimed at winning over Democrats from logging states

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes whether federal and state governments are fiscally sound and have sufficient revenue to address critical priorities, both for low-income populations and for the nation as a whole. Joel Friedman and his colleague at the Center, Aviva Aron-Dine, weighed in June 23. In “Thomas Estate Tax Proposal Still ‘Near Repeal,'”they write,

Based on Joint Tax Committee estimates, we estimate that the Thomas proposal would cost $611 billion between 2012 and 2021 (the first ten-year period in which its costs can be fully measured), and $774 billion if the costs of the additional interest payments on the debt are included.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times Mary Dalrymple, in “House whittles down estate tax; fails to kill it,” on June 23, 2006,

Congressional tax experts estimated that if the changes become law, only 5,100 estates would face taxation when the changes are fully in effect in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2011. The Internal Revenue Service levied taxes on more than 30,000 estates in 2004.

Entry for June 22, 2006

June 23, 2006

Today I was a vegetable, recovering from the ride back yesterday  on truly the longest day of the year. 

Entry for June 21, 2006

June 21, 2006

This drawing is of the Gates of Heaven, which August Kutzbock built was only used as a synogogue for 16 years, later becoming a Unitarian Church.  It was moved to James Madison Park, rather than be demolished and is now site of the  Madison, WI  summer Tuesday night contra dance .  The Synagogue, according to the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation

 was built in 1863 for the Ahavath Achim congregation of German Jewish immigrants. The synagogue, the first built in Madison and the third oldest in the country, is Victorian Romanesque in its design.

The band (unlisted on the webpage) sat up in the balcony and the caller stood on the bema.  The wood floor is great, but the room was small for the number of dancers and there were hardly any men.  I left early, to start my trip back in daylight. 

Today, construction and rain delayed my return and I got to the book group as everyone was leaving.  I dropped off some Amish blueberry butter from Indiana for Harriet and left.