Wednesday, March 02, 2005

News for March 2nd: Killing Minors Edition

I might not be able to make this a regular habit, but here is today’s news, anyway. I have to admit I’m a bit addicted to this, so I’m going to try to keep going…

For me, the biggest news is the Supreme Court disallowing the execution of minors. It’s too bad the Supreme Court had to drag us kicking and screaming into the 20th (never mind the 21st) century, but I applaud them for doing so. It’s no mystery that I’m opposed to the death penalty in all instances (because of the possibility of errors leading to executing innocent people), but I was especially opposed to murdering teenagers. Yes, they may understand that murder is wrong, but they don’t have the same impulse control that an adult does. They don’t have the same large-scale thinking that an adult does. It’s arguable as to how much of this is engendered by the prison system that we call high school, but it’s a fact nevertheless.

I don’t like to take any one paper’s coverage of an item, though, so I thought I’d take Slate’s rundown of how the papers are covering it and post that, instead:

Major Minor Decision
By Eric Umansky
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2005, at 12:48 AM PT

Everybody leads with the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision forbidding the death penalty against those who committed their crimes while still minors. About 70 death-row inmates in 12 states will have to be resentenced.

"From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court's majority opinion. As the Washington Post emphasizes, Kennedy also cited global sentiment and international laws. That prompted Justice Scalia to shoot back that the court was overturning laws based on "the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners." (Slate's Will Saletan catches Scalia flip-flopping.)

The WP fronts and others tease Secretary of State Rice and France's foreign minister jointly calling for the "immediate withdrawal" of Syrian forces from Lebanon. Rice also said there was "firm evidence" Islamic Jihad in Syria was responsible for the recent bombing in Tel Aviv. "Syrians have a lot to answer for," said Rice. (Last week, the group's HQ in Damascus claimed responsibility for the bombing.) Rice also hinted that the U.S. might support the deployment of peacekeepers to Lebanon. "We have to look at what can be done in terms of helping them to stabilize the situation should that become necessary," she said.

More at

Here’s the Post’s take:

5-4 Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Executions

By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page A01

The Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders yesterday, ruling 5 to 4 that it is unconstitutional to sentence anyone to death for a crime he or she committed while younger than 18.

In concluding that the death penalty for minors is cruel and unusual punishment, the court cited a "national consensus" against the practice, along with medical and social-science evidence that teenagers are too immature to be held accountable for their crimes to the same extent as adults.

The court said its judgment, which overturned a 1989 ruling that had upheld the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-old offenders, was also influenced by a desire to end the United States' international isolation on the issue.

More at

I’ve never hidden my disdain for Antonin Scalia, and yesterday he just showed his true colors. I had to share this…

Rough Justice
Scalia exposes a flip-flop on the competence of minors.

By William Saletan
Posted Tuesday, March 1, 2005, at 10:34 PM PT

Dissenting from Tuesday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the execution of juveniles, Justice Antonin Scalia ridicules his colleagues for switching sides on the basis of "evolving standards." He calls the majority opinion a "mockery" for supposing that the Constitution's meaning "has changed over the past 15 years." It's an unfortunate complaint, because the justice most flagrantly guilty of changing his position on the moral responsibility of juveniles in the last 15 years is Antonin Scalia.

In the current case, Roper v. Simmons, Scalia goes after his favorite target, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Never mind that she's on his side. "She is nonetheless prepared (like the majority) to override the judgment of America's legislatures if it contradicts her own assessment of moral proportionality," he writes in a footnote. "The votes in today's case demonstrate that the offending of selected lawyers' moral sentiments is not a predictable basis for law."

More at

Let’s hope this is a good sign: they’re saying that social security deform…er…I mean reform won’t hit Congress until 2006, and probably won’t include the personal accounts. I hope this is just a way to sweep it under the carpet and let it die. Let it happen…please? Of course, I’ve learned not to trust anything Frist says, so this could just be a ruse.

Social Security Vote May Be Delayed
Critics Could Force Proposal to Change

By Mike Allen and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page A01

The Senate's top Republican said yesterday that President Bush's bid to restructure Social Security may have to wait until next year and might not involve the individual accounts the White House has been pushing hard.

The comments of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), made as GOP lawmakers returned from a week of trying to sell the plan to voters, underscored the challenge facing the White House, especially in light of unbroken Democratic opposition.

"In terms of whether it will be a week, a month, six months or a year, as to when we bring something to the floor, it's just too early," Frist said.

Frist is reluctant to put off a vote until 2006, when lawmakers will be focused on midterm congressional elections and the atmosphere will be more politically charged, aides said. But with polls showing widespread skepticism of Bush's proposal and some Republicans opposed to the approach, GOP leaders signaled yesterday that they may have no choice but to put off action.

More at

Bush doesn’t seem very happy. He’s also busy touting his faith-based crap…eh welfare, whatever it is, that leaves out a good majority of Americans. But hey, it’s private, so it must be inherently good, or something. I don’t know, I’m too busy in the “reality-based” world over here.

Bush Stresses Support for 'Faith-Based' Agenda
By Peter Baker and Alan Cooperman
Washington post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page A04

President Bush renewed his commitment yesterday to promoting social welfare through religious groups with taxpayer funds, calling on a balky Congress to lift its "roadblocks" and implicitly rebutting critics who say he has shirked his "compassion agenda."

Setting out a second-term blueprint for advancing his faith-based initiative, Bush highlighted legislation, heading to the House floor today, that would allow religious charities to hire and fire based on religious beliefs even while receiving federal funding. If Congress does not follow his lead, Bush warned that he would try to circumvent lawmakers by using executive powers.

Bush aides hope the president's appearance at a White House conference on faith-based and community initiatives at a time when he has been consumed with Social Security and foreign policy would help quell the discontent among religious supporters who feel abandoned. Two weeks ago, a former Bush aide published a rare attack on the White House, complaining that the president's "promises remain unfulfilled in spirit and in fact" in part because of "minimal senior White House commitment to the faith-based agenda."

More at

Oh hey, security’s still going great in Iraq. In fact, one of Saddam’s judges just got assassinated! Oh, wait, that’s not good, is it?

Saddam tribunal judge assassinated
(Filed: 02/03/2005)
Gunmen have assassinated a judge on the special tribunal to try Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants.

In a separate incident insurgents killed six soldiers with a car bomb outside an army recruitment centre in Baghdad.

A further 38 people were injured. The centre was one of Saddam's former military bases now used by the new Iraqi army.

Judge Barawiz Mahmoud and his son, who also worked as a lawyer, were shot dead as they left their home in the Adhamiya district of the capital, Interior Ministry officials said.

More at Telegraph

Finally, I can’t believe the miscarriage of justice being done in this trial. Regardless of whether the man did plan this or didn’t, how can they use evidence that was produced by torture? Especially on American citizen? If he ends up being convicted, this will set a terrible, terrible precedent.

N.Va. Man Admitted Terror Plot, Agent Says
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page A01

A federal judge denied bail yesterday for an American student charged in an alleged conspiracy to kill President Bush after an FBI agent testified that the man had admitted plotting with al Qaeda to conduct a Sept. 11-style terror attack in the United States.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, of Falls Church, told FBI agents that he and other members of an al Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia planned to hijack airplanes overseas and crash them into targets on the East Coast, according to testimony. They also discussed plans to kill members of Congress, blow up ships in U.S. ports and aircraft at U.S. military bases, and free terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, FBI counterterrorism agent Barry Cole told a federal judge in Alexandria.

Abu Ali's attorney called the allegations "preposterous."

But Cole testified that while Abu Ali was detained in Saudi Arabia for 20 months, he told the FBI several times that he wanted to carry out the assassination plot personally by getting close enough to Bush to shoot him or blow him up. When al Qaeda asked him for a list of U.S. targets where "mass casualties" could be inflicted, such as stadiums and amusement parks, Abu Ali provided it, Cole said.

More at

Finally, your quote of the day: "Can we smile at him?" – A family member of Abu Ali, upon being told that they would be forbidden to communicate with Abu Ali when he entered the courtroom.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:17 AM