Obviously, this is only going to last as long as it takes the Supreme Court to give the green light again, or for the state to find a new lethal injection formula that might lessen the chance of being tortured to death, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has taken the obvious step. The cases are interesting, in that the problems with lethal injection to my mind raise clearer cruel and unusual issues than other recent death penalty decisions, especially since the almost universal adoption of lethal injection when it was considered more humane makes clear that popular support of the death penalty rests in some measure on accidental torture not being involved. But there’s no way this Court will hand down a decision that makes it significantly harder to execute people; at best, there will be some tinkering around the edges.
Author Page for Scott Lemieux
Most of this lament for the polarization of the Roberts Court I addressed in a TAP article recently. The short version is that 1)Roberts will certainly fail in his attempt to create a consensual Court that papers over major substantive divisions, and 2)since I don’t think the Court is entitled to a fixed degree of legitimacy and think that legal and political politics should be open and explicit this doesn’t concern me.
However, Wittes does get at one thing I’ve never understood: how people who criticized Kennedy’s opinion in Carhart II but supported the outcome actually wanted the case to be disposed of. I can certainly understand why the anti-Roe pro-choice crowd didn’t like Kennedy letting the gender subordination and hack pseudo-science cats out of the anti-choice bag — they’d like to war against judicially protected reproductive freedom with the anti-choice movement they wish they had, not the one that actually exists — but without these reactionary assumptions about women’s rational incapacities the legislation (which the state conceded at oral argument would not protect fetal life) has no rational connection to any state interest at all. Wittes explains how he wanted the Court to rule:
Not one of the nine justices was willing to apply to the federal partial-birth abortion statute the logic the court had unanimously articulated the year before for a New Hampshire parental notification statute–in which it had refused to throw out the statute on its face but had ordered the lower courts to block applications of it that would run afoul of its case law.
The problem here is that Ayotte doesn’t actually make any sense. While it’s certainly a sound principle to construe ambiguous legislation to assume its constitutionality, to read a health exemption into a legislative enactment when the legislature specifically considered and rejected one makes no sense at all (and to describe it as “judicial restraint” is Orwellian.) The appropriate remedy is for the Court to send the issue back to the legislatures and invite them to craft legislation consistent with the Court’s precedents (or to overturn the precedent), not to distort the legislation beyond recognition. And Ayotte makes even less sense in this case. While a health exemption, at least in theory, leaves a substantial number of cases in which parental notification would be necessary, to permit doctors to perform D&X abortions when they plausibly believe them to protect maternal health would defeat the purpose of the statute entirely (why would doctors choose a method they believe to be less safe?)
And this is my central problem with this consensus-above-all-other-virtues jurisprudence. The courts owe the public transparency and some measure of internal logic. If they’re overturning precedents (pace Roberts) they should say so, and if they’re effectively nullifying legislation they should do so openly.
It gets worse and worse:
Zimbabwe’s bakeries have shut and supermarkets have warned there will be no bread for the foreseeable future as the government admitted that wheat production had collapsed following the seizure of white-owned farms.
The agricultural ministry announcement that the wheat harvest is only about a third of what is required, and that imports are held up by lack of hard currency, came as a deadline passed today for the last white farmers to leave their land or face prosecution for trespass.
The agriculture minister, Rugare Gumbo, has blamed the food shortages on black farmers who have taken over formerly white-owned land.
“I am painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers,” he said.
“I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000. In spite of all the support government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern.”
The ministry of agriculture has also blamed electricity shortages for the wheat shortfall, saying that power cuts have affected irrigation and halved crop yields per acre.
I trust beyond the obvious (“wage and price controls don’t work!” “Having no rule of law is bad for economic development!”) that the lesson in the need to temper claims of abstract justice with wisdom here is clear. Even if every farmer whose land was expropriated owed their property ownership quite directly to colonialism and apartheid, and some state policy to broaden ownership was desirable, you also have to ask what a particular policy will accomplish. Having productive land turned over to cronies of the state with no ability or willingness to farm had predictably catastrophic results.
The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal seeking to nullify a New York law, upheld by state courts, that requires Catholic Charities to provide contraception to women as part of health coverage requirements. I think this point is especially important, and often distorted when debates on the subject come up (the question of whether Catholic hospitals should provide EC to rape victims being another example):
The New York law contains an exemption for churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission that primarily serve followers of that religion. Catholic Charities and the other groups sought the exemption, but they hire and serve people of different faiths.
New York’s highest court ruled last year that the groups had to comply with the law. The 6-0 decision by the state Court of Appeals hinged on the determination that the groups are essentially social service agencies, not churches.
This distinction gets things exactly right. It is appropriate to exempt churches qua churches from some neutral laws and civil rights protections. Nominally religious organizations that hire people of different faiths, serve people of different faiths, and perform secular services with taxpayer subsidies and/or tax breaks should comply with generally applicable statutes except in rare cases when they are specifically targeted at religious groups.
Pundit Rule #1: Blame Must Always Be Equally Apportioned Among the Parties Irrespective of the Facts
Shorter David Ignatius: The fact that the Bush administration reneged on a deal brokered between the director of national intelligence and Democrats in Congress proves that Democrats are unwilling to compromise and putting political interests above national security. Democrats are also to blame for assuming that a general acting as an apologist for a catastrophic Republican policy did not represent an impartial conception of the national interest. [via publius]
Ah, there’s nothing more fun that having four teams alive without having clinched on the last day of the year (especially when the one you have a rooting interest came back from the dead.) Officially, of course, I’d like a Mets win and Phillies loss, but absent that I have to say that a four-way tie with multiple play-in games would be pretty much the coolest thing ever. Play-in games are great…
Gad, that prick has been tormenting me for years, although it used to be because he could pitch. And the focus on the scoreboard by the Mets announcers is beginning to grate; I can’t really generate any enthusiasm for hoping the Nationals win (although it is appropriate that it once again comes down to the former Expos.) The Phillies have been the better team; they deserve to be in. And Edroso‘s not even drunk-blogging the game. The only good thing today is that my gym’s erratic satelite system for once worked in my favor, as they couldn’t get Channel 11 so at least I only had to hear most of it…
…at least there might be a Rockies/Pads play-in!
…I’d also like to know why the Mets’ network isn’t covering the press conferences instead of beach volleyball. But make sure to tune in for the Mets playoff preview at 6:30!
At least subprime mortgages have been a good deal for someone:
Countrywide Financial Corp. Chairman and CEO Angelo Mozilo cashed in $138 million in stock options over the last year, switching his trading plans as the mortgage company went into a tailspin, it was reported Saturday.
Between November 2006 and August, Mozilo changed the plans outlining how many of his shares would be sold monthly, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mozilo unloaded 4.9 million Countrywide shares, most of which he bought through exercising options.
But, in fairness, without allowing executives to engage in this kind of self-dealing there wouldn’t be any incentives companies could use to get brilliant executives to protect the interests of their shareholders…
The Verizon policy chief behind the selective attempt to stop NARAL from paying Verizon to set up an IM network turns out to be…an anti-choice former Congressman who explicitly endorsed the GOP plank to make abortion 1st degree murder in all 50 states, and not surprisingly was strongly opposed by NARAL. Verizon will have to decide whether it wants someone to let personal and policy grudges hurt the company…
..a commenter suggests that the decision of Verizon wireless was not connected to Tauke, which is certainly possible. Either way, this is a good time for Verizon customers to into that new i-Phone they’ve been thinking about…
In his latest attempt to revive his stillborn campaign, John McCain — beloved, you may remember, earlier in this decade by the media and an inexplicable number of liberal pundits for an alleged refusal to pander — decides to engage in rank religious bigotry, arguing (among other things) that a Muslim is not qualified to be President of the United States and (in a Orwellian retelling of history) that the Constitution established a “Christian nation.” It’s even more disgraceful because it won’t work.