Category: Justice

Supreme Court to weigh-in on “one person one vote”

The Supreme Court on has agreed to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens; illegal immigrants; children; and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

A ruling that districts must be based on equal numbers of voters would move political power away from cities, with their many immigrants and children, and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas…

The Supreme Court over the past nearly 25 years has turned away at least three similar challenges, and many election law experts expressed surprise that the justices agreed to hear this one. But since Chief Justice John G. Roberts has led the Supreme Court, it has been active in other voting rights cases…

The case, a challenge to voting districts for the Texas Senate, was brought by two voters, Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, the small conservative advocacy group that successfully mounted the earlier challenge to the Voting Rights Act. It is also behind a pending challenge to affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin…

…Several judges have acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s decisions provide support for both approaches. The federal appeals court in New Orleans said the issue “presents a close question,” partly because the Supreme Court had been “somewhat evasive in regard to which population must be equalized.”

My view of the case, SCOTUS and what passes for the Republican Party nowadays is a tad more simplistic than all the arguments in the article. Today’s conservatives only want well-off, older, white men to vote.

Yes, that’s over-simplified. How about “they want the kind of results guaranteed if only well-off, older, white men can vote” but some of the rest of y’all are OK – if you can be trusted to agree?

I don’t base my analysis on anything ideological. Just look at who’s in charge of the Republican Party, the range of representation among Congressional Republicans, who they have populating political primaries.

Keeping up with Mexican drug cartels — New Generation


Click to enlargephotos from Getty, EPA, etc.

A shootout between members of a powerful drug cartel and Mexican security forces in the western state of Michoacan left at least 40 people dead Friday, according to Mexican officials.

The violence unfolded in the morning near the town of Tanhuato, along Michoacan’s border with the state of Jalisco, a troubled region where two drug cartels have waged a long-running battle and where attacks against Mexican authorities have recently spiked.

Mexican authorities offered few details Friday afternoon about the killings, which involved the New Generation cartel of Jalisco and a convoy of federal police and soldiers. The governor of Michoacan, Salvador Jara, said on a radio address that at least one policeman died, as well as 42 gunmen, although those numbers were not confirmed…

A priest at a nearby church, Manuel Navarro, said that he and his parishioners could see black smoke rising at the scene of the violence but that the townspeople continued to work and go out in the streets.

“The people must be scared,” he said. “But what are we going to do?

The New Generation cartel has grown into one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs and has been involved in several large-scale attacks against authorities in recent months. In April, the group ambushed a convoy of state police officers as they drove through a rural gorge, killing 15 of them. This month, gunmen shot down a Mexican military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing six soldiers.

Over the past two years, the gang has battled Michoacan’s dominant cartel, the Knights Templar, as well as members of the citizens militia group that emerged there to combat the drug gangs’ killing and extortion. Authorities in Jalisco have expressed concern that they are not getting enough help from the federal government to halt the expansion of the New Generation cartel.

I have no idea what “army” is needed to sort out the history of Mexico’s corruption. It is as deeply ingrained within the structure of everyday life and governance as any failed state in history.

Although the comparative casualty rate of Federales vs gangsters was pretty impressive this time. Ahem, assuming this account is the truth.

Same-sex marriage wins in Ireland referendum 62% to 38%

This would have been “Pic of the day” except that I wanted to make the point this beautiful mural was an effort in support of the YES vote in Ireland for same-sex marriage. Good news all round.

Joe-Caslin-Girl-Mural
Click to enlarge

Artist Joe Caslin completed the 45ft tall installation over the weekend after stirring debate in Dublin with a similar work showing a gay couple hugging.

San Francisco coppers can’t be sued for shooting unarmed woman

The Supreme Court says police are immune from a lawsuit arising from the arrest and shooting of a mentally ill woman in San Francisco.

The justices ruled that police did not violate the rights of Teresa Sheehan when they forced their way into her room at a group home and shot her five times after she came at them with a knife.

The officers had been called to take Sheehan for an emergency psychiatric evaluation after she threatened a case worker, but the situation quickly escalated.

Sheehan, then 56, was shot in the hip and the head. She survived, but had to undergo two hip replacement operations.

The high court, which heard oral arguments in the case in March, on Monday left undecided the question of whether police should take special precautions when arresting armed and violent people suffering from mental illness.

Sheehan claimed police must make reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for suspects with mental illnesses.

The court said it would not take up that question because it had not been fully considered by lower courts.

Is there any way someone might stage a confrontation between these shit-for-brains justices and the average copper, say, in Oakland?

Could be a potential learning opportunity for a few elitist arch-conservative know-nothings. I’d gladly pop for the cleaning bill after they crap their Heidi Whities.

Luxembourg’s prime minister marries his same-sex partner


Gauthier Destenay and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

Luxembourg’s prime minister is to become the first European Union leader – and only the second worldwide leader – to marry someone of the same sex.

Xavier Bettel, 42, and his partner, Gauthier Destenay, an architect from Belgium, are among the first gay men to wed in the mostly Catholic Grand Duchy since it became the latest EU state to extend full rights to same-sex couples.

Their union comes five years after Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the then prime minister of Iceland, became the first serving leader in the world to marry a same-sex partner.

Bettel and Destenay, who have been civil partners since 2010, were expected to say their vows in a quiet civil ceremony with friends and family, away from the glare of publicity…

Few details have emerged about the wedding, which Bettel had aimed to keep private. Press photographers have been banned…

Bettel, who is leader of Luxembourg’s centre-right Democratic party, came out publicly as gay in 2008. But since taking power 18 months ago he has played down the significance of his sexuality, insisting “what happens at home remains private”.

His party won its leading place in a coalition government after promising to be a modernising force for Luxembourg, with plans to replace religious education in schools with general ethics classes, and to lower the voting age to 16.

Same-sex marriage was another key pledge. It was previously knocked down in 2007 by the then ruling Christian People’s party, but a poll in 2013 found 83% of Luxembourgers supported a change in the law.

No doubt he didn’t invite Jeb Bush, any of the purportedly modern Republicans, or the rest of that mob of professional bigots and hate-mongers. Constitutional equality may be all right for some furriners; but, not “real Americans”.

Bon chance, mes amis. Have a wonderful journey in love.

Sabotage conviction overturned against nun and her fellow activists


Click to read our post at the time of their original arrest

An 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who splashed blood on the walls of a bunker holding weapons-grade uranium — exposing vulnerabilities in the nation’s nuclear security — were wrongly convicted of sabotage, an appeals court has ruled.

At issue was whether Sister Megan Rice, 66-year-old Michael Walli and 59-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed injured national security when they cut through several fences to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July 2012. A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that they did not.

Once there, the trio had hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

“If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons … the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion says.

“But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. An attorney for the three, Bill Quigley, said he hopes they will be re-sentenced to time served and released from prison, where they have been since being convicted in May 2013. Rice was sentenced to nearly three years; Walli and Boertje-Obed are each serving sentences of just over five years…

The three spent two hours inside Y-12, including in the most secure part of the plant. In the aftermath of the security breach, federal officials implemented sweeping changes, including a new management team and a new defense security chief to oversee all of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s sites.

So, for all his “God bless the United States of America” – our commander-in-chief has failed to convict three Christians for behaving like really old-time Christians.

For all the bible-thumping, preaching the gospel of hate, fear of the dignity of women, self-titled fundamentalists in and out of Congress have a chance to stand in awe of three simple religious folk who act like the savior they believe in – instead of kneeling before the altar of nuclear war.

The kind of Christians I wouldn’t mind sharing a jail cell with. And often did back in the day when more of them marched for peace and justice – instead of obedience, theocracy and imperial war.

Bank loses foreclosure case — still tries to collect from homeowners!


Joseph and Mary Romero in front of their home in ChimayoMarla Brose/Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe, New Mexico — Even though a Chimayó couple won a major New Mexico Supreme Court decision last year vacating foreclosure on their modest home, they later received letters saying they owed payments to the bank that foreclosed on the house.

That led to a judge here issuing an order…holding the Bank of New York and its loan servicing agent in contempt of court.

State District Court Judge Sarah Singleton wrote that the bank and Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC had violated her orders about communications with Joseph and Mary Romero, who fought for years to save their modest home before the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that they’d been burdened with an “unrepayable loan” during the housing boom whose end sent the country into economic recession.

“These communications continue to assert that the Romeros owe various sums to BONY (Bank of New York),” she wrote. “This is not the case. BONY has been determined to have no standing to bring the foreclosure suit and its claim has been dismissed. BONY’s and Ocwen’s continued communications for them to pay amounts they do not owe BONY have caused the Romeros anxiety and may well be a violation of the law in addition to being in violation of the Court’s (Singleton’s) Orders.”…

Singleton ordered the bank to pay the Romeros $2,823 to cover attorney fees for raising the issue and said further violations “may result in more severe sanctions.”…

The Romeros responded to a cold call solicitation in 2006 and refinanced their house with an inflated mortgage without the lender requiring proof of income or assets. They were soon behind on their payments – Joseph’s annual income was about $5,600 – and, in 2008, the Bank of New York filed for foreclosure.

The Romero’s lawyers maintained lenders had taken advantage of the Romeros limited education, using predatory practices to structure a loan to strip them of equity and with no regard for their ability to pay off the loan. The Supreme Court, in its decision last year, said, “A lender’s willful blindness to its responsibility to consider the true circumstances of its borrowers is unacceptable.”

This sort of crap sales technique was commonplace, essential to the causes of the Great Recession.

I recall waiting in a real estate sales office in 2006. I was there to consult on security matters for the firm. Waiting my turn, I witnessed the manager signing up a young couple who spoke little English. Only the husband was employed and he wasn’t making a whole boatload of money. Nevertheless they were signed up for a mortgage for 95% of the inflated price of their new home.

Before we sat down to business – after they left – I asked him casually how he was able to manage a sale like that. His reply was the law allowed it. He could fudge the income because proof wasn’t required. They were going to run the mortgage through a sleazy storefront finance company down in Albuquerque which, in turn would sell the paper to Countrywide Mortgage. No problem.

We all know what followed. The bubble constructed upon lies and deceit burst in December 2007. Countrywide was sold off to Bank of America. No one did any time.