Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Supreme Court Decides: Guns and the Death Penalty.

It's been hard to turn on the television or radio this past week without hearing news about the recent Supreme Court decisions. Its ruling regarding the liabilities associated with the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill has turned into a relatively minor story next to the relatively Earth-shaking results of cases regarding gun ownership and the death penalty. We really shouldn't be that surprised about that. After all it's been almost twenty years since someone piloted the tanker into Bligh Reef and dumped its noxious cargo into Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska. Because the federal government (under the watch of former oil baron and president George Bush) moved so slowly in response, this incident is commonly considered the worst man-made environmental disaster in history.

Unfortunately this isn't the time to rank order the blows that man has struck against Mother Nature. It appears that we have bigger fish to fry nowadays. So the Exxon corporation is officially done feeding out cash to the victims of their actions. Let's talk about guns! But before we get to the true American obsession, we can have a word or two about child rape. This past Wednesday, the nation's highest court reviewed the death penalty laws in that most gentle of all Southern states- Louisiana. There two men had been convicted of raping children, and subsequently sentenced to death. The court decision was narrow, with a 5-4 majority saying that capital punishment is not appropriate in a crime wherein the victim does not die.

In this case (a review of Kennedy vs. Louisiana) Justice Anthony Kennedy was the tipping point, and he authored the Majority Opinion. He pointed out that the possible application of the death penalty in these cases might repress the reporting of sexual abuse within families where these crimes have occurred. He also cited the unreliability of testimony from children. Ultimately it was reduced to a question regarding the 8th Amendment- and the Court came down with a judgment stating that such punishments constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" for these particular criminals. While I can understand such sentiments, I'd have to say that I'm unhappy about the ruling. Apparently both Obama and McCain are against it too, as they are both on record as having said so.

Still it is inevitable that conservatives spin this as a blanket condemnation of "liberals", as if all those categorized as such support the rape of children. It won't matter how many within that classification disagree with the ruling. Similarly the GOP and its Kool-Aid drinkers are proclaiming a huge victory in the landmark case that was decided today. For the first time in history the Supreme Court has directly addressed the issue over whether or not the Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right of individual citizens to "keep and bear arms". It has long been accepted that the framers of the document meant to ensure that militias have access to weaponry.

This judgment (a 5-4 ruling, falling along predictable lines) overturns a law in Washington DC that has prohibited handgun ownership within the city for 32 years. Antonin Scalia wrote the Majority Opinion, specifying that the Constitution forbids "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home". This ultimately gives the lie to the oft-stated right-wing contention that they oppose "activist" justices who legislate from the bench. Clearly this ruling amounts to doing the very thing they claim to hate. But it is still unclear what the true impact of this decision will be, partially because these particular activists (including Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy and Alito) have overreached, thus failing to address the specific issues of gun control.

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Anonymous Merle Savage said...

Are these the Actions of Our US Lady Justice?

Tipping Scales?
Peeking for Corporate Interest?
Accepting Bribes?
Knee Deep in Exxon Oil?
Allowing Human Life as Exxon's Collateral Damage?

To view Lady Justice:

An investigative study needs to be conducted into the thousands of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) workers' health issues, and acknowledged as Exxon's negligence; not left as Exxon's Collateral Damage.

This letter is released in the hope of informing the media, public and anyone who is concerned about human interest stories relating to the present oil and gas issues. Exxon has been fighting an Alaska jury's verdict for 14 years, contending that the $3.5 billion it already has spent following the worst oil spill in U.S. history is enough. The Alaska jury initially awarded $5 billion to 33,000 commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners, businesses and local governments.

After 19 years, and only four months of deliberating, on July 25, 2008 the US Supreme Court Justices announced their decision. They cut the punitive damages yet again. When that amount is divided by Alaska's plaintiff's lives that were destroyed by the oil spill; is $15,000 the Supreme Court's price of life? Exxon has still not accepted full responsibility for the tragic EVOS alleged cleanup of 1989. Yet, Exxon continues to boast of profits each year and along with other oil companies raise prices at the gasoline pumps.

Here is the rest of the story: In 1989 while media and public attention focused on the thousands of oil-coated and dead seabirds, otters, and other wildlife, little attention was given to the harm done to the cleanup workers.
As workers blasted oiled beaches with hot seawater from high pressure hoses, they were engulfed in toxic fumes containing aerosolized crude oil—benzene and other volatile compounds, oil mist, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. View photos at:

It is a major concern that the cleanup workers from the 1989 EVOS are suffering from long-term health problems resulting from toxic chemical exposures. A significant number of the workers have died. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood diseases. View stories at:

Dr. Riki Ott has written two books; Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop.
Dr. Riki Ott has investigated, studied the oil spill spraying, and quotes numerous reports on the toxic chemicals used during the 1989 Prince William Sound oily beach cleanup in her books.
For more information or to issue a letter of concern to originations about these issues, please contact:
Riki Ott, PhD, phone: 907-424-3915; email:
Pamela Miller, phone 907-222-7714; email:
View the letter at:

Submitted by: Merle (Bailey) Savage, General Foreman during the (EVOS) cleanup attempt of 1989. Phone:702-367-2224; email:

1:13 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

"It has long been accepted that the framers of the document meant to ensure that militias have access to weaponry."

I find this to be a bit of a leading statement. long accepted by whom? I've certainly read quite a few opinions that differ.

I assume that in italicizing 'militia's' you mean to infer that it is cut and dry as to who that includes? many would argue that the 'militia' is made up of the citizens.

or maybe the argument would be that since we now have such a strong federal armed force and police presence that a 'militia' is no longer necessary. Some might think that we need to protect ourselves from the possibility of our own government becoming tyrranical.

where does the constitution specifically prohibit adequate self-defense?

I'm not even arguing with you, just pointing out that to make that statement after equating people that disagree with it as "kool-aid drinkers" certainly isn't going to win you many ears. There are certainly angles and trains of thought on this issue that don't involve mindless reactionism.

then to make the assertion that by passing the ruling they were simply being 'activist justices' makes it appear that you yourself might be closed-minded to the objections raised above and others.

I'm well aware of the charges of the right wing pundits against what they see as activist justices but it equates to schoolyard arguments of the type:

"you suck"
"no, you suck"
"na uh, you suck"

why go to that level when you don't have to?

I probably disagree with you on this issue but, knowing you, I'm sure you can make a better argument than that. As you know, I'm not too thrilled about those sitting on either side of the isle.that said, there is almost no point in talking about this stuff other than to cultivate productive discussion and that sort of framing shuts it down immediately.

I also just realized that all of my comments thus far have probably focused on negative reactions to your posts. I'll be sure to post soon on an entry that i feel positively about, of which there are very many.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I realize you probably just Googled for this topic, saw I mentioned it in this blog, and posted your comment without reading my entry.

But this doesn't bother me, even though this wasn't really the topic I was writing about. This is an important issue, and one I know very little about. Thanks for the information and the links. Perhaps someone reading it will be moved to follow it up.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


First of all, I welcome all of your comments- whether negative or positive. The ones where you take exception to something I wrote are generally more interesting to respond to.

Anyway, with that established...

There is no reasonable student of the Constitution who doesn't believe that the founding fathers intended to ensure that the militias have access to weapons- because that's what they explicitly wrote in the 2nd Amendment. If there is anything leading here, it is the very words of the founding fathers. The disagreement comes in interpreting what the 2nd Amendment means beyond militias. That's what we are debating, right?

For the record... I never wrote that I don't want private citizens to have the right to arm themselves. I'm in support of that, despite the fact that I think it's folly that any informal militias could stand up against the federal government successfully.

I don't claim that the Constitution prohibits self-defense either.It seems like you are reading into my post a lot of things that I never said.

The "Kool-Aid drinkers" that I am referring to are the partisan hacks that see this as a victory against some kind of imaginary collective of "liberals". That's how they see the US today- two Americas. And everything must boil down to whether a government action helps "us" or "them". I think I've made it clear that I reject that.

My point with the "activist judges" thing is that these right wing moralists are constantly bringing up this specious argument about "legislating from the bench", but they are perfectly happy whenever the decisions go their way by that very same method.

As far as this specific decision is concerned... like I said- it is overreaching as some kind of grand political statement, yet says virtually nothing about what specific gun control laws ARE constitutional.

4:36 PM  

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