Three Years is Not Six Days

It seems moral outrage does strange things to math skills. What is it with all the outrage over Casey Anthony being released next week? Headlines suggest that she is serving less than a week for lying to police. Twitterers and bloggers are beside themselves.

No one seems to realize that she’s actually being punished rather harshly. First, she’s gotten the maximum sentence. Second, she’s been sentenced to serve the penalty for each of the four count consecutively. Third, Florida is very stingy with time off for good behavior.

So many people seem to want the three years she’s been in prison to be substitute punishment for the murder she probably committed. It just doesn’t work that way. If she’s declared not guilty, she can’t be punished in a backhanded way. If her liberty has been deprived and she is found guilty of anything, she has to be credited for the time. That’s the way the law works for everyone else, and everyone is equal under the law.

I know it is hard for the public to stop rubbernecking at the train wreck that is the dysfunctional Anthony family and the tragedy of Caylee Anthony’s death. Surely there is another personal tragedy somewhere for people to latch onto and invest emotion. Let the law to its job.

Three years is three years.

Move along…

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Disingenuous Interference in the Humberto Leal Case

Reading and listening to the news media, the uninformed might think that the international issues surrounding Humberto Leal’s execution have only just been uncovered. It might appear that the Obama administration has some sort of leg to stand on. These impressions are entirely without merit.

The whole issue Leal’s lack of access to Mexican consular officials after his arrest has been litigated.  Let’s set aside the facts that Leal never revealed his Mexican citizenship after his arrest and that his lawyers never raised the issue before, during or after trial, including his first trip up the habeas corpus ladder. When he filed a petition based on President George W. Bush’s order to the states that they review the cases of the 51 Mexican citizens on death row across the country at that time, that was fully litigated and denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal appellate court in Texas). He then filed a second federal habeas petition which was denied by the district court, appealed, and rejected by the Fifth Circuit in 2009 (573 F.3d 214).

The current administration and the media have tried to bolster their position (and yes, it is the same position) by suggesting that Bush endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that led to his order that the states review the Mexican cases. Rather, Bush only ordered the review because he thought he was duty-bound to do so, because the US was a signatory to the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention, which says that ICJ decisions are binding on the parties before it. He was under the impression that the Optional Protocol was binding on the states. However, in 2008 the US Supreme Court said no, in Medellín v. Texas (552 U.S. 491). Since the Supreme Court, not the Executive Branch, decides what is and isn’t the law, it didn’t matter what President Bush thought and it doesn’t matter what President Obama thinks.

The Supreme Court said no because the Optional Protocol is not self-executing. In other words, it requires enabling legislation. Now at the last minute, the Administration is arguing to the Supreme Court that enabling legislation has been filed in Congress and the Court should wait to see if it passes.  This is the only arrow left in the quiver of the Administration and it is blunted, bent, splintered and missing fletchings.

Congress has had three years since Medellín to pass enabling legislation. It chose not to do so with the proposed Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008, introduced into a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives by four liberal Democrats. It never made it out of committee, not to mention across the Capitol.

Now Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced S. 1194. It has no chance of passage, despite the Administration’s repeated assertions that it’s strong support makes a difference. I seriously doubt it would get through the Senate, but it doesn’t have the tiniest hope of getting through the House. It is telling that amicus brief goes on and on about the Senate and does not even mention the House of Representatives.

It is not even as if the passage of S. 1194 would have any effect on the execution of Humberto Leal. It might give him a chance to have a court determine whether not having had consular access unfairly prejudiced his case. The chances of success in such a challenge are infinitesimal. Leal’s guilt in perpetrating a gruesome crime is indisputable. Even the Mexicans admit that.

The last shred of his case, if the Supreme Court were to stay the execution, and if the Congress were to pass S. 1194, is a court might find that had the Mexican government hired the right attorneys for him (if they even would have done so at the time), those attorneys would have presented evidence in his punishment phase differently so that the jury would not have given him a death sentence. The Administration insists in its brief that unless this charade is played out, relations with Mexico will be irreparably damaged and all Americans traveling abroad will be put at risk. There is simply no credibility in any of this.

Unlike the characterizations by the Administration and media, this case has nothing to do with Texas refusing to follow international law. The Supreme Court answered that in 2008. This cases had been litigated and re-litigated, examined and re-examined, for years. It is time for the sentence to be carried out and the Obama Administration to stop interfering.

The Cost of Littering

You have to wonder when Revenue and Customs workers finally starting thinking something might be up. Charlene Ostle kept ringing them up and changing the number of children she had, thus entitling her increased benefits.

She told them she had three sets of twins and two sets of triplets, all before reaching the age of 26. At one point she had given birth to five children in three months.

Even though she knew what she was doing was wrong, she said her pride kept her from asking from help. What? She had no shame in claiming to have had all of these children out of wedlock and no shame in asking the Government for help.

It got her £30,000 in benefits and remarkably only a nine-month suspended sentence. She was spared jail in part because she is actually pregnant with her third child.

Extended Binge

In another spectacular failure for the Government, the introduction of 24-hour drinking laws has resulted in a trebling of drink-related cases in the A&E (ER) department at a London hospital.

In March 2005, there were 79 night time cases involving patients with an alcohol-related problem. By March 2006, there were 250.  In addition to this, there were 27 alcohol-related assaults treated in March 2005. In March 2006 there were 62.

This is just one hospital. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that it is not representative of the country. The DCMS seems to have missed this from last year:

A report by the Centre for Public Health said binge drinking is overloading hospitals, reducing life expectancy and fuelling violent brawls.

At the beginning of the year a survey found that hospitals were having to deal with a significant rise in alcohol-related injuries in the wake of 24-hour drinking laws.

It revealed that many casualty departments have seen a greater volume of patients hurt in booze-fuelled fights or accidents.

Accident and emergency units are also finding problems extending much later into the night – increasing the demands on already hard-pressed staff.

The Government said the open-all-hours approach would end binge drinking, because none one would need to quickly quaff before closing time. Instead, the binge just goes on longer. Too many British drinkers just have no self-control.

More From the Cretins in the Kremlin

It beginning to feel a bit like a James Bond film, but there’s no fiction involved. More and more evidence is emerging that the Kremlin has revived its policy of assassinating enemies wherever the can be found around the world.

As noted in The Times:

Twelve months ago the Duma passed a law allowing Russian security agents to pursue “terrorists” overseas and to kill them if they were deemed a threat. The clear aim was to assassinate Chechen fighters who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. But the law also allowed the FSB to resume a practice that had been officially halted since the disbandment of an organisation (well known to James Bond readers) called Smersh, an acronym for Death to Spies, that was set up by the USSR to hunt down and destroy its enemies around the world.

Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky said that there had been an attempt to assassinate him and Scotland Yard acknowledged it was true, but that they had sent the assassin back to Russia a couple of days after they arrested him. You have to wonder what was going on there, but the Yard wouldn’t divulge anything else.

Russia has also been flexing its atrophied military muscle. Two bombers were headed into British airspace yesterday from their base in on the Kola Peninsula. RAF jets were scrambled to intercept them and Tu95s turned back before reaching British airspace. The RAF characterised it as a rare incident.

The Kremlin seems to think they are on the moral high ground become the British will not allow for the extradition Putin political opponents wanted for “corruption” in Moscow, but the British Government knows that there is no such thing as a fair trial in Russia and once convicted, opponents of the State will be subjected the worst violation of human rights in Siberian labour camps.

We won’t be bullied by the Russian bear. We cannot tolerate the revival of the their tactics. The Russians will just have to keep sending over hit men. The police and MI5 will just have to catch them and bring them to British justice.  At the same time, Russia needs to be diplomatically isolated – something it really can’t afford.

The New Cold War

From the grave, Alexander Litvinenko blamed Vladimir Putin for his death from polonium-210. The Crown Prosecution Service wants Andrei Lugovoi tried for his murder. Russia refuses to hand him over.

Today the Government announced that it is expelling four Russian diplomats in response to the Kremlin’s refusal to cooperate. The Opposition is supporting the Government’s approach.

Lugovoi claims that either MI6, the Russian mafia, or Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky had carried out the killing. None of these is credible. After all Berezovsky was an ally of Litvinenko who has himself survived several assassination attempts including a bomb that decapitated his chauffeur.

What seems much more likely is that the Kremlin was involved. What we have here is bully Russia punching above its weight. Putin he can play the same smoke-and-mirrors game as the old Soviet Union, pretending to be a superpower. The difference is that everyone can see that Russia is in a shambles. All it has left is cloak and dagger intrigue.

All sides recognise that relations between the UK and Russia are at the lowest point since the end of Cold War. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “In London they should clearly realise that such provocative actions masterminded by the British authorities will not be left without an answer and cannot but entail the most serious consequences for Russian-British relations.”

Let the Russians play chicken. We don’t need to flinch. It’s the equivalent of a head-on crash between a bicycle and a Mack truck.

Contempt

There are a lot of thankless jobs out there. Many people contribute to society being a better place and never receive any recognition.  However, when it comes to secondary education, I’m hardpressed to think of another profession where the people benefitting from it hold it in such contempt.

All public facing jobs endure a certain amount of abuse. There are plenty of anti-social nasty people out there. This society has bred more than it’s fair share. Police, for example, get a lot of grief from the criminal element, but then that’s not who they are serving, but rather from whom they are protecting others.

NHS staff deal with a lot of nasties, but they now have statutory protection. Abuse a nurse and you can find yourself without treatment. However, even then, they rarely face an entire waiting room of 30 patients showing open contempt and refusing to be treated when called. Nor do they daily face a constant stream of patients who are so disruptive that others can’t receive treatment.

 The Government has left teachers powerless. If someone refuses to leave a room, they cannot be grabbed by the arm and forced out. If someone tries to leave a room where they are supposed to stay, their exit path cannot be blocked.

How can the Government be surprised that crime figures continue to climb (while trying to manipulate the numbers to show that they haven’t) when they have created an environment where children are a law unto themselves? Is it any surprise that more than 50% of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are violated?