It would be easy to read too much into the few statewide races that were decided last night, but I think it's fair to say that the results in New Jersey and Virginia, where Republican gubernatorial candidates won -- in New Jersey's case knocking off a well-funded Democratic incumbent -- that the results were a blow to the Barack Obama/Rahm Emanuel strategy of playing to the right, of avoiding confrontation in Congress and of ignoring the progressive voters whose enthusiasm and effort back in the 2008 campaign put Obama in office.
Recognizing the difficulty that death row inmates have in bringing innocence claims before the court, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) has introduced H.R. 3986, "The Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act." (Received by e-mail from Amnesty International USA , no link yet:)
When a person facing execution has strong evidence of his innocence, he should have ample opportunity to bring those claims back into a court of law. The law as it stands today is flawed in this respect. Rep. Johnson's bill would ensure that death row inmates have the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence of innocence.
Given that 139 people have been wrongfully convicted and sent to death row in the last three decades in the United States, it is especially important that lawmakers take a close look at the flaws in a system that irreversibly takes human life.
This bill would help inmates like Troy Davis, who due to AEDPA, came within hours of being executed because courts said he could not raise his factual innocence claim. In August, the Supreme Court ruled David should be allowed a new hearing to establish his innocence. Legislation is needed to help others in this situation. [More...]
H.R. 3986 would amend title 28, United States Code, to clarify the availability of Federal habeas corpus relief for a person who is sentenced to death though actually innocent.
The text of the bill is here. Joining Rep. Johnson as co-sponsors are Reps. Jerome Nadler, John Conyers, Bobby Scott , Anthony Wiener, Sheila Jackson-Lee and John Lewis.
The bill clarifies federal habeas statutes to allow inmates sentenced to death to bring factual innocence claims. Currently, 28 USC 2254 provides:
(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim—
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
This bill strikes the ";or" at the end of those subsections and adds the following additional sub-section:
(3) resulted in, or left in force, a sentence of death that was imposed without consideration of newly discovered evidence which, in combination with the evidence presented at trial, demonstrates that the applicant is probably not guilty of the underlying offense.'.
For second and successive state habeas petitions under 28 USC 2244(b) it adds:
(5) A claim that an applicant was sentenced to death without consideration of newly discovered evidence which, in combination with the evidence presented at trial, could reasonably be expected to demonstrate that the applicant is probably not guilty of the underlying offense may be presented in a second or successive habeas corpus application.'.
For second and successive federal habeas petitions under 28 USC 2255(h) it adds:
(3) a claim that an applicant was sentenced to death without consideration of newly discovered evidence which, in combination with the evidence presented at trial, could reasonably be expected to demonstrate that the applicant is probably not guilty of the underlying offense.'.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
The crappy idea that just won't die is back, now courtesy Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu.
"There's a possibility that [triggers could make a comeback]," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). "Right now, we don't know what the actual version of the plan is, because it hasn't come back from CBO...so I think when we get that back, we'll take a look and see what the scoring is, and maybe figure out what chance that plan has to get enough votes. My expectation is that it probably doesn't have enough to get 60 votes to get off the floor if it gets on the floor."
"[I]n the event that there's not--that the reforms that we've put in place [don't create competition and drive down costs], then there could potentially be a trigger or a fallback position," Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said this morning. "So that is kind of where [Olympia Snowe and I] are believing that we should reform the private market first, if the private market fails to reform, or refuses to reform, then there would be a fallback position."
Except, of course, a trigger isn't a fallback position. It's designed to never trigger, meaning that insurers will never have to worry about controlling costs because there will never be competition for them. The inclusion of a trigger would be enough to kill healthcare reform's chances in this Congress, with the Progressive Block refusing to support them. We know that in the Senate Burris, Rockefeller, Sanders, and Feingold have all expressed strong reservations about triggers, and among 30 Senators who signed Brown's letter to Reid demanding a public option in the bill, there's likely to be another seven who will oppose triggers, making it's passage on the floor questionable.
Real Democrats realize this, even Nebraskan Democrats:
According to a new Research 2000 poll, 46 percent of Democrats in the decidedly red state would be less likely to support Nelson in a primary should he choose to filibuster the public option. Conversely only seven percent would be more likely to cast a vote for the Democratic Senator.
Even worse news for the former Nebraska Governor is that by a 53 to 31 majority, all Nebraska voters think that Nelson's judgment could be influenced by the $2 million in campaign contributions he received from health care and insurance companies.
In addition to these findings, the new poll showed an uptick in support in the state for the public option with 46 percent supporting, and 44 percent against it. When Research 2000 polled the question for Daily Kos back in August, the numbers were 39 supporting, 47 opposed. Ben Nelson isn't just on the wrong side of history on this one, he's now on the wrong side of his constituents.
Technology stocks have done well this year. The Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) bottomed out in March and by late October was up more than…
Jeez, between this guy and Pat Buchanan, what is up with NBC Universal?
Over the weekend, Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the New York City Marathon since 1982. But CNBC's Darren Rovell isn't impressed. Darren Rovell doesn't think Keflezighi is really an American.
On his Twitter account yesterday, Rovell wrote "NYC Marathon winner Keflezghi may be a citizen, but can't count as American."
Rovell explained his bizarre views in an article on CNBC's web site:
It's a stunning headline: American Wins Men's NYC Marathon For First Time Since '82.
Unfortunately, it's not as good as it sounds.
Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he's not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.
"Technically American"? No: Keflezighi is American. Not on some technicality or by virtue of a loophole. He is, simply, an American -- and he isn't any less American simply because he did not share Darren Rovell's great good fortune to have been born in the U.S.
For the record, Keflezighi was born in Eritrea, but has been a naturalized citizen for 11 years, having immigrated to the US twenty-two years ago at the age of 12.
As the daughter and wife of naturalized American citizens, I find this wholly offensive, although I suspect that had Keflezighi had the Scandinavian looks of my husband, there would be absolutely no qualification of his citizenry.
UPDATE: Rovell apologizes:
All I was saying was that we should celebrate an American marathon champion who has completely been brought up through the American system.
This is where, I must admit, my critics made their best point. It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon. That makes a difference and makes him different from the "ringer" I accused him of being. Meb didn't deserve that comparison and I apologize for that.
Rahm doesn't think about Democratic turnout. His reputation for "winning a Democratic majority" rests on his ability as a self-promoter to take credit for victories that happened in spite of him. The truth is that his "act more like Republicans"[...]
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Here's where you can watch the full debate from Tuesday, November 3rd.
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Rather than being an overwhelming sweep, most elections are a mix of good and bad news for each[...]
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Republican Bob McDonnell won a ?landslide? victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in yesterday?s gubernatorial election in Virginia, sweeping the state by a whopping 18 points. Exit polls showed Democrats had “trouble getting their base to the polls.” One possible explanation: Deeds did not run as a progressive reformer.
McDonnell “spent much of the campaign trying to tie Deeds to cap-and-trade environmental legislation and pro-union legislation on Capitol Hill that is unpopular with many Virginia voters.” But rather than make the affirmative case for progressive policy reforms, Deeds responded by largely “distanc[ing] himself from Obama’s agenda, especially on health and energy policy.” Some key examples:
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON CLIMATE: By the end of his campaign, Deeds was running ads attacking Obama’s clean energy agenda, saying Obama’s “cap and trade bill” would “hurt the people of Virginia.” Other ads carried the same message: “Creigh Deeds says no to any new energy taxes from Washington.” Instead of disputing his Republican opponent’s false attacks on climate legislation, Deeds amplified them. Deeds chose to run away from his past record on environment and climate issues. He had been a leader in “getting a land-preservation tax credit program into effect and supporting mass transit,” and “supporting a gas tax to fund transportation improvements.” Deeds “was one of 40 members of a commission on climate change convened by Virginia’s current governor.” His campaign platform included strong renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and environmental protection programs. Deeds embraced some coal industry positions. During the primary season, Deeds defended the despicable practice of mountaintop removal, telling a reporter in March, “The coal industry calls it surface mining.”
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON HEALTH CARE: During the final gubernatorial debate, Deeds stressed that health reform must “reduce costs so more people can afford insurance” and “increase coverage,” but argued that creating the option of a public health care plan “isn’t required.” “I don’t think the public option is necessary in any plan…I would certainly consider opting out if that were available to Virginia,” he said. After the debate, Deeds conceded that the plan might be “one way” to reduce costs, but “maybe one way might not be the best way.” “We have to leave all options on the table to find ways to reduce costs and increase coverage,” he concluded. The Deeds campaigned also issued a statement reiterating the candidate’s lukewarm support for the plan. “If the public option proves to be the best way” to reduce costs and expand
coverage, “he’d support having Virginia participate. He’ll examine all of the proposals on the table and choose the option than provides
Virginians with the most affordable and quality coverage.”
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON LABOR ISSUES: “When I’m governor, you won’t just have a friend in Richmond — you’ll have a partner,” Deeds told union supporters in October, 2008. However, despite support from SEIU and the Teamsters, Deeds then proceeded to campaign on an anti-labor platform. He opposed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — which would have created a fairer path toward unionization for workers — saying it would “put us at a competitive disadvantage” and reasserting the false right-wing claim that EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot in union elections. Deeds also did not support the right of public safety employees in Virginia to bargain collectively, “because it would carry with it the right to strike.” However, Deeds had previously told the Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia that he was a “strong” supporter of their right to collectively bargain.
NOT PROGRESSIVE ON IMMIGRATION REFORM: More than one in ten Virginians are immigrants. The Immigration Policy Center also points out that Latinos comprised 2.0% (or 74,000) of Virginia voters in the 2008 elections — enough to make a difference in a tight race. Creigh Deeds might regret repeatedly voting in favor of legislation that would hurt a large and growing part of his constituency. Deeds voted alongside his contender, Republican Robert F. McDonnell, to designate English as the state’s official language. He also supported denying undocumented immigrants state or local benefits. Deeds recently voted in favor of a bill that would’ve restricted in-state college tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants. And although undocumented immigrants can’t vote, about one-third of all “unauthorized families” in the country are “mixed-status families,” or families that include legal resident and US citizen family members. Neither Deeds nor McDonnell talked much about immigration on the campaign trail, however, Deeds’ organizers told the Washington Post that he would treat immigration as a federal issue and McDonnell would not.
By Bitta Mostofi, November 4, 2009
Today marks the 30th year since the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis began in 1979. On this day the media traditionally offers us images of Iranians burning American flags and effigies of Uncle Sam. We are reminded of the great chasm of mistrust and misunderstanding that has marked the last three decades of US-Iranian relations.
But, in the past year both Americans and Iranians have asked for something new. Americans have elected a president that promises to pursue diplomacy and Iranians have given birth to a popular democratic movement. So, we should not use this 30th anniversary of the hostage crisis to simply re-live tragedy and tension. Rather, today Americans have an opportunity to honestly reflect on our relationship with Iran and think about how to move forward.
For the past 30 years our government has dealt with Iran through policies of isolation and sanctions.
As we all witnessed amidst post-election unrest, Iranians have created a new dialogue within their country about respect for human rights and the democratic process. Now, those of us concerned with human rights must drastically alter our own dialogue towards Iran. If we herald the bravery of the ?Green Movement,? we should ask what effect crippling sanctions would have for Iran?s human rights prospects?
Days before the United Nations General Assembly opened in September 2009, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and thousands of Iranians standing in solidarity with the Green Movement, called on the United Nations to prioritize human rights in discussions about Iran. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights avows that all Member States have pledged themselves ?to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.?
Yet, in recent discussions regarding Iran, the United Nations Security Council plus Germany focused on the nuclear issue in every instance. In doing, so they have consistently neglected all critical and serious conversations about Iran's human rights violations.
Furthermore, the negotiating states chose to threaten the very fabric of the domestic resistance with ?crippling sanctions.? Economic sanctions that directly affect and isolate a civilian population weaken the ability of people committed to creating a better, more just governance.
Consider, for example, the effects of comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq for a period of 13 years. Those who bore the brunt of brutal and lethal punishment caused by economic sanctions were the elderly, the sick, the poor and the children. The economic sanctions directly contributed toward the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. We should also remember that imposition of comprehensive, multilateral sanctions against Iraq proved to be a rallying cry for support of Saddam Hussein in countries where there was high antagonism against the United States. Saddam Hussein could claim to provide for the Iraqi people while the Americans insisted on starving them.
What effects would greater sanctions have on Iran? The Iranian regime has had years of practice in avoiding sanctions by relying on economic relations with China and Russia. The rising revenue and power of the underground economy has bolstered Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?s allies who control it.
Meanwhile, sanctions leveled against Iran are creating hardships among the poorest communities in Iran. In 2007, the Iranian government announced fuel rations for private drivers. Due to Iran?s limited refining capabilities, Iran is not energy independent, despite its vast oil resources. The decision to create rations has led to massive uproar and protest for a people who have already suffered extreme rates of unemployment. Inflation has soared to twenty-five percent. Also, in the last year, Iran has faced a serious drought. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated Iran?s loss of wheat production at thirty-three percent. The USDA also noted that, due to the drought and reduced reservoir levels, Iran?s hydroelectric generation capacity and supply have been severely cut. These conditions will lead to severe agricultural problems and possibly to food shortages.
Furthering morally bankrupt policies that focus on the nuclear issue and greater sanctions against Iran will harm the Green Movement?s capacity to struggle for democracy and human rights.
Iran has become the world's poster child for the deficit of democracy that plagues many nations. Citizens of all nations understand justice and agree upon its terms with remarkable consistency across borders. ?The arc of history is long,? Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, ?but it bends towards justice.? For 30 years our policies have failed to stand up for truth or justice.
A flyer from Tehran University marking this anniversary declares ?Marg bar hich kas?, ?Death to no one?. The Green Movement is turning a page in Iran's history, creating an opportunity for us to stand up for new policy based on human rights and the will of the people.
Bitta Mostofi is co-founder of Where is My Vote, New York. She is an immigrant and civil rights attorney who can be reached at email@example.com. Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, contributed to this article.