Tuesday Roundup

June 12, 2007

Devilstower comments on three recent Supreme Court decisions which have denied protections to workers.

Discussing yesterday's Fourth Circuit decision releasing a so-called enemy combatant from military detention, Marty Lederman asks why the Bush Administration thought it was necessary to transfer a criminal suspect to military custody:

As the Court held in Hamdi, and as both the majority and dissent stress in today's opinion, the traditional purpose of military detention -- and the presumed reason Congress has authorized it as to some persons -- is to incapacitate, or immobilize, the enemy -- "to prevent the captured individual from serving the enemy." Territo (quoted in the dissent at page 82).

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the majority in today's opinion was wrong on its main point -- i.e., let's assume arguendo that al-Marri is, like Hamdi, within the class of persons for whom Congress has authorized military detention.

Even so, his military detention here would be of very dubious legality.

Why is that?

Because he was already immobilized. al-Marri had been arrested on criminal charges in February 2002. He was held in custody by the U.S. for 16 full months before the President ordered him transferred to military detention in June 2003. And that transfer occurred, not coincidently, as soon as the trial court set a hearing on a motion al-Marri had made to suppress some evidence in his trial.

Thus, the predicate for any authorization to militarily detain al-Marri simply was not present -- he was already incapacitated and could no longer serve the enemy.

So why was he transferred? As the court suggests in note 16, he was transferred in order to subject him to coercive, possibly abusive, interrogation.

The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will add an additional decision day to its calendar.  18 decisions remain pending this term.

The Georgia Attorney General is appealing a decision ordering the release of Genarlow Wilson, who has already served two years in prison for receiving oral sex when he was 17.  Because of the appeal, Wilson must remain in prison until the case is resolved.

Oregon is considering a bill which would make it easier for couples to choose their married surname.

Finally, Jack Balkin considers a new poll which shows a substantial minority of Americans reject the Theory of Evolution:

Following the launch of Sputnik, the United States invested considerable sums in science education and research both at the university level and in elementary and secondary schools in order to create a generation of young scientists and promote scientific research. The primary motivation for these reforms was to assist space and military research, but the long term benefits of the fifteen or so years while the Sputnik-era reforms lasted were considerable. Not only did these reforms produce more scientists and more innovation, but it also led to more Americans from all walks of life understanding and respecting the achievements of science and technology. Unfortunately, the money and political will for scientific education began to dry up after men first landed on the Moon. The result was predictable: a slow and steady degradation in the average American's understanding of science, and a reduction in resources and preparation for young people to become scientists. Luckily we have benefited from people from other countries who have come to America to do university research. But it seems clear that we cannot adopt this strategy of importing well-educated students from other lands forever. We must attend to our own children's education.

You may think that this Gallup poll is only about the subject of evolution and its relation to the current culture wars. It is not. It is a symptom of a much larger concern: the increasing ignorance of the American public about basic features of how the world works. (It is perhaps no accident that one of the latest TV game shows on the Fox Network is called "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader," in which contestants routinely demonstrate that they are not.) It is quite possible for Americans to disagree about issues of culture and secularism and still be educated in basic facts about science. Religion itself is not to blame for these results. The real culprits are wishful thinking, political opportunism, anti-intellectualism, and above all poor science and education policies.