Monthly Archives: November 2006

Background on the Bush Admin.’s Part in Medellin Case

My original post is hereI have since found some very good articles which give background information and explain the process very well.  I’ll try to summarize all of it here.


Medellin, along with four others, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for the rape and murder of two young girls in Houston.  Medellin, a Mexican national, then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus because he was not allowed to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate.  While this petition was making its way through the legal system, Medellin and 50 other convicted Mexican nationals won their case in the International Court of Justice in March 2004.  Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign nationals are to be given access to their consulates to seek legal assistance.  Because they were denied that access, the ICJ ruled that those cases had to be reconsidered.

Ok, so at this point, I have to say that if our government has ratified a treaty, and that treaty protects Americans abroad, then our government should follow that same treaty’s reciprocal protections for foreign nationals in the U.S.  The 51 Mexican nationals were denied access to their consulate.  That was a mistake.  How can that be rectified?  If the remedy, under our treaty obligation, is to grant those foreign nationals a reconsideration of their cases, then that is what should be done.  If meeting our treaty obligation in the Medellin case means his death sentence could be overturned, then that should be a lesson for prosecutors to learn from.

It’s at this point that things get a little more complicated.  There are many intriguing aspects to this case, but I want to simply focus on the Bush Administration part in it.  In February 2005, Bush issued a memorandum ordering the Texas courts to follow the ICJ’s ruling. When Medellin’s habeas corpus petition was before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush Administration argued that it is the sole authority of the executive to decide if the U.S. has to comply with international law, and that in this case, the U.S. should – meaning that the Texas court should reconsider Medellin’s conviction and sentence.  By doing so, the administration joined, among others, anti-death penalty advocates from the U.S. and around the world.

(Here’s where other aspects come into play – the irony of George W. Bush siding with human rights organizations in a capital punishment case – remember what he allegedly said about the Carla Fay Tucker case – and the Supreme Court’s passing the buck on making a decision.)

The Supreme Court sent all of the cases back to the state courts.  Before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Bush Administration made the same argument it had earlier.  What gets me is the posture of the administration.  The way I see it, Bush believes he alone can decide when our government acknowledges anything in the international realm.  In this case, Bush chose to recognize the ICJ’s ruling (in other words, he didn’t bow to pressure from human rights groups or the international community – no – remember Bush is The Decider).

Well, it looks like Bush wasn’t very persuasive back “home” here in Texas, or perhaps he forgot to get John Cornyn to explain to his fellow Texas jurist just how important it is that Bush never lose because the Texas court not only ruled against Bush’s side, but it also ruled that Bush had exceeded his authority.  My next step is to research how the other 50 cases go.

The Shelley Circus — Award Edition

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs has been named Turkey of the Year by the Houston Press.

Too Timid to Say– So Bold a Name

I check the reader blogs at the chron every day.  I particularly like Blue Bayou, Keep the Faith, Kuff’s World and the new The Straight Path.  There used to be a blog called “TexasSparkle” who was a right-winger in the politics category, but that blogger decided she needed to go.  That leaves one other winger reader blogger (ohhh triple -er!) –“Chronicles of War.” 

There’s not much use in linking to John Little’s winger-war blog.  He hardly ever posts, and when he does, he simply lets comments through and never responds, even to direct questions about his occassional posts.  Why should he?  His other blog — blogs of war (!)– gets linked by Michelle Malkin often enough that he has no need to worry about his chron reader blog. (I seriously doubt he reads the chron at all.  It is my understanding that he is asked to post with a certain frequency and he cram-posts just to keep his slot.)

Today he has a post up about Sheila Jackson-Lee speaking via video to a fund-raiser for CAIR.  He states that fact, without analysis, and then lists out all of the Little Green Football worthy rumors about CAIR, again without analysis.

This is so very typical.  He doesn’t come right out and say anything, he simply leaves his reader to make an inference.  Your reaction to his post depends on how you read the cheery-picked info he posts about CAIR.  Uninformed readers may take him at his word.  More informed readers may respond differently.  In the end, he wants to make a point without anyone ever being able to pin it on him.  He’s hoping that his post’s title will lead a certain type of reader to his blog.  That’s called baiting

Perhaps one of these days, John Little will miss his deadline and he will lose his reader blog. 

I left a comment at his blog asking for a clarification.  I’d grow old waiting for a response.  (So, I’ll just post this )

NATO Summit 2006 — Riga, Latvia

I started looking into this today.  It’s of particular interest to me because I lived and worked in Riga right after I got my master’s degree.  I will never forget my time there, nor the friends I made.  I care deeply for the country and especially my beloved Riga.

There is a site for the summit.  The photo gallery is especially cool.  (This one is m fav so far.)  Looking through the different pages today made me happy and sad at the same time.  Riga has become much more modern in comparison to how it was when I lived there ten years ago.  Naturally, it looks a lot less Soviet.  Fortunately, many of the old familiar places — for me — still look the same.  Old Riga is very beautiful.

The summit will be held in the newly built (2005) Olympic Sport Center.  I recognized the street name — Grostonas iela — it is very close to the school where I taught while I lived in Riga.  My friend Maija still teaches there.  I’ll write to her and see if she can give me some local news about the summit.

The summit will be held on Novemver 28-29.

The Janitor Strike is Over

And YAY!  It’s looks like they won a good contract.

They fought hard and won.

This is Strange

There are several different angles I could approach this from, but I’ll start by giving credit where it is due.  Jason commented here and it was a post on his blog that started me on this topic.

Anyone who’s lived in Houston for more than ten years remembers the horrible murders of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena.  Would you then be surprised to see the Bush administration intercede on the behalf of one of the men who has been convicted of those murders? The man seemed to have a morbid competition with his brother Jeb there for a while to see who could execute the most.   Why the change of heart?  Why the bending to international pressure now?

I am against the death penalty.  I have always been.  I haven’t directly stated why on this blog, but I hope that my posts about torture would lead one to see that is the case.  I have very specific ideas about the death penalty and about prisons.  Give me a little time and I will outline them very clearly.  For the purposes of this post, I acknowledge that the attorneys for the defendant Medellin are looking for a way to keep him alive — not for a way to have him released.  It is a crappy job.  However, as long as the death penalty exists in this state, it is what attorneys must do.  The situation would be very different if the state didn’t kill people.

The other side of this is why the Bush administration decided to back Medellin and apparently lose in an all Republican Texas Supreme Court.

I’m still reading about this and don’t have any specific answers.

The Shelley Circus — Cost Edition

I read this article last week (before I got the idea to track this story) and remembered it after reading that Sekula-Gibbs has actually gotten congress to investigate her former staff. 

According to Mayor White quoted in the article, the special election to replace Sekula-Gibbs on City Council will cost Houstonians about $2 mil.  I wonder if Mayor White can get the Republican parties of the four counties of CD22 to chip in on the bill.  I doubt it (especially since the Harris County Republicans didn’t follow through with the $1K worth of day-after-election-day flu shots).

Also, Sekula-Gibbs is making about $13K a month while in DC.  I don’t know if she’s earning it or not.  I haven’t found a source yet, but I bet her requested investigation will cost a pretty penny.

One last thought — in all of her ambitious legislative goals — there isn’t one word about the war in Iraq, Veterans Affairs or ethics.  At least her priorities are clear.

Shelley Has Success (already!)

She voted on the floor.

She pushed for money. (Ellington and NASA)

She’s called for an investigation.

She’s a meanie to her staff.  They cut and run.  Babies.

The Dematologist isn’t as scary as the Dentist, right?

(I don’t know if you will get the same vid — I got an — EGAD –Jan Glenn plus.  Looks like the Shelley vid isn’t there anymore.)

Bonobos in the DRC

I had intended to write a great post about this topic, but I am an incredibly forgetful person.  You’ll see.

Yesterday in my Reading class, we started a chapter titled Out of the Trees.  The pre-reading activities asked the students to think about the similarities between humans and their nearest living relatives.   Of course all of my students were already familiar with the big three, but none had heard of Bonobos.  I described Bonobos briefly, and we continued the lesson.  Later I went into the lobby of our office, and the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine was on one of the tables with a beautiful photograph of a Bonobo on the cover.

I skimmed the article and thought to bring the magazine home to read it.  I forgot.  I did do a search last night and found some articles not only on the Bonobos, but the elections in the only country where they live in the wild, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The news was encouraging.

I took the magazine to class today and it proved very useful.  During lunch I did more research about the elections in the DRC with the intention of putting together the best post ever on the topic.

Per usual, I left the magazine at work with half of my notes.  My plan of working on the master essay on Bonobos in the DRC will have to wait.

The Shelley Circus

Per Channel 11 News at 10 — Shelley has called on Congress to investigate the staff who walked out this week (because she’s a meanie) for destroying documents.  They also included an incident I hadn’t heard about — it seems Shelley had some trouble with the rules in giving her first speech.  I’m sure her staff were happy about that.

You gotta give her this though — she’s making the most of her 49 days and counting.