jeudi, juin 23, 2005

A Strange Day for Justice, or: While You're at It, Bury Him in Prison

Frankly, I’m thankful that justice has finally prevailed in Mississippi. It took 41 years to the day, but I’m thankful. And it is entirely fair to me that the “mastermind” will die in prison. He got 41 years of freedom that he never should have had. And I don’t even need to comment on the lives ended too soon. James Chaney died at 21. Andrew Goodman died at 20. Michael Schwerner was only 24. And neither should we lose sight of the fact that they were killed for supporting civil rights and registering blacks to vote (think about it as the worst kind of prior restraint and try to gauge the impact on the Freedom Summer and on the rate at which people exercised their unalienable rights). So, those who killed them committed crimes against persons, but also violated rights that are fundamental to our democracy. If you want my opinion, he got off light. He got off very, very light. Here’s my favorite line from the CNN article:

“In a 1967 federal trial, an all-white jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Killen. The holdout said she could not vote to convict a preacher.”

38 years later...there's a little bit of justice in Mississippi…

But it is interesting to me that it happened on a day when the Supreme Court completely lost its mind. Most are interpreting the recent ruling regarding Connecticut home owners as providing to local governments the ability to take private property if it serves an economic end. Before today, such takings were limited to projects with a clear public use (like highways, etc.) or to renewal projects for areas that clearly needed urban renewal.

Today a working class neighborhood lost to an office complex. Stated differently, the local government said – we can generate more tax revenue if we allocate this land for commercial use and who cares if people have lived on it for decades?

Almost as troubling as the decision itself is who joined the majority and who dissented. I was in shock when I saw that Stevens wrote for the majority and was joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Rehnquist, Scalia Thomas and O’Connor dissented, and they got it right. You read me correctly: Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas are right on the money. And now I feel that black is white and up is down and old is new. Next thing you know, Bush will become a peacenik or an honest man.

[Let me pause here to say that if I were one of those Connecticut homeowners, anyone seeking to remove me from my property would have to physically drag me out. Period.]

I’ll comment more after I have read the opinion. I’m reluctant to comment based on news reports. I will say this – if what I’ve read is true, then this is a sad, sad day for property rights and for the poor (who are most likely to be targeted by this "essential" projects), and it is an excellent day for corporations and for the wealthy. In other words, not a lot has changed but things have gotten much, much worse.