It’s a bit of a slow news day around here. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people who have been tornadoed.
I was on the Huckabee show trying to explain the IRS scandal to rabid conservatives. It was like a “road game.” I don’t really feel like providing the considered, rational counter-argument to all the people who are more interested in blaming people than fixing things.
Some of the few legal stories floating around today that don’t involve “OMG OBAMA IS LIKE NIXON (minus all the lying and paranoia)” are things that have been overturned by higher authorities. Like all media outlets, we’re pretty good at covering new laws or lawsuits or convictions as they happen, but less good when a higher court quietly says “GTFO.”
So let’s take this opportunity to breeze through three things that were happening and are now probably not going to happen. We’ve got some abortion news, some BP oil spill news (remember that?), but let’s start with a murdering bastard in Guatemala who looks like he’ll escape justice again…
In Guatemala, former strongman Efrain Rios Montt had his genocide conviction overturned by the Guatemalan constitutional court. In case you need to brush up on your Central American history, Montt was pretty much our guy in Guatemala when “our guys” were “anybody who seemed vaguely anti-communist, regardless of how many people they murdered” back in the 80s. He didn’t much like indigenous populations, so he was kind of a walking Mayan Apocalypse.
Or civil war leader. History gets messy when you lose. A new Guatemalan regime went after him for genocide and won… until five minutes ago. From the Huffington Post:
Rios Montt was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the deliberate killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
But the constitutional court said it had thrown out all proceedings in the case dating back until April 19. It was then that the trial against Rios Montt was suspended after a spat between judges over who should take the case.
When you play the game of Guatemalan thrones, you win, or you endure a pointless show trial.
Speaking of things done for political theater rather than practical impact, Arkansas’s controversial restrictions on abortions have been thrown out. This should come as a shock to no one. From the New York Times:
A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of one of the country’s most stringent abortion laws, an Arkansas ban on the procedure at the 12th week of pregnancy, saying the law was likely to be declared unconstitutional…
[T]he judge, as expected by many legal experts, agreed with the challengers’ statement that “the U.S. Supreme Court has held unequivocally that a state may not ban abortion prior to viability.”
I honestly don’t understand this new conservative strategy to challenge abortion by ignoring the Supreme Court. Why do they think that the most pro-business Supreme Court wants to touch abortion? Mind tricks don’t work on this Court, only money.
Which is why this BP story is sadly not surprising. From the Associated Press:
A federal judge has dismissed a charge that is the backbone of the case against a former BP executive accused of concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil spewing in 2010 from the company’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Defense attorney Reid Weingarten called it a huge victory for David Rainey, who was BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf.
The charge of obstructing Congress thrown out Monday by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt “was perhaps as much as 90 percent of the government’s evidence,” Weingarten said.
Yeah, God forbid that corporate giant get in trouble for misleading Congress. That’s a penalty we reserve for baseball players who seemed to lie about how they were hitting home runs, not for Vice Presidents of companies that ruin our environment.
Defense attorneys successfully argued that the prosecution “failed to allege that Rainey knew of the pending congressional investigation he was charged with obstructing.” So, that’s great government work.
But let’s be clear, everybody at BP knew Congress would be investigating the circumstances under which they built a well that they couldn’t fix and then lied about how much oil the broken well was spewing. They probably knew that was going to happen as soon as they knew the well was broken:
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass, who led a House subcommittee’s investigation of the oil spill, urged the Justice Department to appeal the judge’s ruling.
“This was a congressional investigation, plain and simple, and this kind of narrow and off-the wall interpretation of how Congress investigates wrongdoing is deeply troubling,” Markey said in a statement.
Keep us posted, Rep. Markey.
The thread through all these stories is clearly: “If you don’t like something, just wait.” When the public has its blood up, people get convicted of genocide and sued over oil spills and all hot and bothered over abortion. But courts move slowly… it’s like the people are a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the courts move so slowly they might as well be standing still.
Efrain Rios Montt Conviction Overturned: Guatemala Court Annuls Proceedings In Genocide Case [Huffington Post]
Abortion Law in Arkansas Is Blocked by U.S. Judge [New York Times]
Judge Tosses Ex-BP Executive’s Obstruction Charge [Associated Press]