Category ►►► Ludicrous Lawsuits
May 21, 2008
Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus
I have in my pocket three horrible court decisions: One is a state supreme-court decision from California; another is a decision by a panel of the D.C. Circus Court; and the third is an initial court order followed by further action now pending before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, based in Oakland, California.
What do these three decisions have in common? Let's get you some particulars...
California Supreme Court to California Voters: Drop Dead
In a previous post here (Californichusetts), we discussed the demerits of the underlying policy of same-sex marriage. Today, we're more concerned with how the court reached its decision -- the process -- and the implications of such a process for the future of democracy.
A liberal on a bulletin-board I frequent chastised me; "a court would never" -- I paraphase him -- "pull a claim of unconstitutionality out of hat!"
Oh yes they did, sez I; this is easily seen by anyone who actually reads California Chief Justice Ronald George's appalling opinion. But it's even more obvious when reading the magnificent and stunning dissent by Justice Marvin Baxter, which begins on page 128 of the pdf linked above. Baxter wrote perhaps the most devastating dissenting opinion since Hugo Black's dissent on Griswold.
In this case, the court admitted that there was no history at all, none whatsoever, of same-sex marriage even being contemplated in the writing of the California constitution. So how on earth could the court be "in accordance with the constitution" when they say -- and this really is their reasoning -- that the fact that the legislature has passed some legislative relief for gays that does not include marriage means the legislature has inadvertently given "exlicit official recognition" (George's words) to the putative right of persons of the same sex to marry?
It's completely loony. From Baxter (pp. 5-7, 132-134 of the pdf -- the italics are Baxter's):
But a bare majority of this court, not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the People themselves. Undeterred by the strong weight of state and federal law and authority, the majority invents a new constitutional right, immune from the ordinary process of legislative consideration. The majority finds that our Constitution suddenly demands no less than a permanent redefinition of marriage, regardless of the popular will.
In doing so, the majority holds, in effect, that the Legislature has done indirectly what the Constitution prohibits it from doing directly. Under article II, section 10, subdivision (c), that body cannot unilaterally repeal an initiative statute, such as Family Code section 308.5, unless the initiative measure itself so provides. Section 308.5 contains no such provision. Yet the majority suggests that, by enacting other statutes which do provide substantial rights to gays and lesbians -- including domestic partnership rights which, under section 308.5, the Legislature could not call "marriage" -- the Legislature has given "explicit official recognition" (maj. opn., ante, at pp. 68, 69) to a California right of equal treatment which, because it includes the right to marry, thereby invalidates section 308.5.
I cannot join this exercise in legal jujitsu, by which the Legislature’s own weight is used against it to create a constitutional right from whole cloth, defeat the People’s will, and invalidate a statute otherwise immune from legislative interference. Though the majority insists otherwise, its pronouncement seriously oversteps the judicial power. The majority purports to apply certain fundamental provisions of the state Constitution, but it runs afoul of another just as fundamental -- article III, section 3, the separation of powers clause. This clause declares that "[t]he powers of state government are legislative, executive, and judicial," and that "[p]ersons charged with the exercise of one power may not exercise either of the others" except as the Constitution itself specifically provides.
The rest is equally brutal.
This decision was a pure power-play: Four members of the court wrestled the other three to the ground, declaring a brand, new right to marry a person of the same sex... and at the same time, declared homosexuality to be a "suspect class," like race, requiring "strict scrutiny" to be applied to any law that affects disparately those with different sexual preferences.
Who needs a legislature, an executive, democracy, or the people themselves, when we have black-robed masters who will so kindly tell us what to do?
But worse even than the policy is the usurpation of the will of the people. The people are striking back now: More than 1.2 million Californios signed a petition to place upon the November ballot a state constitutional amendment that has the exact wording of Proposition 22, which passed in 2000 by 61.4% -- and which the court just struck down. The idea is that if the constitution itself is amended to restrict marriage to one man, one woman, then clearly the court cannot continue to find that same-sex marriage is required by the very constitution that forbids it.
But of course, that assumes at least a faint, embryonic heartbeat of judicial dignity and humility in the breasts of the four members of the majority. If the citizen initiative constitutional amendment passes, but the justices in fact defy the will of the people and double down on same-sex marriage... well, we'll have a full-scale revolt in the Golden State, like the one that led to three California Supreme Court justices being recalled by the people (for persistently preventing the death penalty from being executed).
Democracy only works, and only serves to fuse individuals into a society, when voters have reason to believe their votes actually count. That allows us to accept defeat graciously, because we know that if in the future, we managed to get a majority to see it our way, we can reopen the policy in question.
But if the judiciary only supports democracy so long as the judges agree with the vote, then citizens will have no choice but to seize jurisdiction from the courts. And that could signal the beginning of the end of Western Civ. So let us hope the court accepts passage of the amendment with the same grace that those of us who support it would accept the will of the people should it lose.
Pawing the money
The next case takes place across the country, in the District of Columbia; the Treasury Department is in a lather after a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circus ruled today that folding money "discriminates" against the blind.
And why is that? Because blind people cannot see what denomination bill they have in their wallets! AP takes up the trail of tears:
The U.S. acknowledges the current design hinders blind people, but it argues that they have adapted. Some rely on store clerks to help, some use credit cards and others fold certain corners to help distinguish between bills....
The court ruled 2-1 that such adaptations were insufficient under the Rehabilitation Act. The government might as well argue that there's no need to make buildings accessible to wheelchairs because handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask passers-by for help, the court said.
"Even the most searching tactile examination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill. The secretary has identified no reason that requires paper currency to be uniform to the touch," Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote for the majority.
Courts don't decide how to design currency. That's up to the Treasury Department [well... it used to be!], and the ruling forces the department to address what the court called a discriminatory problem.
This is absurd, of course. Recorded phone-help systems at government offices ("Push 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 64 for Serbo-Croatian...") discriminate against the deaf, because they cannot access that information without "adaptations," like a texting phone. (The recorders of these phone-help trees "might as well argue that there's no need to make buildings accessible to wheelchairs because handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask passers-by for help.")
Elevator buttons in tall buildings discriminate against the vertically challenged, because they cannot reach the top buttons. Police discriminate against schizophrenics who want to live on the streets, because the cops continually arrest them for sleeping on the sidewalk.
Everybody has some inconvenience in life, and especially so when he has a disability. But failure to create a landscape with no sharp edges -- "Nerfworld," I dubbed it in a story anthologized here -- is not automatically unlawful discrimination.
One blind man makes exactly that point:
Not all blind people agree that U.S. money should be changed. The National Federation of the Blind sided with the government and told the appeals court that no changes were needed.
Charlie Richardson, the legally blind manager of Charlie's Express Stop inside the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., said he doesn't oppose changing the money but disagrees with the ruling.
"To actually be discriminated against is to have something denied to you," Richardson said. "We're not denied the use of money."
But the court did not agree; it has ordered Treasury to redesign all American currency, without regard to what Congress and the President have already decided.
Polar bear on a stick
Finally, recall that a few days ago, some environmental extremists won a court ruling from federal Judge Claudia Wilken, forcing the Department of the Interior to immediately rule whether the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) falls under the Endangered Species Act. As we all expected, this was simply Phase One of a deep plan.
The plaintiffs dropped the other shoe yesterday -- Phase Two of the judicial coup d'état: The enviro-mentally challenged loons have gone back to court to abuse the judicially forced listing of polar bears as "threatened" by "global warming" (which supposedly causes the Arctic ice to melt): They demand a judicial order forcing the Bush administration to implement the Kyoto Protocol, or some similar regulatory regime to combat Anthropogenic Global Climate Change (AGCC) -- a.k.a. Globaloney.
Judge Wilken issued her ruling in spite of (possibly in complete ignorance of) the fact that there is a raging conflagration within the atmospheric sciences community on whether global temperatures are still warming now, whether they will warm in the near future, whether it has anything significantly to do with human activity, and whether we can do anything about it anyway. I doubt she even cared... some scientists said Globaloney would kill the polar bears, and her heart simply bled at the thought.
Thus, she flexed her judicial muscles and forced Interior to dance to her tune. And now the same plaintiffs that she favored once want her to use her robe to force an anti-climate-change policy upon the entire United States, outside the democratic system:
[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne, echoing President Bush, said last week the Endangered Species Act was the wrong tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kempthorne that he would propose "common sense modifications" to make sure the polar bear listing would not set backdoor climate policy outside the normal system of political accountability.
The conservation groups said Kempthorne acted improperly.
"On the one hand, he's acknowledging that global warming is impacting polar bears," said Melanie Duchin of Greenpeace in Alaska. "On the other hand, he's not willing to do anything about it. We're asking the administration to uphold the spirit and intent of the Endangered Species Act."
Since when was the "spirit and intent" of the ESA to completely bypass Congress and the President to allow judges to enact sweeping changes to our energy, economic, and pollution regulations, all ordered by an unelected person who holds her appointment for life? I reckon I missed that part of the debate over passage of the Endangered Species Act.
In this case, it's clear that the polar bears don't even enter into the affair, except as hairy, white bludgeons by which leftist enviromentalists hope to pound the Bush administration into combating AGCC -- no matter how many scientists doubt the connection between human activity and global warming, and no matter what it does to the economy. They want to bypass not only the democratic process but also the normal scientific vetting process; instead, they would use the courts to render a final verdict on the issue... quickly, before somebody discovers something contrary!
That last line is not a joke; I believe some of the activists are actually aware of the rising chorus of well-credentialed scientific naysayers, and they want to cut them off at the knees. Once the Judiciary has decided, how could mere research undo that judicial decision? The colossal edifice of Globaloney would stand thus in perpetuity, unaffected by the tides and vagaries of honest scientific theory.
The leaden thread
In the brilliant "Rumpole" stories by John Mortimer, British barrister Horace Rumpole often argues in the Old Bailey that British justice hangs by a "golden thread," the principle that the crown must prove a man guilty before he can be punished, that he starts out with the presumption of innocence. But in America's courtrooms today, we have a new principle -- the leaden thread of judicial activism: This is the presumption by an increasing number of judges that, by virtue of the very robes they wear, they know best how to govern society.
In his column yesterday on the same-sex marriage decision by the California Supreme Court, Dennis Prager nailed the "hubris" -- I would say narcissism -- that applies to all the judges discussed above:
Another reason for this decision is arrogance. First, the arrogance of four individuals to impose their understanding of what is right and wrong on the rest of society. And second is the arrogance of the four compassionate ones in assuming that all thinkers, theologians, philosophers, religions and moral systems in history were wrong, while they and their supporters have seen a moral light never seen before. Not a single religion or moral philosophical system -- East or West -- since antiquity ever defined marriage as between members of the same sex.
That is one reason the argument that this decision is the same as courts undoing legal bans on marriages between races is false. No major religion -- not Judaism, not Christianity, not Islam, not Buddhism -- ever banned interracial marriage. Some religions have banned marriages with members of other religions. But since these religions allowed anyone of any race to convert, i.e., become a member of that religion, the race or ethnicity of individuals never mattered with regard to marriage. American bans on interracial marriages were not supported by any major religious or moral system; those bans were immoral aberrations, no matter how many religious individuals may have supported them. Justices who overthrew bans on interracial marriages, therefore, had virtually every moral and religious value system since ancient times on their side. But justices who overthrow the ban on same-sex marriage have nothing other their hubris and their notions of compassion on their side.
These undemocratic judges ride high above the fray on great, white stallions, passing lordly judgment -- immune from being gainsayed, corrected, or even criticized:
- Four (out of seven) justices on the California Supreme Court know better than the legislature, the governor, even the people themselves; they know better than thousands of years of religious and philsophical systems how to organize society. And by golly, these Anointed -- with their Vision of the perfectability of society -- will fix all our problems for us.
- The D.C. Circus (well, two out of a three-judge panel of the appellate court) feel great compassion for the blind -- itself a noble emotion; so to assuage their feelings of pity and sympathy (and perhaps guilt at being sighted), they order the Treasury Department to implement the judges' own personal solution to the problem they themselves defined. (The decisions of the democratic branches of government which normally have jurisdiction over printing and engraving are irrelevant; those folks just don't share the Vision.)
- And lone Judge Wilken -- I know you're shocked to discover that she is a Clinton appointee, confirmed by the Democratic Senate of 1993 -- decides all by herself that polar bears must be designated as "threatened" (the plaintiffs now demand that be changed to "endangered," the stronger classification)... and she will decide, again all by herself, whether that means we must implement a drastic curtailing of energy usage, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars every year (irrelevant as an issue in the case) and damaging our ability to generate energy for generations to come (equally irrelevant... the poor, suffering polar bears!), all to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that may or may not have anything to do with Arctic sea ice that may or may not be melting in temperatures that may or may not still be rising.
Three cases; three separate jurisdictions; one leaden thread: "benevolent" judicial tyranny... for our own good. And one presidential candidate who promises to appoint that exact kind of judge, and only that kind, in every federal judicial opening he is allowed to fill. Judges who will rule for life, with no realistic way to get them out of office, no matter how egregiously they rule. (Thelton Henderson was never impeached, despite his ghastly ruling that refusing to discriminate on the basis of race constitutes discrimination on the basis of race.)
All right, conservatives... still think there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between John McCain and Barack H. Obama?
It's well at this point to recall Auric Goldfinger's great rule of threes; it was only alluded to in the Ian Fleming "James Bond" novel Goldfinger, I believe, but stated explicitly in the movie: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action."
Just so long as we all know what's going on here.
April 28, 2008
ID (the Other Kind): Beginning of the Death of the Democratic Party?
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court -- in a shock 6-3 decision (shocking because Justice John Paul Stevens was on the side of the angels!) -- held that states could indeed require voters to show photo-ID before voting... causing Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 90%) to eructate, "This decision is a body blow to what America stands for -- equal access to the polls" (for senior citizens, minorities, and the poor... most of whom, apparently, carry no identification).
The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter-identification law on Monday, declaring that a requirement to produce photo identification is not unconstitutional and that the state has a “valid interest” in improving election procedures as well as deterring fraud.
In a 6-to-3 ruling in one of the most awaited election-law cases in years, the court rejected arguments that Indiana’s law imposes unjustified burdens on people who are old, poor or members of minority groups and less likely to have driver’s licenses or other acceptable forms of identification. Because Indiana’s law is considered the strictest in the country, similar laws in the other 20 or so states that have photo-identification rules would appear to have a good chance of surviving scrutiny.
The ruling, coming just eight days before the Indiana primary and at the height of a presidential election campaign, upheld rulings by a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which had thrown out challenges to the 2005 law.
It's not just Chuck Schumer who is incensed by this ruling, and more generally, by the voter-ID laws that sparked it; almost the entire Democratic party seems up in arms about the very idea of requiring government-issued photo-ID before voters are allowed to vote.
So why are they so adamant? Let's consider a few points that may edge us away from their stated reasons -- concern that "legitimate voters" will be disenfranchised -- and towards what I think is their real motivation.
- While I agree that the "poor or members of minority groups" are less likely to have government ID, that is entirely by their own choice (or more likely, their own apathy).
Mere lack of money can't stop a voter from getting identification; although the Times doesn't consider it the kind of news "that's fit to print," the related AP story is more forthcoming on this point:
Indiana provides IDs free of charge to people without driver's licenses. It also allows voters who lack photo ID's to cast a provisional ballot and then show up within 10 days at their county courthouse to produce identification or otherwise attest to their identity.
So money is no object; government ID is literally "priceless."
- Where is the evidence that registered voters who are senior citizens are less likely to have photo-ID from the government than younger voters?
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they're more likely, not less, to have identification. I suspect this unsourced claim is intended to broaden the pool of putative "victims" of voter-ID laws... and especially to broaden it to include as many Republicans as possible.
The Times article ends a heart-rending story about a black woman, a senior citizen, turned away from the polls in Indiana for lack of ID. The last line: "Ms. Williams, in her early 60’s, is black -- and is a Republican." (Cue melodramatic music.)
Last and most important point. When I say this decision, and the legislation it will spark, could spell the death of the Democratic Party, I don't mean because it will somehow -- metaphysically, perhaps -- make it harder for senior citizens (who are more likely to vote Republican anyway), the poor, and minorities to vote. It won't; even though the latter will still vote in lesser numbers than those who are more well off and those who are not "federally protected minorities," that has nothing to do with any supposed inability to get a photo-ID.
Rather, I think it will inflict a deep wound in the Democratic Party because:
- Such bills will, when fully implemented -- for example, when extended to the rest of the United States and to include absentee balloting -- make it much, much harder to commit voter fraud... and today's Democratics depend so heavily on fraud, they probably can't survive without it.
Critics of the law make much of the fact that there have been so few prosecutions for voter fraud in Indiana. But that's Indiana, where Republican election officials pretty control the elections. I doubt that voter fraud has ever been a serious problem in that state.
But how about Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, New York City, Compton, East L.A., New Orleans, Miami, and other cities and even entire states where Democrats control the "standards" required to vote? That is where you're going to find massive voter fraud that turns the Democratic majority into a supermajority -- and the Republican minority into political impotence.
Take Loretta Sanchez: She first won California's 46th district in 1996, beating "B-1" Bob Dornan by 984 votes. California officials threw out 124; and when Congress investigated, they found 624 more votes that were definitely fraudulent... which reduced Sanchez's lead down to 236 votes (out of about 100,000 votes cast). At that point, not being able to prove that the voter fraud Congress found was enough to flip the election, the House for political reasons voted to end the investigation.
But look here... according to a column by Wall Street Journal writer John Fund, the INS subsequently found that as many as 4,023 ballots were cast in the 46th district by "illegal voters." But since there was no way to know for sure whether these four thousand Hispanic non-citizens and unregistered Hispanic voters voted for Loretta Sanchez or Bob Dornan, that could not be used in the investigation of her "victory."
(Much of this work was done after the House voted to terminate the investigation, and the full House finally shut down the committee and INS investigation before it could find even more voter fraud, thus embarassing Newt Gingrich even further.)
But there is more in that same John Fund column:
In 2002, Dean Gardner, a losing GOP candidate for California's state legislature, sent out a survey to 14,000 first-time voters. A total of 1,691 surveys came back. The results were startling: 76 people admitted that they weren't citizens but had voted, while 49 claimed not to have registered at their correct residence, as the law requires. Gardner lost by only 266 votes.
In the 2000 election, as the Missouri secretary of state later discovered, 56,000 St. Louis-area voters held multiple voter registrations. No one knows how much actual fraud took place, but it may have played a role in the Democratic defeats of incumbent Republican senator John Ashcroft, who lost his seat by 49,000 votes, and gubernatorial candidate Jim Talent, who lost by 21,000 votes....
A Post analysis [of the 2000 presidential election vote in Florida] discovered that 5,600 people voted whose names matched those of convicted felons. "These illegal voters almost certainly influenced the down-to-the-wire presidential election," the Post reported. "Of the likely felons identified by the Post, 68 percent were registered Democrats."
Note that this only counts actual, bona-fide election fraud; Democrats also have an array of legal or quasi-legal ways to prevent enemy votes from being counted, ranging from closing polls in Republican-leaning districts earlier than those in Democrat-leaning districts, to hypercritical challenging of Republican votes by elections boards, to selective recounts, all the way to actually filing lawsuits attempting to suppress the Republican vote (as in the Florida cases filed in Martin and Seminole counties in 2000, seeking to disenfranchise 25,000 absentee voters). None of these would be affected by voter-ID laws.
I believe that voter fraud increased substantially after President Bill Clinton signed the motor-voter bill in 1993 -- which I vigorously opposed from the very beginning: If a person has so little interest in the franchise that he won't bestir himself to register unless he's practically forced, then I don't want him voting at all. Fund evidently agrees:
Why is such activity proliferating? It flows from the success of Democratic lawmakers in pushing aside clear, orderly, and rigorous voting procedures in favor of elastic and "inclusive" election rules that invite manipulation. A machine for corruption is the 1993 "Motor Voter Act," the first bill that President Clinton signed. The law requires government officials to allow anyone who renews a driver's license or applies for welfare or unemployment to register to vote on the spot, without showing ID or proof of citizenship. It also allows ID-free registration by mail. The law also makes it hard to purge voting lists of those who've died or moved. All this makes vote fraud a cinch, almost as easy as when Tammany Hall handed out pre-marked ballots.
In California, it is actually against state law for polling places to demand any form of ID that indicates citizenship. Not even Democrats try to defend that on its own grounds; it was simply pushed through the legislature in a power play. There can be no other purpose for such a bill than to make committing voter fraud as easy as taking a pie in the face.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), a socialist group that agitates for various left-wing causes, is the king of registration fraud, I suspect, having registered thousands and thousands of fake voters. But they have many competitors, including the Public Interest Research Group and Project Vote... nearly all of whom lean very far to the left.
I am convinced that it is this fact -- not weird speculation about the poor and certain minorities and their lack of interest in obtaining IDs -- that actually animates and drives the intense Democratic opposition to voter-ID laws across the country. But why would Democrats be so anxious to lock into place a system that practically begs for fraudulent voting -- unless they believe they really and truly need election fraud to stay in power?
I take their own obvious opinion of themselves and their election strategy very seriously. Thus I say again: If voter-ID bills sweep the rest of the country (the 30 states, plus D.C., that have no requirement to show a photo-ID before voting), and especially if it is extended to absentee balloting, then the Democratic Party as we know it today could collapse. It would most probably be replaced by a new and much more moderate Democratic Party. (It's much less likely to be replaced by a different party, since we have been stuck with these two for more than 150 years.)
But either way, the heyday of the contemporary, ultra-leftist Democratic Party of 2008 -- that can dither between nominating Hillary Clinton (left) or Barack Obama (lefter); that can openly call for America to declare defeat and go home from a war we're winning; that responds to a possible recession by proposing staggering tax increases (economic policy which even John Maynard Keynes rejected); that is willing to ally itself with America's enemies (and Islamic religious fundamentalists), applauds Communists like Oogo Chavez and Raul Castro, and argues that the CIA cannot interrogate captured foreign terrorists held abroad any harsher than police can interrogate an American citizen suspected of robbing a convenience store; that is so radical, it cannot gain power except through voter fraud -- that kind of Democratic Party is soon to pass from history.
It will not be missed.
April 14, 2008
Democrats Try to Sue Their Way Into the White House. Again.
Back in 2000, after Al Gore lost the presidential race to George W. Bush, he did something unprecedented: He ordered his crack legal team to file lawsuits to overturn the election and declare himself the winner.
Gore didn't just sue for recounts; he also tried to suppress many overseas votes by servicemen. And in a scheme as stunning in its audacity as it was represensible in its aim, the Gore team sued in Martin and Seminole counties to suppress the entire absentee vote -- thus trying to disenfranchise fully 25,000 voters, Democrat as well as Republican. (Why would they do that? Because those two counties went heavily for Bush, and the absentee ballots alone accounted for a net of nearly eight thousand extra votes for the Republican. Since Bush only won by 537 votes, a loss of 8,000 disenfranchised voters would have meant that Al Gore would have won by 7,500.)
This year, however, the Democrats have gotten craftier: They've decided to avoid the rush by filing their lawsuits early, hoping to sue John McCain out of the race before the first vote is cast. That way, likely Democratic nominee Barack H. Obama could fight the sort of race he is more comfortable (and experienced) fighting: one where his opponent is either fighting in handcuffs or is absent altogether (see our earlier post Chicago Rules for enlightenment).
This is from "the Trail," the Washington Post's campaign blog (I'm sorry, its "daily diary of campaign 2008," not a blog):
The Democratic National Committee announced today it will file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Monday to force Sen. John McCain to stay in the public financing system until he formally accepts the Republican presidential nomination in September.
The lawsuit asks the Court to compel the FEC to conduct an investigation into McCain's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the public financing system, and, should the FEC continue to fail to do so, to allow the DNC to sue McCain directly for disobeying campaign finance laws.
"We believe he's breaking the law every day," said DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon on a conference call Sunday.
The WaPo blog -- diary! -- doesn't really explain what this suit is all about in this entry... so I turn to my old Watcher's Council colleague Wolf Howling to explain what's actually happening (which the Wolfman did back in February -- using as his source an earlier, more explanatory entry from "the Trail." Go figure.)
McCain needs to be hammering home the anti-Obama message starting as soon as it becomes clear that Obama will be the nominee -- which will likely be March 4. But it may well be that McCain is hamstrung by FEC rules and unable to spend any more than just a few million dollars between now and the nominating convention in September. That would be catastrophic.
The questions at issue revolve around public campaign financing during the two phases of the campaign, the primaries and then the general election. A candidate can accept public financing in one, both, or neither. If a candidate opts to accept public financing, it comes with very specific spending limits. If McCain is found to have accepted public financing in the primaries, then his spending limit is $50 million during the primaries -- and he is close to that limit already.
The problem began when McCain's campaign was on the ropes last summer. He applied for public financing, since the alternative was to quit the race.
Now that itself would not require him to accept it; he would have to have actually taken the money to incur that obligation. And in the end, he did not use any public funds directly. Thus he argues that he did not legally accept public financing and is not obliged to observe the spending restrictions.
Yet there is what Larry Elderberry would call "a big butt": While McCain did not actually take the money, or even use it as collateral for a loan (which counts as using it), he did offer it as potential collateral; he obtained a $1 million loan, for which the public financing would have been collateral... had he ever used any of that loan money. But he did never did, because his own fundraising picked up.
The Democrats, however, argue that saying you might use the public funds as collateral (even if you don't end up doing so) nevertheless locks you into public financing -- and those killer spending limits. As Wolf Howling put it:
That notwithstanding, McCain has now notified the FCC that he intends to withdraw from the public financing agreement during the primaries. The rules say that if you dip into the public funds – which McCain hasn’t – or you use public funds as collateral for a loan, than you are obligated to follow the public financing rules.
So, the question is, did McCain use those funds as collateral? That is a legal question, and one has to look to the terms of his loan.
McCain's loan from Fidelity involves what experts termed a highly unusual arrangement: He pledged that if he left the public financing system and started to lose the election, he would reenter it and use the federal funds to repay the loan.
"The loan terms were carefully drafted to exclude from the bank's collateral any matching funds," to assure McCain would have the "flexibility to withdraw from the program," said the letter from lawyers Matthew S. Bergman and Scott E. Thomas. Thomas, a Democrat, is a former FEC chairman.
Only "future certifications of matching funds" were pledged as collateral, the letter says -- and that would have occurred only if McCain had started to lose, which he never did.
Amusingly enough, this scheme was not invented by the McCain people; it was lifted whole and intact from the identical scheme used by some feller named Howard Dean, when he pulled the same dodge back in 2004 and got away with it.
McCain is in a bit of a bind; he needs a ruling from the Federal Elections Commission, saying that, like Dean, McCain did not actually "accept" public funding, thus isn't trapped in the spending limits. But the FEC can't vote, because it only has two of its six seats filled, which is two commissioners short of a quorum.
And why are they short handed? Because one Democratic senator is blocking the GOP appointment to the FEC (they must be appointed in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican, so no party has an advantage). Until that senator lifts his hold, the FEC will remain unable to hold a vote or issue the opinion McCain needs.
The senator who put the hold on the Bush nominee is (wait for it) Barack H. Obama... the very candidate poised to benefit most from this quagmire.
And now, the Democrats have actually filed a suit in federal court, demanding that the third branch of government (the Judiciary) cooperate with them in rigging the vote for the second branch of government (the Executive):
Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant called the pending suit "total nonsense."
"It is now clear that the trial-lawyer Democrats' idea of campaigning for President is to hire lawyers and file frivolous lawsuits. It's unfortunate the DNC is now trying to drag the federal courts into their circus as well," he said in a statement. "As for the lawsuit itself, it is clearly without merit and filed only for public relations purposes. The FEC's own regulations provide that the Commission must be given 120 days to review any complaint before they may be sued in court. It has only been 49 days since the DNC's initial meritless complaint to the Commission was filed, and thus we expect this lawsuit to be thrown out at the first opportunity."
I would not be so sanguine, however; Democrats have proved remarkably adept overall at getting the courts to do their dirty work for them: Remember the Supreme Court of Florida -- a.k.a., the aptly abbreviated SCOFLA. So I stand by my earlier recommendation to John McCain from "Chicago Rules":
Tell the FEC to FO. McCain should ignore the FEC and raise and spend as much as he needs, without regard to the primary spending limits for those joining the federal campaign-finance system. If the FEC threatens him, laugh in their faces. What are they going to do, vote to fine him? They can't vote to impose a penalty -- they don't have a quorum! Remember? That's what started this whole nonsense.
If McCain cannot stand up to the Democratic-Party shenanigans, how can he hope to stand up to the Iranians, the Syrians, Red China and North Korea, the U.N., or even al-Qaeda? But I expect he will stand up to the DNC; I expect he'll tell them to go jump in the lake. The people's right to a free and fair election outweighs any pedantic parsing that McCain somehow inadvertently squeezed, without ever intending to, some arcane trigger for the whole campaign-finance monstrosity.
Put aside both schadenfreude and a sense of irony; this issue is bigger than McCain personally: This is an affront to all citizens of the United States, just as it would have been had the Democrats been able to freeze out of the election all those absentee voters in two Florida counties.
So come on, Sen. McCain; forget about your own shameful involvement in unconstitutional (no matter what the Supreme Court said) restrictions on free elections. Just rise up off your duff and loudly proclaim, for all to hear, that no matter what anyone says, you will continue to campaign vigorously, fundraise prodigiously, and spend freely.
And tell the DNC they can fling off their suits and drop their briefs to the floor.
March 25, 2008
Justice vs. Justices
So today, the Supreme Court -- by a somewhat surprising 6-3 vote, with Justice John Paul Stevens in the majority (!) -- held that the President of the United States (that would be George W. Bush for a few more months) has no authority to order states to comply with elements of international treaties... in this case, with a ruling by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, a.k.a. the "World Court":
In a death-penalty case that has become an international issue, the Supreme Court declared on Tuesday that President Bush had no power to tell the State of Texas to reopen the case of a Mexican who has been condemned for murder and rape.
By 6 to 3, the court ruled that the president went too far in 2005, when he decreed that the states had to abide by a 2004 decision by the World Court. That decision found that several dozen Mexican citizens who had been sentenced to death in the United States had not been given the assistance from Mexican diplomats that they were entitled to receive under an international treaty.
It's interesting that nobody appears to be arguing that Jose E. Medellin and his fellow bangers might be innocent of kidnapping two teenaged girls -- Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14 -- gang-raping them repeatedly, then murdering them so they couldn't identify their assailants; they just complain that Texas didn't tell him he had to right to chat with someone from the Mexican diplomatic mission, which is required by some treaty we signed.
From the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation:
Following the rapes, the men dragged the bleeding girls to a wooded area as they begged for their lives. Two men initially tried to strangle Jennifer with a belt wrapped around her neck with one pulling at each end. When the belt broke, they strangled her to death with a shoelace. Medellin later complained, “the bitch wouldn’t die,” and it would have been “easier with a gun.” Elizabeth was also strangled to death with her shoelaces. The murderers then divided money and jewelry taken from the girls and several joined Medellin at the home of one of the men’s brother and sister-in-law. There, they bragged about the rapes and murders. Medellin explained to the sister-in-law that the girls had been killed to prevent them from identifying him and his accomplices. A few days later, the couple reported the crime to police.
The Justices held that the president has only two sources for his power:
- Legislation from Congress, which he is allowed (required) to enforce;
- Plenary powers inherent in the office, according to the Constitution.
Since neither gave Bush authority to tell Texas to hold a new trial in this case, his order, which Texas ignored anyway, was null and void.
Naturally, I agree with this ruling; I thought Bush's original order was a craven surrender to the forces of leftism. But the real reason for this post is that I am truly anxious to see how liberals are going to turn this into an attack on President Bush.
I just know that somehow, his attempt to enforce "international law" at the expense of American sovereignty and of states' rights -- the rights of one of the original Confederate states, yet, his home state! -- will be twisted by some arcane mechanism into an indictment of Bush himself, not so much of the Court (that decision is given good blocking by the presence of Stevens in the majority).
We're currently accepting entries demonstrating how the liberal Left will use this as a stick to bash Bush. No lucicrous theories, please; give us realistic scenarios by which Democrats can argue that this really proves that Chimpy McBushitler is a racist, sexist, homophobe, or other kind of bigot.
Here is our own entry:
Please post your own entries in the comments section.
January 2, 2008
Use an iPod, Go to Jail - UPDATED to the point of being NULLIFIED!
UPDATE January 3rd, 2008: It doesn't often happen that Big Lizards is completely, utterly wrong in a post; but I'm pretty sure this is one of those rare times...
Commenter Levi from Queens linked to a LaShawn Barber post that demonstrates fairly conclusively that the Washington Post reporter got this absolutely wrong: Evidently, the RIAA did not argue that uploading a song or CD to your computer alone violates copyright; they argued that uploading it to a KaZaA shared folder, where other KaZaA users could access it, download it, and reupload it or make copies, violates copyright.
That point is perfectly sound: If the file is made available for anyone to download, that's the same as making copies and leaving them in a bin outside your house.
I'll leave this post up, because I think it fairly well written on our part; we were simply misled by the elite media, with their multiple layers of editorial fact-checking. What follows is the original post, with another additional warning at the crucial point.
Sadder but wiser, Dafydd
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has found a clever, new way to jump the shark and make itself look like an organization of dangerous buffoons. I could simply tell you what they're doing; but it's so bizarre, you would accuse me of making it up. Instead, I'll advance the central point of this post via a quote from the Washington Post:
Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.
WARNING: This claim by the Post appears to be completely spurious; see the update above.
(There, now you can accuse the Post of making it up instead!)
[Why yes... you certainly can!]
I can't find a citation (after not much time spent Googling), but I swear I remember that in the early days of VCRs, the studios sued Sony (makes of Betamax) on the theory that a consumer taping a movie on Wednesday night to watch on Thursday night instead was violating the copyright owned by the studio. The theory was that, if Mr. Viewer could do that, he could also keep the tape forever... and thus would be unlikely to buy a commercially released videotape of the same movie.
The courts slapped that one down, enunciating the common-sense rule that copyright is only violated when the movie is duplicated and passed along to others, especially as a commercial transaction. The Post quotes Ray Beckerman, who represents six clients being sued by the RIAA:
"The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation...."
But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.
The Howell case is emblematic of a serious inability to deal with a changing market... a legal "stop the world, I want to get off" market strategy.
But legalities aside, this is a catastrophically kooky angle to pursue. What's really going on, between the lines, is that the RIAA is trying to use the courtroom to make a stand against the advance of technology, which is rendering null and void the old business model used by the recording industry for decades and decades. This is tantamount to an admission that they have no clue how to deal with it in the marketplace:
As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don't usually kill off old media: That's the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.
The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."
Simply put, customers no longer put off listening to music until they're home, sitting before the home stereo setup. Today, I would guess that the majority of music listening is done away from home: at work, while at the gym, while walking from place to place or riding public transportation, or on long airplane flights.
Even at home, many folks prefer to copy their CDs to hard drive, then use any of a hundred "PC jukebox" applications to program their musical entertainment (and video, if they also copy their DVDs). By running a couple of cables, listeners and viewers can even play the media through their normal home speakers or on their ordinary digital TV.
(In our case, Sachi downloads the CDs we buy from the computer to her iPod, then takes the latter to work: Her employer won't let workers listen to internet radio, and dragging a portable CD player and a stack of disks around is too cumbersome.)
But attacking customers who legally buy the product that RIAA members sell (as we do) -- simply for using that product in a more convenient way -- smells like an invitation to retaliation. Angry customers might start ripping songs instead, under the theory that if the legitimate producers are going to act so unreasonably, trying to bankrupt customers for no reason other than listening on an MP3 player instead of direct from CD, then why should customers respect the copyright in the first place?
Buyers who are more scrupulously honest can retaliate by buying music from alternative sources... sources who don't object to porting the music to all devices one might carry around. Either way, I cannot see any way that such an aggressive attempt to stop consumers from consuming the product the way they want will increase sales; rather, it will accelerate the already precipitous slide in profits among companies that produce and distribute music... which honestly would be a shame, since that invariably translates into lower income for the artists, who generally have nothing to do with the legal claims of the producers.
Note that the United States Constitution, whence flows all of the law on copyright, includes the following explanation of its purpose:
In other words, the fundamental reason for the government to protect literary and musical copyrights is not to enrich the creator (much as I, personally, might enjoy that!), but rather the civic duty to promote literature and music among the general public. I don't see how dictating the exact format by which a customer can read or listen fits that purpose.
(By contrast, preventing people from posting unapproved copies of books or music online for anyone to download clearly fits the purpose of the preamble to the "copyright clause" of the Constitution.)
If somebody wants to purchase a book of mine, then scan it to computer -- for personal use only, not to share -- I have no objection whatsoever. Perhaps he wants to put it on his Kindle or his Sony eReader to read along with other books. I don't even care much if he passes the Kindle to a friend; that's functionally equivalent to loaning out a book after you read it. (I assume here that one can't "reverse engineer" the book and save it into an easily uploaded format; if I'm wrong, I reserve the right to reevaluate.)
I would draw the line, as I have on occasion, at making my books commercially or freely available for download without my express permission... because that could seriously cut into my royalties. That is, assuming any book of mine ever earned out and paid royalties, and assuming the publisher is honest enough to report such a momentous event -- but that's a whole 'nother rant, let me tell you!
As a general rule, the more extreme the claim by the proponent of one side of a controversial issue, the more his position deviates from common sense, the greater the loss of credibility among otherwise sympathetic third parties.
I believe the RIAA would get very broad acceptance and agreement among the buyers of CDs and DVDs -- yes, even among most teenagers -- if the RIAA merely defended the proposition that the artists who create the music and movies, and the companies that pay for producing them and making them available, should be protected against commercial pirates and against people who make everything available online for free. If they could come up with some way of preventing such pirating and bootlegging without seriously inconveniencing legitimate customers, it would probably gain widespread support.
But by trying to criminalize the ordinary way that many (if not most) people listen to the music they legally purchase, the RIAA becomes a parody of itself -- and it stokes the flames of rebellion against even the legitimate claims it makes, which get lost in all the shouting about the ludicrous and insulting court actions.
Get a grip, RIAA; your members own the copyright, but that is not a license to dictate to consumers how they're allowed to consume. This is a capitalist country, so all parties have a shared purpose: The artists want their music heard, and they want to profit thereby; consumers want to hear the music and are willing to pay for it. Why poison what could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship?
July 19, 2007
Today, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates (George W. Bush, 2001) dismissed Val's deceitful federal lawsuit accusing Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs Lewis Libby, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of "conspiring to leak her identity in 2003," which she claims "violated her privacy rights and was illegal retribution for her husband's criticism of the administration," as AP puts it.
Naturally. Armitage, a virulent opponent of the Iraq invasion and protege of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell (another outspoken opponent), was seeking "retribution" against Lyin' Joe Wilson for defaming the Bush administration -- over the Iraq invasion that Armitage despised!
We all know there is one and only one reason that Armitage was added to the lawsuit: because he is the only person known actually to have leaked her name to the press; and it would look pretty stupid -- even for a Democrat -- to file a lawsuit against three people who Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did not claim leaked her name, but not against the one person who Fitzgerald did say leaked her name.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, but he seems to have also leaned towards the administration's argument on constitutionality:
While Bates did not address the constitutional questions, he seemed to side with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties. Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.
"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory, " Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."
What I find particularly amusing in the AP story is the second paragraph below:
Plame's identity was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, shortly after Wilson began criticizing the administration's march to war in Iraq. Plame believes the leak was retribution and that it violated their constitutional rights.
Armitage and Rove were the sources for that article, which touched off a lengthy leak investigation. Nobody was charged with leaking but Libby was convicted of lying and obstruction the investigation. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term before the former aide served any time.
This, of course, is carefully written to make it appear as if Karl Rove were one of the original leakers, perhaps working in concert with Armitage -- which should provoke derisive laughter in anyone who knows anything about the chilly relationship between the opposing camps of the Bush administration.
But in fact, what Novak testified is that Rove was only a "source" in the sense that he said something that Novak interpreted as corroboration that "Wilson's wife" was employed by the CIA... after Novak had already been told by Armitage. In fact, Novak brought up the question to Rove, mentioning the exact department where Plame worked; Rove answered somewhat ambiguously, I think, and perhaps in unintentional surprise that Novak knew:
Novak said Plame's status was confirmed later in a conversation with Rove.
Novak said he asked Rove several questions about Wilson's mission to Niger, and near the end of the conversation, "I commented that I heard she was a -- I had been told she was an employee of the counterproliferation division of the CIA. He said, " 'Oh, you know about that, too.' I took that as a clear affirmation."
Well, evidently Special Counsel Fitzgerald didn't take it as enough of a "clear affirmation" to charge Rove with anything... not even with perjury, a la Libby, which many predicted would happen when Rove belatedly remembered the exchange and testified two subsequent times to the grand jury. And even if clear, was it even intentional? Or was Rove simply surprised that Novak knew everything, perhaps blurting out "you know about that too?"
That level of disconnect from the leak does not suit the elite media's purposes, however; so Rove becomes one of the primary leakers, arm in arm with Armitage.
Somehow, the Democrats and their aiders and abettors in the media convinced themselves -- sometime back in 1999, I believe -- that the Bush administration is the most corrupt presidency in American history. For nine years now, these "Truthers" have searched desperately, and at times hysterically, for the "smoking gun" that will retroactively prove true all their paranoid conspiracy fancies.
No matter how many times the football is yanked away, I suspect the crusade will continue long past 2009; and Valerie Plame will remain its golden calf.
May 27, 2007
Famous Last Words
Sometimes, I read a line in a story that is just so delicious, I simply must share. This one is the last line of this AP article.
Here is the last paragraph; see if you can deduce, without looking, what the heck the article is about:
Puzder said the comparison was not valid because the Carl's Jr. ads did not suggest that Jack In the Box shakes were made from milk that came from an unsavory part of the cow.
Kudos for the most creative misinterpretation!
November 30, 2006
Attack Terrorist Funding - Unless That Means Attacking Terrorist Funding (Clinton Judges, Take 2)
A federal judge has struck down a critical element of "connecting the dots" to fight against terrorism: she says it's unconstitutional to freeze assets of terrorist groups -- because terrorist groups are designated by the president, rather than by a laborious, multi-year process involving Congress and the judiciary, clerks and aides, and the entire labor force of the Bureau of Procrastination... during which multiple challenges could be filed, rulings made and overturned, written, published, discussed, stamped, mailed, folded, spindled, and mutilated, stretching the procedure out long enough to give the bad guys plenty of time (even at a snail's pace) to transfer all the funds to another dummy organization. Then we start all over again. (Though that's not exactly the way she phrased her opinion, I believe.)
A federal judge struck down President Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague.
Some parts of the Sept. 24, 2001 order tagging 27 groups and individuals as "specially designated global terrorists" were too vague and could impinge on First Amendment rights of free association, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said.
The order gave the president "unfettered discretion" to label groups without giving them a way to challenge the designations, she said in a Nov. 21 ruling that was made public Tuesday.
The judge, who two years ago invalidated portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, rejected several sections of Bush's Executive Order 13224 and enjoined the government from blocking the assets of two foreign groups.
And here is the really shocking part: Judge Audrey Collins was appointed by -- wait for it -- President Bill Clinton! She was nominated in 1994 and confirmed by the Senate that same year, when it was still under the control of the Democrats.
Say, is there an echo in here?
The ruling was praised by David Cole, a lawyer for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented the plaintiff Humanitarian Law Project. [Never trust any D.C. based organization that includes the word "humanitarian" -- as in vegetarian? -- in its title.]
It "says that even in fighting terrorism the president cannot be given a blank check to blacklist anyone he considers a bad guy or a bad group and you can't imply guilt by association," Cole said.
Sure you can! You aren't really trying, Mr. Cole. How about, "anyone who joins the Ku Klux Klan is guilty of racism?" Or this one: "anyone who joined any version of the Nazi Party after 1945 is a nutter who should be on a leash."
Similarly, I consider it quite reasonable to argue that anyone who joins al-Qaeda in Iraq is more or less a terrorist by definition (and an antisemite by hobby). And any fellow who joins a group called the Humanitarian Law Project is a screaming liberal guilty of utter jackassery... though that last might be more of a genetic disability than a guilty act: every mens rea first requires a rea, after all.
All right, I love picking on idiot rulings by Clinton judges; but there really is a deep point. I'm actually going somewhere with this.
The incoming Democratic majority insists that its primary interest, after raising the minimum wage, is defending the country. It's not your grandmother's Democratic Party -- no more of those anti-war protests, assaults on returning soldiers, bombings of ROTC buildings, attempts to exorcise Yog Sothoth from the center of the Pentagon, or concerned citizens against America chaining themselves to MX missiles. Not this Democratic Party! This is the steely-eyed party of John Murtha, Jim Webb, and Nancy Pelosi; of John McCain (oops, sorry about that), Harry Reid, and Joe Lieberman (oops, sorry about that).
And of course, everyone knows that terrorism travels on its stomach, to paraphrase Napoleon (which is about the only way to discuss what he said, unless you read French). The surest method of killing terrorism is to starve it out, cut off its funding.
Cut its funding by, you know, freezing its assets. Which raises an interesting question: are the Democrats actually in favor of cutting funding to terrorist groups -- hence will denounce this narcissistic, self-indulgent, flower-child, airy-fairy opinion?
Or will they remain true to their roots (and their BDS fix) and praise this decision as the first step in undoing all the horrible depredations against the precious civil liberties of Jemaah Islamiyah and the Tamil Tigers?
Alternatively, if you ask the Democrats, will smoke come out of their ears, as they intone in rising hysteria, "Norman, please explain -- only Norman can explain!" Sorry. Got caught up in a Star Trek moment; Captain Ed understands.
Most likely they'll take the fourth option, the one they've taken so often, it's on speed dial: say nothing. No comment. If a reporter is rude enough to ask Ms. Pelosi about this ruling, she can look blank and say that the 9/11 Commission already determined that there is no al-Qaeda.
Be thankful that President Bush is still president for a couple of years, and let's all hope that 2008 doesn't leave another coal in the electoral sock.
Money - It's a Crime... (Clinton Judges, Take 1)
A federal judge just ruled that money is discriminatory.
The government discriminates against blind people by printing money that all looks and feels the same, a federal judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could change the face of American currency.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn't tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it.
The American Council of the Blind has proposed several options, including printing bills of differing sizes, adding embossed dots or foil to the paper or using raised ink.
And here's a shocker: Judge James Robertson was appointed by -- wait for it -- President Bill Clinton! He was nominated in 1994 and approved that same year, when Democrats still controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House (which evidently didn't violate the "separation of powers" doctrine and wasn't the sign of a looming "unitary executive" -- as it was during the time that Republicans controlled all three branches).
So what is wrong with this picture? Simply this: Judge Robertson evidently believes that if a person has a disability, then it is the duty of society at large (which means the taxpayers) to reinvent itself in order to "reenable" him, to make him whole. In other words, if Joe is blind, it is society's duty to completely compensate for his blindness... to make blindness utterly non-disabling.
Because otherwise, society is discriminating against Joe by not compensating him for his own handicap. They are violating the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act of Blob Dole.
In the march of risible court decisions, whose lineage is as long as Adam's and Eve's, this may perhaps be the most asinine in court history. Now there's a record to inspire awe!
By the same reasoning, every public library in the country discriminates against blind people unless it carries a Braille copy of every single book in the collection. And every CD is discriminatory unless the complete score and lyrics of all songs are printed somewhere on the jewel case (preferably also in Braille, if we don't want to discriminate against people who are both deaf and blind!)
Or maybe this only applies to government facilities and programs. Fair enough; I accept the limitation. But at some point, the Grand Canyon must install loudspeakers permanently droning on, as they describe the view from every scenic outlook, for the benefit of blind tourists.
And those funny chirps and yelps that the pedestrian crosswalk lights emit to tell blind walkers when to cross are good but not enough: hasn't anybody given a thought to the poor, beleagured, and discriminated against blind drivers? The traffic signals themselves should scream out their current color -- in every language that the local community employs to print government forms. Heavens, man! On your feet!
Naturally, every house must be retrofitted with a flashing indoor warning light that illuminates every room with a hellish glow in the event the air-raid sirens blow... else how will the deaf know to duck and cover?
Speaking (or signing) of which, don't public concerts in the city park violate somebody's right not to be inconvenienced in any way by his own deafness? Either stop them or supply earplugs to the hearing unimpaired so all will be equally unable to enjoy Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- or at least enjoy it no better than he himself could.
And what about public auctions of property seized from drug dealers... how can the mute bid on the Ferraris and cigarette boats the DEA has cluttering up their warehouses? I suppose they could wave their hands to signal a bid. Unless they're blind, in which case they won't know how much money they have.
We needn't even get into the Boston and L.A. marathons; sure, the wheelchair bound can run (well, roll) in them... but it's nearly impossible for them to win! What an inconvenience. Next Thursday, I understand Judge Robertson will issue a preliminary ruling (in the case of Harrison Bergeron v. the People) that henceforth, all able-bodied marathon runners will be required to carry weights, like jockeys, just to even things up.
And now we come to the pizza resistance, the clowning glory: I've noticed that when I fill out my income tax return, it taxes my brain quite a bit to follow those labyrinthian instructions on the back of each form. It's a good thing I'm smart and literate. But many Americans -- some of them people of color! -- are neither smarter than the average nor particularly good at reading legalese. (In fact, I read somewhere that as much as half the population is below median IQ. I'm sorry, I can't find the citation.)
Clearly this goes far beyond a disadvantage: there are actual measurable damages here, as these people cannot fill out their own tax returns and must hire CPAs or lawyers to do it for them. Ouch!
Now, one way to resolve this problem is for Judge Robertson to order the IRS to make their forms simple enough that even a simpleton can fill them out. But this doesn't completely solve the problem, as many people fall below the medical community's precise measurement of simpletonhood. Ness. Hood. Whatevery.
Besides, it's clearly beyond the purview of the courts to order the IRS to do its job.
Since there is no way to raise every (I'm reading the official categories in order of increasing dumbth) moron, dolt, bonehead, cementhead, halfwit, lackwit, numbskull, vacuum brain, microcephalic, and Katzenjammer up to the level of smarties, the only alternative is to lower the rest of society down to the level of the lunkheaded.
Judge Robertson has already been considering possibilities, including the forced watching of Gilligan's Island reruns interspersed around the Best Boy's cut of An Inconvenient Truth. But the judge indicates he would leave up to Congress which particular season of the sitcom, as the federal judiciary must not overstep its jurisdiction.
Speaking of inconvenient truths, here's one: disabled people are not as able as able-bodied people. That's more or less the definition of "disabled."
Thus, there are some things they simply cannot do, or at least not do as well as others. Of course, I can't dance like Fred Astaire or play baseball as well as Fidel Castro (in his youth; I could probably hold my own today)... so there are compensations. Try as the courts might, I'm skeptical they will be able to make everybody in the country equal in ability to everybody else; they can, however, succeed in making us all equally poor and equally miserable. In fact, they're well underway along this road already.
Instead of trying to equalize everybody's experience of life, perhaps they should focus on ensuring that everybody, including the white male Christian, has equal justice before the court and under the law, and around the bend, over the rainbow, and through the woods to Grandmother's house.
Heck, that should be hard enough, what with the whole OJ Simpson/Robert Blake phenomenon.
November 29, 2006
Intimidating Imams and Ludicrous Lawsuits
The story of the six Intimidating Imams, whose suspicious behavior caused them to be chucked off an airplane at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport, is starting to smell more and more like a conspiracy...
At first, it just seemed that six obnoxious, insensitive, and clueless Imams, who did not understand the concept of TPO (time, place, and occasion), exhibited behavior that would worry almost anyone -- and then got upset about being questioned by the police. But the more details I read, the less I believe they were simply oblivious to the surroundings:
- They prayed loudly and as a group at the gate and made a point of criticizing the United States for everyone to hear before boarding;
- Three normal-sized Imams asked for seatbelt extenders. Rather than put them on, they placed the extenders -- which would make excellent weapons -- under their seats, within easy reach;
- Two of them then switched to unassigned first class seats, thus positioning the six around the cabin in a formation eerily reminiscent of the 911 hijackers.
The overtly (and deliberately) suspicious behavior of the Intimidating Imams cannot be dismissed as clueless; it was far too organized. They knew exactly what they were doing, and it was purposeful: the intention, made clear by their subsequent legal action, was to scare the crew and passengers enough to get kicked off the plane.
This gave them the perfect opportunity to raise a hue and cry about racism and racial profiling -- providing a cause of action to file a "civil-rights" lawsuit.
In fact, one of the Intimidating Imams has been involved in just such a lawsuit before:
Then there's the case of Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi, two Arizona college students removed from an America West flight after twice trying to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a dry run for the 9/11 hijackings, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the students had traveled to Afghanistan. Another became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.
Even so, the pair filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than the leader of the six imams kicked off the US Airways flight this week.
Turns out the students attended the Tucson, Ariz., mosque of Sheikh Omar Shahin, a Jordan native. Shahin has been the protesters' public face, even returning to the US Airways ticket counter at the Minneapolis airport to scold agents before the cameras.
The goal of the lawsuit is not simply to make money; it's much more sinister than that: the Intimidating Imams are trying to bully Americans into submitting to the "religion of peace" by manipulating our own cultural sensibilities, our legal system, and the incoming congressional majority Democrats.
Ultimately, the goal of such Islamists is to outlaw all criticism of Moslems or Islam itself, as in nearly all Islamic countries. But they intend to start by getting the incoming Congress to pass special legislation forbidding the "racial" or behavioral profiling of Moslems.
They figure they can use the appropriate code words and intimidate politically correct, weak-kneed Americans so much, they will be afraid to fight back. After all, it's worked in Europe.
In France, political correctness has gotten so ridiculous that the French media cannot even bring themselves to identify the gangs who burn a hundred cars a day (on a "relatively quiet day") as radical Moslems, not even after they seriously burned a young woman on a bus. Attacks on the police by Moslem youths during this "French intifada" have become so common that the police cannot even protect themselves, and instead are ceding swaths of territory to the intifada -- and essentially allowing those areas (some in Paris itself) to be governed under sharia law.
The same thing is starting to happen in Great Britain, though it's not so bad there yet. Dafydd will write about this in a subsequent post.
Nowadays, throughout much of Europe and nearly all the ummah, criticizing Islam, or even so much as speaking out against wearing the veil, can land you in 24-hour police protection... or the morgue. Militant Islamists are trying to bring this same war to America; let's not forget that the Intimidating Imams did not act out their little passion play in a vacuum... MSP is the same airport where Moslem taxi drivers have demanded they not be penalized for refusing to ferry passengers who are carrying alcohol; a cabbie of any other religion who refuses to carry a lawful fare is fined or even fired.
Four of six Intimidating Imams are now working hand-in-sock-puppet with the known Islamic terrorist-supporting organization CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- which now boasts its own member of Congress -- to bring their lawsuit. They are traveling around the country (who is sponsoring their travel?) and appearing on TV talk shows to promote their legal cause and disseminate anti-American propaganda. And the American media is lapping it up.
I don't have a transcript, but these are a couple of the tough, penetrating questions CNN’s Paula Zahn asked the Imams on her show:
- "How humiliating was this experience?"
- "Do you think, after 911, that Moslems have been unfairly targeted?"
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX, 100%) has also chimed in, according to the Washington Times story above:
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said the September 11 terrorist attacks "cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans."
"Understandably, the imams felt profiled, humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment," she said.
So according to Jackson-Lee, not only can't we profile on racial or religious grounds -- we cannot even profile based upon suspicious behavior! (Maybe she thinks it's a case of "threatening while Moslem.")
Judging by the response of American liberals, one must say that Phase One of the Imam's strategy has worked. We're not yet in the dire situation of many European countries; but that can change almost overnight if we allow this nonsense to continue.
If we refuse even to profile suspicious behavior, then all the banning of liquids and X-Raying bags at the airport won’t do any good: nothing better indicates mal intent than threatening behavior.
We must realize we are at war -- war against radical Islamism and jihadism, as represented by these very Imams and their CAIRing sponsors. We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated or bullied into submission. This is our country, these are our lives, and we must protect and defend them. Passengers and flight crews -- all Americans everywhere -- must be vigilant against such highly suspicious or odd behavior... it's our first and best defense against attack, something the Israelis discovered long ago.
There is one thing that radical Moslems don't understand: we Americans are the people who refuse to give up our guns. We are the people who say “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.” For the same reason, I’d rather be called a racist by reporting potential terrorists than keep my mouth shut from fear of offending someone's sensibilities -- and be blown up.
I sure hope all my fellow passengers feel the same.
November 21, 2006
Ban it, Janet!
Oh ho! Janet Reno -- you remember her? -- has gone to court, leading a bunch of lesser legal accolytes to make it look like a movement, to overturn the anti-terrorism Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA).
The MCA was passed by Congress at the end of September 2006; it created the military commissions... you recall, the law responding to the Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court. It passed in the House by 253 to 168 (with 34 Democrats supporting it), and in the Senate by 65 to 34 with 12 Democrats supporting. (In the House, 7 Republicans voted against the bill; in the Senate, the only Republican to vote against it was -- wait for it -- Lincoln Chafee. (Aren't you sad that he's gone?)
Anyway, Stretch Reno really, really dislikes the MCA, and she wants it gone. She and her seven new best pals insist that terrorists can easily be tried in the ordinary criminal-justice system, alongside carjackers and welfare defrauders:
"The existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States -- without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years," the attorneys wrote.
They are of course correct that terrorist suspects can easily be tried by the CJS; what they can't be is convicted, which is fine by Reno and the Seven Consiglieri.
The problem with the CJS is discovery, of course: any smart lawyer (probably supplied by al-Qaeda) will demand all sorts of highly classified documents, claiming they are all vital and essential to his client's defense. Since there is no way that the federal administration can release such mission-critical information to terrorists and their terrorist shysters (think Lynne Stewart), they will refuse... and that will immediately trigger many federal judges to dismiss all charges and order the terrorist freed. Simplicity itself!
Thus, if Janet Reno, the last Democratic Attorney General, has her way, the carefully crafted work of Congress over the past year plus will be thrown out the window; instead, terrorist suspect will be tried by ordinary civilian courts in a "catch and release" program that will take our breath away. Perhaps quite literally.
So the real question before the house is... will the incoming Democratic majority in Congress support this lawsuit filed by their top cop? Will they agree that terrorist suspect should only be tried by civilian courts, where the terrorists' rights can be fully protected (and to hell with the rest of us)?
Or will they diss Hillary Clinton's closest ally and confidant among President Clinton's cabinet and argue for some form of military commissions... even if they don't particularly like the law that was actually enacted?
Or the most likely, in my opinion: will Democrats duck this issue, focusing instead on such urgent national business as raising the minimum wage and getting Alcee Hastings situated as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?
No predictions today -- "only time will tell!"
September 9, 2006
Bill Clinton: Pull The Path to 9/11!
So now it's come to this: former President Bill Clinton has formally demanded, through his attorneys, that ABC simply shelve its 5-hour, $40 million docudrama, the Path to 9/11.
Well... maybe; I'm a little suspicious, given that the source for this claim is a blog that was linked on Drudge. None of the elite media is carrying this story, though all of them carried many other stories about the Democrat protest against the flick... and many others have demanded that it be pulled and not aired.
While I have no reason to doubt the accuracy (or veracity) of Greg Sargent, the author, I'm still skeptical about this. Sargent appears to be a sincere liberal who has posted many similar letters on his TPMCafe blog (some of which were straight from his host, Joshua Michah Marshall of Talking Points Memo) as well as other anti-Bush, anti-GOP posts; and this letter would certainly be in keeping with Clinton's personal attack on the movie yesterday.
So it's probably true and accurate; but bear in mind that this letter is not yet well sourced.
But what the heck... let's run with it anyway!
No reason is given to pull the movie other than the lawyers' claim that the movie departs from the partisan Democratic version of recent history. (Oddly, I don't recall them having any particular problem with Erin Brockovich or All the President's Men.)
The idea that a Hollywood movie, even one touted as being a "true story," must be held to rigorous historical standards is flatly comical. The Amityville Horror was promoted as a "true, factual story;" and what about Schindler's List? The real Oskar Schindler gave his Jewish workers guns, telling them that if they were discovered, it would be better to die in combat than be sent back to the death camps. Did we see that in the Steven Spielberg movie?
More recently, we have the movie Munich. Several of the Mossad agents -- who are still alive -- stepped forward to say that the movie was totally wrong in many respects... the most important of which was portraying them as tortured souls who doubted the morality of what they were doing (executing, one by one, the architects of the 1972 massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, committed by Black September -- a front group for the PLO). To a man, they said they never had any such qualms about their mission.
Where were these finicky Democrats back then? I'm straining my brain to the white meat, but I can't think of even one who stepped forward to chastise Spielberg for either of those two a-historical "historical" docudramas.
The question is never whether a movie must be a strictly factual account; that would be a "documentary." By definition, a docudrama makes some stuff up, rewrites events, and combines characters, all for dramatic purposes. The question should be, how close to reality is the movie?
And from everything I've read about the antiterrorism history of the past few decades -- which is probably considerably more than Bill Clinton or his lawyers have read -- the Path to 9/11 is about as close to reality as Hollywood is ever likely to get. Live with it.
I have to wonder: suppose, as a thought experiment, a movie were made that simply blamed everything on President Bush, instead of insisting that Bill "Party Time" Clinton shoulder his much larger fair share for eight years of malign neglect. Suppose a movie were made that falsely claimed that Clinton was a dynamo of antiterrorist fervor, a zealous GWOT warrior who went to bed every night angry at the terrorists and woke up even angrier.
Suppose this movie also portrayed Bush as a dunce, controlled by vast, shadowy puppeteers -- multinational corporations (Halliburton, the oil barons, Coors), the neocons (but only the Jewish ones), and the military industrial complex. Suppose the movie portrayed Bush as callous and uncaring, eager to send young Americans to die just to line his own pockets. Suppose it even hinted darkly that Bush was somehow complicit in, or at least had foreknowledge of the pending 9/11 attack, but let it go forward anyway because it furthered the Blofeldian schemes of this feeble-minded evil genius.
If such a version of the attacks were presented in movie form, would these Democratic voices, so solicitous today of the "historical record" and the 9/11 Commission report, be as quick to leap forward, insist upon changes, and finally demand that the movie be yanked from distribution and never shown?
Somehow, in this purely hypothetical example, I doubt it. I suspect instead that they would honor and fête the filmmaker, call him one of the most important political voices of the twenty-first century, and maybe even give him a box seat at the next Democratic National Convention.
Sitting right next to Jimmy Carter, perhaps. You think?
May 24, 2006
Stop the Party - Crack Those Books!
We neglected to comment on the May 12th decision by a goofy California state judge to overturn the rule in the public schools requiring students to pass an "exit exam" before they can receive their high-school diplomas. (It was the press of other issues, honest!)
High school seniors who flunk the controversial state exit exam may be able to graduate next month anyway, according to a judge's tentative ruling issued late Monday.
Setting the stage for heated debate in court today between supporters and opponents of the California High School Exit Exam, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman said he is likely to rule that the test cannot take effect this year as scheduled....
The court's preliminary injunction against the state would allow students to graduate this year if they've met all requirements for graduation - other than passing the test of basic math and English skills. It would mark a huge setback for state officials, who are eager to implement the test they see as the cornerstone of California's school accountability system.
What's worse, the judge refused to stay his own ruling while an appeal was heard. He clearly hoped the wheels of law would grind so slowly that it would be impossible to require the class of 2006 to actually know what they had been taught.
The basic problem, according to Judge Freedman, is that the test is "discriminatory" -- because predictably, different groups will perform differently on the test. But this same argument can be made for any test in any class, any grade, any imaginable method of evaluating the progress of students: some students will perform well, others will not.
Any evaluation whatsoever is fundamentally based upon "discrimination": discriminating between those who have learnt the knowledge and those who have not. And sadly, so long as different racial subgroups have different, culture-based attitudes about schooling -- and so long as boys are different from girls -- those differences among students will tend to clump into racial and gender classifications.
To be perfectly blunt about it, black and Hispanic male students whose subculture is less oriented towards sedentary study and more towards aggressive, even violent interactions will not do as well on the test (as a group) as Asians, and Jews, whose subcultures are precisely the opposite on this issue... or even black and Hispanic female students, who perform markedly better at this level. The performance of white students will be somewhere in the middle. So far, at least, nobody has found a way to change this.
Thus, for any academic test, Asians and Jews will perform the best (again, as a group), whites and black and Hispanic girls in the middle, and black and Hispanic boys at the bottom. But often, teachers are appalled at the pattern they see... and they use grade inflation to make up for this disparity. Many teachers -- perhaps unconsciously, perhaps in response to school rules -- will "re-norm" black and Hispanic male students upwards, awarding them grades that they do not deserve by their individual performance.
Many of those unfairly re-normed students (and of course individual, poorly performing whites, Asians, and Jews as well) have gone all the way through 13 grades of kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools, received a high-school diploma -- yet have been unable to read, write, or compute at even a middle-school level.
The solution of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit is to keep doing that, but more and harder:
If the tentative ruling stands, "this will be a historic ruling for all children in California because Freedman is telling the state, 'You cannot deny a student a diploma if they have not received adequate classroom materials,' " said Arturo Gonzalez, a San Francisco attorney representing students who have failed the exit exam but passed all other graduation requirements.
"You just can't do that," he said. "Its unfair, and it's illegal."
One of the major purposes of the California exit exam is to serve as a last chance to smoke out those students who have managed to duck education for years... aided and abetted by soft-hearted, soft-headed parents, teachers, and school administrators. When these kids fail the exit exam and realize they won't be graduating until they learn the material, it puts huge pressure on these students to take remedial classes and actually bring themselves up to the standards.
That good benefit was lost when Judge Freedman removed the requirement; he became the chief "enabler" of the cultural rejection of learning. Fortunately, however, some of the adults in the California judiciary are less interested in enabling destructive attitudes that in making sure kids are actually, you know, educated. Today, the California State Supreme Court itself issued a preliminary stay on Judge Freedman's ruling... and they did so in plenty of time to make the requirement possible for this year (since the test has already been given).
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state high school exit exam as a graduation requirement for this year’s senior class, leaving 47,000 high school students who failed the test in danger of not graduating.
The high court ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings in the case, but with schools ready to hold commencement ceremonies as soon as this weekend, a resolution appeared unlikely before then....
This year's class was the first in which passing the test of 10th grade English and eighth grade math and algebra was required for graduation.
Five of the seven justices sounded very skeptical of Freedman's decision:
Still, the justices said they were not convinced that Freedman ruled correctly. "At this juncture this court is not persuaded that the relief granted by the trial court's preliminary injunction ... would be an appropriate remedy," five of the seven justices wrote.
The case itself was not decided; it still must work it way through the appellate courts, and only then will one side or the other appeal it to the Supreme Court. But this still is very encouraging; such a clear signal that the State Supreme Court is likely prepared to strike this decision down should make the appellate court less sanguine about upholding it.
Accountability and responsibility must be integral parts of education; because in the end, education is not about teachers teaching... it's about students learning.
Keep your fingers dry and your powder crossed....
May 5, 2006
A Herculean Effort to Kick Wal-Mart In the Shins
The city of Hercules, CA, a San Francisco suburb just north of Oakland and located on San Pablo Bay (which connects to San Francisco Bay), is the latest example of a city abusing powers of eminent domain to seize property from one commercial interest to sell to another. But in this case, it appears to be a purely political move out of condescension towards the current owner: Wal-Mart.
The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation's largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.
Briefly, Hercules decided it was going to build a major, upscale "neighborhood shopping center." When Wal-Mart heard that, it decided it would be good to have a Wal-Mart store there too; so it bought some adjacent property and submitted a plan to the city council.
But the Bay Area liberals decided that a Wal-Mart was too déclassé for their aristocratic image.
(Hercules sits in Contra Costa County, which in 2004 went for Kerry over Bush by 26%. Maybe they just liked Jean le Kerry because he was more of an aristo than Texas George?)
Wal-Mart wants to build a store in the booming East Bay town of Hercules, but critics there say the giant discount retailer would be too lowbrow for upscale locals.
On Thursday, opponents publicized an economic impact analysis that said Wal-Mart serves shoppers with a typical annual income of less than $50,000 -- far less than the nearly $90,000 average in Hercules.
"They (the stores) don't have to be totally upscale, but we need some better things," said opponent Tom Petersen, a psychologist who lives in an area of million-dollar plus homes called Victoria by the Bay.
Aghast at the thought of a vulgar Wal-Mart among the prize doves, the city council was poised to reject the plan, when Wal-Mart withdrew it. In response, the city council quickly tried to buy the land away from the lowbrow company... but Wal-Mart refused to sell.
Instead, it offered a new plan that was more in keeping with the overall design for the upscale Waterford District:
On March 31, however, Wal-Mart submitted a new application that it said substantially conforms to city requirements. The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.
"What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,'' she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a "David and Goliath'' struggle. "At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time.''
(In this case, "a long time" means four months, since Wal-Mart originally bought the property in November, 2005.)
Outraged that Wal-Mart would not take the back of Hercules' hand for an answer -- there'll be floggings, I can assure you! -- the city has now moved to institue eminent domain and take the property by force.
This is precisely what we all feared when the Supreme Court decided the Kelo v. New London case: that cities would begin using eminent domain, the seizure of private property for public use, simply as a weapon in negotiations for buying property: Hercules offers some amount less than Wal-Mart wants for the land; but if Wal-Mart refuses, Hercules will simply seize the property and pay whatever they decide it's worth... possibly less than they originally offered.
It is, quite simply, legalized extortion... for which we have to thank the liberal faction of the Supreme Court of the United States.
So what is the state of California going to do about it?
November 19, 2005
Agnostic Defends Faithful Against Atheist
This case could not have come at a better time:
Atheist Now Sues to Take Motto Off Money
Nov 18, 2005
By David Kravets
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) - An atheist who has spent four years trying to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited in public schools is now challenging the motto printed on U.S. currency because it refers to God.
Michael Newdow seeks to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. coins and dollar bills, claiming in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the motto is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. [Emphasis added]
I believe the result of this case is obvious: the Supreme Court will rule against Newdow, probably on a 5-4 decision led by the Chief Justice.
Let's start with the specifics: there is no constitutional prohibition against an "endorsement of religion." There is a First-Amendment ban on establishing a religion, but establishing and endorsing are completely separate. To the extent that judges pretend there is such a ban (for example, the Ninth Circuit in Michael Newdow's first Pledge of Allegiance case), they are covertly amending the Constitution -- and they well know it.
For this to stick, however, you need a Supreme Court to go along with the game and pretend that merely mentioning the fact that the nation was founded by men who believed in God, or at least "Nature and Nature's God," and who did in fact put their trust in that deity, violates the Constitution written by those very same Founders. If that's a logical inference, then I am Marie of Romania.
This should perhaps ring a bell:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The Declaration of Independence is the foremost foundational document of our nation; all else, including the revered Constitution, was derived from this document. And this document itself was incorporated into federal law more than 125 years ago as one of the Organic Laws of the United States (along with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787... and to answer Scott Johnson's question at the end of the Power Line piece, the Northwest Ordinance was the first piece of legislation from the Continental Congress -- predating even the Constitution -- that made it clear the United States would expand westward across the continent... and would do so by creating new states, rather than by making existing states larger; thus, it was every bit as influential on the "shape" of the United States as was the Constitution itself).
Sorry about the digression. Where was I? Oh yes, the primary foundational document unambiguously puts trust in God... hence the money motto. The phrase "in God we trust" is therefore historical, traditional, and descriptive; while the First Amendment only prohibits a prescriptive establishment of religion, such as the Church of England, and any proscription of the free-exercise of religion.
But Scott notes an important point in that Power Line piece I just linked, discussing the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals' agreement with Newdow that the Pledge was unconstitutional:
One interesting facet of the decision is that it only modestly extends the Supreme Court's misguided First Amendment jurisprudence on the subject of religion in the schools; I have read very little suggesting that the decision misapplies the jurisprudence.
So in fact, Newdow is making a good "paper bet" that the Supreme Court will play along with the charade; after all, it always has in the past. Even when they struck down the Ninth's decision, they did so on the weakest of all possible grounds: the Court simply found that Michael Newdow had no standing to sue on behalf of his daughter because he did not have custody. They never addressed the merits of the case.
So why is this the best possible time? Because we are virtually assured that this time, the case will actually be decided on the merits -- and that this time too, the Court will prune away that "misguided First Amendment jurisprudence on the subject of religion."
Not because of the changes in the makeup of the Court; Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist, replaced by Samuel Alito and John Roberts respectively, joined with Clarence Thomas the last time through, calling on the Court to decide the actual issue, rather than punting.
So why did they punt last time? I deduce it was because it would have ended up a four-four tie had they ruled on the merits.
The problem with the Pledge case was that Antonin Scalia recused himself, since he had given a speech on the subject of the case; so there were only eight justices hearing it. Now, let's suppose there were five justices ready to rule that the Pledge was indeed unconstitutional. In that case, I cannot imagine they would have gone along with booting the case on a technicality that they well could have ignored, or at least signaling in their opinions that if he refiles properly (as he now has done in Son of the Pledge of Allegiance), he'll be very happy with the results.
But by the same token, we know there were three justices who believed it was constitutional: Thomas, O'Connor, and Rehnquist. If there were two more, even without Scalia, then they would have done what they said they wanted to do: ruled on the merits and struck down the Ninth's decision more substantively.
Ergo, with my two lemmas above -- no five justices in favor of upholding the Ninth, nor five in favor of overturning it on substantive matters -- plus the Scalia recusal, I finally conclude that the score was 4-4... hence the compromise.
And that leaves Antonin Scalia. I believe that Scalia would have seen the light on the Pledge case and will do so in the coinage case: that the phrase is no more an establishment of religion than is the eye-and-pyramid seal an establishment of Freemasonry. Therefore, assuming Scalia can keep his piehole shut this time and needn't recuse himself, the case will probably hinge 5-4 in favor of sending Newdow away with a flea in his ear.
In fact, I think I can even name the five justices who will so rule: Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy. Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens (assuming he's still sucking air and not retired by then) will vote with Newdow... and David Souter is a coin-toss on this issue, in my opinion.
Hm, just as I thought: it was obvious, after all!
November 15, 2005
Ooo-rah! I have internet connectivity again, don't know for how long.
I have to share this one with y'all; it's too delicious to consume all by myself.... (Hat tip to Lee Porter.)
From the Associated Press:
1,100 Lawyers Leave Saddam Defense Team
By Jamal Halaby, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Amman, Jordan (AP)
Some 1,100 Iraqi lawyers have withdrawn from Saddam Hussein's defense team, citing insufficient protection following the slayings of two peers representing co-defendants of the ousted Iraqi leader.
Yes, isn't it odd? After their client murdered hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Iraqis, these lawyers are shocked, shocked to find that some Iraqis don't take kindly to the rush of law jockeys to defend the monster. (What is the defense going to be... that it was somebody else, not Saddam Hussein, running Iraq all that time?)
However, the head of the investigative judges in Saddam's dozen cases, Raid Juhi, said Sunday the withdrawal of the defense team "will not affect the work of the court and it will continue its legal measures."
Translation: this is not particularly a trial to discover whether the accused actually did bad things; we pretty much know that. This is a show trial designed to demonstrate to ex-Baathists, once and for all, that they are no longer in charge and never will be again.
There are times when a show trial is the most proper and correct form of judicial proceeding.
After the killing of the first lawyer, defense attorneys announced they would not cooperate with the court and would refuse to appear at the next session until they were satisfied with security.
Laith Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said the lawyers twice turned down invitations to move to the Green Zone, where they could be protected by U.S. and other international troops.
The law jockeys demand complete security -- but not from the Americans. Who do they expect to protect them, the Red Crescent? Al Jazeera? Ramsey Clark?
I find this hilarious. 1,100 attorneys can't wait to sign aboard to defend Saddam Hussein; his rights must be protected! But not if their own lives might be in jeopardy (since they refuse our protection).
I reckon these lawyers think more highly of their own skins than they do of the 148 Shiites of Dujail. Who would have imagined it?
October 20, 2005
Right to Own Weapons...
Correction... this is a great day for litigation reform!
AP and all the nets are reporting a fantastic breakthrough -- in something that should have been a no-brainer. Congress has finally agreed that victims of criminal misuse of firearms cannot sue the gun manufacturer for damages (presumably for having the temerity to manufacture products that can potentially be misused). Bush is, of course, expected to sign the bill into law.
(In a startling corollary development, Congress also enacted legislation preventing victims of drunk drivers from suing Chevrolet and Toyota for building cars in the first place.)
The real intent is clear: unable to persuade American voters to vote to ban guns (perhaps due to that pesky Second Amendment), the Left decided to try to sue them out of existence by legally blaming gun manufacturers for the actions of criminals who buy, borrow, or steal guns to commit their crimes.
As A.E. Van Vogt wrote in "the Weapon Shops of Isher":
The right to own weapons is the right to be free.
Today, thankfully, America is the land of the freer.
Do You Want Subpoenas With That?
Today is a very good day for litigation reform.
Responding to a swarm of bizarre and offensive lawsuits "on behalf of" fat kids -- lawsuits that seek damages from fast-food restaurants for daring to sell food other than carrot sticks and tossed chard salads -- the House of Representatives has (once again) passed a bill that would throw these outlandish suits out of court.
The legal theory appears to be that when kids and their parents are faced with the trauma of a hamburger, their brains literally shut down, and resistance is futile. They're assimilated into the McBorg. Toss in a bag of fries, and it may as well be a crime against humanity.
It has nothing to do with kids; these suits are being pushed by two groups: greedy parents who want simultaneously to get rich via life's lottery (as Rush Limbaugh called tort litigation) and find somebody to blame other than themselves for their kids being obese -- and professional pleasure haters, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group which brought you the shocking news that popcorn, pizza, chow mein, and burritos are fattening if indulged to excess.
Oh, and trial lawyers steaming off of their success at blaming "Big Tobacco" for smoking; all right, three groups.
"But of course this silly legislative effort has nothing to do with encouraging personal responsibility and everything to do with pleasing a powerful and politically connected industry," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.
I reckon Mr. Jacobson believes the best way to "encourag[e] personal responsibility" is to blame Big Food for your stupid eating choices.
Alas, it's not a given that the Senate will follow suit. The House passed essentially the same bill last year, but the Senate failed to act. Maybe they just ran out of time, or maybe they just ran out of courage: I'll believe it when I believe it, when the McFood Protection Act of 2005 lands on President Bush's desk.
Then he can sign it with an ink-stained french fry.
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