Thursday, June 30, 2005

Light blogging ahead for the next 10 days

Yes, you read that correctly. I have to take a break for 10 days. Back on July 11th.

In the meantime, my son asked me to find his favorite political ad of the US presidential election of 2004. It features a toddler talking babble and in subtitles, there is a remarkably poignant anti-Bush message.

Here is the URL: http://www.zacharymaxwell.com/video/bushmessagemov.htm

Take care and have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend. As the wonderfully cranky and deeply humane John Adams said at the time the Declaration of Independence was completed:

"I am apt to believe that it (the Declaration of Independence) will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

Addendum: For those noting the specific citation to God, please note Adams wrote this in a private letter to his wife, Abigail. Also, the letter was written in early July 1776, about 14 years before the Constitution and the subsequent First Amendment was ratified. A lot happened during that time, too, such that assorted religious zealots should not make too much of Adams' refrence to "Devotion to God Almighty" concerning the Declaration of Independence celebrations.

7/1/05 Addendum: Here are a few "choice" quotes from John Adams about religion. He was one tough hombre, as were the other famous American Founders quoted on that particular page.

Kelo Part II: some "legal 'inside baseball'" comments

Kelo v. New London (2005), the latest US Supreme Court opinion on the power of government to seize private property for public development, caught most commentators on television by surprise. That says more about the ignorance of those commentators than anything else.

What was surprising was Justice O'Connor writing an impassioned Ayn Rand-esque dissenting opinion, complete with these statements in her dissent's opening paragraph:

"Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

Um, Justice O'Connor? Didn't you write the majority opinion in Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229 (1984), which upheld the State of Hawaii taking land from rich landowners to give to other private, but smaller landowners in order "to attack certain perceived evils of concentrated property ownership in Hawaii - a legitimate public purpose." (467 US at 245). Go ahead, read that sentence in the decision for yourself. She said it and even Rehnquist, another dissenter in Kelo, signed off on it.

Remember how David Garrow recently, and in my view, unfairly wrote that Justice Blackmun was influenced by his law clerks, especially in later years? Well, something akin to that must have occurred in Kelo. Just as I don't recall O'Connor writing a pithy sort of remark against another justice before the one she threw at Scalia in the 10 Commandments decision in McCreary (see this post below), her Ayn Randian rhetoric was on full blast in her dissent in Kelo--with no admission that the Hawaiian takings case she wrote needed to be overruled to be consistent with her view in Kelo.

O'Connor, in the Hawaii case, specifically held it was long-standing law that if the state courts and even legislature thought an eminent domain plan was reasonable, the Supreme Court of the US must show it great deference. See: 467 US at 244. That is what occurred in Kelo as the Connecicut Supreme Court upheld the plan as rational and not done for nefarious purposes. O'Connor's majority opinion in the Hawaii case also held:

"The Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public. "It is not essential that the entire community, nor even any considerable portion, . . . directly enjoy or participate in any improvement in order [for it] to constitute a public use." Ibid. (Emphasis and parenthesis added)

Yet, O'Connor's opening paragraph in her dissent in Kelo patently asserts that the marjority in Kelo "abandons...(its) long-held, basic limitation on government power." Huh? If you're going to use harsh rhetoric, Madame Justice, at least check what you have personally written in the past. Just read her attempt to distinguish the Hawaii case in her dissent. It appears grafted on and forced. In short, the attempt to distinguish the Hawaii case makes no sense.

In this regard, score one for Justice Clarence Thomas, who, in his dissent, understood that in order to reverse the Connecticut Supreme Court in Kelo, one had to overrule a few cases to start with, including the Hawaii case. Thomas also gives a rather crabbed, anti-Federalist history of "takings" cases, but that is par for Justice Thomas course, isn't it? His job is to give Big Tony Scalia a breather every once in awhile and he does so here.

Final thoughts:

I recall my Property Law professor in my first year of law school (in 1979!) saying that if the government comes calling to bulldoze your house, in most instances, you will only be arguing over how much the government will pay you. She was joking, of course, unlike some wingnuts who take such formulations seriously (see Kelo I post below). Yes, there have been more than a few cases since then, particularly in the early to mid-1990s where the Supreme Court stopped a governmental Coastal Commission from arbitrarily forcing open beach access in rich communities like Malibu, California, but that did not translate into overturning basic legislative governmental powers to economically develop and redevelop entire communities that do not violate due process and equal protection.

I also will state I hate it when city councils sell out economically depressed communities for Wal-Mart, sports franchises and the like. Despite the more surprisingly compelling case made by Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion in Kelo regarding the need for the redevelopment project in New London, Connecticut, I still chafed at the redevelopment plan because I did not understand why the city couldn't find a way to protect at least some of the homeowners like the woman whose family owned the home there for 100 years. And why couldn't they come up with an even better community oriented plan of say more parks and more affordable housing? But my Justice Frankfurter side of deferring, when it comes to economic issues, to the legislatures of this nation, pushes me toward a reluctant upholding of the Kelo decision.

(Edited)

Kelo I: Seizure of Justice Souter's Home Would Violate Due Process, Contrary to Wingnuts

A wingnut wants to seize Justice David Souter's home in New Hampshire because he claims the Kelo v. New London decision means that governments can "take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner."

Um, no.

It takes more than that, contrary to the wingnut brigade.

First, a "government taking" (for "just compensation") of a single home for malicious reasons would be suspicious and therefore lacking the deference given to the wide range of planning and analysis that went into the city of New London's re-development decision (see Justice Kennedy's detailed explanation of this planning in his concurring opinion). Said Justice Kennedy, who maybe realized he needs to anticipate the unreasoning knuckle-draggers out there:

"A court applying 'rational-basis' review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, just as a court applying rational-basis review under the Equal Protection Clause must strike down a government classification that is clearly intended to injure a particular class of private parties, with only incidental or pretextual public justifications. See Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U. S. 432, 446-447, 450 (1985); Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528, 533-536 (1973)."

The majority opinion concurred with such a view when it stated:

"It is further argued that without a bright-line rule (against takings by the government) nothing would stop a city from transferring citizen A's property to citizen B for the sole reason that citizen B will put the property to a more productive use and thus pay more taxes. Such a one-to-one transfer of property, executed outside the confines of an integrated development plan, is not presented in this case. While such an unusual exercise of government power would certainly raise a suspicion that a private purpose was afoot, the hypothetical cases posited by petitioners can be confronted if and when they arise. They do not warrant the crafting of an artificial restriction on the concept of public use (in this case)." (parenthesis added)

Second, why did the wingnuts threaten Justice Souter? Justice Stevens wrote the opinion, after all. I guess the wingnuts hate Souter because he wouldn't outlaw abortion the way the right-wing vetters of Souter thought he would. Betrayal creates deep hatred; just ask Joseph Stalin why he hunted down Leon Trotsky.

Third, even though I myself was opposed to seeing the one old woman losing her home of almost 100 years (she was not the only person, but the only one living there for any significant length of time), I had to admit the case law is solid on the side of the majority over the past 200 years in terms of eminent domain power. However, there is a certain elitist element in the overall plan for redevelopment, admittedly. Nonetheless, the US Supreme Court held that part of its decision was based upon giving deference to the State of Connecticut's Supreme Court decision upholding the eminent domain action. Hmmm...isn't that the "conservative" thing to do? You know, adherence to precedent and deferring to State court decisions?

Most people won't bother reading the cited facts of the Kelo case. However, readers of MF Blog will at least get this summary: The city of New London was facing chronic, high unemployment and was losing its population. The situation was so bad that the State of Connecticut authorized a state wide bond to help its struggling cities such as New London. The City was especially hit when the Naval Undersea Warfare Center closed, which really caught the State's attention. The State and the city managed a few years later to land Pfizer to build a large facility in the area of the town, which was along the (Connecticut) Thames River--and a ferry ride to NY's Long Island. Following Pfizer's committment, the plan was expanded to take advantage of Pfizer coming to town. The expanded plan called for creation of a park, a US Coast Guard museum, marina and "riverwalk," and the new style of urban residential housing designed to lure back higher wage professional workers. (Correction 7/2/05: The plan did not "create" a park. There was an existing park. The plan included creating more parking spaces for the park.)

Compared to building sports stadiums, which doesn't seem to bother most folks besides Ralph Nader and a few assorted leftists and libertarians, this sounds as if it is within the bounds of reasonableness. Yes, I feel terrible for the woman who is losing her family home, but the town was identified by the State of Connecticut as a "distressed community" since 1990 and much discussion (public hearings) and investigation was given to figuring out how to re-develop it (Again, see Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion).

So back to the wingnuts: When we compare the situation facing New London and the petulant wingnuts who want to bulldoze Souter's rural home to build a luxury hotel--as if that would not be in fact disruptive to the rural community where Souter makes his home--does anyone still not understand the merits of the majority decision? I ask this even if I might have drawn that line a little brighter than the majority. To put it more bluntly, the decision is judicially defensible and certainly not morally repellent.

(Edited)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Latest example of why Social Security system is fine

The economy grew by 3.8% this past quarter. What's that got to do with Social Security?

Well, the Social Secutirty trustees, in order for them to say Social Security will not be able to pay more than 70% of its benefits by 2042, assume the economy will consistently grow at an anemic rate of 1.6% every year consistently until 2042 (average of three growth rates on chart).

That rate (1.6%), by the way, is lower than nearly any single year over the past 75 years.

Why so glum? The only answer I can think of is that the Social Security trustees don't trust or even like the Social Security system very much. Kevin Drum recently conducted a useful survey of how the Trustees have had to continually push back the date of reckoning because of their consistently, unrealistically glum view of economic growth in the America.

What happens if we take another percentage, oh, say 2.5%, and plug that into the trustee's report--leaving everything else the same? Well, well, well. The Social Security system survives into the 22nd Century with no problems, leaving "the Baby Boomers" bubble (which is why we are now paying such high Soc. Sec. tax rates) long behind. End of problem--unless we simply oppose the program because they know it smells like socialism. Like these folks and these folks.

Where's the real problem? The tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by the C Plus Augustus continue to create massive annual deficits and long term debt. If anything can drag down the American system over time, the tax cuts, skewed to the top 1% to 5% of Americans, may prove to be the most significant cause of such dragging down. In the spirit of Karl Rove, I ask: Who are the traitors to America? The ones who would mire us in endless debt over time wtih no investment in roads, bridges, internal business development, etc. The ones who would continue to support Wal Mart predatory practices, including low wages for Americans, little or no health benefits, and continuing to push our manufacturing base to China through predatory pricing from manufacturers.

Again, I ask: Who are the traitors to America? The answer is clear: George Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Supreme Court decisions on 10 Commandments

I know I'm "late" in the world of internet punditry, but here are my thoughts on the Supreme Court decisions on the 10 Commandments known officially as McCreary County, Kentucky v. ACLU (2005): and Van Orden v. Perry (2005).

The majority decision by Souter in McCreary is spot on in rejecting the 10 Commandments display by over zealous religious folks in Kentucky who attempted to establish the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God as an "official" religion. Yale Constitutional law professor, Jack Balkin, at Balkinization, slams Scalia for his usual "majoritarian religions win" dissent. What is not being adequately picked up in some quarters, however, is that, in Van Orden, the Supreme Court also upheld a 10 Commandments display in Texas where the Texas government officials exhibited the 10 Commandments as part of a panoply of secular and non-secular sources of American law.

I noted something quite funny, too: Scalia, at one point, says 97% of Americans are either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim...so there! Well, that's what he is really saying, after all. In other words, if the majority want to "establish" an official religion, by God (pun intended), then let them do it! O'Connor's concurring opinion contained a pithy, but great retort to Scalia's argument (Scalia's argument might be called: "My God's got more supporters than your God or you Deist and atheistic bastards!").

Said O'Connor: "It is true that many Americans find the Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment" clause against "establishing" an official religion.

And for those who are Constitution-challenged, a historical note: The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, gave Americans "national citizenship" over States for the first time. The effect of this power given to individual Americans over State and local governments with regard to most of the Bill of Rights of the national Constitution means that most States and localities can no longer "establish" a religion, either. As we know, the First Amendment merely states "Congress" shall make no law establishing a religion.

And, by the way, what was Scalia's response to O'Connor? Poor Big Tony meekly argued that O'Connor joined, but had not written, an opinion that had cast doubt on her head-counting point--even though Scalia has to admit that most jurisprudence from the Supreme Court supports the "no head count" argument. This leads to the most pathetic aspect of Scalia's diatribe dissent--does he write any other?--which is his history of religion in the early Republic. To read Scalia, you'd think the Founders were good Christian boys who graduated from Jerry Falwell's ironically named Liberty University. Scalia's given us his history lesson in an earlier decision, whereupon he had received a smack-down from--you guessed it, Justice Souter. The case was Lee v. Weisman 505 US 577 (1992) . In Lee, Souter's concurring opinion revealed much in the way of our Founders' non-religious intent, but how they sometimes, for short-term political purposes, used religion to score political points against opponents. Some things never change, do they?

What is nice about the two 10 Commandment decisions is that, by quoting the highly religious versions of the 10 Commandments used in both Kentucky and Texas, the difference between the actual settings, and showing how cynical the Kentucky County officials were compared to the Texas county whose 10 Commandments exhibit was upheld, the Supreme Court struck a blow for moderation in this contentious area of constitutional law. The gist of today's decisions is that we cannot nor should not root out the 10 Commandments from our public life. We should, however, remain on guard against sectarian zealots who want to deny what the United States officially told the world back in 1797, i.e."...(T)he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." (Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli). (Emphasis added)

Finally, we may even begin to remember that our Constitution's Founders thought it important enough to say in the Constitution's text that there shouldn't be "religious test" for office. That clause within the Constitution should give dear Justice Scalia pause in his incomplete, semi-historical/semi-hysterical "majoritarian" argument about religion in the early days of America--especially if he was, truly, a more objective-minded texturalist, as he claims. Scalia, however, is nothing but the right-wing Republicans' version of William O. Douglas: results-oriented and politically motivated. (For a devastating attack on Douglas from so-called "liberal" Ronald Dworkin, see Dworkin's 1981 essay "Dissent on Douglas"--which the New York Review should provide for free, not subscription).

UPDATE: Later this week, a few comments on the Kelo v. New London (eminent domain) decision. While there's been some great commentary on the web, there are a couple things I found interesting in both the minority and majority opinions...

(Edited--My original post last night was wrong in not mentioning the separate Supreme Court decision on the Texas exhibit and was wrong in saying Souter had upheld the Texas exhibit (very wrong!). The reason the Texas exhibit was upheld was due to Breyer, rightfully in my view, upholding the overall effect of the exhibit as constitutionally permissible. Plus, the usual grammar and editing has now been completed--MJF.)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Televangelists win right to buy PBS station

Yesterday, the California Fourth District, Division 3, Court of Appeal held that, KOCE-TV, the local Orange County PBS station, violated "open-bid" laws when it rejected a much higher bid from a Texas based televangelist group to purchase the television station, instead agreeing to sell the station to local, wealthy patrons.

The decision is not yet printed on the web, but the decision appears to be correct* and one that should not have been a surprise. One may be sad, from a polticial standpoint, that a PBS station could end up being owned by televangelists with an agenda and bias that makes any talk of bias by PBS look as silly as it is.

The article, however, also discusses the snarkiness of the language used in the judicial opinion, which, to trial attorneys who practice in southern California, is also not surprising. It is an unfortunate fact that the Fourth District, Division 3 (the Court of Appeal covering Orange County) has a reputation for sometimes using intemperate or even snarky language in its decisions. Sad to say, this reputation began with the so-called "liberal" justices appointed by then-California Governor Jerry Brown. The late Thomas Crosby, an admirable person in many respects, was particularly prone to use intemperate--and a couple of times, rude--language in opinions when referring to parties and their counsel who were on the losing end of his decisions. Justice Bedsworth, a Republican appointee and so-called "conservative," continued the "tradition," though he did not reach Crosby's level in this regard. If the article is correct, and again, I have not had access yet to the decision, then this "style" seems to have affected Justice Sills, a justice I have long admired. That is a shame--again, if true.

I discused this issue last month in a post about Califoria Supreme Court Justice, and now Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Justice, Janice R. Brown, whose judicially intemperate language brought much justified criticism of her.

Judicial decisions should be, and must be, respectful of the parties in the langauge used--if only to be respectful of the institution under which the decisions are rendered and written. Even if the losing party acted in an outrageous manner, judges and justices should not descend to personal vitriol or snarkiness. The Court system relies upon promoting a secular solemnity to its proceedings in terms of how we should dress, address the judges and justices, and maintaining decorum in the courtroom throughout the proceedings. Therefore, why should the judges or justices themselves abandon that solemnity when it comes time to write the opinion that will often have a profound effect upon not only the parties' lives or fortunes, but also their view of the system which rendered the decision?

Here, the KOCE trustees violated the law regarding open bidding in a way that may be as clear, and likely outrageous, as the appellate court found. However, if the article is correct regarding the language used in the opinion, surely there was a more respectful way to write the judicial opinion. It is one thing to be snarky or zealously passionate in a blog or in a newspaper column. In fact, people almost demand it. In a judicial opinion, however, hyperbole undermines respect for the process and the institution of the Courts--especially these days.

*UPDATE: I have given the substance of the decision some further thought while I wait for it to appear on the web. The only ways I can see the appellate court opinion being overturned is (1) if there is a "public interest" standard based upon KOCE being the only public station in the county, its diversity of opinion, etc. or (2) through an application of federal supremacy over conflicting state law as the Federal government (Federal Communication Commission) separately approved the sale. But the state's open bidding law is also likely entitled to deference in most instances.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The French Like Us More Than We Like Them

This LA Times article discussed a Pew Research Center poll about European, Turkish, and Canadian attitudes toward American foreign policy initiatives (tsunami assistance and Iraq), but also asked people from these same nations a few questions about Americans' character.

What I found most interesting was that, despite the strong anti-French sentiment that continues to boil over in America, the French seem to be the most positive regarding Americans compared to Canada, Turkey, and the rest of Europe. Most sad was that the folks who know us best, Canada, really don't like us much at all.

But let's lead with the findings of the French!

Did you know that 89% of the French people polled in this study thought Americans were "hard working," compared to 85% of Americans, 77% of Canadians, and...64% Poles?
I was surprised by the Poles feeling that way. But then I realized that maybe the Poles don't think we're so hard working because some wealthy Americans hire Poles to be live-in maids who are then paid "under the table." Just a hunch.

Now this is where it gets interesting: Only 31% of the French people polled said Americans were "greedy." Maybe you think that's a lot. But, then what about this: 70% of our fellow Americans polled think we are "greedy." Pogo anyone? Oh, and Canadians? 62% thought we were greedy. Ouch.

When it comes to being "rude," 35% of the French thought we were "rude." I bet most of those work in gift shops in Paris and Nice--so when you think about it that way, very few French folks think we're rude. In this category--"rude"--the French overall barely beat the Americans. 35% of us said we were "rude." And the Canadians? Whoa! 53% of Canadians said we were "rude." Why those $*#!@($)^$&. Ooops. Sorry. Guess I was...rude.

Last character trait listed: "honesty." 57% of the French people polled thought we Americans are an honest people. And what do we Americans think of ourselves? 63% think we are an honest people. How about the Canadians? What percentage of them think we're honest? 36%. Man! Can't the Canadians trust us? Just a bit? Well, I guess that's what they're saying, isn't it? Just a bit--and no more.

Want to feel a bit better, mah fellow 'mericans? Only 32% of Russians think we are an honest people. I'm still laughing at that one. Must be some of that anti-capitalist propaganda left from the Cold War. Or is it they're just meeting too many American criminals cavorting with their criminals--you know, Haliburton, Enron, oil and cigarette company executives, White House advance teams, Condi Rice, you know. Those kinds of "down home" folks.

Anyway, next time you hear someone bash the French, remember this poll. And remember too that the French were deeply supportive of the US in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (I recall that French doctors and engineers came to NY to help), continue to support (and have consistently supported) us--with its own troops--in Afghanistan, and by the way, helped us win our independence from England in our Revolutionary War.

And anyway, in my experience, people in America who scream epithets against the French or say they hate the "Frogs," tend to be assholes.

(Edited)

Save Science Programs, Save PBS

I wrote this as a letter to the LA Times this morning (who knows if they'll print it). There are no links as I'm off to work:

PBS is not "liberal" or "left." PBS has the "Nightly Business Report" with nothing comparable for workers or labor unions. "The Leherer Report," its nightly news show, interviews mostly corporate-elite talking heads--and more Republicans than Democrats. Its "point/counterpoint" tends toward hard right and soft liberal. PBS has Tucker Carlson, not Barbara Ehrenreich, on a weekly basis--and before that, PBS had William Buckley and Ben Wattenberg, not Michael Harrington or I.F. Stone. Most public television stations carry the "Wall St. Journal Report," while many still carry the right-tilting "McLaughlin Group." Its funding standards allow for corporate funding of programs, not labor union funding.

Our family nonetheless values PBS for its non-violent, yet creative children's programming including "Clifford,", "George Shrinks," "Sesame Street," "Zoboomafoo," and, when our children were very young, "Barney." At PBS, our children are not bombarded with loud, anti-social narrative commercials while watching their cartoons or nature programs.

What is disconcerting about the current attacks is that the attacks are less about politics than science. The political attack is a smoke-screen to attack what many Americans see as PBS' modern core: Its science-oriented programs such as "Nature," "NOVA," "Scientific American," and similar programs. This is the reason that most Americans should let their congressional representatives know: Protect PBS!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

By Edward Klein "standards," the president is gay

Edward Klein's new anti-Hillary Clinton book posits that Hillary is a lesbian--despite his protests to Sean Hannity. When confronted--surprisingly--by Sean Hannity, Klein said one of the reasons he concludes Hillary Clinton is a lesbian is that she ran the palm of her hand over the short hair on the head of an old college friend at a college reunion (the friend was a lesbian).

I thought this was a really cool way to find out if someone was gay or lesbian. So, I started doing something Ed Klein hasn't done much of: thinking. And goodness gracious, but things started adding up.

Things like this: George W. Bush likes to rub the heads of bald guys, including Bernie Kerik (thanks to Atrios and Wonkette).

And you know, I always kinda wondered about Bush II with his too-cute "W" moniker (Woman?).

And I kinda wondered about his being a male cheerleader and dressing like a woman in college...Plus, he seems to want to protect and promote gays like Ken Mehlman and Jeff Gannon a bit too agressively, no?

And who can forget what Laura said she found her husband doing to that horse on their ranch...And George does have the ultimate female name, too, doesn't he? You know, the last name...

Wait a minute...I seem to recall the White House aides (staff? Uh-oh, this is getting worse all the time) going out of their way to say George "W" Bush was NOT "whistling show tunes" when he fell off his bike a while back.

My God, call Jerry Falwell! The president is gay!

And as for Edward Klein: Ed! Stop that anti-Hillary book tour! Your country needs your "investigative journalism" skills--pronto!

(Edited)

Daily Howler: Nails it on Durbin and Bush

The Daily Howler nails it on Durbin and Bush. He provides the analysis that of course is missing from most television, radio, and newspapers.

The funny/sad thing is that too many Americans think the "Internet" is a bad place to get one's news and political analysis. All it takes is a little research and some "bookmarks." Then, people will find that they are far better served with people such as Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler than millionaire news readers, radio shouters, and television talking heads within the corporate media.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"No liberal weirdos!" say drug-abusing, wild-eyed partying disco animals

This La Cucaracha cartoon in Sunday's papers (those who carry the cartoon, I should say--the LA Times does!) brought howls of laughter to my wife and me. Goodness gracious, but we've really KNOWN people who fit this profile and it has never ceased to amaze us.

We even knew one guy who wore earrings and had facial cheek implants--but bullied people about why it was important to be a Republican and how everyone must stop those "immoral, liberal Democrats" from ruining the "traditional values" of America.

During our years living in Orange County, we met quite a few people, male and female, with similar traits. Why their brains never exploded from the contradictions is something we could never figure out.

Addendum: I want to be clear about something. I am not saying that the way for such people to resolve the contradiction should be for them to become Democrats. The contradiction lies in their failure to see that their cultural hedonism is at odds with their proclaiming fealty toward and support of "family" or "traditional" values. If they were libertarians of the Ayn Rand school, then one might understand their hedonism as an outgrowth of their economic views. But when such persons spout religious right rhetoric or rail against "liberal weirdos," well...the contradictions grow like tumors on one's body.

A Challenge to Atheists and Theists

Pharyngula, a scientist with whom I genearlly agree, had some too-intemperate words for theism and theists in his blog. I responded in his comments and reprint my comment here:

"#1: Mitchell Freedman — 06/20 at 08:51 AM
Since I left college, many years ago, I've decided that Bertrand Russell, Richard Feynman, and Albert Einstein were correct: To try and prove whether 'God' exists is a pointless exercise at least at this time in our scientific endeavors.

Atheists can't get past explaining the first 'first cause,' in other words, 'Well, what caused the Big Bang?' and theists can't get past explaining what or where the First Cause is afterwards in any scientifically sounding way (hence, the problem with creationism and intelligent design).

Stephen Jay Gould, in his 'Mismeasure of Man' book, made clear that science is 'often destructive and wasteful,' the phrase PZ Myers used to describe theism. And let's not just focus on eugenics and the like. Let's talk of the surgeons who wouldn't wash their hands and willfully ignored and undermined theistic mid-wives who washed their hands before delivering babies. Or the stupidity of excessively '
'bleeding' someone to stop pain or fever. And science is still a new kid on the block in terms of years.

I continue to believe neither creationism or intelligent design belong in science classrooms. I continue to believe that I can't prove to someone who doesn't already believe in theism why atheists or agnostics are correct. And I can't prove to atheists and agnostics that 'God' exists. All I can say to both sides is: Each of you have soft underbellies at some level that keep you from saying you are correct for all time and with absolute certainty--no matter how much you scream about your certainty. So, let's show a little humility, respect each other's conclusion about his or her belief, and stick to the more practical issues of why creationism and inteligent design are about faith based conclusions and why science should be about experimenting and deducting from reason.

Again, when I listen to intelligent design proponents and before them, creationist proponents, I found their conclusion of 'God exists' was writ large within their proofs. That's why they failed the test of science."

I will add that I always act like God exists and have decided that I am comfortable with that. I am less comfortable with the fact that I act like angels are around us and often fight that impulsive unstated belief. My wife says, however, "Ever notice how you tend to love nearly any film that has angel-characters in it--and your favorite film, 'It's a Wonderful Life' is based upon the existence of angels helping people be better human beings?" When she said that, it explained a lot about how I believe things I have a hard time believing in a "reason based analysis." Human beings are pretty funny that way, and I'm no exception.

UPDATE: Some commenters at Pharyngula get somewhat preturbed by my comments. One appears to be calling me anti-science. I like one commenter's point that in the 19th Century, scientists were not considered in the same realm as physicians or surgeons. I didn't know that. In all, I think they protest too much. I'm against creationism taught as real in public schools and I have concluded intelligent design is a tautology that is also not scientific. Oh well.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Microsoft and Google Wire Newspeak into Net

Ever wonder how the Internet can be censored?

Here's one way. If you're in China and you look up the words "human rights," "freedom," "democracy," or perhaps "Bill Gates sucks," you get--if you're on a Microsoft server, "Prohibited language in text, please delete."

Google has acquiesced to the Chinese government, too. The article states:

"A search on Google for such topics as Taiwan or Tibetan independence, the banned group Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama or the China Democracy Party inevitably leads to a "site cannot be found" message. Internet-related companies are obliged to accept such limitations as a condition of doing business in China. And government-installed filtering tools, registration requirements and other surveillance are in place to ensure the rules are enforced."

Yup. Corporate power and dictatorships. An often perfect match. What say you libertarians? As the story broke today, we'll give them a few days.

Fial thought: I expected Murdoch and Gates to genuflect to the Fascist Chinese government. But Google? Oy.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Muslim culture clash in Dutch society

This article, not available on line, is worth buying this week's Nation magazine for (I'm subscriber so I read it all).

It is, at one level, about a feminist, Hirsi Ali, who is a former Muslim who attacks the most patriarchal aspects of Islam inside the Netherlands where, among the Muslims living there, honor killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and other oppressive acts against women have continued to occur. It goes without saying that such actions are inconsistent with modern civilized societies, including Dutch society.

Ali, however, has now moved from the so-called "left" to the "right" in Dutch politics because she sides with more so-called conservatives who want to limit immigration, particularly from Muslim-predominant countries. If one wishes to be critical of Ali, it is in her refusal to promote or meaningfully discuss the more tolerant side of Islam, which does exist and makes Islam no different than the Catholic religion, to take one example, with its Opus Dei on one side and Commonweal Catholics on the other. One must also recognize the liberation theologists as part of this mix on the side most opposed to Opus Dei.

In any event, despite Ali's political move to the political right, a significant number of leftists and feminists support her specific acts of bringing attention to the oppressive and isolated lives of too many Muslim women living within Dutch society.

Let us, however, view this at a more...ahem...fundamental level and the question it raises for open societies that take pride in promoting tolerance and diversity within their societies:

At what point should a society demand assimilation--and to what degree?

For years, in a nod to "diversity" and "tolerance," the Dutch government has extended its support of religious institutions to include mosques. But there is a powerful argument to be made that ending government funding of religious institutions is a key step to forcing open isolated communities, particularly in the Muslim new-immigrant communities of Dutch society, where Muslim women are the most oppressed and isolated. As we ponder this, let's jump across the Atlantic back to our shores where the nation's leading Republicans continue to want to expand direct governmental funding of religious institutions. Promoting government funding to James Dobson, for example, could lead to cultural responses in child rearing practices, for example, that many Americans may well find horrible and oppressive.

There is a second policy of tolerance in Dutch society that one may more often associate with both the cultural right and left in America. Dutch liberals, for example, chafed at promoting assimilation and particularly forced education for Muslim immigrants to learn the more pro-female equality values inherent in modern Dutch society. The question now is at what point should Dutch laws on equality step in and force "re-education" in addition to taking more active steps to prosecute perpetrators who force young women into marriages they do not want, attempt or engage in female genital mutilation, and attempt or partake in honor killings?

People can see cultural leftists behaving similiarly as Dutch liberals in fighting assimilationist policies such as English Only initiatives. But cultural reactionaries don't like "political correctness" that promotes pro-female equality and access to contraception, for example. Are there distinctions between these two analogies and the situation in the Netherlands? Of cousre. However, each of these particular examples reveal why general statements of "liberal" and "conservative" are inadequate, misleading or at worst, inhibitors to finding solutions to particular problems in a way that maintains the integrity of an open society's best values.

As a solution to the problems in the Netherlands, I think of the Fresno, California district attorney who, in the 1980s, was faced with several episodes where Laotian tribesmen known as the Hmong, starting with their spritual leaders, had to undergo forced education programs to stop their practice of using kidnapping and rape of young Hmong women as a method of courtship--a practice that was apparently common in their homeland. The article I linked to calls it "the liberal's dilemma" as if conservatives who were not racist didn't have dilemmas with respect to Bob Jones' University's pro-racial segregation policies (Recall that the Reagan administration sided with Bob Jones in a brief to the Supreme Court and the Superme Court, more "liberal" then, rejected the Reagan administration's position. The Court ruled that it was appropriate to refuse a tax credit to Bob Jones University until it ended its segregationist policies).

Again, the lack of any consistent meaning of the words "liberal" and "conservative" in various societies or over time becomes clear in a situation such as that facing the Dutch or that facing the district attorney in Fresno, California. We as a nation should reflect upon how the most patriarchal and reactionary elements of Muslim communities turned the best Dutch values of tolerance and diversity on their heads--and how that could occur as we seek "fairness" in funding religious as well as non-religous groups under the Bush administration's "faith based" social programs.

Tolerance for oppressive ideas may sometimes, in practice, be just as dangerous to a society's well being as oppression itself. Often, as we see in the Dutch example, the particular application of that oppression is going to be directed at women.

It is why I wince at "conservatives" preaching "tolerance" for the most reactionary elements within fundamentalist Christianity and other western religions where there is a promotion of "obedience" by women to men or pressuring women into marriages they don't want, staying in marriages that are harmful to them, and denying women contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

I also wince at those on the cultural left who promote open sexual practices that go beyond mere gay marriage--such as the glorification of sado-masochism. Pardon me if I don't link to anything specific about that! Let's also realize the pro-sado-masochism lobby has much less appeal or power than religious right elements who are less than friendly to contraception rights for women.

In all, the Nation article about the challenges facing Dutch citizens regarding the growth of fundamentalist and patriarchal Islam should be released by the Nation to the web as it is very thought-provoking and intelligently written.

(Edited as I admit to still thinking through the implications of what I'm writing about--MJF)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Committee that is "Deep Throat"

This article in this week's Vilage Voice by a reporter with an overall excellent record, Murray Waas, reveals why Deep Throat was not a sole source, but a confirmation source for Woodward & Bernstein at the Washington Post. Felt was also leaking information gleaned from other FBI agents within the bureau, apparently with the knowledge of those other FBI personnel. Waas, in writing this article, directs readers to an this earlier article in a newspaper from Albany, NY on the subject of the leaking "committee" at the FBI.

Reading deep into the articles, I am more than ever convinced we have not heard the last of high ranking officials who spoke to Woodward & Bernstein--or perhaps Seymour Hersh (then covering the Watergate scandals at the NY Times) or Sandy Smith at Time magazine. See Murray Waas' blog for a fascinating, sub-analysis of the story from a perspective of professional journalism at the time.

My original analysis of Mark Felt and Deep Throat is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A first step toward balance

Congressman Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) bill passed the House of Representatives today, June 15, 2005. The bill restores the traditional constitutional protections of requiring search warrants based upon probable cause when the Justice Department and FBI want to investigate someone's reading habits at a library or bookstore. The House passed the bill 238-187.

Bravo to those Republicans who joined nearly every Democrat* to vote for the bill. If you live in a district where the Congressperson voted for the bill, give him or her a call and say, "Thank you." If you live in a district where the Congressperson voted against it, call up and inform him or her that our intelligence agencies should not be given extra-constitutional powers to snoop on us in libraries and bookstores. The FBI and Justice Department should be looking for terrorists in places outside the local library and Barnes & Noble.

This bill is not yet a law, though. For Bush is lying in the weeds saying he will veto the bill--and you can be sure Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) wants to carry water for Bush and stop it from passing the Senate.

* Based upon review of the Roll Call on the bill, the only House Democrat who voted against Sanders' bill is Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK). Here is the young Boren's web site where you can NICELY inform him that he is out of step with most Democrats and the many Republicans who joined with Democrats on this issue. If there are Oklahomans in his district who are inclined to challenge him, consider making some noise about entering the 2006 primary. That will get his attention!

Update: It gets worse for Gipper Cunningham

This morning's San Diego Union Tribune closes most of the gaps in information about the scam where Randy "Duke" (see post below why it should be "Gipper") Cunningham received a bribe from a defense contractor through payment of an overinflated price for Cunningham's home.

Another article, from 1998, shows that Cunningham is no stranger to grabbing his own personal share of government pork money. Note that the local money went directly to an area where he keeps his yacht parked.

How did Randy Cunningham wind up in Congress in the first place? Well, his San Diego district is not a liberal bastion and Randy was, after all, a Vietnam War hero, at least according to some. However, in this anti-Cunningham web site, a review of his choice quotes over the years comports with my understanding of him as a blowhard and a jerk.

Cunningham's latest newsworthy legislation is his support (again) for amending the constitution to ban flag burning.

Now where is the "liberal" Sean Hannity to say something like: "The DA or local attorney general's office can't indict this flag wrapping bribe taker fast enough." Too bad Howard Dean's all tied up right now...

UPDATE: It has become even worse for Cunningham: His yacht is bought and paid for by the same defense contractor.

By the way, credit Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, which has been terrific on linking to various articles regarding this still growing scandal. He quotes the latest San Diego Union Tribune story where a columnist says "Duke's done." I note the article says Duke's original district leaned Democrat, but his later district he has continued to represent leans Republican.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Corruption, Gipper style

Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego, CA) has himself the start of a "nice" corruption scandal. The San Diego Union Tribune (man, maybe I gotta start getting that paper here as someone living in San Diego County) has the details. The basic story is of a donor who buys Cunningham's home for $1.675 million and then has to sell it eight or so months later for $975,000.

As someone who moved to San Diego at the beginning of 2004, I can say without question that the housing market remained hot throughout 2004. This defense contractor seems to have moved to San Diego to seek favor and influence and for a mere $700,000 ($1.675 million minus $975,000) received "tens of millions" in contracts for his before-struggling business. Great investment for that fellow!

And what does this have to do with Ronald Wilson Reagan (Mr. 666 himself--count the letters in each of his names, folks)? Well, according to Dan Moldea, who wrote a great book on Reagan's rise through the management side of the then-studio system, Reagan did similar land deals with friendly sources during the mid-1960s for properties in the Los Angeles and Riverside Counties. Reagan's properties were purchased at above-market rates and then later sold by the purchasers for a loss. The land deals helped seal Reagan's status as a multi-millionaire and came in handy for him as he became a nationally recognized politician.

Ronald W. Reagan's leading and most respected biographer, Lou Cannon, in his first bio of Reagan, had first revealed and analyzed the existence of these corrupt land deals. See: Lou Cannon, "Reagan" (GP Putnam & Sons, 1982), pages 353-357. This was Cannon's first bio of Reagan and he would go on to write other bios as well.

So, Randy Cunningham is merely following in the footsteps of his mentor, St. Ronnie of Hollywood.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pharyngula on Phire in past 24 hours

The science oriented web log Pharyngula is on rhetorical and factual fire for the past 24 hours, debunking the junk science of the creationist and ID folks.

The Meatrix

This web site contains a smart, short, clever cartoon that connects the dots between agribusiness, destruction of midwest and southeast farming communities, rural pollution, and dangers to human health and the environment. It also contains an action plan that includes allowing us "consumers" to learn to shop smarter for our meat and/or dairy.

Check it out. I found it via Counterpunch, a magazine edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.

In a similar vein, it's worth reading Cockburn's smack down of Thomas Friedman in the Counterpunch mag's June 10-12, 2005 Weekend Edition. Thomas Friedman, a long-time reporter for the NY Times, is a particularly odious cheerleader for corporate trade deals that are themselves connected to the agribusiness issues raised by the "Meatrix." Friedman is odious because he'll tell you how "liberal" he is and that he's a "Democrat." People such as Friedman have continued to undermine the Democratic Party by diluting our party's economically populist message. The story Cockburn tells of India is very important as it reveals what the economic elites mean by "development," which is very different from how most people would define that term.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mitchell's daughter gets into the act: Questions, questions

My name is Shayna. I am 7 years old. My Dad let me on his blog tonight. I should be in bed, but I won't go to sleep until I ask this question:

If you were an animal, which one would you be?

Dad, you go first!

DAD: I would be a bear because bears can eat fruits, vegetables, and meat. And I like honey, too! Oh, and don't mess with me, man!

SHAYNA: That's cool, Dad. Now, it's my turn! I would be a jaguar because I did a report in class about jaguars. Jaguars are the strongest and fastest animal in the tropical Rain Forest. They are beautiful and mysterious. They are also an endangered animal.

DAD: That's a great answer. Can we get a jaguar for a pet?

SHAYNA: No way, Dad! Are you nuts?

DAD Just testing you. Jaguars can eat us for lunch, which is why we have to be careful even when we want to help them.

ANDREW: Hey, what's going on here? I'm the one who asks questions at this blog!

DAD: Equal time, Andrew. It's not just for boys or you.

ANDREW: I know that. At least let me say what animal I'd be. I'd be a crocodile because I like swimming in the water and having a bird be my personal dentist to clean my teeth. I would also be top of the food chain in water that is not the ocean.

DAD: Hey, I thought you were a vegetarian?

ANDREW: I would be a veggie croc.

DAD: Now, that would be some unusual croc! Anyway, it's after 10:00 p.m. on a school night and you both have to go to sleep!

SHAYNA: I'm not tired.

ANDREW: Me neither.

DAD: It doesn't matter. You'll get tired after you finally get to bed. Now, go!

MOM: Stop messing around on the computer!

DAD: Um, she's right, you know.

ANDREW: But-

SHAYNA: But-

MOM: But NOTHING! Get to bed! NOW! You too, Mitchell!

DAD, ANDREW & SHAYNA: Awwwwwww.....

Michael Kinsley: The new FoxNews Liberal

Michael Kinsley should be ashamed of himself. He makes fun of the left for concocting a so-called "conspiracy" theory about the motives of the Bush administration in invading Iraq when he surely knows, by early 2003, the public was being told by talking heads on television and voices on radio that Saddam presented an immediate threat to the entire world. And a vast majority of the public took a year or so to understand that they had been misled by the Bush & Co. administration and their willing participants at from the talking heads on television and voices on radio.

I myself quoted the Time magazine he cites in his article to many people all throughout the fall of 2002 and into early 2003. Both that article and I were drowned out by a chorus of banshees screaming that Saddam was the greatest threat to humanity today. And I love Michael Kinsley's quote from Robert Scheer in his article. Sure, Michael. As if Scheer gets the air time that Chris Matthews, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and their sometimes witting accomplices Cathy Crowley and Tom Brokaw et al. get.

To compare the outrage among the "left" regarding Bush's lies in invading Iraq to the irrational hatred one saw among the "right" against the Clintons over private, sexual acts is precisely what is wrong with the modern punditry of which Kinsley used to be somewhat above. Why not write directly, instead of backwards, about the deafening silence regarding the Downing Street memo and other information compared to the 24/7 Monicagate? Now, that would be helpful, wouldn't it, Mike?

The importance of the Downing Street memo and the most recent information that's been leaked through the British government (see post below) is that this information reaffirms that the Bush administration was seeking any pretext or any justification to pursue an unjust and unprovoked war that diverted our nation's resources and squandered our support to fight international terrorist organizations.

And all Kinsley can do is write a snarky article about the "left." With that article, Kinsley has become the thing he so hated: Susan Estrich, Fox News Liberal.

(Edit)

If Clinton's impeachment was because he lied...

If Clinton's impeachment was because he lied to the American public about sex, as opposed to his having an affair with an intern, then what is the Republican excuse for not impeaching Bush for lying to maneuver America into a war in Iraq--and then adding insult to injury, refusing to plan for the post-war occupation?

High crimes and misdemeanors indeed.

And remember, we've known since the Bob Woodward book and interview on CBS' 60 Minutes that Bush illegally redirected money that was Congressionally allocated to Afghanistan to Iraq--back in July 2002.

It is also sobering to re-read Sy Hersh's article from the October 27, 2003 issue of the New Yorker as to how the lower level CIA analysts were pressured and often ignored as the Bush team relied on their own "intelligence" that fit their goals--and how George Tenet, the CIA director, played the fool for the Cheney-Rummy-Wolfowitz crowd who wanted to reenforce Bush's position with Bush. I recall this in real time as I noted articles in the LA Times and Washington Post in the fall of 2002 through the eve of the war where the administration's statements would get the headlines, but at the end of the articles, one would read "intelligence sources cannot confirm" or "intelligence sources downplayed the allegations" or words to that effect.

In a related point, the blogger Atrios has it right in disagreeing with another blogger, Kevin Drum (I am a big Drum fan). Drum had said "of course" it is true that invading Iraq was a "foregone conclusion" in 2002. However, he added: "I'm not sure there's anyone who really doubted it in the first place."

Atrios' response is that this lets Tim Russert, Judith Miller, and the other talking heads and reporters off the hook for participating in the propaganda. Surely Drum recalls how vicious the attacks were on those of us who were carefully reading and recognizing that Saddam was in fact contained and there was no immediate, if any, threat to the US or the world--and how the Iraq War II was going to divert (and, before the war, was already diverting) our attention from bin Laden and building a world wide coalition against Al-Queda and related terrorist organizations.

And still, no Republican dares to utter the word "impeachment." And why? Because, as Henry Hyde grudgingly admitted, one of the motives for the Republican Party in impeaching Clinton was retribution against the Democrats for starting impeachment hearings against Nixon in the early 1970s. I also believe it was part of a Republican political operations plan to delegitimize the Democrats for the 2000 election. And it worked, didn't it?

And note the full quote from Hyde:

"The veteran republican is also admitting for the first time that the impeachment of Clinton may have been in part political revenge against the democrats for the impeachment proceedings against GOP President Richard Nixon 25 years earlier (historical footnote omitted from article--MJF).

'Was this pay back?' asked Andy Shaw.

'I can't say it wasn't. But I also thought that the Republican Party should stand for something, and if we walked away from this, no matter how difficult, we could be accused of shirking our duty,' said Hyde."

We're waiting for Republicans to do their duty now: Impeach Bush and Cheney. Both of them. But of course they won't. Because the impeachment of Clinton did not involve either the sexual habits of Clinton or the lies Clinton told about his sexual habits. Instead, the Republicans' impeachment of Clinton was the most cynical political action of any major political party we had ever seen--until, that is, the Bush & Co. administration started weaving their lies, including about their lies about invading Iraq.

(Edited)

Friday, June 10, 2005

NonSensenbrenner Shuts Down Hearing, Stalinist Style

Click here to watch the C-Span tape of Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the Judiciary Committee, shut down a hearing on THE PATRIOT ACT II. While watching it, I thought, at first, he may be making some reasonable arguments, but then I recalled that there are plenty of hearings in Congress where there were subjects discussed that are at best tangential to the topic of the hearing. Therefore, to shut down the hearing in the manner in which he did is quite ominous and something that literally gave me a chill.

As I thought about what the Chairman Congressman said, I recalled in particular his snarky comment to a witness by the name of "Pitts" about section 215 of the original PATRIOT ACT. That section deals with expanding the power of the FBI to investigate with little traditional constitutional protections, what one's borrowing habits are at libraries. The Congressman said to Mr. Pitts directly that if Mr. Pitts could find one library where someone said there was any contact under THE PATRIOT ACT by the government, he should send the information to the committee within the next week. The Congressman said it with a smirk that one could reasonably interpret as "Yeah, buddy, you'll never be able to do it."

Well, a few clicks around the web later, I found the American Library Association web site, which contained this report.

(Ethics alert: My uncle, Maurice "Mitch" Freedman, was president of the ALA from 2002-2003)

The report identified 219 libraries that received inquries from law enforcement following the passage of THE (original) PATRIOT ACT in October 2001. Could all of these inquiries have nothing to do with the PATRIOT ACT? I guess that's possible, but highly unlikely.

But I think the Congressman knows something about section 215 that only a few folks, including most likely Mr. Pitts, knows: Under section 215 of THE (original) PATRIOT ACT, it states it is ILLEGAL for any librarian to inform the public or even the person whose library records are sought that law enforcement requested any information of that person's library borrowing habits. See section 215(d) which states: "No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section."

Therefore, if the Congressman was really interested in seeking the truth as to whether libraries were being contacted under the PATIOT ACT--or if he thinks the university survey cited on the ALA web site is wrong--he could easily contact the FBI to determine such information. To put the burden on "Mr. Pitts," librarians, or the general public to prove the FBI has not contacted libraries is perverse. It runs contrary to the safeguards people would expect from Congressmembers with a law that is supposed to have been passed with an eye toward protecting us from terrorists while also safeguarding our traditional rights as citizens going back to the founding of our Constitution.

One might say: "How do you know Congressman Sensenbrenner didn't already contact the FBI and learn no libraries have been contacted?" Well, again, that is possible, too. But I notice the FBI isn't too interested in prosecuting anyone at this time, either, knowing that the law is probably unconstitutional. This also means the survey is accurate--and the Congressman is likely to know that, too.

In the end, Congressman Sensebrenner displayed a fascistic and communistic streak in shutting down a hearing that wasn't going the way he thought it would go. He also misled people into thinking the FBI has not contacted libraries about the reading habits of library patrons. He proved himself despicable today and he has much for which to atone to the American public and to our nation's founders.

Yet, all we hear about is Howard Dean's latest less than perfect phrasing of essential truths about the leadership of the Republican Party that are spun into falsehoods by twisted right wing pundits and their scared Democratic Party enablers. To prove the point, I don't even have to link to anything as we know what he said and we know how it's been played--and we know losers like Joe "Credit Card Company Whore" Biden would rather attack Dean than re-state the talking point. From Scary Sensebrenner to Pathetic Biden: A Sign of the Times.

(Edited)

Republican judiciary trifecta

The Senate, after the so-called grand compromise on filibusters, has now approved William Pryor, Janice Brown, and Priscilla Owen, three ridiculously extremist judges. (In the linked article, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) used the same word--"trifecta"--used in the title of this post. The article also calls the Democrats' previous delay or rejection of these judges "unprecedented"--which, as Ugga Bugga has shown, is nonsense, considering the Republican record during almost 8 years of Clinton's two terms.)

We have heard nothing from the grand compromisers who let us believe, via Senator Lindsay Graham (R-NC) that one of these odious three would be defeated on an up-down vote of the Senate. Didn't happen and the right-wing Republicans hit, as has been said, the trifecta.

I'll be clear here: Every Democratic Senator who signed on to the grand compromise on judicial nominees deserves a primary challenge from Democrats who will not compromise when it comes to Bush sending up extremist judges. And considering Bush's approval ratings remain low, why should Democrats and the so-called "moderate" Senate Republicans (McCain, Chaffee, Collins) accept such nominees even getting to the Senate floor for a vote? It is spinelessness--and yes, I"m talking to you, Senators McCain, Chaffee and Collins, too.

A final point: Please understand this is not about abortion. This is about placing judges on the federal bench for lifetime appointments who are hostile to the very idea of economic regulation of corporate power and who will support the Republican right-wing agenda on other wide-ranging fundamental issues including undermining the Bill of Rights on search and seizure and other rights of the accused our Founders had seen as a cornerstone of our freedom and negating not merely abortion rights, but also the right to privacy. Eventually, many less radically right-wing Republicans will rue the events of this week.

(Edit)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Intelligent Design: Scientists dissent

I don't subscribe to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this article.

Considering all the blather and shallow reporting that goes on with regard to subjects such as Intelligent Design, creationism, and evolution, this article was very much welcomed.

Kudos to science writer and professor PZ Myers, aka Pharyngula, for the link. I've added him in recent days to my Links list as I believe him to be well worth reading.

Also, I decided to track down this link to articles from the late Stephen Jay Gould, who, along with Gore Vidal, are the greatest essayists America produced during the 20th Century. Gould wrote largely about science, while history, politics, literature--and sexual mores--have been Vidal's trade.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mitchell's son's big question of the week (week 4)

ANDREW: Boy, I'm up late tonight!

DAD: You need to get to bed, boy!

ANDREW: Not until we do my big question.

DAD: (inaudible groaning noise)

MOM: Would you boys get off that computer? Now!

DAD: We're almost done. Jeez!

ANDREW: Here's the question:

Have you ever met an author of a book? And who did you like best if you met more than one?

DAD: Ooooh, two parter. That's a first.

ANDREW: Okay. Now, answer the question.

DAD: You first. And don't say your father--

ANDREW: I won't. Because lots of times you're just a Dad.

DAD: "Just?"

ANDREW: Cut it out, Dad. Alright, I'll go first. Back in 1997, I was just over four years old and I met Art Speigelman. He had just written "Open me, I'm a Dog", which is one of my favorite kids' books. He was nice to me and drew me a picture of the main character from the book.

DAD: Pretty good. Let's see. I've met more than a few authors and most of them have been nice to me. A few names include: Gore Vidal, Kevin Starr, Dan Moldea, Ron Chernow, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frederik Pohl, and Victor Navasky come quickly to mind. Kevin Starr and Dan Moldea, though, were the friendliest--to me, at least. However, I wish to add that the authors I listed here were all quite kind and friendly to me when meeting them.

ANDREW: How about you out there? Any other authors--besides my Dad?

Moderate = Fool, Part II

Now that Priscilla Owen and Janice Brown have been approved by the Senate, can anyone tell me why the Democrats really won the Great Compromise of 2005?

As I wrote here and here, it was a capitulation, not a compromise.

And Janice Brown is a horrorshow of judicial intemperance who Republicans will now cite to lower the bar for even more outrageous nominees. Once again, the "moderate" Democrats prove themselves to have been fools.

Medical marijuana decision: Don't blame commerce clause

In the post below, I warn those of us who support the New Deal not to be lured by the siren song of the dissents of O'Connor, Thomas and Rehnquist in Gonzales v. Raich, No. 03-1454 (2005).

First, no one should be surprised by this decision overturning state laws allowing for medical marijuana usage. Back in 2001, the Supreme Court unanimously held (in an opinion witten by Clarence Thomas) that marijuana has no legal "medical" use, which is an important factor for any advocate of state medical marijuana laws. See: US v. Oakland Cannibis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 U.S. 483 (2001).

The Court's decision in Gonzales v. Raich is striking by its failure to consider overturning that decision or even bother discussing it. In reading the majority opinion overturning the state medical marijuana laws, those who advocate for such laws should carefully read footnote 37 of the opinion. The footnote states that the majority of Justices recognize that if the Court found the medicinal or theraputic value of marijuana was sufficiently strong, such a finding "would cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the findings" that make marijuana a completely illegal substance throughout the country and "would place all homegrown medical substances beyond the reach of Congress' regulatory jurisdiction."

Therefore, focusing attacks on the Court's jurisprudence as to the "commerce clause" is dangerously wrong. The key is to get the Court to overturn the Oakland Cannibis decision and then the non-econoimc privacy and health and safety issues may trump the plenary power of Congress to regulate "commerce" to the extent one is growing marijuana in their own home or back yard and using it only for oneself.

If anyone finds my view incorrect, I would only ask them to read the dissenting opinions from O'Connor and Thomas, which will reveal that neither of those justices are concerned with the facts regarding the theraputic value of medical marijuana. They are primarily interested in pushing their ideology that would overturn a broad reading of the "commerce clause," which, in turn, would undermine the ability of both state and federal governments to pass laws regarding economic issues.

Commerce Clause and New Deal economics

With the US Supreme Court's decision regarding medical marijuana, those of us who value the New Deal must not succumb to attacking the "commerce clause" and other aspects of our Constitution in a way that leads us to conclusions and positions shared by Clarence Thomas and the Cato Institute.

Regardless of how we feel about this particular decision, it is important to remember that the New Deal era Supreme Court, in Wickham v. Fairburn 317 US 111 (1942) did not invent a broad reading of the "commerce clause." In fact, the New Deal Supreme Court restored the original meaning set forth by Chief Justice John Marshall in the early days of our Republic. Too often, "state's rights" advocates who seek to define narrowly the "commerce clause" in our Constitution cite cases from the 1880s through the early 1900s in support of their position. This is not "original" intent. It is merely going back to the "intent" of a particularly bad Supreme Court era where there was a grafting of capitalist and Social Darwinian ideology upon the Constitution, which prompted Justice Holmes to remind his brethren that the Court must defer to legislatures in terms of economics. See: Holmes' dissent in Lochner v. New York 198 US 45 (1905) which admittedly dealt with a state legislature's law regulating bakers' hours, but which did not involve, as did the medical marijuana decision, a conflict between federal and state laws.

Here are some handy quotes from James Madison and Chief Jusice Marshall which reveal why a strong federal government was being enacted and supported by the early Federalists. They should be especially kept in mind when one hears anyone from the mislabeled "Federalist Society," a group of right wing lawyers and judges who wish to return us to the days of Lochner v. New York and who are actually anti-Federalist due to their rejection of Chief Justice Marshall's jurisprudence:

James Madison, Federalist Paper no. 10: A "landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government." This sounds more like Ralph Nader and FDR than Scalia, Rehnquist, or Orrin Hatch.

Here is Chief Justice John Marshall writing on the Constitution for an unanimous Supreme Court, in McColloch v. Maryland 17 U.S. 316 (1819): The "constitution (was) intended to endure for ages to come, and, consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs. To have prescribed the means by which government should, in all future time, execute its powers, would have been to change, entirely, the character of the instrument...It would have been an unwise attempt to provide, by immutable rules, for exigencies which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and which can be best provided for as they occur." This is as strong a defining statement of the Constitution as a "living" document as anyone has yet to write.

Here again is Marshall, in Ogden v. Gibbons 22 US 1 (1824), in a majority opinion, on the plenary (practically speaking, it means "absolute") nature of Congress' power to regulate commerce throughout, not just among the United States: "The powers delegated are of two classes: such as are expressly granted, and such as are implied, as 'necessary and proper' to carry into execution the powers expressly enumerated. As to these implied powers, the constitution must be construed liberally, as respects their nature and extent: because the constitution implies that rule, by not undertaking to enumerate these powers, and because the grant of these powers is general and unlimited." (Emphasis added)

Final points:

One may argue, in scholarly legal journals, about the exact scope of meaning of these quotations. One may argue that someone growing marijuana in their back yard for private use in their own home is none of the government's business. One may further argue and still question, for example, Justice Anthony Kennedy's jurisprudence on sodomy laws and the judicial expansion of the privacy concept. However, one conclusion is clear and without reasonable dispute: One finds far more fealty to the original framers on matters of regulation of commerce from judges from the late and post-New Deal era (1939-1979) than from either Gilded Age (late 19th/early 20th centuries) judges or their modern Republican counterparts.

(Edited)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Moderate = Fool

The Senate subcommittee voted 11-4 to send the expanded PATRIOT ACT to the Senate floor. This means a couple of Dems voted for sending the bill to the floor and others may have abstained.

Here is a quote about Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) who voted the bill out of committee after admitting the bill needs amending:

"Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., supported the bill overall but said he would push for limits that would allow such administrative subpoenas 'only if immediacy dictates.' Rockefeller and other committee members, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also are concerned that the bill would grant powers to federal law enforcement agencies that could be used in criminal inquiries rather than intelligence-gathering ones."

Does Rockefeller and the others who voted for this bill with qualifications think amendments to the bill will be successfully brought on the floor of the Senate? Were they sleeping during previous fights, such as the bankruptcy bill, the transportation bill, and energy bill? Too often, moderate means foolishness as these so-called moderates never seem to recognize how the political Congressional machinery of Frist and DeLay actually works.

Want a primer on the PATRIOT ACT II from American Civil Liberties Union? Here is their press release castigating the committee for holding secret meetings. Another press release the ACLU issued today is helpful to understanding the issues regarding this new bill that is likely to become law. And here is notorious rightwinger Bob Barr, a former congressman, on the top five reasons to oppose the PATRIOT ACT II. This is not merely a left-wing opposition as there are some Republicans out there who recognize how often expanded police powers leads to more corruption and then cover ups, as opposed to effective law enforcement.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) says the PATRIOT ACT has proven to be terrific, but I see little evidence that evern the first PATRIOT ACT has been effective.

Pro-GOP attorney Victoria Toensing asserts the ACLU misleads people because she claims the PATRIOT ACT I did not give expanded power to override modern 4th Amendment protections. But if that's the case, what did the original PATRIOT ACT really do and why should we limit 4th Amendment and other rights in the PATRIOT ACT II? Toensing's argument ultimately backs her into a corner--either PATRIOT ACT I was more hot air than constituting any significant expansion of police powers or it was really effective in fighting terrorism because of such a significant expansion of police powers. Again, some proof here as to the effectiveness of the PATRIOT ACT I would help.

Final thoughts: Fights over judges who are likely to uphold the most jackbooted interpretation of anti-terrorist legislation, like the PATRIOT ACT II, become that much more important for the senators (Democrat or Republican) who are not blindly beholden to the Bush II administration. This is no time for foolish "moderates" like Chaffee, Collins, Rockefeller, Lieberman, and Feinstein to let bad proposed legislation--or judges--go to the Senate floor for a final vote.

And outside of Congress, for those libertarians who often rant that the Social Security system is a jackboot organization, the fight over the PATRIOT ACT II, and the more reactionary judges who never met expanded law enforcement legislation they didn't like, are the more appropriate battles to fight if one wishes to oppose "excessive" government. They should be actively seeking to form coalitions with the ACLU and other organizations they usually fight against over other matters. Until we as a nation can understand how the PATRIOT ACT I has truly been effective--as opposed to simply using previously existing tools after ignoring the terrorist threat--its sequel legislation should bear a heavy burden to the extent it attempts to further expand law enforcement powers to override by-now traditional civil liberty protections.

(Edit)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Hezbollah: Winners in southern Lebanon, again

Just in case anyone doubted whether the Hezbollah has enough control of southern Lebanon to cause people to vote for them in what appears not to be a rigged election, Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, is now officially a ruling party in at least part of that troubled nation.

The Bush administration cannot claim to be surprised by this outcome (they can say they are surprised, but, as usual with them, it will be a lie). Back in March, Bush himself made noises about recognizing the reality that Hezbollah has sufficient popular support in southern Lebanon to be a political factor and not merely a particularly brutal terrorist organization.

How the Bush administration continues to be given a pass by its supporters for its passiveness in the face of terrorist organizations--fighting Falangists and Saddam instead of Al-Queda and being soft on Hezbollah--gives me great pause and is Exhibit "A" as to why Bush suppoters are often reflexive in their support of this administration, not reflective or even rational.

Perhaps some Bush supporters would respond that recognizing Hezbollah is a necessary part of a policy that seeks democritization of the Middle East. But one would be justified in responding that Hitler's Nazis also won "elections." Just ask a Republican if he or she believes elections that result in the victory of fundamentalist Islamicists (in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt) is a good thing for Americans and the nations of the so-called West.

Meanwhile, we continue to be bogged down in Iraq...

Oh, and today is the 37th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Think we'd have a different and better world if he was not gunned down in 1968? There's no doubt in my mind at least.

(Edited)

Rich continue to get richer, while the rest stagnate or fall further behind

Don't think the loss of the manufacturing base has much effect? Don't think the tax cuts amount to much in terms of creating a more unequal distribution of weatlh? Waiting for the trickle down effect to arrive for those making $20-50,000?

Then, don't read this article from yesterday's New York Times. And, to make it harder to avoid, don't read Bob Herbert's summary of that article in today's New York Times.

Yup. Let's keep arguing about sex and death, which are subjects in which one merely has to bring one's feelings--kind of like the daytime television shows where people discuss their personal problems.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Reminder: MF Blog on Radio 6/5/05

I'm off to the Book Expo in NYC this weekend. Light blogging ahead.

However, I'm on the John Rothmann radio and Internet on KGO (ABC affiliate in San Francisco) this Sunday, June 5, 2005 from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The significance of the date of the interview is that it is the anniversary of the day when RFK was shot while campaigning for president in 1968. We will be discussing my alternative history novel of a world in which RFK survived 1968 and became president instead of...Richard Nixon. This is perhaps extra trimely with the Mark Felt revelation this week.

Here is the information from an earlier post, including links to the station's web site.

Best to all. I'll see if I can blog remotely, though...