Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
The McCain-Feingold law abridging freedom of political speech -- it restricts the quantity, timing and content of such speech -- included a provision, the Millionaires' Amendment, that mocked the law's veneer of disinterested moralizing about "corruption." The provision unmasked the law's constitutional recklessness and its primary purpose, which is protection of incumbents.
Declaring the Millionaires' Amendment unconstitutional, the court, in an opinion written by Alito, reaffirmed two propositions. First, because money is indispensable for the dissemination of political speech, regulating campaign contributions and expenditures is problematic and justified only by government's interest in combating "corruption" or the "appearance" thereof. Second, government may not regulate fundraising and spending in order to fine-tune electoral competition by equalizing candidates' financial resources.
The more McCain talks -- about wicked "speculators," about how he reveres ANWR as much as the Grand Canyon, about adjusting the planet's thermostat, etc. -- the more conservatives cling to judicial nominees as a reason for supporting him. But now another portion of his signature legislation has been repudiated by the court as an affront to the First Amendment, and again Roberts and Alito have joined the repudiation. Yet McCain promises to nominate jurists like them. Is that believable?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Antonin Scalia's majority opinion simply affirms what anyone fluent in English would conclude after reading the constitutional text at issue: The Second Amendment protects an individual right.
The Amendment reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." As the opinion translates, this means, "Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." This is not at all the same as saying that only militia members can bear arms, or that "the people" can only bear arms for militia-related purposes. The latter clause describes the right and describes it as belonging to "the people," while the former merely announces a purpose.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Lucas did, however, have one definitive answer: Barack Obama would most certainly be a Jedi. "I would say that's reasonably obvious," he said.
It's clear McCain does not understand how markets work or why they are good. He certainly doesn't understand the role of speculators and other middlemen. He's not alone. Speculators are among the most reviled people in history. When they were members of ethnic minorities, they have been easy targets for economically illiterate people who were jealous of their success.
McCain wonders "whether speculation has been going on." He needn't wonder. Speculation always goes on. Speculation means to take a risk on what the future holds in hopes of making a profit. The world's stock and commodities markets are based on this principle. Sen. McCain must have meant it when he said, "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues".[...]
In fact, the hated speculator is a good guy because his buying and selling reduce volatility and uncertainty in an unpredictable world. He may only be out for his own profit, but that doesn't matter. As Adam Smith wrote, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest".
The prices of commodities often change unexpectedly, making business risky. The speculator brings a degree of certainty to otherwise risky ventures. When supplies of a commodity are plentiful and prices low -- but speculators expect the price to rise later -- they buy -- cushioning the collapse of prices. When supplies become scarcer and prices rise, they sell -- easing the shortage and lowering the price. Also, speculators may agree to buy a commodity in the future for a price locked in today. This reduces the risk for an oil producer or farmer who fears investing because he doesn't know what price his product will sell for next year.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
What an unfortunate coincidence: An innocent loan inquiry and Sen. Conrad gets put on the phone with a CEO with myriad high-stakes interests before Congress. Most people asking about their mortgages don't get put through to the CEO, but they don't live with the burdens of senatordom. Conrad was particularly vulnerable because, apparently a financial naif, he's only chairman of the Senate Budget Committee that sets the parameters for the $3 trillion federal budget.
Countrywide waived a one-point fee for Conrad on a 2004 loan and financed his purchase of an eight-unit apartment building even though the company usually didn't finance the purchase of buildings with more than four units. Yes, unbeknownst to him, Conrad had been maneuvered into saving more than $10,000: "I did not think for one moment — and no one ever suggested to me — that I was getting preferential treatment."
Dastardly Countrywide had given it to him anyway. No wonder Democrats have condemned Countrywide so loudly (Sen. Chuck Schumer: "a vulture mentality"; Sen. Barack Obama: "these executives crossed the line"). But Conrad got off easy, considering the misfortune of his colleague Dodd.
The Connecticut senator has been saddled with favors that may save him as much as $75,000 on his mortgages. Dodd says he knew he was part of a VIP program, but figured it was nothing unusual — who in the senate is not "very important"? Dodd can be forgiven his lack of curiosity given that he's very busy as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and can't be bothered with questions of who might be trying to influence him with which particular favors.
To his credit, Dodd holds no grudges. Even though Countrywide so badly served him by shaving points off his loans, he is honchoing a $300 billion mortgage bail-out bill that will benefit Countrywide by allowing it to unload its worst loans onto the federal government. When duty calls, Dodd answers.
Whereupon Justice Kennedy in Boumediene — gazing with Olympian remove and no small disdain upon the complex, highly negotiated work of the two political branches — tossed aside the heart and guts of the MCA and DTA as self-evidently unworthy, in judicial rhetoric at once lofty but utterly vacuous. It is passing strange and distinctly unhelpful that the Court's swing vote should also be its intellectually least prepossessing, and the justice most given to writing opinions in the obfuscatory tone of God addressing eternity.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Again, it will be a federal judge — not the President or the Congress or a military tribunal — who will decide the appropriate extent to which the detainee will have access to classified military information, as just one of the more troubling examples. In other words, the branch of our government least qualified to make determinations on national security and foreign policy will now do just that....
Third, the Court's decision encourages al Qaeda to continue in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions are designed to protect civilians and to reward combatants with certain protections if they abide by the Conventions. Al Qaeda specifically targets civilians and wears no uniform to distinguish themselves from the civilian population. Our policy now is to give al Qaeda combatants privileges that exceed the Conventions in terms of access to our court system without requiring al Qaeda to abide by these conventions themselves. This, of course, is an incentive for them to violate the law of war. They receive no penalty for not doing so, and by not wearing uniforms, makes any standard of proof requirement with regard to enemy combatant status more difficult for the United States. We are literally giving the enemy the means by which they can do us great harm.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Obama's new seal looks really presidential, which is probably a coincidence, don't you think? Obama's seal has an eagle just like the president's seal and he or she is holding arrows to signify war, which Obama was against before it even started.
And it's got olive branches, which stand for peace, which we haven't really had since 9/11 but DailyKos promises will come as soon as we shoo out Bush and Cheney.
The seal's also got a terrifically impressive motto in Latin -- "Vero Possumus" -- which means "The possum speaks truthily."
No, just kidding. It actually means "Truly we're able," which translates as "Si se puede," which translates as "Yes, we can." Obama is clearly copying George W. Bush's Texas gubernatorial reelection motto from 1998.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
And this is where we come full circle, back to Sen. Dodd and his sweetheart deal from Countrywide. The Dodd-Shelby housing-bailout bill would be bad public policy under any conditions. Lenders are already under severe pressure to write down loans for borrowers who still have a chance to make it. The bill is overwhelming slanted toward protecting lenders, like Countrywide, that lowered their standards dramatically on a bet that home prices would never go down and subsequently find themselves holding a lot of bad debt.
Congress should launch a full investigation of Countrywide's program to influence the powerful; that much should go without saying. But if the Senate passes the Dodd-Shelby housing bailout before such an investigation can run its course — especially if that investigation finds that members of Congress were improperly influenced — it will have allowed Countrywide to take the money and run.
Two U.S. senators, two former Cabinet members, and a former ambassador to the United Nations received loans from Countrywide Financial through a little-known program that waived points, lender fees, and company borrowing rules for prominent people.
Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, refinanced properties through Countrywide's "V.I.P." program in 2003 and 2004, according to company documents and emails and a former employee familiar with the loans.
Other participants in the V.I.P. program included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. Jackson was deputy H.U.D. secretary in the Bush administration when he received the loans in 2003. Shalala, who received two loans in 2002, had by then left the Clinton administration for her current position as president of the University of Miami. She is scheduled to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 19.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Energy Guzzled by Al Gore's Home in Past Year Could Power 232 U.S. Homes for a Month
Gore's personal electricity consumption up 10%, despite "energy-efficient" home renovations
Justice Anthony Kennedy -- joined by the liberal bloc of Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- saves his claims of judicial supremacy for the truly momentous: striking down a wartime statute, agreed upon by the president and large majorities of Congress, while hostilities are ongoing, no less.
First out the window went precedent. Under the writ of habeas corpus, Americans (and aliens on our territory) can challenge the legality of their detentions before a federal judge. Until Boumediene, the Supreme Court had never allowed an alien who was captured fighting against the U.S. to use our courts to challenge his detention.
In World War II, no civilian court reviewed the thousands of German prisoners housed in the U.S. Federal judges never heard cases from the Confederate prisoners of war held during the Civil War. In a trilogy of cases decided at the end of World War II, the Supreme Court agreed that the writ did not benefit enemy aliens held outside the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, we in the Justice Department relied on the Supreme Court's word when we evaluated Guantanamo Bay as a place to hold al Qaeda terrorists.
The Boumediene five also ignored the Constitution's structure, which grants all war decisions to the president and Congress. In 2004 and 2006, the Court tried to extend its reach to al Qaeda terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay. It was overruled twice by Congress, which has the power to define the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Congress established its own procedures for the appeal of detentions.
Incredibly, these five Justices have now defied the considered judgment of the president and Congress for a third time, all to grant captured al Qaeda terrorists the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.
Judicial modesty, respect for the executive and legislative branches, and pure common sense weren't concerns here either. The Court refused to wait and see how Congress's 2006 procedures for the review of enemy combatant cases work. Congress gave Guantanamo Bay prisoners more rights than any prisoners of war, in any war, ever. The justices violated the classic rule of self-restraint by deciding an issue not yet before them.
Monday, June 16, 2008
It is difficult to single out the most outrageous aspect of Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in the Supreme Court's cataclysmic Boumediene ruling last Thursday: The reckless vesting of constitutional rights in aliens whose only connection with our body politic is their bloody jihad against Americans; the roughshod ride over binding precedent to accomplish that feat; or the smug arrogance perfectly captured by dissenting Chief Justice John Roberts's description of a "constitutional bait and switch" — a Court that first beseeches the political branches to enact a statutory procedure for handling combatant detentions, and then, once a thoughtful law is compliantly passed, invalidates the effort for its failure to satisfy the eccentric predilections of five lawyers.
Now the Court has decided that the combatants have constitutional habeas rights. If you can follow this, the bloc of liberal justices reasons that the framers designed our fundamental law to empower enemies of the American people to use the American people's courts as a weapon to compel the American people's commander-in-chief to justify his actions during a war overwhelmingly authorized by the American people's elected representatives . . . even as those enemies continue killing Americans.
Obviously, being held as an alien enemy combatant in a terrorist war against the United States is a far more serious matter than even the drug and violent crimes (to say nothing of flight risks posed by foreign defendants) that routinely result in civilian pretrial detention. Thus, Congress could quickly enact a statute requiring the district courts in combatant habeas cases to afford the commander-in-chief a presumption mandating detention. That is, if the government established a rational basis for believing the detainee was an enemy combatant, he would be ordered detained unless the detainee proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not an enemy combatant.
Congress could provide for the presentation of evidence by hearsay, proffer, and affidavit — with a directive that the court may not compel the government (particularly, the military and intelligence community) to produce witnesses for testimony in court. It could provide for classified intelligence to be presented to the judge ex parte, with only a non-classified summary provided to the combatant. It could require the court to give deference during wartime to the conclusion of combatant status review tribunals already conducted by the military (allowing judges to disregard those conclusions only upon a showing that the conclusion was irrational — the same standard that compels federal appeals courts, in every single civilian criminal case, to refrain from disturbing a trial court's findings of fact).
Friday, June 13, 2008
I guess this means we'll need to send Federal judges down to Gitmo to preside over these cases. In order to protect the constitutional rights of foreign detainees, no intimidating US military personnel should be allowed in the court room. I'm sure that the judges, lawyers and detainees can work their way through the legal questions of the day so as to deliver true justice. Sadly, we might lose a few judges if some of those detainees turn out to be actual terrorists with little respect for American court room etiquette, but that's a price we all should be willing to pay to preserve the Constitution.
Throughout our nation's history, the courts have usually deferred to our elected branches of government — Congress and the president — on foreign affairs and national security issues. And with good reason. The courts simply lack the expertise and resources to justify second-guessing military experts on such issues.
In Thursday's sharply divided 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court decided to abandon that long history of deference. It decreed that henceforth, it will be the job of federal courts to decide on their own whether aliens captured on foreign battlefields are really "enemy combatants."
The court said the doctrine that it was upholding is enshrined in the Constitution, even though it candidly acknowledged that it could not cite a single prior case in which an American or English court had exercised such power in a case involving aliens held overseas.
Mr. Gore and his crowd would have us believe that the activities of man have overwhelmed nature during this interglacial period and are producing an unprecedented, out of control warming.
Well, it is simply not happening. Worldwide there was a significant natural warming trend in the 1980's and 1990's as a Solar cycle peaked with lots of sunspots and solar flares. That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer and fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline. Earth has cooled for almost ten straight years. So, I ask Al Gore, where's the global warming?
The cooling trend is so strong that recently the head of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to acknowledge it. He speculated that nature has temporarily overwhelmed mankind's warming and it may be ten years or so before the warming returns. Oh, really. We are supposed to be in a panic about man-made global warming and the whole thing takes a ten year break because of the lack of Sun spots. If this weren't so serious, it would be laughable.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Had several e-mails about the recent RFK commemoration: It was 40 years ago that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The e-mails all said the same thing: Why no talk about Kennedy's killer, who he was and why he killed?
My correspondents have a point, of course. The killer was a Palestinian Arab who hated RFK for his support of Israel. Play a game: Suppose that the killer had been a right-wing racist who hated Kennedy for his support of civil rights. Wouldn't that fact be pretty well aired?
After John Kennedy was killed, some liberals said their grief could be "pure." I will never forget reading this. And why could their grief be pure? Because the president had been killed by a Communist (trained in the Soviet Union, no less). He had not been killed by a right-winger (as initial reports had it).
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at the ecstatic media lockstep praising Hillary's so-called concession speech last weekend. This is the same herd of sheep who bleated to Bush's beat and brought us the Iraq fiasco. I first heard the speech on the radio as I was driving back to Philadelphia from a family event in upstate New York. I was shocked and appalled at Hillary's inflammatory demagoguery, which was obviously intended to keep her candidacy alive through the August convention and beyond. The echo in the museum's marble entry hall gave the event an eerily retro quality, as if it were a 1930s fascist rally. Hillary's turgid, preachy rhythms were condescending and manipulative, and her climaxes were ear-splittingly strident. It was pure Evita, a cult of personality masquerading as populism. When I later saw the speech on TV, I was disgusted by how Hillary undercut her insultingly brief endorsement of Obama with a flat expression and cold, dead eyes. The only thing that got her blood racing was the blatantly stoked hysteria of her screeching worshipers.
Hillary's desperate end-game gambit to turn the whole election into a referendum on gender does feminism a serious disservice. It wasn't sexism that cost Hillary the nomination: It was her own misjudgments and mismanagement of a campaign that had the massive support of the nationwide party establishment, constructed by her husband -- to whom she owes her entire career, which has thus far been dismayingly free of any significant, concrete achievement. What kind of feminism is this -- all smiley show and no substance? Hillary's latest pose as tribune of the people is contradicted by her snobbish history of catering to the rich and famous as well as her indifference to the legions of small vendors whom her extravagant campaign has stiffed. And no true feminist would tolerate or enable that decades-long pattern of brazen philandering and crude sexual harassment that will forever brand the Clinton chronicles. When will our paleo-feminist dead-enders wake up to the psychological reality that compulsive seducers are misogynists?
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The scorching heat puts many at the Quality Inn poolside, but for Gwenester Malone, she chooses to beat the heat by setting her thermostat to sixty degrees. Malone's room for the past three months, along with three meals daily, have all been paid for by taxpayers.
"Do you work?" asked NBC 15's Andrea Ramey.
"No. I'm not working right now," said Malone.
Malone says she can't drive and it's too hot outside to find work within walking distance. "Since the storm, I haven't had any energy or pep to go get a job, but when push comes to shove, I will," said Malone.
Just a few blocks away, Kelley Christian also stays at a hotel for free. She says she's not taking advantage of her situation, but admits it's easy to do. "It's too easy. You know, once you're there, you don't have to pay rent," said Christian. "I kept putting it off and putting it off and now, I'm tired of putting it off."
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
June 6, 1944. -NORMANDY- Three hundred French civilians were killed and thousands more wounded today in the first hours of America's invasion of continental Europe. Casualties were heaviest among women and children.
Most of the French casualties were the result of the artillery fire from American ships attempting to knock out German fortifications prior to the landing of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops. Reports from a makeshift hospital in the French town of St. Mere Eglise said the carnage was far worse than the French had anticipated and reaction against the American invasion was running high. "We are dying for no reason," said a Frenchman speaking on condition of anonymity. "Americans can't even shoot straight. I never thought I'd say this, but life was better under Adolph Hitler."
The invasion also caused severe environmental damage. American troops, tanks, trucks and machinery destroyed miles of pristine shoreline and thousands of acres of ecologically sensitive wetlands. It was believed that the habitat of the spineless French crab was completely wiped out, threatening the species with extinction.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
It was supposed to be Barack Obama's big night. Hillary Clinton was supposed to step aside and let history happen. But she refused to play along. Earlier Tuesday she floated the idea that she'd be open to running as Obama's VP, leading to speculation that she's holding her supporters for that particular ransom. If that's the case — and if Obama extends the offer — prepare yourself for one of the most awkward (and hilarious) shotgun marriages in the history of politics. Oh, and kiss any hopes of a Republican holding onto the White House goodbye.
CBS 2 News has learned that Francis Cardinal George is temporarily removing Father Michael Pfleger from his position as pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church on Chicago's South Side.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the move comes after several days of deliberation and consultation by the Cardinal, who first learned about Pfleger's racially charged comments about senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Trinity Unity Church of Christ last Thursday night.
The Cardinal immediately contacted Pfleger who agreed not to refer to the presidential candidates by name, but as CBS 2 reported at the time, there remained the possibility of some further disciplinary action against Pfleger.
The Cardinal reportedly spoke to Pfleger again Tuesday morning.
"I have asked Father Michael Pfleger, Pastor of St. Sabina's Parish, to step back from his obligations there," the Cardinal said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, "and take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties, effective today."
The order requires Fr. Pflger to at least temporarily leave the rectory he's called home for the past 24 years. It's clear that Pfleger tried to fight the move.
"Fr. Pfleger does not believe this to be the right step at this time," the Cardinal's statement continued. "While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church's regulations for all Catholic priests."
Those regulations ban the preaching of partisan politics.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates, becoming the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
On the brink of the Democratic presidential nomination,Barack Obama announced Saturday evening that he had resigned from his controversial Chicago congregation, Trinity United Church of Christ, "with some sadness."
Obama told reporters he didn't want his "church experience to be a political circus — I think most American people will understand that, and wouldn't want to subject their church to that, either." He said it has been "months" since he has attended Trinity.
The Obama camp, however, remains nervous about Mrs Clinton's intentions and ambitions, and is preparing a face-saving package that will allow her to continue to play a role in health care reform, which has been her signature issue for more than a decade. Despite pressure from some Clinton allies, Mr Obama and his advisers do not wish to ask her to be his vice-presidential running mate. "They will talk to her," one Democrat strategist close to senior figures in the Obama camp told The Sunday Telegraph. "They will give her the respect she deserves. She will get something to do with health care, a cabinet post or the chance to lead the legislation through the Senate."
Another Democrat who has discussed strategy with friends in the Obama inner circle said that Mr Obama was openly considering asking Mrs Clinton to join his cabinet, alongside two other former presidential rivals: John Edwards, who is seen as a likely attorney general; and Joe Biden, who is a leading contender to become Secretary of State.
Mr Obama hinted at the plan last week. "One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln," he said. "Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his cabinet because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was 'how can we get this country through this time of crisis?' And I think that has to be the approach that one takes."