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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Can I Have More, Ma'am?"

And Also: Failing in the clutch, including the guy they just picked up for hitting, the Mets ruined Glavine's chance for 300. This underlined the mediocrity of the team, which is enough -- for now -- for first place given the "level playing field" state of the NL. It stinks though.

At a breakfast meeting with progressive journalists, Rep. Pelosi explained how her leadership role explains why she took "impeachment off the table." Apparently, upholding her "oath" means enabling it breach by the executive, making her an accessory. This is what happens when you take even the fear of something that is a constitutional check away, even as something to be out there, hanging over things during the investigations. She even said no to impeachment of Gonzo!

You become part of the problem there, Nancy. Compare her stance with the move supported by former prosecutor and blue dog types in the House calling for an impeachment investigation for Gonzo. The country supports such an investigation. They lean toward even for the President, surely probably a majority is at least willing to be sympathetic to the whole thing. But, she says it is "divisive" to talk about such things. Hey, Nancy? Why isn't is "divisive" to investigate, to the degree the Attorney General looks like a pathetic loser?

The country is divided now ... actually less than in the past, given the low opinion ratings of the President. Current investigations underline just what is at stake, just what impeachable things the President has done. The situation also includes the occupation, which is "divisive," as will be any move that is made there. I guess, she rather "divide" her party, including those who naturally thought she was on their side. You know, the progressives who demand some real action that they know is both right and supported in some fashion by a majority.

Not that the possibility a majority might not agree is supposed to stop us from fighting for what is right. What other "divisive" things should we toss by the wayside? Abortion rights? Rights for homosexuals? Doing something to really control the President and alter the status of the occupation? Oh wait ... did that already. But, hey, the Democratic Congress did do things, like raise the minimum wage (connected to funding the "surge" btw) and perhaps pass 9/11 Commission Report measures.

Yes, we are supposed to be ecstatic that gaining control of Congress means something. They actually did something! Wow! Thus, we can have total b.s. like this, providing Republican talking points, out of the mouth of the Democratic Majority Leader:
Democratic Party leaders do not have the votes to pass an impeachment resolution. And Democrats could be judged harshly for partisan gridlock, just as the American people turned on Congressional Republicans in the 90s for pursuing the impeachment of President Clinton.

Targeting Bush now is like targeting Clinton. Same thing. You put it out there, even in embryonic form, and the path to equivalency is quick. It always is being spread around by Democrats on message boards -- impeachment/Clinton. Impeachment is meaningless. It went the way of titles of nobility as an active constitutional provision when corruption of the Department of Justice, lying us into war, torture, etc. is basically said in the same breath as cover-ups of sexual affairs. Oh, btw, lying to Congress -- even without an oath -- is illegal. Just to let people know.

Fighting for progressive things, which won't pass that much given the make-up of the Senate, the veto pen, and even the relatively close status of the House, is nice and all. But, not only can you walk and chew gum at the same time, but there are essential things to deal with as well: the occupation and the basic corruption of the executive department. It will be "divisive" to deal with them, but it is "divisive" to do a lot of things that have to be done.

Get a spine, Nancy. I fear you will pave the way for the expected Democratic Nominee, who will be targeted by the likely subjects ... allowing s/he to say some nice things, but push comes to shove, will compromise since "the people aren't ready for it" or we can't be "divisive" any more. Settling. Call me Oliver Twist, but damn it, I want more!

Must the party regulars be those who growl at those with the cup out, wanting more than one portion of gruel? The fact it is more tasty is pleasant enough, but hey its the 21st Century. The ultimate theme is the same.

Monday, July 30, 2007


For a few years in the late '90s, there was actually something good on CBS after Dave ... Tom Synder's latest. My favorite guest was surely Jennifer Tilly, who was perfectly wacky. But, so was Tom ... didn't know him earlier on, but for that alone, his death was notable. You were one of those who make t.v. fun. No wonder Dave respected him so much.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


And Also: The latest Die Hard movie is pretty good for what it is -- an enjoyable sequel that is pretty well put together, a return of an old friend, and not something to think about too much. The disorder seems to be just enough not to interfere with the plot, but we forgive such things. BTW, I almost want to see Lohan's latest ... it is supposed to be so bad, that it can be good.

[T]he Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection applies to all persons, not just citizens. The presumption that the 14th Amendment can be set aside while immigrants are hunted down and punished is widespread but false. The judge wrote: “We cannot say clearly enough that persons who enter this country without legal authorization are not stripped immediately of all their rights because of this single illegal act.”

-- NYT Editorial

This respects a ruling that struck down local legislation in part because it interfered with an area held to be largely a federal matter. One part of the ruling was that there was no compelling need -- a hearing showed that only a few crimes in the area were committed by the targeted class. It also sent a red flag up respecting "this single illegal act." Some want to not protect non-citizens held in Gitmo and elsewhere.

But, a somewhat similar mentality arises when dealing with non-citizens, especially those here potentially without authorization, are on clear U.S. soil. This is highlighted by the language. "Illegals" is the generally understood word for those here illegally. But, it is woefully overbroad. Any number of people -- including the Bush White House -- are "illegals." For instance, those involved in a grey market industry. Or, a blatantly illegal one. It is quite logical to speak of such people as "illegals," though I wouldn't -- it is a word that tries to remove the face, making all members some faceless group.

It is a blatant abuse of language, one of many we accept as quite acceptable and logical. It simply is not. This is surely the case given their name comes from an activity that quite honestly we generally accept as not a big deal -- even if we don't quite like to admit the fact. For this, those involved are just to be known as "illegals?" Dubious.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


And Also: To go all Andy Rooney, don't you hate when you can't find something in stores, even though there are so many other items like it? I like to get after-shower spray cheaply, since spending triple the price in the supermarket seems dumb, but all the discount stores didn't have it. The one place that did left the top loose, so it spilled. These things knock off bits of my life, for sure. BTW, I actually saw his bit on bottled water, so the Aquafina "public water" news was not surprising. I'm not a big bw person anyway.

Baseball: In baseball, the Yanks split their "double-header," the first "game" being the completion of a game suspended per the new rule in which a team that goes ahead after an "official" game was reached and the inning could not be completed. The records of that game are dated the day of the original, so if A-Rod hit a home run yesterday as the game was completed, it would apply to that June date. Thus, he would have hit #500 already, being at #499 now.

Given Barroid is at #754, some are interested at possible future holders of the record. The announcers btw thought the backdating was stupid, but I think it makes sense. For instance, a person who pitched already could not have pitched again because we are playing out the game, and someone cannot pitch twice in one game. Backdating is done in other contexts. It takes a bit of creative thinking, but so it goes. BTW, the Mets lost to the Nats, continuing their "limping to postseason" strategy. The Braves came from seven down, but lost in extras.

They Get It -- About F-ing Time -- Edition: Chuck "damn do I sound patronizing" Schumer announced that the burden of proof will be against the President if a Supreme Court vacancy arises -- I'm not sure if this necessarily holds if Thomas retired. Meanwhile, Arlen "I'm concerned but let's be civil now" Specter is looking into Roberts/Alito testimony given their -- surprising only to the fatuous -- rulings the last couple years.

Chicken: TPM discusses the various reasons Republicans might be afraid to take part in the YouTube debate. This includes fear of their base and of democracy overall. As part of its continual "must read" coverage, we also see how the Bush Justice Department twisted voting fraud cases. Not surprisingly, one paper compares him to a piano player in a bordello, Gonzo is apparently unaware of the situation. He promised to look into it.

Farm Bill: I take a look at an article on the farm bill that was just passed in the House here. Food policy overall is obviously of special importance, you know since it's kind of important and all to eat etc., but it is one of those things that we really know pretty little about. I surely haven't been keeping up on the matter. It's one of those things that I have to in some large degree trust to others, underlining the importance of both examining things with an educated eye and -- to repeat myself -- having some hope our interests are being properly represented.

This is also how I work analyzing what is going on in Iraq. I find the whole matter depressing, really, and fundamentally hate the situation we are in. This results in lack of desire (unhealthy, I'm sure) to dwell into how best to handle a lousy situation. The "compromise" (the scare quotes are knowing) will leave a lot to be desired, and the overall situation will still stink. This colors my lack of special care in keeping an eye on exactly what is going on over there, entrusting people I trust to analyze the situation.

There is just so much one can handle, really, and this is an example of the truism. For instance, I referenced the whole second class postage issue. Actually finding the whole story there takes some work, since the people who generally reported it in some detail are against the new policy. Overall, I trust their judgment, but someone on the other side probably would not. A complex balancing of the evidence is often not really how things operate ... I think perhaps one might call my judgment at times "gestalt."

Well, it sounded good when used in How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman. But, who knows ... it is not really a "JET" word. Seems to fit, though.

Border Issues

And Also: The usual suspects, including Talking Points Memo, provides good coverage on the latest Gonzo b.s. Honestly, the particulars get a bit confusing, but the overall flavor is simple: the top law enforcement officer is a hack that is a blot on the nation. It is fun to have such an easy target, but it does matter -- I'd imagine -- who fills such positions. Thus, he really has to go. All this bipartisan scorn is fun and all, but really, if he stays ... what's the point? There is one, sure, but it only takes one so far.

This drives one crazy:
The House on Wednesday approved a move by conservative Republicans to try to set free two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug dealer.

After a long, emotional debate, the House voted by voice to block the Bureau of Prisons from keeping former agents Ignacio Ramos and Alonso Compean in federal prison. Ramos and Compean are serving 11- and 12-year federal prison sentences, respectively, for the 2005 shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border near El Paso.

The case has caused a furor among conservative lawmakers and on talk radio across the country.

The agents shot him in the buttocks as he fled, but got rid of crucial evidence and failed to report the incident as required. They later found a load of marijuana in the van but U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said there was no proof to tie the drugs to Aldrete so he could not prosecute him.

It was amusing enough when kneejerk conservative types [to ridiculous levels] had their usual selective approach to law and order, but now the Democratic controlled House has to join in? Even if the idea is that the Senate will not agree, so the measure won't pass, this is simply not the job of Congress. As an opinion piece noted, apparently not quite aware of the irony, it also is bad on the facts:
Then Bush reiterated, as he has done on previous occasions, that "these men were convicted by a jury of their peers" and that "people need to look at the facts." ... Nor has there been any change in the law under which Ramos and Compean were tried, convicted and sentenced. It's still a crime for officers to shoot an unarmed suspect and then lie about it.

Meanwhile, on the Canadian border:
Mr. Schornack is filing suit against the president, on the ground that Mr. Bush had no authority to fire the head of an autonomous international agency. The case is expected to be heard in Seattle this week. Representing Dennis Schornack will be Mike McKay, who is familiar with the you-work-for-the-White-House speech. His younger brother, John, was one of the United States attorneys dismissed last year by the Justice Department.

The problem arose when a retired couple decided to build a wall on their property that straddles the U.S.-Canada border. A member of a binational international commission discovered it encroached -- by a few feet -- into a buffer zone. This it could not do, even if (as they noted) local property officials did not tell them there was a problem. The trivial nature of the problem ultimately does not matter ... you cannot wrongly build a wall on my property because it only encroached a tiny bit. Likewise, rightly so, the official saw it as a test case.

What if it was allowed? Why not a few yards? Or more? What if it the precedent was used by smugglers and the like? Such an issue already arose in the very area in question. Well, they got a libertarian property rights organization -- one with more funding than the tiny border commission in question -- on their side. The Bush Administration asked the official to settle. As noted, he didn't think he could, this setting a precedent. His political loyalty was questioned (in fact he is a loyal Republican, his nomination held up because a senator thought him too partisan) and then he was summarily fired.

The ability of the Bushies to do this given his international role (and I'd think him doing his job ... like a "for cause" issue) and such is now under litigation. It's a small thing really, but it underlines what we are dealing with these days. A lack of credible government. As Media Matters noted today:
Fast-forward a few years. We have a president who has lied to the country in order to take it to war against a nation that didn't attack us, created a network of secret prisons, embraced torture, held people without trial or access to lawyers or even being charged with anything, used the government to spy on its own citizens, used "signing statements" to declare that he will not follow the very laws he is signing, and presided over an administration that is routinely described as "lawless" and that generally behaves as though the United States Congress has no more authority than the Ridgemont High School student council. Among other transgressions against the truth, the law, the Constitution, and human dignity.

Isn't it time news organizations devote more resources to exploring these issues -- even if it means fewer stories about cats and cleavage?

Well, that is some cat story ... got to admit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Second Class Postal Rates

Ah, the usefulness of the Net. Back in the 1990s, if I wanted to look a federal court ruling up, it required a trek to one of the central libraries in the various boroughs. Only one had the complete set, and in later years it did not have most of the lower court rulings. I didn't even try to find state rulings. Now, Supreme Court rulings are available to everyone online, and it is fairly easy to get a lot of lower court rulings ... and via someone who works in a library, I have a connection to a lot more rulings and law review articles. Not quite as much as someone with Westlaw, sure, but heckuva lot of stuff.

Thus, I peruse rulings a lot more often these days. The articles provide even more insight, but that is a near limitless resource, so rulings provide a more manageable way of doing things. See, e.g., yesterday's references. And, since the Findlaw and Cornell sites provide links to most rulings cites, it not only provides easy reference, but you can follow where each lead ... which can be quite interesting as well. An example of this is Speiser v. Randall, an important ruling that helped to establish the "unconstitutional conditions" rule,* which provided material relevant to an issue of the day ... the increase of second class postage in which the Post Office proposal (more friendly to small periodicals) was rejected in favor of a Time Warner option.

The value of the rate, which hearkens back to 1792 (newspapers) and 1794 (magazines/pamphlets) is suggested in a footnote to a ruling cited by Speiser. The ruling earlier noted that the purpose of the cheap rate was "to encourage the distribution of periodicals which disseminated 'information of a public character' or which were devoted to 'literature, the sciences, arts, or some special industry,' because it was thought that those publications as a class contributed to the public good." The case involved a denial based on the alleged indecent nature of the material, looked upon negatively by the Court, reflecting the dissenting opinion of an earlier ruling concerning seditious speech. The threat was real:
[Second-class privilege] was found to be worth $500,000 a year to Esquire Magazine. 'A newspaper editor fears being put out of business by the administrative denial of the second-class mailing privilege much more than the prospect of prison subject to a jury trial.' Chafee, Freedom of Speech (1920), p. 199.

This is a clear case of the government "securing" our liberties ala the Declaration of Independence, there being any number of ways that this can be done. Here speech and knowledge was promoted by providing a type of subsidiary, which occurs in any number of cases these days, with mixed success. The mails might not be the primary way of communicating ideas to a broad audience, though it once was, but it remains of major importance. For instance, paid subscriptions is often a primary source of income, online versions of publications a sort of extra subsidized ... natch ... by that route.

And, as noted in the I.F. Stone collection, second class rates can be quite important for small time publishers with small profit margins.** Denial is not the only way they can feel a tug ... a tug with harm to the general public as well. Likewise, this underlines the importance of who fills the government, including executive and independent agencies. After all the Postal Regulatory Commission (yeah, who?) made the decision here. It is notable here that the Post Office's own proposal was rejected here, while an important issue got little notice ... partially the fault of the people given the responsibility to regulate the issue.

A matter that hits to the "public character" and has roots over two hundred years ago deserves such clarity. But, competent government is not really the goal from the second branch. Mixed bag in the First. For instance, this left something to be desired.


* Just because a privilege, such as a tax exemption, is at issue does not mean that the government can require surrendering of a constitutional right ... such as in that case a loyalty oath requirement.

** The problem with the new plan is suggested here, suggesting Bushie free market mentality over acting in the public interest:
Under the proposed rate structure for mailing periodicals, the biggest publications--your Times, your Rolling Stones, your Vanity Fairs--are granted the best prices thanks to their ability to produce better mailing efficiencies (bundling, sorting, transport); smaller publications that don't have the budget for such efficiencies pay for the Postal Service's work on their behalf.

From a free-market standpoint, this isn't, on its face, unfair: since big mag publishers use fewer Postal Service resources, they get to pay less. But the USPS isn't supposed to be a competitive enterprise. It's a government body whose rate structure has until now been meant to facilitate and encourage the dissemination of information and ensure a thriving marketplace of ideas.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Books, Politics and 2008 Lower Expecations

And Also: Welsh v. U.S. provide a good insight into my broad views of "religion," amounting to a something that "communicates" in such a way to "impose upon him a duty of conscience." A central core, often involving questions of life and death, that rises above mere "philosophical" or "pragmatic" decisions. The dissent also notes my point that the First Amendment has a religious classification, religion specifically targeted both positively and negatively. See also Harlan, who underlines there are non-theistic religions. A point addressed more recently too.

The idea of Herman Melville's posthumous novel Billy Budd is good ... innocent [one impressed from a ship named the "Rights of Man"] sacrificed for the good of the British Navy, the "official" story labeling a dangerous agitator. A law essay was written about how the captain was not "forced" into having a quickie court martial on board, the panel not very knowledgeable about the law.

The ship captain noted that it was probably ideal to keep him in custody and wait until they were back ashore for a formal trial. Anyway, the captain -- concerned about a mutiny and a witness to the alleged crime -- did not seem fully in his right mind. But, a false allegation could get the doctor in serious trouble, and how could he prove such an iffy thing anyway? The captain's closing argument to the panel to focus on their duty as members of the navy, not their natural sympathy and morality, was a powerful scene too. But, like the much longer Moby Dick, the book itself was rather dull. I could not get into the book, and had to skip over tracks of the DVD too.

I did find the "Giants of Political Thought" examination of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan [surely the same people who put out the Constitution volume narrated by Walter Cronkite]. It provided some analysis and put the book in historical context, discussing the man and his time. A reasonable two and half hours of discussion time, same format of various voices for different people cited along with a narrator. The book comes off like a neocon tract: the all powerful executive, the rather amoral stance, the concern for "public" faith, the opposition to criticism of the leader, and the basic fear that drives the whole affair. And, a critic of King James I even notes his problem was as much one of finesse as anything -- other royals had high opinions of themselves, he just was so much blunter about the whole thing.

Talking about statescraft, I did not see the YouTube debate, but suffice to say that I'm getting tired of the whole thing already. This is not very good, is it? Some already are worried about the frontloaded primary system, resulting in two nominees by early Spring, and lots of time before the election. One should also note that we already had various debates already, getting debate fatigue, and where are we? HC is still the frontrunner with OB a legitimate challenger, while EE is third. The others mostly do not exist, though DK forces us to realize a stronger position against the occupation etc. is possible. Anyway, again, I am sick of the status quo. If we spend all this time and get HC, well, f-it. Tedious process.

Dean was on Rachel Maddow/Air America tonight spouting the establishment line -- can't "cut and run" in Iraq, the "people don't want impeachment," "we can't do anything in Iraq until '09," etc. FU, Howard. Rachel was depressed at his spouting Republican talking points, and I agree ... I'm sick of it. The talk by some is that we will have to wait to 2008 ... but I want to underline that we have to want more too. Talk the talk, be angry that the majority's will is being blocked, that people like Gonzo are still in power (hey, is impeaching him so bad? censuring? oh must we just continue to embarrass him ... sorry, he has no shame ... it might feel good, but it's like yelling at a child*) , and so forth. If not, we will hear about how great it is that HC is the nominee, and lower expectations will kick in.

And, 75 degrees will feel cool since it was 105 in the shade before. Again, f-that. Yes, I'm getting rather upset about the whole process. Dean was right in 2002. Now, he is of the "hey, I will support the policy, but won't like it ... see I'm forced into to it. Really I am." I didn't much care for this in 1990 (Kuwait invasion preventable ... take eye off ball ... isn't that Joe Wilson? ... forced to fight), I surely don't now. And, I'm not alone.

Those low congressional approval ratings reflect a desire for action. But, at some point, you are tarred with the "same as everyone else" brush. Pretty sad to consider that when you just got into power a few months ago!


* A particularly nauseating example is Arlen of Pennsylvania, who is oh so concerned, but still is trying to find some "compromise" position to save el jefe from being hung on his own petard. But, again, it is a lie to only focus on Republicans here. If the leadership was consistently as hard hitting as the likes of Rep. Waxman, maybe something would occur. We get more and more news about how the President is wrecking the executive, but he will totally get away with it.

I'm sure he and his ilk are just crying in their coffee that the likes of I think he is an asshole and a threat to the constitutional order. As you know, we are misguided souls that threaten the well being of the nation. The fact we oppose him and his faith based system of governance underlines the righteousness of the cause. And, the idea that letting these people get away with it won't bleed over to 2009 because the next person will be oh so perfect or something is bogus.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stone * 2

And Also: I was concerned about targeting Vick before his criminal case came to a conclusion, but there are also "league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy," and he is being kept out of camp -- with pay -- while an investigation is ongoing. And, there is some fear of protests and the like. If there is some sort of "probable cause" for an investigation, this appears proper. Let's see how things go.

I have read a few books published by the Public Affairs Press, each with a page noting that the books reflect "the standards, values, and flair of three persons," including I.F. Stone.

So, it is appropriate that I finally read one put out by them entitled The Best of I.F. Stone, providing writings by him from the 1940s to 1960s. He had a socialist mentality, a term that is only bad to those who ignore the socialistic values promoted during the New Deal. He thought many, including Martin Luther King Jr., had a bit too tempered flavor during the March on Washington. Warned us that just because WWII was a "good war" didn't mean we could ignore why we should ideally be fighting it. Saw the lies of Vietnam from Tomkin Resolution on. And, spoke of the up and coming powers of "Texas millionaires" as early as the mid-1950s.

Suffice to say, it is a useful enterprise ... putting aside his "flair" and "standards" ... to peruse the volume. Likewise, it underlines that things that progressives on blogs and so forth are concerned about have a long history. The problems of the establishment press that ... per one book taking a long view ... "made war easy?" The enabling of Vietnam suggests the Iraq conflict was not somehow a result of post-Reaganite corporate journalism. The limits of mainstream politicians, including those some hang on to -- Stone was an early doubter of the true weight of RFK's idealism. The old time conflicts of Jew v. Arab. The demonization of the likes of the Soviets, Cuba, and so forth. The imperialism of the United States, and all the b.s. and crap that results. [Query: are they different things? I bet they are.] The claim of peace via hysteria, armament, war and demonization. And so forth.

Somehow related is the fact that we often think of "the other." Consider that link to BTC News I cited a couple posts ago in my burst against the do-Nothing Congress. [The latest: hey, no need to even censure, since Bush's name is toast, right? I find hitting him a rolled up newspaper at this point downright pathetic, but no more than the response from Sen. Reid. ****] One response was annoyed that someone noted that Democrats had the mark of guilt on them too. Can't have that ... sounds like one is equalizing them with Bushies. Who tossed him the keys in '03? Who took impeachment off the table? Who funded him still? [The conceit this was somehow mandatory is just that. It is an AFFIRMATIVE act to fund without any strings. Denying it is the case is just lying.]

We have to remind ourselves of the Pogo line ... the enemy in some case is us. I saw a book today about the "Christian Right." I have a book by Wendy Kaminer mostly targeting New Age religions, when the biggest danger often is much more mainstream.* The fact a certain group perhaps did more or were particularly enthusiastic to a cause does not mean only that minority is at fault. It can very well affect the equation, since quite often a strong minority can have their way since they can make it a pain for the rest of us [this is why a strong progressive minority ... possible in Congress now if they had the guts ... can be so powerful even without "67 votes"]. But, lynching in the South would not have occurred if a majority of the whites, surely among the ruling class refused to allow it to go on.

Talking about books, I picked up -- lucky the library still had it since it is from over thirty years ago -- a copy of Christopher Stone's Should Trees Have Standing. Sierra v. Morton is supplied as an appendix, but the dissents there aren't quite what he has in mind -- Douglas did speak of "their own preservation," but also mixes it with a functional approach. His love of nature arose from his belief that it was a powerful aid to the well being of the human animal. Thus, standing here would be brought by those who have an "intimate relationship" with nature. But, Stone thinks in a fashion we all have such a relationship, we are all part of nature. And, natural objects [he particularly doesn't focus on animals or even plants, since matters of "consciousness" might arise there] should clearly have interests in their own right.

I share that sentiment overall. We already have laws that honor the well being of nature, including those that spell out animals in various cases should have satisfactory treatment. But, as Stone notes in his law article, such laws are secured too often by public officials with mixed motives and concerns. Douglas notes this in his dissent -- the tendency of public agencies to fall in with the industries they are meant to regulate. The government has many things on its plate -- regulation of nature includes its development. But, corporations -- logically deemed "persons" though some disagree [persons with limited rights and open to much more regulation -- if the will is there -- than natural ones] -- have a powerful voice. Why not have a somewhat comparable one for nature? Is not "it" as well worthy of our trouble?

Recent times has brought realization that the environment and all its aspects can be secured by looking at the interests of human litigants [Sierra Club eventually "was allowed to intervene [only] because its members hiked" the trail in question] but as Stone notes, there is a special meaning to things like "rights" and "person" that is intangible but powerful. And, something more than -- often hard to prove -- direct harm to specific plaintiffs as usually defined per "case or controversy" rules is at stake here. It is true, however, a liberal reading ... not favored these days in too many cases ... might get you much of the way enough times to make it a worthwhile enterprise.

No matter how, the idea of supplying nature with a separate and unique voice is an idea that remains quite logical.


* There is a new t.v. show on today with Holly Hunter, who plays a hard boiled cop that finds out she has a guardian angel. She claims not to believe in God, but asks for God's help when she hits someone with a car. The angel proves who "he" is by taking her up on top of a mountain ala Satan in the gospels and showing his wings. Damn Touched by An Angel b.s. ... why does these shows have to be so damn literal? The given person "touched by God" -- so to speak -- generally has some sort of psychological experience that is quite powerful, but does not involve angels with wings. Or, if they do, it is in a dream.

It is quite easy to convert when you see tangible things, but unlike Thomas and Jesus' nail holes, the general person does not get such a blunt instrument. Quite a few have quite powerful experiences all the same, leading to great transformations. Why can't these shows focus more on that?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Reservations

And Also: My two free issues of The Economist had some interesting articles in American politics -- last week, the torture czar got his (he spent a lot of time on one dubious death penalty case, about ten minutes), this week on Edwards. Edwards is seen as speaking left but providing moderate policies, forcing other candidates to respond. If so, this is a core value of his campaign, even if he doesn't get the nod.

In a now closed, sadly, theater hidden downtown, I saw a German film entitled Mostly Martha (English title) around Christmas time a few years back. It was the second time, and I saw it again on DVD. The film is one of those that I can see repeatedly -- enjoyable, touching and on some level ... but not on all ... a simple film that doesn't require too much thought. It concerns a workaholic chef who re-examines her priorities after taking in her niece ... the mom killed in a car accident, the dad not around. Comedy, drama, food and a nice lead all added up to a fine film. The food picture, by the way, is a genre in itself.

It is not surprising that someone thought to provide an American version, given the somewhat stupid name No Reservations. They picked a perfect lead, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who does remind one of the German actress (down to their thin frame). She does well here, showing her talent. As the owner, Patricia Clarkson also is a perfect fit, while Aaron Eckhart (who is doing lighter fare, after being known for darker stuff) works fairly well as the Italian (the weakest role in the original, probably ... a sort of scriptural requirement/love interest).

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is also decent as the daughter, but does come off as less edgy than the original. This suggests part of the problem with the movie, which started basically like the original. The movie appears to take the usual path of expecting American audiences wanting less edge, more spoonfeeding. This is shown in various cases. For instance, I guess, it is okay to take away the whole subplot in the original in which the birth father might get custody (though it hurts the drama ... the father an ideal for the daughter to dream of vs. her aunt), but in this version the aunt cries while reading (with her sister's voice on the soundtrack) the letter asking her to care for her.

In the original, she cries from the obvious stress of the situation ... we don't have be reminded or be given a gimmick. More examples can be added, plus a certain editing of key development time. I noted the father issue. Likewise, in the original -- note the irony -- the niece won't eat, which upsets her chef aunt particularly. She even faints at school, off camera, but we so learn. So, when she does eat, it's a special moment (more reasons than one). In the remake, the fainting isn't mentioned, and the not eating is barely noted ... seems more of a slam on the aunt than depression. There also is a mean act by the owner that makes her character needlessly bitchy.

The watered down flavor is blatantly shown by the use ... but only about half as long ... of the original instrumental. It reflects the wan version of the repeat, down to -- for some reason -- removal of a final amusing bit. Likewise, without the father being an issue, I was waiting for the "conflict moment" ... it comes, but is pretty weak, surely less dramatic than the original when the aunt sees the niece go with the father, and she has a touching speech on how the niece is like her in various ways. Remakes need not be mirror images of originals, even superior ones, but changes should be improvements, or rather, not diminished returns.

The audience as a whole seemed to like the film. I didn't totally dislike it ... as I said, the lead was well played and others did a pretty good job, including an amusing turn by a couple of the staff at the Manhattan restaurant. (I must see what actually is at 22 Bleeker St.) And, for what it is, it is a minor romance with nice moments between the aunt/niece as well. But, I was disappointed ... one knows that you cannot, so to speak, judge the movie by the book, but sometimes the remake leaves a bit too much to be desired.

Now if I had one of those free tickets distributed after I bought mine (this being a preview showing), maybe I might have been a bit more pleased!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

NY Candidates For President ... Blah

And Also: The depressing moment when Barry Bonds will break Hank Aaron's record is fast approaching ... Selig is praying he just hits three in one game when Selig is detained somewhere. Oh well ... the man is clearly a stud athlete ... too bad, he decided he had to be more. The fact he is a jerk doesn't really help. As to Michael Vick and his dog abuse problems (talk of "rape stands" and such suggests why Sen. Byrd was crying "barbaric" on the Senate floor), I don't think he can be suspended without a conviction. It is a bit distressing that "due process" and such come off as excuses.

I do not want Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. I know there is an "anyone but Bushie" sentiment out there, but we need to have higher standards. Why have a primary, after all? And, my stance against her is not skin deep. We have an opportunity here to truly turn the corner, the depths of an alcoholic who finally admits s/he really has a problem, and we need to seize the opportunity. Lower expectations might be a funny Mad TV skit, but it shouldn't be our watchword.

I said this for at least a couple years now, and it is felt on a quite emotional basis along with various pragmatic concerns. I did not vote for her husband in the 1992 primary ... my choice didn't survive his presidency, so perhaps it suggests my usual penchant for questionable choices. He had various things going for him, but also various things against him ... and HC doesn't have the same likability factor while having the same (if not more) distaste against flavor. She has the stink of establishment that makes "centrist" feel like a bad word. Her stance on Iraq has been dubious. I don't want another "well I obviously have to support x since you know s/he is basically on our side, even if we rather have some other candidate ... and look at the alternative."

[In a fashion, this sort of thing only underlines her presumptive front-runner status, and also helps her anti-administration bona fides. To the degree some think she can be beaten, is it really a bad thing to do this? IOW, can this sort of attack -- with the plausible deniability tossed in -- be wickedly productive for Republicans? Reasonable, I think.]

And, I simply don't want two families to control the presidency for 16-20 years. Oh, and I like the other two options in various ways, so there are good alternatives.* [As a protest vote, for instance, Nader was not a great choice in 2000.] Finally, she is doing fine enough -- though there probably is a better representative of N.Y. than her or the self-righteous one -- as senator. But, some have for awhile deemed her the presumptive nominee. This is poisonous since it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, there is a feeling that her competition will be Rudy G. Many wonder how that would be possible, but I'm not so ready to dismiss such a race. Sounds so depressing ... I can see the tabloidish b.s. sort of coverage now. Not that I like any of the Republican nominees, though a Hagel might be credible (there is always the chance he'd be too credible).

[Talking about credible, some gave respect to people like Rep. Shays (R-CT) for his middle of the road approach. But, push comes to shove, they are WINOs.]

Still ... here past knowledge brings with it additional contempt. The kind -- as a book by former supporter Ed Koch suggests -- is basically a bit of an asshole. This is not a good first step, especially with his authoritarian side. You got a Bushie two-fer there, though -- up to a point -- Rudy is somewhat more credible on the side of running a government. The qualify needs to be emphasized as suggested by the opposition by a top fire department organization and the seminal book on the man by a Village Voice reporter, Wayne Barrett. I personally respected his face time on 9/11 ... there is something to be said for a strong presence at times like that, and the other guy failed big time in that department. But, that should not give him a pass ... including his less than stellar record in related situations, including placing a command center across the street from the towers.

But, the Republican Party is all about image, also shown in the Fred Thompson campaign ... even if he is a former lobbyist, actor and so forth. Ironically, a party who doesn't appear to believe in a right to privacy acts like the rest of us should honor it when it comes to their candidates (suffice to say both Rudy and Fred's personal life is not too "conservative" in nature ... though the whole "married to your cousin" stuff is tedious ... it wasn't his first cousin etc.). And, surely the internal goings on of the office, including acting President (for a few hours) Dick "one of my many hats as a separate branch" Cheney. This is best shown by the back to the future (1985 release) honoring of Ronald Reagan. Image over everything.

An AP piece examined Rudy's stance on judicial nominees. First, we see he takes a Stephen Douglas "don't care" stance on Roe ... it can stand up on precedent, or fall, he doesn't really care. He is "pro choice" in the respect that the "right" can be removed by local governments. There is a word for something that is supplied at the sufferance of the government ... it is called a "privilege," and not of the sort secured by the Fourteenth Amendment ("privileges and immunities"). Rudy supports "Second Amendment" rights,** honoring the D.C. ruling, which appears to suggest he doesn't think localities -- his past views respecting NYC aside -- can have such laws either. As to "making it up," the D.C. ruling's reasoning was not really totally free of that.

Finally, his model for nominees are Roberts and Alito. They don't make things up ... except things like implying those behind Brown, though they weren't crude enough to include Thurgood Marshall here, would have supported the school ruling last month. No litmus tests though. Except for the ones that will be there. Typical Republican Party flavor ... support of precedent, or rather, the image of it.


* I have voiced my support of Edwards, but am willing to be go on the Obama bandwagon ... especially if time lets him grow on me. The support of people like human rights advocate Samantha Powers surely helps. I really like Elizabeth Edwards and find some of the negative coverage of her husband aggravating. For instance, with all the talk of his haircuts and such, why don't we hear about his mill town origins? He surely talks about it a lot -- it isn't just b.s., he really is a self-made man. Or, the cute tradition of Edwards having an anniversary meal at a fast food restaurant? Or, EE's military family background. BTW, my mother isn't much for expenses, but she noted her haircut costs around $75.

** There is this idea that Democrats do not honor the "Second Amendment," though this obviously means that they do not support a certain individual rights view of the provision. But, this too is dubious, since the top presidential candidates in 2004 supported that latter view.

Since even free speech can be regulated any number of ways, support of regulations does not change this. After all, even the NRA doesn't think everyone has the right to have any firearm ... though they are loathe to specify the exceptions. I think it would be useful to clearly underline this point, perhaps by a constitutional ruling, since the alternative is a stereotypical view of the "gun rights" party.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Overnight Stunt

And Also: The relevant Senate committee has approved a bill that would allow the FCC to fine even "fleeting" obscenities and indecent language on television, after an appellate court noted such application was an unreasonable application of current law. Don't they have anything better to do than b.s. like this?

Some have referenced the Democratic filibuster of a few appellate judicial nominees as a precedent to the Republicans blocking a vote on the occupation. On some level, yes, it is -- such delays have been long standing methods to further the function of the Senate as collegial branch that respects the rights of the minority. It is not absolute ... currently, it can be overridden by sixty votes. Thus, the desire of some to declare a "nuclear option" to do away with the whole thing is dubious ... and, a bit ironic, since I doubt that many wanted it to be done when the Democrats were in the minority.

All the same, there are differences. First off, judicial confirmations are a purely Senate function. The occupation and related issues are congressional in nature, and it is notable that the House has already voted on a few particular issues (filibusters are also being used on non-Iraq matters) being blocked. Second, the last election suggests the people's will is being violated -- they have "spoken" on the issue, and it is unclear how a similar statement can be said to have been made on judicial nominations. Finally, on the merits, the issue is more fundamental* and the negative just not defensible.

Some want to wait so that Gen. Petraeus can testify, though not only do we now have reports (e.g., NYT today) that generals are telling us that nothing remarable one way or the other can be said now, it is unclear if he himself is such a grand judge of the situation at hand. Or, that it suddenly will change Republican votes to any real degree, even being sympathetic to the man's bona fides personally. BTW, the National Intelligence Estimate suggests we have been giving on the job training for those who might attack the U.S. I had to laugh at the irony of it all.

Anyway, ultimately, one has to agree that the night long session (overall, Congress seems to have some late hours of late, especially the House ... though the latter often to have face time) is on a basic level a stunt. After all, what is a stunt but a one time deal that is mostly for show? The true path to change is hard and continual action. I reference here (both the post and the Monfort reply) as a clear statement of my basic belief. The same applies to sympathetic souls like Sen. Sanders (I-VT) who assures us he is real upset, but doesn't seem to really want to firmly DO anything but hope something will change now that the Congress is blatantly actively furthering Bushie b.s.

After all, there aren't the votes, and we shouldn't give the other side ammo. But, if simple legislation like card checks for unions are blocked, we apparently don't have the votes for much of note. Likewise, as the last link suggests, what is offered quite arguably HELPS the administration in various cases. If the leadership backs something and backs in consistently, come back to me when it fails. The mind-set seems to be not to even try. This defeatist b.s. is obscenity, and not fleeting at that.


* The issue of control of the courts is fundamental as well, but in practice, a few nominees were held up. The net effect was trivial in many ways as compared to the death and destruction in Iraq. This is underlined by the fact that the most controversial nominees turned out to be confirmed anyway. The issue continues to be of concern.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday Night Lifetime TV

Summer is usually known as the wasteland for television, since it is repeat season, but cable/satellite provides a new option. Thus, several shows (e.g., Monk) have a "summer season" of new shows, while there also are many brand new shows (e.g., a few weeks back, Army Wives on Lifetime). There was a double premiere on Lifetime Sunday night, providing three hours of new programming, repeated thereafter (8-11, 11-2). Not bad really.

As to the programming, I saw both new shows along with another quality episode of Army Wives. One complicated subplot involves a troubled teenage son whose father was serving in Iraq who hit his passive mother. To complicate things further, this is a docudrama, the son falls in love with the elder daughter of the head of the base. The daughter finds out what he did, why her parents were so concerned about her going out with him, and told him that she just didn't see such a troubled person. She saw someone else she fell in love with. This reflects reality ... fact is, many people do have something special inside, but also have a troubled (and sometimes dangerous) side as well.

[Another good subplot involves the alcoholic mother of one of the wives, who looked sooo familiar. A check shows that she was on a show a while back entitled The John Larroquette Show.]

Most of the shows on are of the one hour variety so there is a lesser chance that the whole time will be worth your while, especially if you don't like the style of the genre (Lifetime, along with WE and Oxygen, appears to be "TV for certain women," as shown by the heavyhanded fare it they tend to favor). Still, you have more good than bad with many of these shows, though they aren't all my cup of team. The two new shows for Sunday ... State of Mind, with indie actress Lili Taylor as a family therapist, who starts off finding her husband screwing someone in his office. Has promise ... good supporting cast ... Taylor's soft voice at times a bit annoying. Side Order of Life ... somewhat cutsie photographer finds out her more edgy friend has cancer, reexamines her life. Again, has promise, cast appears good.

The shows had subplots that also made me consider the human condition, which suggests they are of some quality ... though I consider things at the drop of the hat at times. For instance, as the show suggested, the screwing wasn't really the main problem ... it was apparently wanting to be caught, the problems in the marriage overall (a certain emptiness ... you expect more in such cases, comfort being fine for many, but that doesn't include fearing your hubby is screwing in his office) as well. Sounds right ... though it's not my area of expertise.* Also, you notice "comfortable" marriages aren't really shown too often, you know, not one of those "true love" deals, but the run of the mill sorts that is quite normal. The sort where you build a family, are comfortable with one another, and don't expect the stars.

[Talking about "that and ...," it came to me that quite often we are reminded that Billy boy was impeached for a "bj," which is not true. He might not have "had sex with that woman," but he in various ways did screw the rest of us, or why did he have to pay a fine and lose his law license for a few years? The judge violated her oath if she took it as mere form. He also drew the whole thing out much too long. I was pissed at him at the time, and do think something seriously wrong was inflicted on the country. And, not just by the Right.

This is not to say the impeachment was deserved. Or, that some focused on the bj alone. But, if he came clean and didn't try to game the civil suit, I really doubt the House would have impeached. And, our concerns could have been placed elsewhere. Takes two to tango, but he had fault too. And, very little of it related directly to consensual activity with an adult.]

The other show had a woman married to three men at once (at least, they thought so ... she never processed the paperwork, though the expectation surely was at least civil fraud) while having a true love as well that she didn't trust with marriage. One liked her for her body ... she was an average looking sort (it pisses me off when people make snide remarks about the likes of Monica L. ... as if the many people are so grand in the looks department ... including him), which led some to make snide comments about that. The show also had a sentimental moment in that a guest star -- a familiar face on various shows -- died before it aired, so there was a little "in loving memory" message at the end. The use of the friend as a catalyst btw is a bit crude, but such is life, right? We often change because of the acts of others.

Worth checking out all, even if one might not want to watch them all straight thru.


* As the disclaimer on the side notes, I'm not an expert concerning anything discussed.

A Look at an Abortion AP Piece

And Also: Julie Hilden discusses the importance of not singling out "conventional" films and such that use violence that provides a more realistic view while accepting basically as lethal fare that allows us to ignore the messiness of the behavior shown. I would note the term "violent porn" does not only imply "sexy," but also "cheap with base motives." Also, see here about the importance of saying you are sorry (and repenting). Applies to politics, I think ... though many seem to take the Love Story route there.

Since I started a collection of I.F. Stone's writings,* it seems proper to do a bit of media criticism. First off, the opening essay in the collection is one he used for an earlier collection of his writings (you know, when he was alive and all) from his little blog-like four page weekly. The piece discussed the problems with media "today" (early 1960s), including the lack of independence and the focus more on advertising and such than real news. When I read such things, it is both depressing and re-assuring ... in a fashion. We passed this way before. Unlike some seem to suggest, it is not new ... it does trouble me that one rarely sees such historical context. After all, the "media wasteland" was labeled by what's-his-name a long time ago. It might be worse now, but the basic themes were there. We should respect our smaller place in history, even our depths.

The (AP) piece in question we shall briefly look at is entitled "Louisiana becomes first U.S. state to outlaw controversial 'dilation and extraction" abortion procedure.'" Let it be noted that this is a good start in that it does not use the emotionally laden and one-sided term "partial birth abortion," which is not the official term by any means. D&E seems the appropriate term to use ... not the colloquial one, though the generally accepted 'slang' is acceptable in various cases. The article also notes controversy over the term itself:
Anti-abortion activists call the procedure "partial-birth abortion;" surgeons and abortion rights activists call it "dilation and extraction."

The short piece begins with the news that Louisiana will be the first state to take advantage of the recent Carhart ruling:
Louisiana became the first American state Friday to outlaw a controversial abortion procedure that involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. The new law allows the procedure in only one situation at any time during pregnancy: when failure to perform it would endanger the mother's life. The procedure would be a crime in all other cases, even if the pregnancy is expected to cause health problems for the mother. ... The statute is parallel to a federal ban that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2003, which was upheld in April by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Good start, brief and to the point as well as fairly ("controversial") neutral. The procedure is explained, it is not pretty, but this only underlines why we should know what is at stake. We might be told why such a distasteful sounding procedure is deemed required. I think this is a serious concern, especially given how the matter is spun ... when someone I know heard the procedure discussed -- someone firmly pro-choice -- she was uncomfortable about the whole thing. Thus, we need to be told why it is done.

The article notes the fact the penalties are harsh as well as the fact that a woman Democratic governor signed it into law:
Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed into law criminal penalties for doctors who perform the surgery: fines of between $1,000 (€725) and $10,000 (€7,256), and jail terms of between one and 10 years. [The other amounts appear to be euros or pounds.]

We are told that few voted against the bill, a Planned Parenthood effort against it receiving a "chilly response from lawmakers." It bears noting the state is one of the most conservative in the nature on the matter, in which there was a serious attempt in the 1990s to ban most abortions. As with a similar measure in Guam, the courts made it clear that Casey could not be read that loosely. The final thing noted is the relative rarity of the procedure:
Nationwide, there are just a few thousand such abortions, according to rough estimates, out of more than 1.25 million abortions in the United States annually. Ninety percent of all abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not at issue.

The article is brief, given the nature of AP newsbreak sort material, so it arguably acceptable that we do not get a sense of the important of the procedure. Still, something is missing. What health reasons might there be to have them? What is the net harm to women in the "few thousand" cases covered here? Relevant details, but it might be argued not really the issue in an article of this nature. Still, something is lost when we read a piece like this without such context. A couple sentences might have covered it.

The article also notes another measure signed into law:
Blanco has also signed legislation requiring that all women seeking an abortion be notified that fetuses can feel pain by 20 weeks gestation, and doctors who perform the procedure to discuss the availability of painkillers for fetuses.

Supporters said the bill would provide important information to women seeking abortions - and that it could help stop abortions. Opponents say doctors do not agree on whether fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

This pro/con deal is not satisfactory. It is actually rather controversial to suggest that fetal pain is felt at twenty weeks, recent studies suggesting that the true point can be more like twenty nine weeks. What does "can" mean? Is that like the Yanks "can" make the playoffs? Is there some level of possibly there? Also, it should be noted that fetal painkillers can be dangerous to the women in various situations. The law itself might clarify the matter, but it does underline the important of even a small word to what is being discussed.

Anyway, the fact "opponents say" this is not really useful, since what would they "say?" It needs to be pointed out that such dicta has facts on its side, it is not just a matter of spin. The he said/she said problem of much coverage -- joined with the lack of the follow-up question, seen on liberal leaning shows too -- is a serious concern. This is a small example.

But, overall, the piece is satisfactory. The law is not. As to fetal pain, if there is clear evidence that such pain is reasonably possible, some sort of notification probably is legitimate. If full and adequate disclosure is supplied. Tricky business. Sherry Colb has noted that we cannot make this a selective enterprise. IOW, often we are not fully informed of the consequences of our actions. Thus, we are not required to sign a waiver when we buy animal products, including the possibility of buying them via places with more humane conditions. Other examples can be listed to fit your particular ideology and experience. The fact pregnant women are singled out is discriminatory. Also, as I said, when fetuses feel pain is quite unclear, and it should be noted that pain measures can harm the woman.

[Casey interpreted "informed consent" broadly, though earlier rulings did look warily at rules respecting such things as the "‘unborn child's' sensitivity to pain" deeming that "there was much evidence that it is impossible to determine" such things.]

So, one should be wary, especially at twenty weeks. Interference with private medical decisions is a tricky business, even when it might arguably be in some fashion a matter of informed consent.


* I tried to read a recent bio of the man, but it was too long and hard to slog through. I'm less able to deal with such things in the last year or two.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Fight For A Modern Day D-R Party

And Also: Heard some fireworks earlier ... celebration of Bastille Day? The first episode of The Bronx Is Burning was good with an interesting "behind the scene" tidbit at the end. It has gotten some good reviews, including from sports people, and suggests there is some good stuff to watch this summer ... see also Lifetime and TNT. Too young then to remember the events, but it does have a good "and outside the game" feel, including the Son of Sam stuff.

Suggesting sometimes the comments are better than the article, a TPM Cafe piece on "democracy not being a suicide pact" had some good stuff including this:
To paraphrase Jefferson, successful Democracies are based on a well educated populace. A strong middle class and a commitment to the rule of law are also essential elements to keep the Democracy functioning. What else can we throw into the mix that has been well documented, let’s see, how about a commitment to country and a true belief in the free rights of others; including freedom of religion.

The best policy for promoting democratic freedoms in these countries is a long term commitment to expanding economic policy that only builds a strong middle class. This necessarily requires the development of a secular education for all citizens.

Until the roots for democracy have been built there is no chance for social development of a commitment to democratic values. The US Bush manifest destiny to create a democratic world through force must be eliminated.

Also, the "suicide pact" deal, h/t a comment there, was discussed here. Whenever I see an article about the perils of majority rule (what if a fundamentalist majority wins?) or the dangers of protecting rights over and above what a majority accepts/votes in, it is ever so clear that we are a republic. Fittingly, Jefferson's party is often known -- if confusingly to some today -- the Democratic-Republican Party since it promoted republican ends with a broad based appeal.

We aren't just concerned about majority rule here, though Bush v. Gore suggests that is not ensured. It is true that we commonly speak of a "democracy," but its a misnomer except to the degree it means we each have some degree of personal sovereignty. So, I guess it is correct, but it has to be qualified -- a republican democracy, one in which mere 50% +1 rule is not enough. So, there is religious freedom, and separation of church and state, or at least some degree of religious equality ... even if some want religious favoritism, sponsored by the government. It means open government.

And, yes, a strong middle (and informed) class with everyone having at least some minimum of basic needs necessary for true equality. We can see the makings of a progressive/liberal platform, huh? Thom "Mr. Jefferson" Hartmann would be nodding his head rapidly. It also means that in various cases the government power will be divided, so strong minority coalitions that stick together might have the ability to block the majority's will. This includes "very respectable and serious" sorts that put nice sounding but ultimately fake measures out there since even they realize they cannot enable Bush so blatantly any more.

Atrios sees the future:
There will come a point where all of the very serious members of Congress (the wanker caucus) will come together on some bill or another which will pretend to force Bush to do something about Iraq but which won't actually force him to do anything. David Broder will applaud, the media will praise the president for not vetoing it, and only us dirty fucking hippie bloggers will point out that it doesn't change a damn thing.

One of the TPM Election Central comments puts out a challenge, given Sen. Reid dismissed the "respectable and serious" Iraq measure by the Bush enabling coalition:
But is Reid going to keep the Senate in session until McConnell "lets" them vote on Levin-Reed? Keep the debate going and force the GOP to defined Bush and his toxic war? Postpone the vote until after the recess if he's not willing to cancel the recess?

Or when McConnell stamps his little foot and says "no vote" is Reid just going to have another futile cloture vote? Ask him that. I'm looking for some teeth here.

Progressives can refuse to go alone with half-measures, even if the Democratic Leadership wants to do so. Congress needs to fund the war and has various other powers to regulate the armed forces that could seriously tie the hands of the President. Dems want to "support the troops," the majority is on their side to do so, reality and morality is on their side ... if "side" is a real change in policy. It will be a tough fight, but if they have the guts, it one they can win. If the other side wants to do nothing, and there is a firm alternative (emphasis on both words) -- there wasn't in May -- there will truly be a line in the sand.

If a minority can block measures by veterans, an ex-Reagan Cabinet secretary, and long term (often conservative leaning) military experts, measures the House in various cases will pass, measures the public wants, reality demands, when even Republicans admit the current policy stinks and do so even when the Democrats in the Senate stand firm, well, we will are in FUBAR territory. But, damn if I would like to see the battle first. We have not yet.

Some signs of true republican values are out there. Fighting for what we believe in, and not just in the lockstep military/authoritarian matter the R. party prefers, is an important part of the mix. Let us do so. Let us give the presumptive Democratic 44th President a fighting chance to build off a baseline when s/he enters the picture.

Friday, July 13, 2007


And Also: Press has double standard when coming to "filibusters." Ways to deal. [comments] BTW, per one comment, if the Dems win the presidency, the party's apparent lack of power over military matters changes significantly. Coverage of the Take Back America conference.

After time off, Letterman is back, and has some edge lately. I recently noted that he had a questionable "Gitmo poetry" bit, but had some good stuff. Same this week. For instance, DL had an amusing bit where he gave a presentation for rental property down in Alabama or something. As to guests, he did have some 'B' talent of late, though "Puffy" is probably pretty comfortable with himself ... stiff interview from my ex-high school alumni (two grades ahead ... never met the kid, to my knowledge). Good follow-up though from Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame -- nice looking young lady, easy going and the English accent gave her additional charm. Anyway, DL has some life in him yet.

I am a fan of DVD commentary, though some are better than others, and the latest of interest was It's In The Water ... an obscure little movie that is comfortable enough for me to have watched repeatedly. I wanted to listen to the commentary of The Company, a Neve Campbell dance company movie that was a quality affair, but the library copy was busted. Blah.

I did listen to The Devil in The Junior League, which is a summer read that I put on the side panel (btw, one image appears to not show up on some browsers). A good performance -- appropriate Southern accent (though one person said it wasn't Texan ... I didn't notice the difference -- IITW took place in Texas btw) with a nice sound effect simulating phone calls and use of a microphone. Got a kick out of it -- sometimes, it doesn't take much to amuse me.

On the baseball front ... Mets continue to struggle (3-2 win vs a crappy team, beaten up today), ageless one (49) John Franco slated for assignment (simply not hitting this year), and they had a mixed showing at the All Star Game. Lead-off hitter Jose Reyes basically matched the Seattle phenomenon MVP of the game, but the Mets closer gave up two runs just like his Seattle opposite number ... unfortunately, the AL had another run to spare. Anyway, given Billy Wagner only blew one save during the regular season, hopefully this will get it out of his system. Clemens (2-4) lost the Devil Rays and Scott Kazmir, someone the Mets idiotically traded away a few years back for a reject instead of just waiting a few years for him to develop.

Oh well ... no crying over spilt milk.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sloppy Originalism Strikes Again

And Also: Let me say this separately. "Privacy" seems a good way of expressing a bundle of rights in that it implies a certain liberty that is properly not for the public at large, but for individuals themselves. "Private rights" is not a creation of the 1960s, but is basic to our system of government. Sadly, Griswold and Roe did not properly underline the point, later cases often just relying on precedent or string quotes.

I'm reading a book promoting a libertarian understanding of our Constitution, one which relies primarily on text and original understanding. The book provides the usual interesting details and case citations, but also the at some level aggravating misstatements and confusions of history and simple reality. The "I told you so" crowd will note this is fairly normal for originalism, but the erroneous nature of the whole thing does annoy me. The woman is after all makes her living teaching. She did study this stuff, right?

For instance, let's take her discussion of Barron v. Baltimore, which held that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states, written by Chief Justice Marshall in 1833. Marshall was part of the ratification of the Constitution, so is a pretty good "originalist" source. The book does not really remind us of the fact, suggesting that selective citations of sentiments of the time (or citations at some high level of idealism) is a problematic enterprise. Simply put, his argument that the Bill of Rights was not thought at the time to have been applicable to the states is a fair reading of general thought.

Madison wanted a clear listing of some limits for the states, but his amendment proposal on the matter did not pass. We would not know this from the description of the case in the book. The book is correct to say that some did think the Bill of Rights applied to the states, including some state court decisions. Why exactly is probably up to debate. For instance, perhaps, since the listing did not create rights, just enumerated a few of them (with two catch-all provisions), the listing of a certain right would be a good judge of natural rights the states had an obligation to follow. Surely, the author would agree that the rights were not created by the Bill of Rights!

The book also notes an unfortunate result of the ruling was that it helped the deprivation of rights for slaves. Sure. But, are we to believe the original understanding -- not a possible "living constitution" view of the text (which she opposes, though her stance suggests it didn't start sometime around the New Deal, which is her implication ... after all Barron violated it too!) -- was that they applied to slaves?! It is rather surprising slave states ratified amendments that by their force could be easily used to attack slavery.

[Oh, and the states gave rights to "the people" etc. and was able to avoid the issue of slavery by assuming slaves were not part of the political class who had rights. Taney in Dred Scott had somewhat of the right idea at least on that front. Again, the book doesn't seem to understand the point.]

The book also wants a clear acceptance of the Ninth Amendment, not alone in arguing that the use of substantive due process is a poor substitute. But, how exactly things would be that different -- without a different overall philosophy of rights that rises above mere words -- is unclear. If, for instance, the courts were wary about "finding" rights not clearly expressed in the Constitution, doing so via the Ninth Amendment would not likely suddenly limit their wariness. The courts have always in some fashion recognized unenumerated rights, using different language and reasoning. They in effect were loyal to the Ninth Amendment.

[BTW, the Supremes also in a few cases -- including the Casey abortion decision -- expressly referenced the amendment while interpreting rights applied to the states. So, they basically incorporated it, even if they failed to bluntly say so.]

Finally, it is unclear why we should now be so concerned about the overly intrusive state while thinking there was ever some era of nirvana. Surely, the modern state ... which brings different things to the table than 18th Century America, including the need for more regulation ... is more protective of many rights than those of past eras? How can one cite limits on what we say and do without noting the age when you can get arrested for mailing contraception literature in the mail? Or, for cohabitation and so forth, divorce often nearly impossible?

Works of this nature are useful since they provide another point of view along with historical evidence that our basic constitutional values can promote such a view while staying loyal to original principles we hold dear. The view often is one that is copacetic to my own, but I manage to be more realistic and less over the top in promoting it. There is a tendency, often seen in court opinions, of avoiding the complexity of the situation. This only convinces the convinced, and in the process, skewers the facts in various cases.

I honestly find this a less interesting path in some ways while being annoyed at the cheating. But, people more successful than moi appear to find it a better path. Oh well.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A few things ...

First, the CD entitled "The Text of the United States Constitution" read by Walter Cronkite was not really him reading the document. It was a fairly brief (2.5 hours of narration) discussion of the themes and background with guest voices doing the parts of people like Hamilton. Fairly interesting as far as it goes, including the point that the Articles of Confederation is not a "constitution" per se. Not fundamental law for the people; it is more of a treaty sort of deal. Original Constitution, not amendments.

Second, I caught part of Q&A, the interview show Brian Lamb is doing these days now that Booknotes ran its course. Asra Nomani, a colleague of Daniel Pearl, was on ... decent amount of focus on the Angelina Jolie movie. Lamb saw the movie and was interested in the dynamics, especially given Nomani was portrayed in the film. Nomani was upset about the whole thing, not realizing that it would be so much of a star vehicle for Jolie. And, various facts were changed in the film. Surely, she knows this last part is de rigueur in such things, including portrayals of fairly recent history?

I thought this naive -- the movie is after all based on an autobiography of his wife, and it did have a big star in it. I have not seen it, though two people I know basically liked it, but the general sentiment seems to be that Jolie was rather good and downplayed her flashy persona appropriately. She might be right that the movie could have told more about Daniel Pearl, which might add to the proceedings -- see what everyone lost, why they were so passionate about finding him.

Nomani also didn't think the search heroic, but if nothing else, it probably was good drama. For instance, Jill Carroll -- who survived and did not have as much of a colorful supporting cast (so to speak) -- was a great story when she was kidnapped.* Who doesn't like such a drama with foreign locales and the rest? Clearly, she chose unwisely in taking part in the affair, which would have gone on without her one assumes (she isn't THAT essential). But, it did seem a bit strange that she was so surprised about everything. Perhaps, it is a matter of being blind to what is right in front of you, partially because your hopes become reality. Happens a lot to the best of us, right?

Finally, while checking for the link and name for this entry, I saw this tidbit:
Sen. Sam Brownback, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, was one of four senators who voted against the confirmation of Janet T. Neff to be a federal District Court judge in western Michigan. Her nomination was approved by a vote of 83-4.

Last year Brownback questioned Neff's views of gay marriage after learning about her role in the same-sex ceremony. He blocked her nomination, a priviledge that senators hold, but then agreed to allow it to come up for a vote after he met with her privately and she appeared for a Senate hearing.

Neff, a Michigan Court of Appeals judge, said during the hearing in May that the Massachusetts ceremony was for the daughter of close family friends and her partner. Neff said she gave a homily but did not preside over the service.

The C-SPAN "tidbit" actually was that the senator removed his hold. Curious to determine why he put a hold in the first place, I followed the story link to find out the details. Others have been following the story too, one noting that the one hold held up a block of confirmations. But, hey, "up and down" votes for the President isn't an absolute or anything in REALLY important cases, huh? It also underlines the separation of private and public. And, the fact that people who claim to be upset about state supported gay marriage really are often concerned with a whole lot more.

Still, some on the other side are concerned about private views, though one doubts they would go this far to hold up the works for them. Surely, not in this case. After all, they likely looked into this person, and a 83-4 sort probably isn't going to vote for gay marriage when the next case comes up. Well, who knows, I guess. As I said recently, some conservatives do their job when they are appointed, and equal rights for homosexuals -- especially when they include your loved ones -- is part of the deal. Sorry, senator -- just too many of them out there to keep out all judges who are intimately (not in that way, necessarily, dirty mind) connected with them in some fashion.

Again, that is why I'm a big believer of equal rights. Arbitrary discrimination is hard when I know one or more of the group being discriminated against.


* Sounds a bit crass, sure, but that's what you look at when you make a movie that you hope to make money. Nomani appears to think Pearl's widow is comfortable with the film, which at least one article I recall reading suggested as well. Overall, this background dynamics is pretty interesting.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two Games ... Twenty Innings

And Also: Transparent: Love, Family, and Living The T With Transgender Teenagers is a touching, well-written work by Cris Beam, not transgender, but a lesbian who was in effect abandoned by her mother as a teenager. So, she felt drawn to trans teenagers, one in particular. You really feel for these teens and young adults, while learning a lot about the community overall ... including one who was sentenced hard time in jail. It suggests as well the complexities of gender and who we truly are. Thus, it is really about a lot more than the trans community, which is the sign of a good book overall.

Tom Glavine needed ten wins at the start of the year to reach 300 ... after half of the season, he has seven, after going 5-1 early. Games like yesterday help explain why it is taking a bit long, though a few games where he was his worst enemy didn't help. The last start was a case in point: he had a batter at 0-2 in a scoreless game. Couldn't get that out ... three run homer. Three more runs added in the inning. Mets lose 6-0. This time he also had a bad inning (a mini-trend), but had a perfectly fine day -- seven innings, three runs. The Mets tied it in the seventh, but their hitting woes basically continued ... they did not score again for ten innings.

Yes, they won in seventeen, with every reliever used, and only the third string catcher not used from the bench (after going 0 for the game, though he got on base -- only to be thrown out trying to reach third to end the inning -- once, Lo Duca got a rest ... the back-up catcher caught the final inning. The game started as the Yanks also played an extra inning game -- thirteen -- blowing Clemens' second great start (eight innings, one run, helped by a misplay). Somehow, after only one error early, the Yanks managed five errors in the game. The final blew the game for them ... but they still got first and third with one out in the bottom of the thirteenth. No go.

If it didn't go so long, it would have been over at 7, when the Dred Scott program started on C-SPAN. It was the national FOX game, which started at around 4. Thus, NY baseball fans had over eight hours of ball to watch (even us who don't get the Yankee station), the Mets game finishing after midnight. Thirty innings of baseball total. Reminds me of a Yankee doubleheader in which the first game went seventeen -- the Yanks won the nightcap -- giving us 25 hours of ball. Ah, Irabu. Dubious pitcher, another disappointment, but did his job that day. The first game was lost when the final back-ender was pushed too far. The last longggg Mets game had a former starter of the Phillies being stretched a bit too long ... he gave up a run in seven innings of relief! Talk about a hard luck loser.

The Mets could relate ... they had repeated chances in extras before finally winning. I was watching parts of the game and the Dred Scott stuff from C-SPAN, and seriously, after awhile, you really did not expect they would win. The Mets had a chance in the 9th ... only added eight innings to the game after they failed, right? Former Astro, Carlos Beltran had a paltry .125 with runners in scoring position. After making a fantastic catch to save the game in his old environs (the outfield has a wicked hill over there), he was 0-7. 1 of 8 is .125. He was part of the two run rally. Aaron Sele, used in a blowout (against the Mets) recently after a long lay-off, made his rare appearance count. Pushed him to 2-0. The tying run came on base in the bottom of the seventeenth, but Billy "ex Astros" Wagner saved the day.

The Mets are in first in large part because the Braves and Phillies are inconsistent teams, surely given the Mets' struggles in the last month. But, those other teams lost yesterday, so the Mets can end the First Half on a truly good foot by winning today. A replacement starter is pitching, Dave Williams, but has shown good stuff in the minors during his stint there off an injury. And, if he loses, it won't be as bad ... the series would be split, and the Mets would know that they at worst would be in the same position as they was at the start of yesterday. If the Mets lost, they were at risk of being 1 of 4 at Houston, after being swept by the Rockies (who earlier swept the Yanks). One game swings can be psychologically important, surely to us fans.

[Update: The Yanks won 12-0. The Mets had to face Roy Oswalt, Astros ace, who got out of a first inning jam, and then watched his team score three in the home half. Went downhill from there, though the bullpen did fine again. You know, after the starter left early down 8-0. Underlines the importance of winning yesterday, huh? One hopes the second half is a tad more consistent. The Yanks start with some shrubs, but Toronto currently has a better record, KC has some fight, and TB seems to like to step up when they play them. Still, good way to start things.]

BTW, I get WGN, so can keep tracks of Chicago baseball. The White Sox, after giving up 34 runs on Friday, managed to win 3-1 on Saturday. The Cubs also won ... they are an interesting team that is playing good ball these days, after a pretty bad start. They are over .500 though have an uphill battle to climb to hope for first ... they are second in the weak NL Central, but have potential, their usual aura notwithstanding. Ted Lilly, who I liked when he was a Yankee, pitched a good game -- he did that a lot this year, often not getting run support. Yesterday, he did, adding to the proceedings himself.

Interesting first half overall ... how about those Brewers? Did those Cards really win it all last year? Detroit surely weren't one-hit wonders. Seattle -- who knew -- has a Wild Card shot. The NL West is competitive, as usual. And, the playoffs in the AL surely might have a different flavor this year. Oh, and -- the first game was broadcast on a local PBS station (21) here! -- there is professional league in Israel now.

Any good prospects?

Dred Scott Revisted

American and the Courts had a moot court in which the question was the inevitability of the Dred Scott decision, overseen by various federal judges (many black), Justice Breyer presiding. The ruling is now 150 years old. In the affirmative, the top legal mind Erwin Chemerinsky, and a top black lawyer not familiar to me, and in the negative, Prof. Amar (a top populist with some liberal leanings) and Prof. Kenneth Starr.

The C-SPAN website has a lot more material, including expert testimony and comments of the "judges" on the proceedings. Since many will not go there, I will focus my remarks on the hour shown on C-SPAN itself. This also is a matter of me not wanting to write a book or anything. But, the additional material is worthwhile and informative, including someone who channelled the views of Frederick Douglas. Also, the presentation on international law -- including the back and forth Q&A -- was probably the best part of the proceedings. Justice McLean's dissent underlined its importance which still holds:
In 1816, the common law, by statute, was made a part of the law of Missouri, and that includes the great principles of international law. These principles cannot be abrogated by judicial decisions. It will require the same exercise of power to abolish the common law as to introduce it. International law is founded in the opinions generally received and acted on by civilized nations, and enforced by moral sanctions. It becomes a more authoritative system when it results from special compacts, founded on modified rules, adapted to the exigencies of human society; it is, in fact, an international morality, adapted to the best interests of nations. And in regard to the States [p557] of this Union, on the subject of slavery, it is eminently fitted for a rule of action subject to the Federal Constitution. "The laws of nations are but the natural rights of man applied to nations." Vattel.]

EC had a dubious argument about how the Constitution compelled the result. It did not. Too much emphasis on the Fugitive Slave Clause (Dred Scott was voluntarily brought into free territory) and the security of slave property, including the submission that it is an either/or question. But, in the Slave South, slaves had some minimal rights, including in some freedom suits. Justice McLean's dissent cited some rulings underlining the point.

Likewise, it is not deprivation of property under due process to regulate property, including seizure when one breaks local law. This is shown in the prohibition of spirits, where a person can have their "property" (alcohol) seized if they violated dry laws. Justice Curtis' dissent does a good job on the due proces point. Finally, see Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, early Congresses -- with various Framers taking part -- regulated slavery in the territories, including having freeing of the slaves as a penalty in some cases. It also notes the Constitution calls slaves "persons" -- they are a mix of person and property. This puts them above let's say a chair.

[As noted in the intro available on C-SPAN.org, the people here are playing parts, per usual moot court technique. But, we can dispute the reasoning used. BTW, on the subject of "voluntary," per McLean, the lesser known dissenter, but worthwhile all the same: "In the year 1838, Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet, and their daughter Eliza, from Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided." The Scotts therefore didn't somehow waive their right to sue because they waited until they "returned" to Missouri. This implies a choice that is not really there. Starr in effect said this as well.]

The lawyer had an all or nothing argument, using as a text the white supremacist view of an end of the century (19th) top historian. But, it was not "inevitable" that the ruling would have been handed down as it was in all respects because of the racism of the mid-1800s. Justice Breyer cited a French woman's comments on peasants, who she saw as an "other," but did not take the cite (from Tocqueville) for its potential value to the negative -- the peasants were "other" but still free. White supremacists in the late 1800s deprived blacks of many rights, but not all of them. The Constitution of 1787 called them "persons" as well. "Persons" have some rights, even if minimal in nature.

The negative got in trouble with the question. What exactly was "the" opinion at issue? Some tried to point out that "the" decision was that Dred Scott lost. The advocates, rightly, disagreed. "The" decision was its entirety, including no rights for all blacks and the alleged unconstitutionality of the Missouri Compromise. If the ruling was never decided (e.g., dropped as improvidently granted) or decided on narrow comity grounds (Missouri gets to decide the nature of its citizenry), the opinion would not have mattered too much. The new Republican Party focused on the territory issue -- quite honestly, some didn't care about the rights of blacks per se. The extreme nature of the ruling on that ground surely upset Lincoln ("I don't wish to have her as my wife, but the right for her to earn her bread, yes" ... to paraphrase), but the very loss of Dred Scott himself ... slaves loss freedom suits all the time.

[Don Fehrenbacher's book on the case argues that Taney was quite arguably correct that it was proper for the Court to deal with all issues; even if it held that Dred Scott was not a federal citizen, and thus had no right to bring to suit at all, the Court was not necessarily wrong to deal with all the questions raised. As EC notes, we can say Marbury v. Madison was mostly dicta too. But, it was a choice ... often a court narrowly says no standing, but doesn't address the merits at all, or only a narrow number of them.

And, if the Constitution itself said blacks/former slaves cannot become citizens, that is enough. He cannot suddenly become one because Congress uses it to uphold the Missouri Compromise, no more than if they used establishment of religion for that purpose. The choice was in fact supported by many of the era who wanted to punt the problem to the courts, but it was a choice all the same.]

Amar was wrong to imply that the black citizenry ruling was totally bogus. It was, and the Don Fehrenbacher seminal work notes this somewhat in passing, a reasonable approach shared by many legal minds in the mid-1800s. The ruling did have a rather extreme version* of the view, true enough, and the matter was a divided question. But, the Taney approach as to citizenship was not totally unknown at the time. Southern states in various cases did refuse to protect the privileges and immunities of visiting black sailors though such state sovereignty questions are somewhat different than saying federal courts cannot hear diversity of citizenship cases of this sort. If some states gave blacks rights, it would in effect harm whites contracting with them in interstate matters!

Taney relied on the Privileges and Immunities Clause, raising his hackles since it implies visitors from other states have equal rights with resident citizens. Thus, free blacks treated as citizens in the North might have a bundle of rights the South would have to protect. But, this is really a diversity case, and Justice Curtis underlined the narrow nature of the rights necessarily given anyway. If states treat blacks (or women) differently than white, out of state blacks who visit only have the rights of resident blacks. Anyway, diversity jurisdiction is treated differently. After all, corporations can sue on that ground, but have no privileges and immunities of federal citizenship.

Justice McLean underlined the difference: "Being a freeman, and having his domicil in a State different from that of the defendant, he is a citizen within the act of Congress, and the courts of the Union are open to him." The lower court judge basically accepted that definition. Thus, Missouri law on the point of citizenship of blacks doesn't conclude the matter, especially since federal law can trump state. This Supremacy Clause issue colored his overall view of the case:
If a State court may do this [ignore past precedent], on a question involving the liberty of a human being, what protection do the laws afford? So far from this being a Missouri question, it is a question, as it would seem, within the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, where a right to freedom being set up under the act of Congress, and the decision being against such right, it may be brought for revision before this court, from the Supreme Court of Missouri.

This comment underlines the fact that the majority did not have to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court of Missouri, especially given the strong "federal common law" sentiment of the era. Swift v. Tyson. One "judge" here queried why the Supremes would have the power to trump Missouri on the issue of state citizenship and freedom. But, that misses the point -- the dissent felt Missouri COULD do that. That is, the Missouri legislature, which could amend the common law (including its international law aspects) in this matter. OTOH, the state courts could not arbitarily suddenly change the rules. Or, at least, the Supremes were not bound by that. McLean, for instance, cites a previous Supreme Court opinion saying just that:
When the decisions of the State court are not consistent, we do not feel bound to follow the last if it is contrary to our own convictions, and much more is this the case where, after a long course of consistent decisions, some new light suddenly springs up, or an excited public opinion has elicited new doctrines subversive of former safe precedent.

Finally, there was a dubious argument made by some judges -- a bit ironic given who was the presiding judge here -- that the political branches had "compromises" while the judiciary had to hand down "the law," without compromise. To this respect, the judiciary failed, given the Southern judges were influenced by their social beliefs and so forth. I'd add this is inevitable, but put that aside. The fact of the matter is that any multimember court compromises too. The "judgment" of the Court is a compromise, and experts who have studied the great CJ Marshall made this point as well. There is a reason he nearly never dissented or that so few dissents came out. Compromise ... even if an individual judge given his druthers would have decided otherwise. Some find this messy. Sorry, it is how things work.

Interesting exercise though I do think some of the presentations were somewhat lacking. Me? The immediate result was reasonably inevitable (choice of law grounds, precedent), the race issue once raised not surprising (given the weak position of blacks in the era plus the Court personnel) if blatantly overbroad, and the Missouri Compromise ruling somewhat surprising given many Democrats (admittedly, not too many Southern Democrats, who controlled the Court) didn't really like the breadth of the ruling (it voided popular sovereignty).

The ruling could have gone the other way, see the dissent, or be decided narrowly (see the original Nelson opinion), but there was a strong pressure to decide the Missouri Compromise issue. Given the leadership on the Court, I guess it was not surprising how it came down overall. This applies to the tone too, especially given Taney's history on the subject. I re-listened to Sam Waterson perform Lincoln's Cooper Union Address, which I have on tape, as a sort of July 4th enterprise. Maybe, someone should have channeled him too?!


* Massachusetts would not even recognize blacks as citizens leading to federal citizenship for let's say a pilot license or security in federal courts of privileges of immunities. For instance, if Maine also recognized blacks as citizens, let's say it then somehow denies equal citizenship rights to black visitors from Massachusetts. This violates Art. IV and might be a question for federal court view. Under Taney's argument, even though both states recognized (state) black citizenship, blacks could not go to federal court, since blacks did not have federal citizenship.

The 14th amendment clearly made all born here (with minor exceptions) federal citizens, which btw was not the general view at the time -- states, so noted Curtis' dissent, controlled who were federal citizens in most respects. That is, other than naturalization of foreigners, including it is assumed foreign slaves. Also, consider treaties, which in effect can involve naturalization too. Recently, the U.S. had obtained territory from Mexico, where slavery was outlawed. The citizenship rights of their members were protected in the treaty arising from the end of the Mexican War, and some Mexican citizens were black. Justice McLean noted the point adding: "They have exercised all the rights of citizens, without being naturalized under the acts of Congress."

Query: if blacks were not "people of the several states" in a national sense, did that mean states could not allow them to vote for federal officials? Some blacks did vote on the ratification of the Constitution ... was this illegitimate? After all, how would slave states allow -- the horror -- blacks to vote on federal matters, including let's say an amendment outlawing slavery!