Category Archives: Law and Order

Friday Linkorama

Non-political Links:

  • Is this what we’ve come to? Death threats against psychic cephalopods? Have we no decency?
  • Scott Adams imagines a cashless world. Maybe. But it makes me nervous. Sue and I recently went to a cash basis for most our spending. It has really forced us to economize and stick to a budget. Credit cards are too great a temptation.
  • The latest on the fight between Jezebel and the Daily Show. I have only seen one of Olivia Munn’s segments but she seems pretty funny, hot or not.
  • I rarely actually laugh out loud at something on the internet. But Catalog Living has caught me twice. Here’s a good one.
  • Political Links:

  • God damn it. What is it with government know-it-alls continually flunking basic economics.
  • The media stopped calling torture by its name when Bush began to dispute whether things like waterboarding were torture. They still called it torture when China did it. Well, not any more.
  • Climategate is now five for five in investigations of scientific fraud. They are also five or five in being rebuked for asshole behavior and a lack of transparency. The response of the Right? Call it a whitewash.
  • My unending question: what is the post of having liberals around if the most liberal court in the nation decides that being innocent does not get you out of jail if you filed your motion too late?
  • Originalism

    I wrote this post a while ago and shelved it. But with SCOTUS hearings going on, I’ll go ahead and put it up for future reference.

    One of the most infuriating straw men being trashed by the Left Wing is “originalism” in Constitutional Law. Some conservatives, most libertarians and I think that the Supreme Court should rule, Congress should legislate and the President should execute in accordance with the written word of the Constitution.

    If this sounds rigid and dogmatic, it’s because it is. While “living Constitution” arguments are always tempting, they open the door to a very dangerous arbitrary law. Unless something is written in stone — and/or respected as thought it were — the law becomes whatever those in power want it to be. The entire point of a Constitution is to put a hard constraint on the behavior of our government; to make us a nation of laws not a nation of men (or women).

    Still, instead of disagreeing with this view, critics to respond with plain and simple BS: viz David Souter claiming that an “originalist” interpretation would let Jim Crowe stand. This is categorical garbage:

    Here’s the problem with Souter’s claims: The Plessy decision is wrong under an originalist reading of the Constitution. Originalism includes the original public meaning of the 14th Amendment, which commands: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Among those privileges or immunities is the right to economic liberty. Remember that the origins of the 14th Amendment lie in the anti-slavery politics of the Radical Republicans who drafted it and spearheaded its ratification. Their philosophy centered on a radically libertarian form of self-ownership, one that included both the right to armed self-defense and the right to liberty of contract. That philosophy was enshrined in the Constitution when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

    In Plessy, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law that forbid railroad companies from selling first-class tickets to black customers. That law was a blatant violation of economic liberty under the 14th Amendment and should have been struck down as such. That the Supreme Court failed to do so isn’t an indictment of originalism, it’s an indictment of the justices who failed to take the Constitution at its word.

    They key point that critics of originalism miss is that the amendments are part of the Constitution. The most ridiculous criticism I ever heard was from Whoopi Goldberg saying that originalist argument meant she would only get 3/5 of a vote (granted, she have been trying to be funny; it’s hard to tell). But the 3/5 compromise was stripped by the 13th and 14th amendments. No originalist worth his salt would even contemplate that argument.

    If you don’t like the implications of the Constitution, you can amend it — as we have done 17 times. If you don’t like the American people having guns, pass an amendment restricting the second. If you think the government should provide healthcare, pass an amendment expanding federal authority. If you think it should ban private discrimination, pass an amendment. That’s part of originalism — that the Constitution can be amended as time goes on.

    The benefit is that amending the Constitution makes the rules apparent to everyone. It does not allow courts or legislatures to arbitrarily change our liberties on a whim. (And remember: living Constitution arguments apply to both sides. We saw, with the last Administration, that “living Constitution” arguments can lead to things like ignoring habeas.)

    Of course, amending the Constitution is hard. But it’s supposed to be hard. That way, only massive consensus can change the fundamental basis of our government. “Living Constitution” arguments, seen in this light, become the lazy man’s way of changing the Constitution. It’s a way of getting what supporters want without having to get 75% support.

    But it’s also divisive. Making “living Constitution” rulings divides the country. It makes opponents feel cheated. It allows motivate groups to simply steamroll the opposition. An amendment, by contrast, because it requires such a huge supermajority, requires building consensus, making arguments and persuading critics.

    The suffragettes spent decades working toward the 19th amendment. Yes, it might have come earlier if a court had taken a “living” argument. And it stinks that millions of women never got to vote. But by going the hard route, the suffragettes guaranteed that no one would ever question or dispute women’s right to vote. The same is true of the amendments banning slavery, banning then restoring alcohol use and expanding the franchise to blacks. All of them started out divisive, built a consensus, passed an amendment and became an inextricable part of the American legal structure. Bypassing the process might have brought those positive changes sooner — but likely at the expense of long-term political chaos.

    That’s the way originalism — real originalism, not phony-baloney Bush originalism — works. It’s not as easy or as fast as the “living Constitution”. It doesn’t allow for small groups to work their will on the public. But it has worked for two centuries. Maybe we shouldn’t mess with it.

    Midweek Linkorama

    Fueled by my re-discovery of the Purple Rain album.

  • The Democrats aren’t happy with lawyers who do their jobs and represent terror suspects. Again, what’s the point of electing Democrats if they’re going to cave on every civil liberties issue?
  • No, the BP oil spill does not validate socialism, as anyone even vaguely familiar with the environmental records of socialist paradises should know. Yet another example of “Disaster Socialism”. BP, however, ain’t exactly what people envision for a free market.
  • Shit like this is why I can’t stand the Right Wing. They live in their own reality. Some kids are punished for wearing American flags; the ACLU defends them; conservatives blast the ACLU for not defending them. WTF, man? These things are not difficult to check in the Age of Google. And this is not an isolated incident. This happens all the fucking time, especially on the environment.
  • Yet another data point on socialized medicine. In the meantime, pressure builds to provide “free” birth control. We tried this when I was a grad student. And no one could grok why their insurance rates went up at the exact same cost as the pills.
  • How Education Policy Works. The DC voucher program showed measurable progress in improving kids’ performance; it was axed. The DC public school system is a catastrophe; it’s teachers are getting a 21% raise.
  • Pre-obituaries. Do not read if you are liberal.
  • Violent crime continues to plunge, as it usually does during tough economic times. Maybe there’s no one worth robbing anymore.
  • UK Linkorama

  • What don’t those illegal immigrants come into this country legally? Here’s why? I can confirm this from my own experience getting my wife a green card.
  • It seems like every liberal pet peeve is being shoved into the financial reform bill, from swipe card fees to ATM fees. This bill just screams unintended consequences.
  • Yeah. I won’t be moving back to Texas anytime soon.
  • You know what? I don’t care if Elena Kagan’s senior thesis was a paean to socialism. I’d hate to think about essays I wrote as an undergrad resurfacing. What matters is what she thinks now, almost thirty years later.
  • Once sports were pure, untainted by chemicals. Bullshit.
  • Manipulation of crime stats in New York.
  • I keep asking this question: are politicians aware of this whole internet thing? How on Earth can you go around just making shit up?
  • Weekend Linkorama

  • Best. Newspaper. Correction. Evah.
  • As much as I fear fire, I’m not sure about the mandate that homes should have sprinkler systems. I can just see myself burning dinner and destroying my expensive television. I do know it’s telling that the biggest advocate for the mandate was … the sprinkler industry.
  • It’s only been two months and healthcare reform is already increasing in cost. We tried to warn people.
  • Tonya Craft was acquitted. Thank goodness.
  • How conspiracy theories are born. I particularly like the “hidden messages” in Moby Dick.
  • A round-up of why Sheriff Joe, hero of many on the Right, is a freaking nut (although the porn ban seems reasonable to me).
  • Balko expands on this disturbing viral video of a drug raid that ends with a a dog dead.
  • Lewis Black puts Glenn Beck in his place.
  • As much as I oppose the Fair Tax, the Democrats are lying through their teeth in their recent ad here in Pennsylvania. It’s disgusting. And expected.
  • Midweek Linkorama

    All politics this week I’m afraid.

  • I’m starting to warm to Marco Rubio. Anyone who takes the Social Security issue seriously has a good mark in my book. And Crist is worthless.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates destroys the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery while commenting on the worship of Robert E. Lee. In response to his question of whether you can admire someone who fought for a bad cause, I’d say yes. Many of our WW 2 veterans had great admiration for the German and Japanese soldiers.
  • How on Earth is Marc Thiessen taken seriously? His entire existence is based around dishonestly vindicating the shitty record of the Bush Administration.
  • Reason dig in to figure out why Texas was immune from the worst of the housing bubble. My theory? In Texas, houses are for livin’, not money makin’.
  • Is another McMartin case going on in Georgia? As a parent, I want children protected. But sometimes, it seems to go ridiculous extremes. Meanwhile, the Pope is vigorously defended by religion conservatives despite his complicity in serious repeated abuse.
  • Conservatives, once defenders of liberty, are apparently thrilled that Arizona cops can now approach anyone and demand their papers.
  • I’m just so happy that baseball is back.
  • Politically Incorrect Linkorama

  • Is diversity training a sham? It wouldn’t surprise me at all. But I’d never admit it in print.
  • OK, I’ll admit it. I read this article because someone linked it up as an article about strippers. But, if you can get by the author’s decolletage, it’s a very fascinating article about how Massachusetts law is making life more difficult for strippers in the name of helping them. (It also confirms that my acquaintance who stripped her way through college and into law school was not unique. And no, she was a friend of a friend. I didn’t meet her in a professional context.)
  • I’m cooking up a post, not sure for which site, that would infuriate my old feminist philosophy professor. It may be a while, but I’ll link up this story, about the myth that sex slaves are pulled in for sporting events. What’s amazing is how many members of the religious right and feminist left will respond to this story with dismay — i.e., they’ll be disappointed that there is not a severe sex slave problem that they need to agitate about.
  • Was our War on Fat misguided? I find this especially interesting given an article I read last week about scientists mis-using statistics. We’ve seen this pattern from the Food Grabbers. Ten years ago, we all had to substitute trans fats into our diet. Now we have to get rid of them. Ten years from now they’ll be back. Personally, I think our evolved bodies are too kludgey for strict dietary rules.
  • Speaking of bad science, this sounds like hand writing analysis for the 21st century.
  • OK, enough political incorrectness. Back to plain old BS.

  • Ireland is cutting bureaucrat pay to balance their budget. There is no chance such a thing could happen in this country.
  • The massive epidemic of bad public defenders seems a case of being penny wise and pound foolish. A competent defenders would keep innocent people out of prison and keep appeals from dragging out, saving money in the long run.
  • Hugo Chavez takes Sean Penn’s advice and arrests the owner of the last free television station in Venezuela.
  • I can’t stand Ann Coulter. But I find the Canadian restrictions on free speech even more offensive.
  • Tuesday Linkorama

  • Yep. Erin Brockovich was full of it.
  • The wheels of justice turn slowly in Maricopa County; but they may finally be turning.
  • Moody’s may remove the AAA rating from US bonds if we don’t clean up our act.
  • A lovely little 18 minute film about a plastic bag. Yes, a plastic bag. I disagree with the underlying politics (dust to dust calculations are, at best, ambiguous on whether alternatives to plastic bags are better for the environment).
  • Holy crap!
  • Megan McArdle spanks those who are backing off from their sweetness and light predictions now that healthcare has passed.
  • The latest drug war outrage.
  • Texas On Hold

    A Texas judge has ruled that the procedures surrounding Texas’s use of the death penalty are unconstitutional. I’m not sure what to make of this. My feeling is that the biggest problem is slimeball governors like Rick Perry who may have executed and innocent man, is replacing members of the investigative board to cover this up and may be about to execute another innocent man. So long as we have governors and prosecutors who are more interested in getting their man than carrying out justice, we will have problems.

    Midweek Linkorama

  • How fat are the Swiss? So fat, that prostitute are getting defibrillator training in case their clients have heart attacks.
  • This is awesome. Those supposedly exploited Chinese sweatshop workers are using their earnings to start business of their own.
  • Judge Jim Gray on the War on Drugs. Incredible.
  • Finger faces? Finger faces.
  • A sad story of game addiction. I sometimes worry about internet addiction myself. I’d be a lot more productive without the blogosphere. Quitting is something that weighs heavily in my mind at times.
  • I’m sorry. Does this mean Lindsay Lohan is admitting to being a lush?
  • Is the “missing women” problem starting to fade? God, I hope so.
  • SWAT

    I knew that the documenting of Maryland SWAT raids was going to be upsetting. But even I didn’t expect it to be this bad.

    Over the last six months of 2009, SWAT teams were deployed 804 times in the state of Maryland, or about 4.5 times per day. In Prince George’s County alone, with its 850,000 residents, a SWAT team was deployed about once per day. According to a Baltimore Sun analysis, 94 percent of the state’s SWAT deployments were used to serve search or arrest warrants, leaving just 6 percent in response to the kinds of barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings, and emergency situations for which SWAT teams were originally intended.

    Worse even than those dreary numbers is the fact that more than half of the county’s SWAT deployments were for misdemeanors and nonserious felonies. That means more than 100 times last year Prince George’s County brought state-sanctioned violence to confront people suspected of nonviolent crimes. And that’s just one county in Maryland. These outrageous numbers should provide a long-overdue wake-up call to public officials about how far the pendulum has swung toward institutionalized police brutality against its citizenry, usually in the name of the drug war.

    No one will do anything about it now because no one wants to seem weak on crime. What’s it’s going to take is some kind of high-level tragedy. The minute some rich white person gets gunned down in one of these raids, the politicians will start to pay attention.

    Thursday Linkorama

  • This is cool. Using Facebook for research. I knew could justify my membership somehow…
  • I have to hand it to Dick Cheney. At least he is honest about his support for illegal torture. And he’s critical of Bush for not going far enough.
  • A must-read about how irrational some of Israel’s supporters have gotten. I’m a big pro-Israel guy, obviously. But what has gotten into people that they can not tolerate any criticism of their issues?
  • Radley Balko on flash bang grenades. Those things scare me.
  • A brief history of techno-panic.
  • I know it seems like I’m posting about global warming every linkorama, but that’s because the last few weeks have seen a nonstop assault of Bad Skepticism. Not a day goes by when I don’t read some smug blogger adding to the pile. They are really like conspiracy theorists. The target keeps moving. And no matter how much each bullshit meme is disproven, it never goes away. Instead, we get long long lists of every disproven anti-AGW claim as a “tidal wave” of disproof. It’s depressing.
  • A great article on not knowing what you don’t know. Thanks to Amanda.
  • You know, I can’t really disagree with the Godwinizing of Limbaugh.
  • Midweek Linkorama

  • Andrew Sullivan dismantles Bill Kristol. How this charlatan (Kristol, not Sully) came to be a leader in the conservative movement baffles me. Oh, wait. His dad was a big conservative voice. Never mind.
  • And then Megan McArdle dismantles Sullivan on the impending doom of the United States.
  • Meanwhile, Obama continues to attack the Taliban more aggressively and more successfully than Bush did. The GOP just can’t seem to squeeze the idea into their heads that you can use both military force and political skill at the same time.
  • Also, more on the reign of terror in Arizona. This is, quite literally, a police state.
  • And no, Virginia, Gmail is not safe.
  • Midweek Linkorama

  • I am always amazed by how close the human race has come to extinction in the past.
  • How stupid are people? This stupid.
  • The logic of Pac-Man. Cool.
  • Why am I not surprised that the ACORN-busting guy got pinched for breaking the law.
  • Balko on assert forfeiture. Scary stuff.
  • It’s rare that I link to American Progress, but their guide to identifying deficit “peacocks” is very interesting. There’s simply no way we’re going to balance the budget without raising taxes. But Republicans are too wedded to mindless tax cut ideology and Democrats are too scared.
  • How dare you discriminate against the unreliable!
  • Man, do I love me some photography.