Sunday, June 28, 2009

Encouraging news from the Supreme Court

We're down to the last week of the Supreme Court's session, and generally that means they're down to the biggest, or most problematic cases. They're scheduled to release three decisions Monday, and I'm not holding my breath for good news.

Still, on Thursday they released a decision that is good news in the case of Safford Unified School Dist. v. Redding, the case involving the strip search of a thirteen year old girl suspected of bringing Advil to school.

If you've been following the case you know the facts: a middle school student ratted out Savana Redding as the source for some Advil she was caught with, so Samantha, thirteen years old at the time, was dragged down to the principal's office, forced to strip to her underwear, and then forced to pull out her bra and panties so the government officials gathered in the office could look inside. They found nothing, and Savana sued the school district and its officials.

The case got a lot of attention at oral argument, in large part because of the mocking tone adopted by many of the justices. Now that the case has been decided, though, the outcome is far from what the questioning by the justices suggested.

In the 8-1 decision, the Court explicitly decides that the search of the young girl violated the Fourth Amendment. This is great news because it is a major departure from recent Supreme Court case law. First, no matter what lip service the Court has paid to the constitutional rights of students, in their recent decisions they have essentially followed a rule that students have no rights, even for activities out of school. Second, this decision is a departure from the growing drug exception to the Fourth Amendment, under which the conservative majority routinely follows the rule of "anything goes" when the government is in search of drugs.

On the other hand, they also found that sovereign immunity applied because the law wasn’t clear enough to inform a reasonable public employee that poking around in a girl’s underwear was improper.

One wonders if the outcome was influenced by:
a) Justice Ginsburg’s comments at oral argument;
b) Justice Ginsburg’s advocacy within the court in conference;
c) Justice Ginsburg’s and Justice O’Connor’s public statements about needing more female justices because of the different experience they bring.

If this case were to come up next year it would be before a different court, one with one more female member, but a female member whose background in the practice of law was as a prosecutor. One hopes that the Court will build on this precedent when the time comes.

Forty years ago today

I honestly don't remember what I was doing forty years ago today, and I don't remember anything about this until I read about it later in the Voice. Still, as we look back, it's clear that the Stonewall riots were, in their own way, as significant as Rosa Parks refusing to get off the bus.

It's worth watching this video of people who were there.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mark Sanford, bible scholar

Nothing new for Republicans--claiming to take their guidance from their so-called "Good Book"--but I think this guy is taking it to extremes.

Yes, we're still talking about Mark Sanford. Maybe we don't have much more to learn from this whole tawdry episode, but he keeps handing us the material.

Today's lesson: "Because the Bible tells me so".

First, let's delve into Mark Sanford's e-mails to his Argentine bombshell. I'm not talking about the Song of Solomon parts, which are plenty lubricious in their own right, but get this: I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, “ Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things”
You've probably heard these very words read at many weddings in your life, but I'm pretty sure they were not talking about the two people getting married, not setting up an illicit relationship with someone outside of the marriage.

Then, yesterday, Sanford had a televised cabinet meeting, and the idea of resignation came up. Once again, where does he look for guidance?

I have been doing a lot of soul searching on that front. What I find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell mightily, he fell in very very significant ways. But then picked up the pieces and built from there.

Don't remember the story about King David (taking for granted, of course, that he ever existed)?

David commits adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, while her husband is away at war. Bathsheba becomes pregnant and David sends for Uriah, who is with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, so that he may lie with his wife and conceal the identity of the child's father. Uriah refuses to do so while his companions are in the field of battle and David sends him back to Joab, the commander, with a message instructing him to abandon Uriah on the battlefield, "that he may be struck down, and die." David then marries Bathsheba and she bears his child, "but the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." The prophet Nathan confronts David, saying: "Why have you despised the word of God, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife."

David repents, but God "struck the child ... and it became sick ... [And] on the seventh day the child died." David then leaves his lamentations, dresses himself, and eats. His servants ask why he lamented when the baby was alive, but leaves off when it is dead, and David replies: "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, who knows whether Yahweh will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."

And what advice does Sanford glean from this?

I remain committed to rebuilding the trust that has been committed to me over the next 18 months, and it is my hope that I am able to follow the example set by David in the Bible - who after his fall from grace humbly refocused on the work at hand. By doing so, I will ultimately better serve in every area of my life, and I am committed to doing so.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but just maybe Sanford should buy another book.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Hiking the Appalachian Trail"

Sanctimonious? Check.

Family values? Check.

Busted? Check.

It's not just liberals, even conservative pinheads like Fred Thompson are using the Sanford scandal to make political hay. Somehow I got on Fred's e-mail list (okay, who's been sabotaging my e-mail account?), but sometimes it's good for a laugh. After all, if it weren't for Fred Thompson I wouldn't know the true message of l'affaire Sanford: We need term limits.

But guess what, Fred: Sanford is already term-limited. Placing any bets on whether he'll make it to 2010?

And the Vermont angle: Who's worse for his state--Sanford in Buenos Aires, or Douglas in Montpelier?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A new look at Nixon

There is a new dump of Nixon tapes out and, as always, they provide more information into Nixon's true character. We haven't had the chance to review everything, but here's one that again emphasizes his racism, a characteristic that permeated his career.

Nixon is heard on a muffled tape recording telling his special counsel that abortion is necessary in some cases - including instances of multiracial pregnancy.

Speaking to Charles Colson after the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the president said: "I admit, there are times when abortions are necessary, I know that." He gave "a black and a white" as an example.

"Or rape," Colson offered. "Or rape," Nixon agreed.

There's more to know, but in the face of the nostalgia that has seized some people for Nixon after the true evil enacted by Reagan and Bush, it's useful to be reminded of what an evil son of a bitch Nixon was.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"One base on an overthrow!"

Okay, something a bit lighter today.

For as long as you've been playing baseball you've heard the line, "one base on an overthrow" so you know that if the shortstop overthrows first base and the ball lands in the dugout, or an outfielder tosses the ball over the backstop the runners get to advance one base, right?

So what happened here? You may have heard of this incident last weekend involving notorious redass Milton Bradley, but I'll recount it for you in case you haven't. Bradley is in the outfield for the Cubs and the Twins have men on first and third. One out. A fly ball is hit out to Bradley, right at him, so he doesn't even have to move to get the ball. He catches it, stands there for a minute, and then, forgetting that there are only two outs, tosses the ball to the fans in the bleachers.

Big mistake, but what happens next? The ruling is that the runner on third scores and the runner on first goes to third.

But wait a minute--what about one base on an overthrow? Shouldn't the guy on first stop at second?

No, and here's why. The rule is not one base on an overthrow. The rule is actually that if the ball is thrown out of play (in this case, into the stands), the runners on base are entitled to advance two bases from the position of the runners at the time the ball was thrown (or, in the case of a ball thrown by an infielder, the position of the runners at the time of the pitch).

In other words, the next time you hear "one base on an overthrow", feel free to either correct the speaker, or just enjoy that satisfying feeling of superiority you get when you're right and the rest of the world is wrong.

Next up: "ground rule double".

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sarah Palin, Postscript

Jeez, do we have to talk about that again?

Well, maybe this one more time, so I'll make it quick.

People from all ends of the political spectrum have now come out to defend poor Sarah and her daughter, and how awful it was for Dave Letterman to say something disrespectful about her.

I won't bother to talk about how she made her family her most visible campaign accessory. You already know that.

I will just mention one other thing: When she first went on the air to complain about the Top Ten, she didn't say anything about the "knocked up" joke. She was all about the "slutty stewardess" joke. It wasn't until later last week that she started complaining about the joke about her daughter. People are arguing about whether her outrage was genuine or put on, and they're entitled to their opinions. On the other hand, if that was her true reaction, don't you think we would have heard about it right away, and not after she had the chance to try out the outrage, version one, on TV?

So maybe it's true that she was personally offended by Dave's "knocked up" joke, maybe. Doesn't it seem at least as likely, though, that it was her fallback option after the "slutty stewardess" outrage wasn't getting her enough mileage?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin's Trip to New York

Actually, royally pissed off is apparently more like it.

You see, Sara Palin was featured in Dave Letterman's Top Ten last night, which recited her top ten highlights of her trip to New York City. There were a number of items that she might take amiss, but I think her "favorite" was Number Two:

"Bought makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look,"

Well, you judge for yourself, but I certainly liked it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Supreme Court says coal company can't buy judge. Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito disagree.

Say you own a big coal company that's been sued for fraud, and hit with a judgment for $50 million. Not small change, right? Of course you have to appeal. This is "bet the company" litigation, and you have to win.

And let's say that there happens to be a judicial election coming up. What do you do? Well, maybe you drop $3 million on the election campaign of one of the candidates, more than all his other supporters, including his election committee, combined. and he wins by 50,000 votes.

And then you have to do your appeal in front of the court that now contains the candidate you spent $3 million to elect.

What does he do? Does he recuse himself? Does he tell the world that you've invested all that money in him and he can't judge the case fairly? Or does he decide that the appearance of impropriety is enough to mandate that he recuse himself?

No, in this case what he does is stay in the case and then rule in favor of the coal company that gave him $3 million. Probably just a coincidence.

Although that's not how the Supreme Court saw it. What they decided today is that all of us, even those of us who don't have $3 million to spend on a judge, have the right to due process of law, and that includes the right to have a court that hasn't already been bought and paid for by the other side.

At least, that's what the majority thinks. The minority, Bush's two appointees and the Scalia/Thomas twins, take a different view. They think it's going to be too burdensome for a court to decide if the judge was unduly prejudiced by the pots of money that the corporate party (and it's always going to be a corporate party, isn't it?) has thrown around. After all, we can't really expect a court to spend the effort to make sure its processes are fair, can we?

So when the Senate is considering the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Court, and deciding whether she's too biased to sit on the Court because she likes to eat beans, think about the four right-wingers who are on the Court now, and how they favor a party that would spend millions of dollars to buy a vote on an important case.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama's speech

I had a chance to hear Obama's speech live this morning, but I really hadn't collected my thoughts. I still haven't, entirely, but I do have some reactions to share.

Unlike others, who chose to attack Obama's speech even before he gave it, I thought it made sense to wait to see what he was going to say, and how the speech was received.

1. He's right about both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama points out that we had no choice but to invade Afghanistan after we were attacked without provocation or warning, and that we could, and should, have stayed out of Iraq. Events in Afghanistan have not proceeded to any plan I would have wanted, but the errors have mainly been the result of Bush's abandonment of the Afghanistan effort to invade Iraq.

2. Israel and Palestine.

Here are some key lines:

To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

He probably spoke more strongly in favor of Palestinian rights than any American president ever has. He showed that he recognizes and deplores the suffering of the Palestinian people, and he spoke directly against the Israeli policy of settlements in the occupied territories. The Israelis don't like what he said or how he said it, but we can't go on saying we disapprove of the settlements without doing anything to change Israeli policies.

At the same time he challenged antisemitism and Holocaust denial directly. It won't convince Ahmadinejad, but he may be the one Western leader that Arabs and Palestinians in the Middle East will listen to, and they need to hear this.

3. Women's rights. I thought he was too soft on this. You can't understand "a woman who chooses to cover her hair" outside of the context of a religion that, where it has the power, sends men out in the streets with sticks to beat women who are not covering their hair, face, or entire body, and will allow girls to burn to death in a fire rather than be rescued by male firefighters. I think he was concentrating too much on making nice with the intolerant, and that is not a winning strategy.

4. It worked. That was the way it sounded to me, listening to the audience. They were very receptive and positive. News reports bear that out.

CAIRO — Muslim shopkeepers, students and even radical groups such as Hamas praised
President Barack Obama's address Thursday as a positive shift in U.S. attitude and tone. But Arabs and Muslims of all political stripes said they want him to turn his words into action — particularly in standing up to Israel.

Obama impressed Muslims with his humility and respect and they were thrilled by his citing of Quranic verses. Aiming to repair ties with the Muslim world that had been strained under his predecessor George W. Bush, he opened with the traditional Arabic greeting "Assalamu Aleikum," which drew enthusiastic applause from his audience at Cairo University.

He opened with Assalamu Aleikum, and instead of the anoyingly ubiquitous "God bless you and god bless the United States", he closed with "peace be upon you." Contrast that with Bush talking about engaging in a Crusade. Talking in the language your audience will relate to helps.

This is only the first step in a very long journey. I don't kid myself that this solves everything, or even changes everything, but people will listen to him who would never listen to Bush or any American. This is something that McCain never could have carried off.