Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 7, 2006

San Francisco’s Nullification Declaration

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:50 pm

In 1832, the state of South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Nullification declaring that certain federal tariff laws were “null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers, or citizens.” Thus began the first major effort to enforce the doctrine of nullification, originally promulated by Virginia and Kentucky in 1799, according to which a state ought to be able to declare an act of Congress null and void if the state believes that act to be unconstitutional.

Now San Francisco is trying the same thing — only without bothering to claim that the act they are threatening to nullify is actually unconstitutional. Justin Jouvenal of the Baltimore Examiner reports:

SAN FRANCISCO – Mayor Gavin Newsom said Thursday that The City will not comply with any federal legislation that criminalizes efforts to help illegal immigrants.

The mayor also denounced a bipartisan congressional proposal that would beef up border security and allow as many as 12 million illegal immigrants to gain legal status.

Newsom, who has not been afraid to wade into controversial national issues such as gay marriage, appeared with a group of elected officials on the steps of City Hall to support immigrants, “documented as well as undocumented.” Newsom also signed a resolution sponsored by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, and passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, urging San Francisco law enforcement not to comply with criminal provisions of any new immigration bill.

If you read that carefully, Newsom seems to be both opposed to enforcing the laws against illegal immigration, and opposed to amnesty which would make the illegal immigrants legal. In other words, he is in favor of illegal immigration, but opposed to legal immigration!

Putting aside the idiocy of Newsom’s position — and putting aside what you or I actually think of the various immigration reform proposals, it should be clear that nullification of federal immigration laws by cities is a bad thing. By doing so, a city in effect denies that the United States is a sovereign entity, and arrogates that status to the itself. Yet, the Constitution clearly grants the power to control international borders to the federal government. That provision should not be treated lightly.

After all, if San Francisco can defy federal law to allow federally-illegal immigrants in, then surely some other city could defy federal law to keep federally-legal immigrants out. In fact, another city could potentially bar U.S. citizens from entering that city. Maybe Dallas could pass a law barring the entry of U.S. citizens from San Francisco. After all, if cities control their borders, why not?


South Carolina’s Nullification Ordnance of 1832 lead ultimately to the secession of South Carolina, then the secession of 10 other states and the Civil War to get them all back into the Union.

The response to San Francisco’s nullification is basically the opposite: Clayton Cramer asks, “Can We Expel San Francisco From The Union?

Apparently, some San Francisco folks have already proposed just that. There was a column in the San Francisco Chronicle three years ago with that proposal. And, some want to call the new country the Free State of San Francisco. I wonder why they’d want to keep the obviously Catholic name, given their recent legislation on Catholicism.

Clean Air Causes Global Warming?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:09 pm

Well, you can’t win for losing, if this study reported by the BBC has any truth to it:

Research presented at a major European science meeting adds to other evidence that cleaner air is letting more solar energy through to the Earth’s surface.

The decline in Soviet industry and clean air laws in western countries apparently reduced concentrations of aerosols, tiny particles, in the atmosphere.

These aerosols may block solar radiation directly, or help clouds to form which in turn constitute a barrier; or both effects may occur.

So there you have it: If we increase pollution, we cause global warming — and if we decrease pollution we also cause global warming. And as I’ve pointed out before, higher temperatures are evidence of global warming, and lower temperatures are also evidence of global warming. This is how we know that global warming is not really a scientific theory — a scientific theory has to be subject to evidence. That is, it need to make “falsifiable predictions” — predictions that, if contradicted, would be regarded as evidence against the theory. If any possible outcome can be viewed as consistent with the theory, then it’s not really a theory since it doesn’t explain anything.

The BBC article also had the following interesting tidbit:

Between the 1950s and 1980s, the amount of solar energy penetrating through the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface appeared to be declining, by about 2% per decade.

This trend received some publicity under the term “global dimming.”

It was also called “the New Ice Age.” I’m just old enough to remember reading in the mid-1970s in elementary school — in the Weekly Reader distributed in over 90% of American elementary schools — that the burning of fossil fuels was causing pollution that would eventually block out enough of the sun’s rays to cause a “New Ice Age.”

In retrospect, this must have come about from the research of Dr. Murray Mitchell, and reported in the famous article Peter Gwynne wrote in Newsweek in 1975 – i “The Cooling World” (excerpted here):

The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

The BBC article on the more recent research quotes the lead author as follows:

The reversal of “global dimming” has been proposed in some circles as an alternative explanation for climatic change, removing the need to invoke human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Dr[. Martin] Wild dismissed this picture. [We can't have anything contradicting the theory of human-caused global warming, now, can we? --DR] His analysis suggests that “global dimming” and the man-made greenhouse effect may have cancelled each other out until the early 1980s, but now “global brightening” is adding to the impact of human greenhouse emissions.

So if I understand this correctly: we used to have high levels of pollution, which caused both a decrease in sunlight penetrating the atmosphere (“global dimming”), and an increase in heat retained in the atmosphere (“global warming”). These two effects cancelled each other out. Now, however, we have lower levels of pollution, so there is more global warming than global dimming.

This doesn’t make any sense, unless the theory is that low levels of pollution cause only warming, but high levels cause both warming and dimming. I’m not sure what sort of theory would predict that, but if that’s the theory, then emission-reduction programs like the Kyoto treaty will increase global warming — and I kind of doubt that’s what Dr. Wild meant. It would also mean that before the industrial revolution, when fossil fuel emmissions were (presumably) lower, that the temperature should have been higher. I think the opposite is actually true — the “Little Ice Age” ended around 1850 — and it’s certainly the opposite of that the global warming crowd claims.

I’m going to give Dr. Wild the benefit of the doubt here and assume the BBC mangled the quote or took it out of context. That happens all the time to scientists. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough information in the article to allow me to find Dr. Wild’s paper yet, so I can’t see what it really says.

TV and Society

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:08 pm

Does the behavior and culture depcited on television reflect reality, or is it the other way around? This study shows that it’s probably one or the other, and more likely TV affects reality:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Sexually charged music, magazines, TV and movies push youngsters into intercourse at an earlier age, perhaps by acting as kind of virtual peer that tells them everyone else is doing it, a study said Monday.

“This is the first time we’ve shown that the more kids are exposed to sex in media the earlier they have sex,” said Jane Brown of the University of North Carolina, chief author of the report.

Previous research had been limited to television, said the study which looked at 1,017 adolescents when they were aged 12 to 14 and again two years later. They were checked on their exposure during the two years to 264 items — movies, TV shows, music and magazines — which were analyzed for their sexual content.

In general it found that the highest exposure levels led to more sexual activity, with white teens in the group 2.2 times more likely to have had intercourse at ages 14 to 16 than similar youngsters who had the least exposure.

Most people who produce violent/sexual/offensive TV like to claim that there is no evidence that TV affects behavior. Now, there is.

Still, however, I like Michael Medved‘s argument against that claim: That is, if TV doesn’t affect behavior, then TV networks and stations owe their advertisers a 100% refund for every commercial ever run on TV.

San Francisco Condemns the Catholic Church

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution officially condemning “Christian fundamentalist[s]“, in what appears to me to be a blatant violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) — that “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

Now, it turns out that 10 days before that, they took it upon themselves to condemn the Catholic Church, as well — and to tell them to change their religious beliefs, and to tell local Catholics to “defy” (their word!) the Vatican:

Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity has head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

WHEREAS, It is a insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City’s existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need; and

WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

Now, put aside your opinions on adoption for the moment, and take this as a pure First Amendment issue. Since when does the government have the right to condemn a specific religion, and to direct its citizens to “defy” their religious leaders?

Eugene Volokh suggests that the government:

… is quite entitled to express its views … and to condemn groups that, in its view, express “hateful” ideas.

But it seems to me that the right rule is that government officials must be able to comment on religious groups when their actions touch on secular matters, for instance arguing that terrorism is antithetical to the proper understanding of Islam, or that the Catholic Church’s views on adoption by homosexual couples are wrong.

In a rare [for him] oversight, he seems to miss the distinction between “government officials … comment[ing]” and an official resolution passed by an official governmental body. He also seems to miss the Supreme Court’s clear language in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) — that “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” This proclamation clearly violated that neutrality.

Clayton Cramer noted the non-neutrality by pointing out what would happen in the reverse case:

I guess San Francisco county government is free to express their opinion — although I would expect if the Butte, Montana city government passed a resolution praising the Southern Baptist Church, the ACLU would be looking through the precedents, looking for some way to turn this into an establishment of religion clause violation.

Frankly, I kind of hope that Butte, Montana, or some other place, does just that, just to prove the point.

One of the commenters on Volokh’s blog adds:

I think the Vatican would revoke the City’s right to use the name of one of their saints.

This might also present a solution to the banning of stuffed rabbits in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the theory that they are offensive to non-Christians.

And Dave Hardy, also commenting there, adds this (obvious?) point:

I suppose that, in light of the Mohammed cartoon affair, it is now mandatory that Catholics riot and break things and kill people in order to get a little respect?

The blatant religious discrimination only seems more blatant when you note the obvious fact that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would never condemn an Islamic organization on such terms. It’s not that Islam is pro-gay — after all, in Islamic Iran, gays are publicly executed by hanging on the orders of Islamic courts.

No, the difference is, radical Islamicists are opposed to the United States in a way that the Catholic Church and Christian fundamentalists are not — and that gives the Islamicists immunity from criticism in San Francisco.


  • The vote for the anti-Catholic resolution was unanimous. There was not one member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who thought it inappropriate for the government to condemn a religion.
  • The Catholic League is suing, claiming “that the First Amendment ‘forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs or of religion in general.’” Thanks to Crescat Sententia for the pointer

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