Different River

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

August 29, 2008

McCain-Palin will win

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:52 pm

OK, my first thought upon hearing that Gov. Sarah Palin was McCain’s choice was, “Great, now we can count on Alaska’ 3 electoral votes, which are always Republican anyway.”

Within 15 minutes, I was convinced that McCain is a genius and Palin is a brilliant choice. My first thought was wrong.

This is someone who resigned from her first appointed position in protest of corruption, then ran against, and unseated in a Republican primary, the governor who’d appointed her. Then, she defeated the Democratic former governor, and went on to clean (state)house.

Simultaneously, this make the ticket attractive to the conservatives who have always been lukewarm about McCain, while at the same time appealing to the people like “Debra“; the Hillary voters who are so annoyed they are defecting to McCain. Her record as governor — returning federal “porkbarrel” funds and fighting corruption — will appeal to fiscal conservatives and moderates.

Every “demographic” appeal Obama has — young, clean, change, outsider, etc. — she has better (except for not being Black). Every criticism one could make of Palin (e.g., lack of experience), Obama has even worse. In fact, the Obama camp is already starting to criticize her lack of “experience.” These criticisms will boomerang, since she has more experience than he does.

In fact, here’s the Obama campaign’s official response:

“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a prepared statement.

Yeah, well: Obama has not only zero foreign policy experience (unless you count his attending a madrassa in Indonesia at ages 9), but zero executive experience, NOT EVEN being mayor of a town of 9,000 — and he conveniently “forgets” — and by implication, expects everyone to forget — that she’s also the current governor of a state of 670,000. How dumb do they think we are? Describing her as a “former mayor of a town of 9,000″ is like describing Obama as a “former law student.”

And Obama’s foreign policy ideas basically consist of negotiating with Iran over the order in which they will nuke Israeli cities.

I’ve been thinking for the last couple of months that it was looking like a McCain win. Last week, I started to think a McCain win was almost a sure thing. Now, I think it’s a lock and he’s just running up the score.

February 13, 2008

Another Good Reason…

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

… Not to live in New York City. Especially — and I really mean this — if you have a child who is over the age of 5, likes to read everything, and is inquisitive. At least, if you intend to ride the subway or drive or walk on the streets with said child.

New Yorkers Encouraged to Get Busy with Free Condoms
Health Department Unveils Ad Campaign, New Condom Design

Your tax dollars at work!

December 6, 2007

Global Warming and Snow

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:21 am

The U.S. Senate has marked Washington, D.C.’s first snowstorm of the year by passing a bill aimed to prevent “global warming”:

Jeff Poor reports:

Nothing inspires taking on the “planetary emergency” of global warming like the first snow of the winter in Washington, D.C.

As two inches of snow accumulated outside the U.S. Capitol, the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee debated “historic” global warming legislation sponsored by Sens. John Warner (R.-Va.) and Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.).

“We look around right now and see the snow on the trees – standing out here and say ‘Where is global warming when you need it?’” Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) said to the Business & Media Institute.

The pending vote is seen as historic because “the Senate would impose for the first time a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Of course, the fact that there is still snow proves that, “Despite ‘historic’ vote, groups say climate bill needs improvement.”


December 11, 2006

Rumsfeld’s Farewell

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:48 am

Citizen SMASH attended Secretary Rumsfeld’s last “Town Hall” meeting in the Pentagon — basically, Rumsfeld’s farewell to the Pentagon employees. Read it and weep. Selections:

Donald Rumsfeld is not universally loved in the Pentagon. I’m told that he can be a tough, stubborn, and demanding boss. Rumsfeld is infamous for firing off short memos — known colloquially as “snowflakes” — asking next-to-impossible-to-answer questions or demanding revolutionary changes. He came to the building in 2001, promising to transform the Department of Defense from a Cold War force to a more flexible, agile military, better prepared to face the challenges of the Twenty-first Century. Almost six years later, that transformation is well underway, but not yet complete. Along the way, Rumsfeld has stepped on many toes, and slaughtered many sacred cows. Inevitably, he made some enemies, especially among the senior officers and long-serving bureaucrats who were heavily invested in the “old way” of doing things.

But the troops, and a solid majority of the officers, love him. This is abundantly clear from the warm reception Rumsfeld receives as he walks up to the podium.

Another woman asks what was his worst day, and his best day. I expect him to say “September 11, 2001.” But he surprises me.

“Abu Ghraib.” He says, and a pall crosses over his face. Most men, having been faced with such a profound shame, wouldn’t bring it up voluntarily. But Rumsfeld isn’t most men. He seems genuinely, personally ashamed of what happened in that awful place. It has been reported that he submitted his resignation over the affair, but that the President prevailed upon him to remain.

“My best day?” He pauses. “How about a week from Monday?” A week from Monday, Robert Gates will be sworn in as the new SECDEF, and Rumsfeld will leave the building. He will be missed.

After the questions are done, there is a standing ovation. People in the auditorium crowd up to the aisle, in order to shake Rumsfeld’s hand as he passes.

I’m watching all this from the outside, on the monitor. And then the doors open, and he’s in the hallway. A bit smaller than I expected — I’m guessing about 5’8″ — and he looks really short next to General Pace, who is a giant of a man. But at 74, he’s a remarkably solid man, and he walks with strength and confidence. He proceeds slowly down the line of chairs, stopping to shake hands with several people.

He’s standing right in front of me. I offer my hand, and he shakes it. He looks me straight in the eye. “My goodness,” he exclaims. “Did all of you people stand out here for all this time?”

Read the whole thing.

December 8, 2006

Another Cold War Hero Passes on

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:08 am

Jeanne Kirkpatrick has passed away.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, a onetime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party and warmly embraced Reagan era conservatism, has died. She was 80.

Kirkpatrick’s death was announced Friday at the senior staff meeting of the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said spokesman Richard Grenell, who said that Ambassador John Bolton asked for a moment of silence. An announcement of her death also was posted on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-oriented think tank here where she was a senior fellow.

Kirkpatrick’s assistant, Andrea Harrington, said that she died in her sleep at home in Bethesda, Md. The cause of death was not immediately known.

(Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.)

The aforementioned notices is on the AEI home page. Her AEI biography page is here.

September 21, 2006

Price Gouging (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:12 pm

If the increase in gasoline prices was caused by price gouging on the part of oil companies, is the recent decrease in gasoline prices due to price gouging by drivers?

I’m just askin’….

August 17, 2006

Airport Security Theater

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:02 pm

Security expert Bruce Schneier points out this very salient fact about airport security — both the “since 9/11″ restrictions and the “since last week” restrictions — and the recent arrests in London: (Boldface emphasis mine.)

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry on board. Last week’s foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security changes graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It’s reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details — much of the “explosive liquid” story doesn’t hang together — but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-on items won’t make us safer, either. It’s not just that there are ways around the rules, it’s that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It’s easy to defend against what terrorists planned last time, but it’s shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we’ve wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets — stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people in front of airport security — and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that attempt to guess correctly don’t work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It’s not security, it’s security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

Airport security is the last line of defense, and not a very good one at that. Sure, it’ll catch the sloppy and the stupid — and that’s a good enough reason not to do away with it entirely — but it won’t catch a well-planned plot. We can’t keep weapons out of prisons; we can’t possibly keep them off airplanes.

Bruce has a summary of the new UK and US security rules here. He points out that this is reasonable in the short run. We’ll see how long these rules stay in effect. The post-9/11 US rules have lasted a lot longer than I initially expected — no doubt, in part, because they involved creating a new federal government agency.

And Sean at Cosmic Variance has this clever take on the whole thing:

[F]or the first time, the Department of Homeland Security has deemed an entire state of matter to be a national security risk.

If you remember from chemistry or physics what a phase diagram here, this will put things in perspective.

This is even worse!

July 7, 2006

GA Supreme Court Rules Constitution Constitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:13 pm

Back in May, I noted that a Georgia court ruled a constitutional amendment unconstitutional, purportedly on the grounds that it failed a requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, even though that amendment dealt with only one subject.

Now the Georgia Supreme Court has overruled the lower court, stating that the amendment did, in fact, cover only one subject:

‘‘It is apparent that the prohibition against recognizing same-sex unions as entitled to the benefits of marriage is not ’dissimilar and discordant’ to the objective of reserving the status of marriage and its attendant benefits exclusively to unions of man and woman,’’ the court said in its ruling.

This is a victory for the English language, even more than for advocates of opposite-sex marriage.

July 4, 2006

Independence Day

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:45 am

Happy Independence Day!

I know, it’s actually “July 4th” or the “Fourth of July,” but it’s official name is “Independence Day,” and I think it’s a good idea to call it that every once in a while, so we don’t forget why we have this holiday.

In particular, remember that the Declaration of Independence does not begin by saying:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary to establish a holiday in early summer, late enough that it’s not all that likely to rain, so we can cook outside and enjoy the manifest bounty of various forms of beef on the grill, or chicken for those watching their cholesterol, and to end the day with a colorful display of fireworks whose symbolism has long been forgotten, but which are really beautiful anyway …

Nor does it say:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary to establish a federal government to provide jobs, health care, education, drug approvals, seat-belt and helmet laws, farm subsidies to keep food prices high, food stamps for those who can’t afford the high prices, and to tax the rich to maintain “fairness” and “equality” …

No, the actual Declaration of Independence begins like this:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

That last part is really the part that was “revolutionary.” Prior to that point in time, it was generally agreed that whoever had the most soldiers, knights, weapons, and so on had the right to rule however he (or sometimes, she) wanted, to collect taxes for his own personal benefit, and to have the power of life and death over his subjects and anyone he could bring under his authority by force of arms. In some times and places, this was called the “Divine Right of Kings” — and of course, the king obtained this “divine right” by having the most soldiers, weapons, etc.

The king derived his powers from force of arms, not from principles of justice or the consent of the governed. It was the people’s job to serve the king and his government.

The Declaration of Independence turned this on its head, claiming — ludicrously, it must have seemed to most Europeans at the time — that it was the government’s job to serve the people, and the government’s right to exercise power came not from force of arms, but from “the consent of the governed.”

That was truly Revolutionary — and the only reason it didn’t sound ludicrous in the colonies is that they had been more or less governing themselves in many matters for 150 years. This was of course due more to geographic isolation from the king and slow communications than to any matters of principle, but the funny this about freedom is that once you get it, you get used to it, and you don’t want to give it up. Mikhail Gorbachev discovered this the hard way when he tried to save the collapsing Soviet economy by giving people a small degree of freedom. The taste of it was enough to them to bring on the collapse of the entire Soviet enterprise, from Kamchatka to East Berlin. (Remember when there was an “East” Berlin?)

It’s worth noting the causes of two of the seminal events in the American Revolution — the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against high taxes on tea (from which a government-favored company was exempt, the way some localities “grant” tax breaks to companies to “attract jobs”). The Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred when General Thomas Gage ordered British troops in Boston to confiscate guns and ammunition from the people of Concord.

In other words, we declared independence and started a war to get rid of high taxes and gun control. Don’t tell John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, who live where it all started. ;-)

Jim Hoeft at Bearing Drift has some more cynical — but sadly, true — thoughts.

Kat of CatHouseChat is slightly more positive.

And Here’s the Virginia Blog Carnival — Independence Day edition

July 1, 2006

A Day That Should Live In Infamy

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

If anyone were paying attention, that is.

On this date in 1921, West Virginia imposed the first state sales tax.

June 20, 2006

Big Sibling is Watching You

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:26 pm

This is the second article I’ve seen on this in the past couple of weeks:

The future of law enforcement was launched into the smoggy Los Angeles skies at the weekend in the form of a drone aircraft intended to bring spy-in-the-sky technology to urban policing.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, called the SkySeer, looks like a remote-controlled toy and fits into a shoulder bag. In the air, the craft is guided by global positioning system coordinates, and a camera fixed to the underside sends video to a laptop command station.

A prototype is being tested by the LA county sheriff’s department, which says the SkySeer will accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers, and free helicopters for other missions. “This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers or survey a fire zone,” said Commander Sid Heal, head of the sheriff’s department technology exploration project. “The plane is virtually silent and invisible.”

The SkySeer, which has low-light and infrared capabilities and can fly at speeds of up to 30mph, would also be able to spot burglary suspects.

“A helicopter can be seen and heard and one can make behaviour choices based on that,” said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “Do we really want to live in a society where our backyard barbecues will be open to police scrutiny?”

Police say the concerns are unwarranted because everybody is already under surveillance.

“You shouldn’t be worried about being spied on by your government,” said Commander Heal. “These days you can’t go anywhere without a camera watching you, whether you’re in a grocery store or walking down the street.”

That’s supposed to make us feel better?

(By the way: If this won’t intrude our privacy any more than what they’ve got already, why do they need it?)

June 13, 2006

Another Court Rules the Constitution Unconstitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:14 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that a Georgia court ruled a constitutional amendment unconstitutional, purportedly on the grounds that it failed a requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, even though that amendment dealt with only one subject.

Now, Joshua Sharf reports that the Colorado Supreme Court is doing pretty much the same thing.

Here’s the operative part of the amendment, lifted from its complete text:

Except as mandated by federal law, the provision of non-emergency services by the state of Colorado, or any county, city, or other political subdivision thereof, is restricted to citizens of and aliens lawfully present in the United States of America.

And here is the Court’s reasoning:

The ruling said Defend Colorado Now touts the possibility of reducing taxpayer expenditures by restricting illegal immigrants’ access to services, as well as the goal of restricting access to services.

“Because we determine these purposes are unrelated, we conclude they comprise multiple subjects connected only by a broad and overarching theme,” the ruling said.

Note that the text of the amendment says nothing at all about revenues, it only speaks of spending. In fact, it doesn’t even speak of spending, it speaks of services to be provided or denied. The fact that these services cost money is, while an unfortunate fact of life and governance, completely incidental to the language of the amendment. Were Marx to be proven triumphant, and the State be able to provide services without paying for them, the text of the amendment would still be operative. The idea that arguments used in the advocacy of any amendment actually have any force of law is bizarre to say the least, especially for a Court that has a pronounced distaste for the actual legislative histories of bills.

In fact, it’s hard to conceive of any ballot initiative which would pass this test. Measures directly related to revenue by definition potentially affect the tax burden in a state with a balanced budget law and TABOR spending restrictions. That’s reading the decision narrowly. Reading it broadly, any sentence containing more than one word necessarily encompasses two things.

By the Colorado Supreme Court’s logic, an amendment to make the term of the Colorado Governor six years instead of four years would violate the “single subject rule” because it deals with the “subjects” of elections, officeholders, spending (for the governor’s salary), and taxes (to get the money for the governor’s salary).

If that’s the case, all constitutional amendments are unconstitutional!

Which really means, there is no constitution at all. The judges will block whatever votes they don’t like, mandate whatever they do like, and the people won’t be able to do anything about it.

At what point do we stop calling this democracy?

May 26, 2006

Georgia Judge Declares Constitution Unconstitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:39 am

Yes, you read that right. Reuters reports:

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia judge on Tuesday struck down a ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters in 2004, saying it violated the Southern state’s constitution.

What Reuters calls a “ban” was in fact a constituational amendment. An amendment to the Georgia State Constitution. The judge declared this part of the Georgia State Constitution to be a violation of the Georgia State Constitution.

Here’s the “reasoning”:

Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule” as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense.

Now I can see the logic of having a “single subject rule.” But there are two problems with this. First, the amendment deals with only a single subject. And second, the Georgia Constitution specifically allows “related” issues to be considered together in one amendment.

Here’s the full and complete text of the proposed amendment:

Article I of the Constitution is amended by adding a new Section IV to read as follows:


Paragraph I. Recognition of marriage. (a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.
(b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties´ respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Could someone please identify for me the more-than-one issues in that amendment? It seems to be that the two issues to be decided are

  1. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman, and
  2. A requirement that the state recognize only marriages that consist of one man and one woman.

Can someone please explain the difference?

I can’t find the judge’s decision online (yet — the court’s home page is here), but Arthur Leonard of Gay City News has some more details on the attempt to carve out two subjects in that amendment:

The Georgia measure defined marriage for all purposes of state law as the union of one man and one woman but added a somewhat ambiguous paragraph that could be interpreted as barring the Legislature from creating domestic partnerships or civil unions or conferring anything that might be called a “benefit of marriage” on any “union between persons of the same sex.” That paragraph also stripped Georgia courts of jurisdiction to decide legal issues arising “as a result of or in connection with such relationship.”

Lambda’s challenge to Amendment One was based on two arguments—that the amendment language appearing on the ballot seriously misled Georgia voters by creating the impression that the measure dealt only with the definition of marriage, and that the state Constitution’s “single-subject rule” was violated because voters who favored civil unions but not marriage for same-sex partners would have to vote to ban both in order to prevent gay marriage.

[Judge] Russell rejected the first argument, finding Georgia law merely required that ballot language “identify which amendment they are voting on;” a voters are left to educate themselves about an amendment’s content.

However, Russell found merit to the single-subject issue, although she did not accept Lambda’s entire argument. Amendments can accomplish several goals, so long as they are germane to their central purpose, and the state contended that all aspects of Amendment One related to “the non-recognition of conjugal relationships between persons of the same sex.”

Russell agreed that this what the amendment would do, but found that the ballot question and the amendment’s text stated that banning same-sex marriage was its purpose; to the degree that the measure ventured beyond that purpose it was improperly embracing more than one policy question.

Lambda argued that the amendment had four policy objectives—to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, to prohibit recognition or creation of legal unions between persons of the same sex, to bar courts from recognizing certain official actions taken in other states and jurisdictions, and to divest courts of jurisdiction related to same sex relationships.

Russell found that the amendment measure fell short by addressing non-marital legal relationships, such as civil unions.

So we are expected to believe that “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” are two separate topics. Are they serious? Can they find a single context in which anyone — judge or otherwise — discusses “same-sex civil unions” without any reference to “same sex marriage”?

And even if those are, in some technical sense, separate legal issues, the consideration of related issues in a single constitutional amendment is specificall permitted in the Georgia Constitution. Article X, Section I, Paragraph II states in part:

If such proposal is ratified by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly voting thereon in such general election, such proposal shall become a part of this Constitution or shall become a new Constitution, as the case may be. Any proposal so approved shall take effect as provided in Paragraph VI of this article. When more than one amendment is submitted at the same time, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately, provided that one or more new articles or related changes in one or more articles may be submitted as a single amendment.

Any reasonable reading of the last clause above should specifically permit “related changes” like “same sex marriage” and “same-sex civil unions” to be considered together — even if they are amending difference articles of the Georgia Constitution. (As it happens, the proposal amended only one article, by adding a single section with a single paragraph.)

This judge’s decision literally defies the plain meaning of the English language. It would be no less logical to claim that the “freedom of speech” clause of the U.S. Constitution actually mandated censorship. And the fact that a judge deliberately misread the constitution to overturn a vote that was specifically designated as an amendment to that constitution — that is, specifically intended to remove the issue from the discretion of the courts — and that was passed by 76% of the voters, can only show the deep contempt in which this judge, and likely a significant proportion of judges throughout the country, hold the voters.

UPDATE (7/7/2006):

The Georgia Supreme Court has overruled the lower court and allowed the amendment to stand,

May 23, 2006

Dismantle the Military!

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:03 pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering banning Junior ROTC from San Francisco high schools because they think the military is “discriminatory.” And oh, yes, for one other reason as well:

Supporters such as [sophmore student Timothy] Twyman say the program helps students develop self-confidence and prepare for the working world, while opponents counter that it’s just an easy way for the military to get a foothold in public schools and encourage teens to enlist after they graduate.

Oh, really? I’d never have guessed that the purpose of JROTC is to recruit! Imagine that! And the real scandal is, the Pentagon hides that information, by posting it on their web site:

Although JROTC is not considered a recruiting tool, defense officials say about 40 percent of high school graduates with more than 2 years in the program end up with some military affiliation or continue with community service. They may enlist on active duty or in a reserve component, or enter an officer precommissioning program.

And one Supervisor has an even more, um, interesting reason for wanted to get rid fo JROTC:

In February, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appeared on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” show and said, “The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape.”

If Supervisor Sandoval thinks life would be better in a country without a military, perhaps he should move to one. I would recommend Somalia. Since they don’t have amilitary, it must be much more peaceful there … right?

(Hat tip: Thanks to reader “Bruce” for sending me the article link.)

May 21, 2006

A Lawyer’s View of Justice

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:59 am

Evan Savoie and Jake Eakin, now age 15, are on trial for murdering (when they were 12) a 13-year-old “playmate.” Because the witnesses are not allowed to be in the courtroom before they testify, the victim’s mother, who is a witness, can’t attend the trial. So the judge appointed a lawyer to represent the interests of the victim’s family.

Whereupon one of the defense lawyers for Evan Savoie, a certain Randy Smith, had this to say:

“It’s a sad state of affairs when you raise victims’ rights to the same level as the constitutional rights of the accused.”

And then they wonder why people think lawyers have screwed-up values.

Most fair-minded people will agree that the accused should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, and as such, should have certain rights that convicted criminals shouldn’t have. But most fair-minded people still view the extensive rights held by the accused as a necessarily evil, necessary only because it is possible for innocent people to be accused.

Yet, lawyers are taught in law school to regard the rights of the accused as sacred in and of themselves. I have heard many lawyers justify the use of legal tactics to exclude from the trial definitive evidence of a defendant’s guilt with the argument that the the goal of a trial is not to discover the truth (how naive they thought I was for thinking that!), but to “force the state to prove its case,” without which condition the state “did not deserve to put someone in jail.”

It is quite odd, also, that several criminal lawyers who used language like that (which I heard in separate conversations, separated over many years, from lawyers who did not know each other) seemed to think that what is at stake in a trial is whether the state “deserves” to incarcerate someone. Here also fair-minded non-lawyers have a different view: The state doesn’t “deserve” to incarcerate anybody. The state has an obligation to protect its citizens from crime, which includes, in certain democratically determined cases, the obligation to incarcertain certain people; that is, those convicted of crimes deemed via a democratic process to be worthy of incarceration as a punishment.

But then again, there I go again, “rais[ing] [potential future]victims’ rights to the same level” as those of criminals, or prosecutors, or something like that. Can’t have victim’s rights raised to some level, can we now… Apparently, while most people view the rights of the victims as paramount and the rights of the accused as a necessary evil, lawyers — defense lawyers at least — think it’s precisely the other way around.

(Thanks to Randy Cassingham for pointing out the original AP story.)

May 18, 2006

Yes, I’m Still Alive

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:42 am

Not one, but two readers have written to ask what happened to me. The answer is: I’m OK, and I’m (unfortunately) not on vacation.

I’m just very busy at work. New Medicare payment rules are out for the next rate year, and we are busy calculating how much les our clients will be paid. So they can complain to their Congresspeople, I imagine. This is what replaces “marketing” when an industry is paid by the government for half its output.

I do have lots to say, though — as soon as I can find time to type it all in.

Unfortunately, I’m not a professional blogger. The ads below the blogroll on the right don’t even cover the costs — which fortunately are quite low. Of course, if anyone would like to “sponsor” a full day of blogging by replacing a day’s salary while I take a day of “leave without pay” I’m sure we can work something out. Heh. ;-)

May 4, 2006

Price Gouging

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:17 pm

Julian Sanchez repeats a version of this joke, which I rephrase slightly:

Three (former) business executives are in prison for “white-collar” crimes, and they are comparing stories.

The first one said, “I charged higher prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of price gouging.”

The second one said, “I charged lower prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of predatory pricing and unfair competition.”

The third prisoner said, “I charged the same prices as my competitors, and I was found guilty of price-fixing and collusion.”

May 3, 2006

In Memoriam, John Kenneth Galbraith

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:15 am

John Kenneth Galbraith has passed away. He was 97. Tyler Cowen has some comments.

April 26, 2006

Let the Iraqis Vote — on whether American Troops stay

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:50 pm

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online has a brilliant idea:

Let’s let the Iraqi people vote on whether American troops should stay in Iraq.

President Bush has said that if a democratically elected government of Iraq asked us to leave, we would. I think Bush is sincere, but the truth is that no Iraqi government is going to ask U.S. troops to withdraw anytime soon, because American troops are the only thing holding the country together.

The Iraqi people understand this, too. In the town of Talafar, for example, American troops are keeping Iraqi factions from killing each other. Sheik Abdullah Al Yawar, a leading Sunni in the province, recently told The New Republic‘s Lawrence Kaplan that if U.S. soldiers withdraw, “there will be rivers of blood.” The Atlantic Monthly‘s Robert Kaplan (no relation) recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “My most recent searing, first-hand impression of Iraq, from last December, is this one: one town and village after another getting back on its feet, with residents telling American troops not to leave.”

This is the linchpin to my idea. Having Iraqis vote on the continued presence of American troops is not some starry-eyed affair. It depends as much on fear as it does on hope.

Right now, various factions within Iraq decry the “occupation” knowing full well that American troops aren’t going anywhere — and that Iraqis don’t want them to. This injects poison directly into the political climate. Politicians who take the reasonable and realistic position that American troops should stay can be outflanked by demagogues claiming to be the greater patriots and nationalists. Murderers pretend to be the authentic voice of Iraqis and Muslims, and the European and Arab press are keen to give this storyline a “fair” hearing.

Even here at home, critics of the war have come to paint Iraq as an entirely cynical and gloomy affair, launched on fraudulent rationales and continued out of hubris. Ted Kennedy calls it an “occupation,” and his crowd snickers at the idea that democracy has anything to do with the enterprise.

An Iraqi referendum would counter all of that. A national debate in Iraq over the continued presence of American troops would force many Iraqis to stop taking our protection for granted. Not everyone there craves democracy, but very few of them relish the idea of a civil war. Politicians, now invested in the survival of the political system, would be forced to take the responsible position if they wanted to keep their jobs. Indeed, rhetoric and interests would converge nicely for the first time in a while. Some would undoubtedly campaign for American withdrawal, but this would probably marginalize them and show the whole world where the hearts of Iraqis really lie.

But what if it failed? What if the Iraqis voted to kick us out? … I’d hate to see that happen. But I can’t think of a more honorable way for America to withdraw from Iraq and to prove it respects democracy. America won’t bow to bullets and bombs — but it will to ballots.

Brilliant all around — both on practical and principle grounds.

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.

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