Saturday, April 23, 2005

American Taliban Study Article III

I am sure most of my readers have heard how Sen. Frist is planning on appearing via video at the fringe religious right meeting Sunday that is accusing Democrats and Reagan appointee Justice Kennedy as being "Against people of faith." And you probably have heard that the Senate Majority Leader who can't wait to step down to run for president is being admonished by leaders of his own faith-- Presbyterianism-- for linking arms with the American Taliban. That is, those religious leaders who want to rid our country of judges who don't look to the bible when deciding cases.

But what you might not know is that they are calling on Frist to eliminate the 9th circuit (I assume they mean the court of appeals and not the entire circuit, but who knows) and/or strip funding for any non-Christian fundamentalist federal judges. Family Research Council founder James C. Dobson explained his Article III scholarship thusly "Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone." Tony Perkins, also of FRC, chimed in noting "There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," Perkins added What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the ethically challenged insect exterminator, is pointing his spray at the Judiciary as well. "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse."

The Ninth Circuit does some wacky things and is probably the most overturned circuit out there, but they also have about twice the caseload any other circuit. Getting rid of their funding, or worse yet, getting rid of the circuit all together, would be a disaster. I am down with splitting the circuit, like they did for the 4th and 11th, which would allow Bush even to appoint more judges but reduce the case load of the 9th [my plan would be to split it North-South, with SoCal staying with Arizona et al and Northern Cal staying with Alaska and Idaho and co.]

If getting rid of the filibuster for judicial appointees is the "Nuclear Option," then getting rid of the district and appellate courts is the "Nuclear Winter Option."© [Third Avenue, 2005] Now their plan would be to eliminate the lower courts one day, and the next recreate it so that Bush could replace the entire bench, of say the 9th circuit. But why should the power hungry stop there, why not the entire judiciary save the Supreme Court, which was created by the Constitution, not by the Judiciary Act of 1792?

This possibility, while remote due, scared me enough during Civil Procedure last semester to repeatedly ask my professor if it really was theoretically possible. He said yes, but doubted anyone would have the political power to do such a thing, comparing it to FDR's court packing scheme after winning reelection in 1936.

I almost think this is worse than adding 6 new justices. The vast majority of cases in the Federal system are decided at the district court level, and most of the rest are decided by the appealate courts. Only a tiny number of cases are even heard by the US Supreme Court's writ of Certiorari and limited Jurisdiction. The basic idea behind the Family Research Council's plan has been tried before by Jessie Helms, who tried to strip the federal court's jurisdiction from hearing school busing/desegregation claims, school prayer cases, flag burning, and pledge of allegiance cases. All failed to pass the Senate.

Such neutering of the judiciary would make it possible for Congress or the states to pass an unconstitutional law but give injured parties virtually no avenue to vindicate their claims. Sure, state courts could hear some of the claims but their decisions are not binding on other states or the federal government’s actions.

Even think they doubt that they will succeed in completing the Nuclear Winter Option. All this is really just a base rally, a warm up for the real battle royal this summer: replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist [and possibly naming a CJ out of the current court, a.k.a Scalia or Thomas]. "Folks, I am telling you all that it is going to be the mother of all battles," Dobson predicted at the March 17 meeting. "And it's right around the corner. I mean, Justice Rehnquist could resign at any time, and the other side is mobilized to the teeth." They don't just want a anti-Roe judge or a generally conservative judge like Scalia. They want a 19th century justice who will look at every case asking not WWJD, but WWFRCD [what would the Family Research Council Do?] and reinstate the "Constitution in Exile."

What they don't realize is that if all this were explained to Americans, the vast majority of them would not go along with Dobson's plan or appointees. People love Social Security and the New Deal reforms that brought about government oversight, civil rights, workers rights, and environmental protection. These guys basically advocating to build a way back machine that would magically transport us to 1937, or even further back to when judicial opinions cited King James [version of Bible] more than James Madison to justify their actions.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Kwame Mfume for Senate know, I had my doubts before, but after watching him on Hardball talk about John Bolton versus David Drier (that scumball who's days in the House are numbered), he sounded Senatorial to me. And I mean that in the good sense, not the John Kerry can't speak English sense.

While Drier ranted and raved, Mfume calmly explained why it would be a bad idea to have the crazy mustash man run an organization he A) doesn't believe exists B) doesn't think should exist and C) has no respect for diplomacy--whether between countries or even in his own department. Drier tried to make the point that tons of members of congress have bad tempers; true, but they haven't been nominated to be DIPLOMATS.

Chris Mathews channeled his saner self by saying the fudging intelligence questions about Bolton troubled him the most. When Mfume pointed out that it was the same Modus Operendi for justifying the War in Iraq, Mathews went ape because he was part of the media "conspiracy" to support the war.

I only caught like the last 10 minutes or whatever, but the former head of the NAACP/ex-Rep. did an excellant job in my view considering he had two hostle, attention demanding personalities to contend with on the show. If he wins the primary and general, he will have to face about 99 more of these types of egomaniacs in the Senate, so this was a good test to see if he has what it takes. And in my view, he passed with flying colors. Read the transcripts when they come out, you will see what I mean.

2012 preview

As you can see here, state's like Utah, New Mexico and Arizona and growing fast. So if these trends hold up, it looks like all the states marked in blue will get at least two new seats, orange 1 to 2, and red maybe 1. The rest will be losing seats, especially negative growth places like West Virginia. I bet Massachusetts will lose one as well. But neighboring New Hampshire will actually gain one.

politicians will say the darnest things

In other news, SC state judiciary committee voted to ban cockfighting, yet voted down a measure that would increase the penalty for domestic violence to a felony. A female reporter asked a committee member why he voted that way, wondering why protecting the rights of chickens against was more important than those of women. On camera, Rep. John Graham Altman (R) said that it was a stupid question and that the two were not comparable (and that the questioner wasn't too bright either). Altman went on to wonder how dumb these women must be who return to their abuse partner. I guess he has never heard of physiology, let alone battered women's syndrome.

As a result of his foot-in-mouth disease, 00 college students, mostly from Columbia College, marched to the State House to blast him and his fellow sexists.

As the story went national, he offered a non-apology apology telling the State “I’m very sorry the politically correct crowd is using this as some kind of cannon fodder. I’m being charged with the greatest crime of all-- insensitivity.” No, I think the crime you are being accused of is blaming the victim and caring more about your cock (male chicken) than your female constituents.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

If I had a twin...

"I'd have him go to work/school for me and take notes while I sleep in" this is every kid's fantasy that involves either identical twins or clones, which are the artifical version.

Well, finally, a politican tried this stunt (and got caught). Julian Castro (D?), who is running for Mayor of San Antonio, and his twin brother Joaquin, who is not, got caught doing the old switcheroo on unsuspecting river walk city council parade watchers. [Julian claims he was planning to go WITH his brother but had to cancel last minute and his brother chose to still go; Julian had a meeting on the other side of the city. The brothers blame the mix up on the parade/float announcer.]

To make up for this embaressing turn of events, the brothers Castro had a great gag press conversence to clear up the mess: T-shirts so people know who is who. [ActiveX Required]

As funny as this sounds, maybe this was a good idea. I mean if nobody knows you are running for mayor, what better way to get free publicity than to stage a twin stunt? Of course, it shows a lack of character and willingness to cheat/lie/cut corners that most voters find distasteful. But to quote Madonna (whom I am sure stole it from someone else): "There's no such thing as bad publicity"

I am not saying that Castro is a marginal candidate, in fact in the above video clip, the city councilman claims his rivals are using this incident to distract from the real issues and try to close the huge lead Castro has. And SurveyUSA backs him up on that: Julian is leading 43-28-22-7 (3-way race with seven percent undecided and a 4.8 MoE 443 likely voters called 4/11-13). Now if only the Coors light twins would run...then everyone would follow the story.

Hypocrisy for America

So I am sure have all read this gem that Tom DeLay said in the well of the House in 1995, but I just can’t resist before moving on to other items of my morning roundup.
"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation."

Now moving on other highlights: the Bush Administration is not calling DeLay a social friend but he’s a friend of the President nonetheless; watch the Daily Show for the color-coded chart.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's campaign committee, whose surplus is invested in the stock market, has lost more than $16K in the stock market in the 1st Quarter. And this isn’t the only time his campaign funds have lost money in the stock market either. Now can you imagine your social security money being invested the same way? Because we know whomever is investing Frist’s campaign money would be the same people who would manage our Social Security money in a Bush or GOP 2008 Administration.

Speaking of 2008, the President’s brother Jeb (and the would-be front runner for the GOP nomination) lost in his bid to get rid of one of the Florida Democratic Party’s raising stars: Buddy Dryer continues to be Mayor of GOP-leaning Orlando, despite a Bush-appointees investigation and charges of campaign law violation that threatened to remove the popular mayor. The crime? His campaign paid black people to get their fellow African-Americans to vote by accepting absentee ballots in 2002. The election law on this point is ambiguous if such actions are even a crime.

Remember the Caging List of FL African-Americans the GOP targeted to disenfranchise in 2004? Guess where most of them lived. Anyway, the special prosecutor told the Oralando Sentinel that he was dropping all the charges against Mayor Buddy (not Providence’s Mayor Buddy, who might be back front his second round in jail).

Meanwhile Senator Lincoln Chaffee twists in the wind on Bolton, hoping either to get more money from Frist or find a way out of this Catch-22 for a Blue State GOP Senator up for re-election. "I think it would be accurate to say I'm on the fence" he told the Projo.

Governor Arnold blamed his ESL skills after getting caught sounding anti-immigrant in California, a big no-no. Here’s the original quote: "Close the borders in California and all across Mexico and in the United States," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday. "Because I think it is just unfair to have all those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is, and have this kind of lax situation." After a couple attempts at spinning by his press people, Arnold tried to claim that the mistake was a language barrier. "I meant 'securing' our borders, not 'closing' them.” He said, going on to joke that he needed to take some more English classes, if only George W. Bush were so lucky to have this excuse in his pocket.

California Democrats’ BS detector went off like crazy. "The governor knows what he's saying. He knows what his words mean,'' state Treasurer Phil Angelides told the SF Cronie (he’s running against Arnie in 2006). "The visual image of closing the border is a clear image ... and it's not the first time he's done this,'' pointing out how Schwazenegger condemned the San Francisco gay marriages in 2003 to a GOP crowd, only to backtrack later when needing to seem more moderate claiming he asked the AG to halt the marriages because "we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing.'' The anti-politician is actually just a typical one, playing to the base and middle at the same time, and trying not to seem to Janus-faced about it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

writing levels

After reading a post on the subject by CalPundit, I decided to see how incomprehensible and poorly written my drivel here is. And the results are not pretty:

Readability Results for
Readability ResultsSummary Value
Total sentences 343
Total words 3,242
Average words per Sentence 9.45
Words with 1 Syllable 2,189
Words with 2 Syllables 693
Words with 3 Syllables 271
Words with 4 or more Syllables 89
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 11.10%
Average Syllables per Word 1.46
Gunning Fog Index 8.22
Flesch Reading Ease 73.45
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.36

For whatever it's worth, the computers tell me write at popular novel level while writing at 5th grade level in general. I am pretty sure many of the words I use here I didn't not comprehend back when was in 5th grade, but oh well.

Vermont's Senate Seat

so now that Jim Jeffords is retiring, there will be a mad dash for this senate seat. Of all the Democrats out there, I would say I like Deboroah Markowitz, the secretary of state, the best. But if Howard Dean can somehow pawn off the DNC to someone else, I think he would instantly be the frontrunner and star in the senate for other wannabe Presidents to contend with.

The Cook report has this as a toss-up; I think that is being a bit generous to the GOP. Without Jeffords to run against, how will the GOP nominee raise money (unless it is against Howard Dean, but that won't be enough to overcome Dean's HUGE cash advantage from the internet and all his presidental donors)? How will they get enough support in this flaming Blue state for a national office?

This will be a fun one to watch.

[UPDATE: HoHo says no-no via his aide 2:40]


No, not a typo. I am talking about how Meetup.Com, who owes its very prominance to the wide open 2004 Democratic Primary (and mostly to Howard Dean). They decided that they need to milk every meetup group around the country for $9 a month and $19 if we didn't check the main site regularly (like me). Well screw that. My Clark 2008 meetup now is going to move to Yahoo! Groups or something else that is free.

I don't know if Meetup couldn't generate enough revenue via charging vendors and vendors requiring minimum purchases per person, but it is still crappy to hold people's grassroots groups ransom all of a sudden for a $9-19 a month subsididation of a private company. Grassroots groups like Clark 2008 or even "New in Town" can't afford that kind of money or be organized enough to have the dues paid fairly and regularly. This isn't a Union, this is a monthly meeting in a coffee shop, resturant, or bar [maybe a bowling ally]! Groups like DFA might be able to pick up the tab for the local chapters but Meetup now is in effect stifling the very thing it claimed to promote: upstart grassroots interest groups around the world.

They say the money goes towards their great "customer service." I worked and ran meetups in DC, Montgomery County, Boston, and Cambridge and I would have to contest that bogus claim. I urge the blogosphere to deep six Meetup's plans. They can send us spam, they can have ads all over the website, whatever, but don't charge us to meet through your organization.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hard Right Turn

So today there was no black smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel. And despite what pundits said, the race between Cardinals was not that wide open if they decided within 2 days. Furthermore, the pundits were doubly wrong that Cardinal Ratzinger's reactionary speech immediately to the Conclave would dim his chances.

Personally, I think this is a bad decision on many levels. Practically, this man is old and tried to retire prior to John Paul II's health declined. Secondly, this guy is German when the majority of the Church is located in South America and the growth in Europe and the US is negative while it grows in South America and Africa. [some have rumored that he has Nazi ties] And Thridly, when lay Catholics are polled, their opinions are far more moderate with regards to birth control, condoms, and abortion than the church, and usually far more in favor of the death penalty and euthinasia than the church as well.

The Catholic church's leadership is sending a big message to lay Catholics that they are frozen in time and don't care where their flock is heading. It is the 21st century, and they are unwilling to face reality. Is it any wonder that church attendance is down?

I guess it could have been worse, they could have chosen Cardinal Bernard Law to be their pope. That man should have been imprisoned in Massachusetts and not in the Sistine Chapel.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bob Jones Priorities

From Bob Jones University's guide to matriculating students:

What Not to Bring
  • Posters of movie and music stars and fashion models are not permitted. The subjects of personal photos should exhibit the modesty and appropriate physical contact we expect from our students.

  • Music must be compatible with the University's music standards:
  • New Age, jazz, rock, and country music is not permitted.
  • Contemporary Christian music is not permitted (e.g., Michael W. Smith, Stephen Curtis Chapman, WOW Worship, and so forth).

  • Televisions and DVD/videocassette players are not permitted in the residence halls; computer DVD players may not be used to view movies.

  • You may not possess or play computer and video games rated T, M, or A or having elements of blood and gore, sensual or demonic themes, or featuring suggestive dress, bad language, or rock music.

  • ...
  • Residence hall students may not watch videos above a G rating when visiting homes in town and may not attend movie theaters.

  • All weapons must be turned in for storage. Trigger locks are required for pistols. Fireworks are not permitted on campus.

Shorter Bob Jones: Hey Freshmen, Guns are OK but no PG movies or Christian rock.

throwing in the eraser

This lede is so good I just have to include it:

It could be any fourth-grade classroom.
During a few minutes of free time Friday, one of Jim Martin's students drew flowers and caricatures on the dry erase board, while another munched on an apple as she worked on the latest Harry Potter puzzle.
Across the room, a group crowded on the floor around a "Taboo" game board, blurting out words they hoped matched the one on the secret card held by a classmate.
But it's not just any fourth-grade classroom. There are more brown faces than white, more poverty than privilege.
And if state and national statistics hold true, a good many of Martin's students at Riley Elementary will fall so far behind by the time they reach high school that they risk failing state tests required for graduation.

Utah's public schools are terrible, we don't have enough paper and books for the students, let alone small class sizes, modern facilities, and the like.

It is hard to point the blame because it is simple demographic problem: As of the 200 census, 32.3% of the state's population is under 18, compared to 25.7% nationally. There are lots of young children in this state because LDS families are tend to be large. The per capita funding of education in this state is always towards the bottom; In 1994, New Jersey (#1) spent twice as much as Utah (#46) per capita. And this was before the landmark case which mandated more funding and better schools for New Jersey's minority populations.

Another problem is that most education funding, as Steve Urquart points out, is derived from property taxes, and 66% of the state is owned by the Federal Government in form of National Forests, BLM lands, National Parks and National Monuments like Clinton's infamous Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Utah could improve things by A) raising taxes directly or B) indirectly raising taxes by using gimmics like a state lottery as Massachusetts and North Carolina have done/thought about doing. Of course, since a state lottery is a public endorsement of gambling, I doubt this is an option even on the table. Although more Utahns pay lotto tickets than Idahoans do for their lottery. Personally I dislike option B for reasons other than morals as well. If you are going to tax people, be up front about it. Don't make it this essentially poor tax. Because we all know Jon Huntsman isn't going to waste his billions on tickets.

The whole thing is a catch-22: until we have a better tax base, we can't have better schools. But until we have better schools, we won't get enough rich people moving in to raise the tax base. Does anyone have any ideas?