Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Week-End Caption Contest

The Man has his week-end caption/photoshop contest up. Go check it out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Disturbingly Ironic

Over at Llama Butchers is a link to China's recent comment about pre-emptively nuking America in a conflict over Taiwan, and the hopelessly naive statement: "It should come as a wake-up call to those living on the West coast most likely to get the brunt of any strike from China."

It's disurbingly ironic that the left-coasters most likely to freak out over missile defense are the most likely to get burned to a freakin' crisp when their Chinese ideological soul-mates push the button.

Maybe it's time for Hans to take the hint and move.

Incidentally, I asked Dave, my go-to guy for all questions nuclear, whether Las Vegas is within range of Chinese ballistic missiles, and he never answered me. Should I assume it's reluctance to be the bearer of bad tidings?

Roberts and the Right-Wing Court

I'm researching Roberts a little bit - actually I'm trying to focus more on the Senate than on him, but with little luck because Thomas is a very user-unfriendly site - and I came across this opinion piece by writer Ed Lazarus.

The nutshell version is Lazarus thinks Roberts will get through the Senate easily because Dems will realize they can't win, and then Lazarus argues that's a shame because substantive debate would be good for everyone:

"It has been more than a decade since the last Supreme Court confirmation hearing, of Justice Stephen Breyer. And it has been almost two decades since the last confirmation hearing -- Robert Bork's in 1987 -- that produced a genuine debate over competing conservative and progressive visions for the Constitution."

As far as it goes, I couldn't agree more. Robust and open debate is not only vital to our nation's government, but extremely entertaining, as well. But in the very next paragraph, Lazarus gives us a taste of his idea of "genuine debate."

"Since that time, the Court has moved steadily to the right and has established a long track record of conservative judicial activism, overturning parts of more than 30 federal laws."

Steadily to the right, huh? I guess at the very least you've done us the favor of dispelling any unrealistic hopes that you meant what you said about genuine debate. The closest thing we'll get to a defense of such a ridiculous statement is a reference to the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which put Bush in the White House by ending Gore's recount attempts. Look, even if I were to concede that Bush v. Gore is an example of "conservative judicial activism," rather than, say, a rudimentary grasp of statistical methodology, and Al Gore's transparent attempts to skew statistics in his favor by recounting only in heavily Democrat counties, one example doesn't establish the trend.

By contrast, let's consider what's happened in the past thirteen years, the period in which the Court has supposedly been moving steadily to the right:

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) - upholds the right to abortion announced in Roe.
Stenberg v. Carhart, 120 S.Ct. 2597 (2000) - States can't ban partial-birth abortion.
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004) - limits Commander-in-Chief power to detain enemy combatants in a time of war.
Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004) - expands federal judicial habeas corpus power to cover enemy combatants, further limiting Commander-in-Chief power.
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) - finds a right to homosexual sodomy in the Constitution.
Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234 (2001) - loosens restrictions on a State's power to gerrymander on racial lines, if it results in more minorities getting elected.
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) - upholding affirmative action at a Michigan law school, holds that racism is okay as long as it hurts white people.
Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003) - expands Congress' power to force states to pay for maternity leave.
City of New London v. Kelo, 125 S.Ct. 2655 (2005) - government can take your property whenever it feels like it.
Gonzales v. Raich, 125 S.Ct. 2195 (2005) - Expands the Interstate Commerce power to include things that are neither interstate nor commerce.
Simmons v. Roper, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (2005) - strikes down the death penalty as applied to murderers who were minors when they committed their brutal crimes.
Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002) - strikes down federal law banning virtual child pornography.
Ashcroft v. ACLU, 542 U.S. 656 (2004) - Congress can't criminlize giving children access to internet porn.
McCreary Cty. v. ACLU, 125 S.Ct. 2722 (2005) - No ten commandments displays in courthouses.

Of course, more cases could be cited. And of course, cases could be cited to the contrary, and my list is not beyond criticism. For example, while Raich disappointed limited-government conservatives who don't like expansive Interstate Commerce powers, it also satisfied social conservatives who oppose medical marijuana. As another example, while the Gruttinger case held the law school could use racial standards, the companion case, Gratz v. Bollinger, held the undergrad school could not. But if someone wants to argue my points, the argument must actually be made, rather than asserted and abandoned as established, as Lazarus has done.

But to review, the Supreme Court has twice upheld abortion rights (Casey and Stenberg), expanded affirmative action in gerrymandering (Easley) and in higher education (Gruttinger), restricted the President's war powers (Hamdi and Rasul), invented from whole cloth a right to homosexual sodomy (Lawrence), expanded eminent domain power (Kelo), restricted States' rights to offend French sensibilities about the death penalty (Simmons), expanded Congress' regulatory power (Raich), ordered the removal of religious displays (McCreary County), and blocked efforts to punish child pornography (Free Speech Coalition).

Suffice it to say I'd be verrrrrry interested to see Lazarus defend his claim that the Court has moved steadily to the right.

The next interesting bit from Lazarus is this:

"Brains, credentials and personality are important in a Supreme Court nominee. But they are not as important as a nominee's substantive views. We may rationally prefer a nominee who is less brilliant, but more liberal, over a conservative star like Roberts."

I don't know who this "we" is he's talking about, given that the more liberal folks in the country have no right whatsoever to nominate Supreme Court nominees at the moment. This statement comes after a section highlighting some of Roberts' appellate briefs on controversial topics like abortion, prayer in schools, and flag burning. But I think it's important to point out that Lazarus, true to form, has once again left off from lofty statements about what the debate should look like in favor of something much less substantive.

Towards the beginning of the column, the author says we should be debating broad ideas: how should the Constitution be interpreted? What are the limits on Congressional power? What about unenumerated rights? The strength of precedent? These are broad, structural, philosophical arguments, and eminently fascinating. Turning, then, from the broad to the discreet, as in an examination of prayer in schools, abandons exactly what Lazarus says we should be debating.

To illustrate, let's stick with prayer in schools. In the microscopic level, we only have one question: should prayer in schools be allowed? On the macroscopic level, we ask the fundamental question, On what basis do we decide whether prayer in school is allowed? Which branch of government gets to decide? What is the role of states in the decision?

And the distinction is crucial, because one set of questions is legitimate in the confirmation process and the other is not. No Senator should be able to ask a potential judge how he will rule on a particular issue. But a question about judicial philosophy goes to the heart of qualification, and is therefore fair game. Lazarus blurs the fundamental distinction. I suspect many people will in the weeks and months to come.

Finally, this gem:

"Intelligence is not a trump card -- even on the Supreme Court."

I guess that explains Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Getting Back Up To Speed

So, I hear President Bush went and nominated a new Supreme Court justice, and there were some explosions in London and protests in Iran. But it's awfully hard to comment on the news when you haven't been following the news.

This sorry excuse for a post is a plead for indulgence while I figure out what's been going on in the world during my seclusion. I'd post a funny photoshop or something, but I've got nothin. So for the record, I now have time and a functioning computer, and I'll try to think of something insightful to say as soon as possible to see what I can do to resurrect my traffic. This Roberts guy might be worth looking into, for example.

You stay classy, planet Earth.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Follow-Up to My Last Notice

I'm done with the bar exam. I'll find out the results in late October. Now I'm going to go take a nap. For your reading enjoyment in the meantime, I present the official SobekPundit Aliens Death Quiz. How well do you know how everyone died in the movie Aliens? No Googling!

1. Apone
2. Bishop
3. Burke
4. Crowe
5. Dietrich
6. Drake
7. Ferro
8. Frost
9. Gorman
10. Hicks
11. Hudson
12. Newt
13. Ripley
14. Spunkmeyer
15. Vasquez
16. Wierzbowski

a. Attacked in dropship, which then crashes
b. Chest-burster, while falling into a pit of molten lead
c. Drowns when escape shuttle crashes into water
d. Ripped in half by alien queen, disconnected by Ripley
e. Self-inflicted grenade in ventilation shaft
f. Impaled when escape shuttle crashes
g. Killed when backpack full of ammunition explodese.
h. Attacked in med-lab, presumed killed by chest-burster
i. Pulled through floor grate, presumed killed by chest-burster
j. Self-inflicted grenade in ventilation shaft
k. Attacked in terraformer, presumed killed by chest-burster
l. Sprayed with acidic blood in terraformer
m. Burned by flamethrower, fell over railing in terraformer
n. Attacked in dropship, which then crashes
o. Attacked in terraformer, presumed killed by chest-burster
p. Killed when backpack full of ammunition explodes

Dude, why is that Nancy Pelosi such an irritable ho all the time?

Saturday, July 16, 2005


The bar exam is July 26-28. My lack of blogging will continue at least until then. After that point, it depends on whether I can get my stupid computer to work.

That is all.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Caveat Lector

The other day Ace did a post about Scientology, with an interesting bit of backpedalling at the end. In the comments I found a link to this site, dedicating to exposing just how bad scientology is.

Let me just say that I am NOT about to defend Scientology. Frankly, I don't know enough about it to defend or attack, and I certainly don't care enough about it to learn. All I'm about to say is, "caveat lector."

A few years back I became curious about the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I knew a bit about the theology, but I wanted to know where they came from, historically. The only book I had available to me was The Kingdom of the Cults, by "Dr." Walter Martin. I knew before picking up the book that a) you can't rely on a professional detractor of Jehovah's Witnesses for anything resembling unbiased facts, and that b) "Dr." Martin was, in addition to being a professional detractor, a certified nutjob. But I figured that as long as I read the book with a critical eye, I would get at least some idea of what I was looking for.

After about five pages or so, I dropped the book in disgust.

The problem is that, regardless of his use of facts and evidence (which I could not independently evaluate), the tone was so vicious, and he was trying so hard to vilify Charles Russel and J.P. (?) Rutherford that I simply couldn't take him seriously. Just as an example, it is not necessary to refer to the JWs as a cult in every other sentence, even if you believe they are a cult.

So now, back to Scientology (which I imagine "Dr." Martin probably also covered in his book). The link I provided earlier is pretty vicious. We are reminded as often as possible that this is a cult. Thirty-two times, to be specific (by contrast, we are nowhere treated with a definition of the word "cult").

The article also quotes as a reliable authority one Ted Gunderson, who - uh ... well, he thinks that the United States government is carrying out Satanic rituals on kidnapped children.

Again let me reiterate, I'm not trying to defend Scientology. I simply don't know, or care, what they're up to, and so I'm not in any position to opine one way or the other about their degree of sinister-ness. All I'm saying is consider your sources - caveat lector.

Sandra Day O'Connor to Retire

She will not be missed.

True, she landed on the right side of some important issues. For example, she voted against the recent eminent domain case, Kelo v. City of New London (yeah, fat lot of good it did the evicted property-owners). But my problem is not with her vote tallies - counting how many times I agreed with her versus how many times I disagreed. My problem is with her judicial philosophy, or rather, her utter lack of a philosophy. After over twenty years on the bench, who can honestly say what the woman stands for, other that "What-O'Connor-Feels-Like-Doing-Today-ism"?

No Justice is always consistent - I'm not asking for that. Liberal Stephen Breyer voted to allow a Ten Commandments monument on certain government property, in certain situations. Liberal David Souter had a surprising vote in a right to die case. Conservative Antonin Scalia disappointed conservatives when he voted in favor of expansive Interstate Commerce Clause powers. And conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist surprised people when he upheld a law mandating certain maternity leave provisions for local government employees (the details escape me, and I'm not going to go look them up). So again, I'm not insisting on absolute consistency - they're all human beings, after all.

And yet the only thing consistent about O'Connor is that she was O'Connor. She stands for nothing, she produced nothing but 20 years of muddled opinions and legal uncertainty, and her job could have been performed just as well by a wrought-iron weathervane.

A few quick points:

1. This article says that "Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's decision to retire unleashed a bipartisan wave of praise Friday on Capitol Hill..."

Well, that just serves to increase my disgust with Capitol Hill. There is not a single Congressman, liberal or conservative, who can honestly say she represented their principles. How do I know this? Because she didn't represent any principles. In an opinion ostensibly affirming strict scrutiny for race-based laws that benefit blacks, she single-handedly re-defined strict scrutiny so she could sound like she was giving a victory to both conservatives and liberals. All she really did was create massive uncertainty, give a tempered victory to liberals, and solve no real problems. Her opinions in the two University of Michigan race-based admissions programs are logically inconsistent with each other - and they were issued on the same day.

I could go on. The point is, this noise from Congress is nothing more than speaking kindly of the dead. These Senators and Reps are just smiling for the camera before the fight begins.

2. From that same article, "President Bush thanked O'Connor for her service on the court, calling her a 'a discerning and conscientious judge.'"

Horse crap. That kind of talk lowers my esteem for the President. That kind of crap directed at George Tenet made me sick. It's no better now.

3. In this one, Bush called for "a dignified process" in the upcoming confirmation process. He then reportedly asked China to stop being so Chinese, asked the oceans not to be so salty, and asked Chewy Chips Ahoy! cookies not to be so delicious.

In other words, it's not gonna happen.

4. From the same story:

"O'Connor has dismissed the swing vote label, telling CNN recently, 'That's something the media has devised as a means of writing about the court, and I don't think that has a lot of validity.'"

Er, Frankly it doesn't matter whether or not you think it's valid, sweetheart, your record is undisputable. You're all over the place, and everybody knows it. It may be true that you're not always the swing vote, but fifty or sixty percent of the time, on a court of nine justices, is good enough to settle the question.

So to reiterate, so long, Justice O'Connor. You will not be missed.