Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Sunday, April 30, 2006

This Weekend

Things I Planned to Do This Weekend:

Re-finish the desk
Organize and clean up the den
Install a ceiling fan in the boys' room
Work on my Hebrew vocab
Research defamation law
Go on a hiking day trip with the boy
Post the funniest photoshop ever seen by anybody, ever (actually a rip-off of Wuzzadem)

Things I Actually Did this Weekend:

(and I hope Wunderkraut burns in hell for showing me this link)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Glimpse into the Sobek Presidency

Also: read my campaign speeches as a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian.

Totally Serious Ethics Question

Suppose you're a cop, and you're called to the scene of an accident involving a pizza delivery guy and an ice cream truck. The drivers are stable -- although unconscious -- and you're just waiting around until the paramedics arrive, when you notice that the car is full of pizzas, and the truck is full of ice cream.

Is it ethical to eat the pizza, or the ice cream, or both? Why or why not?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Mary McCarthy and Leaks

Following my regular tradition of waiting until a story has been developing for days before even mentioning it, this is my Mary McCarthy post. It may be my only Mary McCarthy post -- unless I can come up with a new angle, I probably won't want to rehash the work already done by other bloggers with more time on their hands, and less devotion to photoshopping Mr. Potato Head.

Allah has a useful summary of the story here.

Here's my summary of the summary: Mary McCarthy just got fired from the CIA for leaking classified information to the press, possibly about alleged "black" prisons in Eastern Europe. The angle taken by the right wing blogs is that if she were a Republican leaking information damaging to Democrats (a la Scooter Libby) the media would be going berserk, but as it is, they can't even muster the energy to mention her thousands of dollars in contributions to John Kerry.

A separate issue is whether she leaked at all. The righties seem convinced she did, but apparently she denies it. I'll reserve judgment, as I lack the information to form a responsible opinion on the matter.

Yet another separate issue is whether -- assuming she's the leaker -- she has a right to leak without fear of repercussions. From what I've seen, the Lefties defend the leak on the grounds that Bush's war is immoral, and therefore McCarthy has a duty to expose the truth and thus provide the impetus to hold a bad man accountable for his crimes (never mind that no evidence of the "black" prisons has ever been discovered, even after numerous investigations by said Eastern European countries). The Righties point out the Lefty double-standard in attacking Scooter Libby for leaking Plame's identity, while defending McCarthy's leak.

An off-shoot of that last issue is the one I want to address in more detail. The issue is, does McCarthy have a Constitutional right to leak, under the First Amendment?

A similar question was asked -- and, in my view, correctly answered -- in an American case called Snepp v. United States, 444 U.S. 507 (1980). Snepp was a CIA officer who published a book about his experiences in Vietnam. When he joined the CIA, he signed a contract in which he promised to seek pre-publication review of anything he might later want to publish, but he failed to seek such review for his book, Decent Interval. The Supreme Court sided with the government, holding that "the CIA could ... impos[e] reasonable restrictions on employee activities that in other contexts might be protected by the First Amendment." In the Snepp case, the remedy was that the government was entitled to every cent of profit made from the sale of the book -- that had to sting. [Incidentally, a British Court came to the same conclusion in a similar case].

So the rule is that the CIA can impose "reasonable restrictions." Does that apply here? Certainly the CIA has a vested and defensible interest in protecting secrets, especially when the exposure of those secrets can do serious damage to its foreign policy with important allies, such as Poland (which contributed ground troops to the Iraq invasion, in spite of public pressure from a vocal segment of the population). In my view, it is reasonable to punish the leak of information that sets up Poland as a terrorist target, that lowers the U.S. in the eyes of the world while America is trying to win hearts and minds, or that undermines a President's ability to conduct foreign policy, pursuant to his Constitutionally-protected powers. Yes, such a restriction is reasonable.

So the next question is whether Snepp was rightly decided in the first place. The First Amendment is rightly considered the foundation of all our Constitutional rights. Should it yield in this case?

Without a doubt it should. And that is not because the government should have the power to abrogate Constitutional clauses as it sees fit, but because citizens have the right to waive their rights. Anyone who has ever seen a cop movie knows two important things about Constitutional law: (1) you have the right to remain silent; and (2) you can waive that right. The criminal usually does, incidentally. The fact is, we all have all kinds of rights that we waive all the time, as a matter of course. I have the right to patronize a strip club, but I don't exercise that right. I have the right to drink alcohol, to own a gun, to waive pickets on the D.C. mall. Millions of Americans waive their right to vote every four years. I have the right to set up a printing press, and I've never done that. I have the right to keep British soldiers out of my house, but I also have the right to invite British soldiers in if I want. I can keep a cop from searching my car, or I can give him permission.

I also have the right to apply for a job with the CIA, and if they hire me, they will give me a piece of paper that will say "By signing here I promise I won't leak classified information to the press just because I want to dick over the President." Or words to that effect.

And then I have a choice: I can either exercise my right to gainful employment by accepting the terms of the job, and waive certain First Amendment rights, or I can retain my First Amendment rights in all their glory, and be denied access to top secret information.

Mary McCarthy, you signed the paper, and you put your integrity on the line. If you choose to abandon that integrity, you have no right to complain about your termination, especially if it's in the context of a partisan, juvenile attack on a popularly-elected President. There are places the First Amendment simply does not reach.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Official SobekPundit Blogger Interview: Retired Geezer

First, I'd like to apologize for the last interview. As a well-known blogger, I consider it one of my most important duties to ensure that my guests don't get eaten by plants. So I've taken some precautions, and I'd say this week, as Retired Geezer from Blog Idaho joins me, he's got an 80-85% chance of making it home alive. Maybe as high as 87%.

Retired Geezer is a gun-toting maniac from Schnoors, Idaho. He moved from Las Vegas to Idaho after an exciting tour as a lightman for such performers as Paul Anka. Rumor has it he was forced into retirement after he "made a maniac" out of Anka, thinking as many as eight things in a single night. More recently, he has been hanging with the jet set of Idaho, including Lyle, the old farmer who shot a cow in front of a bus full of school children in Napoleon Dynamite.

Sobek: Now unlike most of my previous guests, Retired Geezer was actually considerate enough to send me a picture of himself for this interview. (It was really big, though, so I had to crop it a bit). Welcome, Geezer. I like your hairstyle.

Geezer: That's not me.

Sobek: Huh? Oh, sorry; I'll change it. You know, you don't look nearly as old as your 'net nickname suggests.

Geezer: Try again, Sobek.

Sobek: Oh, for cryin' out loud. I'll just post the whole picture ... GAAAAAH!!!

Geezer: What?

Sobek: Nothing, I, uh ...

Geezer: Something stuck in my teeth?

Sobek: Not exactly.

Geezer: What is it?

Sobek: I realize this is kind of a personal question, but how old are you, exactly?

Geezer: Five hundred and forty-seven.

Sobek: Wow, that's pretty old.

Geezer: Well, you're an ancient crocodile. You're got me beat out by three millenia at least.

Sobek: Yeah, but I know all about mummification techniques.

Geezer: Good point.

Sobek: So, are you enjoying retirement?

Geezer: For the most part. I mean, I still like to do the stuff I did when I was younger, like drink an entire bottle of Scotch while polishing my shotguns. It's just that now, I drink the shotgun polish and the Scotch.

Sobek: ...

Geezer: ...

Sobek: I see.

Geezer: Don't you judge me.

Sobek: Hey, I didn't say anything.

Geezer: You were thinking about it.

Sobek: Okay, look. I don't want this to get all confrontational. If you just want to pick a fight, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

Geezer: I ain't going nowhere.

Sobek: ...

Geezer: ...

Sobek: I'm afraid you leave me little choice, then. You see, I suspected we might face such an eventuality, so I arranged for a guest-interviewer, as well.

Geezer: Oh?

Serial Killer Potato Head: [Scary potato sound]!!!

Geezer: Oh no! It's every Idahoan's worst nightmare!!!

Serial Killer Potato Head: [Scary potato sound]!!!

Geezer: Call him off! I swear I'll be good!

Sobek: All right. Actually, I'm glad you backed down. You see, I promised at the beginning of this post that I'd try to protect my guests from being killed by plants, but is a harvested potato still considered a "plant"?

Geezer: Hmm. Good question.

Sobek: Well there's a good chance the Idaho state legislature has something to say on the subject. Fortunately, I happen to have a copy of Title 22 of the Idaho Statutes here, and Chapter 5 is entitled "Seed Potatoes."

Geezer: It's lucky you have that book with you.

Sobek: Sure is. Anyway, it looks like your state legislature has definitions for "certified potatoes." You actually need a commission to determine what is and is not a potato?

Geezer: Apparently.

Sobek: Huh. Here we are: Idaho Code 22-501(6): "'Potatoes' means potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) that may be sold for or used as seed potatoes." Well that doesn't really help, does it?

Geezer: Actually, if we're going by taxonomy, the species solanum tuberosum is in the kingdom Plantae. I guess that means it's a plant.

Sobek: Ah, but here in 22-503(1) it begins: "All potatoes offered for sale, sold or delivered under contract or distributed into or within the state of Idaho for planting in the state of Idaho ..." If it has to be "planted," then it isn't yet a "plant," now is it?

Lyle: Maybe I can be of some help here. I was one of the principal drafters of the Idaho Seed Potato Act of 1996, so I think I speak with some authority when I say the legislature never intended that language to exclude harvested potatoes from the general classification of "plants."

Sobek: Really?

Lyle: Yes. In fact, I've served as a Seed Potato Arbitrator, pursuant to IC 22-510, for the past 12 years, and I can say with confidence that Title 22 has never once been used to designate potatoes as anything other than "plants."

Sobek: Even for purposes of whether or not I should let an axe-wielding potato murder Retired Geezer?

Lyle: For a more complete foundation to that issue, I would recommend checking Blackstone's Commentaries, because you're blurring the line between horticultural regulation and common law murder.

Geezer: Maybe you should play it safe and just not let Mr. Potato Head murder me.

Sobek: On the other hand, maybe I should play it safe by letting him eat you.

Geezer: Oh my, look at the time. I'll see you later.

Sobek: Take care. You should get the bill for my legal research in two or three weeks.

Other SobekPundit Blogger Interviews:
John from WuzzaDem
Ace of Spades
Dave from Garfield Ridge
Oliver Willis
The Therapist
Protein Wisdom
Jack M.
Bohemian Conservative
Michelle Malkin
Jennifer from Demure Thoughts
Right Wing Sparkle
Six Meat Buffet
Llama Butchers
7 Deadly Sins

Next Week:
Actually, I was planning on interviewing Michael, from Michael's Comments, but he claims he's a commenter, not a blogger. You can see my dilemma, right?