The Sunsites Sun in Sunsites, Arizona

was a "bulletin board" posted by Charles Tidd for a couple of years, but on the morning of January 4, 2012, it disappeared from the net.  It will be missed.  From time to time, it included essays by this writer.  Here are all of them.  Thanks to Charles Tidd for all of his work on the Sunsites Sun.


A Monopoly On The Truth?
In 1982, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope of Rome prayed together at Canterbury Cathedral, with Prince Charles observing the service while sitting in the Queen's chair. The service was a marked change from the hatreds of 450 years. Some people stuck to their religion, though. The Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland wrote to the Prince that "the false and blasphemous claims of the Papacy may be given more credence by your Royal Highness' attendance." Three years later, the Prince wanted to have an audience with the Pope in Rome. However, two weeks beforehand, the Secretary of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland's Religion And Morals Committee wrote to the Prince that "the Pope of Rome was identified by our Reformers, and is still identified as 'the man of sin' revealed in scripture." What would the Secretary have written if he had known that the Prince planned on going to the Pope's own private chapel and attending mass, except not taking communion? (The Prince knew that taking communion with the Pope would drastically increase the religious furor.) But the Secretary did not know that. Unfortunately, neither did the Queen of England. She only found out after the Scottish church raised a stink. Then she stomped her royal foot, and her son the Prince didn't get a private mass with the Pope. A few weeks later, the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland wrote to the Prince that he was being "ill-advised in spiritual matters by some who have departed from the true teaching of the inspired, infallible and inerrant way of God." A few weeks later, after the dust settled, the Prince drafted an answer (never sent) asking "by what divine grace you have decided you have the monopoly of truth in this matter."
(All extracted from Jonathan Dimbleby's "The Prince of Wales: A Biography," 1994, pp. 348-354.) A monopoly on truth? According to Wikipedia, the "Free Church of Scotland ... was formed in 1843 by a large withdrawal from the established Church of Scotland .... In 1900 the vast majority of the Free Church of Scotland joined with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland to form the United Free Church of Scotland (which itself re-united with the Church of Scotland in 1929). A minority of the Free Church of Scotland remained outside the union of 1900, claiming the title Free Church of Scotland ... and is commonly referred to ... as The Wee Frees, though this nickname is sometimes used for the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (also occasionally known as The Wee Wee Frees)." Prince Charles had to be aware that over 300 years before, during England's experiment with Republicanism, it was to the Church of Scotland that England's ruler Cromwell wrote "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." The Prince may even have known that over 100 years before, Lincoln noted that both the North and South "read the same Bible, and pray to the same God .... The prayers of both could not be answered -- that of neither has been answered fully." During dull times, claims of certainty and displays of tolerance can coexist without much conflict. During challenging times, however, claims of infallibility become more appealing. Our best leaders, though, remind us even then that when we feel most right, we may still not have a monopoly on truth -- not in religion, not in politics, not in any blend of them. Times are getting more interesting every day, in this little corner of Arizona that is Cochise County. Claiming a monopoly on truth is getting more tempting. Resisting that temptation may become one test of good leadership.
The Times, They Are A-Crazy
For most people in America, getting hold of money is a lot harder than spending it. Consider employment. In Cochise County government, starting employees don't do very well financially. As of this writing, the best-paying starting jobs are with the Sheriff's office: $40-43,000 per year, plus benefits. More than half the households in Arizona make more than that. But accumulate a little time on the job, or be in politics, and the County pays very well: various employees make over $100,000 plus benefits, and a County Supervisor makes about $75,000 plus benefits -- almost double the income of a typical Cochise County household. In federal government, pay is skyrocketing. In November 2010, a USA Today article reported that: -- "The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June. -- "The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% .... -- "Federal workers earning $150,000 or more make up 3.9% of the workforce, up from 0.4% in 2005." Big business pays best of all, for the people on top. A Vanity Fair article opens "The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent.... Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.... [T]hose in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been ... 12 percent ...." So it's not just getting harder to make a living at the bottom -- the people at the top are finding life easier all the time. Consider real estate. A USA Today article notes: -- "In the housing market inhabited by most Americans, prices have fallen 30% or more since the peak in 2007. That's a steeper decline than during the Depression.... -- "Then, there is the other housing market, occupied by 1.5% of the U.S. population .... Here, houses have outdoor kitchens and in-home spas, his-and-her boudoirs and closets the size of starter homes.... Prices of $1 million-plus properties have risen 0.7% since February .... Prices of houses under $1 million have fallen more than 1.5%. -- "Normally, these two segments of the housing market rise and fall together. Now, they're moving in opposite directions.... You can see the same split elsewhere in the economy. Sales at Saks vs. Walmart. Pay on Wall Street vs. Main Street. Corporate profits vs. family balance sheets."
Consider taxes. A USA Today article notes how the well-off are paying less federal income tax: "in 1996, people with incomes of less than $30,000 made up 99.5% of all the nontaxable returns [people who paid zero]. In 2009, that group made up 76% [but] people making more than $30,000 went from less than 1% of nontaxable returns in 1996 to 17% in 2009.... Nontaxable returns from people with income between $75,000 and $100,000 went from 4,025 in 1996 to 476,624 in 2009 -- an increase of almost 12,000%. More than 1,400 millionaires didn't pay income taxes in 2009 ...." Consider corporations. After our Civil War, great stacks of money were lying around, and corporations let people invest some of their money without risking all of it if the corporation lost a lawsuit. Everyone understood that calling a corporation a person was a legal fiction to make it more attractive for people to invest in corporations. But recently our Supreme Court stretched the legal fiction, and gave corporations the same right to free speech as living persons. In this, the 30th year of America's second Gilded Age, that reasoning was predictable, since it does benefit corporations, from which most politicians get most of their money. But the Supreme Court's reasoning was also -- to speak plainly -- insane, and the sanest response I've seen is this bumper sticker (thanks to the sender): "I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one." Americans give signs of not being entirely happy about the way things are going. About three years ago, the Tea Party movement got off the ground, and its activities are well known. Suddenly, over the last few weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has appeared. Occupy Santa Fe is set for October 8, Occupy Phoenix and Occupy Tucson demonstrations are planned for October 15, and here's a writeup about a "virtual" demonstration. The Daily Kos has a story and Alternet has a story. In short, all of a sudden, there are two credible movements for people to resist "the powers that be." The Tea Party and Occupy Together movements started at opposite sides of the political circle, but in practice, they are both fed up with government by existing interest groups. Is it time for the two groups to work together on practical problems, and set their philosophical differences aside until after the practical problems are solved? As a side benefit, if the groups worked together, their initials would be TPOT. More seriously, is it conceivable that if members of the two groups worked together for a while, they might see their philosophical differences as not being so extreme? That kind of attitude adjustment, or "paradigm shift," has been known to happen in history.
Horrible Examples
Absolutely, or not. "Precious Rubbish, As Raked Out of Current Criticism and Commented on by Theodore L. Shaw," is a book that a little art gallery in Boston published in 1956. The cover accurately states what the book is about: "snobbery & humbug ... ritzy twaddle about art and literature" upon which the book makes "a hard, vicious counter-attack, employing that extremely potent weapon -- the HORRIBLE EXAMPLE." The horrible examples are great fun to read. There's a fine concentration of the best of the worst on page 45. First, "a statue should be so simplified and compressed ... that it could safely be rolled down a hill" -- to which Shaw responds, "Can you imagine anything more trivial or shallow"? Then there's a contradictory pair, "Every good picture is marked by a certain air of repose" versus "Without the disappearance of tranquility no good poem can be written." It's always fun to see Poo-Bahs disagree on The Absolute Truth. All of which vaguely reminds me of some political arguments, which talk about Truth, Justice, and The American Way without ever looking at how many people actually live, day-to-day. But my real goal here is to point at how Shaw would solve such absolutism. Instead of looking for The One Best Piece Of Art, or Writing, or Music, Ever, In The Whole Wide World, Shaw is satisfied to set up a little bulls-eye in which any work of art (story, tune, or picture) is further from center depending on how complex it is.
Shaw's idea is that very simple works bore you quickly that you then look for more complex works, that you will keep looking for new things that don't bore you -- and that the value of a work of art is not absolute, but is completely relative to you individually, and depends upon what kinds of complexity you have already grown to appreciate. If you don't like a particular work of art this year, check back in 10 years, maybe you will then, or not -- and your taste is nobody else's business. Of course, if your taste purports to be based on facts, then it can't hurt to go back to basic facts once in a while. Here's a website that takes you a relativistic look at intelligence, personality types, and talents. If you go to Google and look for the two words -- personality diagram -- you'll find a lot more ways to look at things without trying to find The One Best Way of being (or doing, if you seem to be a verb). I myself have been dithering for weeks over whether to spend any time on a 2-axis chart, with the left-right x-axis being something like "treats other people as objects" and the up-down y-axis something like "interacts with other people directly." The top x value, +1, could be "has charity to all," and a value of -1 could be "indifferent about other people's well-being." A y value of +1 could be "touchy-feely," and a value of -1 could be "wants to command the masses from a bunker." A value of 0, either for x or y, would be "typical." Are the axes independent enough for this classification to work?
Dark Thickets Of Thought
On A Lazy Afternoon
Dozing in the middle of a lazy afternoon, I found myself nodding in dark thickets of thought, where straight-line thinking went nowhere. Robert Heinlein wrote the story "Blowups Happen" in 1940. A character says the craters of the moon "could have been formed by falling meteors. But ... if the moon was struck repeatedly, why not the earth? ... [T]he earth's atmosphere would be no protection against masses big enough to form craters like Endymion, or Plato. And if they fell after the moon was a dead world [but] while the earth was still young enough to change its face and erase the marks of bombardment, why did the meteors avoid so nearly completely the [maria]?" 28 years before 1940, Alfred Wegener already had the key to Heinlein's puzzle: "continental drift," the idea that continents move. To anyone using his eyes to look at how well South America fits into Africa, and to look at the distribution of animal and plant species, it's obvious that South America and Africa were once connected. But scientists had no idea of a mechanism to let continents move, so scientists made a classic blunder: they said, We can't explain what we see, so there's really nothing to see. 28 years after 1940, Wegener's "continental drift" was completely accepted; it's a basic result of plate tectonics, which (along with the earth's atmosphere and biosphere) explains why the earth doesn't look like the moon. Now, when we look at the map of South America fitting into Africa, we can believe our eyes, because a lot of scientists had the genius to study what they saw, not what preconceived ideas told them to see. Drift, drift ... President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the same kind of genius. When FDR took office in 1933, America was beset by ideologues on all sides, all claiming to have the only solution to the Great Depression. FDR saw a simple fact: America was one interconnected system, which combined a lot of freedom with a lot of opportunity, as long as people had jobs. The important thing was to provide jobs, not win theoretical arguments about the precise dividing line between "public sector" or "private sector" jobs. So FDR worked on saving jobs in the collapsing "private sector," and creating jobs in the "public sector." FDR's genius kept our system afloat until WW II came along to create a huge market for our industrial production, and for about a generation after WW II, the legacy of FDR's genius and America's industrial capacity made this country the best place on earth for a working person. Then ideologues began taking over again. Drift, drift ... America has lived on a 70-year timetable. After Washington got us through the Revolution, and a bunch of practical people adopted the Constitution, it took about 70 years for slaveholding ideologues to precipitate the Civil War. Along came Lincoln. After the Civil War set America irrevocably toward industry, it took about 70 years for capitalist ideologues to precipitate the Great Depression. Along came Roosevelt.
Now, 70 years after the Great Depression, we are drawing closer to -- who can say what? Many people feel the way that the poet Yeats must have felt when he wrote "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity ... what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" At 70-year intervals we got a practical Washington, a practical Lincoln, a practical Roosevelt -- will our luck continue? Drift, drift ... America has no problem whose solution is waving the flag. Whenever I see somebody waving the flag with one hand, I check to keep his other hand out of my pocket. Right now there's an email from something called "Grassfire Nation" going around, pushing the use of "God Bless America" signs and trinkets -- which "Grassfire Nation" just happens to sell. I have never understood why some people insist on making a public show of their religion. After all, the Bible says "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get" (Matthew 6:5, from the New Living Translation, 2007). If a student wants to pray before a test, or anybody wants to pray for anything, anytime, my feeling is: Pray away. But don't insist on putting on a public display of your own religion. You won't convert anyone, and history makes it clear that Matthew 6:5 is right: God doesn't like pushing personal religion into public life. Consider the Pledge Of Allegiance; it originally read "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all." Changes were made in 1892, 1923, 1924, and 1942, when Congress made the Pledge official. None of those versions mentioned God. But in 1948, a "Son Of the American Revolution" began promoting a version in which "one nation indivisible" became "one nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible". The idea was to contrast Godfearing Americans to Godless Communists. Congress passed that version six years later -- and God didn't like it. Look at the record. Before the Pledge included "under God," or even existed, America won the Revolution, War Of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War (the side that stuck to the Constitution won), Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, WW I, and WW II (which we won in only 3 1/2 years). But since the push for "under God" began, the only wars we've won were against Panama (no giant) and Grenada (not even enough people to fill the stands of a college football stadium.) We didn't win Korea or Vietnam, we've had miserable involvements in various armpits of the world, and we're now in our 10th year in Afghanistan, and 8th year in Iraq. Pushing "under God" into American public life was a radical idea that just hasn't worked out for us. We should be conservative and go back to the old way. Drift, drift ... Dozing in the middle of a lazy afternoon, I found myself nodding in dark thickets of thought ....
The People, Who?
What follows is a digest of a case whose full opinion is located here. The case addresses who, precisely, is "the people" mentioned in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Federal Courts Of Appeals are directly below the Supreme Court. There are nine of them. This case comes from the Fifth Circuit: Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The opinion below mentions the Second Circuit: New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. (Arizona is in the Tenth Circuit, which also includes Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Marianas.) Different circuits may rule differently on issues that come to them; when that happens, the US Supreme Court may accept a case to settle the disagreement. Part of the opinion is certain to enrage many Americans. The majority cites a case that says "illegal aliens ... are likely to maintain no permanent address in this country, elude detection through an assumed identity, and -- already living outside the law -- resort to illegal activities to maintain a livelihood .... [A person] seeking to arrange an assassination would be especially eager to hire someone who had little commitment to this nation's political institutions and who could disappear afterwards without a trace." Such language is rare in modern courts. This digest intends to present the most important arguments, without advocating for them. Please do not mistake the plain statement of a position, for agreement with it. IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT June 13, 2011, Case No. 11-10086 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee v. ARMANDO PORTILLO-MUNOZ, Defendant-Appellant Appeal from the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas Opinion by a 3-judge panel, one judge dissenting in part. On July 10, 2010, the Castro County, Texas, Sheriff's department was notified that a person at the Rodeo Arena in Dimmit, Texas, was "spinning around" on a red motorcycle with a gun in his waistband. A Dimmit Police Officer arrived and found a .22 caliber handgun in the center console of a four-wheeler driven by Armando Portillo-Munoz. Upon searching him, officers found a dollar bill in his pocket, with a white powder substance inside the folds. Portillo was arrested and booked for unlawfully carrying a weapon and for possession of a controlled substance. Portillo first came to the US in 2005, but left after six months. He illegally reentered a year and a half before this incident. When arrested, he had been working as a ranch hand for six months; before then he worked at a dairy farm. He stated that he obtained the firearm to protect chickens at the ranch from coyotes. He had no prior criminal history, arrests, or encounters with immigration officials. Portillo was indicted on one count of "Alien, illegally and unlawfully present in the United States, in Possession of a Firearm under 18 USC 922(g)(5)." His attorneys moved to dismiss, alleging that conviction would violate the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court denied the motion. Portillo then entered a conditional guilty plea. He admitted that he was a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States, and that he had done acts which violated the statute. His plea explicitly reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss "only as it relates to ... the defendant's Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and to self-defense," and the lower courts were very clear about this limitation. Portillo was sentenced to ten months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. He timely filed the appeal allowed by his conditional guilty plea. On Appeal, Portillo argues that his conviction violates the Second and Fifth Amendments. However, his conditional guilty plea preserves only his right to appeal based on the Second Amendment, so we do not consider his Fifth Amendment arguments (besides, we peeked at them, and found them unconvincing anyway.) It's clear that Portillo's conduct violated 18 USC 922(g)(5). Our only issue is one that has never been considered before, by this circuit or any other: whether the protections of the Second Amendment extend to aliens illegally present in this country. The Second Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In 2008, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons, but the question of whether an alien, illegal or legal, has a right to bear arms was not presented. Still, the Court did provide some guidance as to the meaning of "the people" in the Second Amendment. The Court said that the Second Amendment "elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home," and that "in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention 'the people,' the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community," before adding that "[w]e start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans."
That language invalidates Portillo's attempt to extend the protections of the Second Amendment to illegal aliens. Illegal aliens are not "law-abiding citizens" or "members of the political community." Aliens who enter or remain in this country illegally and without authorization are not Americans as that word is commonly understood. Earlier, the Court suggested "that 'the people' protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments ... refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community." Portillo argues that he has sufficient connections with the United States to be included in "the people." We disagree; we find that neither this court nor the Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment extends to a native and citizen of another nation who entered and remained in the United States illegally. Even if there were precedent for the idea that illegal aliens generally are covered by the Fourth Amendment, we find that the Fourth Amendment is at its core a protective right against abuses by the government, while the Second Amendment grants an affirmative right to keep and bear arms, and we find it reasonable that an affirmative right would be extended to fewer groups than would a protective right. The Second Circuit noted compellingly, in 1984, that "illegal aliens ... are likely to maintain no permanent address in this country, elude detection through an assumed identity, and -- already living outside the law -- resort to illegal activities to maintain a livelihood." The Second Circuit approvingly quoted a trial court's statement that "one seeking to arrange an assassination would be especially eager to hire someone who had little commitment to this nation's political institutions and who could disappear afterwards without a trace ...." Also, the Supreme Court has long held that Congress can make laws governing aliens that would be unconstitutional if for citizens. The Court has held that "[n]either the overnight visitor, the unfriendly agent of a hostile foreign power, the resident diplomat, nor the illegal entrant, can advance even a colorable constitutional claim to a share in the bounty that a conscientious sovereign makes available to its own citizens and some of its guests...." We find that the phrase "the people" in the Second Amendment does not include aliens illegally in the United States. We do not speak to illegal aliens' rights to trial, personal bodily integrity, privacy or speech; we speak only to whether the Second Amendment precludes Congress from limiting the actual, affirmative conduct of aliens while they are illegally present within this country. Therefore, we AFFIRM the denial of Portillo's motion to dismiss. Judge DENNIS, concurring in part and dissenting in part: I respectfully dissent from the conclusion that Portillo-Munoz, who has lived and worked in the United States for more than 18 months, paid rent, and helped supported a family -- but who committed the misdemeanor of illegally crossing the border -- is not part of "the people." In my view, he clearly satisfies the criteria for being part of "the people": he has come to the United States voluntarily and accepted some societal obligations. There are countless persons throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, who, like Portillo-Munoz, work for employers, pay rent to landlords, and support their loved ones, but are unlawfully residing in the United States. The majority's reasoning renders them vulnerable -- to governmental intrusions on their homes and persons, as well as interference with their rights to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances -- with no recourse. The majority's conclusion that persons like Portillo-Munoz are not part of "the people" does not fit the holding of the Supreme Court in a 1982 case: "Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a 'person' in any ordinary sense of that term. Aliens, even ... unlawful, have long been recognized as 'persons' guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." It would be strange if the same founders who contemporaneously adopted the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments had intended the Fifth to cover different persons than the other three, considering that "people" is merely the plural of "person." I find the majority's distinction between the Second Amendment as an "affirmative right," and the Fourth Amendment a "protective right," to be unpersuasive. The sole basis for the majority's conclusion that Portillo-Munoz is not part of "the people" is that he is unlawfully present in the United States. However, this rationale is wholly unsupported by the precedents. Portillo-Munoz plainly satisfies both criteria from two prior cases: he is voluntarily present in the United States and has accepted several societal obligations: obligations to his employers, by working at steady jobs (he obtained his firearm in order to protect his present employer's chickens from coyotes); obligations to his landlord, by paying rent; obligations to his girlfriend and her daughter, by helping to support them. Aside from unlawfully entering the United States (a misdemeanor), he has no criminal record or history of arrests. Many citizens have committed far more serious crimes, yet receive constitutional protections given to "the people." Portillo-Munoz is part of "the people," and is entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights.
Signing Statements And The Constitution
Emails are circulating that express outrage at "King Obama's" use of a "signing statement" when Congress sent him a bill which would limit what advisors he could hire. A "signing statement" states that part of a law won't be enforced. Signing statements are clearly unconstitutional. The Constitution says a president shall either sign bills, or not; there's no partial approval, line item veto, or anything like that. The problem is, the particular bill which Congress passed is also clearly unconstitutional. So we have a President reacting unconstitutionally, to an unconstitional act by Congress. This may be hard to untangle. President Reagan invented the current use of signing statements. If you start -- START -- research via Wikipedia, you'll find "The first president to issue a signing statement was James Monroe. Until the 1980s ... signing statements were generally triumphal, rhetorical, or political proclamations and went mostly unannounced. Until Ronald Reagan became President, only 75 statements had been issued; Reagan and his successors George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton produced 247 .... George W. Bush had [by] January 30, 2008 ... signed 157 signing statements challenging over 1,100 provisions of federal law. The article discusses disputes about the exact numbers: "A Congressional Research Service report issued on September 17, 2007, uses ... the percentage of signing statements that contain 'objections' to provisions of the bill being signed into law: "'President Reagan issued 250 signing statements, 86 of which (34%) contained provisions objecting to one or more [parts of a law]. President George H. W. Bush [issued] 228 signing statements, 107 of which (47%) raised objections. ... President Clinton [issued] 381 statements, 70 of which (18%) raised constitutional or legal objections. President George W. Bush [issued] 152 signing statements, 118 of which (78%) contain some type of challenge or objection.' "In March 2009, the New York Times cited ... the number of sections within bills that were challenged ... : 'Mr. Bush [used] signing statements to challenge about 1,200 sections ... about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined...." In short, there were about 2 signing statements per president -- until Reagan found them useful as a way around the Constitution. During Obama's campaign, he did promise to stop it, but he also said more that he would use a signing statement if a bill came to him which was unconstitutional. Of course, any president must claim to be following the Constitution; otherwise the violation of the Constitution would be obvious. As to a signing statement count for Obama, here's a site which presents itself as, and appears to be, neutral. That page lists 8 Obama signing statements for 2009, 5 for 2010, and 4 so far for 2011. At that rate, Obama will issue about 50 signing statements during 2009-2013. It's partisanship at its worst to wax indignant about "King Obama," after ignoring his predecessors when they did worse. What about the rights or wrongs of the signing statement which set off the current debate? That statement is online and here's the part that people are objecting to:
"Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President. The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority. The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it. "Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives." That conclusion is very lawyerly; it doesn't say Obama will ignore Section 2262, it says he will interpret it in accordance with the Constitution. Any president must say that, or the equivalent, in every signing statement. The fact is, Obama is right: he gets to choose his own advisors. The Constitution doesn't give Congress any control over that. In short, to follow one part of the Constitution, Obama is violating another part. Obama's tough choice was forced on him by Congress, which can create a crisis any time it wants to, by passing a bill which obviously violates the Constitution. When that happens, should a president be so supple-spined as to sign into law a violation of the Constitution? -- or should Congress rather be chastened for creating a political crisis? It seems to me that "signing statements" are part of a bigger problem, which began when Congress let Reagan get away with so much. No president gives up power that he inherits; when Reagan got away with it, it was predictable that all presidents after him would do the same. Going back even further, it seems to me that the whole problem of an overreaching executive began under Lyndon Johnson, when Congress let the Vietnam War proceed without a declaration of war by Congress -- though the Constitution requires a declaration of war. Since then presidents have ignored the Constitution a lot more than they used to, and Congress has let them. It seems to me that America has done better when it has stuck to the Constitution, not ignored it for expedience. We could use the present fuss as an excuse for finally solving both problems, both signing statements and "the imperial presidency's" power to get the country into long, undeclared wars. To do this, the imperial presidency will have to be required to stay within the limits to its powers, and Congress will have to be required to reach the limits of its. On the presidential side, the Constitution could be amended so that if a president claims part of a bill is unconstitutional, the conflict shall immediately go to the Supreme Court, and buck any waiting line. On the congressional side, the Constitution could be amended to forbid any funding of military activity for more than a specified, hopefully short, period of time, without a Congressional declaration of war -- which, in these times, could be styled a "declaration of self defense." In my personal opinion, solving just one side of the problem would be unwise. We need to keep government in balance.
A Lesson For Parents About Kids And Cars
AMY YOUNG V. KENNETH AND BARBARA BECK SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA, Case CV2007-015269 and -015556 (2011) I. The lesson: parents, be careful when you let your kid drive your car. Under the Family Purpose Doctrine ("FPD"), if a parent furnishes a car for the pleasure and convenience of the members of his family, then any member of the family driving the car with the parent's consent is the parent's agent. That's been the law in Arizona since a state supreme court case in 1918. In this case, a 17-year-old got his parents' permission to use a family car, but he disobeyed their instructions about driving, and he caused a car crash which injured another person. Under the FPD, the parents were liable for the damage. Lesson: if you let your kids drive your car, you will probably be liable for any damage they do, even if they violate your instructions about driving. If a court has to choose whether you, or the victim of your kid's bad driving, should pay for damages caused by your kid's bad driving, generally you'll have to pay, if you gave permission for your kid to drive. II. The facts Kenneth and Barbara Beck furnished their 17-year-old son Jason with a sport utility vehicle. He drove the SUV to and from school, church and work; and if his parents permitted, he could also drive it for social and recreational purposes. About a month before the events that led to this case, Jason had an accident while driving the SUV, and his parents specifically instructed him not to "taxi" his friends or drive their girlfriends home. After a month passed, Jason asked to use the SUV to drive to a friend's house after work. Jason's mother let him, with the understanding that he would just drive to his friend's house, spend the night there, then drive home the next day. Jason did not ask or get permission for any other driving. However, after going to his friend's house, Jason drove around with several friends as they threw eggs at houses and parked cars. Jason then drove his friend's girlfriend home, and while on his way to drop off another friend, collided with a vehicle driven by Amy Young, who was seriously injured. Young sued Jason (who had little money), and also sued his parents (who have more) under the FPD. Jason's parents opposed applying the FPD, and the matter went to the state supreme court. III. The law In 1987, the state legislature amended "UCATA," the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act. LAW LANGUAGE: A "tort" is "a private or civil wrong or injury." A "tortfeasor" is a person who commits a tort. UCATA settles a problem that occurs when there is more than one tortfeasor: how to divide up the responsibility. Under UCATA, as a general rule, each tortfeasor must pay only for his or her percentage of fault. But there are exceptions to that general rule, including -- LAW LANGUAGE: that if a tortfeasor was an "agent" of some "principal," then the principal may be liable both for his own acts, and also for what his agent did. Jason's parents argued that UCATA (from 1987) trumped the FPD (from 1918), that under the UCATA they weren't liable for anything because they weren't driving, and that the exception to UCATA's general rule didn't apply because Jason was disobeying their instructions. Under traditional agency law, Jason's parents would be right: "the head of a household who lets family members use his automobile is not liable for such use except when members use it on his affairs and as his servants." But the FPD departs from traditional agency law. The 1918 case said specifically that "any member of the family driving the machine with the father's consent ... is the father's agent." The state supreme court found no language in UCATA indicating that the law intended to abolish the FPD.
Jason's parents made a similar argument about the Financial Responsibility Act ("FRA"), which requires all vehicle owners to carry liability insurance that covers the owner and all persons driving with his permission. The state supreme court found that the FRA didn't pre-empt the FPD. The court added "we are not convinced that a law requiring minimum liability coverage of only $15,000 per person and $30,000 per occurrence guarantees that victims of serious accidents caused by young, inexperienced, and financially insecure drivers will be fully compensated. Nor is it clear that the doctrine's policy goals of compensating such accident victims, and encouraging parents to ensure that their children operate motor vehicles safely and obediently, are any less important today than ninety-two years ago." Jason's parents also argued that the FPD is "grossly unfair to any parent [of] a young driver," functions as "solely a penalty against wealthy parents," and is an "anachronism" that a "great majority" of jurisdictions have rejected. The state supreme court stated that the FPD "represents a social policy generated in response to the problem presented by massive use of the automobile," and provides "for an injured party's recovery from the financially responsible person -- the family head -- deemed most able to control [the driver] to whom the car is made available." As to the FPD being an anachronism, the court noted that 13 states plus Arizona still apply the FPD. The court stuck with the FPD: "We find no compelling reason to abrogate the doctrine. Nothing indicates that the rule has overburdened our courts or produced manifestly unjust results." IV. What's a "family purpose"? Jason's parents argued that his use of the SUV when the accident occurred was not for "a family purpose" but for his individual "pleasure and convenience." The state supreme court disagreed, stating "When a car is driven for the pleasure and convenience of a family member, a family purpose generally is served." The court added that the FPD "does not require that a parent give permission for every possible route taken or deviation made by a family member .... a deviation from the terms of consent will not necessarily relieve a head of the family from liability. To hold otherwise would enable parents to immunize themselves from liability by imposing general, unrealistic, or unenforced limitations on their child's use of the vehicle. As between a vehicle's owner, and a person injured by its negligent operation, it is the duty of the owner to see that his private limitations on its use are followed." Jason's parents let him drive the vehicle on the night in question, so he had the vehicle with their express permission, and he was transporting himself, which constituted a family purpose. For guidance in future cases, the court added "The FPD is not without limits. We do not adopt a 'Hell or High Water Rule,' which conclusively presumes that if the vehicle was originally placed in the possession of another by one having proper authority, then ... the operation of the vehicle is considered to be within the scope of the permission granted, regardless of how grossly the terms of the original placement may have been violated.... All we are ruling is that the facts place this case well within the family purpose doctrine." That's a little bit of a misstatement. The main point of the case is that the FPD is very much alive in Arizona.
Admitting Ignorance Useful In Discovery Of New Things
A while ago I wrote about George Gamow's book from the 1940s, "Biography Of the Earth," to show how much science has learned in the last 60 years, and how useful admitting ignorance is to someone who wants to discover new things. That attitude permeates a wonderful book from 1906, "Side-Lights On Astronomy," by Simon Newcomb. Newcomb was born the same year as Mark Twain, but died one year before Twain; that's too bad, because if anyone deserved to have his life synchronized with Halley's Comet, it was Newcomb. Newcomb was a self-made astronomer, and near the end of his life he collected some of his essays into "Side-Lights On Astronomy." The book came out one year after Einstein's incredible year of 1905, in which he published papers about quantum theory, atomic motion, special relativity, and the relationship between mass and energy. Newcomb knew that Einstein's work WOULD BE important, but Newcomb also knew that he did not know HOW it would be important. Newcomb's awareness that he knew big things were on the way, which he couldn't hope to understand, made him exquisitely careful in his essays. Newcomb made some errors in judgment which are, these days, hard to understand; for instance: "our solar system seems to be in the centre of [the Milky Way], because the Milky Way divides the heavens into two equal parts, and seems equally broad at all points. Were we looking at such a girdle as this from one side or the other, this appearance would not be presented." Today, any bright kid has a better mental image of the universe, and may not be able to understand how Newcomb could be so wrong. But Newcomb himself knew he might be wrong. After the sentence quoted above, Newcomb continues: "But let us not be too bold. Perhaps we are the victims of some fallacy, as Ptolemy was when he proved, by what looked like sound reasoning, based on undeniable facts, that this earth of ours stood at rest in the center of the heavens!" And the next sentence after that asks: "What is the source of the heat radiated by the sun and stars?" Newcomb offers no answer, but fifty pages later he hopes for one: "Who knows but that the radiant property that Becquerel has found in certain forms of matter may be a residuum of some original form of energy which is inherent in great cosmical masses .... It may be that in this phenomenon we have the key to the great riddle of the universe, with which profounder secrets of matter than any we have penetrated will be opened to the eyes of our successors." THAT'S how to make a prediction: admit your ignorance and hope that your descendants will know more.
Oddly for someone so humble, Newcomb gets criticized for being dogmatic. He said in 1888, "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." Dogmatic predictions like that are the subject of a new book, "Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better," by Dan Gardner. According to a New York Times review Gardner "takes as his starting point the work of ... a professor [who] examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and other prognosticators.... the experts bombed.... they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing chimps." Newcomb was a good forecaster in the long run, but horrible in the short run. For instance, he is often quoted as saying that it was impossible to build a practical "flying machine." Actually, he said that flying machines were impossible "in the present state of our knowledge" and "with such materials as we possess," but that "Quite likely the twentieth century is destined to see the natural forces which will enable us to fly from continent to continent ...." An essay in "Side-Lights On Astronomy" repeats Newcomb's comments. It has a diagram of a cross-section of an airplane wing, with dashed lines showing airflow -- and the lines are absolutely straight, with no curvature and no lift above the wing. If only Newcomb had known about the Wright brothers' work on airfoils! In the same essay, Newcomb wrote about radioactivity, though he didn't use that word; he wrote about "a substance which seems to set the laws and limits of nature at defiance by radiating a flood of heat, even when cooled to the lowest point that science can reach -- a substance, a few specks of which contain power enough to start a railway train." He suggested that radioactivity would do what electric or steam engines could not. If only Newcomb had paid attention to what Henry Ford and others were doing with the gasoline engine! One possible lesson from Newcomb's life is that things that will solve our practical problems are often happening right in front of us, but we don't see them because our theories make us blind. Could this apply to our problems along the border?
One Part Of The Amended Impact Statement
Pages 59-64 of the amended impact statement include some Q&A with Sunsites residents. Question 12 from February 14 is, "Will the board members get reimbursed at the end of the lease? Rumor!" The answer is memorable: "This question is so personally insulting it literally gags me. To date there have been nine very fine people who have served on the board including the present seven members. I have never in my life been associated with a more unselfish group. They serve their community because they want to preserve the village of sunsites and protect the way of life they have come to love. The only financial reward they ever hope to receive is the preservation of their property values. There is no reimbursement at the end of the lease. The person who started that rumor is a low down belly crawling snake in the grass." Actually, the law says board members MAY be reimbursed. ARS 48-1208(D) says "Members of the board are not eligible to receive compensation but are eligible for reimbursement of expenses ...." As to righteous indignation, the answer requires people to choose between bowing to saints, or being an ungrateful wretch. What's an ordinary citizen to do? Well, a third alternative is offered by my old (263 years) friend Jerry Bentham, in his essay "Laudatory Personalities." It discusses arguments based on the claim that some people are above suspicion:
"... authority derived from the virtues or talents of the persons lauded, is brought forward as superseding the necessity of all investigation." "... so great is their integrity, so complete their disinterestedness, so uniformly do they prefer the public advantage to their own, that ... the high character of the individuals in question is a sufficient guarantee against any ground of alarm." "... There can be no difficulty in exposing the fallacy of the argument [based on] these panegyrics: --" "1. They have the common character of being irrelevant to the question under discussion...." "3. If this argument be good in any one case, it is equally good in every other; and the effect of it ... would be to give to the persons [praised as virtuous] an absolute and universal negative upon every measure not agreeable to their inclinations." "4. In every public trust, the legislator should, for the purpose of prevention, suppose the trustee disposed to break the trust in every imaginable way in which it would be possible for him to reap ... any personal advantage. This is the principle on which public institutions ought to be formed; and when it is applied to all men indiscriminately, it is injurious to none.... [A]rguments, drawn from the supposed virtues of men in power, are opposed to the first principles on which all laws proceed...." Jerry Bentham's rules deserve consideration to see if they make sense. Nobody is required to bow to Bentham's authority.
Earthquakes and Thoughtquakes
Japan's recent earthquake is all over the news, and is big enough so that its effects, abstract and concrete, will last many years. Japan's earthquakes and volcanoes are part of a huge band of such along the "Ring Of Fire" that surrounds the Pacific. Wikipedia is a perfectly cromulent place to start looking about the Ring Of Fire: -- Of course, Wikipedia is an okay place to START looking for almost any subject; it's just never safe to use without following its links to better sources. Wikipedia's "Ring Of Fire" article doesn't mention the Moon. That's odd, because one of the main theories about the Moon is that it was formed when a chunk of rock about as big as Mars crashed into the Earth where the Pacific Ocean now is; the Ring Of Fire is supposedly the edge of the huge scar circling the collision. -- That's not a bad theory. Note, in science, "theory" does not mean "wild guess;" that's one big difference between science and some other subjects in whose study human beings join into giant teams. Because Japan has many nuclear power plants, and some were damaged by the earthquake, there is some talk that Japan shouldn't use nuclear power. By the same reasoning, nuclear power plants shouldn't be used in California and our other Pacific states, which are also in the Ring Of Fire. -- Focusing on the health hazards of nuclear meltdowns ignores the constant health risk, never spectacular but always present, of using coal or oil for power. For power that is really safe, solar, wind, and sea waves are top contenders, currently. But focusing exclusively on the Ring Of Fire isn't fair, because other parts of the earth have similar problems. There is no place that's safe from earthquakes. In fact, one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history took place where nobody expected it: on the east edge of the Atlantic Ocean, in Lisbon, Portugal. Wikipedia is a good place to start looking: The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was about the same size as Japan's recent quake. The recent quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale; the Lisbon quake was estimated at 8. -- The Richter scale is only about 75 years old. A seismometer, or "shake meter," is basically just a pen, suspended so it can swing from side to side when the earth moves. If a seismometer is 62 miles from a quake's epicenter (the surface location directly above where a quake actually happens, which can be hundreds of miles down), and the needle moves about 1/25,000 of an inch, the quake measures 0 on the Richter scale. A quake measuring 1 moves the pen ten times as much, and so on. A Richter 7.2 quake is like a 1-megaton atomic bomb going off. The Japanese quake, at Richter 7.9, was like a 336-megaton bomb. The Lisbon quake, at Richter 8, was like 474 megatons. -- A megaton equals a million tons of TNT. Here's a stick of dynamite -- about 10 ounces -- blowing up a fridge: 10 ounces of dynamite is about as powerful as a pound of TNT, so 2000 of those fridge explosions would equal one ton of TNT -- amounting to about what one B-29, fully loaded with "iron bombs," might carry in World War II. Load up 20,000 B-29s; they'd carry the equivalent of each atomic bomb we dropped on Japan. Here's a look at the Nagasaki bomb exploding: Combine 50 of those atomic bombs; that's a 1-megaton hydrogen bomb, whose fireball would cover 180 acres, or 135 football fields. Here's a 57-megaton hydrogen bomb going off: That was the biggest man-made explosion ever. The Japanese and Lisbon earthquakes were 6 or 8 times bigger.
In both Japan and Lisbon, the tidal wave did a lot more harm than the earthquake, as the pictures from Japan are showing, and as many drawings and paintings from the Lisbon earthquake show. Still, no matter how awful, most disasters aren't remembered very long. A 9.5 earthquake occurred in Chile in 1960; when was the last time you heard about it? Tokyo had a bad quake in 1923; it's remembered now mainly because a Frank Lloyd Wright hotel didn't fall down. -- Some disasters may be remembered for thousands of years. There's an idea, controversial, that the biblical "Flood" story is a faint cultural memory from about 7500 years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea began spilling eastward over the Bosporus into a lake, from whose edges humans had to retreat as it filled up and became the Black Sea. Once in a while, a disaster has cultural effects far beyond its physical effects. Japan's recent quake and tidal wave may affect power companies, but Lisbon's effects are still, 250 years later, going on throughout Western culture. Lisbon, you see, was just so unfair! First came quake, then came fire, then came tidal waves -- all on a religious holiday, in a Roman Catholic town, actually during church services! About 40,000 people were crushed, burned, or drowned. This made people go Hmmm. How could a loving God do this to His beloved children? Why do it to them while they were in church worshipping Him? Did He mean to show what He could do if He was really mad? Did He do it to make the rest of us love Him for not doing it to us? Does He hate Catholics? Was He setting a trap to make Protestants gloat, then send them to hell? Does He exist? Does His existence matter if things are awful anyway? Should humans recognize "the divine right of kings"? Should we organize governments that are separate from religion? And the children, think of the children! -- If you've ever seen or listened to Bernstein's "Candide," you owe a debt to the 40,000+ people who died in the Lisbon events. And all Americans owe a debt to those mashed, scorched, soggy corpses, because they inspired a lot of Enlightenment philosophy that led to our Declaration Of Independence. But most disasters of any kind, natural or cultural, tend to fade from memory. Last night I was listening to a radio talk show on which a woman was expressing great sympathy for the Japanese victims. The host was agreeing with her, and praising the Japanese for their cooperation, discipline, and friendliness. I couldn't help remembering the somewhat different lessons that I absorbed as a kid. All the men in my family were in the Army or Navy in World War II -- on our side, but we won anyway. One of them came home minus an arm; he turned into a mean drunk. The rest were marked too, but not so visibly. I heard names like Bataan and Buchenwald. Germans and Japanese -- my family used shorter words -- were not regarded with affection. It was a long time before anyone in my family bought a Volkswagen or Datsun, never mind how good or cheap they were. But we all got over it. These days, it's okay to criticize America for using atomic bombs on Japanese civilians (although there were no Japanese civilians by then -- everyone in Japan had been mobilized months before) but it's rude to bring up the Bataan Death March, during which Japan used American prisoners for beheading practice. Besides, in 2009 the Japanese ambassador apologized. The world has moved on. In any case, the kind of things we said about Germans and Japanese 60 and 70 years ago, we say now about Moslems. From the perspective of an old man, I can't help but wonder if, just once, we could cut to the chase, realize that after we settle our current difficulties with Islam we are going to end up treating Moslems like human beings again, so not go around calling them subhuman now. The presence of Hitler can't be ignored; but it didn't mean that all Germans were like Hitler. Likewise for Mussolini in Italy. Tojo in Japan. Stalin in Russia. Castro in Cuba. Qaddafi in Libya. Bin Laden, somewhere in the Moslem world. Whenever we go to war against leaders, our government whips us into a frenzy against the people they govern. After we win, we settle down, and become pals two or three generations later. This time, against Moslem bin Laden, couldn't we just get him killed as he deserves -- I'd happily hang him by his own guts -- without going into a frenzy about every Moslem in the world?
Prosecution Ignores Facts
That Don't Fit Their Theory
Murder, persecution, conviction, and reversal: a classic case of ignoring all the facts that don't fit the prosecution's theory. Sources: the Arizona Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Machado, and the website On October 25, 2000, 16-year-old Rebecca Ramsay drove home alone from a church party in Tucson. She pulled into the driveway. She got into an argument with a male. A neighbor heard her say she did not want to go with him. A gunshot killed her. The killer got away. Jonathan H. was the prime suspect. He was a classmate of Rebecca's, and the boyfriend of her best friend Laura. Two weeks before, during an argument with Laura's ex-boyfriend, Jonathan had threatened to kill Rebecca and Laura. A former girlfriend had a restraining order against him. He was inconsistent about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. But the police couldn't assemble much evidence. A month later, Rebecca's family got an anonymous phone call. The caller said he accidentally killed Rebecca because he was mad and she would not do what he wanted; that before the shooting, he waited by a white minivan parked near a neighbor's house; and that Rebecca came home in a white Ford Escort. The details about the minivan and Escort were correct, and had not been printed in the papers. The caller mentioned some remarks made at Rebecca's funeral. Because of the caller's special knowledge, it was very likely that he was the killer. Rebecca's family members said the caller sounded like a "cold, cocky, and well-spoken" young white male. Relying on this call, police obtained a warrant for a sample of Jonathan's voice. The police, however, lost the sample before it could be played for the family. Jonathan was never arrested, and the case went nowhere for over five years. In January 2006, the Tucson police formed a "cold case" unit. By October, the cold case unit was responsible for only two arrests. On October 14 they arrested someone for the murder of Rebecca Ramsay -- not Jonathan, but one Louie Thomas Machado, who is Hispanic, had an accent, and used poor grammar, totally unlike the anonymous caller who confessed to the murder. KVOA news reported dramatically: "Tucson cold case detectives cracked a 6-year-old cold case wide open on Thursday.... 'This is a happy day,' sighs ... Rebecca Ramsay's mother through tears.... "It's been a long time coming. We want to thank the community who have been praying for us this whole time.... It has been a long hard road for us and now we want to focus on justice for 'Becca .... Sgt. Mark Robinson said, 'This is just the first step in the long road to justice.' Police say Machado has been a 'person of interest' since day one." Perhaps Machado had always been a person of interest, but Jonathan H. had been a person of much more interest; the case against Jonathan had stalled because the police had lost evidence; the evidence against Jonathan was much stronger than the evidence against Machado; and Machado sounded nothing like the anonymous caller who confessed the murder. The evidence against Machado was mainly statements which he and his mother retracted at trial. In his own defense, Machado offered evidence that Jonathan was the killer. The trial court excluded much of Machado's evidence about Jonathan's other acts, including kidnapping two girls at gunpoint; a road rage incident in which Jonathan pointed a gun at others; and an assault conviction after Jonathan pointed a gun at a former girlfriend, threatened to kill her, and told her he had killed before. The trial court also excluded evidence of the anonymous phone call and the subsequent police investigation. Machado was convicted of second-degree murder. The court of appeals reversed the conviction, and held that evidence about the kidnapping, the road rage, the assault, and the anonymous phone call, should have been admitted. The Supreme Court agreed. Machado can have a new trial with a fair deal -- if the prosecutor seriously wants to try again.
Why exclude evidence about the kidnapping, road rage, and assault by Jonathan? The answer requires thinking about the reasons not to convict a person of some particular crime just because he's a "bad guy" in general. Courts must follow rules of evidence, and Arizona Rule Of Evidence 404(b) says "evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith." Machado argued that Rule 404(b) did not apply to evidence of other acts by a third person, offered by Machado to show that killing Rebecca was in conformity with Jonathan's character. The Supreme Court agreed that Machado's evidence about Jonathan's "other acts" is not governed by Rule 404(b), but by three other rules. That ruling cinched the appeal for Machado, because the prosecution had already conceded that if Rule 404(b) didn't apply, the appeals court was right to reverse the trial court's exclusion of evidence. Why exclude evidence about the anonymous phone call? The trial court excluded the call as hearsay, and because the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion substantially outweighed any probative value. The court of appeals, and the Supreme Court, disagreed. To lawyers, hearsay means "a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." Hearsay is not admissible -- except that sometimes it is. The statements in the phone call are hearsay -- made out of court, and offered to prove that the caller did, as he claimed, kill Rebecca. But Machado argued that the call should be admitted into evidence, because Rule 804(b)(3), when a declarant is unavailable, allows admission of a statement that "so far tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability ... that a reasonable person in the declarant's position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true." Obviously, a person who speaks anonymously intends NOT to subject himself to liability; that's the reason for being anonymous. However, back in 2000, the anonymous phone call led to the police getting a warrant to take a voice sample from a third person (Jonathan); so the anonymous call tended to subject the caller to criminal liability, no matter what the caller intended. The Supreme Court found that the exception in Rule 804(b)(3) applied. Also, the facts about the murder known to the caller, but not to the general public, corroborate the phone call. And so on. Even the trial court said the anonymous call might even be "super relevant." The Supreme Court agreed that the call "tend[s] to create a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt." The only issue in this case is whether Machado or someone else committed the murder. The phone call went directly to that issue. Evidence of the call should have been admitted. And if Machado is tried again, it will be admitted, along with the other excluded evidence. What has the arrest and prosecution accomplished? A television station boosted its ratings by treating Machado's arrest as "cracking a case" by a special unit of detectives. Rebecca's family first suffered because the police lost evidence, then had their hopes raised by a prosecution with blinders on, then had their hopes dashed by the result on appeal. A community which prayed to find the murderer got a false answer to its prayers. As to Machado, the case is an example of good lawyering by his counsel, but that can be little comfort to him. He was under suspicion for 10 years, and charged with murder for 4 years; his years from 18 to 28 were pretty well ruined because the prosecutor's office cherrypicked through the evidence, and downplayed whatever didn't fit the prosecution's theories. That's how the system often works. Even here in idyllic Cochise County, it has been rumored that citizens sometimes have to be vigilant against careerists in government.
County Supervisors Pass
New Hazard Abatement Ordinance
(Thanks to Mike Jackson for this news story.) 08 February 2011 (BISBEE, Ariz.) The Cochise County Board Of Supervisors voted 3-0 this morning to pass the Hazard Abatement Ordinance. The Planning Department's "slide show" presentation took 5 to 10 minutes. After that, citizens were allowed to speak; three citizens spoke against the proposal, taking another 5 to 10 minutes total. Ordinarily the Supervisors would then have questioned the Department, but when Chairman Call then called the Department back to the microphone for questions, the Supervisors skipped to the kind of statements that ordinarily come just before voting. Supervisor English began, with a statement to the effect that if the new ordinance turned out to cause problems, the Supervisors could change it. English made a similar statement at the Supervisors' January 4 work session about the proposal. Based on English's statements, it's not clear if she ever read the proposal. From November 11, 2010 through January 10, 2011, not one email concerning the proposal passed between English and Zoning Inspector Rick Corley, Planning Department head Carlos De La Torre, Deputy County Administrator James Vlahovich, or County Administrator Mike Ortega.
Supervisor Searle then made a statement supporting the proposal. Searle said, in part, that the proposal's "statement of intent" was taken from the old ordinance. Searle was incorrect. The proposal's "statement of intent" mentions using the Hazard Abatement Ordinance to remove buildings which "have the potential of harboring illegal activities," but the old ordinance says nothing like that. CCIPRA noted this in an e-mail about an hour before the meeting. Searle has obviously read the ordinance, so it's unclear why he would persist on making a false statement about it. Chairman Call simply noted that the Supervisors had no questions, and called for the vote. As a result, the proposal passed with the Supervisors never having discussed most of the issues that citizens raised, including the ordinance's forbidding anybody from allowing anybody else's property to have trash on it, charging fees without notice, evading the Supervisors' duties to supervise employees and to conduct hearings, using definitions that don't fit rural areas, and reducing protection for citizens' rights. CCIPRA will soon follow up with more analysis, including a look at more County emails. Here is an audio recording of the Supervisors discussing the ordinance.
On January 28, an article in the Sierra Vista Herald includes: "The 14th Amendment says, 'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.' "What's at issue is that question of 'subject to the jurisdiction.' "Foes of the amendment say that illegal immigrants and their children are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. "Ask any first-year law student: Anyone who the police can apprehend in Arizona is subject to the jurisdiction of Arizona,' said Montoya. "Kavanagh, however, said being subject to arrest is not what the drafters had in mind. "'They clearly stated in discussions that you owe sole allegiance to the United States,' he said. "Kavanagh said that was confirmed in early rulings on the scope of the amendment. For example, he said, the high court denied citizenship to the child of a Native American couple 'because the parents owed their allegiance to the sovereign tribe.' "Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, sponsor of the Senate amendments, said there is no way the crafters of the amendment intended that citizenship be applied to those who entered the country illegally. "'You've got to bear in mind that when they voted on the 14th Amendment we had open immigration,' he said, meaning there was no such thing as being an illegal immigrant. He also argued that none of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions issued since then have clarified the issue. "There was an 1898 case involving Wong Kim Ark, born in San Francisco in 1873 to parents who were not U.S. citizens. In that case, the nation's high court concluded he was, in fact, entitled to citizenship even though his parents were 'subjects of the Emperor of China.' "But the justices said that his parents had 'a permanent domicil and residence in the United States,' a situation Kavanagh said makes that case legally distinguishable from one involving those who entered and remain in this country illegally." Kavanagh and Gould are wrong on every point. They don't know the contents of the Supreme Court cases whose names they use. Kavanagh argues that being "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" means "that you owe sole allegiance to the United States." Wrong, for 199 years. In 1812, in the case of The Exchange v. McFaddon, our Supreme Court said "When private individuals of one nation spread themselves through another as business or caprice may direct, mingling indiscriminately with the inhabitants of that other ... it would be obviously inconvenient and dangerous to society, and would subject the laws to continual infraction and the government to degradation, if such individuals or merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance and were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the country.... The implied license, therefore, under which they enter can never be construed to grant such exemption." Any private individual within the United States "on business or caprice" is subject to its jurisdiction. Kavanagh's argument has no connection to reality at all.
In support, Kavanagh says the Supreme Court "denied citizenship to the child of a Native American couple 'because the parents owed their allegiance to the sovereign tribe.'" Wrong. The "parents" argument wasn't in the case's majority opinion; it was made by the dissent to show how silly the majority opinion was. The case is Elk v. Wilkins, from 1884. John Elk was born into an Indian tribe (the case never says which one) but moved to Omaha and tried to assimilate into white society, and to vote. The majority on the Supreme Court held that Elk was not a citizen, because the 14th Amendment says the number of a state's Congressmen depends on the "number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed," who "are still excluded from the count for the reason that they are not citizens." The dissent looked at the debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (whose provisions the 14th Amendment nailed down) and concluded "no Senator ... doubted that the bill as passed admitted, and was intended to admit, to national citizenship Indians who abandoned their tribal relations and became residents of one of the states or territories .... It was so interpreted by President Johnson, who, in his veto message, said: '... This provision comprehends the Chinese of the Pacific states, Indians subject to taxation, the people called gypsies ... and persons of African blood. Every individual of those races, born in the United States, is, by the bill, made a citizen of the United States.'" Three years later, Congress overruled the majority in Elk by passing the Dawes Act, which gave citizenship to "every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up, within said limits, his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians ... and has adopted the habits of civilized life". Kavanagh both gets the case backward, and ignores Congress's undoing of the case 124 years ago. Gould argues that the 14th Amendment could not have "intended that citizenship be applied to those who entered the country illegally" because when the Amendment was passed there was no immigration law, therefore no such thing as an illegal immigrant. Hmmm. The internet didn't exist when the Constitution was passed, so, under Gould's reasoning, even though the 1st Amendment says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech," that doesn't apply to the internet. Another: the 1st Amendment prohibits any law "respecting an establishment of religion," but in 1791 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints didn't exist, so, under Gould's reasoning, the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to Mormons. In support, Gould offers the Supreme Court case of Wong Kim Ark, and argues that because Wong's parents had "a permanent domicil and residence in the United States," the case wouldn't confer citizenship on people whose parents "entered and remain in this country illegally." The problem is that the Wong case has a very detailed discussion of English law from the earliest times and American law since independence -- a discussion which includes every contingency that anyone on the Court thought might be relevant -- yet the discussion never considers whether a person's parents entered the country legally or not, or even whether they were continuing to commit crimes while here. If you think about it, you couldn't prosecute people for crimes if the people weren't under your jurisdiction, so Gould's argument would mean that illegal aliens couldn't be prosecuted for crimes. Is that what Gould wants? In conclusion, the Wong case includes a quotation from the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1872: "The question is now settled by the Fourteenth Amendment itself, that citizenship of the United States is the primary citizenship in this country, and that state citizenship is secondary and derivative, depending upon citizenship of the United States and the citizen's place of residence. The States have not now, if they ever had, any power to restrict their citizenship to any classes or persons." But that's exactly what Kavanagh and Gould want to do. To do what they want, just how much actual law are they willing to ignore?
Some Arizona politicians are improperly injecting a federal issue into Arizona politics. An article in the Sierra Vista Herald yesterday (1/6/11) quoted Governor Brewer as saying "she is open to the idea of denying automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants even though she conceded that's not what she was taught in school. 'I think that it's worthwhile to have it vetted and debated,' the governor said ...." Brewer seems to think that if her school didn't teach her about a subject, nobody has ever thought about it. She must have gone to a mighty good school for a mighty long time. The Herald quotes state representative John Kavanagh as saying that if his opponents "don't want to argue the merits or lack of merits of the Birthright Citizenship bill, then they should just be quiet." He must think that he can spout nonsense, and silence people who would speak sense. The issue that Brewer and Kavanagh want to raise has been argued for over 140 years by skilled advocates, and Brewer and Kavanagh don't even seem to know that there's been an argument. State senator Russell Pearce knows there's been an argument, but he isn't admitting that his side lost long ago. The Herald article quotes Pearce as saying that the Birthright Citizenship Bill "would restore the 14th Amendment to the original post-Civil War intent of ensuring that blacks, particularly former slaves, are citizens." Even far-right sources disagree with Pearce's nonsense. The day before the SV Herald article, the Wall Street Journal ran an article by James C. Ho, who is not just a lawyer but an actual scholar, and who has been honored by the right-wing Federalist Society. A brief reminder to Pearce: America's original Constitution allowed slavery. In 1857, the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court stated that the intent of the Constitution was that a black man have "no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Four years later, the Civil War began. The North won. The winners changed the Constitution by means including the 14th Amendment, which opens "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." James Ho's article in the Wall Street Journal states that the "effort to rewrite U.S. citizenship law from state to state is unconstitutional -- and curious. Opponents of illegal immigration cannot claim to champion the rule of law and then, in the same breath, propose policies that violate our Constitution." Ho's article is available online at According to Ho's article, the sentence "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States" covers everyone, except foreign diplomats who enjoy diplomatic immunity within the United States. When the 14th Amendment was debated in Congress, that sentence was not understood to apply only to former slaves. Both sides understood that it would apply to everyone, not just former slaves. To quote Ho's article: "Pennsylvania Sen. Edgar Cowan opposed the clause precisely because it would extend birthright citizenship to the U.S.-born children of Chinese laborers ...." So when Brewer and Kavanagh argue that the coverage of the 14th Amendment has never been debated, they are revealing their ignorance. And when Pearce hypothesizes an "original post-Civil War intent of ensuring that blacks, particularly former slaves, are citizens," he isn't just ignorant, he's flat wrong.
In the "Slaughterhouse Cases" decided by the Supreme Court in 1872, only seven years after the Civil War and only four years after the ratification of the 14th Amendment -- the opinion is online here. -- the opinion stated "in the light of this recapitulation of events, almost too recent to be called history, but which are familiar to us all, and on the most casual examination of the language of these [13th, 14th, and 15th] amendments ... Undoubtedly while negro slavery alone was in the mind of the Congress which proposed the thirteenth article, it forbids any other kind of slavery, now or hereafter. If Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie labor system shall develop slavery of the Mexican of Chinese race within our territory, this amendment may safely be trusted to make it void. And so, if other rights are assailed by the States which properly and necessarily fall within the protection of these articles, that protection will apply, though the party interested may not be of African descent." Whatever confusion modern politicians seek to create, the people who passed the 14th Amendment knew that it applied to everyone without regard to race. But legal equality does not mean that prejudice disappears; stupid and ignorant people cling to their prejudices, no matter what any law says. So in 1882, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, whose proponents made statements about Chinese much like what Brewer, Kavanagh, and Pearce now say about Mexicans. The Chinese Exclusion Act lasted until 1943, but its application was limited in 1898 by a Supreme Court case. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco in 1873, five years after the 14th Amendment was ratified. As a young man, Wong took a vacation to China, but when he returned, customs officials wouldn't let him in; they claimed that he was not a citizen. Wong claimed that he was a citizen, because he was born in America, though both his parents were Chinese. Wong won the case. The opinion is available online here. Ho's article quotes briefly quotes the Wong case about Congress's debates about the 14th Amendment; the Supreme Court's opinion in the case quoted the debates at length because they "are valuable as contemporaneous opinions of jurists and statesmen upon the legal meaning of the words themselves, and are, at the least, interesting as showing that the application of the Amendment to the Chinese race was considered, and not overlooked." In short, two Wongs didn't make a white -- but they did make a citizen. If Brewer, Kavanagh, and Pearce want to argue that the 14th Amendment was only meant to apply to blacks, because of the Civil War, and to Chinese, because of the Wong case, they can argue that -- and become laughingstocks as they are forced from exception to exception. Ho's article also cites later cases, and concludes that "Opponents of birthright citizenship say that they want nothing more than a chance to relitigate the meaning of the 14th Amendment. But [the] entire enterprise appears doomed to failure.... [T]here are many tools available to combat illegal immigration. Surely we can do so without wasting taxpayer funds on a losing court battle, reopening the scars of the Civil War, and offending our Constitution and the rule of law." If that's how Brewer, Kavanagh, and Pearce's friends talk, the trio should listen. Otherwise, imagine what opponents of stupidity and ignorance will be able to say about them.
Something that might influence life along the border is the "DREAM Act." What is it? Or at least, What is it as far as we can tell going into a Congressional debate? The terms of any bill can be changed during debate. DREAM stands for "Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors." For people brought into the US illegally as kids, the Act would make it easier to get "permanent resident" status. As things are, such people can't legalize their status without leaving the US; but it's very hard to return legally. Also, while here, such kids may have become Americanized, and be "fish out of water" in their parents' country. To "Alien Minors" who qualify, the DREAM Act legalizes their residency for six years, during which the alien must, for at least two years, EITHER work toward a bachelor's or graduate degree at college, OR enlist in the military. There's no requirement of graduating college, and there's no guarantee that military service will be limited to two years, if the military requires longer enlistments. A few points of discussion follow. 1. An alien who chooses the college option must be in good standing; an alien who chooses military service can't have a discharge other than honorable. However, an organization called "FAIR" -- the Federation for American Immigration Reform -- which opposes the DREAM Act, provides a link to an article which says "For those who go the military route, honorable discharge is not required." Obviously, one side is wrong, and should be embarrassed when the truth comes out in the debate in Congress. 2. Whether an alien chooses college or the military, an alien who doesn't successfully finish reverts back to illegal status, and can be deported. The alien can also be deported immediately for committing any crime except possession of 30 grams or less -- about an ounce -- of marijuana. 3. To qualify for DREAM, an alien must -- - have arrived illegally in the US before turning 16 - at the time the act was passed, must - - be between 12 and 35, and - - have lived here continuously for at least five years - have graduated from a US high school or earned a GED - have good moral character a. However, the article provided via FAIR says "an illegal alien doesn't have to provide real evidence that he meets these criteria .... Simply filing an application is good enough. Until the application process is complete, the potential DREAM beneficiary cannot be removed from the United States for any reason. If the application is rejected ... the applicant reverts to his previous immigration status -- and none of the information gathered during this process can be used against the illegal immigrant in future deportation hearings." If the actual bill discussed in Congress says a DREAM applicant cannot be deported for any reason -- even, say, conviction of armed robbery -- then that's unacceptable, in this writer's opinion. b. The article provided via FAIR also says "DREAM doesn't require applicants to finish any degree program or even be particularly good students." As to finishing a degree, that could be made a requirement. As to being "particularly good students," that requirement would be hard to apply fairly because different colleges have varying standards for giving out good grades. However, that variability wouldn't make the requirement impossible to apply fairly, because the requirement already exists for many scholarships and tuition assistance programs. c. The article also says "'Good moral character' can include up to two misdemeanor convictions, including drunk driving." The implication that drunk driving equals immorality would probably get disagreement from many Americans. In general, who is to define "good moral character"? Churchgoing Unitarians who belong to the ACLU? Politicians who build a career crusading against gays -- then come out of the closet? In this writer's opinion, it would be better just to say that "X number of criminal convictions of a certain type" would disqualify an applicant, rather than invoke concepts like "good moral character."
d. The article also says "if the DREAM beneficiary can prove that their removal from the country would result in hardship to themselves or someone here legally who is a spouse, child, or parent, both the college and military service requirements can be waived." If such a provision is in what Congress debates, then the provision should be removed; it has nothing to do with the stated purpose of the DREAM Act. 4. How many people would qualify for the DREAM program nationally? The best guess is, about 10,000 people per year. In a country of about 300 million people, that's about 1 in 30,000. In Cochise County, that's about five people per year. However, the article provided by FAIR says "[t]he Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 2.1 million people would qualify, but as staffers for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) point out ... "we have no idea how many illegal aliens will apply." 5. One reason for opposition to the DREAM Act is an emotional hot-button issue: SOME, not all, states charge in-state college tuition to illegal aliens, while American citizens from other states have to pay out-of-state rates. According to the website "Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990." That's a SURCHARGE -- almost $12,000 over and above in-state tuition -- so in some states, an illegal alien pays about $24,000 less than an American citizen from a different state, for two years of college; $48,000 less for four years. That does gall the gullet. a. The problem is caused by a current federal statute which is badly written. Some states read it as prohibiting in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens, but other states don't read it that way. The DREAM Act would finesse the problem by getting rid of the federal statute, and leaving the matter up to the states. This means that the inequity would continue, and perhaps spread. b. Merely making the federal statute clear might not solve the problem. No matter how clear the statute became, there'd probably be another court case like US v. Arizona, the federal lawsuit against Arizona's SB 1070. That's all we need, another fee-fest for lawyers advocating for a rule that is perfect in the abstract. c. An imperfect but workable solution might be that if a state let a DREAM alien pay in-state tuition, then upon graduation, the federal government would pay the state the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. With a $12,000 difference per year for each of 10,000 students, the total would be $120 million a year. By federal standards, that's not much; compare it to Arizona senator Kyl's recent $200 million earmark for a new water supply project on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation. Kyl says this $200 million isn't an earmark; the Senate Rules disagree. Senate Rule XLIV.5(a) -- defines "congressionally defined spending item" -- in English, "earmark" -- as "language included primarily at the request of a Senator providing, authorizing, or recommending a specific ... expenditure ... targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process". In denying that his $200 million is an earmark, Kyl speaks with forked tongue. If Kyl can grab $200 million for a 15,000-member tribe, then $120 million per year for DREAM to generate 10,000 good citizens is a bargain. d. However, such a subsidy would give relief to aliens while denying it to citizens, so there must be a better solution. Perhaps Congress could pass a law requiring an equivalent subsidy for ALL students, to be paid from one state to another in a clearinghouse operation once a year; this would certainly encourage states to provide better state colleges, in order to keep citizens in-state. Or maybe Congress could entirely outlaw different rates for in-state and out-of-state students, on the Constitutional basis that different rates are a burden on interstate commerce. This writer hopes that the above encourages fact-based debate, and discourages mere shouting of conclusions, about the DREAM Act.
Two recent news stories from The Congo and The Netherlands tell a sad story about the direction the West is headed in. One story, Frenzy of Rape in Congo Reveals U.N. Weakness, appeared in the New York Times on October 3. The other story, Dutch Anti-Islamic Politician Wilders Opposes Judges In Race-Hate Trial, appeared on Bloomberg on October 4. The "Frenzy of Rape" story is about widespread savagery in what was once the Belgian Congo. It's been independent 50 years, and has gone through a string of dictators. The central government is pretty much a fiction; warlords and mobs run amok in this giant cesspool. Here's how the "Frenzy of Rape" story is pitched: rapists "moved house to house, along with hundreds of other marauding rebels, gang-raping at least 200 women. What happened ... has become a searing embarrassment for the United Nations .... the peacekeeping force still seems to be failing at its most elemental task: protecting civilians.... 'Congo is the U.N.'s crowning failure,' said Eve Ensler, author of 'The Vagina Monologues,' ... She blamed poor management, bad communication and racism. 'If the women being raped were the daughters or wives or mothers of the power elites,' she said, 'I can promise you this war would have ended about 12 years ago.'" Who does the news story blame for this mess? Not the rapists, and not any Congolese. There's nary a hint that the Congolese might be responsible for governing their own country. There's only room in the story for one kind of blame: criticism of the U.N., for not doing well enough at protecting the Congolese from themselves. The "Dutch Anti-Islamic Politician" story is about Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician on trial for criticizing the Koran. In 2007 Wilders called the Koran "fascist" and compared it to Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and in 2008 he released a movie, "Fitna," about intolerance in the Koran. I haven't seen Fitna, but here's a description: "The message of 'Fitna' is that the Quran is the living inspiration for jihadists. Without the Quran's violent passages, the film suggests, Islamic terrorism would not exist. Mr. Wilders shows verses from the Quran alongside hate speeches by imams and graphic images of Islamic terrorism -- from 9/11 to the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London attack a year later. He uses footage from the video-taped beheading of a hostage by Islamic terrorists. He also shows the most famous of the Danish cartoons (the one with a bomb on Muhammad's head) that triggered demonstrations across the Muslim world two years ago." The full description can be seen here. (To see the famous Danish cartoons, click here. Click anywhere on the image you'll reach, and it'll get big.)
Wilders, and everyone in the Netherlands, has good reason to speak out against violence by or on behalf of Moslems. In 2002, another Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, was shot to death by a man -- not a Moslem -- who said he did it to protect Moslems. In 2004, Theo van Gogh (the great-grandson of Vincent's brother) was shot to death (followed by a failed decapitation) by a Moslem, after van Gogh criticized Islam; the imam of a mosque in The Hague had even called for van Gogh to be killed. A few complaints about Fitna were made -- maybe 50 or 60, in a nation of about 17 million people, including a million Moslems. While "Prosecutors in 2008 initially decided against charging Wilders, saying his comments are ... covered by freedom of speech rules [, t]he Amsterdam Court of Appeal last year overruled that decision." Now Wilders is on trial for "insulting a group of people, inciting hatred and inciting discrimination," and he faces up to a year in prison and a fine of about $10,000. According to the story, "The Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers.... Sowing hatred in a democratic system of law is so severe, that there's a public cause to draw a line in public debate." The judges on the Court of Appeal don't care about free speech at all -- and the same judges might prosecute anyone in The Netherlands who urges people to hate stupid, ignorant, and biased judges. Such prosecution would be vindictive, too. In the trial of Geert Wilders, the chief judge made remarks that show he's prejudiced against Wilders because of newspaper stories. Wilders's attorney moved to disqualify the judge as prejudiced, but the motion was denied, by simply ignoring what the judge said. So the trial is proceeding with a judge who's clearly biased. I'd call this a kangaroo court, but why insult kangaroos? There's a common theme to these news stories. The New York Times reported savagery in The Congo, but focused on criticizing the U.N. for not stopping such acts. The Netherlands isn't prosecuting Moslems who call for others to be killed, it's prosecuting people who speak out against the calls for their own slaughter. Did I miss the meeting which voted that The West is responsible for everything bad, and that free speech must be abandoned if it hurts the feelings of people who want to destroy it?
Any doubt that government lives in a different universe than ordinary working people is dispelled by agenda item 15, an action item (no comments allowed from the public) to 'Approve contract #2010-046 from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board awarding a grant in the amount of $30,000 for the Sheriff's Office to pay architect fees and associated costs for developing a Firearms Range concept plan.' $30,000 to develop a 'concept plan' for a firearms range. That's some lucky architect. Here's a concept: Find a hill with no houses behind it, and put targets in front of it. Where's my $30,000? What's that you say? -- there are complications? I bet there are. But is figuring out the complications of this limited project really worth a whole year's pay at a good job? This writer received several citizen reactions about the issue, mostly in agreement, but one gave the other side of the picture, by noting that, unlike the old days, nowadays "for a public agency to build a facility, you are forced to do all the noise, pollution, noise pollution and other hazard studies, have a plan for removal of contaminants, disposal of same, zoning rules of plant design, etc., etc., etc. And of course, all these studies and plans must be certified by some battery of attorneys. Ergo the cost of design." That's all true. However, there may be a way around it, because the range can be considered part of policing the border. The County Supervisors refuse to even think about using the emergency powers they granted themselves, years ago, to deal with the border emergency.
The Supes' excuse is that a deputy county attorney says that if the Supes even try to use an emergency power, the County might get sued -- so the Supes have frozen up. That's unacceptable; they are paid to use their brains to help citizens, not freeze in fear at the thought that protecting citizens might not be completely risk-free. Here are a couple of half-baked, but at least unfrozen, ideas about the firing range: 1, The faster the range is built, the better for defending the border. The range is needed for training full-time law enforcement officers, and in the future, it could be used to train citizens for neighborhood self-defense. Surely POST, which is granting the money, wouldn't mind if at least some of it were actually spent on building a firing range quickly, instead of on red tape. This is not the first shooting range ever built; why not adapt an existing plan? 2, When state and federal governments get large, they accumulate and spend money in incredible amounts. If you were in charge of spending $100,000,000 every year, how insignificant $10,000 would seem to you. It's .01% of your capital -- a mere bag o' shells. But many people out here in the boonies feel the effect of each grab, even ones that appear tiny to the central power. One person, living in the middle of nowhere, saw County property taxes go up over $700 last year, and $800 more this year. Another person, almost as isolated, can't even afford to pay property taxes any more, so must sell the property -- and watch a lifetime's savings melt away as buyers can't be found. Such suffering is more common all the time. It's not acceptable for the Supervisors to keep conducting "business as usual" when the times call for extraordinary measures.
Democrats Are The Lawyers' Party?
A piece of spam is going around, whose opening sentence is "The Democratic Party has become the Lawyers' Party." Here's a link to what seems to be the original source, on March 17, 2008. The two versions are a little different, but not much. Let's find out how true the spam is. The spam names several Democrats as lawyers: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards. The spam says "Every Democrat nominee since 1984 went to law school (although Gore did not graduate.) Every Democrat vice presidential nominee since 1976, except for Lloyd Bentsen, went to law school. Look at the Democrat Party in Congress: the Majority Leader in each house is a lawyer," i.e. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Is that list fair and accurate? Well, to start off, Nancy Pelosi isn't a lawyer. Not a good start for the list. When the spam came out, John Edwards, an attorney, had already quit the race for president. However, he had been prominent until shortly before the spam, so let's count him. As to Elizabeth Edwards, she wasn't a candidate, and while she once was a lawyer, she retired from practice in 1996, after her son died in a car wreck. Besides, if we count her, we have to count everybody's spouse. Let's leave her out. All the other Democrats listed in the spam are lawyers. Running tab for Democrats: 6 lawyers, 1 not. There are lots of prominent Democrats not in the list who ran for President in 2008. Lawyers - Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack; not lawyers - Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson. Running tab: 10 lawyers, 4 not. There were also Democrats who were plumped to run in 2008, but decided not to. Working from Wikipedia's list: lawyers - Russ Feingold, John Kerry, Mark Warner; not lawyers - Wesley Clark, Tom Daschle, Howard Dean, Al Gore, Al Sharpton. Running tab: 13 lawyers, 9 not. What about Dems prominent in Congress now, in 2010, but not named in the spam? There's House majority leader Steny Hoyer, a lawyer, and whip James Clyburn, not a lawyer. Running tab: 14 lawyers, 10 not. A couple more names from the time of the spams: Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Ted Kennedy, alive in 2008; both lawyers. Running tab: 16 lawyers, 10 not. For Republicans, how fair and accurate is the spam?
The spam lists Republican non-lawyers: the last president Bush, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, John Boehner, and Bill Frist. None of them is a lawyer. Running tab for Republicans: 0 lawyers, 7 not. That list both includes has-beens that shouldn't be there, and leaves out many prominent Republicans. Republicans who ran for President in 2008, or seriously considered running, include attorneys Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunger, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson; and non-attorneys Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo. Running tab: 6 lawyers, 11 not. Republicans prominent in Congress now, but not named in the spam, include Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and whip John Kyl, and House minority whip Eric Cantor. All three are lawyers. Running tab: 9 lawyers, 11 not. Prominent Republicans not in Congress now include non-lawyer Sarah Palin, and lawyers Michael Steel and Mike Duncan, present and past chairman of the Republican National Committee. Running tab: 11 lawyers, 12 not. Let's fill out the Republican list with people who are seriously in the running for 2012. A Wikipedia article at,_2012 has a list. People on the list and not named above are non-lawyers Jeb Bush, Herman Cain, Bobby Jindal, Gary Johnson, Rick Perry, and John Thune; and lawyers Haley Barbour, John Bolton, Christopher Christie, Mitch Daniels, George Pataki, Tim Pawlenty, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum. Running tab 19 lawyers, 18 not. Finally, on September 18, a New York Times article at about the "wide G.O.P. field" for 2012 adds a few other names: non-lawyer Jim DeMint and lawyer Mike Pence. Running tab 20 lawyers, 19 not. So the most prominent Democrats include 16 lawyers versus 10 not, and the most prominent Republicans include 20 lawyers versus 19 not. It's ridiculous for the spam to see much difference between the parties, and to call the Democrats the "Lawyers' Party" as if the Republicans weren't about the same. And after doing that ridiculous thing, the spam argues that "change cannot be brought to our nation by those lawyers who already largely dictate American society and business.... hope does not come from the mouths of lawyers but from personal dreams nourished by hard work.... more lawyers with more power will only make our problems worse." That argument is a subject for another writeup, but even someone who believes that argument has to see that it's a stupid argument for Republicans to make when more prominent Republicans are lawyers than not.
Skimmed from here and a few other sources. America, for the first time in history, has no Protestants on the Supreme Court. The current Court has 6 Catholics (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Sotomayor, and Thomas) and 3 Jews (Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan). That's not typical of the U.S. population. At present, Americans are about 60% Protestant, 25% Catholic, 2% Jewish, and 13% Other. Since claiming some religion is almost essential to getting ahead politically, the "Other" don't count, and you'd expect the Court to include 5 or 6 Protestants, 2 or 3 Catholics, and maybe 1 Jew -- a division nothing like the 0/6/3 reality. The religious breakdown of the present Court is so untypical that it has significantly changed historical totals. America has only had 112 justices, including 11 Catholics, 8 Jews, and 1 man who never declared a religion: David Davis, one of the most independent cusses in U.S. history. In other words, the present Court more than doubled the number of Catholic justices in our history, and almost doubled the number of Jewish justices. Should it matter that the Court is all Catholic and Jewish? Does history reveal any connection between a justice's religion and the quality of his work? Steven Goldberg's excellent article compiles a list of 23 "great" justices from eleven lists that rated justices. Here's the result: Protestant: 18 greats out of 92 = 20% great
Catholic: 2 greats out of 11 = 18% great
Jewish: 3 greats out of 8 = 38% great
So the difference between Protestant and Catholic justices isn't much, but Jewish justices are about twice as likely to be "great" as Christians. That may, however, be a spurious correlation. Perhaps Christian justices only had to be adequate, while Jewish justices weren't named unless they were absolutely top-notch. In that case, the competition for greatness was between a lot of mediocre Christians and a few top-notch Jews; no wonder the Jews did so well. The future must unfold to reveal the answer. The past, however, has a few interesting facts.
The first non-Protestant justice was Roger Taney, a Catholic who sat on the Court from 1836 to 1864, and earned infamy by writing the infamous Dred Scott decision, in 1857, which said that under the original Constitution, blacks were "unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." That was the most authoritative legal statement until the North won the Civil War and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were passed. If you think you want to go back to the "original Constitution," but you can't accept Taney's racism, then you don't, really, want the original Constitution. The first non-Christian justice was Louis Brandeis, a Jew who served from 1916 to 1939. The first non-white justice was Thurgood Marshall, a black who served from 1967 to 1991. The only other black justice so far is Clarence Thomas, who was appointed in 1991, after Marshall retired. The first woman justice was Sandra Day O'Connor, who served from 1981 to 2006. The next was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed in 1993 and still serves. Justice Sotomayor was appointed in 2009, and Kagan was appointed in August 2010. The first "Latino" justice is generally considered to be Sotomayor, although some people would count Benjamin Cardozo (on the Court from 1932 to 1938) as the first, because all four of his grandparents were Portuguese. Asians haven't yet been represented on the Court. No Mormons or Muslims have been on the Court yet. The first Mormon justice may be hard to classify, because until recently, many Americans didn't think Mormons were Christians; but now the Mormon church is advertising itself as Christian, and by the time a Mormon becomes a Supreme Court justice, the public may have forgotten there was ever an issue. There are about 6 million Mormons in America, and between 2.5 and 7 million Muslims. It's hard to know which group is increasing faster. No person known to be gay has been on the Court yet, although Oliver Wendell Holmes (on the Court from 1902 to 1932) might have been gay, based on a few literary clues. Recently, the Republicans did their best to label Kagan as a closeted lesbian, but apparently, her playing softball wasn't enough evidence. Here too, as with Mormons, by the time an "out" gay person is named to the Court, the public may have forgotten to care.
Starting on July 24, a story zipped around the internet alleging that the Zetas had just "invaded the USA" by invading two ranches near Laredo, TX. However, all the reports accepting the story as true appear to be feeding off each other. And a Laredo newspaper couldn't offer any confirmation for the story. Yet the people circulating the story refused to let go. "Diggers realm," apparently the original source of the story, hung with it. Kimberly Dvorak, the writer who generated the story, has it and other work posted. If the story had been correct, Dvorak would be the new Woodward & Bernstein rolled into one. But Dvorak's career was already hurt by hurt by her association with the Breitbart "Acorn" story, which is now known to have been a complete fraud. So now, if the "Zeta" story was phony, Dvorak's career would be over -- except with people who will believe anything they want to, without regard to facts. By July 25, continued research showed that the story was fake. it was rejected by both the right,and the left.
Dvorak is now a "busted balloon." There's no point in wasting time on anything else she generates. There are plenty of reliable reporters out there. Amazingly, Dvorak isn't even trying to save any shreds of her own reputation. Her original article is, according to the comments on that page as of July 30, not backing down either, even though her story is completely busted. A big disseminator of the phony story was this article. If you go there now, July 30, you'll see that the story hasn't been updated since July 26. An even bigger spreader of lies was this story, and if you go to the Diggers Realm "followup story" and read the comments running down the page, you will see that as of July 30, "diggersrealm" was still vouching for the story. Why do these fearmongers say they won't believe on-site reports that the story is totally false? Why, "it's a media blackout!", of course! In other words, to these wackos, the fact that a story isn't being reported means the story is true. They're crazy. They need a rest in a rubber room, and the rest of us need a rest from them.
POKE AT THE LEFT: There are many "sanctuary cities" around the country that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. One of the main arguments against Arizona's new immigration law is that it amounts to a "patchwork" of differing local immigration policies, instead of one unified set of rules covering the whole country. But gee, the "sanctuary cities" are already creating a patchwork -- and doing it by nullifying federal law. Why didn't the feds sue "sanctuary cities" to enforce the unified immigration system? Obviously, the feds don't mind if you break federal law, as long as you break it in a way that politicians think will appeal to the "Latino vote" -- as if ethnicity were a Latino substitute for a brain. With friends like these politicians, America -- and Latinos -- don't need enemies.
POKE AT THE RIGHT: Some people on the right want medical workers to be able to "follow their conscience" and refuse to participate in transactions involving birth control. The same people tend not to want police officers to be able to "follow their conscience" and refuse to enforce SB 1070. In other words, these particular right wingers believe that "following your conscience" is okay as long as your conscience agrees with theirs; otherwise, not so fast. It's the same phenomenon we see in the right wing talk about "activist judges." The most activist judging in American history was the election of George Bush as President in 2000 by one vote on the Supreme Court; yet right wingers approve of that judicial activism, apparently because it got them what they wanted. Conclusion: people who want you to be able to "follow your conscience" only if it agrees with theirs, and oppose "judicial activism" when it doesn't give them what they want but support judicial activism if it does give them what they want, aren't arguing public policy, they're pushing personal selfishness, and they shouldn't expect anyone else to support them.
The following email has been going around: "Military fly over denied "Unbelievable, isn't it!!! "Everyone needs to see this. I foresee many flyovers by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels will be canceled in the next three years also. Also demonstrations by the Golden Knights and our service bands. This guy OBAMA is out of control!!! "Obama denied a military flyover at the annual 'God and Country' rally in Idaho, where new military recruits were inducted and all military were honored. This is the first time in 42 years that there has not been a military flyover in formation, and organizers were stunned that Obama refused to allow this. "When the lady organizing the event contacted the Pentagon to ask why this was not allowed, as it had occurred every year for 42 years, she was told it was because of the event's 'Christian nature.' "The video also mentions that when Obama made a recent speech, a cross and a Christian symbol for Jesus had to be covered first. "This is beyond unbelievable action by the Commander in Chief and our President, and the Americans need to know about it! "YouTube - Obama Denies Flyover of 'GOD & Country Rally'-1st Time In 42Yrs Why? Because Of Its 'Christian Nature' Confirmed: "WATCH THIS BEFORE IT'S PULLED AND SEND TO EVERY AMERICAN PATRIOT YOU KNOW!"
There's one problem with that rumor: it's not exactly confirmed by Snopes, and it leaves out important parts of what Snopes looked at. The Snopes writeup notes that: -- the sponsoring group "describes itself as 'Christians who are committed to strengthening the fabric of the Treasure Valley community through the Good News of Jesus Christ.... Our mission is primarily about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ .... [A]lthough [the rally] is unashamedly a Christian event, a major part is honoring our troops who protect our freedom to assemble." That is, the rally is religion first, patriotism second. -- in 2009, the Pentagon refused to provide a flyover "citing a policy of not allowing military flyovers at events with religious themes. That policy ... was adopted by the DoD in November 2001 ...." That is, the policy was set by Bush. -- according to the Pentagon, "flyovers were staged ... in previous years because the [rally] then focused more on patriotism and avoided direct ties to Christianity." That is, now that the rally has changed to a mainly religious event, it can't expect government to give it special treatment anymore. Separation of church and state is a basic American principle. It's beyond me why anyone should expect the US government to spend tax dollars in a time of budget crisis, to show military strength at a religious event. In fact, why should a Christian event want a show of lethal weaponry? Isn't that like shouting "Yay Romans!" on Easter?
Recently, Senator Kyl said President Obama expressed a certain policy. Then Kyl changed his mind and said Obama was talking about what part of his base believed. Now Kyl denies changing his mind -- and comes up with a third version! What did Kyl say to start the fuss? A video of Kyl at a Tea Party meeting on June 18 is online here. Kyl said: "Here's what the President said. The problem is, he said, if we secure the border, then you-all won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform. In other words, they're holding it hostage." Then Kyl changed his story. On June 25, a conservative site included "Kyl tells us that the comments were 'taken a bit out of context,' and that the 'they' he was referring to was the Left, 'the president's base,' and not the administration." Now Kyl denies changing his story. Kyl's new position was reported on June 28 by sites including Newsmax, a conservative website. As reported there: "Kyl ... stands entirely behind his characterization of a meeting with Obama in which the senator described the president as threatening not to bolster border security until Republicans sign onto a comprehensive immigration reform bill providing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. "'Yes, what I said was exactly accurate .... That is precisely what he said to me. People misinterpreted what I meant by it, but what I said was accurate.... I didn't walk anything back .... People read into what I said, something that I didn't say. What I said was exactly what the president told me and I stand by it.'..." "Kyl said that if anything had been misconstrued, it was his words about border security being 'held hostage.'"
"'In other words, these are now my words, they -- not referring to anyone in particular -- are holding hostage the securing of the border for comprehensive reform,' Kyl said in describing his initial account. 'Immediately people read into that, that I was accusing the president in basing his policies today on a, I gather personal view of his, that we shouldn't do one without the other. Now, that is his view, I am firmly convinced of that but I was not making a charge or an allegation against him. People read into that.'" In other words, Kyl says (June 28) that he was (June 18) describing a threat by Obama about his own policy. That's a 180 degree switch from Kyl's clarification (June 25) that "the 'they' he was referring to was the Left, 'the president's base,' and not the administration." Here's a 2-step plan for Senator Kyl: 1. Admit you misspoke. 2. Move on. Kyl has dug himself a hole and is screwing himself in tighter. Kyl's Version 2 contradicts Version 1, and Version 3 contradicts both Versions 1 and 2. Correct yourself once, shame on you; correct yourself twice, and contradict the first two corrections ... well, nobody will believe you again. Kyl seems to be suffering from a disease that many politicians have: he thinks he can talk people into believing him instead of their own eyes. Last week, Kyl himself made fun of a dumb county supervisor in Milwaukee, who first said that Arizona didn't have a border with Mexico, then foolishly tried to fix the error by saying that she only meant that Arizona's border with Mexico was shorter than Texas's. Kyl sent her a US map with Arizona colored in, sure enough, right by Mexico! His email was genuinely funny. You'd think Kyl would realize the risk of repeatedly shifting his position again. Is there a way to discourage politicians whose idea of earning their pay is daydreaming about being infallible?
Senator Kyl, at a Tea Party rally on June 18, accused President Obama of telling him "If we secure the border, then you won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform." Kyl argued that Obama was using the border as a hostage. If Kyl were right, impeachment would be justified. Kyl now admits his accusation was false. Obama was NOT stating his own position, he was describing what other people thought. Kyl's admission is reported on a conservative, not a liberal, website. "Kyl tells us that the comments were 'taken a bit out of context,' and that the 'they' he was referring to was the Left, 'the president's base,' and not the administration. 'I did not try to start a fight. This meeting happened a month ago and we were talking in the context of his political problems. He was talking about how they think that if we secure the border, you guys [Republicans] won't have the incentive to work on comprehensive immigration reform.'" That is, Kyl said OBAMA was holding the border hostage, but Obama actually said OTHER PEOPLE would hold the border hostage if they could. Both the White House and Kyl fumbled the ball after Kyl's distortion. The White House stated "The president didn't say that and Senator Kyl knows it" -- which sounded like a mere quibble about Obama's exact words. Worse, Kyl said "I stand by my remarks" -- at which point Kyl changed from a campaigner who got carried away at a Tea Party rally, into a politician who knowingly maintained a lie.
Kyl admits taking Obama's words "a bit out of context." Kyl is trying to sugar-coat what he did. Kyl didn't report words in a false context, he falsified words to imply that the President was committing treason. Kyl withheld the truth for days, letting the far right work up an impeachment campaign. The impeachment campaign has hit locally. A local resident has passed on an email from Kansas, about "Hussein (our President)" asking "Are the actions (and in-actions) of our President concerning this border problem giving pause to impeachment proceedings ... is he violating his oath of office ... didn't he promise to protect our borders against powers foreign and domestic?" Setting aside petty items like calling President Obama "Hussein" and botching the President's oath of office (which doesn't mention borders or "foreign and domestic"), the email is based on the misquote which Kyl has now withdrawn. The email has created some hard feelings locally; that's unfortunate, since local people lose the little political power we have if we bicker with each other over imaginary issues. We can't let imaginary issues, invented by mendacious politicians, divide us. Even the far right has reason to be mad at Kyl. He misled them into calling for impeachment, and now they are twisting in the wind. How could Kyl possibly think that getting one Tea Party meeting excited was worth the permanent damage to his credibility? Or that he could, without consequences, falsely imply that the President had committed treason? One request I've never made before: if you passed on what Kyl originally said, please also pass on that Kyl has now changed his story. Many lies circulate on the internet, and it's almost impossible for truth to catch up. Accusing the President of the United States of treason is serious; when an accusation is false and withdrawn, as in this case, we should do our best to help the truth catch up to the lies. End of sermon.
Following up about the changes in states' electoral votes over the last fifty years: Here's a link to the great new "diversity map" at USAToday: Basically, the darker the red, the more ethnically diverse the state. An amazing thing happens if you correlate that map with the changes in electoral votes since 1960. You see that it's the same states which have the most diversity and the most electoral gains: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; then Florida; then South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The only break in the pattern is the clump of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia -- they're diverse, but it's the old black-white diversity. Basically, those four states are the bottom row of a huge area of population loss in the middle of the 48 states. They're also four of the six states that Goldwater won in 1964 (the other two were Arizona and South Carolina). With the exception of some areas along the fringes, the states that are falling behind in electoral votes are the states in the Mississippi River Basin. Here's a link to a map of the basin: The only states that are shrinking, and aren't partly or entirely inside the Mississippi basin, are Massachusetts and New Jersey. The only states that are growing, but have substantial areas in that basin, are Texas and Colorado. What really stands out is the close match between population growth and diversity. The states with greatest diversity also tend to be the states with greatest population growth. The old, ethnically homogeneous states are becoming less important. That's the future of American politics.
It can't come as a surprise to anyone that politicians who don't stay on top of issues, don't stay in their jobs either. Diversity is a new issue, all by itself. Winning politicians will push "diversity plans," and it's a sure thing that the plans will favor diversity. Politicians in the declining Mississippi Basin states may run "bring back the good old days" campaigns, but those politicians will be talking to themselves. After the 2010 census, the biggest state, California, may gain 1 or 2 electoral votes -- a small gain, not because California isn't growing, but because other states are growing so much faster. Nobody will be surprised if Texas gains 4 or 5 seats, while New York loses 4 or 5 seats. Florida will gain about as many seats as New York loses, and it's barely possible that Florida will end up with as many votes as New York -- so all those retirees from New York won't lose political influence by moving south! Nevada and Utah will gain 1 or 2 votes each, and Arizona has a fair chance of ending up tied with Massachusetts! We'll know the final census numbers soon -- but with California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida having about 130 votes all put together, almost half of what a person needs to get elected President, it's a sure thing that no candidate is going to throw away that base by advocating old-style politics. The votes of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, all put together, will about equal California's votes. Arizonans won't be left out; Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming all together may not count as much as Arizona all by itself. So the growth industry for politics for the foreseeable future is "diversity." The states that have already fallen behind in diversity will find it very hard to catch up. And, culture being what it is, whatever the world turns out to be in 50 or 100 years, the people born into it will find it natural and right.
If you're an old coot, it's fun to look at the changes in political importance, between 1964 and 2008, of different parts of the country. Why start in 1964? Because that was the year that Goldwater's defeat led the national Republican Party to adopt a strategy aimed at taking the most conservative areas of the country, including the few states which Goldwater took. Why end in 2008? Because that was the year that the national Republican strategy began succumbing to attacks from its own right wing. Also, the period from 1964 to 2008 covers every election in which this old coot voted. It's ironic to see the Republicans being destroyed by people who believe what they said and are mad at them for being lukewarm in practicing what they said. Decades ago, Barry Goldwater saw what would happen to the Republican party, and spoke out freely against the rising forces; but it did no good, and now the Republican Party is at the start of a Reign Of Terror, with Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin jousting to become the new Robespierre. Back to dull normality for a bit. The political importance of a state depends, in large part, on how many electoral votes it has. As the national population goes up, the only way for a state to gain electoral votes is to grow a lot faster than the national average. There are some states that have the same electoral votes now as in 1964. Alaska and Hawaii are two such states; the District Of Columbia hasn't changed, either. That leaves 16 states, which fall into three geographical clumps: -- west central: Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota -- south: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware -- northeast: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine Back in 1964, there were two giant states: New York and California. New York had 43 electoral votes, California had 40. Now New York has dropped to 33, while California has grown to 54. New York was ahead by 3 in 1964, but now California is ahead by 14.
In 1964, after New York and California, the states with the most votes were Pennsylvania (29), Illinois and Ohio (26 each), and Texas (25). But now, after New York and California, the next states are Texas (32), Florida (25, up from 14), Pennsylvania (23), Illinois (22), and Ohio (21). No other states reached 20 electoral votes, either in 1964 or 2008. And in the 2010 census, the "rust belt" states will be lucky to keep 20 votes, while California, New York, Texas, and Florida will remain four "anchors" distributed evenly around the U.S. Nobody running for president is going to willingly kiss off any of those states -- so any group that is powerful in any of those states, is powerful nationally. New York is not a fair sample of America anymore; we're all living in a new political world. Two states changed by three votes each. Arizona went up from 5 to 8, and Michigan went down from 21 to 18. As a percentage, Arizona's increase (60%) is second only to Florida's (79%). Six states gained or lost two votes. Up two: Washington to 11, and Colorado to 8. Down two: New Jersey to 15, Massachusetts to 12, Iowa to 7, and West Virginia to 5. All the remaining states changed by one vote. Up one: North Carolina to 14, Georgia and Virginia each to 13, Oregon to 7, New Mexico and Utah each to 5, and Nevada to 4. Down one: Indiana to 12, Wisconsin and Missouri each to 11, Louisiana and Alabama each to 9, Kentucky to 8, Kansas to 6, and Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, each to 3. Just as New York isn't a fair sample of America anymore, the most conservative parts of the country, the targets of the winning Republican strategy for 44 years, are also losing influence. The GOP strategy was technically brilliant, but its time is over. If, by some miracle, the Democrats ever got their act together and set up a Democratic strategy that would last 40 years, one wonders what it would be.
"Biography Of the Earth" is a book about science and our home planet, from the very beginning. But it's an old book; it came out in 1941 and was revised in 1948. George Gamow, its author, presented the best astronomy, geology, and biology he knew. But the best science of the 1940s has, in the lifetime since then, often turned out to be nonsense. Here's some of the best science from the 1940s: Even the most powerful telescopes can't see planets around other stars. The earth is about 2 billion years old. "Continental drift" is a false theory; the continents took their locations soon after the earth was formed, and they haven't moved since. Mountains form because the inside of the earth is slowly cooling, and it shrinks as it cools; the surface of the earth shrinks to fit the smaller inside, and mountains are pushed up as the surface shrinks. Arizona's Meteor Crater is at least 700 years old. The Grand Canyon was formed by erosion from rain water. The craters on the moon were caused by rising bubbles, like on pancakes. The weather on Venus is about like Washington DC during a heat wave.
The surface of Mars has liquid water, and plains covered with vegetation that's green with chlorophyll. Bacteria cannot survive above the boiling temperature of water. The moons of the outer planets aren't even worth thinking about as homes for life. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doesn't change. Life developed from colloids, like drops of oil. Dinosaurs probably died out because in any species, cells gradually grow "tired of division." Nowadays, every 7th grader -- maybe even earlier! -- knows more than Gamow about lots of things. But Gamow was a brilliant scientist, one of the best of the world in his time. And as the years went by, he adapted to changes in scientific knowledge. Even the 1948 edition of BOE had major changes from the 1941 edition. So the reason schoolkids know more than Gamow is that scientists have kept on studying and learning. Imagine if scientists had decreed in 1948 that they knew absolute truth, that we didn't need to learn any more, and that if we did learn something more, it had to agree with what was known in 1948. Such a decree probably couldn't last very long; it would crumble from the sheer weight of facts that just couldn't be made to fit. And when the decree crumbled, most people would be glad to be able to think freely again. How odd science is.
There's an American organization, the BDMV, that has repeatedly defended the Far Right in America. When Ford Motors was resisting a takeover attempt by a labor union that tried to stop Ford from giving workers literature that explained how unions were a step on the road to dictatorship, the BDMV stood with Ford against the union. When Nazis wanted to march in a town that was about 1/3 Jewish, and that minority tried to stop the Nazis, the BDMV convinced a judge to rule that "(advocating Nazism is) protection (against some kinds of dictatorship)" therefore "(Nazis should be allowed) to (speak in a Jewish suburb.") When pro-gay forces passed a law prohibiting an anti-gay church from speaking out for traditional American values, the BDMV got the law overturned. The BDMV wants common-sense limits to free speech. When child pornography has been attacked by federal and state governments, the BDMV has opposed some kinds of child pornography.
When Lieutenant William Calley was prosecuted for the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam, the BDMV argued against trying Calley, because he could not receive a fair trial after all the bad publicity already given to him by the press. After Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North was convicted of selling weapons to Iran and giving the profits to Panama's Manuel Noriega, the BDMV helped get his conviction overturned. Later, of course, Iran became one of our worst enemies, and we invaded Panama to overthrow Noriega, but at the time North acted, he was just following orders from very high up in Reagan's White House. The BDMV helped get all charges against North dropped. When Rush Limbaugh revealed that he was a dope addict, the BDMV stood by him and argued that his medical records -- which revealed his extensive illegal drug purchases -- must be kept secret from law enforcement. So the BDMV has defended capitalism, Nazism, limits on free speech, Lt. Calley, Col. Oliver North, and Rush Limbaugh. Yet the Far Right always says the BDMV is evil through and through. That's really odd. "BDMV" is, of course, not the organization's real name. A slight shift to the left and ... click.
Arizona's new immigration law will absolutely be tested by several lawsuits. Odds are, they'll win. Passing a bill like that is what you call "walking into a lawsuit." It was a foolish thing to do, for many reasons, including: The bill is almost certain to be overturned just because its subject is illegal immigration. The Federal government long ago pre-empted that subject. I'm sure the people who voted for the bill have plenty of cute arguments in favor of its legality. But Arizona's next Attorney General will have to make such arguments; Terry Goddard has already opined that the law is unconstitutional. Even if the law weren't more than a state can legally bite off, it would be obnoxious because it does allow, even encourage, racial profiling, and states absolutely cannot do that. The law has major stupidities, like forbidding a driver from stopping a car in a road to pick up a day laborer, or forbidding a laborer from getting into a car stopped on a road. The real goal is obviously not safety, but discrimination; and even if the goal were safety, the Feds could still probably reach down via the "interstate commerce" clause to strike this part of the law. The law is offensive in allowing the confiscation of private property. That is a move to a police state that everyone should oppose. The news will be full of pro and con stories about this law for months. But for people in Cochise County, what hits closest to home is that the new law will do nothing to protect their homes.
The law is aimed at what illegals do once they are well north of the border. This law will do nothing to stop the kind of crime that is changing Cochise County into a war zone. This law will do nothing to prevent another murder like Rob Krentz's, or more home invasions in rural areas. Many people are asking, "What part of 'border patrol' don't the politicians get?" Troops should be on the border, not 25 miles north of it. Lots of troops means lots of jobs, which would be a good thing with the economy the way it is right now. Troops on the border mean we could restore the Fourth Amendment so that American citizens wouldn't face roadblocks and questions from armed guards. Rural people in Cochise County are in a tough spot. Our county is too small, and we are too few, to change the national trends that are ruining us, such as a "war on drugs" that has let drug cartels run up huge profits; a 20-year swing, since the end of the Cold War, toward letting multi-national corporations run the country, with no regard for local interests or anything but the bottom line; a 30-year swing towards encouraging businesses to export union jobs, and import workers who will avoid unions; and a 45-year swing in politics toward stupid, mean-spirited policies that appeal to the worst in people. In the face of those trends, opinion in Cochise County means nothing. The new law shows that even in our own state, rural people's problems along the border are just an excuse for politicians to follow the money, as usual. The people who passed the new law will argue that since the Feds wouldn't protect Arizona, Arizona had to step up to protect itself. So what now? Must people in Cochise County now argue that, since Arizona wouldn't protect Cochise County, Cochise County must find a legal way to step up and protect itself?
More and more, I see political arguments that look like they were lifted straight from Sydney Smith's old "Noodle's Oration," a beautiful hash of fallacious arguments made in British politics. Here's a rehash for modern America: This idea is new. I refuse to look at any idea which has never been proposed before. Our ancestors didn't pass this law, so we shouldn't pass it either. Modern ideas can't be allowed to change laws passed by our ancestors. If this idea were any good, it would have been written into the Constitution. Blah blah blah for Republicans: Lincoln would have thought of it. Teddy Roosevelt would have thought of it. Eisenhower would have thought of it. Nixon would have thought of it. Reagan would have thought of it. Bush the Father would have thought of it. Bush the Son would have thought ... oops, stop right there. Blah blah blah for Democrats: Wilson would have thought of it. Franklin Roosevelt would have thought of it. Truman would have thought of it. Kennedy would have thought of it. Johnson would have thought of it. Clinton would have thought ... oops, stop right there. Do modern politicians think they're smarter than those statesmen? All authorities are against this measure: For Republicans: Reagan, O'Reilly, and Limbaugh. For Democrats: FDR, Olbermann, and Maddow. They have spoken, so I don't have to think for myself. Good idea, bad timing. There couldn't be a worse time to pass the law. The situation is in flux. Forces are in action that shouldn't be tampered with. Businesses are at risk that are too big to fail. Let the crisis pass, then pass a law to fix it. This idea doesn't correspond to any words in the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers would have written it into the Constitution if they wanted women or black people to vote, or wanted government to interfere with medicare or social security or the internet or stem cell research. This idea is based on distrust of high government officials. But their good character is proof that there's no reason for alarm at anything they might do. Since their character is so good, there's no reason for such a law. For Republicans: Nixon was picked on for no reason. For Democrats: Clinton was picked on for no reason. You can trust leaders who belong to: For Republicans: the Republican, not the Democrat Party. For Democrats: the Democratic, not the Repuglican Party. This idea attacks government officials. Such attacks lead to anarchy. Oppose officials, you oppose government; disgrace officials, you disgrace government; bring officials into contempt, you bring government into contempt. Anarchy and civil war are the consequences. If you pass this law, the people who like it it will come up with more ideas to take America further down the slippery slope to disaster... for Republicans:...just like Social Security has already led us to our present Communist dictatorship. for Democrats:...just like the PATRIOT Act must inevitably lead us to a future Fascist dictatorship.
This particular law is trivial, but the forces behind it are huge and sinister. If we give an inch by passing this little law, what huge degradations will those forces shove down America's throat? The man who wants this law once thought the opposite. If a man's opinions change between the ages of 20 and 30, or 30 and 50, or 50 and 80, he can't be trusted. No amount of learning or maturity can excuse changing any opinion you've ever had. I don't like the people backing this law. Their motives are contaminated. No matter how much good this law will do, I will accept no benefit from such people. Look at other countries! America is better, so it doesn't have to be changed at all, except maybe to undo the last 20 or 50 years of laws forced through by... for Republicans:...the Democrat... for Democrats:...the Repuglican... for the purpose of destroying all that's good in America. I am an honest and upright American, happy and proud in attacking all people who don't agree with me about... for Republicans:...opposing changes to everything I like... for Democrats:...pushing changes to everything I don't like... ...and it will be my pride and pleasure to hand America over to my children with... for changes to anything I like. for Democrats:...changes to everything I don't like. The law is aimed at a problem which thinking people don't really care about. It's the same kind of non-issue that has convulsed America in the past. For Republicans: The Civil Rights Movement was just a bunch of outside agitators. For Democrats: The Tea Party Movement is just a bunch of outside agitators. People who want this law are just looking for trouble. This law is aimed at corruption which is widespread in the minds of the people, so no political reform can remove it. You can't legislate morality. The people who want this law should mind their own business, where they will find enough to do without aiming at a problem that nobody can solve. This law is about a subject of the greatest importance, and we can't predict what would happen if the law were passed, so we have to exercise the greatest caution, and act as gradually and slowly as possible. I hate innovation, but I love improvement. I hate corruption in government, but I defend the powers of government. I dread reform, but only when it is intemperate. I uphold freedom of the press, but not when it gets people upset. I know the splendid abilities of the proponent, but his scheme is too good to be practicable. It savors of Utopia. It looks well in theory, but it won't do in practice. In the memorable words of the barons of England almost 800 years ago, "Nolumus leges Angliae mutari:" "It's not only us whose Legos are used by mute fishermen."