Tuesday, May 03, 2016

LOCALS GET INVOVLED IN BATHROOM WARS

Thanks goodness the Texas legislature is not in session or it could have embarrassed the state just like North Carolina did with its law on bathroom use only by gender indicated on birth certificates. (See "Tempest in the Toilets" below)

However, some of the folks in Rockwall Texas (near Dallas) felt compelled to try to save the state's reputation as a wacko state by  introducing their own ordinance.

"Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt found no support for his policy to regulate bathroom use by birth sex Monday.
While Pruitt or any single member could bring the item to council, his motion needed a second supporter to go to a vote. Even after Pruitt suggested scaling the ordinance back to include only city property, nobody stood with him to force a vote." 

Not to be outdone, a Dallas County Community College District board candidate sent out a mailer/flier on the issue.  Where do they find these people?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

GOOD BOOK ON 'ARAB SPRING'

Anybody remember the high hopes we had 5 years ago for the "Arab Spring" revolts.  Four disasters and only one decent result (Tunisia).  Obama recklessly declared that Assad must go in Syria thus locking the U.S. into a position that has not worked out.  How much did the administration expend to support rebels in Syria and elsewhere? Another Obama foreign/military policy disaster.


"Mr. Worth’s book [A Rage for Order] is about the core of that tragic springtime story born five years ago: the “Arab republican states,” the five nations that in 2011 rose up against their longstanding regimes of secular nationalist strongmen.
Of these, Egypt ended up where it started, with its former head of military intelligence in charge of a moderately unhappy country that seems relieved to have escaped from brief, democratically legitimate rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria remains in the middle of civil war. Libya is outright chaos. Yemen is in the grip of a full-blown Saudi-Iranian proxy war, with its government exiled, its capital in the hands of Shia rebels and much of the coast an emirate of the world’s strongest al Qaeda franchise.
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Only Tunisia—the place where it all began, when a 26-year-old street vendor, humiliated by corrupt local officials, immolated himself in December 2010—is today relatively stable."

Friday, April 29, 2016

OKLA RESERVE DEPUTY CONVICTED IN KILLING OF UNARMED BLACK SUSPECT


A former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year was convicted of second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.
Jurors handed down the verdict in the case of 74-year-old Robert Bates, a wealthy insurance executive accused of fatally shooting Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriff's deputies last year during an illegal gun sales sting. Harris, who had run from deputies, was restrained and unarmed when he was shot.
The shooting -- which was caught on video -- sparked several investigations that, among other things, revealed an internal 2009 memo questioning Bates' qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriff's, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the agency.
Bates faces up to four years in prison.
Bates' defense attorneys argued at trial that methamphetamine found in Harris' system, along with his cardiac health, caused his death. Defense attorneys called the killing an "excusable homicide."

A lot of things need to be done to deal with these type of problems.  Accountability is one of them and this conviction seems to be part of a trend to get serious.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

PURPOSE OF AMERICAN GOVT, FROM DECL. OF INDEP., CONSTIT, J. MADISON

In conjunction with the post below, what is the purpose of Amercan government?  This general statement is from the Declaration of Independence.

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

As 44 reminded me in a comment on the post directly below, the Preamble to the Constitution states:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Government per se is not the problem.  The main problems are the quality of leadership,  shortage of accountability of employees and leaders, catering to special interests, violation of rights and the obsession of empire-building which infects many bureaucrats.  In addition, we need broad-based public support for all constitutional rights, not those that suit one's ideology.

The basic problem/paradox is that governments are created and run by human beings with all their faults.  The faults make government necessary to protect other people and their interests. Madison in Federalist # 51 put it eloquently:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." [Thus the Constitution contains separation of powers, an independent judicial branch, limits on powers, etc.]

Thus, quality leadership and accountability of all government personnel is essential. Unfortunately, we seem to have a shortage of this at the federal level.  Most state governments are no better, and the problem at all levels, is not the existence of government but how it is run. Too many people want to throw 'the baby out with the bath water,' but that will just make things worse.  Anarchy is not an answer it is a whole new set of problems that will just make things worse.  Arguably, Congress has sometimes stretched its powers too far, but we have a Supreme Court that hopefully will remedy it.
If not, legislative repeal or constitutional amendment are the remedies.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

RE-THINKING THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN REGULATING BUSINESS, BOOK REVIEW


I would strongly recommend that everyone, esp. those who need to read something that they might not agree with it, e.g. anarcho-capitalists, libertarians and tea-partiers, read J.S. Hacker and P. Pierson's, American Amnesia.  According the the NYT review by M. Bishop:
"How America came to forget about the merits of good government, and the price now being paid, is the meat of “American Amnesia,” the third book by Jacob S. Hacker (Yale) and Paul Pierson (Berkeley), whom Bill Moyers calls the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of political science.” According to these academic detectives, America’s amnesia is no accident. The country has been brainwashed by a powerful alliance of forces hostile to government: big business, especially Wall Street, spending unparalleled lobbying dollars to advance its narrow self-­interest; a new wealthy elite propagating wrongheaded Ayn Randian notions that free markets are always good and government always bad; and a Republican Party using a strategy of attacking and weakening government as a way to win more power for itself."

Although their subtitle and some of their assertions are a little over-the-top they make a lot of good points and back them up with citations and data.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, here's another review.

NEW CHALLENGE FOR REPUBS: THE BIG-BUSNESS v. CULTURAL CONSERVATIVE SPLITS

The Republican party is currently in a state or sharp division from which it may not recover. There is, however, an even more important fight brewing which could have even more long-term effect on the party.

Republicans have relied on two types of conservatives.  The first are the big-business, anti-regulation types, and their cronies/dupes, many libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.  For the former, the interests are monetary.  For the latter they are ideological.

The second type is the cultural conservative.  These are the right-wing cultural warriors, evangelicals, the religious right, etc.  They are anti- lots of things, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, etc.   Some are also white supremacists.

However, big business is taking the LGBT  and pro-abortion side in many controversies, incl. N.C.'s new bathroom law.  They appear to reject 'homophobia' and a lot of the cultural conservative stances.  Here's a list of companies, and as expected, left-leaning entertainers, who have announced boycotts against NC.  Other states face similar boycotts on related issues

Perhaps these two types will formally split and one will form a new party.  Perhaps one or both will learn to bite their tongue in the interest of party unity.  Perhaps the "Tea Party" will become a real party.  Stay tuned.

Also see the prior post on how capitalism weakens conservative culture.

"TEMPEST IN THE TOILETS,"

N.C's restroom use law is creating lots of controversy.  See this piece from the NYT.

"The notion that we should prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity — and that allowing them to do so would imperil children — is a tempest in a toilet, one of the more ludicrous political causes to gain currency in a while.
It has gained currency nonetheless. The ESPN commentator Curt Schilling advanced it last week by sharing a Facebook post that showed a burly man in unpersuasive drag and said: “Let him in! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.” ESPN, which had previously cautioned Schilling about unrelated outbursts, fired him."
 
Republican Senator Ted Cruz's campaign joined in the lunacy. 
 
"The Cruz campaign released an ad with shadowy footage of bathroom stalls, sinister music and dire warnings, printed in large letters, about how vulnerable “your daughter” and “your wife” would be if Trump’s perspective held sway. “It’s not appropriate,” said words that flashed on the screen. “It’s not safe. It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America.”
 
 I don't know who would be worse, him or Trump.  At least Trump reacted rationally, for a change,  to this particular hysteria.  Unfortunately, on the other side we have ethically challenged anti-Second Amendment Hillary Clinton and too-far-left-to-win, pie-in-the-sky, anti-Second Amendment Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has a number of good points, but he's too far left for most voters.  Oy Vey!
 
The NC bathroom law makes no sense.
 
"I’m guessing that Cruz hasn’t met or read much about transgender people. “Grown adult men” is precisely how many transgender men appear — with beards, muscles, pants — and exactly how they’d look to little girls in the women’s rooms that the North Carolina law would command them to use.
And such legislation tells someone who may well wear a dress to march into the men’s room if her birth certificate said male. That’s a greater invitation to potty pandemonium than letting people make their own calls when nature calls and turn in the direction consistent with the way they conduct the rest of their lives.
How would these potty prohibitions be enforced, anyway? What species of sentry or manner of inquisition would assess the external and internal anatomy of the bathroom-bound? Shall we divert government spending to this? We skimp on money to repair America’s infrastructure, but let’s find funds to patrol America’s lavatories.
Cruz, Schilling and many others are obsessed with — or cynically exploiting — the hallucinated scenario of male sexual predators suddenly feeling emboldened to stalk little girls in public bathrooms, presumably because they could, if caught, claim that they identify as women and belong there.
Here’s a news flash: They’d still be breaking laws. You know, the ones against lewdness and harassing and molesting kids. The ones that govern a male sexual predator whose targets are boys and who already has access to the same urinals that they do.
Besides which, child molesters aren’t famously expert at impulse control: I doubt that they’re raptly watching CNN and patiently awaiting some legislative green light to hunt for female victims by the toilets in public parks. They’re hunting already, and as everything from “Spotlight” to the Denny Hastert case has shown us, the grounds aren’t always the ones you expect, nor are the hunters.
If parents want to get worked up about threats to their children’s welfare and future, how about a more concerted and constructive look at the failings of schools? Or at the lures of sexting? Or at the injuries in contact sports? Or at the junk in children’s diets? Or at the lead in some cities’ water?"

CHICAGO'S CONTINUING SCANDALS OVER POLICE ACCOUNTABILTY & AT LEAST ONE VICTORY

One peek into how police accountability doesn't work in Chicago, and in many other cities was unveiled a few months ago.
"In November, the city released a video that showed Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, being shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, a white cop. The footage was gruesome. But the routine way in which the October 2014 killing was covered up for more than a year exposed a deeper culture of secrecy and impunity in Chicago that implicated the entire police force and much of the city’s government. . . "

Many blacks are outraged and have demanded Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation. "Yet the very communities most in need of public safety have come to see the criminal-justice system as another deadly threat. A scathing report issued on April 13 by a task force the mayor appointed confirmed that their distrust of the police was warranted — “C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force found."

There was one victory, a prosecutor complicit in the scandals was voted out of office.  The "Cook County state’s attorney [was voted out of office].  Alvarez didn’t charge Van Dyke until a judge, nearly 400 days after the shooting, forced the city to make the McDonald video public. Alvarez had led in polls three weeks earlier, but demonstrators shut down her public talks, rallied at her fund-raisers and started a social-media campaign — #ByeAnita — that laid out how she had failed in her duties as a prosecutor. Alvarez lost by 30 percentage points to a political novice."

"Chicago had more fatal shootings by the police than any other American city from 2010 to 2014, according to an analysis by the Better Government Association. Yet members of the Chicago Police Department have faced hardly any punishment. Of the 409 shootings by police officers investigated since 2007 by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which is charged with looking into serious claims of misconduct, only two of the shootings were found to be unjustified."

Friday, April 22, 2016

ANOTHER WIN FOR FEDS INVOLVING CELL PHONE LOCATION INFO

Federal agents win another one. "A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court yesterday ruled federal agents can obtain cell phone records that reveal a caller’s location without a warrant. The decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals follows an attempt from two Detroit men, sentenced to prison for multiple robberies, who argued the cell records linking them to the location of the robberies should be excluded under Fourth Amendment protection. Judge Raymond Kethledge said the government’s collection of the records did not constitute a search."

Two prior appeals courts ruled likewise. The U.S. Supreme Court needs to hear this case.

TRANSGENDERS STUDENT WINS BATHROOM CASE

I haven't seen this much uproar over bathrooms since the 80's when it was argued that the proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women was defeated, partly on the same  ludicrous arguments you hear today over transgender students.

"Weeks after a new North Carolina law put transgender bathroom access at the heart of the nation’s culture wars, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in favor of a transgender student who was born female and wishes to use the boys’ restroom at his rural Virginia high school.
Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people note that the ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit applies to North Carolina, where the controversial law approved last month limits transgender people to bathrooms in government buildings, including public schools, that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates.
As a result of the ruling, those advocates say, that portion of the North Carolina law that applies to public schools now clearly violates Title IX — the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools."

DANZIGER BRIDGE COPS PLEAD GUILTY AND ARE SENTENCED

 After their convictions were reversed on appeal, 5  "former police officers involved in the shooting deaths of unarmed people here in the days after Hurricane Katrina, a case that drew national outrage and intense scrutiny to the city’s police force, pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday and received significantly less prison time than they originally faced.
The guilty pleas, which drew prison terms from three to 12 years, were the latest development in a wrenching 10-year saga that began when officers responding to a distress call on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, opened fire on unarmed residents, killing two and injuring four."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TROOPER FIRED FOR PROSLETYZING DURING TRAFFIC STOPS.

According to the NYT
"The State Police said on Friday that the trooper, Brian L. Hamilton, a 14-year veteran, was let go on Thursday for repeatedly proselytizing and for handing out a religious pamphlet during traffic stops.
The authorities said his termination was based on a complaint in January that said he had questioned a driver’s religious affiliations after pulling over the vehicle — the second time in about 18 months that the State Police were aware he had done so."
 
This was probably just the tip of the iceberg.  Most people probably didn't complain. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

APR 12 1861 FORT SUMTER SHELLED, BUT THE INSURRECTION AND 'WAR' STARTED EARLIER


THE SHELLING OF FORT SUMTER IN CHARLESTON HARBOR STATING AT 0430 HOURS on Apr. 12, 1861, IS VIEWED BY MOST HISTORIANS AND AMERICANS AS THE START OF THE CIVIL WAR.  However, one can make a good argument that the war actually started earlier.
Let's set aside, for now, the issue of whether secession was legal.
Assuming, for the sake or argument that secession was legal, then legally, any actions by state forces to seize federal facilities and property BEFORE their official secession are acts of insurrection and federal crimes.  The Constitution recognizes the power of  the federal government to suppress insurrections.   If, secession as carried out was unlawful then the actions of S.C. and secessionist forces were insurrections.  In fact, once the seizures began, Lincoln announced that he would take steps to reclaim federal property.  Both he and former Pres. Buchanan believed secession, at least as carried out, was unlawful. 
Some of the facilities were maintained only skeleton crews or custodians.  Others had more personnel but surrendered in the face of overwhelming opposing forces.  At that time the U.S. Army consisted of only around 16,000 personnel and most were stationed on or near the frontier.  There were no significant international threats.

Some of the major events before the shelling of Fort Sumer are listed below.

DEC. 20, 1860  South Carolina formally secedes.  Shortly thereafter, a delegation from S.C. demands that Pres. Buchanan remove all federal forces from Charleston. Buchanan refuses.  He announces that Fort Sumter will be defended by federal forces.  Earlier Buchanan announced that secession was unlawful

JAN 2 1861  South Carolina forces take control of Fort Jackson in Charleston Harbor.

JAN 3 1861, Even before the state’s official secession on Jan. 19, 1861, Georgia forces take Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River There are only two federal employees present who surrender without a fight in the face of overwhelming force.  Also seized is the U.S. arsenal at Augusta

JAN 5, 1861  Alabama seizes Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, even before its official secession on Jan 11.

JAN 6, 1861  Even before the state’s official secession on  Jan 10, Florida forces seize the federal arsenal at Appalachicola.

JAN 7, 1861, Even before the state’s official secession on Jan 10,Fort Marion is seized by Florida forces. 

JAN 9, 1861  The unarmed supply ship Star of the West, , is fired on by secessionist forces and forced to turn back before reaching Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  When the first shots were fired, the ship raised it's colors, but when the shelling continued, it retreated. Union forces in the Fort Sumter hold their fire.  S.C. refuses to allow re-supply of Fort Sumter.

The U.S. Arsenal at Baton Rouge is taken over by La. state forces prior to formal secession on Jan. 26

"Task Force Walton" disembarked the next morning at Baton Rouge. Upon going ashore, Walton's troops rendezvoused with militia units from the capital city. Thus augmented, the Louisianians, now numbering some 600 strong, proceeded to the arsenal and barracks, which they surrounded.4
At 5 P.M., two of Governor Moore's aides-de‑camp, Colonels Richard Taylor and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Braxton Bragg, advanced under a flag of truce. Knocking on the gate of the arsenal, the two officers delivered to Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph A. Haskin, the commanding officer of the barracks, an ultimatum from the governor. This document read;
p403 The safety of the State of Louisiana demands that I take possession of all Government property within her limits. You are, therefore, summoned hereby to deliver up the barracks, arsenal, and public property now under your command. With the large force at my disposal this demand will be enforced. Any attempt at defense on your part will be a rash sacrifice of life.5
Anticipating no reinforcements or support, and confronted by overwhelming odds, Haskin deemed it proper, after consulting with his subordinate officers, to surrender to the state authorities.6 "
 
JAN 10, 1861  Florida formally secedes

JAN 11, 1861,  Alabama formally secedes.

JAN 19, 1861,  Georgia officially secedes.

JAN 26, 1861, Louisiana officially secedes

FEB 1, 1861,   Texas formally secedes

MARCH 31, 1861  Fort Bliss, in El Paso Texas surrenders to Texas forces

APRIL 3, 1861  Secessionist forces fire on the privately owned cargo Schooner Rhoda H. Shannon in Charleston Harbor.  That ship carried ice destined for Savannah but stumbled by mistake into Charleston Harbor. S.C. forces thought the ship was send to re-supply Fort Sumter.

 

APRIL 12, 1861,

 

South Carolina demands surrender of Fort Sumter or the Fort will be shelled in one hour.

 0430 hours, Secessionist forces open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  Until attacked Fort Sumter never fired on any South Caroline targets.


LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC HYPOCRISY ON BLACKS AND CRIME?


Bill Clinton got in hot water with some black protesters recently and later attempted damage control/spin. Looking at this  issue suggests perhaps a little hypocrisy by Democrats and attempts at black vote-buying.  According to the NYT:

“His statement (apologizing for how he handled some black protesters) did not quiet a raging storm of criticism. Still, it was a remarkable reversal for Mr. Clinton, who occupies a singular role in his wife’s campaign as a spouse and a popular former president who can sometimes make himself into a lightning rod. He has had to campaign for his wife in an era when signature policies of his administration have been repudiated both by Mrs. Clinton and her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

None of those issues has been more central to the 2016 campaign than the 1994 crime bill, which created tougher penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, erected dozens of new prisons, banned certain types of assault weapons and sent 100,000 more police officers to American cities.

Today, Black Lives Matter protesters have pointed to the effects of that legislation as contributing to the high rates of incarceration of black men and the current tensions between police officers and black communities.

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Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders supported the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and have had to answer to Black Lives Matter protesters at their events. Both candidates will face tough questions on racial issues next week at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network annual convention, less than a week before the April 19 New York primary.”
One can argue that Clinton and Sanders supported the Act because of its gun control provisions.  More left-wing authoritarianism at work
 

 


CURRENT STATUS OF 5 HIGH PROFILE POLICE KILLINGS OF BLACK MALES

 A quick look at the current status of 5 high-profile police killings of black males.  Compared to how these cases probably would have been handled five years ago, these results so greater concern for transparency and accountability.  Thanks to the BLM movement and others for getting things back on the right track.  Let's not forget, however, that all the officers involved are entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process.

OBAMA: NO POLITICS IN CLINTON E-MAIL PROBE (FWIW)

According to U.S. News:
"President Barack Obama is guaranteeing that evidence, not politics, will dictate the outcome of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of emails as secretary of state."

I'd like to  believe this.  However, even if he is sincere, can Obama guarantee that politics won't play a role with those below him?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CONTROVERSY HEATS UP IN STATE LEGISLATURES

The Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell and gains by the LGBT movement have spurred a number of states, esp. those in the Bible Belt (e.g. Ga., Miss., N.C.) to respond with state legislation.
"Mississippi’s governor signed far-reaching legislation on Tuesday that critics say restricts gay rights and the online-payment company PayPal pulled back on an investment in North Carolina as gay rights issues roiled Southern states.
Both actions reflected escalating tension in Southern legislatures between conservative lawmakers and business interest over gay rights.
In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant, signed into law a measure that would allow business and government workers to deny services based on religious beliefs."

Allowing private businesses to discriminate raises interesting legal issues.  Allowing public officials to discriminate in violation of a Supreme Court decision is clearly null and void.  Nothing in the Bill of Rights or 14th Amendment, limits the decision-making of private citizens.  These rights, howerver, limit the powers of government and its officials. Clearly as applied to public officials, the legislation if unconstitutional.  Kim Davis of KY found this out the hard way.  It sad and worrisome that there is so little respect for the rule of law.  I guess it's not surprising coming from states where blacks were lynched and massacred and unconstitutional Jim Crow laws prevailed until being shut down by the federal courts. 
The whole legislative messes misses the point.  State sanctioned marriage is simply an act of the state.  It should be called 'civil union.'  "Marriage" in the religious, social and institutional realms is a an individual matter which is wholly separate No one is requiring any public official to approve of a same-sex marriage, only a same-sex civil union.  Get a grip!  A clerk of courts does not personally approve of any marriage by signing the paperwork.  The clerk simply certifies that the applicants meet all state law requirements.

ANYONE REMEMBER 1974 AND WINSTON MOSELEY? ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST TALKED ABOUT CASES

If you don't remember the monster Moseley, how about Kittie Genovese?  This case caused concern among the public and much thought among psychologists, sociologists and criminologists.  Mosely passed away at age 81 in prison. Autopsy results are pending.

"Winston Moseley, who stalked, raped and killed Kitty Genovese in a prolonged knife attack in New York in 1964 while neighbors failed to act on her desperate cries for help — a nightmarish tableau that came to symbolize urban apathy in America — died on March 28, in prison. He was 81.
Patrick J. Bailey, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, confirmed the death on Monday. A medical examiner would determine the cause of death, Mr. Bailey said.
Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.

TWO GOOD ARTICLES ON THE SUPREME COURT'S 8-MEMBER DYNAMICS

In the first article, Liptak notes, inter alia:

Now it is April, and it is possible to start to assess how a short-handed court is dealing with its work.
It has started to deadlock in closely divided cases. That happened twice last month, in a minor case on bank guarantees and a major one on public unions.
“With almost 50 cases still on the docket for the term, the Supreme Court could set a record for most tie votes,” said Justin Pidot, a law professor at the University of Denver and the author of a study of Supreme Court deadlocks to be published in the Minnesota Law Review. “No term since 1990 has included more than two tie votes, a benchmark the court has now hit in a single week.”
Such ties give rise to a judicial anticlimax. The court issues an unsigned opinion containing a single sentence: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”
That means the appeals court decision under review remains in place. The Supreme Court itself sets no national precedent, and a legal issue important enough to have warranted a scarce spot on the court’s docket remains unresolved.
But these deadlocks are just one aspect of a new judicial dynamic, one that threatens to limit the court’s reach.
The court’s docket, already small by the standards of recent history, seems poised to shrink even further. In 1986, when Justice Scalia joined the court, it decided about 175 cases. In his last full term, which ended in June, the number had dropped to 75."
 
In the second article by Liptak, he notes a comment by Justice Kagan:

"The Supreme Court, facing the prospect of an extended stretch with an eight-member bench, is “working really hard” to reach consensus and avoid deadlocks, Justice Elena Kagan said on Monday.
There are almost 50 cases left to decide before the justices leave for their summer break at the end of June. Justice Kagan said she and her colleagues were committed to issuing decisions in as many of those cases as possible.
“All of us are working hard to reach agreement,” she told an audience at New York University’s law school. That was true when the court had nine members, she said, but “we’re especially concerned about that now.”
The court has deadlocked twice since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. “There is a reason why courts do not typically have an even number of members,” Justice Kagan said. “We’ve seen this already.”
But she said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had risen to the occasion to lead the court through a difficult period.
“I give great credit to the chief justice, who I think in general is a person who is concerned about consensus building, and I think all the more so now,” Justice Kagan said. “He’s conveyed that in both his words and his deeds.”

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR JURY DELIBERATION CASE

According to the NYT:
"The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether jurors' claims of racially charged comments by another juror can overcome the need for secrecy in jury deliberations.
The justices will hear an appeal from a Hispanic man in Colorado who says he did not have a fair trial because a juror made offensive comments about Mexicans.
The remarks came to light when two other jurors told the defendant's lawyer about them. Courts rarely allow jurors to reveal what went on during their deliberations.
But defendant Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez argues that the comments were so bad they deprived him of his constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury. . .
Colorado tried to dissuade the court from taking up the case by arguing there was overwhelming evidence against Pena Rodriguez and that no juror suggested that the offensive comments affected or persuaded anyone else.
After a jury convicted Pena Rodriguez of unlawful sexual contact and harassment involving teenage sisters at a Denver-area horse race track, two jurors provided his lawyer with sworn statements claiming that a third juror made derogatory remarks about Mexican men before voting guilty.
"I think he did it because he's Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want," is one of several racially tinged statements attributed to the juror identified in court records by the initials H.C. In another comment, the juror is said to have cast doubt on an alibi provided by a Hispanic witness for Pena Rodriguez because the witness was "an illegal." The witness testified that he was in the country legally.
But three separate courts in Colorado said those statements could not be used to upend Pena Rodriguez's conviction because of a long-standing rule that prohibits jurors from testifying about what happens during deliberations. The rule, found in both federal and state law, is intended to promote the finality of verdicts and to shield jurors from outside influences.
The Supreme Court also has been unwilling to intrude on deliberations, although Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested in a footnote to her opinion in a 2014 case that "there may be cases of juror bias so extreme that, almost by definition, the jury trial right has been abridged."

SUPREME COURT RULES ON 'ONE-PERSON, ONE VOTE'

According to the NYT:
"The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that states may count all residents, whether or not they are eligible to vote, in drawing election districts. The decision was a major statement on the meaning of a fundamental principle of the American political system, that of “one person one vote.”
“We hold, based on constitutional history, this court’s decisions and longstanding practice, that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.
As a practical matter, the ruling mostly helped Democrats and upheld the status quo.
But until this decision, the court had never resolved whether voting districts should contain roughly the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places that have large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally — including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants and children. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.
Had the justices required that only eligible voters be counted, the ruling would have shifted political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would have benefited Republicans."
 
   No state counts only voters when it apportions its legislative districts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

ISREALI SOLIDIER SUSPECTED OF MURDERING PALESTINIAN

latest uproar in Israel/Palestine.
"Amateur video appearing to show an Israeli soldier killing an already wounded Palestinian attacker sparked uproar in Israel on Sunday, reflecting the deep divisions in the country following six months of violence.
As the Israeli military pressed on with an investigation, nationalistic politicians accused the army of abandoning the soldier, while political doves bemoaned the erosion of the nation's morals. Palestinians, meanwhile, said the shooting proved their claims that Israel is guilty of using excessive force and carrying out extrajudicial killings.
The shooting took place last Thursday in Hebron, the volatile West Bank city that has been a focal point of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The military said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair.

In a video released by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, one of the attackers appears to still be alive after the initial shooting. The video, taken by a Palestinian volunteer for the group, shows the wounded attacker lying on the ground, slowly moving his head. About a minute later, a soldier raises his rifle, cocks the weapon and fires. Blood is then seen streaming from the Palestinian's head.
 
The Israeli military quickly arrested the soldier and opened an investigation into what it said appeared to be a "grave breach" of its values. A military court has ordered the soldier to remain held until Tuesday while the investigation continues.
Military officials also have cast doubt on the soldier's claim that he believed the Palestinian was carrying explosives.
On Sunday night, B'Tselem released a second video it says shows the same soldier at the scene shaking hands with Baruch Marzel, a well-known ultranationalist, after the shooting.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said a preliminary investigation found the soldier arrived on the scene some six minutes after the initial incident, and that the second shooting occurred several minutes after that. "There was no apparent threat from the Palestinian that was incapacitated," Lerner said.
He said that commanders had already reported the shooting to their superiors before the video emerged. "There was already a military police investigation. We already knew the behavior was not in line with the code of conduct and ethics," he said.
The Israeli media, citing military officials, quoted the soldier as saying the Palestinian "deserved to die."
Lerner said three officers at the scene were reprimanded for not giving medical attention to the wounded Palestinian, as is required under military policy."

Israel appears to be even more politically divided than the U.S.  In Israel, some view unjustified violence against Palestinians as something to be applauded.  Others are appalled by such conduct and want Israel to withdraw from occupied territories.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SUPREME COURT OPINION ON SECOND AMENDMENT

Many observers have come to feel uneasy about the possible overruling of the U.S. Supreme Court's Second Amendent decision in D.C. v. Heller.  This was amplified by the death of J. Scalia and the vacancy on the Court.  Although it may not be much, the Supreme Court recently issued an unsigned opinion that suggests that the current justices MAY still be supporting the Heller decision.  I have my doubts. FWIW
See the Supreme Court's opinion here.http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-10078_aplc.pdf
This was a per curiam (unsigned opinion) there were no dissents.  See esp. the concurring opinion below the Court's opinion.

Friday, March 18, 2016

IRRATIONAL MAN

Ever wonder about the apparently irrationality of voters, and people talking politics and theory?  Turns out we aren't quite the rational species we think we are. Evolutionary psychology, the neurosciences and other researchers are increasing revealing the true nature of human thought and behavior.

In the political realm, this was explored in a great book reviewed earlier here called Our Political Nature by Avi Tuschman.  A more recent book in this same vein, but more focused specifically on politics, is Rick Shenkman's  Political Animals  How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.  I strongly recommend this book if you are interested in this topic.  It is very readable and interesting but it does seem to wander a little at times.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, see this review from Kirkus.

Much of our political theory, including libertarianism, anarchism and laissez-faire economics, relies heavily on the rationality of human beings.  Homo econimus may not be a good representation of our species.

2 PROSECUTOR'S VOTED OUT OF OFFICE, VICTORY FOR BLM MOVEMENT


"On Tuesday night, two major Midwestern prosecutors lost their jobs after provoking nationwide rage with their handling of cases in which police officers killed unarmed young black people. In Illinois, the loser was Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, who waited 13 months to bring charges against the Chicago police officer who shot Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. In Ohio, it was Cuyahoga County district attorney Tim McGinty, who oversaw grand jury proceedings that led to no charges being filed against the officers responsible for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice."

Many see this as a convincing victory for the Black Lives Matter movement.

CO OFFICER KILLED BY FRIENDLY FIRE

We need to be sure not to lose sight of the real dangers of policing.  Not all officers are killed by suspects.  Although relatively rare, this officer was accidentally killed by gun fire from other officers.  RIP

Black off-duty cop kills Hispanic teen, officer charged with murder

"ADDISON, Texas (AP) Authorities say a suburban Dallas police officer who was arrested in an off-duty shooting that left a teenager dead and another boy wounded posted bond Thursday and was released from jail.
Officer Ken Johnson. (Farmers Branch Police Dept. photo)
Dallas County sheriff's spokeswoman Melinda Urbina says Farmers Branch officer Ken Johnson, 35, posted $150,000 bond and left jail early Thursday.
Johnson was arrested Wednesday night on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
Officials say after Johnson saw a vehicle being burglarized in his apartment complex parking lot, he gave chase when the suspects fled.
After the suspects' vehicle spun out about a half-mile away in Addison, an altercation led to the shooting.
Johnson's attorney has said he feared for his life.
Addison police Chief Paul Spencer said in a statement Wednesday that there was "probable cause" to arrest Johnson but that the investigation will likely take several more weeks.
Johnson shot and killed Jose Raul Cruz, 16, sometime after 7 p.m. Sunday.
The shooting occurred at a Shell gas station in Addison, another Dallas suburb adjacent to Farmers Branch."

Texas, unlike most states, sometimes allows deadly force to protect or recover property. Scroll down to sec. 9.42. It appear that it was still daylight out when the incident occurred.  The statute refers to 'nighttime".  There may also be other reasons why the statute does not apply.

Video suggests the officer rammed the suspects car and caused it to crash.  There apparently was no evidence that the suspects were armed. 

Quick action by authorities in this and other cases suggests that officials are making changes due to the Black Lives Matter movement, the presence of video evidence and public concerns.

This case adds an interesting twist.  The officer was black and the victims Hispanic. Does the Hispanic community need a "Hispanic Lives Matter" movement.

Finally, as bad as this case looks at this point, don't forget the presumption of innocence. That's why we have trials.
Addison spokesman Dan Reed declined to say whether Cruz or the other suspect was armed.
The Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office said Cruz died at the scene.
The other person wounded was taken to a Dallas hospital.
Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave pending investigations by Farmers Branch and Addison police.





 
 

OBAMA S.CT. NOMINEE GARLAND IS NOT A MODERATE OR CENTRIST


The nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is a controversial issue.  Much of the media and Democrats are labelling him a "moderate" or "centrist."  Apparently they feel that because many Republican Senators supported his nomination to a U.S. Court of Appeals position that he is a moderate.  This appears to be the only basis for such a label as a thorough analysis of his decisions and opinions has not been done.  This is a very slim reed and rather disingenuous.  I don't know if those holding this position are ignorant or just being misleading. They should have consulted some of the experts of judicial attitudes/ideology such as Prof. Lee Epstein.  Here's  an article from the left-leaning NY Times that helps set the record straight.

“In the face of Republican opposition to a Supreme Court nomination, President Obama needed a candidate who had support from Republicans in the past but who would still move the court in a progressive direction.

Merrick B. Garland, who was on President Obama’s shortlist for previous Supreme Court nominations, was confirmed 76 to 23 as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997.

He Could Shift the Court to Be More Liberal

If Judge Garland is confirmed, he could tip the ideological balance to create the most liberal Supreme Court in 50 years. Measures of ideology by four political scientists show where the justices stand in relation to one another. Judge Garland’s score is based on the score of his appointing president, Bill Clinton. This methodology is considered to be a “reasonably good predictor of voting on the Supreme Court,” says Prof. Lee Epstein of Washington University.”

The ratings by Epstein et al. place Garland to the left of liberal justices Kagan and Breyer but not quite as liberal as the two most liberal justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Garland is not anywhere near the center of the ideological spectrum.   Kennedy is the closest.
Moving the Court to the left endangers individual Second Amendment rights, constitutional limits on executive power in pursuit of liberal goals, First Amendment and other rights.