Thursday, May 31, 2012

Federal DOMA unconstitutional.

For the first time, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the DOMA is unconstitutional. 
Edited excerpts from the opinion follow.  Especially noteworthy is the court's treatment of the federalism issue. You don't often see an opinion relying on both gay rights and federalism arguments.

"[The federal Defense of Marriage Act]DOMA was enacted with strong majorities in both Houses and signed into law by President Clinton. The entire statute,. . . must--having only two operative paragraphs--be one of the shortest major enactments in recent history. Section 3 of DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, defines "marriage" for purposes of federal law:
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Section 2, which is not at issue here, absolves states from recognizing same-sex marriages solemnized in other states.       DOMA does not formally invalidate same-sex marriages in states that permit them, but its adverse consequences for such a choice are considerable. Notably, it prevents same-sex married couples from filing joint federal tax returns, which can lessen tax burdens, see 26 U.S.C. § 1(a)-(c), and prevents the surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage from collecting Social Security survivor benefits, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 402(f), (i). DOMA also leaves federal employees unable to share their health insurance and certain other medical benefits with same-sex spouses.
         DOMA affects a thousand or more generic cross-references to marriage in myriad federal laws. In most cases, the changes operate to the disadvantage of same-sex married couples in the half dozen or so states that permit same-sex marriage. The number of couples thus affected is estimated at more than 100,000.  Further, DOMA has potentially serious adverse consequences, hereafter described, for states that choose to legalize same-sex marriage.
         In Gill v. OPM, No. 10-2207, seven same-sex couples married in Massachusetts and three surviving spouses of such marriages brought suit in federal district court to enjoin pertinent federal agencies and officials from enforcing DOMA to deprive the couples of federal benefits available to opposite-sex married couples in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth brought a companion case, Massachusetts v. DHHS, No. 10-2204, concerned that DOMA will revoke federal funding for programs tied to DOMA's opposite-sex marriage definition--such as Massachusetts' state Medicaid program and veterans' cemeteries."

A new problem for Mexico?

My heart goes out to the innocent victims in Mexico.  This article suggests that cartels may be trying to extort money from international/multi-national corporations.  If this is true, and becomes a trend, foreign investment in Mexico will dry up and  legitimate economic opportunity will become even more scarce than it is now.

Lying politicans, 9-11 funds and the Calif. chaos.

Because of the state's financial crunch, brought on by years of excessive spending, Calif. has raided a special fund set aside for 9-11 survivor benefits and anti-terrorism efforts. Shameful!  Disgusting!   What is happening in Calif, Greece, Spain, Ireland and the EEC should send some messages about where we may be headed.

Trayvon Martin case, black homicide, propaganda and manipulation by the media.

Walter Williams is  a black economics Prof. at George Mason Univ. . He is one of my favorite columnists.  I don't always agree with him, but he provides perspective almost always lacking from the media and liberal black leaders.  As he points out, approximately 7,000 black Americans are murdered every year.  Roughly 94% of time, the offender is black.  One might think that would be viewed as a problem. What  made the Trayvon Martin shooting so newsworthy and caused such a media hysteria?  Neither was a celebrity or related to a celebrity.   It was not caught on video-tape.  It was not part of a rape or robbery or otherwise or especially heinous and brutal as alleged murders go.  The victim was not a child, handicapped or elderly person.  It did not take place in a state or area where homicides are extremely rare.  IMHO, it became a media obsession  because the suspect was a non-Black male with a concealed carry permit, and a gun who was arguably engaged in lawful self-defense.  We'll have to wait and see on the legality, but the case became a propaganda vehicle for those who are opposed to guns, concealed carry and self-defense.  Most of  the media, who share these values, jumped on the propaganda bandwagon. Unfortunately, too many liberal black leaders define everything negative that happens to a black person in terms of white victimizing blacks. The black population is reduced to helpless victims  As Williams shows, most blacks are victimized by other blacks.   It is shameful the way the media attempts to manipulate public opinion with such propaganda. Unfortunately, too many people swallow the ABC, CBS and New York Times spins hook, line and sinker.

Many successful politicians are "shameless liars."

Thomas Sowell is another one of my favorite columnists.  Like Williams, he provides perspective in contrast to the unethical types who dominate the media.  Sowell doesn't pull any punches in this article.  The quality of people we put in public office is embarrassing.  As Sowell writes, choosing these people is also a negative "reflection on us." The day of reckoning is approaching in Europe, but in America, too many refuse to see where this nation is headed.  Too many politicians live in a economic la-la land.  They believe, and the fools who vote for them believe, that there is a pie in the sky, a free lunch and a Santa Cluas.   Full speed ahead buying votes and short term-advantage and damn the inevitable economic torpedoes. "The long term lies are about to bite back."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Interesting First Amendment case--Jury tampering

In U.S. v. Heicklen the defendant was charged with jury tampering. According to the source "Prosecution for exercising one’s free speech rights is becoming a trend in the current Administration and the Department of Justice (DOJ)." Other administration actions also suggest the current administration is not a friend of freedom of religion either.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fourth Amendment v. National Security

This blog tends to focus on the usual police domestic  Fourth Amendment issues.  However, there are lots of issues out there in the area of national security. 

In 2008,  an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allowed intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on overseas communications,(including e-mails, calls) more broadly and with less judicial oversight than in the past..  Now, the U.S. government does not have to submit (to a special judge) an  individualized application to monitor a non-American overseas.  The U.S. attorney general and  director of national intelligence can ask for mass surveillance authorizations from the judge. This is basically a warrant procedure except that the usual 4th Amendment requirement  of “particularly describing” is clearly not satisfied.  There are also issues about the applicability of the Fourth Amendment in at least some of the situations.
The ACLU sued the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.  The case is slowly making its way through the judicial system.  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear whether the Plaintiffs have standing (legal authority) to challenge the act. They will not decide on the constitutionality of the law--at least not yet.  The name of the case is Clapper v. Amnesty International U.S.A..

Chicago PD does good job with demonstrators

According to this article, Chicago PD did an excellent job handling recent protests. It is tough to balance First Amendment freedoms and public order in these rapidly unfolding situations.  Congrats! This contrasts with the occasional excesses in other cities. Thanks to j.r. for the link.
Long term, however, we have to be concerned with the future of far-left protestors.  Are they going to take their template from the "Arab Spring" protestors or the violent left-wing protesters in Greece and elsewhere in Europe? Will a few extremists move into domestic terrorism?  What will be the reaction if Obama loses the election?  Conversely, if Obama wins will we see a rise in right-wing demonstrations and possibly some domestic terrorism?  When a country gets as polarized as the U.S., these are real concerns. These are perilous times for the nation.

Monday, May 21, 2012

TIH: Colombia abolishes Slavery

May 21, 1851, the South American country of Colombia abolished slavery. For a list of when other countries abolished it see this link.

Notice the long list of countries that beat the "land of the free and the home of the brave," to the punch.  Notice that most of Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere got around to it before us. Even Mexico beat the U.S. to abolition.  Shameful!

Supreme Ignorance

It should surprise no one that the overwhelming majority of people do not know who is the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Big Victory in Okla. for Second Amendment rights

Oklahoma's governor signs law respecting law-abiding citizens' rights to "carry arms," as provided in the Second Amendment. This law and the court decision in the preceding post makes me think there might still be some chances to keep Americans the freest people on the planet.

TIH: Plessy v. Ferguson

May 18, 1896:  the U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, effectively condemning  black Americans to second class citizenship and acting like the Fourteenth Amendment could be ignored.  It wasn't until nearly 70 years later in Brown v. Bd. of Education that this decision was overruled.

Victory for Civil Liberties over indefinite detention

A U.S. District Court struck down a law that seems more appropriate in a police state than in a "free" country.  Thanks to Bennett Jones for the tip.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TIH: Brown v. Bd. of Education.

  May 17, 1954:  The Supreme Court announces its opinion in Brown v. Bd. of Education banning public school segregation. It only took a little more than 80 years for the Court to  remedy and obvious violation of the Equal Protection clause.  There was widespread opposition to the decision.  Although not as vehement as in 1954, reaction to the Supreme Court's opinion in Heller (2008) has also shwon strong opposition.  Looks like lots of Americans, then and now,  really don't  want a "land of the free" and a "home of the brave" for everyone. Too many people want rights for themselves and their ideological allies, but not for the wrong kind of people.

TIH: 1980, Liberty City Riots

May 17, 1980, riots broke out in the Liberty City and Overtown sections of Miami after the white police officers tried in state court for the death of black  motorcyclist Arthur McDuffie were acquitted.   One of the officers was later tried in federal court and acquitted. Only minor incidents of violence broke out after this acquittal.  The rioting scenario after a state court acquittal of white officers  would be repeated even more violently in 1992 with the Rodney King Riots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

National Police Week, May 13-19.

Support your officers.  It can be tough, high-stress job.  Remember those who perished in our service.

Statute regarding taping police officers invalidated.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit  strikes down an Illinois statute criminalizing taping a police officer in a public place.  A great and commonsense victory.  What were these morons in the Illinois legislature thinking?  Sounds like a piece of legislation worthy of a police state.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Debate on the Consitutionality of Obamacare.

See first this quest column from the Alpine Avalanche.  Then, see my response.

First Amendment rights on campus, speech codes, FIRE

Public colleges and universities are amongst the most frequent violators of First Amendment freedom of speech and press.  Even though private universities are not covered by the First Amendment, they  tout free speech, academic freedom etc., while many, at the same time disparage or punish it in certain cases.  The do this usually via campus "speech codes."  If you want an example, see this one from Framingham State University.  FIRE is an organization that fights aggressively for student rights.  It is non-partisan, but since most university speech codes lean sharply left, most of the students defended tend to be conservative and/or religious.  Support FIRE!

TIH 2003: NY Times admits fraud by one of its reporters.

May 10, 2003, the New York Times admits that one of its reporters has “committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud.”  IMHO, journalistic ethics appear weak at the NYT. Both left- and right-wing publications have this problem.  Another example is The New Republic (scroll down to "controversies.") Even Wikipedia has had it's problems.  I cite Wikipedia frequently and it has been used as a source in scholarly works. However, if I have problems with an article, I don't cite it.  Overall, the record suggests Wikipedia is generally reliable.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

TIH: 1974, impeachment hearings start.

May 9, 1974:
Following revelations about the Watergate scandal, the House of Representatives opens formal public impeachment   hearings against President Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon will later resign.

Justice Dept. provided faulty info. to Supreme Court

In the U.S. Supreme Court's Nken v. Holder (2009) case, the U.S. Justice Dept. admitted it submitted faulty information to the Court.  The Justice Dept. suggested to the Court that not do anything about it. This isn't the first time this has happened in U.S.  history. Sloppiness or deliberate falsifying?  Are there too many political hacks in the Justice Dept., and not enough serious lawyers?  What will the Court do about it?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Liberty and Responsibilty

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” George Bernard Shaw

TIH 1973: Wounded Knee Incident Ends

The 71-day standoff between members of the American Indian Movement and federal and state law enforcement ended.  It occurred at Wounded Knee, S.D.,   That town was selected because of its symbolism, including being the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre.   The massacre started when Army troops attempted to disarm run away Sioux.  A majority of the victims were unarmed women and children.  I visited the site in the 1980's. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Correctional Officers' Week

Let's not forget about those doing the tough and often dangerous job of correctional officers.  thanks  to all correctional officers for their  hard work on our behalf.  This week is their week!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Liberal Defense Attorney Deshowitz Criticizes Pros. in Zimmerman case

Although he is often too far left for me, I have always admired liberal defense attorney and law prof. Alan Dershowitz for speaking out even when it violated liberal political correctness.  Here he speaks out against the prosecutor in the Geo. Zimmerman case, how the case has been handled, and the media-created anti-Zimmerman hysteria.  He rightly questions whether Zimmerman can get a fair trial given the racially charged atmosphere created by the media and certain black leaders.

I strongly recommend his book  "Shouting Fire" and, even more so,  his "Contrary to Popular Opinion" where he skewers ideologues of both the Left and Right for their hypocrisy.

TIH 1861 CSA declares state of war against the Union.

May 6 1861: The  Congress  of the secessionist Confederate States of America recognizes that a state of war exists between the CSA  and the United States of America. However, the "war" had already begun, at least as early as Jan. 1861 with numerous unauthorized acts by Secessionist.

Before Lincoln took office, seven states had declared their secession from the Union. They established a Southern government, the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861.[98] They took control of federal forts and other properties within their boundaries with little resistance from outgoing President James Buchanan, whose term ended on March 4, 1861.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Today in History (TIH) Shelley v. Kramer, 1948

May 3, 1948, the Supreme Court announces its decision in Shelley v. Kramer.  This is a crucial victory for equal protection in this country.  Note that the Court does not outlaw private racially discriminatory real estate covenants, it only say that courts cannot enforce them.  There must be government action (or in some cases inaction) to violate the Fourteenth Amendment.  Court enforcement of such covenants would be state action in violation of equal protection. Government-enforced white supremacy takes another hit.