Monday, February 29, 2016

AGNOTOLOGY AND THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY

The disgraceful behavior of powerful business interests is well documented, esp. that of the tobacco and auto industries.  And of course, don't forget Bhopal.  Anarcho-capitalism and reliance on free markets to control corporations is na├»ve.  Part of the reason they often get away with things is described in the concept of  "agnotolgy."  No, it has nothing to do with religion.  Thanks to Jim Kriegel for the heads-up.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Federal Judge Criticizes American Criminal Justice System

This senior federal judge restates many of the long-standing criticisms of CJ in the U.S.  Perhaps due to the  nature of the presentation, he is short on specific alternatives and options.

Friday, February 26, 2016

AUTHORITARIAN ACADEMICS AND LAWFUL CONCEALED CARRY ON CAMPUS


Authoritarians don't like it when they don't get their way. Some take their marbles and go home or to another game.  Concealed carry will be lawful on some in areas in public universities in Texas shortly.  A number of academics have resigned.  They apparently don't trust their own students.  Good riddance! There are already too many left-wing academics  dominating most public universities.  Some seem oblivious to the rule of law and feel they are above it.  "Last month, UT faculty member and 1979 Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg told the Austin-American Statesman he would rather end up in court than allow guns in his classroom: “I will put it into my syllabus that the class is not open to students carrying guns.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TX JP'S HAVE NO RIGHT TO PERFORM ONLY TRADITIONAL MARRIAGES

Texas, like a  number of states, has a number of JP's who contend they have a First Amendment right of freedom of religion to not perform gay marriages, and only traditional marriages.  The state's Texas Justice Court Training Center noted:

"Therefore, as of today, it is our opinion that justices of the peace may perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in accordance with the Texas Family Code.

The more difficult question is whether Texas judges may refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies while continuing to perform opposite-sex marriage ceremonies. As of today, we are unable to identify any current legal authority which would permit a justice of the peace to take such action."

OFFICER CLEARED IN USE OF FORCE CASE

A Michigan police officer was cleared in a use of force case.  We tend to focus on those officers who are convicted or are obviously acting illegally.  We need to remember the presumption of innocence and  not assume all are guilty.

REPORT ON MASS FIREARM MURDERS

CRS Report on mass murders by firearms reveals fewer than many gun control advocates report.

POLICE UNIONS BLOCKING MUCH-NEEDED REFORMS?


A "review of the role played by  police labor organizations in a number of internal investigations around the country  raises questions about their  impact on efforts to  reform police behavior and culture—a central goal outlined in last year’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing." 

NYPD OFFICER CONVICTED, IDENTITY POLITICS GOING WILD



"On the vast lawn of the plaza near the courthouse in Brooklyn where Peter Liang, a former New York City police officer, was convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man just over a week ago, a crowd of several thousand people gathered on Saturday.
 
They chanted, “No scapegoat! No scapegoat!” and carried signs bearing the same message. Some said they had never had a reason to protest before, while others said they had taken the day off from work or had come by train and bus from across the city — or as far as New Jersey and Connecticut — to take part in the demonstration at Cadman Plaza Park to show their support for Officer Liang.
Prosecutors had described Officer Liang’s behavior as reckless when he fired his gun inside a public housing complex, and argued that after the man, Akai Gurley, had been shot, the officer seemed more concerned about his career than in helping Mr. Gurley, who was 28.

Yet Officer Liang’s conviction has gripped many in the city’s Chinese-American community, who believe that he had been targeted for prosecution because of his race. They followed the case closely and have been denouncing the jury’s verdict, arguing that Officer Liang, 28, was a victim himself."

I guess there's no such thing a guilty or innocent any more.  It all depends on the demographics of whomever can label themselves a 'victim."
   

INADEQUATE INTERNET ACCESS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN


According to the NYT:
"With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.
The challenge is felt across the nation. Some students in Coachella, Calif., and Huntsville, Ala., depend on school buses that have free Wi-Fi to complete their homework. The buses are sometimes parked in residential neighborhoods overnight so that children can connect and continue studying. In cities like Detroit, Miami and New Orleans, where as many as one-third of homes do not have broadband, children crowd libraries and fast-food restaurants to use free hot spots."
 
Two brief observations.
1.  Public education at all levels seems to have lost connection with reality.  Are there any educational leaders out there who really care about students and education?  If your students don't have easy access to the internet, why are you using it to educate them? 
2.  Dysfunctional income disparity hits kids the hardest sometimes.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dallas Public School Re-naming Issue

It's 1955 in Dallas, TX.  White supremacists dominate local and Texas politics, and one year before this the U.S. Supreme Court had the audacity to say the  Constitution does not permit racial segregation in public schools.  The school board promises to fight.  It also has a new school to name.   An excellent candidate would be a WWII soldier who died in combat and was posthumously awarded a Congressional medal of Honor.  He was born, raised and educated in Dallas.  However the school is named after a relatively obscure Confederate General with few ties to Dallas.  The General gets the nod.  The school is named for  Confederate Gen. James B. Hood. A current member of the school board writes:
"Then, one year after the Brown decision, the all-white Dallas school board decided to name a school after a general of the Confederacy with few ties to Dallas. The Dallas school board would go on to spend decades fighting to avoid desegregation.
During the same time period, Georgia resurrected the Confederate flag by changing its state flag in symbolic opposition to Brown v. Board of Education. South Carolina followed suit six years later. The following year, Alabama revived the Confederate flag, with Gov. George Wallace raising the flag as part of his “Segregation Forever” campaign.
But even if the Dallas school board in 1955 was not sending a symbolic message of opposition to desegregation by naming the school after a Confederate general, it made the wrong decision for another reason: it overlooked Dallas ISD graduate Turney W. Leonard."

Given the tenor of the times and the people involved,  there can be little doubt about why the name was chosen.  Given the tenor of the times, there is little doubt about what the battle flag was intended to symbolize--dedication to white supremacy.

Supreme Court Nomination flap

The flap over filling deceased Justice Scalia's Supreme Court seat has become headlines.  Let's take a look at it.  The Constiution gives the Pres. the power to nominate new Justices who must be approved by the Senate.
Nothing wrong with Obama nominating someone. The Senate, should, but cannot be required to hold hearings before Obama's term ends. Delaying and stalling tactics by the Senate have been utilized for partisan purposes for decades by both parties to defeat nominees.  Hypocrisy is the norm in politics in this country.  Few seem to have any principles other than personal, party and/or ideological advantage The only reason the Dems are screaming is because their ox is being gored. 
No court would ever presume to directly order the Senate to do anything.  The problem is that the whole exercise is probably going to end up being a big waste of time and resources and more opportunities for grandstanding by both sides.  Repubs have a 54-46 edge in the Senate and do not appear likely to hold hearings, let alone approve an Obama nominee.  Finally, the time is long past when the Senate and President look for the best qualified 'judge.'  Everyone wants a Justice who is ideologically aligned with them.  That's their main concern.

Unbelieivable Correctional Coruption.

Just when you thought you had seen it all in corruption in corrections, this item comes along. Correctional officials and inmates cooperated in a scam.  This is just one of the many scandals uncovered in Georgia corrections.

Apple v. Big Brother

The American communications industry has been in bed with the feds for years.  Now that is changing.  Apple is fighting the feds.  It's good to see   The playing field  more equal than in the usual fight against big brother.  Great to see a corporation supporting individual rights even though their motivation is $ in the long run. 
If the warrant and court order are valid, the feds will probably win those.  However, the industry will probably win out in the end.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ferguson-DOJ civil rights deal falls through

Just when it looked like there would be an out-of-court settlement between the city of Ferguson and the Department of Justice over civil rights violations, the deal fell through when Ferguson reneged.  The city feared they couldn't pay for the reforms.  Now they will have huge legal expenses and will probably lose the suit and have to pay for the reforms anyway. In the long run it will probably cost them more.  Of course, they can always file for bankruptcy.

Doing Something About Gun Violence

In contrast to the views of the hand-wringers, were are doing somethings about gun violence. Here's one that if handled properly, with adequate due process protections, will not unconstitutionally interfere with law-abiding citizens' rights. 
"More than a dozen states have strengthened laws over the past two years to keep firearms from of domestic abusers, what the Associated Press calls "a rare area of consensus in the nation's highly polarized debate over guns." Lawmakers and governors of both parties backed bills stripping gun rights from those who have been convicted of domestic violence-related crimes or are subject to protective orders. The measures have been backed by victims' advocates, law enforcement groups and gun control supporters who see easy access to firearms as a major contributor to domestic violence killings.
"Domestic violence is definitely an area where there is the most agreement between the gun lobby and gun-violence prevention advocates," said Allison Anderman of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. The National Rifle Association has opposed the farthest-reaching measures but staying neutral or negotiating compromises on others. The NRA has fought provisions that would require people to surrender their guns before they have a chance to contest allegations made in a request for an emergency protective order."

Want to do more.  Make sure police take the shooting and murders of poor black citizens as seriously as they do the murders of others.  Many ghetto murders are not adequately investigated and many murderers get away with it.  No deterrence, no incapacitation, no justice. Gun control is not going to fix this.  There are too many guns out there already.

Deadly week for U.S. Law Enforcement Officers

Yes, there are a few officers who victimize and kill innocent people.  The great majority are honest and hard-working.  However, let's also not forget about the officers who are victimized.
According to CNN:
"Gunfire claimed the lives of at least five on-duty officers in an unusually deadly week for U.S. law enforcement.
In four days, five officers were killed in the line of duty in shootings around the country, more than doubling the number of officers who have died by gunfire so far this year."  R.I.P.

INCOMPETENCE FOLLOWING SCALIA'S DEATH


There was disgraceful chaos, confusion, AND  incompetence after Scalia's death.  One of the most important people in the U.S. Government dies unexpectedly.  How should it have been handled? Not like it was.
"It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body — which is permissible under Texas law — and without ordering an autopsy.
 As official Washington tried to process what his demise means for politics and the law, some details of Scalia’s final hours remained opaque. As late as Sunday afternoon, for example, there were conflicting reports about whether an autopsy should have been performed. A manager at the El Paso funeral home where Scalia’s body was taken said that his family made it clear they did not want one.
One of two other officials who were called but couldn’t get to Scalia’s body in time said that she
“If it had been me . . . I would want to know,” Juanita Bishop, a justice of the peace in Presidio, Tex., said in an interview Sunday of the chaotic hours after Scalia’s death at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a luxury compound less than an hour from the Mexican border and about 40 miles south of Marfa.

Meanwhile, Guevara acknowledged that she pronounced Scalia dead by phone, without seeing his body. Instead, she spoke to law enforcement officials at the scene — who assured her “there were no signs of foul play” — and Scalia’s physician in Washington, who said that the 79-year-old justice suffered from a host of chronic conditions.
“He was having health issues,’’ Guevara said, adding that she is awaiting a statement from Scalia’s doctor that will be added to his death certificate when it is issued later this week.

Guevara also rebutted a report by a Dallas TV station that quoted her as saying that Scalia had died of “myocardial infarction.” In an interview with The Washington Post, she said she meant only that his heart had stopped.

“It wasn’t a heart attack,” Guevara said. “He died of natural causes.”
In a statement Sunday, the U.S. Marshals Service, which provides security for Supreme Court justices, said that Scalia had declined a security detail while at the ranch, so marshals were not present when he died. “Deputy U.S. Marshals from the Western District of Texas responded immediately upon notification of Justice Scalia’s passing,” the statement said."
 
Perhaps we need federal legislation to deal with similar situations involving high-ranking federal officials.

 

Reflections on Justice Scalia

During his prime, Scalia was the most brilliant, articulate and witty Justice on the Court.  His majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller (holding that individuals not connected to militias have a right to keep and bear arms) is a tour de force.  Those who love freedom owe him a great debt. Justice Stevens'  dissenting opinion in Heller agrees that originalism is the proper methodology and that the right is a pre-existing one, but Scalia puts Stevens to shame.  Steven's opinion is embarrassing. 

In recent years, Scalia had slipped.  He has gotten snarky, off-point,  and too involved in the culture wars.  Like all the Justices, he seems to have gotten concerned with being a "celebrity." He wasn't as bad as some (e.g. Breyer) but it demeaned him in the eyes of many. 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies

The big news, is, of course, the death of  conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  His passing may have an impact on the outcome of cases currently pending before the Court.  Before his death the Court had 4 conservatives, 4 liberals and a swing-vote, Kennedy.  Often, these two blocs prevailed by getting Kennedy on their side.  It still takes 5 votes to decide a case, but now the conservatives will have to get both Kennedy and a liberal to win.  The liberal bloc only needs Kennedy to win.  Decisions could move to the political left.
Pres. Obama has announced that he will try to fill the vacancy during his term.  Republicans, who have a 54-46 majority in the Senate (which confirms Presidential nominations), want the next President to fill the vacancy.  Given the polarization in Congress, it is likely the Republicans will vote as a bloc and defeat Obama's nominee. 
Perhaps none of Scalia's opinions was as controversial as the one where the majority concluded that the Second Amendment gives a right to keep and bear arms even to those who are not members of a formal militia (D.C. v. Heller).  That was a 5-4 decision and the Left is already sharpening their knives in the hope of being able to wipe that right off the constitutional map.  If the Court takes away the individual right, the public reaction by many will be angry and violent.  If you think this government has polarization and legitimacy problems  now, you haven't seen anything yet. In our history, the Supreme Court has never taken away an individual right in the Bill of Rights.  Such an act could result in massive demonstrations, widespread civil disobedience and violent protest.  The results could be extremely ominous. 
Although President's talk about find the best qualified judges for the Supreme Court, they are more concerned with finding ideological allies.  This vacancy on the Court makes the upcoming election even more important.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Neo-Confederates and Libertarians, freedom to own other human beings and have sex slaves

There's a strange breed of libertarianism in Texas and much of the South.  You might call it "Lost Cause Libertarianism." See this article from Wikipedia on Neo-Confederates and Libertarians.

"Neo-Confederates and libertarianism[edit]
Historian Daniel Feller asserts that libertarian authors Thomas DiLorenzo, Charles Adams, and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have produced a "marriage of neo-Confederates and libertarianism." Despite an apparent disconnect ("How can a lover of liberty defend slavery?"), Feller writes:
What unites the two, aside from their hostility to the liberal academic establishment, is their mutual loathing of big government. Adams, DiLorenzo, and Hummel view the Civil War through the prism of market economics. In their view its main consequence, and even its purpose, was to create a leviathan state that used its powers to suppress the most basic personal freedom, the right to choose. The Civil War thus marks a historic retreat for liberty, not an advance. Adams and DiLorenzo dismiss the slavery issue as a mere pretext for aggrandizing central power. All three authors see federal tyranny as the war's greatest legacy. And they all hate Abraham Lincoln.[29]
Hummel in turn, in a review of libertarian Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History", refers to the works by DiLorenzo and Adams as "amateurish neo-Confederate books". Of Woods, Hummel states that the two main neo-Confederate aspects of Woods' work are his emphasis on a legal right of secession while ignoring the moral right to secession and his failure to acknowledge the importance of slavery in the Civil War. Hummel writes:
Woods writes 'that the slavery debate masked the real issue: the struggle over power and domination' (p. 48). Talk about a distinction without a difference. It is akin to stating that the demands of sugar lobbyists for protective quotas mask their real worry: political influence. Yes, slaveholders constituted a special interest that sought political power. Why? To protect slavery.[30]
Hummel also criticizes Woods' "neo-Confederate sympathies" in his chapter on Reconstruction. Most egregious was his "apologia for the Black Codes adopted by the southern states immediately after the Civil War." Part of the problem was Woods' reliance on an earlier neo-Confederate work, Robert Selph Henry's 1938 book The Story of Reconstruction.

Lots of these folks are upset because Lincoln took away their freedom to own other human beings and buy "fancy girls." (female sex slaves).


Brewster County TX makes the news

Brewster County is Texas' largest county in land area, but one of the least populated.  It rarely makes the news. But it's in the news now.

Texas law resource

Interested in Texas law?  See the Texas Law Library online.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Violence and human nature


According to the NYT:
"The scene was a lagoon on the shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. The time about 10,000 years ago. One group of hunter-gatherers attacked and slaughtered another, leaving the dead with crushed skulls, embedded arrow or spear points, and other devastating wounds. . . . Violence has always been part of human behavior." Most scientists see aggression and violence as part of our evolutionary heritage.  Some anarchists and idealists believe government is the ultimate cause.  Doesn't look like it to me.

Repub. Candidates on Poverty

If you are relying on the media for  issue info. on presidential candidates, good luck.  See this article on the Repubs. minus Trump and Cruz, on poverty and inequality issues.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016