[Guest post by DRJ]
Scott Jacobs has the story at The Jury.
[Guest post by DRJ]
President Obama will give a speech to students on Tuesday and the Department of Education issued instructional materials to supplement that speech. One part of the materials, since withdrawn, generated a lot of criticism: An assignment to have students write a letter detailing how they will help the President.
I wonder if that idea originated from a visit Michelle Obama made to a third grade class at a Washington DC elementary school in May 2009? Here is an excerpt from her visit:
Q Is it hard to be the President?
MRS. OBAMA: It’s very hard to be the President, yes. Being the President is one of the hardest jobs in the world, I think, because you’re dealing with every kind of problem you can imagine. Almost anything that goes on in the world, at some point the President has to think about it and help fix it.
So you imagine walking up every day, thinking about the biggest problems that are facing this country and the world, and people are looking at you for the answers, right — it’s a tough job.
But that’s why he needs all of your help, right? And you might think, well, I’m in third grade, how can I help the President? How do you think you can help the President make his job easier? What do you think?
Q By doing what we’re supposed to do.
MRS. OBAMA: By doing what you’re supposed to do. I love that. And what is that you’re supposed to be doing?
Q By working hard.
MRS. OBAMA: Working hard, right? What else?
Q Listening to the teacher.
MRS. OBAMA: Listening to the teacher. Oh, you guys are really — what else?
Q And learning and stop being bad.
MRS. OBAMA: Learning and stop being bad. Yes. But I’m assuming nobody is bad. Then they don’t have to stop being bad, because they’re not bad in the first place, right?
What else can you do to help the President?
Q Never quit.
MRS. OBAMA: Never quit. That’s such a good — that’s — let’s stop there with that “Never quit.” Okay, you guys remember that. Will you promise me that?
I hope and expect this is similar to the advice Obama will give students next Tuesday, but the point isn’t for students to help Obama or any President do their job. How can a student realistically help a current President?
The point is for students to work hard and learn so that some day they can take care of themselves and contribute to their communities and nation. But I fear some people are so invested in looking for someone to take care of them that they don’t see taking care of yourself and your community as a teachable or a reachable goal.
[Guest post by DRJ]
I don’t know what everyone else is doing today but my mind is on college football. Consider this an open thread to talk about your favorite (or least favorite) teams.
Here’s one to start things off: Ohio State avoids upset 31-27 over Navy.
[Guest post by DRJ]
The LA Times reports President Barack Obama is keeping his promise to run the most transparent Administration in history:
“In a statement issued Friday from Camp David, Md., Obama said his administration would post information online each month detailing White House visitors during the prior three or four months.
“For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis,” Obama said, adding that he would make his “the most open and transparent administration in history, not only by opening the doors of the White House to more Americans, but by shining a light on the business conducted inside.
“Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process.”
The decision was made after a federal judge ruled in favor of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), a group that sued the Bush Administration claiming White House records of visits by conservative Christian leaders should be subject to FOIA requests. The group renewed its claim after Obama took office but “Obama’s staff originally refused to give up the records.” CREW threatened to sue the Obama Administration in July 2009 and a CREW blog post described the Obama Administration’s refusal to release health care policy visitor logs as a continuation of “one of the bad, anti-transparency, pro-secrecy approaches” of the Bush administration.
I have a feeling the court’s decision and CREW’s agreement to settle its lawsuits had more to do with the Obama Administration’s decision than a desire for transparency. Interestingly, the Obama Administration also agreed to turn over records of Bush era visitors and I expect to see more media interest in those logs than in Obama’s:
“The government initially refused to turn over these records, but now has agreed to produce them, as well as the Bush era records, as part of the settlement.”
There are exceptions to what the Obama Administration says it will release from its records, including visits by potential Supreme Court nominees, covert operatives (“White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs [said the] point of the exception is to ‘protect those whose lives you could endanger’ by revealing them”), personal visits to the Obama daughters, possibly visits on Air Force One and at Camp David, and any other information the White House decides not to release. However, “the White House will report the number of meetings it is holding back and release the visitors’ names ‘when it is more appropriate to do so.'”
Meanwhile, CREW is willing to forget the Obama Administration’s continued resistance to releasing visitor records and forgive its plan to selectively withhold future records. Instead CREW is pleased, apparently in part because the Obama Administration is good and the Bush Administration is bad:
“CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan praised the White House, stating, ‘The Obama administration has proven its pledge to usher in a new era of government transparency was more than just a campaign promise. The Bush administration fought tooth and nail to keep secret the identities of those who visited the White House. In contrast, the Obama administration – by putting visitor records on the White House web site – will have the most open White House in history. Because visitor records will now be available online, CREW dismissed its lawsuits.’ Sloan continued, ‘Providing public access to visitor records is an important step in restoring transparency and accountability to our government. CREW is proud to have been part of this historic decision.’”
See how easy it is to deliver transparency in government? All it takes is one small step …
In an utterly irresponsible article by Carol Williams, the L.A. Times misstates the holding of a federal appellate opinion today:
Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft violated the rights of U.S. citizens in the fevered wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by ordering arrests on material witness warrants when the government lacked probable cause, a federal appeals court said in a scathing opinion Friday.
The federal appeals court said no such thing.
Simply put, Carol Williams is taking the court’s assumptions — which the court carefully explains are only assumptions — and reporting those assumptions as fact. The L.A. Times is reporting that the court found Ashcroft engaged in illegal behavior, when all we know is that a plaintiff has alleged that Ashcroft engaged in illegal behavior.
Further, as explained below, Williams claims that all three judges on the panel criticized Ashcroft’s detention policy as unconstitutional, when one of the judges says the exact opposite.
Let’s start with Williams’s reporting of assumptions as fact. For technical legal reasons, the court explained that it was forced to temporarily assume for the sake of deciding a procedural issue that everything the plaintiff said about Ashcroft’s alleged policy was true:
[B]ecause Ashcroft chose to exercise his right to appeal before a fuller record could be developed, we proceed as we must in a review of all Rule 12(b)(6) motions, accepting as true all facts alleged in the complaint, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.
This does not mean that the court believes the plaintiff’s allegations are true. The plaintiff could be proved totally wrong about the facts at trial. Indeed, the court itself points out that the plaintiff’s allegations might not even be enough to get past summary judgment:
Were this case before us on summary judgment, and were the facts pled in the complaint the only ones in the record, our decision might well be different. In the district court, moving forward, [plaintiff] al-Kidd will bear a significant burden to show that the Attorney General himself was personally involved in a policy or practice of alleged violations of § 3144.
In other words, the court is here clearly saying that the plaintiff has not yet proved his allegations — even though, according to Carol Williams, the court has already declared the case over and Ashcroft guilty. (More illustration of the point here.)
Williams also falsely suggests that the panel unanimously condemned Ashcroft:
Members of the panel, all appointees of Republican presidents, characterized Ashcroft’s detention policy as “repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”
Williams here implies that all three members of the panel signed on to that quote. It is difficult to find the words to describe how dishonest this implication is. In fact, one of the three judges dissented from the ruling — agreeing only with the portion of the majority opinion that ruled in favor of Ashcroft. (At the very end of the article, Williams notes that a judge dissented in part and concurred in part, but does not explain that the dissenting judge agrees with Ashcroft on every point where he expresses an opinion.) That judge, Carlos Bea, declares in no uncertain terms that he does not agree with the language quoted by Carol Williams:
The majority opinion closes with a quote from Blackstone. [The Blackstone quote immediately precedes the language quoted by Carol Williams. –Ed.] What Blackstone describes and condemns therein—the indefinite and secret detention of individuals accused of no crime in harsh conditions—is simply not a description of this case.
The dissenting judge explicitly says that the plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that Ashcroft was doing anything illegal:
[N]one of the allegations contain facts that plausibly establish Ashcroft’s knowledge that his subordinates were obtaining material witness warrants on the basis of deliberately or recklessly false evidence or on facially invalid warrants. Some of al-Kidd’s allegations suggest precisely the opposite—that Justice Department officials were careful to ensure they had probable cause to believe that the targeted witness had information material to a criminal proceeding and was likely to flee before seeking a material witness warrant. . . . [N]othing in al-Kidd’s allegations plausibly suggests Ashcroft instructed, encouraged, or tolerated his subordinates to detain individuals as to whom there was no objective probable cause to arrest.
In the face of this language from the dissenting judge, it is utterly shameful for Williams to trumpet the earlier quote and suggest that all three Republican-appointed judges declared “Ashcroft’s detention policy” to be unconstitutional.
Is Williams just a know-nothing out of her depth discussing legal opinions — or is there something more sinister going on here? As you evaluate that issue, recall that Carol Williams has for years engaged in a little jihad of her own against the Bush administration regarding the war on terror, particularly relating to Gitmo. In an opinion piece about Gitmo, Williams wrote:
[W]e understood why a hunger strike early this month began with 89 prisoners but swiftly fell off to a few defiant handfuls with the onset of painful and undignified force-feeding.
Are you starting to see where she’s coming from now?
The Readers’ Representative can be reached at Readers.Rep@latimes.com.
[Guest post by DRJ]
Two Texas teens were killed and a third was injured in a San Marcos home invasion that appears to be a clear case of self-defense:
“About 2 a.m. Friday, when a San Marcos resident heard a commotion outside his bedroom, he grabbed his .40-caliber Glock pistol and opened the door, police said. When he saw a teenager pointing a gun at him, according to police, the resident fired several shots that left two Luling 16-year-olds dead and another teen seriously wounded. A fourth teen fled to escape from the gunfire, police said.
Three of the four youths appeared to be holding weapons, police say. One had a handgun, and the other two had pellet guns that looked like handguns, police said.”
A fourth suspect was arrested when he reportedly returned looking for his friends. At least two of the alleged home invaders are students at a local school. The school superintendent said grief counselors had been sent to the school to help the kids “that are struggling with this.”
No charges are expected to be filed.
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