Patterico's Pontifications

3/12/2010

And You Thought Nobody Still Reads the L.A. Times

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:22 pm

Charles Manson wants his paper.

Thanks to Andy L.

Holder’s Seven Omissions

Filed under: Law,Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 9:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

It appears Attorney General Eric Holder wasn’t truthful and forthcoming in his Senate confirmation hearings:

“Attorney General Eric Holder failed to tell the Senate about seven legal briefs he signed when lawmakers considered his nomination to his current job, according to a letter released on Friday.”

The briefs were not disclosed in Holder’s disclosure document submitted in connection with his Senate confirmation hearing. At least one brief involved Jose Padilla who was held as an enemy combatant for 3 years before being tried and convicted in federal court. The linked article states the “other six briefs related to issues such as race discrimination and a challenge to a prison sentence.” Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in a letter to the Senate: “We regret the omission.”

Republican Senators plan aggressive questioning of Holder about these matters at an oversight hearing scheduled for March 23. One topic for questioning will undoubtedly be Holder’s statements in a 2004 Padilla amicus brief that civil liberties protections could hamper terror investigations:

“Bill Burck and Dana Perino have written a piece for National Review that unearths a 2004 amicus brief signed by Attorney General Eric Holder that states that civil liberties protections “might impede the investigation of a terrorist offense in some circumstances.”

They contrast that claim with President Obama’s words that American should reject “the false choice between our security and our ideals” and make a case that Holder is being disingenuous by claiming that trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts won’t harm national security.

“It is conceivable that, in some hypothetical situation, despite the array of powers described above, the government might be unable to detain a dangerous terrorist or to interrogate him or her effectively,” the 2004 brief states. “But this is an inherent consequence of the limitation of Executive power. No doubt many other steps could be taken that would increase our security, and could enable us to prevent terrorist attacks that might otherwise occur. But our Nation has always been prepared to accept some risk as the price of guaranteeing that the Executive does not have arbitrary power to imprison citizens.”

The brief in question discusses, in reference to the Jose Padilla case, whether the president has the legal authority to hold without charges a U.S. citizen captured on American soil, in the manor of an enemy combatant. “It may be true that in some instances the government will not be able to obtain information from citizens who are informed of their right to counsel, or that obtaining that information may be delayed,” it states.

“Back then,” Burck and Perino write, [Holder] understood that Mirandizing terrorists, to choose one example, is not without risk to our national security.”

They really are making this up as they go along.

— DRJ

Another Question for Opponents of Capital Punishment

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 8:05 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A recent Austin American-Statesman report on the sentencing hearing of Milton Dwayne Gobert reminded me of Jack Dunphy’s recent post “A Question for Opponents of Capital Punishment.” As noted in this February post, Gobert was on trial for capital murder in an Austin, Texas, courtroom:

“Gobert is accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend’s friend, 30-year-old Mel Cotton, to death while attempting to rob and kidnap her.

Cotton’s son, who was 5 years old at the time, witnessed his mother’s murder. He was also stabbed during the attack. The boy survived, and now at 11 years old, is expected to testify sometime later this week.”

During his trial, Gobert complained about uncomfortable leg restraints immediately after testimony about his victims’ horrific injuries — she was stabbed 107 times and her son was left for dead with a chest wound. The American-Statesman article suggests why Gobert was in restraints:

“[T]he victim’s sister took the witness stand and called Cotton, a Velocity Credit Union teller and single mother, “an angel.”

“That (expletive) wasn’t no angel, that was a (expletive),” Gobert, 37, screamed from the defense table, cutting off Ethel McPherson midsentence.

Gobert, who claimed that the killing was in self-defense, stood and turned to Cotton’s family, seated in the front row on the opposite side of the courtroom, and continued to scream profanities. He yelled again when state District Judge Bob Perkins told him to be quiet. Then on Perkins’ orders, sheriff’s deputies escorted Gobert from the courtroom while he yelled even more profanity.

The outburst was foreshadowed earlier in the day when Gobert — testifying against his lawyers’ advice — told jurors, “When I explode, I explode.” During his testimony, Gobert said his mother did not treat him well and that he did not love her.”

During the sentencing phase, the prosecution presented testimony that Gobert had an escape plan that included killing a corrections officer. He wanted to emulate Brian Nichols, a criminal defendant who stole an officer’s gun and killed several people in an Atlanta courthouse in 2005. Gobert also had a history of violent outbursts.

However, in an argument similar to views expressed by commenters in the discussion at Jack Dunphy’s post, Gobert and his attorney urged jurors not to limit Gobert’s chance for redemption by imposing a death sentence:

“Gobert also told jurors that if they sentenced him to life in prison instead of death, he would share his experiences with “youngsters coming through, kind of like giving back.”

“I have a redemptive will,” Gobert said. “I can be changed.”
***
During closing arguments, defense lawyer Kent Anschutz called Gobert “a prosecutor’s dream case” and said it would be “ridiculous to come in here and try to justify or defend the nature of Mel Cotton’s death.”

But Anschutz, like his co-counsel Martinez did later, urged the jury to decide that life in prison would be punishment enough.

“When it comes to a life being taken, let it be on God’s time,” Martinez said.”

The Austin jury sentenced Gobert to death, which means they decided Gobert posed a danger to others. In effect, the jury decided Gobert should be killed to protect others — a principle related to self-defense that allows deadly force to protect the lives of third parties.

Some people object to all state-sanctioned killing, including acts by the military, but I suspect most people object to the death penalty because they don’t view capital punishment as a reasonable or acceptable method to protect third parties. However, they might fully support the use of deadly force to protect a hostage threatened with imminent death.

I understand these views and I admire people who are willing to give others a second or third chance, but where do you draw the line? Does the threat to others have to be immediate, e.g., someone is holding a gun to a hostage’s head, or is it enough that there is evidence someone like Gobert would kill the moment he gets the chance? And if you find the last example persuasive, why wasn’t it equally persuasive regarding the Compton gang member who killed a fellow inmate in prison as set forth in Jack Dunphy’s post?

Finally, is there a limit to the time society must give an individual for redemption, or is that even society’s job?

— DRJ

Democrats may have Health Care Deal; Choose Student Loans Over Babies

Filed under: Abortion,Health Care — DRJ @ 6:58 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP reports House Democrats may pass health care reform next week following agreements today that call for more federal spending on student loans:

“Under White House pressure to act swiftly, House and Senate Democratic leaders reached for agreement Friday on President Barack Obama’s health care bill, sweetened suddenly by fresh billions for student aid and a sense that breakthroughs are at hand.

“It won’t be long,” before lawmakers vote, predicted Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She said neither liberals’ disappointment over the lack of a government health care option nor a traditional mistrust of the Senate would prevent passage in the House.
***
The decision to add far-reaching student aid changes to the bill had its roots in obscure parliamentary rules governing the Senate’s debate of the legislation. But House Democrats and the White House quickly seized on it as a way to advance a top administration priority that lacks the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate otherwise.

The measure would require the government to originate student loans, closing out a role for banks and other private lenders who charge a fee. Obama proposed taking the savings and plowing it into higher Pell Grants that go to needy college students.

Officials said that under current estimates, the change would free as much as $66 billion over a decade, although Pelosi indicated she wanted it spread beyond Pell Grants to other education programs.”

Increased student loan spending added to a health care bill gave Republicans another reason to oppose Democratic-backed legislation:

“Well of course it’s a very bad idea,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We now have the government running banks, insurance companies, car companies, and they do want to take over the student loan business.”

He said it was symptomatic of Democrats’ determination to have the government expand its tentacles into absolutely everything.”

Only liberals could believe more federal spending will get people to agree to more federal spending, but the really big news is Rep. Bart Stupak’s belief that Democrats want federal funding for abortion because they know the government can’t afford to pay for more health care:

“Stupak notes that his negotiations with House Democratic leaders in recent days have been revealing. “I really believe that the Democratic leadership is simply unwilling to change its stance,” he says. “Their position says that women, especially those without means available, should have their abortions covered.” The arguments they have made to him in recent deliberations, he adds, “are a pretty sad commentary on the state of the Democratic party.”

What are Democratic leaders saying? “If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing,” Stupak says. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

Margaret Sanger (and others) would be pleased.

H/T Drudge Report.

— DRJ

Obama’s Oscar-Worthy Performance

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 6:36 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Chuck Norris thinks President Obama should win an Oscar:

“I am no pinnacle of humility, and I’ve learned my fair share of hard lessons from the camps of conceit. But I’m not sure the former Chicago politician occupying the White House has ever been schooled with a primer on the perils of pride.

It’s one thing (though still distasteful) to be boastful in a sports or fighting ring – it’s quite another in the Oval Office. We were promised change, but it seems to me this White House’s smug swagger and strut rivals the great taunts and bluster of Mohammed Ali in his heyday. In fact, if I were handing out awards, President Obama would win hands down the Oscar for overconfidence and arrogance.”

Norris is unhappy with the way Obama treats Supreme Court justices, military commanders, other politicians, his opponents, broadcast agencies, the American people, and America’s founding documents. But he saves his contempt for the way Obama treats Scriptures:

“In possibly his gravest error, Obama haughtily placed himself above Judeo-Christian Scriptures when speaking at a church in June 2006 as a senator. In that message, he denigrated biblical books, including Leviticus and Deuteronomy, ridiculed the issue of the Bible’s inerrancy, called the Sermon on the Mount a radically inapplicable passage of Scripture, and declared that basing public policies upon the Bible “would be a dangerous thing.” He arrogantly concluded that “folks haven’t been reading their Bible,” setting himself above not only most others’ understanding of Scripture but also all of us who read it. In olden days, such sacred contempt would have been regarded as an abominable desecration — a man standing in the house of God claiming to be like a god, above others and even Scripture itself.

President Obama, I don’t know whether you’ve spent a day in a Sunday school class, so here’s a verse that might help you. Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

— DRJ

Federal Decision on ACORN Funding: Does ACORN Have a Right to Your Tax Dollars??

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:20 am

News broke a couple of days ago that a federal judge had ruled that Congress violated the Constitution when it passed a bill cutting off ACORN’s funding. Specifically, the judge ruled in her opinion that the Congressional act had violated the Bill of Attainder Clause.

I don’t find the decision convincing. It seems to me that the opinion essentially establishes some sort of ongoing right to federal funding. This isn’t like a case where the Government actually punishes someone — such as the hypothetical Eugene Volokh Execution Act of 2009 mentioned in this 2009 Eugene Volokh post on the subject. Congress is simply saying: we choose not to fund a particular organization. Such decisions, it seems to me, are for Congress to make, and not some federal judge.

When I received financial aid in college, I had to sign an affirmation that I had registered for the Selective Service. If I didn’t sign the affirmation, I didn’t get the aid. Congress was not required to prove that I had failed to register. Congress simply refused to give funds to a particular class of people. Nobody had any right to those funds, it seems to me, so Congress could set such parameters if it wished.

Does Judge Gershon believe that Congress must wait until ACORN is convicted of criminal violations in a court of law before Congress can choose not to give my tax dollars to ACORN — or that Congress has to set up some kind of quasi-judicial review of misconduct allegations before it can defund an organization? Does Judge Gershon believe that Congress can set no parameters on how our tax dollars are spent, and must leave all discretion on that issue to federal bureaucrats?

Neither proposition makes sense to me. This can’t be what the Bill of Attainder Cause is designed to prevent.

For my lefty friends who are cheering this decision: would you also cheer on a decision striking down a hypothetical Defund Blackwater Act of 2010? Or would the Constitution mean something different in that context?

I hope this case is appealed, because I think it would be interesting to see how the federal appellate courts (in particular the Supreme Court) would handle it. Since Prof. Volokh has discussed this in the past, I have asked him to weigh in.

Unemployed in California

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 12:40 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Californian John Nunez collected $11,250.00 in state unemployment benefits after he lost his job in March 2009. His former job was City Councilman in the LA suburb of Rosemead, and he became unemployed after losing his re-election bid:

“Here’s a political scenario voters probably never consider: Politician loses election. Politician, technically, becomes “unemployed.” Politician collects unemployment benefits.

As our colleague Patrick McGreevy reported this week, it really happened in Rosemead, one of the many suburbs of greater Los Angeles. The councilman in question was John Nunez. When he lost a reelection bid in March 2009, he began to collect state unemployment benefits, covered by the city.”

Details at the link. State lawmakers are working to close the loophole as also explained at the link.

— DRJ

Questions in the Nevada Senate Race

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 12:02 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Nevadan Jon Scott Ashjian has filed as a Tea Party candidate seeking the seat of Senator Harry Reid. Some Nevada Republicans fear he may be a Tea Party fake:

“It’s a grass-roots protest movement composed of the newly politicized and people distrustful of hierarchy. So how is it possible to be an illegitimate Tea Party member?

Ask Republicans in Nevada. Some are accusing Jon Scott Ashjian, a new Tea Party candidate running for U.S. Senate, of being a fake. The allegation? He was put in the race by agents of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to siphon votes from the GOP.

“No doubt about it,” says Danny Tarkanian, one of the many Republican Senate candidates hoping to challenge Reid in November.

“Nobody in the Tea Party knows who he is. He didn’t know any of the principles of the Tea Party,” Tarkanian tells CNN.”

Ashjian’s presence in the race concerns Republicans because a recent Nevada poll shows Reid would win with a Tea Party candidate in the race:

“It’s clear why Lowden and Tarkanian would be concerned. A recent poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicates Lowden and Tarkanian each beating Reid in one-on-one hypothetical general election matchups. But add a Tea Party candidate to the ballot, and that siphons off enough conservative votes to give Reid a narrow victory. According to the survey, Reid would grab 36 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate 32 percent and the Tea Party candidate 18 percent in a possible three-way showdown.

So the conspiracy theories abound from Tea Party activists and worried Republicans: Ashjian’s never attended Tea Party rallies; he hasn’t coordinated with local organizers; the secretary of his Tea Party of Nevada, Barry Levinson, is a registered Democrat. Levinson said, “I vote the person, not the party” and calls the accusations “political garbage.”

Real or not, Ashjian’s campaign is getting off to a rocky start due to complaints about his business and reports of a pending lien, although he got a nice write-up in the Reid-friendly Las Vegas Sun.

The Nevada News Bureau also points out an unfortunate but comic oversight: Ashjian’s campaign URL apparently belongs to someone who isn’t a fan.

— DRJ


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