Patterico's Pontifications

5/17/2010

Free Speech at the White House

Filed under: Media Bias,Politics — DRJ @ 9:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Perfect irony:

“There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act, and then promptly refused to take any questions.”

Will the media wake up first or the people?

— DRJ

Obama’s Aunt Granted Asylum

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 8:49 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

President Obama’s Kenyan aunt has been granted asylum and can stay in the United States:

“A U.S. immigration court has granted asylum to President Barack Obama’s African aunt, allowing her to stay in the country, her attorneys announced Monday.

The decision was mailed Friday and comes three months after Kenya native Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father, testified at a closed hearing in Boston, where she arrived in a wheelchair and two doctors testified in support of her case.

The basis for her asylum request hadn’t been made public. People who seek asylum must show that they face persecution in their homeland on the basis of religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.

Her lawyer, Margaret Wong of Cleveland, said last year that Onyango first applied for asylum “due to violence in Kenya.” The East African nation is fractured by cycles of electoral violence every five years.

In a November interview with The Associated Press, Onyango said she was disabled and was learning to walk again after being paralyzed from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.”

She moved to Boston in 2000 and was ordered deported in 2004, but did not leave and continued to live in public housing.

— DRJ

Scalia: I Don’t Care About Intent; Goldstein: I’ll Be The One to Tell You What You Care About!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:17 pm

Here is Antonin Scalia, a self-declared textualist, on how he feels about legislative intent:

If you are a textualist, you don’t care about the intent, and I don’t care if the framers of the Constitution had some secret meaning in mind when they adopted its words. I take the words as they were promulgated to the people of the United States, and what is the fairly understood meaning of those words.

That’s pretty direct, wouldn’t you say? It would take a lot of nerve for someone to read that statement and claim that Scalia cares about legislative intent — don’t you think?

Yet that is precisely what Jeff Goldstein does today, in a remarkable feat of redefining someone’s words to interpret them as meaning the precise opposite of what was intended. Goldstein quotes the above passage and concludes:

What Scalia hasn’t done is dismissed the writers’ intent; he has instead accepted that intent as foundational to his interpretation and then applied the terms of a contract agreed upon by the legislators and the judicial branch, namely, that the legislators will craft their texts in the most conventional way possible; and the judge will interpret that text under the assumption that the legislators have signified conventionally. Without that intent assumed, it makes no sense for Scalia to lay claim to “interpreting” to begin with.

Excuse me. Scalia has indeed dismissed the writers’ intent. How could he possibly have been any more clear? Let’s review again what Scalia said: “If you are a textualist, you don’t care about the intent, and I don’t care if the framers of the Constitution had some secret meaning in mind when they adopted its words.”

What does he have to do . . . shout it from the rooftops? Append a few exclamation points at the end of every sentence? Say: “I really mean what I just said” at the end of every paragraph?

How does Goldstein manage to take Scalia’s stark declaration that he doesn’t care about intent as a declaration that Scalia has “accepted that intent as foundational to his interpretation”? The answer reveals quite a bit about Goldstein’s method of reasoning, which eschews argumentation in favor of aggressive assertions and definitions portrayed as Revealed Truths that need not be justified with argumentation.

This is a blog post, and if you’re not interested in getting down in the weeds, this is a good place to stop. It’s enough for me that you understand that Scalia says he doesn’t care about intent, yet Goldstein casually dismisses Scalia’s crystal clear statement as meaning the precise opposite of what Scalia actually means.

But if you’re interested in how Goldstein reaches such an outlandish conclusion (and it is outlandish), read on — or, if you’re on the main page, click “more” to read further . . .

(more…)

Connecticut Senate Race

Filed under: 2010 Election,Politics — DRJ @ 6:50 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

John Kerry’s Vietnam War service became an issue in the 2004 Presidential election, but who could have imagined the Vietnam War might still be impacting elections in 2010?

“Richard Blumenthal, current Attorney General of Connecticut and Democratic candidate for Senate, has a problem. A big problem.

Blumenthal is considered the overwhelming favorite to keep Chris Dodd’s seat in Barack Obama’s hands.

But, if this NY Times report is true, Blumenthal’s days should be numbered, because he has flat-out lied about serving in Vietnam, a tale Blumenthal often tells on the campaign trail:

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

This should put an end to Blumenthal as a candidate. But “should” never really meant much for Chris Dodd, so we’ll see.”

There’s more in an Update to the link above.

— DRJ

Supreme Court Rejects Life Without Parole for Some Juvenile Offenders

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Judiciary,Law — DRJ @ 3:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via ScotusBlog, the Supreme Court today ruled that some juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life without parole:

“In Graham v. Florida (08-7412), the Court reverses and remands, in an opinion again by Justice Kennedy. The vote is 6-3, with Justice Thomas dissenting, joined by Justice Scalia and in part by Justice Alito. Justice Alito files a separate dissenting opinion for himself. Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, concurs, even though all three join the majority opinion, and the Chief Justice concurs in the result alone.

* Holding: It is unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile offender to life in prison without parole when the crime does not involve murder, given the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.

The Court dismisses Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621) as improvidently granted, in this per curiam opinion.”

The Sullivan and Graham cases were considered by their advocates as companion cases because both:

“… ask the Court to address whether the differences between children and adults that led the Court to strike down the death penalty for children also make permanent imprisonment a constitutionally impermissible punishment for a child.”

In 2005 in Roper vs Simmons, the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for offenders under 18. The Graham decision appears to continue the Court’s evolution in applying the “cruel and unusual punishment” standard to juvenile offenders.

— DRJ

US vs Comstock: Commitment of Sex Offenders

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Judiciary,Law — DRJ @ 3:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Supreme Court issued several opinions today. One was U.S. vs Comstock summarized at ScotusBlog:

“In United States v. Comstock (08-1224), in an opinion by Justice Breyer, the Court reverses and remands the lower court’s decision. The vote is 7-2, with Justice Thomas dissenting, joined by Justice Scalia. Justice Kennedy concurs in the judgment only, joined by Justice Alito.

* Holding: The Court upholds the law passed by Congress to order the civil commitment of a mentally ill federal prisoner who is a sex offender with the commitment to continue beyond the date the inmate otherwise would be released.”

I haven’t had a chance to read the opinion, but the story that led to the civil commitment of sex offenders and the discussion at oral argument in this case provide interesting background:

“The police photograph is chilling. In grainy black and white tones, it shows 13-year-old Martin Andrews sitting in a makeshift box, his leg chained. The look in his eyes is one of fear, fatigue and disbelief. He had just been rescued from a nightmare.

“I was abducted by a sexually violent predator by the name of Richard Ausley, who had been twice convicted for sexually assaulting young boys, and he had taken me for eight days,” Andrews recalled of his ordeal 37 years ago. “I was left to die.”

As a survivor of a sex crime, Andrews is one face of an issue the Supreme Court revisits Tuesday: civil commitment, which allows the government to keep sex offenders in custody even after they have served their sentences. Twenty states have such laws, including Virginia, where Andrews was held captive and repeatedly assaulted.

During Tuesday’s arguments, the justices expressed some doubts about whether the state’s duty to protect the public from “sexually dangerous” individuals might trump due process.

“Why doesn’t the federal government’s authority to have custody because of the criminal justice system end when the criminal justice system is exhausted?” said Chief Justice Roberts. “In other words, when the sentence is done?”

“You are talking about endangering the health and safety of people, so the government has some responsibility, doesn’t it?” countered Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

CNN normally doesn’t name victims of sex crimes, but Andrews, now a victims’ advocate, agreed to tell his story.

On the other side of the debate is the first sex offender released from Virginia’s civil commitment program, and one of just a handful nationwide.

“I served my time for what I did, and I didn’t feel like I should be incarcerated again,” said this man, who asked that his identity not be revealed for fear of retribution. “It was a scary thing to know that you could be committed to a mental institution for the rest of your life.”

The man said mandatory therapy helped him, but he thinks that could have been initiated while he was in prison.”

— DRJ


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