Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito Hearing Day 3: The Spousal Consent Question

My Dad had me almost convinced to support Joe Biden in his upcoming presidential bid... but no more.

Cause he just BLEW it in the Alito confirmation hearings, on the most critical issue.


Finally, Biden asked THE question... how could Alito have ruled that spousal consent is not an "undue burden" on women? Does he really believe that no matter how substantially affected a number of women are by an abortion restriction, it's still constitutional if it's just "some women"?


And Alito said YES! That he believed then AND STILL BELIEVES NOW that an abortion restriction is ok if it significantly harms women, as long as it's just "some women."


And Biden moved on to more questions. What is it with all these dropped balls?? Why did he not then followup by reminding Alito that the constitution is there to protect INDIVIDUAL rights, not just majority rights, and why did he not then ask Alito about why a life exception is necessary? It's the same principle: if only SOME women are going to die as a result of an abortion restriction, under Alito's interpretation of "undue burden," that would be just fine. But it's NOT just fine, and the vast majority of people in this country, and EVERY court majority understands that.


Why the lack of follow-up? Arrrgh. And now I *am* kicking myself for not working in the pro-choice movement any more cause I'd be ALL OVER this one. But they didn't listen to me then, and they probably wouldn't today either.


So anyway. What this means is we can say GOODBYE to health and life exceptions to abortion laws. Who cares if just SOME women die?


Unbelievable.


___________________


I'm watching the re-broadcast of the hearings on cspan.org and I have to stay awake at least until they rebroadcast the Graham questioning, still about an hour away... cause that's the point at which, apparantly, Alito's wife broke down crying and ran out of the room.


(why? Because Graham was expressing condolences to Alito that he was being found "guilty by association" by Democrats who were questioning him about his membership in a group that discriminated quite blatantly against women, racial minorities, and gays. And not just his membership, but trumpetting his membership in a job application with the Reagan administration. And now claiming no memory of belonging to the group, or the group's activities or discriminatory positions).


________________________


I've gotten no work done the past two days, and some of it's because of personal life distractions, but mostly it's because I've been glued to the Alito hearings, not wanting to let a day pass without either watching the hearings or reading the transcripts all the way through.

_________________________


Wow. I thought *I* got pissed today. Watching Specter and Kennedy going at it was one of the most beautiful political battles I've ever seen on C-SPAN. Nice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito: Beware The Elements In The Atmosphere!

My "WTF????" moment came, while reading the transcript of today's Alito hearings, when I hit this part of the transcript:

KOHL: Judge Alito, you stated in that same job application that one element of the conservative philosophy that you believed, quote, "very strongly," was the, quote, "legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values," unquote.


KOHL: What traditional values were you referring to? And who decides what is a, quote, "traditional value"?


ALITO: Well, again, I'm trying to remember what I thought about that 20 years ago, and I'm trying to reconstruct it.


I think a traditional value that I probably had in mind was the ability to live in peace and safety in your neighborhood. And that was a big issue during the time of the Warren court. And it was still a big issue in 1985 when I wrote that statement, because that was a time of very high crime rates. I think that's a traditional value.


I think the ability of people to raise a family and raise their children in accordance with their own beliefs is a traditional value.


I think the ability to raise children in a way that they're not only subjected to -- they're spared physical threats, but also psychological threats that can come from elements in the atmosphere, is a traditional value.

I think that the ability to practice your own conscience is a traditional value.


That's the best I can reconstruct it now, thinking back to 1985.


KOHL: Very good.

_____________


Very good? What do you mean very good??? Why didn't you ask him what the hell he meant by "psychological threats that can come from elements in the atmosphere"???


You mean, like, being near gay people can give you cooties? What the HELL does it mean?

_______________

On a lighter note, there was Alito's introduction of the "superduper precedent" lingo, followed by this dialogue:

SPECTER: Judge Alito, during the confirmation hearing of Chief Justice Roberts, I displayed a chart. I don't ordinarily like charts but this one I think has a lot of weight because it lists all 38 cases which have been decided since Roe where the Supreme Court of the United States had the opportunity to -- Senator Hatch is in the picture now.

(LAUGHTER)


It's a good photo op for Senator Hatch. Senator Leahy's complaining...


(LAUGHTER)


LEAHY: We can just balance it on Orrin's head.


(LAUGHTER)


SPECTER: Well, I think the point of it is that there have been so many cases, so many cases: 15 after your statement in 1985 that I'm about to come to, and eight after Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which is why it has a special significance.


SPECTER: And I'm not going to press the point about super- precedent. I'm glad I didn't have to mention super-duper; that you did.


(LAUGHTER)


Thank you very much.

______________________________________


On a more serious note, Schumer really laid into Alito, asking him over and over again not to dodge the abortion question, but Alito dodged and dodged and dodged and it was a great showdown.


We're so fucked.

________________________________________

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

War On Christmas, My Ass

At first, it all just amused me. Up until this year, the battle cry of fundamentalist evangelical Christians around Christmas time has been "stop commercializing Christmas!" and they didn't WANT Christmas to be all about shopping and festive decorations. But now they're completely contradicting their past stance, arguing that Christmas should be MORE commercialized, and condemning Wal-Mart type megastores for not playing up the commercialization of xmas even more.

Huh?

But I've stopped laughing as the hideous "War on Christmas" uproar has grown. Because I'm realizing how very dangerous this all is. Corporate America is starting to react, bending over backwards to replace the previous benign and inclusive "Happy Holiday" greetings with "Merry Christmas" again, pandering to the extremist fundamentalist bullies.


As a result, Jews and other non-Christians are once again slighted.


Who cares what happens in the stores? It's not about the stores. It's about how scarily successful religious extremists are, time after time, at convincing society -- from legislatures to voters to corporate America -- that unless you adopt a Christian-ONLY stance toward everything, you are discriminating AGAINST Christians. That the failure to promote their narrow agenda as the only valid agenda, their holiday as the only holiday, their relationships as the only valid relationships... on and on... you are somehow threatening THEM.


You dare to love someone of the same-sex? You're threatening THEIR marraiges. BWAH?? You dare to spread a holiday message that is inclusive of Jewish people and people of other religions and you've declared a WAR on Christmas?


What scares me is that their rhetoric remains so very unchallenged for what it is. To equate diversity and inclusiveness with their purported martyrdom is to put everyone who is not JUST LIKE THEM in danger of becoming second class citizens... because they, sadly, are the ones setting the agenda of our government these days.


Fuck your war on Christmas, you bigots. May you get run over by a herd of reindeer with a bad case of the runs on your way to church this Sunday. All of you.


My Jewish family deserves a happy holidays too, thank you very much, and if you wanna turn that into a war.... go live in Nazi Germany.

It Was Illegal When Nixon Did It; It's Illegal When Bush Does It.

Senate Floor Speech By Senator ROBERT BYRD

December 19, 2005


Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous President. It has become apparent that this Administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our Country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution.


We have been stunned to hear reports about the Pentagon gathering information and creating databases to spy on ordinary Americans whose only sin is choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Those Americans who choose to question the Administration's flawed policy in Iraq are labeled by this Administration as "domestic terrorists."


We now know that the F.B.I.'s use of National Security Letters on American citizens has increased one hundred fold, requiring tens of thousands of individuals to turn over personal information and records. These letters are issued without prior judicial review, and provide no real means for an individual to challenge a permanent gag order.


Through news reports, we have been shocked to learn of the CIA's practice of rendition, and the so-called "black sites," secret locations in foreign countries, where abuse and interrogation have been exported, to escape the reach of U.S. laws protecting against human rights abuses.


We know that Vice President Dick Cheney has asked for exemptions for the CIA from the language contained in the McCain torture amendment banning cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. Thank God his pleas have been rejected by this Congress.


Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order, that President Bush has circumvented both the Congress and the courts. He has usurped the Third Branch of government ­ the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people ­ by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the People's Branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the President, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.


What is the President thinking? Congress has provided for the very situations which the President is blatantly exploiting. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, housed in the Department of Justice, reviews requests for warrants for domestic surveillance. The Court can review these requests expeditiously and in times of great emergency. In extreme cases, where time is of the essence and national security is at stake, surveillance can be conducted before the warrant is even applied for.


This secret court was established so that sensitive surveillance could be conducted, and information could be gathered without compromising the security of the investigation. The purpose of the FISA Court is to balance the government's role in fighting the war on terror with the Fourth Amendment rights afforded to each and every American.


The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the President that amount to little more than "trust me." But, we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the Administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.


When asked yesterday what the source of this authority was, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had no answer. Secretary Rice seemed to insinuate that eavesdropping on Americans was acceptable because FISA was an outdated law, and could not address the needs of the government in combating the new war on terror. This is a patent falsehood. The USA Patriot Act expanded FISA significantly, equipping the government with the tools it needed to fight terrorism. Further amendments to FISA were granted under the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In fact, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission noted that the removal of the pre-9/11 "wall" between intelligence officials and law enforcement was significant in that it "opened up new opportunities for cooperative action."


The President claims that these powers are within his role as Commander in Chief. Make no mistake, the powers granted to the Commander in Chief are specifically those as head of the Armed Forces. These warrantless searches are conducted not against a foreign power, but against unsuspecting and unknowing American citizens. They are conducted against individuals living on American soil, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is nothing within the powers granted in the Commander in Chief clause that grants the President the ability to conduct clandestine surveillance of American civilians. We must not allow such groundless, foolish claims to stand.


The President claims a boundless authority through the resolution that authorized the war on those who perpetrated the September 11th attacks. But that resolution does not give the President unchecked power to spy on our own people. That resolution does not give the Administration the power to create covert prisons for secret prisoners. That resolution does not authorize the torture of prisoners to extract information from them. That resolution does not authorize running black-hole secret prisons in foreign countries to get around U.S. law. That resolution does not give the President the powers reserved only for kings and potentates.


I continue to be shocked and astounded by the breadth with which the Administration undermines the constitutional protections afforded to the people, and the arrogance with which it rebukes the powers held by the Legislative and Judicial Branches. The President has cast off federal law, enacted by Congress, often bearing his own signature, as mere formality. He has rebuffed the rule of law, and he has trivialized and trampled upon the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed to Americans by the United States Constitution.


We are supposed to accept these dirty little secrets. We are told that it is irresponsible to draw attention to President Bush's gross abuse of power and Constitutional violations. But what is truly irresponsible is to neglect to uphold the rule of law. We listened to the President speak last night on the potential for democracy in Iraq. He claims to want to instill in the Iraqi people a tangible freedom and a working democracy, at the same time he violates our own U.S. laws and checks and balances? President Bush called the recent Iraqi election "a landmark day in the history of liberty." I dare say in this country we may have reached our own sort of landmark. Never have the promises and protections of Liberty seemed so illusory. Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.


These renegade assaults on the Constitution and our system of laws strike at the very core of our values, and foster a sense of mistrust and apprehension about the reach of government.


I am reminded of Thomas Payne's famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls."


These astounding revelations about the bending and contorting of the Constitution to justify a grasping, irresponsible Administration under the banner of "national security" are an outrage. Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time to ask hard questions of the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA. The White House should not be allowed to exempt itself from answering the same questions simply because it might assert some kind of "executive privilege" in order to avoid further embarrassment.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Whatcha Got, Ayotte?

What a fun dilemma the Supreme Court is facing!

After listening to the oral arguments of the Ayotte case (kudos to CSPAN for getting the Court to agree for only the third time in history to release the audiotape the day after the hearing!), it appears that:

- A majority of the court agrees that the New Hampshire parental notification statute is unconstitutional as applied to medical emergencies, since it lacks a health exception.

- The Court is torn on how to remedy the problem.

The statute has a severability clause, but as the justices pointed out, you can't sever something that ISN'T THERE. Which leaves them with two options:

- They could give Planned Parenthood the relief requested and COMPLETELY strike down the statute; or...

- They could, in issuing a ruling more favorable to the state, legislate from the bench by either ordering the legislature to write in a health exception against the legislature's will or declaring the statute unconstitutional as applied to health emergencies, again by default rewriting the statute in a way the legislature clearly did not intend.

In other words, to give the anti-choice side even a partial victory (i.e., not a complete loss), they would have to engage in *gasp* judicial activism!

I'm loving it. Your choice, you foes of choice, is this: accept complete defeat, or walk away with only a partial defeat and your victory only coming through self-acknowledged judicial activism.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Fitzmas

No idea whom to credit this to. Suffice it to say I didn't write it, but I sure enjoyed it and felt it worth passing along upon receiving it in an email forward:


'Twas the night before Fitzmas, and in the White House
Every one was scared shitless, and Bush was quite soused.
The indictments were hanging like Damocles' sword
As verminous oxen prepared to be gored.


The perps were all sleepless, curled fetal in bed,
While visions of prison cells loomed in each head.
And Dick in his jammies and George in his lap
Were sweating and swearing and looking like crap.


When out on the web there arose such a clatter,
The blogs and the forums were buzzing with chatter.
Away to the PC Rove ran like a flash;
He booted his browser and cleared out his cache.


The rumors that flew through the cold autumn air
Made Dubya shiver with angry despair.
When what to his horror-filled eyes did he spy?
A bespectacled man with a brown suit and tie!


With an impartial manner that gave Bush the shits,
He knew in a moment it must be St. Fitz!
With unwavering voice, his indictments they came.
He cleared out his throat and he called them by name:


Now Scooter, Now Libby,
Now Blossoming Turd,
Now Cheney, dear Cheney,
Yes, you are the third.
To the bench of the court,
Up the steps, down the hall,
Now come along, come along,
Come along, all!


He then became silent and went right to work.
He filed the indictments and turned with a jerk
And, pointing his finger at justice's scale,
Said, "The people be served, and let fairness prevail."


He then left the room, to his team gave a nod,
And the sound could be heard of a crumbling facade.
And we all did exclaim, as he faded from sight
"Merry Fitzmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Fun Bush Quotes

Sorry, no links. I'm too lazy tonight and no one reads my blog anyway, from what I can tell. :)

But for the fun of it, here are some quotes from Bush, reacting to the protests against him in Argentina (as reported in yesterday's New York Times).


First, his words to the Argentinian President hosting the summit Bush was attending,


"It's not easy to host all these countries," Mr. Bush said, addressing Mr. Kirchner. "It's particularly not easy to host, perhaps, me."


And then, commenting on the anti-Bush riots that proliferated during his visit:


Look, I understand not everybody agrees with the decisions I've made, but that's not unique to Central or South America," Mr. Bush said. "Truth of the matter is, there's people who disagree with the decisions I've made all over the world."


I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An Originalist Argument Against The Confirmation Of Harriet Miers.

Well, Ann Althouse didn't take my challenge to put the nomination of Harriet Miers in its rightful context - Federalist Paper Number 76 - so I'll do it myself, though no one reads my blog :)

____________________________

The best argument against the confirmation of Harriet Miers is an originalist argument.

Let's turn to the words of one of our nation's Founders, Alexander Hamilton, who in explaining WHY the Senate has an advise and consent role in checking the powers of the President to appoint just anyone to the Supreme Court explained:


To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. . .


It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. . . He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.


(From Federalist Paper 76, emphasis added).


Yes, I do believe I hear Hamilton rolling over in his grave as I write this.


Just imagine Hamilton on the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Harriet Miers before him, trying to explain why it's good enough that as Dubya's personal lawyer for the past twenty years on and off, as someone whose heart Dubya KNOWS, why, of course she should continue to serve his interests as a Supreme Court appointee. Judicial experience? Who needs it... she put on an Ann Landers hat and wrote the "Ask the White House" column for Dubya. Isn't that good enough? Ability to engage in constitutional analysis? Feh. She'll give conservative voters the results they want, even if she has to write a Dick and Jane narrative to get there. Isn't that her right? Damn this liberal elitism anyway... what right do they have to expect someone well versed in constitutional law to serve a life term on the Court anyway. Dubya wants her, Dubya likes her, and gosh darnit, that's good enough. Why shouldn't it be?


Why not?


Ask Hamilton. Read his words again. If it doesn't describe this nomination to a tee, better than any blog or newspaper editorial, I don't know what does.


The case has been made -- there IS no case for Miers' competence as a constitutional scholar. There is no evidence she knows habeas corpus from Halliburton's copulation, no evidence she can be impartial or even the least bit skilled in her interpretation of the Constitution... there is nothing at all evidencing her ability to have warranted this brazen appointment.


If only we could bring our Founders back from the dead to give these self proclaimed conservatives a what for.


I'm really tempted to write my next article solely devoted to the matter of reclaiming originalism for those of us who actually care about the unenumerated, inalienable rights the Founders promised, the separation of powers they so carefully laid a foundation for (that are now being trampled on hideously)...


... to be a true originalist is to be horrified by this latest defiling of the Constitution and all its protections by our President.


It's time for the Democrats to join forces with the conservatives who have until now led the outcry against Harriet Miers. I don't know what they're waiting for, really. It's all there. Federalist Paper 76 versus Dick and Jane "Ask the White House."


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get why it DOES take a real scholar, if not an experienced judge -- an impartial, intelligent, reflective person of much higher caliber than Harriet Miers -- to serve on the highest court of the land.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

About Brownie

A Brownie is best when not cooked thoroughly because then it (he) looks like the pile of shit it (he) really is.


A Brownie crumbles under pressure.


When a Brownie sees a flood of water coming toward him, he just closes the oven door, whimpers and hides. And then pours himself a stiff drink.


When a Brownie bursts into wimpy crumbly pieces upon being picked up and examined, it cries out, "well what did you EXPECT me to do??"


Brownie does indeed try to lay all the blame on Blondie and Blackie. But Brownie got cooked with too much oil and is rather transparent.


Brownie didn't follow the recipe. Brownie was supposed to rise to the occasion within 72 hours of a the oven being turned on (i.e., a state of emergency declaration), but Brownie apparantly never read the damn cookbook.


Brownie wants to play with more soldiers in the future. It needs big guns to hide behind... those starving thirsty people paddling through the kitchen looking for food and water look SKEERY!


But Brownie is cooked. Burned. Done. No more horsies to play with. No more big men with guns to hide behind. No more Dubya slapping him on the back saying "you're a good man, Mikey Brown!" Just him and his tall, stiff, drink.


If only Brownie hadn't turned away those truckloads of cool drinks and hot firemen and everyone else who offered to save lives just to be rebuffed by Brownie, who likes the nice comfortable buffer of bureaucratic blockades, not dealing with the annoyances of thousands of people dying under his watch and pesky volunteers who keep calling him offering to help. Whew. Thank god THAT's over.


Poor Brownie. Too bad his predecessor didn't warn him that things aren't as simple as when they were college roommates, that sometimes big hurricanes DO happen and Brownies can't just sit around growing stale.


But that's the way the cookie crumbles. Everyone gets their just desserts in the end.