THE WATERING HOLE

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. (United States Constitution (1787) Article 3, Section 1.)

The Constitution does not state the number of Justices on the Supreme Court. If Congress wanted to, it could let Scalia’s seat remain vacant indefinitely.

We have entered an era of brazen partisanship on the part of the extreme right-wing, funded and fueled by an oligarchy who have openly declared class warfare on everyone else. The oligarchy controls so much wealth they write the laws that in turn increase their holdings.

Favorable rulings by the Supreme Court allowed them to further tighten their grasp of our government. And, over the years, Republicans have slowly but steadily moved the federal court system to the right, to supporting corporations over people, the rich and powerful over everyone else. Case in point: class action lawsuits are becoming a thing of the past. Odds are, if you have any credit card or cell phone, you have a contract waiving your right to class action lawsuits, and waiving your right to go to court.

That’s right. In far too many instances, you cannot go to court to take on a multinational corporation. Your legal rights have been privatized – you must go to arbitration, an alternative system of justice where the arbitrator’s power may be virtually unlimited – the power to ignore the law, and to ignore the facts. And it’s damn-near impossible to get a court to overturn an arbitrator’s decision. Oh, and you have to pay for the arbitrator. The privatizing of justice, in the civil arena.

In the criminal arena, we already know that we have privatized prisons. The only legal form of slavery in the world.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. (United States Constitution, XIII Amendment, Section 1.)

Private, for profit prisons, where someone could be locked up for life under a “three-strikes” law.

Justice Scalia is dead, but his legacy in the form of decisions he authored, majorities he joined, lives on.

Republicans, within hours of his passing announced that they will not ratify anyone President Obama nominates. That is their right under the Constitution.

The only non-violent recourse We, the People have is to vote Republicans out of power, at every level of government. If we’re to lazy to mobilize and do just that, we get the government we deserve.

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[the opinions stated are those of the author and not necessarily that of The Zoo)

 

 

 

Sunday Roast: Antonin Scalia is no more*

Via RawStory (various headlines):

“On behalf of the court and retired justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Saturday, calling Scalia, 79, an “extraordinary individual and jurist.”

My dear old Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  So here’s me sitting quietly…

Here’s how Antonin Scalia’s death changes the balance of the court and alters the 2016 presidential race.

Minutes after Scalia’s death right-wingers seek to block nominee Obama hasn’t even appointed yet.

Obama speaks about passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.  Our President is such a kind man…

Jon Stewart shreds Scalia’s marriage-equality dissent:  “He had no problem telling voters to ‘f*ck off’ in Citizens United.  Feel the Bern…

And finally, this apropo headline from The Onion:

Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress

*HT to John Cleese in Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch for the headline of this post.

This is our daily open thread — Leave your thoughts in the comments section, while I sit here quietly.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, October 28, 2015: U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments

So many folks claim the U.S. Constitution is based on the Bible that I thought I’d check it out. Using “The Google” and other advanced research tools, I discovered a rare unpublished U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. McCarthy (1958) 357 U.S. 579, that examined the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments.

In this case, Roe, an unnamed Godless heathen atheist suspected of ties to the Communist Party challenged a subpoena issued by McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunt committee. The Supreme Court largely sided with Roe. Fortunately for McCarthy, he died about a year and a half before the decision was handed down.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the Supreme Court’s holdings. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, July 1, 2015: Activist Judges and What Can Be Done About Them

Gentle readers,

My colleagues in the 2016 presidential race are falling all over themselves because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that gays can get married. Some have called for a Constitutional Amendment to make the Justices have to run for re-election. Let’s face it, every time the Supreme Court overturns the will of the majority by telling them that what they want to do is unconstitutional, my fellow conservatives rail against this as judicial activism. Now, amending the Constitution takes a lot of effort. It’s much easier to use the remedy already in the Constitution: Impeachment. That’s right. Judges can be impeached, just like Bill Clinton. And when impeached, they can be removed from office. Just like Bill…oh, wait. He finished out his term, with a budget surplus & no war. But I digress

On Monday, one of the commenters here at The Zoo wrote, “They also intended the jurisdiction of the Judicial branch of our government to be able to settle all disputes, not just the ones you feel comfortable letting them decide.” Actually, that’s not quite true.

Let’s look at the Constitution itself, Article III to be specific:

Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

First thing to notice is there is only one court authorized in the Constitution: the Supreme Court. Congress could, if it wanted to, abolish all federal courts. More about that later.

Next, ” The judges … shall hold their offices during good behaviour…” That means they can be removed for “bad behavior”. And what is “bad behavior”? That’s pretty much up to Congress to decide. So if my Republican colleagues really want to do something meaningful, they can impeach the five Justices that voted against their long-held ability to discriminate based on gender. Frankly, given their arguments, I cannot see how they can NOT impeach those Justices. Their ruling seems to epitomize ‘bad behavior’ from the evangelical christian point of view, which demonizes homosexuality as coming from Satan Himself.

Now, let’s turn to the jurisdiction issue. What is the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court? Here’s the clincher:

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. (Section 2)

What’s that mean? It means Congress gets to make exceptions as to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Now, back to Section 1. What if Congress eliminates all federal courts except the Supreme Court? The only federal cases the Supreme Court could hear would be “cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party.” In fact, those would be the only federal cases that could be heard, period.

Then, to cap it off, under Section 2, Congress could strip away the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals from the various State Supreme Courts. And here, there’s an appealing “States’ Rights” argument: Why should States’ Supreme Courts be beholden to a Federal Supreme Court? Why should “justice” have to be meted out in Washington?

My conservative colleagues lack the intestinal fortitude and political will to reign in activist judges. When I become President, one of my first tasks will be to address the judiciary and return the courts to the founding father’s original intent: One Supreme Court, with Justices serving for life, so long as they exhibit “good behavior”.

So, come 2016, vote Briseadh na Faire for President. I’m the only candidate for President who knows what’s best for America; the only candidate who acknowledges up front that I will break each and every one of my campaign promises, and, when I do, you won’t be disappointed!

[Briseadh na Faire – it’s hard to pronounce.]

I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I approve this message.

[BriseadhNaFaireforPresidentisnotaffiliatedwithanyPolitcalActionCommitteenorhas receivedtheendorcementofTPZoonoranyotherindividualbusinessnonprofitorganizationorgod.]

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BREAKING GNUS: SUPREME COURT DOOMS U.S. TO THE WRATH OF GOD!!!!

In blatant disregard for the will of the Almighty, the Supreme Court today sanctioned same-sex marriages.

God, speaking through the voices of numerous pundits, will rain down His Righteous Wrath on the U.S. to punish the nation for allowing two people who love each other the right to get married irrespective of their genders.

From now until the end of time, every so-called natural disaster will, in truth, be God’s Punishment meted out against the United States for allowing Gay Marriage.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 30th, 2014: Jesus must be screaming

Thank you, frugalchariot, for the link that you posted on Saturday’s thread, leading me to a treasure trove of jaw-dropping info about Colorado’s latest entry in ‘Teh Crazy Game’: Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Teh Crazy is strong in Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Teh Crazy is strong in Gordon J. Klingenschmitt

Klingenschmitt is the surprise Republican primary winner for state representative in Colorado’s 15th District. The story in frugal’s link to Crooks and Liars includes an excerpt from RightWingWatch on Klingenschmitt that is loaded with links and will curl your hair. As karoli at C&L says in the article:

“This is why there should be a Great Wall between church and state that is impenetrable. This guy is a nut. He makes Rafael Cruz look sane. And he’s now a Republican candidate for state office in Colorado.”

According to the Denver Post, Colorado Republicans don’t want to claim Klingenschmitt as one of their own:

“Klingenschmitt’s rhetoric and beliefs have raised alarm with members of the Republican Party, who worry that his views might cause problems for conservatives.”

“Gordon does not speak on behalf of the Republican Party. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and dishonest,” said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.”

Klingenschmitt, a former Navy Chaplain who was court-martialed in 2006 – not for “praying in Jesus’ name” as he tells it – for disobeying a lawful order. It is against military rules to wear one’s uniform at a political event, but Klingenschmitt wore his Navy Chaplain uniform to a protest in March of 2006 – next to former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore – outside the White House. He soon launched a new career with a radio show called “The Pray in Jesus Name Project.” Again from the Denver Post:

“[Klingenschmitt’s] outspoken religious beliefs have crossed into the realm of popular politics, including homosexuality and Obama.

“Father in heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies of the Constitution — against this demon of tyranny who is using the White House,” Klingenschmitt said of the president in an episode of his show…”

According to The Public Record, Klingenschmitt has been playing the martyr ever since his court-martial, “boasting to his right-wing extremist followers that he demanded his own court martial because his superior officers prohibited him from praying in the name of Jesus.”

“Further undercutting Klingenschmitt’s claim that he sacrificed his naval career in the name of Jesus is an e-mail Vice Adm. Harvey sent to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen urging him to approve Klingenschmitt’s “involuntary release” from the Navy due to Klingenschmitt’s “lack of career potential.”

Klingenschmitt’s former supervisor in the Navy had lots to say about him as well. Still from The Public Record article (which you HAVE to read, it’s an eye-opener):

“As reported by AU, Norm Holcomb, a retired Navy chaplain who was Klingenschmitt’s boss, sent an e-mail in March 2007 to Kentucky state officials after he discovered the House of Representatives passed a resolution lauding the disgraced Navy chaplain for “service to God, country and the Commonwealth of Kentucky” and invited him to lead a prayer session.”

[excerpt from Holcomb’s email]

“We have been relatively quiet regarding our ex-chaplain’s untruthfulness and lack of honor because we are embarrassed that one of our own could display such behavior in the name of our Lord. We wanted to spare all concerned the embarrassment associated with his dishonesty. However, it now seems that it would be wrong for those of us who know the truth to remain silent. I served with him and supervised him (as best as it was possible to supervise a person who refused to submit to lawful authority) and I know about his daily dishonesty and ‘spin’ of the truth.”

Okay, so the Navy felt that Klingenschmitt lacked “career potential”, his own former supervisor states that Klingenschmitt was “untruthful” and now he’s running for public office? Coloradans, beware!

Next…

Scalia sez 'Go fuck yourselves'

Scalia, as always, sez ‘Screw you, I’m here ’til I die.’

Last week, the Supremes voted unanimously to strike down Massachusetts’ “Buffer Zone” law, which restricts anti-abortion protesters from coming within 35 feet of a women’s health clinic. According to a ThinkProgress thread from June 27th:

“The buffer zone law was struck down in a narrow ruling that suggested there are different ways to curb anti-choice harassment without restricting speech on public sidewalks…it’s still illegal to obstruct women’s access to a health clinic, thanks to a federal law that was passed in response to clinic blockades in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Naturally, Antonin Scalia took issue with some points in Chief Roberts’ opinion, and had to get his own two cents in, according to an article from aol.com:

“In a separate opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized Roberts’ opinion as carrying forward “this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

Scalia said state and local governments around the country would continue to be able to “restrict antiabortion speech without fear of rigorous constitutional review.”

The buffer-zone case began when Boston-area grandmother Eleanor McCullen and other abortion opponents sued over the limits on their activities at Planned Parenthood health centers in Boston, Springfield and Worcester. At the latter two sites, the protesters say they have little chance of reaching patients arriving by car because they must stay 35 feet not from the clinic entrances but from the driveway to those buildings’ parking lots. Patients enter the building through the parking lots, which are private property.”

[emphasis mine]

Eleanor McCullen, Nosy Parker

Eleanor McCullen, Nosy Parker

So, just because Ms. McCullen wanted to get close enough to her intended harassment victims so that they could hear her better, she sued? Yes, she and her ilk have the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but that shouldn’t mean that a total stranger should be forced to listen to her. And if she couldn’t shout loud enough from across the street, tough darts!

What makes the Supreme’s decision so much harder to swallow is the hypocrisy: the entire Supreme Court plaza is a legislated buffer zone. As Susan Milligan says in this piece from U.S. News and World Report:

“But at what point does the free speech become a barrier to a woman seeking to exercise another right, one upheld by the courts, to have an abortion? The idea that the individuals preaching against abortion on the street are merely “counseling” women is the utmost insult…[t]he idea that a complete stranger presumes to know better – and assumes that the woman in question is some kind of mindless fool who couldn’t possibly know what she is doing – is beyond arrogant.”

Every time a Christian lies in Jesus’ name, Jesus screams.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia’s Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, 9-11-13: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VOTER RESTRICTION LAWS

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court upheld the nations most onerous voter restriction laws. Dubbed the “Freedom and United Citizens Kinship Young-Old-Undocumented Act” the Ohio law requires everyone to re-register to vote by showing not only photo ID, but certified birth certificates of themselves, their parents and grandparents. The following requirements will go into effect July 1, 2014:

People who lack the proper photo ID may obtain one, free of charge, at their local DMV. They must produce a certified copy of their birth certificate to obtain the legally required ID.

People who lack certified copies of their birth certificates may obtain them, free of charge, by applying in person the county clerk’s office in the county where they were born. The must provide the county clerk with a valid Photo ID described above.

The Ohio Republican Central Committee has spent millions ahead of the effective date of this legislation providing those currently registered as Republicans with certified copies of the required birth certificates and photo IDs.

The law also denies residence status to college students living away from their parents home, and renters.

“The Constitution does not expressly grant the right to vote.” Scalia’s opinion began. The opinion noted that the “implied ‘right to vote'” could not be restricted based on race, color or condition of servitude (XV Amendment), sex (XIX Amendment), nor conditioned upon any poll tax or other tax (XXIV).

Scalia emphasized the importance of the language of the 24th Amendment and the fact that it applied only to voting for the President, Vice-President, Senators and Representatives, suggesting strongly that a poll tax for state and local elected officials would pass Constitutional muster.

The decision then went on to state that by providing the required documentation free of charge, the Ohio law was not a poll tax or other tax, no matter how onerous the condition. And residency requirements are not prohibited by the Constitution.

Within hours of the Supreme Court decision, States with Republican-held legislatures moved immediately to enact their versions of the Ohio law, adding poll taxes for State and Local elections.

The decision, Fit v. Shan, ___ USC ___ can be found HERE*.

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PONTIFICATE AWAY

*not an endorsement.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, July 10, 2013: The Handwriting on the Wall

47% of this country will not vote for Republicans. Or so Mitt Romney said behind closed doors when speaking to his wealthy benefactors. Yet Republicans are hell-bent on alienating even more of the country, attacking women’s rights, attacking immigrants, attacking minorities, attacking everyone who is not white and rich.

Why? Don’t they see the handwriting on the wall?

Yes. The do see it. And they ignore it. And rightfully so.

They are taking full advantage of the power they have to gerrymander districts and to restrict the ability of anyone who might vote against them to cast a vote. And they’ll succeed, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking out portions of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans wasted no time pushing for the very restrictions they were prevented from implementing these past 40 years. They will ram them through, just as they have rammed through new ways to legislate women’s uteruses.

Tea Party Republicans in the House signaled they are willing to hold the country in economic hostage – again – if they don’t get their way and privatize Medicare, Social Security, gut food stamps, etc.

They do all this because they firmly believe they will get re-elected. And they most likely will, no matter how many people disagree with them. Because they get to choose who votes.

The Republican efforts to “eliminate voter fraud” is itself the greatest fraud on voters – their restrictions, if successful, will allow a shrinking minority to continue to wreck havoc on the rest of this once-great country.

The only way to combat their tactics is to educate the masses to do whatever it takes to jump through the Republican-made hoops to get registered to vote, and to vote.

If we don’t, if we cannot affect change at the ballot box, what is happening in Egypt and Syria will happen here. And that is the handwriting on the wall.

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The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 8, 2013: Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

When your government, one that is supposed to be of the People, by the People, and for the People, appears to violate the Constitution and invade the privacy of the People without probable cause, should you really just trust them when they can just say they can’t tell you exactly what they’re doing because it would harm national security? Especially when, most of the time, they are not required to prove to any judge that national security really is involved? And this is despite the fact that when the Supreme Court ruled that the government can invoke such a privilege (it was not the first time it was used, simply the first time the Supreme Court said they could do it), they stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive. Unfortunately, judges generally defer to the Executive. This is a bad idea. The government doesn’t always tell the truth, which is what happened in the very case that led to recognition of the state secrets privilege. “In 2000, the [withheld classified information from the 1953 case was] declassified and released, and it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent.” So the right of the government to claim that information shouldn’t be released because it contained details whose release might be harmful to national security was based on a case where the government lied and said the release of certain information would be harmful to national security when it really wouldn’t. Doesn’t that mean they can keep anything they want secret just by invoking “state secrets,” even if it doesn’t really apply? How do you convince a judge to look at the information and challenge the government’s claims?

We recently learned that our government has been collecting “telephony metadata” on every phone call made by Verizon customers (and let’s not assume that it only applied to Verizon customers) for several years now. It is important to note that they stressed that it was important to note that they were not listening to the phone calls themselves, nor were they recording the calls so they could be listened to later, and that they were only collecting the phone number of the caller, the phone number being called, the time of day, the length of the call, and possibly the location of the parties involved (! emphasis mine). Here’s why I’m concerned (from the second link):

“But civil liberties lawyers say that the use of the privilege to shut down legal challenges was making a mockery of such “judicial oversight”. Though classified information was shown to judges in camera, the citing of the precedent in the name of national security cowed judges into submission.

The administration is saying that even if they are violating the constitution or committing a federal crime no court can stop them because it would compromise national security. That’s a very dangerous argument,” said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer with the New York-based Emery Celli firm who acts as lead counsel in the Shubert case.

“This has been legally frustrating and personally upsetting,” Maazel added. “We have asked the government time after time what is the limit to the state secrets privilege, whether there’s anything the government can’t do and keep it secret, and every time the answer is: no.”

That’s not how our country is supposed to work. We’re not supposed to have a Constitution that defines and limits our government’s powers, but then decide we’ll ignore it when it gets in the way of doing what we want to do. If you want to do a search on private information without a warrant and without probable cause, then amend the part of the Constitution that says in order to do a search on private information, you have to have a warrant and you have to have probable cause. And if you read the Constitution (which I know many Americans have not, as evidenced by what we’ve seen at Tea Party rallies), you will find that the only mention of secrecy in our government is to the part of each House of Congress’ daily journals they think should be kept secret. It mentions nothing about Executive Privilege, or state secrets, or even of any right of the President (or Vice President) to hold secret meetings and keep the advice of the unnamed guests secret. People (and by the term “People” I’m generously including Justices of the Supreme Court) seem to forget that the President of the United States, for all the power we give that office, is a Public Servant. So any advice given to the President, by anyone at all, that concerns what might be in the best interests of the People ought to be both available to the public and actually in the best interests of the people. Otherwise, the President is not being a servant of the public but a servant of a private interest, and this can not be allowed. But in order to make sure that isn’t happening, we have to have access to what was discussed in those meetings. [Discussions with military personnel would be an obvious exception, but only because the military personnel would be addressing their Commander in Chief, and would not be having domestic policy discussions.]

The argument that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about is a ridiculous one because that isn’t the point. The point is that our Constitution clearly says that not only do you have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, but that if they want to begin one, they have to get a warrant, supported by oath or affirmation, and “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (The Constitution is unclear on whether the search they can now conduct can be an “unreasonable” one. If the TV shows I’ve seen showing cops cutting open furniture, spilling powders on the floors and tables, and emptying anything that might be a container are in the least bit realistic, then it seems they are then allowed an “unreasonable” search.) So who gave the FISA Court judge a statement under oath or affirmation that says it’s necessary to know what number was called from your phone, when the call was made, how long it lasted, and where the two of you were when the conversation was taking place? The authority to conduct any such search is supposedly granted under the USA PATRIOT Act, but that law, if you know what the letters mean, is about tools for fighting Terrorism. Is there some reason the government should have the idea that you’re a terrorist? Then what business do they have keeping track of how your phone is being used?

Another false argument is that you already give your personal information away to private corporations, so what’s wrong with the government asking them to give that same information to you? What’s wrong is that a private corporation does not have the authority to throw you in jail based on what it knows about you. And for all anybody knows, it’s probably in the tiny print of that credit card agreement that you gave them permission to share everything they know about your credit card use history the first time you used it. I think it says somewhere in there that you agree to any new Terms of Use by using the card. But that’s because you didn’t equate the private corporation with your government. Perhaps that’s where you went wrong. Is there really any difference any more?

A line from the following was the inspiration for the title:

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss government surveillance or anything else that keeps you up at night.

The Watering Hole – Saturday, June 30, 2012 – GOP Is Acting Out, Again

Pity the poor Republicans. They ranted and raved since the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and swore it was an unconstitutional power grab by the already-bloated federal government, and that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other. Oh, and that abortion you wanted? Sorry, but they have about eleven hundred reasons why you shouldn’t plan on going through with it. At least, not today. But Obamacare is unconstitutional! Well, funny thing, our nation’s ultimate authority on what is and isn’t constitutional determined that, yes, indeed, Obamacare is constitutional. (Here’s a way to see the decision itself, as well as a neat word cloud of the decision.) It appears the only thing the law got wrong was on threatening states with losing their Medicaid if they didn’t comply, or something like that. Oh, and the administration’s legal rationale for why the PPACA was constitutional was wrong, too. But Chief Justice of the United States (that’s his actual title, BTW. Did you – well, all but one of you – know that? ;)) John Roberts found a way around that and said something could be collected as a tax and not under the authority of the Commerce Clause. I don’t know, I’m not trained in understanding all this legalese. All I know is that the Roberts Court just handed the Republicans a major ass-whoopin’, and they’re going all nuts saying they won’t implement the law (even though they have to), and we still think it’s unconstitutional, so we’ll just nullify it (Hello, Civil War II). And now they’re going to take a break from bashing voting citizens who are gay and/or have vaginas and repeal the entire law! Of course that’s just theater because we know perfectly well a repeal won’t pass the Democratic Senate, so why do it? I’ll tell you why. Because the Republican Party is hell-bent and determined to prove to you that government just doesn’t work, and they’ll achieve that by doing the worst possible job they can.

So, what else is on your mind? You can tell us. We’re complete strangers that you’ll probably never meet in your life. What could possibly go wrong? 😉

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

Early Patriot Plan

Glenn Beck has been bragging that he has “A Plan” for 2010 and the next 100 years. His plan is for the “Refounding” (Beck’s words not mine) of policies and principles and he envisions a “battlefield”.

The Tea Party influenced by Glenn Beck wants to take our government back to the good old days of 1776. This is the time of the original Patriots that Glenn Beck and the Tea Party members emulate. Their goal is to kick out the bums, create their own brand of government and to reduce the deficit. They speak about minimizing government by dismantling all “socialist” services provided by the government. This would include the elimination of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, public roads and public water and sewer, just to name a few. You can read the Tea Party Pledge here with the translation of this pledge here.

What the members of the Tea Party don’t want to admit is that Glenn Beck’s real “Plan” is to line his pockets with their money by staging conventions with seminars throughout 2010, none of which will be free, and by selling his new book, “The Plan”. Yes, the “Plan” is for Glenn Beck to buy fancier cars and move into bigger houses all paid for by his followers at their expense.

There can be another “Plan” which would reduce the deficit without removing the taxpayer funded services. This “Plan” would be closer to how our government operated at the time following the “Revolution” and would include:

  • Members of Congress, the Supreme Court Justices, and the President’s Cabinet paying for:
    • their own transportation to their districts,
    • the cost of attendance at events, meetings, conferences etc…,
    • their own lodging,
    • their own stamps and any other form of communication costs.

Since these benefits were not available at the birth of our nation, this other “Plan” includes reductions in these benefits by:

  • Privatizing taxpayer paid government pensions,
  • Requiring members of Congress, the Supreme Court Justices and the President’s Cabinet to pay for their own health insurance.
  • Requiring members of Congress, the Supreme Court Justices, and the President’s Cabinet be paid the minimum wage. The House in particular spends much of its time passing silly resolutions and not doing the people’s work so they certainly don’t deserve to make more money than someone working at a fast food chain.

Oddly, I have not heard any member in Congress mention the above “Plan” as a means of deficit reduction. The Republicans have included dismantling Social Security and Medicare in their deficit reduction plan and there is no mention of dismantling their taxpayer paid benefits. If the Republicans and other members of Congress are serious about decreasing the deficit by reducing entitlements, let them start by eliminating their taxpayer paid benefits first before dismantling the social safety nets paid for by taxes that benefit Americans.

Where Are They Now? Norma McCorvey

Who Were They Then?

Norma Nelson was born Sep 1947 in a small town in Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas. From the age of ten she was in and out of trouble with the law and at the age of sixteen she married Woody McCorvey, a sheet-metal worker. When he learned she was pregnant, he turned violent and she left him after only two months. She gave birth to a little girl, Melissa, who was adopted by Norma’s mother, against the baby’s father’s wishes. In 1967, Norma gave up another child, Paige, for adoption and hasn’t seen her since. Then, in 1969, after a casual fling, Norma found herself pregnant for the third time. Working in a circus, not knowing where her next meal would come from or where she would spend the night, she could not imagine bringing another child into the world. As she would later write of this time, Continue reading

Supreme Court refuses to hear Mukasey v. ACLU

The Raw Story

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Mukasey v. ACLU is the final nail in the coffin of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  An act written so broadly that it would have had the effect of reducing the internet to Romper Room.

Of course, the real purpose of COPA was not protecting children, it was an attempt to censor the content of the internet — for all Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that the Supreme Court will not hear Mukasey v. ACLU, the Bush administration’s attempt to appeal federal court rulings against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), passed by Congress in 1998 after the fall of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional,” said ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel Chris Hansen. “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”

If parents are worried about what their little tykes might see or do on the internet, then get the computers out of kids’ bedrooms, and into the family room.  That way everyone knows when little Johnny finds Daddy’s porn collection.  It’s really not that hard to figure out…

COPA, as codified, would have made it an offense punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and/or up to 6 months’ imprisonment for transmitting “any material that is harmful to minors” for commercial purposes on the World Wide Web if not put behind a safeguard such as a requirement for payment or a special access code. Additional fines would have been levied for “intentionally” violating the law.

Material deemed “harmful to minors” under COPA included written, photographic, recorded and otherwise “communicated” material that, based on the average person’s interpretation of “contemporary community standards,” is “obscene” or “designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest.” The law further reads that any material that “depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast,” that “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”

That. Could. Be. Anything.

Supreme Court hears amputee’s case involving drug labels and possible limits on lawsuits

NPR

The Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case involving drug labels and the Food and Drug Administration. The result could limit liability claims against drugmakers, if one of their medicines causes harm. The case pits Wyeth Pharmaceuticals against a musician who lost part of an arm after she was improperly injected with an anti-nausea drug made by the company.

A Vermont musician who lost her arm because of a botched drug injection is squaring off against a drug maker and the Bush administration in one of the most closely watched business cases of the Supreme Court’s term.

At issue is whether the federal government can limit lawsuits by consumers like Diana Levine who have been harmed by prescription medications.

The justices are hearing arguments in Levine’s case Monday, shortly after the court announces whether it will accept other cases for argument sometime next year.

Continue reading

Supreme Court allows retiree benefit cuts

David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
(via The Raw Story)

Have you just turned 65? Have you noticed that your retirement health benefits have evaporated? Hey, no problem! The Supreme Court says it’s ok!

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday gave employers a green light to reduce health benefits for millions of retirees who turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. The justices turned away a legal challenge from AARP, the nation’s leading senior citizens lobby, which had contended these lower benefits for older retirees violated the federal law against age discrimination.

The court’s action upholds, in effect, a rule adopted last year by federal regulators that says the “coordination of retiree health benefits with Medicare” is exempt from the anti-age-bias law.

Once again, the Supreme Court of this land covers the hineys of big business at the expense of the individual.

Employers in California, large and small, say benefits for retirees already have become a casualty of soaring medical costs.

“In some cases, it’s become a millstone around their necks,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “Corporations aren’t all heartless, but in many cases, you’re competing with multinational corporations that don’t have quite the obligations that domestic firms have.”

That’s why domestic firms have to go after the necks of the 65+ — they have to be able to compete with the big dogs.

The legal dispute highlights what some say is a gap in the law. Employers are not required by law to pay for health benefits for their employees or their retirees. And in most instances, they are free to change their benefit policies or to drop coverage they had previously offered.

Bill Raabe, director of collective bargaining for the National Education Assn., agreed that employers needed the freedom to adjust benefits for retirees who qualify for Medicare. “The practical effect of any law that requires employers to provide identical benefits for pre- and post-Medicare-eligible retirees would be the erosion of post-retirement healthcare benefits for all,” he said.

Nevermind the fact that the employers have played “bait and switch” with their retirement packages….look, something shiny!

David Sloane, AARP’s senior vice president, said the court battle shows a need for Congress to take up healthcare reform. “We have an entirely voluntary system” where employers provide healthcare if they choose to, he said. “This is the fundamental problem we are dealing with. One way to solve the problem would be for Congress to pass comprehensive healthcare legislation.”

Ahhhh, the free market. It’s an amazing thing…but not in a good way.

Go here to read the whole story.