Jan 28 2010

Alito Mouths Truth To Perversity

Tag: legalities,politicsDonna B. @ 9:43 pm

It is appalling that President Obama, with his background, cannot — or refuses — to speak accurately about a Supreme Court decision:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

Full text of 2009 State Of The Union address

Alito’s reaction

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (pdf)

You know my opinion. Read and view the above links and decide for yourself.

Jan 07 2010

I’m Legal

Tag: legalitiesDonna B. @ 4:16 pm

Like totally. Registered, licensed, inspected. All in one state!

Mar 15 2009

Constitutional Originalism And… Whatever

Tag: guns,legalities,legislationDonna B. @ 3:25 am

There is nothing important I disagree with in Comrade PhysioProf’s essay — Constitutional Originalism, Natural Law, and the Ninth Amendment, except an apparent inability (or unwillingness) to discern whose ox is being gored.

He is arguing that “textual originalism” is a convenient tool for conservatives:

This provides a theoretical basis for conservative claims that there is no Constitutionally protected right to many things they despise: gay marriage, abortion, health care, housing, food, etc.

As far as marriage is concerned, the government should be involved only so far as it is a contract between two people. The states have defined this contract differently, some are community property states, some are not. Divorce is the legal dissolution of that contract. That’s as far as the government has any say in marriage as far as I’m concerned. It should in no way be involved in defining who can get married beyond setting an age limit, as it already does, of who can legally be a party to a contract.

That some people wish to have their marriage recognized by their church and are willing to accept further constraints due to religion are outside the realm of government. Government should not enforce a doctrine of religion. I believe that’s covered in the 1st Amendment.

Abortion is a bit different because it involves death of living tissue and pits the rights of one against another. Some will argue that it is only the death of a living tissue which, if such life were protected would mean it would be illegal to kill a mosquito. Others argue that because the tissue is human it has special status and protection. Government, especially the federal government should not be involved in defining where life begins.

I see a role for government only after the fetus is capable of survival outside the mother’s body. After that point, to me at least, it is obviously murder of a helpless individual and the government should and must protect that individual. This is not representative of my personal moral preference (no abortion ever unless the mother will die because of the pregnancy) but my view of where government has the authority to intervene.

Now I address whether there is a protected right to health care under the 9th Amendment. The idea that government cannot make a law denying health care to any group or individual is certainly protected. Does this mean that government has a duty to make laws mandating health care for every individual? Frankly, can anyone define what health care actually is?

Is it possible that mandating health care of certain types violates some of the enumerated rights? Why, yes it is. While I personally advocate for mandated vaccinations to increase herd immunity, I do not think that government should be able to force anyone to inject something into their body that they do not wish to. On the other hand, I can see where government has a right to refuse some services to people who wish to exercise this right.

Left out of Comrade PhysioProf’s list is whether there is a right to education. Most states (not necessarily the federal government) mandate education for their citizens to a great degree. Parents are punished for not sending their children to school or otherwise providing a state-sanctioned education. When public tax dollars are used to provide education, I see no problem with requiring vaccinations in order to partake of publically funded education.

Housing. Is there a natural right to housing? Further, is there a natural right to a certain standard of housing? What is this standard? Must this standard include ownership? Do SROs meet this standard? Damn, this is almost as sticky as abortion, is it not? Or… perhaps it is stickier. Should the federal government require the Amish have electricity? Some of my most idyllic memories of childhood are living in a place with no electricity and no running water. I realize now how much work my mother put into taking care of me in such circumstances, but in no way do I feel deprived for having experienced them. Rather, I feel privileged.

I once worked for a social service agency that perceived its continuing existence in providing housing. The working motto for the agency’s CEO was that any housing she would not be comfortable in was inacceptable for any of her clients. That is truly unrealistic, IMHO, although it is understandable. 

It is an unfortunate fact that federal government mandated housing has not been a success. I’m enough of an idealist to wish it had, but enough of a realist to realize it’s failed. There is no natural right to a defined standard of housing, however much I wish it to be so.

Food. Calories, to be exact. Should the federal government concern itself with providing a given number of calories to every citizen? Should the federal government concern itself with providing a certain quality of calories to every citizen? Should access to vitamins be a right? See above, where I  comment on the mandating of vaccinations, and then consider whether government is empowered by natural law to limit or mandate the consumption of any substance.

It should be obvious by now that I favor little intervention in our lives by government. It’s also imperative that I address the 2nd Amendment, which was not addressed by our dear Comrade, but was by one of the commenters,  Dr Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde:

(Ignore the social conservative agenda of gays and abortions here; I’m talking about guns, unemployment assistance, business regulations, etc.)

Let’s address this parenthetical comment in a backwards manner. I’m not adverse to business regulations. Multiple posts could be generated on how I think business should be regulated and these matters are not addressed by the first ten amendments. Secondly, I’m going to address unemployment assistance separately.

But… guns……. ah, the 2nd Amendment. I personally think it addresses the right of individuals acting collectively to prevent a tyrannical government – ie, one which espouses taxation without representation, one which imposes limits on personal freedoms, one which mandates behavior, etc. It hails the idea that government should not control violence. If government is the only wielder of violence, what recourse does the citizen have? None…?

What the 2nd Amendment does not explicitly cover is the right to self-defense. This is, IMHO, covered by the 9th Amendment. Between the two, guns and their cousins (knives, blunt objects, baseball bats, mace, and tasers) are implements that are covered by both.

It is, to me, obnoxious, that humans do not have a right to self-defense, either of their corporal body or their form of government.

Let us not forget that icon of privacy, the 3rd Amendment. This is, IMHO, along with the 4th Amendment that a man’s or woman’s… ie, a citizen’s house is their castle.

Unemployment assistance — is there a right to a job and/or an income? hmm… This is actually a question of insurance, because that is what unemployment assistance is. It is insurance against a downturn of business success. It does not guarantee assistance if the employee was fired because he stole from the business or failed to perform in a way that assisted the maintenance or growth of the business.

Businesses pay premiums, generally based on their unemployment claims statistics, to a state insurance fund. Where is there a right to a job or to unemployment compensation? It is a monetary decision on the part of both the state and the business, is it not?

Is there a right to employment? Can the federal government compel you to hire any given individual? If not, there is not federal mandate for unemployment assistance. It is strictly the business of insurance, is it not?

Now… really… don’t get me started on insurance. Really. It is, IMHO (as so much of this essay is) a protection racket. No… don’t encourage me!!

While I maintain that Comrade PhysioProf is not necessarily wrong, I also maintain that there is no evidence of a definitive answer in the essay. Progressive is a noun as meaningless as Conservative. Neither offers an answer that should be written in stone. Or law.

Dr. Isis pointed me to Comrade PhysioProf… and I suggest that everyone read Dr. Isis because she wears really hot shoes and does really hot science.

Feb 20 2009

In A Honda Civic?

Tag: humor,legalities,sillinessDonna B. @ 2:11 am

Leadfoot is likely a genetic disorder found in most humans, though it’s precise location has not yet been documented. However, humans have much more information about the genetic code of a 1993 Honda Civic and it’s generally accepted that without unusual genetic alteration, you won’t clock one at 137 mph(via Drudge, via Althouse)

I once owned a 1993 Ford Taurus SHO, a pretty red one. I’ll have to look through my photos, but I don’t remember one of the car. But I loved that car. 220 HP compared to the 160 HP of a 1993 Honda Civic.

If I remember correctly, the highest speed on the SHO’s odometer was 140 mph. (NOTE: My children and any law enforcement officers must stop reading at this point.) I never pegged it, but only fear stopped me. There’s a great stretch of I-49 where you can see a long long way and it ends in a very steep exit. When there were no other cars in sight, I would floorboard my little red SHO and let her go. I usually got to the exit at around 130 mph and chickened out. The car would definitely have gone faster.

My husband maybe got the car up a little faster racing (again on the then relatively deserted I-49), of all cars, a Hyundai Sonata. At that speed, it didn’t feel like the tires were actually in steady contact with the roadway. We were, um… flying. Anyway, he chickened out then too saying “Our income depends on my CDL and we can’t afford a ticket!” The SHO “felt” best and drove best at 90 mph. I don’t think a cop would ever have accepted that defense, but it was true!

The only reason I’m not still driving my little red SHO is because the AC went kaplooie. We live in Louisiana. The estimate for repairing the A/C was about $4000 which was absolutely frickin’ ridiculous. My Dad was about to trade in his 1993 Sedan Deville which carried about the same Blue Book value as my SHO, so we switched cars and he traded in the SHO.

I’d probably still be driving the 93 Cadillac if someone hadn’t t-boned it in 2003. I’d finally learned that if I wanted to pass someone in that underpowered V6 hulkmobile, it had to be downhill and downwind. It did get excellent gas mileage. It was also difficult to keep on the road because of the strange steering system. Yes, I could make a U-turn on a two lane highway without using both shoulders, but the “drift and float” was horrible.

With the insurance check in hand, I went used car shopping. I almost got a 1999 Audi, but researching maintenance costs made me doubt it’s utility. After shopping for two weeks, I settled on another Cadillac, but this 1998 model has a Northstar engine. Mmm… horsepower! I can pass! I can merge! Oh yeah, baby all that is worth it even if I do have to back up to turn around on a two lane highway. Sixty thousand miles later, I’m still pretty happy with it.

We haven’t bought a new vehicle since 1991 – an F150 with over 400,000 miles on and still running. But… for the first time in AGES, I want a new car – a 2010 Taurus SHO.  I want. Barack, Daddy, anyone?

Nov 24 2008

A Challenge!

Tag: History,legalities,ResponsibilityDonna B. @ 12:44 pm

If you haven’t read about it yet, Americans have failed civics. I specifically challenge my family to take this test. C’mon, it’s only fair! After all, the J.D.s beat the H.S. grads in Spades this weekend, so I challenge all my college graduate relatives to beat my H.S. score

Here’s the test link. There are only 33 questions, so it won’t take long.

Here’s what you’ve got to beat:

You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

Average score for this quiz during November: 78.1%
Average score: 78.1%

I’m not telling which one I missed until I get your scores! I will say that it was a choice between two possibilities, and true to form, I chose the incorrect one.

Have fun! And you don’t have to be family to participate in my strange desire to be outscored.

Nov 16 2008

Religion, Ancestry, and Gays

Tag: computers & internet,genealogy,legalities,religionDonna B. @ 2:19 am

One of the internet sites I actually pay to use is Ancestry.com. I haven’t looked into the ownership, but I suspect it is supported, if not owned by the Mormon church.

Census records are public domain, but indexes and databases derived from them are not. It takes an incredible amount of work to digitize and index the census records. I am grateful that it has been done and is accessible in a format that allows me to track my family’s history easily.

I said easily, not perfectly. There are a lot of areas where Ancestry.com can improve; their search engine is #1.

Keep that in mind while I’m telling you that I’ve never been a fan of the Mormon church and actually got kicked out of their education classes when I was 14 because I asked ‘uncomfortable’ questions.

Forgive me, I’d just read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I was also a bit of a jerk. It hit home when my good friend was no longer allowed to associate with me and that damped a lot of fire in my protest. I wondered if I’d inadvertantly done harm where none was intended.

In some ways, it would be fine with me if all organized religion were to disappear. Much human blood has been shed for what I see as minute theological differences. But I’d be a bit of a hypocrite for taking advantage of the work of an organized religion for my personal needs (and paying them for the privilege) wouldn’t I?

One of the few persons that I have shared the deepest, darkest, and brightest moments of my life with was a gay man who shared the same with me. Our friendship was short because he could not flourish in a small town environment in the early 1970s. I miss him because it’s not easy to find that kind of friendship regardless of gender. He’s the girlfriend I have never quite had since.

So… I am left wondering if I am betraying his friendship by financially supporting a church whose theology I have never accepted and which uses those finances to support an agenda that might hurt my friend.

At the same time, I wonder why any gay or lesbian person would want to participate in a religious sacrament that specifically excludes them, or to subscribe to a theology that classifies their desire and love for another human being as a sin.  

Marriage and committment are a state of mind. Frankly, one does not need a paper or a ring to love and commit. That these symbols are relevant is a desire to proclaim such, not a requirement for their existence. These symbols are not meaningless, far from it. But they do not have to be issued by the state.

The real sticking point for me is that without some changes in laws, homosexual partners do not have protection from spousal abuse. That is where I think the state needs to intervene. Homosexuality does not confer one with sainthood, and there are those, both male and female, who are abused by their partners, but not welcome at domestic abuse shelters because of their gender and/or sexual orientation.

For a rambling essay with random thoughts, this is a pretty good one, eh?

I’m not ready to boycott Ancestry.com because of the Mormon church’s stand on marriage. I may disagree, but I’m willing to to pay for a service I consider valuable. (Don’t raise the price, I could change my mind.)

I am ready to say that if you do not agree with a particular religion, do not join that church. We hear so often that this country was founded because people wanted to have freedom of religion. That includes not joining any religion. So don’t join. Establish your own. I won’t join if I disagree. But we can still be friends, can’t we?

UPDATE: a commenter corrects me:

Donna, you are completely incorrect about Ancestry.com being owned by the LDS Church. I know because I am an employee of Ancestry’s parent corporation, The Generations Network (www.tgn.com) which is in turn owned by Spectrum Equity Investors.


Jun 27 2008

2nd Amendment Really Is About An Individual Right

Tag: guns,legalities,politicsDonna B. @ 1:38 am

My headline originally used the word “confer” in stating what the 2nd Amendment does. But that is wrong — the Bill of Rights enumerates rights already possessed and limits the government’s ability to take them away.

It’s not that legislatures won’t try and judges won’t agree with them. Or that legislatures will try to make laws that further insure these rights and judges will disagree with them. The Constitution may not be a “living” document, but interpretation and (misinterpretation) of it are alive and well.

For the best commentary from people who actually know what they are talking about, head on over to The Volokh Conspiracy

Mar 05 2008

Accountability, Not Exciting

Tag: legalities,politics,Shreveport/LouisianaDonna B. @ 6:11 pm

It’s certainly needed, as Jeff Sadow points out.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton could have changed her vote for the Iraq war to ensure that it would happen, then could change her vote to be able to campaign that she voted against it.

It gives a whole new meaning to “I voted for it before I voted against it.”

Requiring complete consistency for politicians (or anyone else) is unreasonable. Anybody should be able to change their mind, but I expect a legislator to have thought about the matter up for vote and to vote honestly as MY representative, not as a representative of their future personal gains, such as re-election. I’d like to think they thought about carefully enough not to change their mind 8 hours (or less) later.

Feb 19 2008

New Legal Search Engine

Tag: legalitiesDonna B. @ 4:13 pm

via Volokh, PreCYdent is up and running in an ”alpha” version. This should interest 2 or 3 of my readers. (ed. – you have readers?)

For myself, it’s absolutely wonderful. I like being able to go to the source of something and reading it in context rather than having to rely on someone else’s choice of excerpts and their interpretation.

I’m even dorky enough to have read law review journals other than the one my daughter edited a while back. (Note to new editors – time to update the site!!)

Now, maybe someone will work on getting medical research freely available and easily searchable.

Then, I’ll never leave the computer!