December 17, 2005

Tip of the Iceberg? That's what investigative journalist Murray Waas concludes about the latest story that several conservative pundits were on the take from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. There are, of course, entire blogs and websites that do little more than regurgitate K-Street propaganda (there's even a term for it: "astroturfing"), and outlets like FoxNews and the Heritage Foundation pretty much exist for the purpose of providing a veneer of legitimacy for a specific point-of-view. Until I see evidence to the contrary, the presumption should always be that any Beltway pundit is on the take.

December 16, 2005

Mortgage companies (and their allies, foreclosure trustees) tend to among the biggest employers in bankruptcy law, so I had a lot of experience with their seemingly limitless patience in dealing with delinquent accounts. The mantra I used to hear from my firm's biggest client at the time, Freddie Mac, was that "we just want the money, not the house," so my job (I represented instiutional lenders at the time) was twofold.

If the homeowner filed a Chapter 7, I was to get the home out of the bankruptcy completely, so my client could proceed to do what it needed to do under state law (ie., foreclose). However, if the debtor was repaying the outstanding arrearage in a Chapter 13, but fell behind on the plan, my task was to convince the homeowner to buy into an "adequate protection" order. The debtor agreed to pay off the new debt over a six-month period, the creditor continued to receive payments, at least for a time, that reduced the payoff balance, and no one had to take the onerous steps necessary to foreclose on the residence. It's been a few years, but it's interesting to see that they still haven't made foreclosing an efficient process.
Domestic spying? What's next, "enemies lists"? "Plumbers"?
It's not just a bunch of lefty historians who believes George Bush is the bottom of the Presidential barrel. According to this poll, so does the American people.

December 15, 2005

Love, it would seem, is not the only thing you can't hurry....
Of the 27 victims murdered by the twelve people executed by the State of California (incl. the late Mr. Williams), not a single one was African-American. That, and not the fact that Tookie Williams lent his name to a series of childrens' books, is why the death penalty must end.
Even paranoids have real enemies: Just because most of the blogging that mentions "Diebold" is little more than the left-liberal version of "Intelligent Design" doesn't mean there isn't some reason for concern.

December 14, 2005

On even the littlest things, we are governed by jackasses. Plans for the World Baseball Championship hit a snag when the U.S. Treasury Dept. announced that Cuba would not be allowed to send a baseball team, due to the longstanding embargo. Years of detachment from the rest of the human race has atrophied the Cuban baseball program, to the extent that they now have a hard time winning the Olympics against amateurs from Canada and Australia (and losing to a U.S. minor league team in 2000), and they would likely get rolled in this tournament, but even that isn't enough for the Bushies.

December 13, 2005

Well, as long as we secular humanists have declared war on Christmas, there's no one better to have in the trenches than Stephen Reinhardt.
Now that Tookie Williams is dead, the Loony Left can now preoccupy itself with some other embarassing cause, like how we were cheated in Ohio last time (screw Diebold, Smythe...what about Mumia ?!?). Opponents of the death penalty spend years slowly building a consensus, against an overwhelming initial tide of public opinion, against the barbarity, calling into question our ability to guard against the execution of the innocent, its disproportionate application against minorities and the poor, the correlation between quality of legal representation and the imposition of the death penalty, and thereby gradually creating a remarkeable shift in public attitudes against capital punishment. And then Tookie comes along, and the efforts of so many are dashed, perhaps for a generation.

The clemency decision wasn't a hard call for the Governator. Whether the kiddie books were a p.r. stunt to avoid the needle (like his apparently bogus claim that he was a "co-founder" of the Crips), or a sincere effort to warn others about the gang lifestyle, it has nothing to do with whether he should have received clemency. The people who were loudest in calling for clemency were never going to vote for Ziffel anyway. The fact that the late Mr. Williams may have mellowed during his sixth decade on this planet wasn't going to change any minds among the rest of the public, who don't forget the fate of his victims quite as easily.

Williams needed to atone for the murders he committed, and he needed to show remorse for his life as a mob boss by breaking the code of omerta. He didn't, and up to 'til his final breath continued to raise "guilty man" defenses to his own crimes, such as jury composition and jailhouse snitches. Those are important defenses, mind you, and any self-respecting progressive must continue to demand that any accused be accorded due process, a fair trial, a non-prejudiced jury, and all the other accoutrements of a modern justice system. And whether the white jury was biased in favor of executing a black multiple murderer should be considered a relevant issue on appeal, even if we assume the defendant was guilty. But very few people are going to the barricades on the issue of whether an African-American mobster should receive clemency because he got convicted for the wrong murders.

What was important, at the very end, was not whether his trial was perfect, or the witnesses against him of sterling character, but whether he killed four people. He refused, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to acknowledge that guilt, so the question of whether his recent acts were real or P.R. was never reached. So, in the end, he died, like the tens of thousands of others whose lives have been graced by their association with the Crips.

December 12, 2005

One of the most dispiriting, soulcrushing aspects of blogging is to make some brilliant observation about a trend, only to have a Big Foot or two make the same observation a month or so later and soak up all the credit, without notice or attribution to my labors. I guess it comes from having a site no one reads...DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL.
Tookie Williams Update: Clemency denied !!!
If, as Senate Majority Leader Frist warns, the Democrats attempt to prevent the ascension of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by using the filibuster, he will invoke the Nuclear Option. For all intents and purposes, that will establish a precedent that will mean the end of the filibuster as a tactic in Senate debates, not just for judicial nominations. If he's successful, that will be very, very good for liberals over the long term; after all, most of our wish list, from universal health care to effective gun control laws, is all but impossible to pass under the status quo. In the short term, it will force Republicans to either sustain the right of the minority to filibuster, or cast a vote that will be used in future elections as a sign of lapdoggery, both of which will be good for Democrats.

And of course, if he's unsuccessful, the nomination of one of the most frighteningly reactionary jurists ever picked for the Supreme Court will be defeated, and Senate Democrats will have put the White House on notice that future nominees be closer to the mainstream.

So can anyone find me a good reason not to filibuster this guy?

December 11, 2005

Nothing forces wingnuts to intellectual (if that's the right word) contortions more than the issue of birthright citizenship. The concept is based on the opening sentence of the 14th Amendment, which holds that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." In other words, if you're born here, you're a citizen. Obviously, an "originalist" would be correct in claiming that the drafters of the provision were not seeking to allow someone to illegally cross the border in the middle of the night for the purpose of giving birth, since the 14th Amendment was drafted to protect the rights of freed slaves, and in particular to overturn the Dred Scott decision. Immigration laws, such as they were, didn't exist in the late-1860's.

But that language is so damned unambiguous, and since any self-respecting "strict constructionist" who believes that legal interpretation should consist of little more than understanding that words mean what they say is obligated to follow the clear language of the law, the only way to end the practice would have to be to alter the 14th Amendment. Not to worry, though: a number of lawmakers from Texas and other points west of the Mississippi, led by the odious Tom Tancredo, have decided to introduce a bill that will simply ignore the 14th Amendment, using a technicality that would have been the envy of any law clerk from the Warren Court. Their hitch is that the provision, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof", somehow excludes illegal immigrants, which flies in the face of logic and any sound method of semantic interpretation (for example, if someone violates the law to enter the country, aren't we acknowledging that they are "subject to the jurisdiction" of the law just by the fact that we're making a stink about it?)

So that technicality isn't going to fly, although after these born-again judicial activists are finished, I'm sure we're eventually going to hear about how stripping infants of their citizenship is somehow a penumbral Constitutional requirement. A better idea would be to simply deport the corrupt scumbags of the Texas Republican Party, en masse.