Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Each time a column moves me to wince with an empathic sentiment of “that’s gonna leave a mark,” it seems the target is a public servant I thoroughly dislike, Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy. That’s just two so far. Two is a pattern, three is a trend. Four would be a habit. I’m hoping this becomes a habit. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.
Teddy Kennedy yelled at me! So shouldn’t he resign?
Clifford D. May
April 28, 2005
For 20 years I have kept my silence. I will do so no longer. In the debate over John Bolton’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, it finally has been made clear to me that a human being who yells at another human being does not deserve to hold high office. It’s what Sen. George Voinovich calls �the Kitchen Test.�
And so, it’s time I finally told the painful truth: Ted Kennedy yelled at me. He hurt my feelings. Therefore, those who believe John Bolton does not deserve to be confirmed must surely also agree that Senator Kennedy must step down. Here is the never-before-told story:
It happened in Ethiopia during the height of the Great Famine of the 1980s. Sen. Kennedy had come on a fact-finding mission. As Africa correspondent of The New York Times, I was assigned to travel with him.
One night, after we had flown into a small city northeast of Addis Abba, we repaired to a ramshackle hotel. One of the Senator’s staffers told me there would be no further events that evening. So I turned to Martha Radditz (now of ABC News but in those days a Boston anchor woman) and said something like: �Great! What say we go check out this burg?� Martha agreed.
We had a pleasant excursion but found no restaurant to our liking so we returned to the hotel early. We were shocked at what we saw: Senator Kennedy was holding forth at a dinner with local luminaries. As quietly as we could, we tip-toed into the dining room to take our seats — but the Senator spotted us. He was furious. He interrupted the proceedings.
�What do you think you’re doing?� he shouted for all to hear. �You’re either with this group or you’re not with this group. You don’t come waltzing in anytime you choose!�
I can’t recall whether his hands were on his hips; probably not since he was sitting down. I do know that he scolded us for what seemed a long time. To be candid, his words were a bit slurred. It was his custom, in those days, to propose a few toasts � and then a few more toasts – to Ethiopian-American amity.
In any case, Martha and I retreated, meekly, to her room, feeling like children sent to bed without supper. Not long after, one of Kennedy’s staffers knocked on the door.
�It’s been explained to the Senator that there was a mistake,� he said. �He now knows you were told there was no event tonight and you had left the hotel before plans changed. The reception is continuing and the Senator would like you to re-join it.�
We demurred. Our self-esteem was too badly battered. He insisted. �The Senator would really like you to return,� he said. �I would like you to return.� And something in the way he said it made us believe that if we did not respond to this entreaty, he, too, might feel the Kennedy wrath.
Downstairs, Martha and I approached the Senator to offer our apologies. �Oh, forget about it!� he said amicably. �Let’s just forget the whole thing.� He seemed in a much improved mood.
�Forget it, Senator?� I responded. �Senator, I will never forget it. I will forever remember the night that Edward Kennedy laid me to bat guano [I actually used a more common term] in Ethiopia.�
�Oh, don’t say that!� he exclaimed. �It was no big deal.�
And all these years, I have tried to convince myself that it was no big deal. People get angry. People yell. People get over it. Life goes on.
But now I know better. Now I know what happened was a terrible trauma. And what the Senator did was unpardonable. People who hurt people are the most hurtful people in the world � and they should not serve in positions of trust and authority. They should not serve as ambassadors, senators or maitre d’s.
It was what Sen. Voinovich might call: �The Dining Room Test.�
Clifford D. May is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and a Townhall.com member group.
I’ll tell you why this does my heart so good: I never thought too highly of this “He yelled at x” line of attack against Undersecretary Bolton. If I were a Democrat strategist sitting in a smoke-filled backroom trying to shoot down the nomination, this would likely be the one plan I would toss away first. It’s just stupid. This guy is accused of yelling at people when he gets ticked — people will wonder, what, is this the best dirt we can find? The nominee surely must be a saint. A yelling saint with a temper-tantrum, who plants his hands on his saintly hips.
You’ve got to hand it to Democrats though. They can play politics, and not bother with pretending they’re not playing politics. Nothing ever sticks to them. Sure, they get voted out, but nobody nurses a grudge against them — especially in Washington — because if they’re caught so grudge-nursing, they might be accused of trying to hurt poor people. That’s the plain truth of it.
John Bolton is blunt where others would be self-protective. This is bad?
Thursday, April 28, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The case of John Bolton is about politics (unhousebroken conservatives must be stopped), payback (you tick me off, I’ll pick you off) and personality. People who have worked with him allege he is heavy-handed, curmudgeonly and not necessarily lovably so.
I don’t know him, but I suspect there’s some truth in it. Do the charges disqualify him to serve as American ambassador to the United Nations? If reports of his behavior are true–he is tough, pushes too hard, sends pressuring e-mails and may or may not have berated a coworker as he threw paper balls at her hotel door–the answer is no.
Bad temper is a bad thing, but in government it’s a flaw with a long provenance. Bob Dole once slammed a phone down so hard it is said to have splintered. Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos tells us, used to go into “purple rages.” There is a past and possibly future presidential candidate who would regularly phone one of his staffers at home and ream that person out by screaming base obscenities. (I was impressed to learn the staffer felt free to respond in kind, and did.)
Harry S. Truman, as president, once threatened in writing to kick the testicles of a journalist (a music reviewer who had been nasty about the talents of Truman’s daughter). Lyndon Johnson would physically crowd people and squeeze their arms painfully as he tried to get them to do what he wanted; in his case arm-twisting was really arm-twisting. Richard Nixon is said to have snapped to an aide who came to him with some issue, “You must have me confused with somebody who gives a sh–.” He also physically pushed and humiliated his press secretary, Ron Zeigler.
And so it goes, and all the way back. Jefferson was a man of public dignity and the meanest private plotting. Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. (I here invite all readers who work in government to give, in one paragraph, their memory of Most Obnoxious Hissy Fit by or Most Appalling Style of any unnamed government official with whom they have worked, and what they learned from it.)
Bad temper is a bad thing in a public servant, but it is not the worst thing. Worse is the person who judges all questions as either career-enhancing or career-retarding, who lets the right but tough choice slide if standing for it will make him controversial and therefore a target. Mr. Bolton apparently never does that. Worse is the person who doesn’t really care that the right thing be done, as long he gets his paycheck. That’s not Mr. Bolton either. Worse still is the cynic who is above caring about anything beyond his own concerns. And that isn’t Mr. Bolton either.
What is interesting to me about the charges against Mr. Bolton is that he has not, apparently, been self-protective in the Washington way. People in government (and media, and the office tower across the street) are often courteous not because they believe deeply in the moral necessity of treating others with respect, but because they know rudeness is impractical. It makes enemies; it gives them something they can use against you. Government is inherently full of disagreement; why look for personal ones? It has long been said that in Washington a friend is someone who will stab you in the front. Mr. Bolton, again if the charges are true, has been a friend to many. He tells people off to their faces. That’s refreshing. As a human tic, if that’s what it is, it is probably more individually controllable than the temptation to damage people behind their backs, which is what people in intense environments more commonly and destructively do.
John Bolton is conceded by all, friends and foes alike, to be very smart, quite earnest, hardworking and experienced (undersecretary of state, former assistant secretary of state, treaty negotiator, international development official and old U.N. hand; he played a major role in getting the U.N. to repeal its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism). He is also known as jocular and tough-minded. He has been highly critical of the United Nations. These are all good things.
If he is confirmed he will walk into the U.N. as a man whose reputation is that he does not play well with the other children. Not all bad. He will not be seen as a pushover. Good. Some may approach him with a certain tentativeness. But Mr. Bolton, having been burned in the media frying pan and embarrassed, will likely moderate those parts of his personal style that have caused him trouble. He may wind up surprising everyone with his openness and friendliness. Fine.
Or he’ll be a bull in a china shop.
But the U.N. is a china shop in need of a bull, isn’t it? The Alfonse-Gaston routine of the past half century is all very nice, but it’s given us the U.N. as it is, a place of always-disappointing potential. May not be a bad thing to try something else.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of “A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag” (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
You know, it occurs to me when one ponders what is in dispute about Mr. Bolton vs. what is not in dispute, an interesting pattern emerges. The senators most truculently announcing their intention to reject the nominee, consistently treat what is debatable as if it were not debatable. This is what I like about Noonan’s writing. She projects a demeanor that is soothing and calming, but beneath the surface there is a gritty determination to keep separate, things that are open to challenge, from things that are not. The list of factoids about Mr. Bolton that we ordinary citizens have been asked to accept, wholesale, uncritically, is growing to a length I find worrisome:
Most Americans wouldn’t buy a used car, as the timeless saying goes, from someone trying to convince them in a face-to-face meeting of the above four premises. Yet here we are teetering on the brink of using those four points to mold and shape our representation on the United Nations. Then, presumably, we’re going to give the United Nations lots of power and influence over our foreign policy so we don’t tick off other countries.
Oh and one more little thing…there is one item that is absolutely undisputed, which I notice under the Capitol Dome is treated as if it were, somehow, in dispute…
Call me gullible, in fact, call me the pot calling the kettle black, for here perhaps I am promoting something that is not yet proven. In fact I can’t prove it…but…is it so unlikely that in the election just past, in which one of our parties pounded the ever-lovin’ snot out of the other party, perhaps the most decisive issue could have been that the U.N. is old & busted?
Just a crazy thought. We now resume our regular programming where the people who got their asses kicked in the election, who most of us don’t want deciding anything, get all pissy when they don’t get to decide things until we just let them have their way again.
He Said It
Last night & early this morning I had been tangling with several search engines, and perhaps my own ignorance in figuring out what to ask them, running down this quote from Senator Ted Kennedy that has been frequently cited by Neal Boortz and then run around the Internet by several other sources.
My curiosity was piqued after reading this item in yesterday’s “Nealz Nuze“:
A significant part of the Democrat agenda is the war on individuality. This was is no fig newton of my imagination. Master Democrat Ted Kennedy has made reference to this war in just those terms. Following a New England Patriots Super Bowl win several years ago Kennedy stumbled up to the microphone to share in the celebration, there to praise the teamwork of the Patriots, so welcome at a time that we are engaged in a “war against individuality.” So … his words, not mine.
First rule of Internet surfing: Before you get pissed off, find the source.
A little bit of searching revealed this was read into the Congressional Record of the 107th Congress. Wow that should be easy, right? Well to make a long story short, no not really. For one thing, there is no such thing as “Monday, February 7, 2002,” the date commonly cited for this quote, since that date fell on a Thursday. The Congressional Record can be flipped through one page at a time….not sure what the rationale is behind that, what with it being my record and everything. I really don’t want to go into further detail about such difficulties, but suffice it to say the sleuthing can be saved for another day, as the entire statement is posted prominently on Senator Kennedy’s web site. Here is your link.
Since September 11th, the courageous acts of countless Americans have set a new standard for the nation. Indeed, a new American spirit has been forged. That sprit is characterized by sacrifice, humility, and a refusal to quit in the face of adversity. At a time when our entire country is banding together and facing down individualism, the Patriots set a wonderful example, showing us all what is possible when we work together, believe in each other, and sacrifice for the greater good.
That example came from the top, and it came from the start of the season. Choosing to be introduced before the game as a team, not as individuals, the Patriots set the tone for their victory. Coach Bill Belichick stressed teamwork, saying that only by working together could the Patriots overcome their opponent, the best team in the NFL's regular season, the St. Louis Rams.
What does this mean? Granting the Senator the benefit of every doubt, he is extending his congratulations to the New England Patriots for accomplishing something as a team that might not have been achieved by any one individual. Is Boortz then taking something out of context and putting words in the Senator’s mouth?
I’ll leave it to the reader to decide. Certainly there is nothing about a “war against the individual” but there is that disturbing passage about “facing down individualism.” Back to the original question…what does it mean. I just can’t play Kennedy’s Advocate and make this pretty. The best spin you could possibly put on it is that Kennedy got his words mixed up, and meant to say “terrorism.” Does he really think individualism is something we all want to face down?
Individualism invented baseball, and invididualism discovered the principles of gravity upon which the game relies. Teamwork — now that I come to think of it — crashed planes into buildings on September 11, 2001 and killed nearly 3,000 people.
"...sacrifice, humility, and a refusal to quit in the face of adversity."
Screw you Senator Kennedy. Humility may have taught me a thing or two or three, but I never did achieve an awful lot with that. When the time came to actually get work done, throughout the life I can recall I got work done by shutting the humility off and telling myself “I can do this.” This is mutually exclusive from the refusal to quit in the face of adversity.
At the very least, Senator Kennedy is guilty of willfully preaching ignorance toward the contribution of the individual. He’s saying a spirit of “I can do this” will not get the job done, and a spirit of “we can do this” is the only thing upon which we should rely.
Honestly, I do not know what country he is talking about that is banding together and facing down individualism. He seems to be implying everybody who lives there is in agreement on it. I’m not living in any country like that. I live in a country that worships at the altar of freedom and opposes tyranny. Freedom will win this war, and everything else we set out to do: freedom to work on a team, to lead a team, to engage in efforts as individuals. Anybody who thinks individualism is all that matters, can build their own computer to argue the point — anybody who thinks teamwork is all that matters, can promote that viewpoint without lights or electricity, which are inventions contributed by individuals.
How Is Air America Doing?
In Portland, Ore., the Air America affiliate is among the top 10 stations. In San Francisco, only two stations are keeping listeners tuned in longer on average than the Air America outlet.
In Sacramento, Talk City 1240 – long a ratings black hole – has scraped its way to 21st in the market rankings. In the last two Arbitron ratings books, Talk City, despite a relatively weak signal, even finished ahead of the conservative news-talk station KTKZ (1380 AM) among listeners 12 and older, the broadest possible demographic.
And in perhaps the most telling sign of all, Air America’s biggest customer is now Clear Channel Radio, which owns 24 of the 53 stations that broadcast at least some of the liberal network’s programming.
It’s a notable change of direction for the country’s largest radio operator, which has long specialized in conservative talk radio – and whose top executives tend to be GOP contributors.
“Listeners across the country are asking for more progressive talk radio,” Clear Channel Radio chief John Hogan said in a statement when the company picked up Air America programming in Washington, D.C., Detroit and Cincinnati earlier this year.
Wait a second, you say, didn’t I read that Air America has expanded to more than 50 markets? That’s true, but let’s put things in perspective: Conservative pundit and former Reagan official William J. Bennett’s morning talk show, launched at the same time as Air America, reaches nearly 124 markets, including 18 of the top 20, joining the growing ranks of successful right-of-center talk programs (Limbaugh is still the ratings leader, drawing more than 15 million listeners a week).
And look at Air America’s ratings: They’re pitifully weak, even in places where you would think they’d be strong. WLIB, its flagship in New York City, has sunk to 24th in the metro area Arbitron ratings � worse than the all-Caribbean format it replaced, notes the Radio Blogger. In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still.
The Folly Of Atkins v. Virginia
I got some e-mail from an interested reader on this article I wrote up three years ago. The reader doesn’t agree with me, but I don’t care. It’s good to see people showing interest in this stuff. Sure the country is going to hell in a handbasket, but it’s not because of people disagreeing with me so much as it is because people are apathetic. I like seeing some people aren’t apathetic.
I’ll get to the reader’s comments and my reply to his comments, but for now here is the original article, with a link to the OpinioNet site that was kind enough to post it and keep it posted.
Disclaimer: I copied the hyperlinks in as they were posted then & as they are posted now. I can’t make any guarantees as to how many of them still work. If you find something is broken, use Google. Hey, thirty-four months is awhile. I’ll go through and fix them when I get time. If I do. Maybe.
The Folly Of Atkins V. Virginia
June 27, 2002
by Morgan K. Freeberg
“Seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members,” chastises Antonin Scalia in Atkins v. Virginia. He is one hundred percent right about that. For those of you who haven�t cogitated long and hard enough about the Eighth Amendment�s cruel-and-unusual punishment clause, the decision enlightens you that it�s unconstitutional to execute the retarded.
Short background of the case: In 1996, Daryl Renard Atkins spent a day with a friend of his, getting smashed on booze and pot. Their supplies exhausted, the pair hatched a plot to scope out a convenience store and rob the first customer that looked promising.
Eric Nesbitt, a young airman from Langley Air Force Base, therefore picked a bad time to go shopping. He was abducted and forced at gunpoint to withdraw cash from his bank account. Ignoring Nesbitt�s pleas to be spared, Atkins put eight bullets in the young man�s body.
Good thing I�m not a defense attorney. I wouldn�t have known what to do about this.
Not to worry. After a variety of other appeals were shot down, some fine legal mind cooked up the protest that Atkins had an I.Q. of 59 and was therefore mentally retarded. Not only did this eventually, contrary to a few initial disappointments, work; it burst forward from the highest pinnacle, inundating our entire nation from the United States Supreme Court like molten lava spilling from the highest volcano, destroying everything in its path.
Now, capital punishment is practically banned, so long as an attorney can insinuate his client is mentally retarded.
You do realize, don�t you, that an attorney can buy any mental health professional testimony that he wants? And that in capital cases, an unusually high benefit-of-doubt is enjoyed by the defense? See where this is going?
In a strange twist of judicial wrangling, the Atkins decision violently contradicts the same earlier precedent that it uses as its foundation. In Penry v. Lynaugh (1989), the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) established its own “jurisprudence” of factors to use in deciding capital punishment involving the mentally indigent. Johnny Paul Penry was convicted of raping Pamela Carpenter, and mortally wounding her with a pair of scissors. In that case, as well, the defense protested that their client was mentally impaired.
SCOTUS determined, unanimously, the following: The Eighth Amendment does not categorically prohibit the execution of persons with Penry�s level of reasoning. It also established this: Any punishment is unconstitutional if it would be “cruel and unusual” at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified; or, if it violated “evolving standards of decency.”
Penry�s capital punishment would, SCOTUS determined thirteen years ago, fail to transcend either of these two boundaries.
Why then would Atkins� execution be unconstitutional? SCOTUS says the second of the two boundaries has been punctured. In Penry (1989), SCOTUS as much as promised to monitor the actions of state legislatures to figure out when-and-if execution of the retarded would violate our “evolving standards of decency.” Atkins (2002) basically says: Ding! It just happened.
SCOTUS isn�t necessarily offended; rather, they just figured out we�re offended, through the actions of our legislatures.
But courts don�t do this. Let�s examine for a quick second what courts are supposed to do.
Courts read law, which the court didn�t write. Those who sit on the court may like the law, or dislike the law, or feel indifferent about it. Doesn�t matter. The next thing they�re supposed to do is apply it to a specific case and speak on behalf of the law.
Other people make sure the law is written according to that all-important “Will of the People.” They are called legislators. Not judges, not justices. Those legislators are regularly re-elected, and they have the job of figuring out “what The People want.”
Legislators spend millions of dollars conducting polls, and digesting results of polls that others have conducted. They are then tested in their ability to follow these polls, through a process justices do not have to face, an election�I mean, good heavens, is this something I really have to describe here?
I guess the answer is yes, if your name is John Paul Stevens.
The process can be fairly compared to your credit card statement. You open the statement every month, and what you see is an organized blending of things to which you did, and did not, directly agree. There is a list of transactions you authorized. One would hope, behind each of these transactions, some proof exists that you consented to each of these. Any transaction that does not have this underlying proof, is ripe to be challenged in the Dispute Office. Just as any legislation that The People don�t really want, is ripe to be challenged for repeal by a legislator who can figure out which way the wind is blowing.
And then there are things to which you agreed only indirectly. There is a periodic finance charge, maybe an over-limit fee, perhaps a late fee. And then there is a final balance and a minimum payment due.
My point is: When the bill is printed, your bank doesn�t call you and ask if you�re “cool” with these things. Like judicial decisions, they are simple matters of cold hard fact and cold hard logic. You had an average balance of $3,000. You consented to an APR of 12%. Your monthly periodic finance charge is $30. It can�t be anything else. If you want to get mad about it, well, you just get as mad as you want.
In Penry and Atkins, SCOTUS has done a beautiful job of mixing up those factors under The People�s discretion, with those factors not subject to that discretion. They got them absolutely 180 degrees bass-ackwards. Consider for a moment what they did here.
There is a proposal that if you execute a competent person, that�s humane, but if you execute an incompetent person that�s cruel.
Did you get to vote on that? I didn�t.
In fact, it seems to me that if the dog pound is overpopulated, healthy dogs can be put down legally and ethically because they�re not people. They don�t have our intelligence; they can�t be made to understand what is about to happen. Partially because of this, the euthanasia is merciful and humane.
Someone comes along and proposes, if we�re talking about a guilty person instead of an innocent dog; but if he possesses the same reasoning ability as the hypothetical dog, suddenly such a thing becomes cruel.
I don�t agree with that. Am I in the minority? Maybe so, but my opponents should go through a process where they have to prove that I�m out-voted. We have legislative processes in place to do that kind of proof. If a federal standard is desired let it be passed as a law, not as a SCOTUS decision.
On the other hand: We have an Eighth Amendment that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment. Does that prohibit executing the retarded? The Atkins decision says yes, but only because it perceives our sentiments have changed since the days of the Penry decision, which decided the opposite.
In other words, the Will of the People changed the status of constitutionality.
The circumstances did not change. Johnny Paul Penry and Daryl Renard Atkins are purported to possess approximately the same levels of reasoning ability.
Did the Eighth Amendment change in the last thirteen years? Certainly not.
But SCOTUS changed its answer to a question that has remained fundamentally constant – and then – it passed the buck, blaming the instability on legislatures, and by extension, on us.
This is breathtaking. It�s like taking a vote to find the freezing temperature of water.
So SCOTUS let democracy decide things that are matters of fact and logic, which are not under the purview of democracy; then it denied the voice of democracy in a matter, which is emphatically the domain of democracy. They got it absolutely, positively, one hundred percent wrong.
What is this all really about?
Capital punishment is legal in all but twelve of the United States. In the thirty-eight states that allow it, there are some 3,700 prisoners on death row. Not a single one of them can be emphatically excluded from that now-revered class of people called “retarded.” The volume of litigation that must be initiated, now, is nothing short of stunning.
As a Californian, I am represented by two wonderful, radical-liberal-female senators. They are my gift from 1992, that media construct called the “Year Of The Woman.” Since 2001, these two wonderful liberal female senators have spent awesome reserves of energy blocking presidential appointments to a judicial bench that has nearly a hundred empty seats. They say they�re sending a message to President Bush that they want “moderation” on the bench.
Anyone who�s been paying attention knows that Atkins represents a shining example of what they mean by “moderation.” Public sentiment ignored where it should be better respected, and public opinion reigning supreme where, by rights, it ought to be discarded outright.
“Moderation” means, to them, a castle of jurisprudence built on shifting sand of public opinion – not sober, sound, logical conclusions based on existing law – and devastating hiccups of legislation blossoming forth as a result. They are determined to send this message to the president, and with good reason. Justice Stevens, author of the Atkins decision, is one of the most liberal justices on the court. He is 82. Chief Justice Rehnquist is the next-oldest justice, and staple to the conservative wing. Rehnquist is 77.
Obviously, anyone with an ideological leaning one way or the other, who has some say about judicial placement, is clamoring to make sure their message is heard.
My wonderful radical-liberal-female senators belong to a political party which we call “Democrats.”
Democrats are funded by donations from trial lawyers. If you�re a trial lawyer who donates to political causes, most of your money goes to Democrats.
What happens to a trial lawyer�s bank account when there is more litigation? Democrats don�t want a well-oiled, smooth-running machine of justice. They want burned-out O-rings, under-lubricated bearings, fouled plugs, leaky gaskets, thrown rods, the whole works. They want chaos, because chaos leads to litigation. Litigation means more money for their constituents.
Our Constitution assumes that the Supreme Court, whose members are appointed to lifetime terms during their good behavior, is above all this. Six justices just proved that wrong.
It�s the old saying: Follow The Money.
So what exactly is this – some would say – badly worded and troublesome Eighth Amendment all about?
Contrary to the supposed wisdom of the Penry decision, the meaning and sentiment of the Eighth Amendment has very little to do with standards and sensibilities in 1791. Like much of the Bill of Rights, this amendment was lifted – verbatim – from the English Bill of Rights ratified in 1689.
To appreciate what “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is all about, it is necessary to go back even further than that.
After The Restoration, the period in English history where the monarchy was restored following the Interregnum of Oliver Cromwell, Charles II ascended to the throne in 1660. He had the faith of a nation, being the first-born son of Charles I who was martyred during the Revolution in 1649. One of the most embarrassing incidents of his 25-year-reign was the Popish Plot. In more ways than one, it would be fair to compare this incident to Susan Smith�s adventure at John D. Long Lake, where she claimed a black man abducted her two young sons.
A young rogue named Titus Oates ingratiated himself with the nobility, including King Charles, by insinuating he knew of a plot to assassinate the King. Like Susan Smith, he concocted and embellished a fanciful tale, then kept adding on to it to further enhance his growing popularity.
His libelous statements resulted in the arrest, trial and execution of several innocent people. But his ultimate transgression was to embarrass both the elite and the commoners, once his deception was discovered.
By this time, Charles II had died without heirs, causing a problem of succession that would fester until the House of Stuart was eventually brought down. His younger brother became king as James II. According to contemporaries, James was just as pernicious and unreasonable as Oates, himself. As the schism between Catholics and Protestants grew to a frenzy in Great Britain, James presided over a system of justice determined to make Oates pay for the embarrassment suffered throughout the land.
Remember our widespread, vitriolic anger at Susan Smith when we discovered the real fate of her young sons? It was the same situation, and Titus Oates was less popular than that. Death was far too good for him, Parliament declared.
He was to be pilloried in Palace Yard, to be led round Westminster Hall, to be pilloried again in front of the Royal Exchange, to be whipped from Aldgate to Newgate. After two days, he was to be whipped again, from Newgate to Tyburn.
After all that, if he was to survive, he was to be kept prisoner for life. Five times every year he was to be brought forth and exposed on a pillory for more thrashings. Before his second punishment, it was discovered that the villain had somehow steeled himself against his punishment with strong drink.
In summary: Confident that his punishment could never equal his crime, the system of justice would toy with him, like a cat with a mouse. Basically, laying into his flesh with a cat-o-nine-tails until its collective arm got tired.
This was in 1687. The following year there was a revolution. The Protestants defeated the Catholics, placing Prince William of Orange on the throne. The new government of William III, determined to define its superiority over the previous, Catholic regime, drafted a Bill of Rights in 1689.
And right in the middle of it, “�excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Pretty much everyone agrees this was inspired by the Titus Oates affair. So what did they mean by this?
If you�re very sharp, maybe you�ve figured out from my obscure ramblings where I�m going with this. Sometimes, with late-Renaissance-era law, it is necessary to study the history of that law; completing that, you get a perspective very different from where you started.
Titus Oates petitioned officials, both Protestant and Catholic, to reduce his sentence. He had very little success. As was the case with Susan Smith, there was little-to-no desire in the nation to confer mercy on his miserable hide. This man libeled people, sending them to an undeserved death. He was regarded, throughout all factions, as deserving of whatever he got.
But the Protestants drafted this precursor to the Eighth Amendment. They didn�t give a rip about the well-being of Titus. They cared about the civilization of their society.
They knew their penal system existed, ultimately, to protect the safety and well-being of the innocent from the guilty. They knew the Oates sentence was generated from passions that cared very little for this protection-of-the-innocent; and cared very deeply for old-fashioned, sadistic, savage, thirst for hot steaming blood.
They knew this was beyond a civilized society, and beneath a civilized society.
Any interpretation outside of that spirit, is a reworking of the Eighth Amendment.
I�m not opposed to “evolving standards of decency,” but we have a place for the manifestation of such things.
It�s called a Congress.
Someone should tell six of our justices about it.
Excellent…Needs To Be Seen
The Cooling World
Yet another “stub” I’ll get back to at a later time. Go ahead and read up. Notice anything peculiar?
How To Read News
Take a look at this, boys and girls. Once Invincible Schwarzenegger Looking More Mortal, ABC News. Lesson One, know when to stop reading.
The story is that Arnold backed down in dealing with the unions. Across several different articles, on this one story it is shocking how difficult it is to get to the meaningful details. Look at this. Paragraph One: He’s showing himself to be a mere mortal, polls down sharply. Three words about the union deal – “significant policy retreat”. Paragraph Two: The numbers that show his popularity down, and high-level details about the poll. Nothing about the union. Paragraph Three: Meaningless and completely disposable.
Paragraphs Four and Five: Now we’re interviewing the experts for some bites. On my own, would I want to go to Phil Trounstine, director of the San Jose State University institute to get his opinion? Do I wake up each morning thinking about all my difficult decisions in the day ahead, with WWPTD on my lips? Phil may be a great guy. I got no quarrel with Phil.
But Phil doesn’t need more publicity. People are already talking about his poll, and they wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t different from everybody else’s. By all means let’s interview Phil, but ask him questions about why we should believe his poll. And I’m not doubting the poll, it’s just that opinions about Gov. Schwarzenegger are in great supply. They’re cheap.
But back to my original point. Once we’re interviewing experts asking for their take on things, we’re done reporting things in the article. Time to go onto another article or get on with your day.
Interestingly, Google serves this story up to me so I can find out what’s going on lately, along with, SwissInfo. SwissInfo begins “California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is showing himself to be an ordinary mortal afterall with a significant policy retreat and a new poll showing his approval rating down…” uh, er, hey wait a minute. This seems familiar. I think I’m done reading SwissInfo. That’s Lesson Two.
Lesson Three: Understand labor unions and newspapers. Chicago Tribune serves up this bite. ” SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA — Under pressure from firefighters and police officers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday backed off, for now, his plan to privatize California’s public employee pension system.” Get that? Firefighters and police officers. Oh, that is so rich. The Governor visited a fire hall to find out how everybody’s doing and ran into a bunch of angry faces. No, wait. They burst into his office with their fire hats and police hats and parkas and badges, and let him know how angry they were. Why are you screwing with our pensions, Governor?
Remember this: Newspapers love unions. Unions make news. News is made whenever unions get their way. Like Kevin Spacey said in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing people he didn’t exist.” The greatest trick unions ever pulled, was convincing people they don’t exist. Newspapers, reliably, help out with this. The Peace Officer’s Association doesn’t want something; the police want something. The Fireighter’s Association didn’t pressure Arnold; the firefighters pressured Arnold. United Autoworkers Union doesn’t demand things; autoworkers need things. See how this works?
This may very well be the beginning of the end for California, or at the very least, of Arnold. Certainly it’s the beginning of the end of politics that might have had a hope of being responsive to all of the voters and taxpayers. It’s bad news, a critically important story, and it’s being played like “the police and firefighters can breathe easy, knowing that Arnold is done messing around with their death and disability benefits, for now.”