Quote of the moment: Judge Richard Posner, on tradition and marriage

August 27, 2014

Judge Richard Posner, 7th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals

Judge Richard Posner, 7th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away.”

Federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner, balking when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

Two states attorneys general argued before a panel of judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago yesterday that marriage between members of the same gender should be stopped because of tradition.  AP’s story explains what happened.

While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away,” the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same-sex marriage, Posner said, derives from “a tradition of hate … and savage discrimination” of homosexuals.

Posner is one of those guys who gives us hope for the human race, and hope especially for that branch of the human race known as Homo americanus ssp. ordinarius.

Appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, Posner is widely recognized as one of the brightest and most engaging judges in the U.S. today.  That’s a sop to all the rest, to call him “one of ” the brightest — to avoid making everybody else give up hope.

But he’s outspoken enough that most legal scholars agree he’d never survive a hearing to take a place on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The late Sen. Roman Hruska’s revenge, that we can’t get the best and the brightest on our highest court.

Posner is not content to sit on the bench and make high pronouncements.  He pushes America, courts and lawyers, to be better.  He teaches at the University of Chicago Law School (in a position not unlike that the young Barack Obama had).  Posner’s high-flying comment-on-anything-important style got cut back in the past few months when his blogging partner died — Nobel-winning economist Gary S. Becker.

It must be agony to be a lawyer defending a pointless, silly and destructive law, to a panel that includes Richard Posner.

Arun With a View captured the reasons Posner strikes fear in conservatives, despite his being a Ronald Reagan conservative.

Sketch of Judge Richard Posner by the late David Levine

Sketch of Judge Richard Posner by the late David Levine

NPR has a delicious interview with Richard Posner. Money quote

“I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,” [Posner] said.

And this

“Because if you put [yourself] in [John Roberts'] position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

Listen to it here and enjoy.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Texas Freedom Network’s emails — probably on the blog sometime soon.

Yes, I read Posner despite his errors, getting hoaxed by the DDT/Rachel Carson hoaxsters. That just indicates the danger of the hoax and the need to correct it and stamp it out.


“Some there are”: Antonin Scalia, rock music, and high school graduation in churches

June 17, 2014

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting to the Supreme Court’s denying to hear a case about high school graduations held in religious facilities, the denial of the writ of certiorari to Elmbrook vs. John Doe et al., 573 U.S. ______.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in the dissent.

But, he argues, religion is protected by the First Amendment, our music choices are not.

Read the dissent (way down at the bottom).

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

I suppose to some, high school graduation ceremonies are a lot like being forced to listen to rap music at intersections.  To others, high school graduations may seem akin to religious experience.  Not sure either view means the ceremonies should be held in churches.

This case is 14 years in the justice system.

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Remembering the worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead at Texas City

April 16, 2014

April 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.

It’s a day Texans, and all Americans should note.  It’s an event we need to remember, because every point of the disaster is something we forget at our very great peril.  Thinking such a disaster could not happen again, and failing to train for these same conditions, contributed to the disaster last year in West, Texas.

67 years ago, in the harbor at Texas City, a large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription may be required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


About Florida

July 14, 2013

I don’t know.  It seems a little extreme.

But I don’t see anybody trying to stop Bugs.  Bugs Bunny, Florida, Zimmerman Trial, Stand Your Ground

Bugs Bunny deals with Florida

Undoubtedly copyrighted by Warner Bros. This is fair use. Thanks to Coyote Crossing.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Clarke at Coyote Creek.

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A depiction of Bugs Bunny's evolution through ...

A depiction of Bugs Bunny’s evolution through the years. Regardless how Bugs looks, he usually reflects some of the more popular views of the day. Wikipedia image


Prisons, or schools? Prisons, or mental health care? Prisons, or freedom?

December 19, 2012

Here’s one from a maybe-odd source, but with relatively good citations.

If we have limited money to spend in government, can we put spending on a balance to see where it should be spent?  This is one example out of many pending before the U.S. Congress and state legislatures, today — right now, and for the coming several months.  When you hear elected representatives say “we must cut spending to reduce deficits,” you need to understand that their proposal is to cut spending for education, for job training, for employment assistance, for unemployment payments, for health care, for mental health care, for drug rehabilitation programs, but generally NOT for incarceration programs.  In short, they are saying we must cut off the education of poor kids, to build jails to house them if they run afoul of the criminal justice system after being unable to get the education and training to get a job that will produce the income that would have made them great parents and taxpayers.

If we have limited money to spend in government, can we put spending on a balance to see where it should be spent?

  • Prisons, or schools?
  • Prisons, or mental health care?
  • Prisons, or drug rehabilitation?
  • Justice, or incarceration?
No Justice For All poster, prisons vs. education - OnlineJusticeDegree.com

From OnlineJusticeDegree.com; check references listed on the chart.

What do you think?

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Department of Interior finally settled the Native American trust case

November 27, 2012

Here’s a headline that shouldn’t be buried in lame duck Congress folderol nor holiday news doldrums:  The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and plaintiffs in the Cobell case reached a settlement that the court has approved. This is the end of litigation — parties hope — on the long-running saga of government mismanagement of trust accounts held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for the benefit of Native Americans, over the last century.

Billions of dollars went missing to bad accounting.

Elouise Cobell met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 2010

Elouise Cobell met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, in December 2010, after the passage and signing of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.

Wikipedia has a concise, but thorough enough description of the case and its predecessors:

Cobell v. Salazar (previously Cobell v. Kemp- thorne and Cobell v. Norton and Cobell v. Babbitt) is a class-action lawsuit brought by Native American representatives against two departments of the United States government. The plaintiffs claim that the U.S. government has incorrectly accounted for the income from Indian trust assets, which belong to individual Native Americans (as beneficial owners) but are managed by the Department of the Interior (as the legal owner and fiduciary trustee). The case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The original complaint asserted no claims for mismanagement of the trust assets, since such claims could only properly be asserted in the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Arguments, appeals and deeper investigation strung the case out; lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfoot Tribe, did not live to see the end of the case (she died in 2011).

It’s difficult to judge whether justice has been served in this case, and that judgment may not be ripe for many years.  Ending the litigation should create some hope for better conditions on Indian Reservations, and for Native Americans across the nation.  Especially the education benefits of the law required to settle the case, could provide a foundation for future prosperity of the affected tribes and people.

DOI announced the settlement in a press release November 26 (links in the body of the release added here):

Salazar Announces Final Steps on Cobell Litigation and Implementation of Settlement


Settlement includes land consolidation program to help promote tribal self-determination and strengthen economic development

11/26/2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today lauded the final approval of the Cobell settlement and outlined steps that Interior will take to help implement the historic $3.4 billion settlement. The settlement resolves a long-running class action lawsuit regarding the U.S. government’s trust management and historical accounting of individual American Indian trust accounts. It became final on November 24, 2012, following action by the Supreme Court and expiration of the appeal period.

“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” said Salazar. “Today marks another historic step forward in President Obama’s agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country and begins a new era of trust administration.”

The settlement includes a $1.5 billion fund to be distributed to class members for accounting and potential trust fund and asset mismanagement claims. The settlement also includes a $1.9 billion fund for a land consolidation program that allows for the voluntary sale of individual land interests that have “fractionated,” or split among owners, over successive generations. Fractionated land can have many owners – sometimes hundreds or more – diminishing the land’s value and making it difficult for individuals to use the land for agriculture, business development, or housing from which tribes can benefit. Up to $60 million of the $1.9 billion fund may be set aside to provide scholarships for American Indians and Alaska Natives to attend college or vocational school.

“This marks the historic conclusion of a contentious and long running period of litigation,” said Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor for the Department of the Interior. “Through the hard work and good will of plaintiffs, Interior and Treasury officials and Department of Justice counsel, we are turning a new page and look forward to collaboratively working with Indian country to manage these important funds and assets.”

Payments to Claimants
The Claims Administrator will now begin overseeing disbursement of the $1.5 billion to nearly 500,000 class members. The court previously approved GCG, Inc., as the Claims Administrator. The Department of the Treasury will transfer the $1.5 billion to an account at JP Morgan Chase, a bank approved by the court. Per the terms of the settlement agreement, Interior’s Office of the Special Trustee (OST) has assisted GCG with its database by supplying contact information of individual class members from its records.

“We will continue to work with GCG to ensure it has the information it needs to make expeditious and accurate payments,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes said. “At the same time, we’re focused on making meaningful improvements to our trust administration so that we’re more transparent, responsive and accountable in managing these substantial funds and assets.”

Trust Land Consolidation Program
The Department of the Interior will use $1.9 billion from the Trust Land Consolidation Fund to acquire interests in trust and restricted lands that have “fractionated” over successive generations since the 1880s.

Individual owners will be paid fair market value for such interests with the understanding that the acquired interests will remain in trust and be consolidated for beneficial use by tribal communities. Interested sellers may convey their fractional interests on a voluntary basis. Currently, there are over 2.9 million fractional interests owned by approximately 260,000 individuals.

While the settlement was pending, Interior held a series of consultation meetings with tribes in 2011 to ensure that this landmark program incorporates tribal priorities and promotes tribal participation in reducing land fractionation in a timely and efficient way. These discussions informed a draft land consolidation plan released in February of 2012. Interior is incorporating public comments and expects to release an updated plan by the end of the year for additional consultation.

“The land consolidation program is our chance to begin to solve a fractionation problem that has plagued Indian country for decades,” said Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn. “We are anxious to get started. We know that Interior’s continued outreach through consultations with Indian Country is a crucial component to accomplishing truly open government-to-government communication”

Congress approved the Cobell settlement on November 30, 2010 as part of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. President Obama signed the legislation on December 8, 2010. The district court approved the Cobell settlement on August 4, 2011 and it has been upheld through the appeals process.

For additional information about the individual class-action payments, please contact GCG, Inc. at 1-800-961-6109 or via email at Info@IndianTrust.com

For additional information on the Trust Land Consolidation Program, please visit http://www.doi.gov/cobell/index.cfm

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  • Page in memory of Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the case — who died in 2011; President Obama described Ms. Cobell, and the litigation, in remembering her:  ¶”As treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation, Elouise spoke out when she saw that the federal government had failed to account for billions of dollars that it owed to hundreds of thousands of her fellow Native Americans. In 1996, she filed suit, and for 15 years, tirelessly led a legal battle, with seven trials, 10 appeals, and dozens of published decisions. She fought her battle not just in the courts, but in the halls of Congress before finally securing justice for more than 300,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives in the form of a $3.4 billion settlement.  ¶”The agreement reached in Cobell v. Salazar marked the largest government class-action settlement in our nation’s history. The scholarship fund this settlement established will give more Native Americans access to higher education. Tribes will have more control over their own lands. Elouise’s tireless efforts strengthened the government-to-government relationship with Indian country, and a generation of Native Americans and all Americans has seen the promise of justice realized.  ¶”Last December, I had the privilege to meet with Elouise in the Oval Office prior to signing into law a bill to make things right. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 is a direct result of the settlement that bears her name. It is proof of an enduring American idea – that change is always possible.”

Ben Stein off the rails again

October 10, 2012

Ben Stein is nominally a smart guy, with a degree in economics and a law degree and enough moxie to wangle his way into the movies . . . lives a sort of a charmed life.

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Which may be good on one hand, because he runs off the rails sometimes.  Bad on the other hand if others follow him off the rails, assuming he’s smart and knows where he’s going.

Stein’s latest droppings at American Spectator include this gross misunderstanding of the drive for justice and equality (all links added here):

But right now, which is Sunday, I am looking in my favorite book, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, for a quote by Hayek about how you cannot clearly associate economic effects with economic causes because so many different circumstances are at work each time.

I cannot find that quote in this edition — maybe a 1976 edition — but I did find a better one from Hayek which I paraphrase here: the attempt at social justice causes more misery than almost any other factor in human life (again, a paraphrase).

Yes. The Communists. The Jacobins. The Communards. The Maoists. The Khmer Rouge. They all caused untold suffering in the phony and vain attempt to make everyone equal… phony because it was just a fig leaf for terrible people to seize power.

We are not supposed to be all equal. Let’s just forget that. We are supposed to have equal rights under law. If we do that, we have done enough. If we try to engineer outcomes, if we overturn tradition to make everyone the same, we ruin society. If we upset tradition to allow for an equal shot at the starting gate, everyone wins, except for the charlatans and would be dictators.

Yet another reason to be a Republican. Give everyone an equal shot — but do not require equal outcomes or even roughly equal outcomes by law. That way lies catastrophe.

Every soul deserves a shot at a Cadillac, but not everyone should be guaranteed a Cadillac… that way lie the tumbrels and the guillotine.

Other groups in history caused untold suffering in the phony and vain attempt to keep everyone from having equal rights.  What’s his point, that he’s forgotten history and has so far avoided a visit from Santayana’s Ghost?

Consider the anti-Jacobins, the monarchy and strict class system against which the French revolted — better?  The Jacobins themselves were mostly upper-class, including a future King of France among them, and the club being composed almost completely of wealthy people or merchants on the rise, quite like a modern Republican-leaning country club.  Does Stein really know this history?

Communards organized and rebelled against a patrician government (think Occupy Wall Street with real venom, tired of eating cats and rats, and with the support of hungry front-line soldiers who sympathized with them).  They did not perpetrate misery in support of social justice, not so much as 18,000 Communards were murdered to put down the rebellion and  continue the social injustice, several thousands more were executed, and a few thousands were “deported” to prison colonies in New Caledonia.  Stein seems to have this history exactly backwards — it was the GOP-style Bismarck-Farve alliance that delivered misery to perpetuate inequality.

One might make a claim that the Maoists in China worked for a degree of a classless society, but not on the scale and not with the success of George Washington — which is probably a clear view into why Mao’s successors beat such a hasty retreat to more capitalistic-bent programs, but still leaving the peasants in the countryside and especially coal miners on the short end of the rights stick.  It’s simply fatuous to claim the Khmer Rouge worked to make people equal under the madman dictator Pol Pot.  It’s  a good, short debate line, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny of history — and remember, it was the communist North Vietnamese Army who chased Pol Pot out of power and restored order to Cambodia.

Consider the Roman Empire (which oddly is more akin to modern U.S. Republicans than the Roman Republic), or Czarist Russia before the Bolsheviks.  It’s not like the failed attempts by so-called communists brought down societies that honored equality for citizens.  Stein has the telescope of history by the wrong end, which means he really can’t see what he’s claiming to describe.

Did Hayek really say that working for social justice is error?  I doubt it.  He wrote about wrong-headed attempts to impose social justice, like keeping everyone from having a Cadillac, through formal legal means, or through informal, economic and class means such as closing off opportunities for the poor and middle class to rise.  Stein, a Jew with an Ivy League education, should be sensitive to the closing of opportunities, and appreciative that opportunities are generally open in this nation.  Religion once operated as keys the doors to Ivy League schools, to the detriment of Jews; once recast, those keys provided a door to economic and intellectual achievement for many Jews.

Stein’s column is titled “A Reason to Be Republican.”  Instead he outlines reasons to question the current Republican platform and candidates for the presidency, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.  Somehow he confuses Republican policy with the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law,” the words engraved on the West Portico of the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s useful at such times to remember the building was completed in 1935, and that its design and construction was supervised by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, the former Democrat.  It’s also useful to remember that the GOP has fought against those words ever since, but especially after Richard Nixon determined to jettison GOP dedication to civil rights for African Americans, women and Hispanics, in pursuit of electoral success with the votes of bigots from the South angry at the Democratic Party for having successfully pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Stein wrote speeches for Nixon.  He should remember that history better, or study it more if he can’t recall.

Especially not the rich should be guaranteed a Cadillac by the government.  They already have the money to get what they need; but having money should not confer rights to take everything while walking on the heads of the middle class and poor.  Everyone deserves a shot, Stein said.  I wish he’d support that claim with his actions, his political contributions, and his endorsement of candidates.

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