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What Would People Think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Supreme Ben

Today I got a behind-the-scenes tour of this place called The Supreme Court. You may have heard of it.

Holly Kirk, my old friend from the Alabama School of Fine Arts (Holly, do you realize we've known each other over a decade now? I feel old.), is currently working at the Supreme Court. She's not getting paid and not getting class credit and not actually doing legal work, per se, but who cares? She's working at the freakin' Supreme Court! She's in Sandra Day O'Connor's exercise class!

Anyways, Holly gave me a tour of many of the cool little behind-the-scenes stuff. Like the room where the justices sit and eat. Only 9 chairs there and NOBODY - including the President - gets to sit at those chairs except the justices. I also got to stand in the actual courtroom at the podium where lawyers would make arguments. Apparently you have to wind a crank to move the podium up and down to get it at the right level for the microphones to pick you up...or else the justices will yell at you.

She showed me all sorts of nifty stuff, but I'm really just on a high from having stood at the podium of the Supreme Court. I've stood in the Supreme Court. Have YOU stood in the Supreme Court? It's cool. If I ever become a top-caliber appellate lawyer, maybe I'll stand there and make arguments. (Actually, the way the Court works these days, I'd stand there and get questions shot at me.)


If you want a preview of what I might sound like at that podium, click here. Scroll down to the event entitled "What's the Matter with Democrats" and click on it. (It might only work on Internet Explorer...it's not working for me on Mozilla. And you need Real One Player.) You'll get to see me give a 3 minute introductory speech before the main speaker.

How did I do? I'd love your feedback. Part of me thinks I sound quite good. The other part is mortified at how I say a few sentences....look down.....say a few sentences....look down. I gotta do a better job of memorization.


In unrelated news: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - what a freakin' idiot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Adventures in Water

First, I'd like to refer you to the most hilarious example of feigned corporate ignorance ever. Anheuser-Busch to world: "What? We - a beer company - host a game with identical rules to beer pong. And the players drink beer? We are shocked, shocked! We told them to drink water." Seriously, that's A-B's lame excuse: they told the beer pong players to play "water pong."

In other water-related news: the pain of being macho. As you know, I'm staying at Jacob's place in D.C. His shower is...flawed. See, you can't adjust the temperature. So the water comes out at one temperature: "burn you to death." But when he explained the inability to adjust temperature, he said "you can't adjust but the temperature is fine."

So when I take a shower yesterday and nearly burst into flames from the sheer heat, I don't say anything. After all, I don't want to be the wimpy, whiney guest. He said the temperature was fine! I leave for a day of interviews and depressing weather, and Jacob showers. He also notices that the water is hot enough to cause atomic meltdown, but thinks to himself "Well, Ben didn't complain about it. Perhaps I just have an abnormally low pain tolerance."

We don't say anything. Because we are manly men and we don't let little things like 3rd-degree burns bother us. Until, after enduring another day of Hell-in-Shower, we both break down and confess that the water is a tad hot (in the same sense that the Holocaust was a tad unhealthy for Jews). And he fixes it. We could both have saved ourselves a lot of pain by just saying this a day earlier.

Moral of the story: never assume the other guy is less of a wimp than you are. And play pong responsibly.

There Is Hope

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) proposed an amendment to the new military spending bill to ban the use of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of any detainee held by the U.S. government. A former P.O.W. himself, McCain knows what he's talking about.

The White House - in a move that shocks even me - threatened to veto the bill if that amendment were attached. This administration has not vetoed ANY bills up until now....but it threatens the veto to protect its right to torture. Unbelievable.

Here's the good part. In a big "up yours" to the torture crowd, the Senate approved the amendment 90-9. This gives me hope. Ninety senators means a whole lot of Republicans standing up to their leader. It's not always about blind partisanship. Sometimes, even in modern Washington, politicians can look beyond their narrow partisan interests and work together to prevent America from sliding into the moral abyss.

Go, U.S. Senate!

[2 posts in one day. Wow. Well, actually I guess it's tomorrow.]

Monday, October 24, 2005

When in Arlington.....

So Jacob says that it is my responsibility while in the D.C. area to update my blog daily...like a good Washingtonian. (Some may say that term should apply to people from the state of Washington. We don't care about those people.) So I'll post something regularly...unless I don't.

Of course, this requirement is coming from Jacob who is, I must confess, a better blogger than I. Jacob's blog is consistently wittier, more interesting, and more up to date than mine. But at least I make more money than hi...dammit!

Anyways, the interview today at the D.C. Public Defender went horribly. Another time of freezing and stumbling over myself during a hypothetical question. Of course, I thought that I messed up last time and they called me back. But I still don't think I shined. Sigh...... Well, I hear the grapes at PDS were sour, anyway.

I have 4 interviews at the Equal Justice Works fair. So that'll be nice. I hope.

Thus far, I have not succeeded in being interesting. Let's see if I can think of anything interesting to....LOOK OVER THERE, IT'S RICHARD NIXON'S DISEMBODIED HEAD!

[Flees the room while you are looking the other way.]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

DC Bound

Today, I head to DC for a week. This is all kind of last minute. 4 days ago I didn't even know this was going to happen.

Here's the deal. I'm interviewing on Monday with the D.C. Public Defender Service. Regular readers of my blog (a.k.a. people who have better things to do with their time by grace my little corner of the blogosphere with their presence instead) will remember that I thought I messed up bad when I interviewed with these people at Duke. Apparently not. Out of 600 or so initial applicants, they've weeded it down to 60-90. And I made that first cut. Of course, the odds of getting 1 of the 6 available positions (especially when they are looking for Spanish speakers and are probably looking for diversity) are long.....but they are "shorter" than they used to be.

Anyways, my initial plan was to go up today, spend the night at the residence of the illustrious Jacob Grier, and come home after the interview tomorrow. Then, at the last possible moment, I signed up for the Equal Justice Works Career Fair. That's the largest gathering of public interest law organizations in the nation. Now I suddenly needed to be in D.C. again on Thursday and Friday, especially after snagging interviews with the New Hampshire Public Defender and the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. Plus there's a number of organizations I might give a resume at the Table Talks.

The thought of driving up today, interviewing with D.C. PDS, driving back down tomorrow, attending to my responsibilities at Duke (and they are myriad), driving back up to D.C. and again staying at the residence of the indomitable Jacob Grier, and doing my interviews there....I gotta tell ya, it makes me tired just thinking about it. I would be far too worn out for my interviews. And ultimately, what matters most is that I get a job. I don't relish neglecting my duties here and I'll do what I can from D.C. But I need a job.

So I'm spending all week in D.C. I'll be staying at the residence of the wonderfully generous Jacob Grier. Maybe I can say hi to Holly Kirk (my old friend from high school who goes to Georgetown) or David Barzelay (he of the much-cooler-blog-than-mine) (come to think of it, that describes Jacob, too). I'll spend Tuesday and Wednesday holed up in a coffee shop near Jacob's place, doing whatever classwork I can and preparing for my Equal Justice Works interviews.

And, so off I go. Pray for me. Wish me luck. Tell me I should consider other career opportunities.

I don't always end with a song quote like Mike, but as I head out of Durham, the words of Nellie McKay (in a mix CD I need to send out) pop into my head:

"Goodbye little zip code
How can I go wrong?"
- Nellie McKay, "Change the World"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Hero for The Rule of Law

I want to talk about a hero...and I don't even know his correct name. He is the chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial. The New York Times says his name is Rizgar Ameen al-Saedi. ABC news calls him Rizgar Mohammed Amin...except in its captions, where it calls him Rizgur Ameen Hana Al-Saedi. I'm going to call him Judge Ameen, because that's what the Times does and frankly I think they are more literate than TV.

There's very few things about the Iraq invasion I like. I'm generally against unnecessary war and suffering...and against incompetence in planning which causes even more suffering. But let all that pass for the moment.

This trial is one thing I like. Saddam should be punished for the horrible things he did. But he should be punished under the rule of law, after a public trial with full rights. The world should see the evil things he did proven and he should be made to submit to the law like everybody else.

Earlier, I referred to Judge Ameen as a hero, striking a blow for the rule of law. Here's why:

A Kurd, Judge Ameen made a last-minute decision to allow one of three television cameras in the courtroom to focus on him, narrow-frame, thus shedding the anonymity that the four other judges in the case insisted on preserving out of fear of assassination or attacks on their families by insurgents who have already killed one judge.

Judge Ameen just earned my admiration for two reasons. First is his sheer bravery. Make no mistake, he's putting his life on the line. This decision is a big "f--- you" to the insurgents and their reign of terror. Boo ya!

But this is about more than defiance. Again, it's about the rule of law. The law is practiced out in the open...for the world to see. Law is legitimate because it acts in public and has nothing to hide. Secret trials are the stuff of 1984, Kafka, and...sadly, Guantanamo Bay. Secret judges (even if rightly afraid for their lives) are not much better. Hiding their faces undermines the legitimacy of this trial...legitimacy which is of the utmost importance.

But no longer. The rule of law now has a face, and that is the face of Judge Rizgar Ameen al-Saedi.

Judge Ameen, I salute you.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mine's Not a High Horse

Yeah, that's a title of a Shins song. Thanks to David for getting me addicted to Chutes Too Narrow. On to the substance of my post.....

I read Daily Kos a lot. It probably holds the title of Reigning Left Wing Blog. I have mixed feelings about it. I go to it on occasion to get quick updates on political news and the latest progressive ideas and arguments. It's a good resource for that. People on it do a lot of good research and sometimes help me see things in a new light.

But, despite the fact that I agree with them on 90% of the political issues, I don't consider myself a "Kossack." Why? First, because they brook no dissent on most issues. Any time I look at a post, I look at the comments and find near-unanimous agreement. Sometimes, buried deep in the comments, someone pipes up with a disagreement...and is often roundly condemned as a DLC, Republican-Lite sell out. This isn't true all the time...but it happens too often. I realize this is a liberal blog and it has no responsibility to air conservative views. But there's plenty of room for honest, principled disagreement over here on the Left Wing. As I argued elsewhere, a willingness to tolerate dissent, disagreement, and dialogue is one of liberalism's primary strengths.

It's embarrassing to note that the conservative blog Red State tolerates a greater diversity of views.

And damn, those Kossacks are so self-righteous sometimes! When Thomas Friedman wrote a column calling for the immediate closing of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay (which I fully agree with), the reaction on Daily Kos was "no shit Sherlock. You're an evil idiot for not realizing this from the beginning and just because you agree with me now, don't expect me to accept you."

There's a recent post about Dick Gephardt similarly having a change of heart. Gephardt earned my contempt when he co-authored the resolution that gave Bush the power to invade Iraq. But now Gephardt admits that was a mistake....that he was wrong.

The blogger, Kos himself, actually accepts Gephardt's mea culpa, arguing it's better to make it easier for pro-war Democrats to admit their mistake and come over to the anti-war side. This strikes me as plain common sense. The more people who come out against the war, the better. If a prominent hawk admits his mistake, that's more ammunition (pardon the war-based metaphor) for the anti-war camp. More and more people are realizing this war was a mistake and they want out. After the vote on the Constitution, many (myself included) are wondering what else we hope to accomplish by leaving our soldiers to kill and die over there. If Gephardt wants to add his voice to that mix...and by doing so may convince other former hawks to pipe up.....more power to him!

But the commenters on Kos think otherwise. For once, there is some dissent from the main blogger. The commenters proceed to tear into Gephardt. "I can never forgive him for the innocent Iraqi deaths." "Of course he says the war is wrong now, when it's unpopular." "Self-Serving Has-Been Spineless Dem Admits He Was a Tool. Stop the Presses." "We don't need to give pro-war Dems a graceful way to change their minds."

Gee, I thought the point of all this was to end the war, and anybody who helps do that should be encouraged. Now I see that the point is to remain on our moral high horse, to glory in our righteousness, and to harshly reject anybody who changes their mind because of their past mistakes. My mistake! Oops, I made a mistake. I guess I'm not worthy of you Kossacks.

Note to my friends: If I ever get that self-righteous, do me a favor and call me out on it!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraqi Constitution Vote: Say What?

Today the Iraqi people will vote on whether the (very flawed) (especially if you happen to be a woman) constitution will shape their nation. Or will they? I did a double take when I read this paragraph in the NY Times article about the election:

There were pockets where turnout appeared quite heavy. At one precinct in Sadr City, the giant slum where as many as half of Baghdad's five million people live, 1,750 of the 2,400 registered voters had cast ballots by late afternoon, a turnout of 73 percent

Pardon? 2.5 million (that's 2,500,000) people live in Sadr City and only 2,400 people are even registered to vote?! Excuse me if I don't think that a 73% turnout from such a paltry number constitutes of ringing endorsement of democracy or the new constitution!

Oh, this isn't encouraging at all. I had hoped a constitution might mean some sort of legitimacy for the new government and mean the beginning of an American exit strategy. But if Sadr City is representative of Iraq......abandon all hope, ye who read the news.

(And if you don't read the news, please bang your head against the wall.) (But not too hard, I don't want you to get hurt. That would be stupid.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Panicking with SpencerAcuff

I shouldn't be blogging right now. I should be job-searching. Actually, I've been more productive than usual these past few days of Fall Break. I've made a number of contacts and sent out a number of resumes to firms that do a wide variety or work, from health care law to commercial litigation. I have an interview tomorrow with the Georgia Capital Defender and I've set up an interview with the D.C. Public Defender.

But, as I look toward the day when I finish 20 straight years of school and finally step out into the "real world", I'm scared stiff. I've been listening a lot to a song by SpencerAcuff called "Say To Me." (You can listen to it here.) I have no idea what the song's about, but I envision the singer, Will Acuff, getting lectured to get a job - perhaps by his father (who, by the way, is my pastor and a man I deeply admire). "Knock off all this band stuff and get a real job...you're wasting your potential." This interpretation resonates with me. Indulge me here, I'm going to respond to parts of the song in light of that interpretation.

Say to me that I could love you better
Say to me that I could be a little trustworthy

I'm getting married in 10 months. Christy won't be making a lot of money and we'll both be in a lot of debt. We may have kids some day. What sort of husband and (potential) father am I being by chasing around all these low-paying jobs in our financial situations. I could love her better. I could seek a job where she will never live in fear that we can't make our next payment. Am I hesitant to pursue big-firm, corporate jobs (which, lately, I have started pursuing) because I'm idealistic....or because I'm self-righteous and willing to sacrifice my wife's well-being?

Adjust to this, I've wasted all my promise
Adjust to that, I know my words are empty

I'm smart. I'm not saying that to brag; it's a fact that I'm intelligent. I had a 3.9 at Vanderbilt and I have a 3.73 at Duke Law. That's not easy.
But what am I doing with that intelligence? I've been the kid with "potential" for so long...but am I blowing the chance to realize that potential? I don't even know what I'm doing wrong, if anything. All I know is that I look around me and see most of my law school colleagues with jobs...or at least exuding a sense of certainty that they know what they want to do. I always feel like I'm missing something.

Maybe I should just kneel down to the god of some American love
Maybe I'm already gone....

And with this line I swing back the other way and wonder if I'm selling out too quickly. The "god" of American love is money. I'm not sure if that's what Will Acuff meant, but that's what I'm reading. Our nation is obsessed with money, material goods, and financial security. It's sickening how much we all worship at the altar of making a quick buck. Now that I am interviewing with large firms that certainly do not have the interests of the "least of these" (the weak and the poor) at heart, am I selling out? To paraphrase Jesus, am I seeking the world in exchange for my soul? To quote SpencerAcuff, am I "already gone"?
I've got an instructive contrast with my friend, Kenny Ching. Kenny's worked in firms the past 2 summers while I've worked for public interest or government organizations. Kenny sat there one day last summer and realized that he could not do that for a living...that he was not fulfilled simply helping those with money get more of it. And so now Kenny is searching for government and public interest jobs while I - the "public interest" guy - am looking at big firms. I'm shamed by the contrast.
(Or am I painting things too black and white? Firms aren't evil and they may be a good place to get skills. I don't know.)

Take me away. Lead me by the hand.
Into the slaughter, I go gladly
Just be gentle with me

Sometimes I'm just willing to give up. I'm sometimes ready to take any job just so I don't have to put up with this uncertainty any more. I'm so exhausted. Life was so much easier when I knew what I was supposed to do (work hard and make good grades). I really long for that easy path being set out in front of me...even if it's just going to the "slaughter" of a draining and empty job.

I'm so damn scared.

Indulge me again; I have a response to myself. For my readers who don't share my faith, this may not be very meaningful to you. But it's times like these that I'm most grateful for a sovereign and loving God.

When I start to panic and I literally feel like screaming, I remember that He has a plan for me...that it's my job to trust and remain faithful and be diligent...and He will place me where I need to be. In the words of Relient K: "I'm a little more than useless. And when I think that I can't do this, You promise me that I'll get through this and do something right for once."

I have one more song for you, one I've been listening to constantly over the last few months. Once again, I ask your indulgence, as I'm putting the full lyrics up:

I feel crazy. Hope is hazy right now.
But I won't freak out.
I won't freak out at the sound of the...

Landslide inside.
Fear wants to take my peace of mind.
Won't run, won't hide
I will lift my hands up high

In my troubles I have doubled my prayers
Because I need them
I need them like I need the air.

Landslide inside.
Fear wants to take my peace of mind.
Won't run, won't hide
I will lift my hands up high

Here's to the Name above all names.
I will trust You, Jesus. I'll be brave.

I will live my life day by day.
Because You're the only Truth, the only way out of this...

Landslide inside.
Fear wants to take my peace of mind.
Won't run, won't hide
I will lift my hands up high

Here's to the Name above all names
Here's to the only one who saves
I will trust You, Jesus. I'll be brave

Amen and Amen.

Sorry for the long, confessional post. Here's hoping my potential employers never find it. Whoever you are, I LOVE your firm/government office/clown school! I promise next time I'll return to posting about politics, movies, and bizarre plane thefts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Here's a particularly bizarre piece of news for ya:

Some guy stole a jet from Florida. Terrorist perhaps? Or a felon trying to flee the country? Apparently not.

The guy flew the plane into a small airport in Atlanta (the kind that's closed after 9:00 PM because who the heck would want to land at this tiny airport at that time anyway?). He landed there after the runway lights came on automatically and then he slipped away, leaving police scratching their heads at this random empty plane sitting there in their jurisdiction.

Daniel Wolcott of Buford, GA has been arrested and charged with stealing the plane and "joyriding" to Georgia.

Now, everybody's innocent until proven guilty (sigh....yes, even Tom Delay), but assuming Wolcott did it....Mr. Wolcott, what the hell was going through your head? "Golly, there's this plane just lying around. I'm sure nobody will mind if I just take it for a spin."

People are weird.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Apparently, I'm Supposed To Have An Opinion

Just because I'm an opinionated blowhard who goes to law school, it seems my readership expects me to have an opinion on Harriet Miers. Silly, silly readership. I'm in law school! I've been far too busy to form an opinion on issues that will affect the law.

But, what with the constant nagging and death threats, I guess I have to post something. So here goes....let's find out how fast Ben can manufacture an opinion on the fly. (Incidentally, I meant to post my magnum opus on abortion at the beginning of the semester. I had an outline for it and everything. God knows where that outline is now. Probably somewhere in my bedroom. But finding a particular piece of paper in my bedroom is like searching for a particular piece of hay in a haystack.)

The reactions to Miers have been fun. Generally, I've been hearing a lot of "what the hell?" My friend Ian Millhiser - a Superhuman who requires neither food nor oxygen because he eats and breathes politics - referred to the nomination as "Christmas." He was joyfully referring to the fact that the nomination makes Bush look terrible b/c it smacks of cronyism, has pulled his poll numbers down even lower b/c his own base hates him right now, and ....well, just generally Miers is not that impressive. Upon further consideration of the possibility of a right-wing filibuster of Miers (not likely, but each potentially liberal thing about her that comes out makes it possible) ....which would mean Republicans forfeit all right to say a filibuster based on judicial philosophy is out of bounds... Ian rephrased his opinion: "It's like Christmas and sex and strawberries dipped in chocolate all rolled into one." I'm paraphrasing based on memory, but that's the gist of it.

Even though I'm President of the Duke Law Democrats, I haven't quite been keeping up with the political ramifications. So I'm going to try and form a half-baked opinion of various aspects of the nominee herself. I'll be basing this on an excellent and growing database on All Things Miers by compiled by Left Coaster. It makes no claims to neutrality (the name is a dead giveaway) but it doesn't seem to be aiming to sabotage her nomination.

My reactions to what is known about Miers as of October 6, 2005.

So she contributed to one of Al Gore's presidential campaigns in the 1980s. So she contributed to the Bush-Cheney recount fund that helped Bush steal Florida in 2000. (Hey, I make no pretense of neutrality, either.) So what? Earl Warren was a Republican. So was David Souter. I'm interested in what her jurisprudence would be and - especially in the South - party isn't always an indicator of political or legal philosophy.

As the illustrious Mr. Woodhead points out, Miers's loyalty to Bush is probably the number one reason he nominated her. Loyalty is everything to George W. Bush. And I have a hard time imagining a woman who called Bush "the most brilliant man I've ever met" ruling against him. Miers is part of that crew - which also includes Karl Rove and Karen Hughes - that worships the ground Bush walks on.

Aside from the fact that nobody these days likes a crony COUGHMichael BrownCOUGH, what does this ultimately mean? Bush has only until January 2009 to be President. Would a Justice Miers continue to favor scarily unlimited executive power with a President Obama?

Legal Experience and Judiciary
It's not just that she has never been a judge. Lots of justices were not judges. It's that she doesn't seem to have really handled any major constitutional issues. She's got a long career in the law and has done some excellent work as head of the Texas Bar Association, but that doesn't make her an Erwin Chemerinsky or a John Roberts.

I must disagree with David about how much expertise is needed to be a judge and whether it's a short leap from law school and lawyering to judging. David, you may have a cooler blog than me, but you're wrong on this one. When I was two months into law school, I also thought "hey this is easy, anybody can do this." True, I was panicking and thinking I wouldn't make it through law school at that time...but that had more to do with the amount of work, not its difficulty.

It's taken me a month of floundering about without any comprehension of business in my Business Associations class to realize that there's a certain level of expertise, comfort, and background knowledge that's required to practice law in a certain area. It's hard to be a generalist these days. When it comes to the Supreme Court, I think experience in Constitutional law is critical. I don't see much in Harriet Miers. To make an obvious comparison, John Roberts won around 25 cases before the Supreme Court. Miers has argued only 3 cases in federal court, according to a Westlaw search. None before the Supreme Court.

And Justices don't take too kindly to incompetent colleagues. They hounded out Warren Burger (memorably mocked by Thurgood Marshall as "Chiefie Baby"). The only thing Antonin Scalia hates more than a liberal is an idiot.

Executive Power, National Security, and Civil Liberties
Well, I pretty much talked about this under Cronyism. Can't think of anything new to add here. Unlimited executive power to take away people's rights is scary.

Corporatism and Economic Issues
So she's worked for corporations. If she worked at a major law firm, of course she's worked for corporations. Tell me something useful.
The only worrisome tidbit for me here is her advocacy of "tort reform" (i.e. capping liability of defendants in civil cases). The Supreme Court has made a couple of bone-headed decisions placing a Constitutional limit on punitive damages which, in my not-so-humble opinion, entirely defeat the deterrent purpose of such damages. How are you going to deter a mega-rich corporation by tying the punitive damages to the puny "actual" damages? Oh, and the conservatives on the Court somehow read this limit into the Constitution out of the Due Process Clause. Talk about "legislating from the bench."

Socio-cultural issues
She's pretty clearly personally pro-life. She doesn't seem the type who would make the distinction between personal beliefs and what the government should do, so my guess is she's anti-Roe. Here's hoping. But who knows?
She's actually done some really good stuff for minorities in her time.

Law and Order and Civil Rights
Actually, this is an area where I really like Harriet Miers. Really like her. She once wrote about crime that we must address its root causes: "the social issues that foster criminal behavior, such as: lack of self-esteem or hope in some segments of our society, poverty, lack of health care (particularly mental health care), lack of education, and family dysfunction." EXACTLY!

She's also worked with a group called Exodus Ministries (not to be confused with an anti-gay group of the same name) which I find to be AWESOME! EM is a Christian organization dedicated to helping ex-prisoners re-integrate into society. As Jesus said "I was in prison and you visited me." Helping out after prison is close enough in my book. Chalk this up into another of my "Christians acting like Christians" examples.

While it's still a leap to translate personal activities into jurisprudence, this gives me hope that a Justice Miers wouldn't be out to wreck the rights of defendants in the criminal justice system...as Chief Justice Rehnquist and, frankly, Justice O'Connor were.

Environmental Issues
See, now this is precisely one of those areas where the lay person and the non Constitutional law expert wouldn't know what they are talking about. The interaction of the Court and environmental policy has been quite complex and indirect. Scalia has been leading the oblique charge against environmental policy by.....

Holding that plaintiffs suing to make the executive branch enforce environmental legislation lack standing to sue. Holding that policies meant to protect the coastland are "Takings" of the property rights of people who own coastal property. (Gov't must therefore pay them for the right to keep them from dev
eloping on this land....making environmental regulation prohibitively expensive.)

A justice that believes the Commerce Clause power of Congress should be very narrow could strike down the entire federal apparatus of environmental regulation (as John Roberts once hinted he might do with the Endangered Species Act).

No real predictions on Miers...but no reason to hope.

I'm a bit offended by the media's coverage of her "born again" experience. Having undergone just such a moment in my own life - that is, the moment I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior - I find the coverage to be a tad condescending. The subtext of all this coverage - the only reason the media would call it "news" - is that this conversion must mean she's a religious nut. Commenters on dailykos have made that inference explicit.

How unsophisticated. How shallow. How wrong. My faith in Jesus doesn't make me a follower of Falwell and it doesn't shut down my reasoning skills. I've been spending much of the past semester looking at how Christians throughout the ages have approached the State and their relationship to it. It's a rich and varied literature of very human people wrestling with very profound ideas and trying to figure out the meaning of their faith and what God would want them to do with regards to an issue or a government. My faith has informed my political views, but it has not made me a mindless drone. I'm unwilling to make such an assumption about Harriet Miers, either.

Ok, so the last category in the Left Coaster post is "Women's Issues and Other topics"...an odd way indeed to say miscellaneous. I'm all blogged out now. I still don't have a final opinion on Miers and I don't know if I ever will.

In the meantime, dear reader(s), I've given you more opinions than you can shake a stick at. Try it. You'll find out the stick is quite unshakeable.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Somewhere, A Genius Has Too Much Time On His Hands

Courtesy of David Barzelay, an old friend from The Slant, I bring you newly recut movie trailers. Some group called the Association of Independent Creative Editors made several trailers which took images from famous films, cut them together in new ways, and changed the sound.

So now I bring you (these may take a while to load b/c the site wasn't made for massive internet traffic)....

The Shining as family comedy.
West Side Story as a zombie flick.
Titanic as a horror film (in a genuinely creepy trailer).

These people are geniuses....even if they clearly had too much time on their hands. Then again, I'm taking the time to write this blog entry. I should be reading Radical Monotheism and Western Culture or Commonwealth v. Gonsalves.

Movies - even fake trailers - are more fun.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Because America Wasn't Killing Enough People As It Is....

The Senate Judiciary Committee - those fun-loving folks that brought you the John Roberts Confirmation Platitudes - have another trick up their sleeves: the so-called Streamlined Procedures Act.

I've blogged about it before here and the Washington Post editorialized about it last Thursday here. There's plenty there for you to realize what a pointless, harmful bill this is. But just a run-down of the facts:

- Criminal defendants convicted in state courts currently have the right to seek habeas corpus - federal review of their state court conviction to see if there was a constitutional error in the trial.

- Between 1976 and 1991, federal courts found error in 47% of death penalty convictions.

- Congress limited the right to habeas appeal in the mid-1990s with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

- No major reform of the criminal justice system has happened since then, leading me to believe the system is as error-prone as ever.

- Congress is considering limiting habeas appeal rights even further with the Streamlined Procedures Act.

- The Judicial Conference - the administrative arm of the federal judiciary - opposes the bill. Apparently federal judges do not feel they are being overwhelmed with frivolous appeals in death penalty cases.

- The national organization of state court chief justices opposes the bill. Apparently, state judges don't feel this is an area where the federal judiciary is butting into the states' business.

So....why is this bill even being considered? I guess its sponsors must agree with the title of this blog entry.