Setting the Record Straight

August 29, 2008

Two Blows to U.S. Sports

Filed under: life,news — straightrecord @ 9:41 am
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Bye, Bye Baseball,

Annyong-Hi Kashipshio Ladies Golf

         In the same recent week, two major U.S. sports took a pair of shameful PR steps, shameful even for an American industry that already should be embarrassed by highly paid “super- stars” and bottom-line team owners more interested in the name on the stadium or tournament than the players who work in them.
          Major League Baseball–don’t say it without adding “Inc.”–has decided to denigrate one of the most valuable aspects of major sports, the referee.
     The league already had brought shame on itself by tolerating steroid usage in the league and tearing down multi-million dollar stadiums and blackmailing municipalities to help replace them with multi-billion dollar venues for some of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
     Because some of those Hollywood-style incomes depend on endorsements, which in turn are based on sports-page statistics, baseball umpires have come under increasing attack when they make the wrong calls; wrong, that is, based on television replays.
     Anyone who has ever played baseball, along with other sports that require umpires or referees, knows they are keys to the games, even when they occasionally make a bad call. As an athlete, you complain, but learn to suck it up and go with the fact the umpire is just as human as you are.
     Well, major league baseball has decided to sell out to the television empire by allowing TV replays to decide if an umpire is right or wrong.
     Next in the same week came the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which ruled that all participants in its tournament must be able to speak English. That apparently is a response to the dominance in the distaff side of the sport by Korean women.
     What does speaking English, indeed, speaking at all, have to do with playing professional golf, either as a woman or a man? We live in a global society; let the international players in our sports speak their own language. Unless their lack of English is preventing them from being articulate spokeswomen or repre- sentatives the LPGA prefers to present to the world, we have to ask, other than being able to translate meters in to yards and centimeters to inches, what the deuce does speaking English have anything to do with playing golf?

(from www.straightrecord.com)

August 21, 2008

A Vice President To Push Back

Obama’s Important Promise

     Shortly before Barack Obama announced his choice for a running mate, he made a profound statement, which, if he would hold to it, could make him a great president. A great president, that is, if the electorate bothers to pay attention to real issues.
     In a brief response to a reporter asking about whom he had selected, Obama said, “I want somebody who’s independent, somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me so we have a robust debate in the White House.”
     With his lack of experience, Obama needs that kind of vice president more than any other candidate. He needs someone with Washington experience who will tell him plainly that what he wants cannot be done, won’t be done, shouldn’t be done, or massage what he wants into something realistic. That holds true particularly in the area of foreign affairs.
     But especially in this day of rampant sycophancy, the next president needs someone who will challenge him and his ideas. A public ombudsman sitting in the corner of every policy-making office in government would be best, but that is a subject for another day.
     The current administration presents the best example of what happens when an uninformed president, or those pulling his strings, is surrounded by yes men.
     Nowhere is that danger more obvious than in the case of the toady that served as his White House legal council and groveled so well he was appointed attorney general.
     Alberto Gonzales was so eager to please, he aided and abetted a president who committed more crimes against the Constitution than Richard Nixon, the only president to resign in the face of certain impeachment.
     The president and/or his White House merely had to say, this is what I want, and Gonzales would eagerly do the bidding, twisting and mangling the law to justify broadly illegal and unconstitutional acts.  
     Say “good on you, Barack,” say “hurrah” if he actually means it, and say “thank you” from an appreciative America if he gets elected and actually carries through on the promise.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

August 1, 2008

Of Pigeons & Peanut Butter

Filed under: life — straightrecord @ 1:56 pm
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More Random Musings from Veritas

 

          ‘Splain to me this:

 
          –It is said that peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth. But isn’t that the CEILING of your mouth?

 

Squab anyone?

          –When was the last time you saw a baby pigeon?
          –When a street is level, do we speak of neighbors “just up the street” or “just down the street?”
          –Why do authorities close down a highway, but close up a business?

          –What is the need for so many euphemisms for “died” and “dead?” A friend “passed” or “passed away.” Soldiers were “taken” or they are among the “fallen.” A crime victim was “gunned down.” Our beloved auntie is “deceased.” Some form of “to die” would take care of all these.

 

          –Why do some people, I guess mainly southerners, speak of a week from Saturday as “next” Saturday? To them, the very next Saturday that will occur is “this Saturday.” Go figure.

                               —Veritas

(www.straightrecord.com)

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July 15, 2008

Rants Update

Random Thoughts of a Curmudgeon
     Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, has broken ranks with investors, economists and the Bush administration and stopped sweet-talking the state of the U.S. economy. Now say, “We have stagflation.”
    As we’ve said here before, the average American was aware long ago that economic troubles were afoot. The administration and others took the position, and still do post-Bernanke, that simply talking about a recession would lead to responses by investors and corporations that would just deepen the recession, so everybody kept their mouths shut.
    Now that someone in a high place is acknowledging reality, perhaps somebody in the government will take off the Herbert Hoover hair shirt and try to do something about it before we need another FDR.

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    When this site was first put up last year, it laid out far ahead of the primaries the qualifications voters should seek in a president. We began with intellect, followed by, in order, experience, ability to get the job done, willing- ness to compromise, leadership, concern for the common weal and adherence to the Edmund Burke philosophy: “elect me for my judgment, not for pandering to your opinions.”
    As stupid as Wesley Clark’s recent remark was, he was correct in saying that getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is not a qualification to become president, a shot at John McCain. But neither is being a general in the field as Clark once was, and the only thing he has ever achieved.
    McCain does have, however, some real qualifications that Clark does not possess, including most of the seven points enumerated above, outshining all of his Republican primary opponents. McCain also has more qualifications on our list than Barack Obama, but as we said in that same posting, choosing the best qualified to run is just the first criterion, you then need to pay attention to policy in choosing between the two.
    That is why the American voters need to blow up their TVs, stop listening to trash talk by surrogates and screaming tabloid cable and start learning how to absorb the real news of presidential campaigns.

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    We also ranted about the fact that after nearly 5,000 lives lost and tens of thousands more maimed, billions of wasted dollars and a country in shambles, we still do not know why the Bush administration invaded Iraq.
    Most people speculate, with a great deal of evidence to support the contention, that we invaded for oil. The same people point with fear to the saber-rattling with Iran, noting it also sits on a lot of oil.
    If that is so, it would appear time for Congress to try to pass a law barring any member of the government, once he or she has left that service, from benefiting directly or indirectly from decisions he or she made during those terms in office.
    In the case of Bush and Cheney, that would cover just about everything and force them into retirement. Most importantly, they would not be able to return to the oil business from whence they slithered and which they are seeking to enrich further by taking the shackles off domestic exploration years into the future.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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July 9, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates II

What Did That Bill Say? 

          And that brings us to authorship of legislation. At all levels of legislative candidacy–federal, state and municipal level–claims are made of “my bill” or “his bill.”
         The public’s ignorance of what this claim is all about was no more obvious than during the 2004 presidential election when the Democrats’ presidential candidate, John Kerry, said in a statement that would forever damn his chances because the public did not understand the process, that he voted for a piece of legislation to add funds to the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq “before I voted against it.“
         That statement became the equal to the “swift-boat” campaign that added to the type of electoral ammunition Obama is about to face and that eventually doomed Kerry and the nation to another four years of George W. Bush.
         As inartful as Kerry’s statement may have been, he was simply being accurate.
         At all electoral levels, incumbents and those who run against them are going to be citing legislation, bills, proposals, measures, and all the other nouns used to describe them, that they authored, sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for, backed, whatever.
         There is safe haven in most of those words. The bill may have turned out to be junk, but if you think the result will win you votes, you can say you supported it. If you think it will lose you votes, you can say you were against it. How? Because no, or at least precious few, pieces of legislation make it through the mill without being altered.
         For example, members of Congress regularly put out press releases about bills they “co-sponsored.” Most of these are nice-sounding bills with even greater-sounding titles, such as Rep. A’s bill: “The Apple Pie and Motherhood Act of 2008,” but which might contain a hidden Jesse Helms provision. Rep. B either is an ideological ally of Rep. A, or more likely, Rep. B wants support for his “Motherhood and Apple Pie Act of Infinity and Beyond,” so he signs on as a co-sponsor of Rep. A’s bill with the expectation Rep. B will sign onto his.
         The bill is introduced with whatever number of clueless cosponsors and is referred to a committee. The committee refers it to a subcommittee. Depending on the chairmanship of the full committee, the bill receives attention or it does not.
         If the bill is among the small minority that gets any attention at all, it would receive a hearing at the subcommittee level and that panel would work its will on the piece of legislation, perhaps even, for the sake of this example, changing the title to the “Mother Pie and Apple Hood Act of Our Grandchildren.” The original author did not have that in mind, so, if he is a member of the committee, or even the subcommittee, he naturally votes against the bill. If he is not on the panel to which the legislation was referred, chances are it would not have been brought up in the first place, at least not in his name.
         That, or something more similar than you would like to know, is what was behind a presidency-losing Kerry statement: “actually, I did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
         The simple-minded explanation of the tabloid-cable types and thus the thinking of more than half of the American electorate: “flip-flop.” Result: four more years of George W. Bush, four more years of Iraq, four and more thousand Americans dead, four more years of……………….”
         Who can say what the outcome of that election might have been if Kerry had explained, and the electorate understood, “I strongly supported that proposal early in the process, but when it got chopped up and distorted beyond all recognition, I could not support it any more.” Obama already is discovering the need for artful language with his shift that was is not a shift on the Iraq war issue.
         And finally, a word on another legislative item bandied about during campaigns. The outs always accuse the ins of voting for a bill they never read. You should hope your incumbent is not wasting time reading, or trying to read, bills.
         Bills, the proposals that become laws if they garner enough support, are written by lawyers according to a carefully designed legal procedure. Most proposals are attempts to change or add to existing law, so the bills actually refer to specific clauses, lines, paragraphs or sections of the U.S. Code or some other law. Reading a bill usually requires sitting down with the dozens of volumes of the U.S. Code at hand as a cross-check.
         What incumbents actually should read are the explanations prepared by able staff or their party leaders who lay out in fine detail what the bill is all about and what it would or would not do according to the preferred interpretation.
         This lesson was intended to be a primer on how voters should follow what is said in political campaigns, but with the ubiquitous presence of tabloid cable screamers, YouTube and the rest of the Internet, candidates themselves might want to avail themselves of a similar primer and alter their tendency to speak in shorthand.  
         Even a fairy dreamed up by Shakespeare half a millennium ago could say, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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July 8, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates

Voters and The Art of Losing Elections

         What did that candidate just say?
         Whether it is a straight-out lie, willful deception or an artless attempt to provide a shorthand explanation, many candidates are hitting the campaign trail ill-prepared to address an electorate that is woefully ignorant. Voters are looking for simplicity and receiving too much of it delivered with careless language, and are not bothering to be discerning about the source of their information.
          We do not endorse the old shibboleth that all politicians, including those running for president, are crooks and are the same, blah, blah; the cop-out excuses of the non-electorate. We’ve met far too many of them to dismiss them as a class.
         But how they make their promises to you should be looked at carefully. It is all about being a good voter. We present here not only a few of the ungrammatical claims, but also the bald-faced claims and how to recognize them.
         We offer these two links to claims of presidential candidates as a start: Obama on the economy and McCain on the economy.

          Only the weirdest of political junkies would actually wade through these economic claims of the two presidential candidates we expect to be offered Nov. 4. Being somewhat junkie-weird ourselves, we offer them as part of the forthcoming lesson on how to read or, if your iPod is not working, listen to the candidates. These lessons apply to the presidential race, but one can apply them to political offices right down to dog catcher (is there really such a job today?).
         First, each of the economic-issue statements on the Web sites makes the same claim, “I will.” We get a bit schoolmarmish on this site, so for a bit of relief, we shall avoid in this item pointing out the verb “will” is applied only to the second and third person, “shall” to the first. Even we “shall” acknowledge that is a bit formal, but it would be nice to hear the usage from a presidential candidate, particularly after the past eight years of gibberish.
          A person saying “I will” do something is someone who is making an unconditional promise to you. Both of these guys are not going to be president, so one of them is lying to you. Grammatically, each should be saying, “I would,” as in “if elected, I would” do this and that. Neither is going to keep that promise if you do not elect him, ergo: lie.
         That brings us to the next big type of lie, that of past and future tense.
         We begin with Barack Obama, the newer of the politicians seeking the White House. To his credit, Obama’s site begins well and qualifies some of his promises as “calling for” and “we should,” but then it, representing him, gets a bit power-hungry.
          “Obama will cut income taxes by $1,000,” “Obama will restore fairness to the tax code,” “Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less,” “Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings” and on and on.
         Those claims are not true. Obama as president, just as John McCain as president, neither will (would) nor can do any of those things. In the United States, at least not yet, the president is not king–he, or eventually she, is just president.
         The U.S. Constitution, the right-wing anti-tax nuts notwithstanding, puts the power of taxation in the hands of the Congress (“Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,..,”), not the presidency. All the president can do is sign into law or veto tax bills passed by Congress.
         Similarly, McCain begins with some “we shoulds,” but then gets power-hungry himself and starts saying what he “will” do, paying no heed to the subjunctive form of the verb or to his lack of power to fulfill the promise. Even if you have to shout down a speech, make the candidate use the subjunctive form of a promise. (By the way, the security person who then wrestles you to the ground will not [we promise] be the Secret Service [that’s not its job], it will be a local thug hired by the local party.)
         Incumbents, at the very least incumbents of lesser jobs they no longer wish to “incumb,” often will tell you, usually through an advertisement, how great they were in a past political job or the one they wish to leave. “He passed legislation that…,” or “She passed new housing legislation.…”
          Why is this person not already a king? Because he or she did not pass the legislation alone. He or she was only one of a multitude of those on the winning side for the legislation. Yes, a mere cog in the wheel–no single person “passes” legislation alone.
         What really counts is the amount of effort, influence, creativity, muscle-power, elbow-grabbing, what-have-you, the office-seeker used in bringing about a majority vote for that legislation. Only a journalist is likely to be able to tell you the actual role played.

Next: What Did That Bill Say?

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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July 4, 2008

The ‘Little People’ Say: Stagflation

Time for Trickle Up Economics

         The Great Depression began during the administration of Herbert Hoover, a Republican president who threw up his hands and declared there was nothing the federal government could do to stop it, that it had to just run its course. As we know, his successor proved otherwise.
         It is no accident that Hoover was just one of a long string of GOP presidents (up
to and including the current one) who believed in the “trickle-down” theory of economics. Essentially, it means that if you give big tax breaks to the rich and big business, those benefits will trickle down the economic ladder, eventually reaching and benefiting the little people.
         We suggest that in the current economic situation, the government begin paying attention to what we call the “trickle up” theory. We intend that term to mean the economists, government officials, stock market analysts, etc., need to begin listening to those “little people.”
          More than a month ago, we said inflation and recession, the twin evils of “stagflation” had already arrived. Today, stock analysts, govern- ment and business economists and others are still arguing about whether there is inflation and whether the formal definition of the term means a recession has arrived yet.
          We could say a month ago that stagflation had begun because we live among the “little people.” The “little people” know their fuel costs are rising at the same time their food costs are rising. Those two expenses may represent discretionary spending to the rich, but they are not discretionary to the LP.
          The LP know that jobs are less secure during the current economic situation and they most certainly that even if they are able to keep their jobs, they are not going to receive a raise or added benefits. They see unemployed friends and relatives unable to acquire a decently paying job, much less one providing the health and other benefits they also need.
          The government, Wall Street and others need to stop trying to decide whether two consecutive quarters of no growth and other convoluted definitions are met and begin listening to the “little people.” They know what Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew.
(from www.straightrecord.com)      

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July 2, 2008

U.S. Automakers’ Enemy: Themselves

Filed under: news,policy,politics — straightrecord @ 9:03 am
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Help the U.S. Auto Industry: Vote Against It

          Ask anyone close to the American auto industry who has been its biggest friend in Congress and you will hear a unanimous: Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat.
          Ask us who in Congress has caused the most harm to the U.S. auto industry and we will say: Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat. Why? Because he gave them what they asked for.
         Yes, the auto industry’s biggest enemy is straight out of the late Walt Kelly’s Pogo: “we have met the enemy and he is us.”     
          The U.S. auto industry is reeling and the stock market is expressing shock over the latest sales reports from Detroit. Together, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler suffered an 18.3 decline in sales in June, just the latest month of troubles this year, but also representing the steepest decline since 1993.
          Once again, history has been ignored, as George Santayana warned: “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And repeat it we have, in spades.
          Go back to the 1970s and listen to auto industry representatives appearing before the House Commerce Committee, now headed by Dingell, an otherwise liberal Democrat, later to become a millionaire by marrying a woman who is now a General Motors executive. For several years now, he also has been the longest-serving member of Congress.
          In 1972, before the supply of gasoline in the United States became a problem, U.S. automakers fought against auto-safety legislation that centered on bumpers that would reduce the amount of damage at certain speeds. The automakers wailed Americans were in love with their chrome, but crash-inefficient bumpers and would not accept the rubber-based bumpers that would allow the mph low-speed-impact to increase from 2.5 to 5.
          Dingell, already fourth-ranking member on the “powerful” Commerce Committee, and the automakers lost that battle and one result was the infamous (for other reasons) Ford Pinto switched from a bumper that sustained $500 damage in 1972 to one that sustained only $29 damage two years later. Heavy chrome bumpers disappeared and gas mileage increased as an unintended result, but not until after German cars made their first sales inroads with their rubber-based bumpers.
          Even before the Oct. 17, 1973 Organization of Oil Exporting Countries embargo on oil to countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the United States was undergoing a crisis in its oil supply, fueled by an ever-expanding level of consumption. Prices were rising as demand outpaced the pace of supply, leading to those now-fabled blocks-long lines of cars waiting to fuel up at service stations, those places that used to pump the gas for you, wipe your windshield and check your oil.
          The government attempted price controls and allocation systems without success and practically gave up when OPEC began its embargo.
          All this time, there were proposals in Congress to increase the mileage cars could get on a gallon of gas. U.S. automakers appeared before Dingell and the Commerce Committee to plead against legislative efforts that led eventually to what became the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards governing car mileage.
          It began as an ambitious effort to require better gas mileage to reduce U.S. gas consumption, already the major reason behind the demand for imported oil. The automakers appeared before the panel to argue against various provisions, such as requiring them to reduce other vehicle weight not already reduced by those soon-to-be defunct chrome bumpers.
          In environment hearings, they also argued against catalytic converters, claiming that requiring them would add nearly 10 percent to the cost of a car and Americans would not stand for that. Congress required them nonetheless and the added cost not only turned out to be minimal, there was almost no buyer resistance.
          U.S. auto industry executives and lobbyists argued against just about every requirement that would later save their industry, and Dingell served was an obedient key ally. These efforts included establishing a national speed limit. The auto industry, of course, fought against it. The commerce committees heard testimony that the optimum efficient speed of a car was 50 miles an hour (Congress ended up setting a 55 mph limit to satisfy pleas of the trucking industry) and ended up establishing the 55 mph limit that has been largely diluted and 75 mph has become widespread once again.
          But it was the auto industry’s fight against the CAFÉ standards and Dingell’s help on their behalf that doomed U.S. automakers.
          Even as foreign automakers were making cars much more fuel-efficient than American-made cars, the U.S. auto industry fought the standards that would require them to average a certain amount of miles per gallon across their entire fleet. The standards would still allow gas-guzzlers, but they would have to be offset by vehicles that achieved an equal fuel efficiency on the other side of the center line.
          “We can’t do it, it would ruin us, we’d have to lay off workers,” U.S. automakers wailed as representatives of the United Auto Workers weeped at their sides. Thus the CAFÉ standards were set so high and with so many vehicle-type exceptions, they became mostly meaningless and Americans guzzled away.
          Within a few years, automakers and their employees were banning foreign cars from their parking lots and foreign cars, particularly those made in Japan, were being vandalized but auto workers in the Detroit area. Why? Japanese cars became popular during the 1970s, a decade capped by another oil crisis in 1979, because they routinely provided a better mpg than American-made cars.
          Today Japanese-owned automakers sell more cars than the American giants (now numbering only two as Chrysler ownership bounces from country to country).
          Despite this history, what did the U.S. automakers do in the 1980s and 1990s? They not only supplied, they encouraged with billions of dollars of advertising, the new fad of gas-guzzling bigger vehicles supposedly demanded by Americans with memories even shorter than those of the auto executives.
          Sure, foreign automakers also began producing gas-guzzlers to compete with the growing fad, but they always maintained massive production lines to continue to produce their old fuel-efficient autos. More importantly, they led the innovations for more fuel-efficient cars, such as hybrids and autos using alternative fuel sources. Detroit, as always, lagged way, way behind.
          Now, the bloom is off the gas-guzzler rose and Detroit is stuck with gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs while foreign competitors find themselves unable to keep up with the American demand for economical substitutes.
          The U.S. auto industry was hoist by its own petard. Ten years from now, if it still exists, will the industry have learned its lesson this time? For clues, watch the next appearances by auto executives before concerned congressional committees.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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July 1, 2008

Good News is Bad News

A Parade Of Good News is Bad

          Romania, Parade magazine, and network news show-enders all have something in common beyond an attempt to deliver an item on conservative wish-lists: they suggest just the opposite of what they intend.
          A Reuters item from Romania caught our eye about the same time as one of Parade magazine’s worthless pablum pieces, “How to be a Better Voter,” and network news shows were ending with their usual feel-good pieces.
          Each case is an attempt to satisfy a wish by conservatives who, beyond not wanting change, wish to be protected from anything that is not all they would wish it to be, something like sex education.
          In each of these cases, the attempt is made to emphasize the good news instead of the bad news that permeates our lives.
          There is an innate problem with all of these efforts, however. By definition, news is that which is novel, unusual, somewhat rare, not a daily occurrence.
          A hundred years ago, a car crash in which no one was hurt was news. Today, such incidents are so common they no longer qualify as news. A single-fatality is no longer news beyond the immediate vicinity of the incident. Similarly, a death resulting from use of a handgun is not news in a big city and may become so commonplace due to the Supreme Court ruling that such incidents are no longer news anywhere. And on and on.
          Romania’s Senate passed a law that, if upheld, would order broadcasters to balance good news with bad in their newscasts in the belief happier news would make Romania look better.
          Given the definition of news, Romania’s message to the world actually will be, this is such a god-awful, gloomy place where nothing ever good happens,that good events have become so rare they now qualify as news.
          Similarly, more than 10 percent of the 20 minutes on nightly network newscasts is wasted on a story intended to leave viewers feeling good, presumably so they will be encouraged to tune in again the next day. The real message is that whatever the pablum story they are airing is about, it is so rarenow in America that it has become news. That is depressing.
          Similarly, that Parade magazine stuffed into Sunday newspapers, runs only good news, or at least feel-good news stories. We were attracted to the piece on voting, over the name of George Stephanopoulos, who can be somewhat forgiven because he is not a trained journalist.
          Because it was in Parade, the article could not contain anything negative, so it ended up being a 7th grade civics lesson instead of dispensing goodadvice.
          What it didn’t suggest is that potential voters stop listening to tabloid-cable shows and start paying attention to legitimate sources beyond the nightly newscasts that provide little more than headlines delivered by head-bobbing anchors and triple-bylined reporters more intent on making their story dramatic than providing any worthwhile information.
          The Parade piece advised potential voters to pay attention to what candidates say and do, but it does not advise them to be discerning about that is said and done by and about them. For example, if Gen. Wesley Clark says John McCain’s war record is not a qualification to be president, the response should be “so what?” and flip the channel until you find a real news item.
          The item also repeats the old saw, “your vote counts.” Yes it does, but citizens who cast their vote based on no or bad information or for some other worthless reason, they should stay home and do their country a favor. A bad voter is not better than no voter at all, no matter what the civics books and Parade say.
          And good news is bad news.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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June 26, 2008

Scalia’s Pretzels for Guns

 Scalia’s Gun-Control Vote

          The next time you hear Justice Antonin Scalia call himself a constitutional “originalist,” laugh out loud. As we suggested in the previous piece he might, Scalia tortured the words, twisting them this way and that to make them support an ideologue’s view of the Second Amendment. That four others followed him down that road is a shame that has resulted in nothing but turning the Constitution into a pretzel.
          The nation’s gun nuts, and their few rational supporters, are celebrating the decision, but they don’t realize that lower courts are going to be hard put to make any sense of it. Those courts’ conclusions are likely to be in such disagreement with each other, the issue may be back before the Supreme Court in much less than the nearly 70 years it took to review the issue this time.

          One of the first such questions raised by the ruling is its application beyond the District of Columbia, whose laws are within federal grounds, not a state’s. On its face, the ruling applies only there and nowhere else, but similar laws exist in other cities. Does the tortured Scalia explanation justifying the ruling actually have any impact on other jurisdictions? The lower courts will have to sort that out. 
          An originalist view, as we said earlier, would read the same nexus between a right to bear arms and a state-run militia, as all the court’s precedents have read. An originalist view would hold the Constitution to mean only what it meant to the authors at the time they wrote it, with any other interpretation to be embodied only in changes in constitutionally allowed law or changes in the Constitution itself.
          In his majority opinion, as we suggested he might, Scalia has thrown all of that out the window, or as in today’s tabloid-cable vernacular, under the bus. And, as we suggested he might, Scalia has twisted words into pretzels to make them fit his ideology.
          He refers to the opening clause of the Second Amendment as “prefatory” and then ignores its existence, leaving an unrestricted right to bear arms. But with his pretzel words, he then suggests that well, this isn’t actually an unlimited right, that governments can still restrict some gun ownership, but not others, with no support for that conclusion, leaving it to the lower courts to figure out, court by court by court.
          
This is the muddied opinion.  For better writing and better judgment on this issue, we recommend the dissenting opinions of Justices Stevens and Breyer at the end.

Scalia: Activist Justice

          Antonin Scalia calls himself an originalist to explain the reasoning behind his Supreme Court votes. In truth, Scalia is one of the most activist of the justices, a term applied to justices they don’t like by most originalists.
          Being an originalist would be consistent with being a political conservative. Both ideologies reflect a preference that time never change, that everything stay the same, like the Amish attempt to freeze time at the end of the 1600s. Similarly, a U.S. Constitution originalist would freeze time to a point a few decades later, to 1787.
          That view of the Constitution says the document refers only to the situation that existed at the time it was written, 1787. Whatever the Constitution says, it means only what it meant to the authors at the time and has no application to anything that comes later. If society changes after that and changes in law need to be made, then the Constitution needs to be changed to apply to that new situation, and the Constitution itself says how that is to be done.
          That interpretation is somewhat weird, because why would the Constitution have been written in the manner than it was, without references to the present, i.e., 1787 or the situation that was in place at that time. Everything about the Constitution suggests it was intended to be relevant forever, or at least forever as it applies to the existence of the nascent nation.
          Activists are considered those with an opposite view of the Constitution, that the Constitution itself established the Supreme Court to interpret the laws and actions of American governments and whether they comply with the restrictions or powers granted by the Constitution. The term “activists” applies to conservative as well as liberals, but it most often is intended by conservatives as a scurrilous description of a liberal.
          The most activist a justice can be is in overturning a precedent of the court, as in overturning the court’s long-held decision in 1939 interpreting the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms as meaning that right exists as part of a militia and that state and local governments are free to control or ban any other type of gun use.
          But let us let Scalia have his weird originalist view of the Constitution and assume it is a reasonable one. If one has a philosophy as well thought out as Scalia at least pretends his to be, then one would expect him to be consistent about it and to take that view down the line.
          Anyone who has watched Scalia during dozens of
oral arguments before the court or has read dozens of his opinions for the court, his agreements with the majority and his dissents with the majority, one knows Scalia is anything but consistent. Where he is consistent is in his arrogance, in hogging the hour-long proceeding, sometimes interrupting his fellow justices, and often bullying the lawyers before him.
          His inconsistency is in his choice of words. He twists them like pretzels to make them appear to mean what he would prefer them to mean so they can support the viewpoint he wants to make fit into his originalist theory. He did the same in the oral arguments in D.C. vs. Heller, probably the most important 2nd amendment case to be decided by the court in more than half a century.
          It is not a stretch to say the justices should, in interpreting a part of the Constitution, should see it only as a part and should interpret that part in relationship to the rest of what the Constitution says.
          The 2nd Amendment at the core of the gun-control issue states: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
          The 10th Amendment has a bearing because it says that whatever is not restricted by the Constitution, a state is free to restrict if it wishes and if it does not, the people are free to do whatever is not restricted, the idea at the very core of democracy: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
          The militia also comes up early on in the Constitution, in Article I laying out the powers of the legislative branch. It says Congress has the power “to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; to pro- vide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”
          Anyone who has read a newspaper or caught broadcast news has seen all of those actions carried out by an armed force controlled by the states. Those armed entities are universally called the National Guard.
          Since those opposed to gun control do so by rejecting the need, or even the existence of a militia these modern days, another section of the main body of the Constitution, the part laying out the powers of the executive branch, i.e., the president is relevant.
          Article II, Section 2: “The president shall be commander-in- chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”
          The current president relied on that specific provision to order the various National Guards of the states to the war in Iraq, sealing the fact state militias do exist today in the form of the National Guard.
          Thus, Scalia brought his originalist view to bear in the oral arguments in D.C. v Heller when he said to one of the lawyers he did not believe there was a contradiction between the personal guarantee of the 2nd amendment and its reference to a militia. But then he ignores the reference in Article II, Section 2 by saying, “not necessarily a state-managed militia because the militia that resisted the British was not state-managed.”
          In his pretzel-word way, Scalia then adds, “But why isn’t it perfectly plausible, indeed reasonable, to assume that since the framers knew that the way militias were destroyed by tyrants in the past was not by passing a law against militias, but by taking away the people’s weapons—that was the way militias were destroyed. The two clauses go together beautifully: since we need a militia, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” He’s trying to say it is not the militia’s needs that guarantees the right to bear arms, but the need of someone who might have to be a member of a militia even if one does not exist.
          Elsewhere in the argument, Scalia said, “The principal purpose here is the militia, but the—but the second clause goes beyond the militia and says the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” He then suggests the second clause is broader than the first.
          In truth, the sentence that is the 2nd Amendment is not written that way. Any grammarian can tell you the clauses are tied and are not separate, that the second one relies on the first. The first clause sets up the second and is not even a complete sentence on its own.
          Thus, Scalia faced a conundrum of his own making when he voted in the D.C. v Heller gun-control case. As an originalist, he had to vote for the ability of a government to restrict gun possession, but as a right-wing conservative, he had to vote against any bans on the individual right to bear arms.
          Thus, Scalia faced a conundrum of his own making when he voted in the D.C. v Heller gun-control case. As an originalist, he had to vote for the ability of a government to restrict gun possession, but as a right-wing conservative, he had to vote against any bans on the individual right to bear arms.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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