31 July, 2008

The Candidates And the Seventh Amendment

This is the seventh post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Seventh Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This amendment follows up on the Fifth and Sixth's discussion of criminal trials with civil trial protections.

Here's the text:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

As usual, we'll start with Barack Obama.

The only thing I can find about Barack Obama relating to civil trials relates to "tort reform". And he's been somewhat dichotic with respect to that, generally voting with the trial lawyers, but not always. However, despite my own opinions on tort reform, it does not generally appear to cross the boundaries into a Seventh Amendment issue, in my opinion.

Next to John McCain.

I had the same troubles with McCain, however there's much more on him with regards to "tort reform".

Senator McCain's record on tort reform is generally positive. These votes include:

  • Sponsored the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 which sought to curb lawsuits by shifting suits from state to federal courts, by requiring judges to review all coupon settlements, and by limiting attorneys' fees in non-cash settlements[65]
  • Voted for a bill that would bar lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of firearms[66]
  • Voted for a bill that would place caps on damage awards in medical malpractice suits against obstetricians and gynecologists[67]
  • Voted for a motion to proceed to a bill that would cap non-economic and punitive damages in medical malpractice suits[68]

This generally positive record, however, is tarnished by Senator McCain's sponsoring of and outspoken support for the Patients' Bill of Rights,[69] which encouraged an increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed against healthcare providers. He also voted against the Litigation Uniform Standards Act, which limited the conduct of securities class actions under state law.[70]

There's some important stuff here and it does skirt around the edges of the Seventh Amendment. While he has placed caps on damages, he has also supported the 'Patients' Bill of Rights". He's hammered against "frivolous lawsuits" and and acted to restrict civil lawsuits against people acting in accordance with the law. But, the Seventh Amendment doesn't say anything about citizens having the right to make a civil claim, but only how civil claims should be handled.

This is a difficult case. In general, Obama's views on civil trials have sided with the plaintiff, and McCain's have sided with the defendant. But not always, as we see with the Patients' Bill of Rights. Either way, they're supporting one person's rights over another's.

But it's vague, as I said. You have to stretch a bit to make any of their statements or votes apply directly to the Seventh Amendment.

So, on to the grades.

Typically, if I can't find anything in my research that directly shows views contradictory to an amendment, I have given the candidate an A+. However, neither candidate seems to warrant such a grade in this case, since they have skirted around it. I've decided to knock them down just a bit.

Obama: B

McCain: B

I would've dropped McCain to a C without his support of the "Patients' Bill of Rights". Obama gets a B solely by virtue of his brevity of public service. Frankly, I'm not terribly comfortable with either of these grades, but I don't know what else to give them. If someone can provide additional information or make better arguments than I have, I'm certainly willing to listen and adjust their scores.

Seventh Amendment: No Advantage

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

Ted Stevens - Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

I really don't have anything much to say about the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), but I didn't want to be accused of ignoring Republican scandals and only mentioning Democratic ones.

I'm glad he got indicted. I wish it had happened sooner. With his pork problems and obvious ethical challenges, he's not the type of person we need in Washington, DC. With luck, he'll resign or at least drop his re-election campaign and we can replace him with someone of better character.

30 July, 2008

Democrats Want To Test My Theory

Democrats want to see if they can lose Congress in '08 after all.

Mark Hemingway quotes a GOP Press Release:

Do-Nothing Democrats Vote to Adjourn House of Representatives Without Taking Action to Lower Gas Prices

Putnam: "It's Time Democrats Put Their Boarding Passes Back in Their Pockets"

WASHINGTON – Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL), Chairman of the House Republican Conference, issued the following statement shortly after the House of Representatives voted 213-212 – with no Republicans voting in the affirmative – to adjourn for five weeks in August and September without taking action to lower gas prices and break our dependence on foreign oil:

Of course, I'd say that it's not time to take their boarding passes away, but to give them new ones.  For one way tickets out of Washington, DC.

As Mark puts it:

Not taking action on this is a gift to Republicans up for election. They can now spend the next five weeks on the campaign trail railing against their opponents for not doing anything about gas prices.

Hopefully they will do just that.  As I keep saying, "It's the price of gas, stupid."

Tax Cuts For the Rich

The Tax Foundation has summarized the latest data from the IRS regarding individual income taxes.  Read their report here.

A few highlights to whet your appetite:

Table 6
Total Income Tax Shares, 1980-2006
(Percent of federal income tax paid by each group)


Year Top 1% Top 5% Top 10% Bottom 50%
1980 19.05% 36.84% 49.28% 7.05%
2006 39.89% 60.14% 70.79% 2.99%

Yes, you're reading that right. The top 1% of taxpayers now pay twice as much of the entire tax revenue than they did in 1980. For the top 5% the results are similar, and the top 10%'s tax burden grew by 40%.  Meanwhile the tax burden of the bottom 50% fell to below 3%

So, can we dispense with the nonsense of talking about "tax cuts for the rich"? We'd have to slice their taxes by ridiculous amounts to even get to 1980 levels. The reason why the bottom 50% rarely receive tax breaks isn't because evil Republicans are trying to benefit their rich friends. It's much simpler.  They don't pay taxes. You can't give a tax cut to someone who doesn't pay taxes already. Ok, so you can, and we do, but that's a discussion for another time.

Obama's VP Options

There's been more buzz lately about Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and who's going to be his VP nominee. I'm going to take a look at some of the leading contenders here too.

This post will be a bit different than the one I did for Senator John McCain (R-AZ). It's going to be much shorter.

Why? Because Obama's needs are different than McCain's. While McCain needs someone to help him with the base, Obama just needs someone who won't be a drag on the ticket. Anything that the nominee might provide in way of assistance ot Obama is just gravy.

So, despite the many names that are being tossed around, I'm only going to look at four people. Note, it's not that I think it will definitely be one of these four. It's just that only these four provide anything noteworthy to the campaign.

Hillary Clinton, Senator NY. No. No. A thousand times no. I've commented on why before.

Bill Richardson, Governor NM. I like Bill Richardson. He caved to his party a little bit in the primaries, but for the most part he's been a lone voice of common sense. He's got the executive office experience and he was one of the few people to come out of the Clinton administration looking good. He's a straight shooter, and knowledgeable. None of that matters. What matters is that a) he won't be drag, and b) he could bring NM to Obama. Andrew Tanenbaum (yes, that Andrew Tanenbaum) over at Electoral-Vote.com says that VP candidates rarely help bring any specific states. Yet, the data he uses doesn't apply to modern 50/50 nation politics, in my opinion. NM is very tight, and McCain is probably going to need either NM or NV, so Richardson could be a good choice.

Evan Bayh, Senator IN. Bayh would have almost certainly been Hillary's VP nominee. I'm of little doubt on that score. He's recently been talking to the Obama people and they're impressed with him. He's got the same kind of youth as Obama, but more experience and a strong name. None of that matter. What matters is that a) he won't be a drag, and b) he could bring IN to Obama. The margin in IN is also currently razor thin, and McCain must win IN to have any shot. I've said before that I think McCain's chances in IN rest with Governor Mitch Daniels' (R) chances of getting re-elected, so Bayh would be a good counter-balance to Daniels. However, in the end, IN went 60% for Bush in 2004, so all things being equal (and Bayh vs. Daniels makes it equal), McCain should pull out the win here. Also, Bayh as VP would mean that the Democrats would likely lose his seat in the Senate to a Republican. (I think. I haven't been able to verify that yet.)

Tim Kaine, Governor VA. Kaine is someone with even less experience than Obama. And despite that, a better record of achievement. He's not as charismatic as Richardson or Bayh. He is a little older than Obama, giving the appearance of age and wisdom. But, his inexperience could be a drag on the ticket. Obama's already going to get hammered on that. He doesn't need to provide additional ammo to the Republicans. On the other hand, he could bring VA to Obama. The margin in VA is just as thin (or thinner) than IN, and there's no Governor Daniels to help McCain here, and McCain absolutely must win VA to have any shot at all. On the whole, he's probably a net positive to the ticket, but just barely. But barely may be all that Obama needs.

There are many other names being mentioned, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), for example. But almost all of these names are insignificant. If one of them gets chosen, he'll just be the guy in the suit standing next to Obama. Even Biden fits into that category.

UPDATE: I did verify that the new Governor of Indiana will appoint Bayh's replacement in the event he is the Vice-President Elect. And, it's reasonable to believe that having Bayh on the ticket might help Jill Long Thompson (D) win the Governer's race, but that's still betting a Senate seat on a campaign that appears to be slipping. Not a bet I'd make, or that I imagine most Dems would be happy about Obama making. But, it's his (and Bayh's) choice.

The Candidates and the Sixth Amendment

This is the sixth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This amendment follows up on the Fifth nicely and discusses criminal trials.

Here's the text:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Another sort of "kitchen sink". We've got speedy and public trials, impartial juries, facing accusers, providing witnesses, knowing what the charges are, and defense counsel.

As usual, we'll look at Barack Obama first.

Ok, I'll be honest. I can't find anything on Barack Obama with respect to any part of the Sixth Amendment except in relation to the Guantanamo detainees. He appears to be in favor of providing Sixth Amendment protection to the detainees.

And now to John McCain.

I can't find anything on him either. If you search "john mccain" and "sixth amendment" or "trial by jury" using your favorite search engine, you'll get a few hits, only to discover that those are just pages that happen to have both of those items mentioned. Once again, he was opposed to providing Sixth Amendment protection to the detainess.

You'll notice that I once again added in how the candidates feel about rights for enemy combatants. However, I will once again, be ignoring those feelings when assigning grades. I feel that rights granted to enemy combatants are at best peripheral to the discussion of American citizens rights.


Obama: A+

McCain: A+

Sixth Amendment: No Advantage

UPDATE: Grades lowered per this post.

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

28 July, 2008

Kathryn Lopez is Wrong on IVF

Kathryn Lopez is deeply opposed to IVF.  You can read her article here. I've e-mailed her. Perhaps The Corner will print my rebuttal. Perhaps they'll do a New York Times and not. Fortunately, I have my own blog and I don't have to rely on The Corner. :)

The text of my e-mail follows:

Sorry, Kathryn, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

But sometimes what we want isn’t what is best for us — or for the children. And sometimes the more compassionate thing — as anyone who has ever gone through or watched a couple go through the grueling, expensive emotional and biological rollercoaster of assisted reproduction knows all too painfully well — is not to opt for IVF

The point you miss here is that these couples go through this rollercoaster every month without IVF. They do everything they can. Sometimes they take medicine to assist. Men take special vitamin complexes to enable their swimmers to “get off their barcoloungers” (Friends quote--TV). They track their fertility cycle.  They “do the deed” during the right time of the month. And then they take the test. And nothing.

Every single month.

And each month drops them farther and farther down that black hole of despair. Is God punishing them?  Is God trying to tell them they’re not fit to have a baby?  Did they screw up when they were younger and harm their bodies somehow making reproduction impossible?

And they scream at each other. Not blaming the other, but just lashing out in frustration. And they go to bed every night praying, not for a baby, not for a quick way out, but for God’s sake, something, anything that will help them turn their spouses back into the people they married, and not some self-hating anger-driven person they barely recognize.

And for many, IVF is the answer to that. And no, it’s not perfect. And there are lots of doctors practicing it that shouldn’t. But, just like anything else, there are IVF support groups on the net.  People can go there to get answers to their questions, to find out if their doctors are “men behaving badly”.

And, it’s expensive. And insurance doesn’t cover it.  And not just IVF, but any assisted fertility treatments are left by the wayside by most insurance companies. Despite the fact that every insurance plan in America covers abortions 100%. You want to rail on something, rail on that. The insurance companies have made it quite clear that they’ll fund killing babies, but not fund helping people have them.

And people spend much more money on it than they can afford.

And adoption is an option.

But why shouldn’t IVF be one too? There’s no “slippery slope” here, and it’s wrong to even claim that there is. The slippery slope is that we devalue human life to the point where we feel that it’s not worth doing everything we can to help people have children.

Here’s another quote that shows that you clearly don’t get it:

Would a society taking into consideration what the mechanization and laboratorization of sex has done to marriage and families, do it again?

Mechanization? Laboratorization? You make it seem like we’ve entered some Logan’s Run type society where people never have sex. They just go to the doctor to have a baby. That’s not what IVF is all about. And it’s not nearly as mechanized or laboratorized as you seem to think. Most of the steps are taken at home and in privacy and bring the couple together even more than any sexually intimate act could hope to.

There’s the hormone shots, the shots to make the eggs more viable, the shots and other medicines to fight off antibodies in the women’s system that think the egg is in invader and must be killed. There’s the special diets, and again with the vitamins and medicines for the male as well. And, let’s not forget the endless trips to medical specialists for both parties, making sure that there’s nothing wrong with their reproductive parts, or possible surgeries to attempt to fix either one of them if there is. Meanwhile, the spouse comes also to all of these doctor visits, and for the surgeries, sits in the waiting room and prays that “this time they’ll find something”, “this time they’ll fix it”. 

This isn’t mechanization. This is love. Completely and 100%. You don’t go through all of this without loving your partner, and you demean the people who have survived infertility when you call it that.

if you’ve tried again and again and have gotten nowhere, you might have other thoughts.

But, as I said, infertility couples have to deal with this stark reality every single month. And have to deal with it with our without IVF. IVF gives them the chance for hope again. Is it a good chance? No, even the best IVF doctors will tell you that you’re looking at about 1 chance in 3. Per $12,000 treatment. If you do everything right and everything goes perfectly, you might be able to raise your odds to 1 in 2. But you’re still throwing darts.

(BTW, if any doctor tells you your chances are 1 in 2 or better, run, don’t walk, out of his office. This doctor is not to be trusted)

But for many, this 1 in 3 chance  is a far far better chance than any other chance they’ll have.  And make no mistake, they’ll go through this monthly pain you bring up every month even without IVF. IVF gives them the chance to find the end of this painful cycle once and for all. Most reputable doctors will tell you that after two or three times if you’ve still had no luck, then it’s time to consider adoption or something else. You read all the time about people how have gone through 5 and 6 (or more) treatments, but they should never get there. And it’s attitudes like yours that put them there. You want to keep the genie in the bottle. You want to move back to the 70s. If we move forward, if the information becomes more well known, if more standard practices are realized, then people will be less likely to be seduced by quacks and will have the real information and will have the opportunity to make the right decisions for them and for their family.


UPDATED: Fixed bad link to Karthryn's article, which was posted at NRO in general, not specifically The Corner.