17 April, 2009

Georgetown University Covers Up Symbol for Obama’s Speech and Rightwing Bloggers Swing At The Dirt

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, President Barack Obama (D-USA) spoke at Georgetown University last week, and the university covered up an “IHS” symbol behind him. IHS is a symbol for the name of Jesus.

CNS News has even discovered that GU did not cover up the symbol when First Lady Laura Bush spoke there in 2006.

The Christian right is up in arms about this.

Pardon me while I stifle a yawn.

No doubt, had they not covered up the symbol, we would’ve seen some AP photograph this week cleverly angled so that the symbol would appear directly over Obama’s head. And the Christian right would be upset about that showing that our MSM is once again trying to make a messiah out of Obama. This was done numerous times during the election campaign.

You can’t have it both ways. And I, for one, am more upset about the messiah images than this, if I have to choose. So, with GU’s choice here, I am at least spared one more messiah image.

Tea Parties – Great Kid! Don’t Get Cocky!

Reliable estimates put total Tea Party attendance somewhere north of 300,000. Perhaps even north of 500,000.

Tea Party organizers are giddy about these results.

The left and MSM continue to treat the events with scorn and ridicule.

They’re both right. And both wrong.

First, the left criticism that these are astroturf campaigns is both laughable and ludicrous. Laughable because it comes from the Soros-funded MoveOn.org crowd, who know a thing or two about astroturfing. Ludicrous, because if the GOP was really capable of organizing people this well, they wouldn’t have lost the last two elections.

However, the left is correct that these protests are dwarfed in size by many Iraq War protests and May Day protests (and we can bet that they will make sure that this year’s May Day events are huge, no matter how much astroturfing they have to do to get there).

The tea partiers are correct too. Let’s face it, most of these protestors were from the right or at least center right. Getting 300,000+ conservatives together to protest anything is amazing. Conservatism is all about individualism. It’s not about mobs. (It’s also about jobs and work ethic, but one could argue that I’m hitting below the belt here). There’s every reason to be excited about these numbers. Especially for a nascent “movement”, that doesn’t have a huge (or really any) organizational structure or backing.

But the tea partiers are wrong to call this a “movement”. This was one day out of people’s lives. Will they follow up? Will they hold their congressmen’s feet to the fire? Will they “throw da bums out”? Will they form a new political party? Will they fund their own candidates and get them to run? Will they go to future protests, town halls, etc? Will they call, write letters, go door-to-door? Until the tea partiers can prove they can do at least some of these things, they shouldn’t call themselves a “movement”.

There’s definitely some potential here, though, and both Democrats and Republicans ignore this group at their own peril.

So, call me skeptically optimistic. This could be the dawn of something huge for those who lean to the right. Or it could fizzle out and merely be a footnote about President Barack Obama’s (D-USA) first 100 days in office.

15 April, 2009

April 15 – Tax Day – FairTax, Tea Parties, Total Income Tax, Oh My!

Well, long time readers of this blog know how I feel about our tax code. At the risk of being redundant, today is a good day to check out www.fairtax.org, and learn about the FairTax.

If you do a little research on it (and I encourage you to do so), you may run across a “fisking” website, www.fairtaxfraud.com. You can read my smackdown of this ill-informed site here.

I also encourage you to read both of the two books co-authored by one of the sponsors of the bill, The FairTax Book, and FairTax: The Truth: Answering the Critics.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any good website or book that criticizes the FairTax.  Not that there aren’t plenty of criticisms out there, but they’re universally bad. The most common tactic is to misrepresent what the FairTax is, and then to punch holes in all the problems with their misrepresentation. Or they’ll make meaningless claims like “you will no longer be able to deduct your mortgage interest from your income taxes” (which is technically true, but completely irrelevant as I point out in my smackdown that I mentioned above).

Perhaps I’ll be forced to write a critical post about it myself. I’ve said numerous times that the FairTax is not without warts. I’m pretty certain it’s impossible to create a wart free tax plan. It just has fewer warts than any other plan that I’m aware of.

One might ask if I’m going to be attending any of today’s Tea Parties. There is one here in Indianapolis.

View 2009 Tea Parties in a larger map


Unfortunately, I’ve had several circumstances that have caused me to miss time from work recently, and I know I have at least a couple more coming up, so I won’t be able to attend. I highly encourage you to do so, however.

I also encourage you to be suspicious of a Republican politician who jumps on the “Tea Party” bandwagon. These protests aren’t merely about high taxes, but high spending. Ask this Republican where s/he was the last 8 years when spending was out of control (or at least what we thought of as “out of control” then…drop in the bucket compared to now).

Not that there weren’t Republicans who tried to reign in the growth of government over the last 8 years. But they were the minority in their own party. And is the primary reason we are now saddled with the government we now have.

Today’s also a good day to reflect upon how much you actually paid in taxes this year. No, not the size of the check you’re writing today, or the size of the “refund” you’ll be getting, but the total amount you’re paying. Do you know? Most people don’t.

Mine? About $24,000 in federal and state income tax. Note that doesn't include FICA taxes, unemployment taxes, property taxes, vehicle excise taxes, sales taxes and probably a few dozen other taxes that aren't coming to mind at the moment. Even I don’t know my total tax burden offhand, although at least I keep a close enough eye on my finances to be able to calculate it.

14 April, 2009

I’m Now Sold On Term Limits For Supreme Court Justices

Since one of the main topics of this blog deals with civil rights, I tend to keep an eye on the Supreme Court and the Justices. I currently subscribe to two SCOTUS blogs, and while they’re very informative, they’re also a good cure for insomnia. However, I also watch for news stories about the Justices and in particular their speaking engagements.  One this past weekend caught my eye.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke at Ohio State University this past weekend.  The NYT covered it here.

The speech is shocking in how clearly it shows that Ms. Ginsberg is unqualified for the job she now holds.

She spent quite a bit of her speech “defending the use of foreign law by American judges”, according to the article.

Let me explain in detail what’s wrong with that idea.

Here’s the Wiktionary definition for “judge”.

judge (plural judges)

  1. A public official whose duty it is to administer the law, especially by presiding over trials and rendering judgments; a justice.

And for “legislator

legislator (plural legislators)

  1. Someone who creates or enacts laws, especially a member of a legislative body.

Now, if you’re making governing decisions for the United States based on foreign law rather than existing U.S. law, which one of the two are you?

If you answered “legislator”, then you’re apparently smarter than Ms. Ginsberg.

Since she can’t be bothered to remember the definitions of these two words, perhaps she could at least be called upon to remember her oath of office?

I, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.

Hmmm…I see, “under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” I don’t see “under the Constitution and laws of the United States and other foreign powers.”

The Supreme Court examines cases brought to it and is the final arbiter of how the case is decided. Their primary resource is the U.S. Constitution and federal law. To judge the merits of a case based on laws from another nation grossly exceeds it’s authority and completely topples the balance of power between the three branches of government as it makes the Supreme Court the decider and implementer of the “law of the land”.

Here are a couple quotes from the Justice:

Why shouldn’t we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor?


I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law.

Well, unless the judge from abroad was citing a case in the United States and referring to U.S. law, the simple reason is that his/her opinion is entirely irrelevant.

Chief Justice John Roberts addressed this properly in his own confirmation hearings:

If we’re relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge. And yet he’s playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country.

Another wonderful quote:

American hostility to the consideration of foreign law, she said, “is a passing phase.” She predicted that “we will go back to where we were in the early 19th century when there was no question that it was appropriate to refer to decisions of other courts.”

That doesn’t tend to agree with my 19th century study of the court, but I haven’t done the research to properly rebut such a claim. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that our 18th century founders would’ve been adamantly opposed to such a ludicrous idea.  She’s right that there should be no question about this. She’s just completely wrong in her conclusion.

Ms. Ginsberg even applied some circular logic in her reasoning, which any first year law student should know to avoid.

She added that the failure to engage foreign decisions had resulted in diminished influence for the United States Supreme Court.

The Canadian Supreme Court, she said, is “probably cited more widely abroad than the U.S. Supreme Court.” There is one reason for that, she said: “You will not be listened to if you don’t listen to others.”

Ahh…so we should cite others so they’ll cite us. And why exactly, should we want them to cite us? No doubt so that we can cite them. If your head is not spinning at this point, then you’re qualified to work for Justice Ginsberg.

I doubt that Justice Ginsberg reads this blog, but she probably should. Here’s the simple truth. We shouldn’t care whether our court decisions are cited elsewhere. The same reasons that make their decisions irrelevant in our cases make our decisions irrelevant in theirs. They’re not dealing with U.S. law!

The fact that Justice Ginsberg could come to these views and have the temerity to actually speak them in public shows that she no longer has the ability to function in her role as a Supreme Court Justice.

It also makes me wonder why we even bother with nomination hearings. If someone with so little understanding of her role and the role of the court could achieve such a high level position, then clearly, I myself am qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. Yes, I hold no law degree, nor have I ever studied law. But I do understand the Constitution, and my blog posts should show that I’m quite capable of thorough research on any given topic.