"One day one of the producers of Schoolhouse Rock, George Newall, passed by and casually asked me if I’d like to try writing a song for Schoolhouse Rock." Lynn Ahrens wrote the music and some, but not all, of the words to the song 'Preamble'.
Gun Wars: the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from "29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
I just freed an innocent man from death row. And I’m still furious. "Some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy. The truth is: I am angry. I am angry that we live in a world where two disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light. As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?" [more inside]
A federal judge declared California's death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose. Executions in California have already been on hold since 2006, due to problems with the procedures associated with lethal injection. If the ruling is upheld, California will join 18 other states (plus D.C.) that have abolished capital punishment. (Read the court's opinion here.)
Today the High Court of Australia ruled (Williams v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 23) for the second time that Commonwealth funding of school chaplains was unconstitutional. This is in direct contradiction of the Abbott government's recent budget moves to totally defund secular counsellors in favour of a $244M school chaplaincy program[me]. [more inside]
A police officer forcibly escorted Baltimore Sun photo editor Chris Assaf away from the scene of a police-involved shooting on Feb. 21. He had been taking pictures from outside the police lines, but an officer told him he had to move back further. Assaf protested, stating he was within his First Amendment rights to be where he was standing. Another officer then forced him to move. The Sun is posting all of Assaf’s images from the shooting scene as well as photos taken by Sun photographer Lloyd Fox, who witnessed and documented the incident. Lt. Eric Kowalczk, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said the department has opened an internal investigation into the allegation. He declined to comment more specifically on the incident, “because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.” (contains some mildly graphic pictures in both links)
Happy Valentine's day from Justice Scalia: (video) how his dissent in DOMA case US v. Windsor (PDF here) helped lead to recent rulings against state gay marriage bans.
Allan Levene really — really — wants to serve in Congress. But he's 64 years old, and says he has no time to build a political resume step by step by getting elected to lesser positions and working his way up. So, he is maximizing the odds by running in four different states simultaneously. He has entered primaries in Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia, which is where he lives. Is this legal? Apparently so, as long as he is a resident, at the time of the November general election, of whichever state he may manage to get elected in. Politifact checked it out with constitutional experts. NPR interview transcript.
Contempt of Cop Activists range from hard-conservative gun rights types, who carry copies of the Constitution in their pockets, to left-leaning civil liberties advocates. In both cases, they triumphantly upload video trophies of their confrontations to the internet. Quite a few show "checkpoint refusals" at roadblocks erected by police looking for drunken drivers, or by federal agents hunting illegal aliens. Courts here have held that police have the right to operate such stops. But the courts have also ruled that citizens are free to remain silent, and can refuse to allow searches and ignore orders to submit to "secondary inspections" unless police detain them — which requires the higher hurdle of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe an offence has been committed. [more inside]
According to researchers who analyzed all 729 constitutions adopted between 1946 and 2006, the U.S. Constitution is rarely used as a model. What's more, "the American example is being rejected to an even greater extent by America's allies than by the global community at large"...The Atlantic's Alex Seitz-Wald makes a case against the U.S. Constitution: The U.S. Needs a New Constitution—Here's How to Write It.
"There are about 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, that have adopted American-style systems. All of them, without exception, have succumbed to...constitutional crisis[es]—your full range of political violence, revolution, coup, and worse. But well short of war, you can end up in a state of "crisis governance," he writes. "President and house may merely indulge a taste for endless backbiting, mutual recrimination, and partisan deadlock. Worse yet, the contending powers may use the constitutional tools at their disposal to make life miserable for each other: The house will harass the executive, and the president will engage in unilateral action whenever he can get away with it." [Juan Linz] wrote that almost a decade and a half ago, long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, let alone the Tea Party.
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
Need to argue with your crazy uncle about what the Founders really intended? Or maybe you're wondering what an 18th Century AskMe might have looked like. The National Archives has launched Founders Online, a searchable collection of over 100,000 annotated and transcribed documents including letters, speeches, diaries and more from the collected papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and family, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.
Who's a 'journalist'? People who can afford to be- and absolutely not Julian Assange. A US Senate panel has approved legislation to protect journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources. The proposed law defines 'journalism' by profession, and not by practice- shutting out citizen journalists while protecting corporate media.
In literature, there are two key sorts of annotations: marginalia, or the notes jotted down in the margins by the reader, and additional information formally provided in expanded editions of a text, and you can find a bit of both online. Annotated Books Online is an on-line interactive archive of early modern annotated books, where researchers can share digitized documents and collaborate on translations. For insight into a single author's notes, Melville's Marginalia provides just that. For annotations with additional information, The Thoreau Reader provides context for Walden (linked previously), The Maine Woods, and other writings. Then there's the mostly annotated edition Ulysses, analysis of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, and the thoroughly annotated US constitution (twentieth amendment linked previously). More marginalia and annotations inside. [more inside]
In a 5-4 ruling on Salinas vs. Texas, the SCOTUS ruled that silence can be used in court. (PDF) Without being placed in custody or receiving Miranda warnings, Genovevo Salinas voluntarily answered some of a police officer’s questions about a murder, but fell silent when asked whether ballistics testing would match his shotgun to shell casings found at the scene of the crime. During his trial in Texas state court, and over his objection, the prosecution used his failure to answer the question as evidence of guilt. He was convicted, and both the State Court of Appeals andCourt of Criminal Appeals affirmed, rejecting his claim that the prosecution’s use of his silence in its case in chief violated the Fifth Amendment. Analysis on SCOTUSblog
The Missing Right: A Constitutional Right to Vote is an essay regarding the proposed constitutional amendment to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right. The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy and yet, surprisingly, such a right is not part of the constitution. U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are trying to create that right and limit the power of special interest to chip away at it.
Call it municipal disobedience: communities like Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, are defying laws they deem illegitimate.
Years after the first hints of "harsh interrogation practices" in the US war on terror, years after Obama's decision to "look forward, not back" and not investigate or pursue official torture by the CIA and other agencies, the 577-page Report of the Task Force on Detainee Treatment that was released today is, "[i]n many respects, . . . the examination of the treatment of suspected terrorists that official Washington has been reluctant to conduct." The New York Times' Scott Shane reports. [more inside]
Beate Sirota Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89: a NYT obituary relates the fascinating story of a young woman who was just the right person in just the right place at just the right time and managed to strike a blow for gender equality. [more inside]
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy sacks the head of the Army. Hussein Tantawi (head of the Egyptian Army and SCAF) has been dismissed as the Egyptian president asserts his power over the traditionally dominant military. Morsy has also cancelled the SCAF memorandum keeping legislative powers with the military council, and it's widely thought that the fight over that will end up at the constitutional court again. If the cancellation stands, Morsi will also have almost complete control of the constitutional drafting process.
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
"The legislative goal of HB1160 is to codify in Virginia law noncompliance with...section 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA)." [more inside]
Taking their position of status and responsibility into account, Germany's Constitutional Court has ruled that German university professors are underpaid. [more inside]
Presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation can be made without confirmation by the President when the chamber is in recess: a so-called recess appointment, wherein the appointee is allowed to serve until the end of the next congressional session. During the Bush II administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began holding pro forma sessions every three days—a local Senator gavels the session in and immediately back out—to ensure that the Senate never went into recess and as a result, Bush stopped confirming recess appointments. When the Obama administration took over, the Republicans began holding the same pro forma sessions to prevent Obama from appointing any positions in recess. This week, Obama made four appointments, including Richard Cordray to the newly created role of director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, despite the fact that the Senate is not in technical recess. [more inside]
In February of 2011, eleven students that attended UC Irvine and UC Riverside went to a fundraising speech featuring Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, at the UC Irvine campus. During Oren's speech, students would stand up, shout an objection to Oren's speech, and then would allow themselves to be escorted by security, essentially causing a "heckler's veto." They were arrested, charged, and today found guilty of disrupting Oren's speech. [more inside]
The perfect location for the perfect crime. Due to a loophole in the US Constitution there is an area of Yellowstone Park where you may be able to get away with a major crime. U Michigan Prof Brian C Kalt looks into this loophole and gauges your chance at success. Someone has tried. [more inside]
An Ohio trial court judge last Friday in State v. Stephens [.pdf] held that there is no First Amendment right to bark at a police dog. [more inside]
Public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these. Failing to compel Ms. Fricosu amounts to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.
The "if you were innocent, you'd have nothing to hide" argument rears its head, in a big way. [more inside]
The "if you were innocent, you'd have nothing to hide" argument rears its head, in a big way. [more inside]
In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf] President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.Now, the New York Times reports that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. [more inside]
Do doctors violate the 2nd Amendment when they ask their patients if they own guns? May the government force doctors to stop asking that without violating the 1st Amendment?
Fareed Zakaria: Are America's Best Days Behind Us? - "We have an Electoral College that no one understands and a Senate that doesn't work, with rules and traditions that allow a single Senator to obstruct democracy without even explaining why. We have a crazy-quilt patchwork of towns, municipalities and states with overlapping authority, bureaucracies and resulting waste. We have a political system geared toward ceaseless fundraising and pandering to the interests of the present with no ability to plan, invest or build for the future. And if one mentions any of this, why, one is being unpatriotic, because we have the perfect system of government, handed down to us by demigods who walked the earth in the late 18th century and who serve as models for us today and forever. America's founders would have been profoundly annoyed by this kind of unreflective ancestor worship." [for/against]
Right before the 10th anniversary of the first same-sex marriage in Canada, Saskatchewan's highest court has ruled that a proposed law allowing provincial marriage commissioners to refuse to wed same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Thecourt.ca gives its thoughts on the decision and the social context surrounding it.
"The [Customs and Border Patrol] specifically wanted laptops and cell phones and were visibly unhappy when they discovered nothing of the sort." [more inside]
On August 30, 1978 a Polish airliner was hijacked and redirected to Tempelhof airport in West Berlin. Torn between a policy of supporting defection and a recently-signed anti-hijacking treaty, the West German government ceded jurisdiction over the defendants to the United States government, which was still technically an occupying power and had an interest in the case because of the US Air Force Base at Tempelhof. The result was the one and only decision rendered by the United States Court for Berlin, United States v. Tiede. [more inside]
The 4th Amendment Underclothes are a way to send a message to the TSA. Next time you undergo an X-ray body scan, wear these and let the law enforcers know you won't be scanned without at least reminding them what they violate when they do so.
A Nude Awakening - The TSA and Privacy. An insightful article about the TSA and fundamental freedoms from the Oklahoma Daily Student newspaper. via
And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the union shall be perpetual...
“It’s time to return America to the common sense conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual responsibility. The Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around. In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction.” —incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), on a proposed amendment allowing a 2/3 vote by the state governments to overturn any federal law or regulation. [more inside]
A 136-person Senate. A 1,000-strong House. A 12-person Supreme Court. A President with a line-item veto whose one term is six years. Mandatory national service. A balanced budget requirement. Some of the 23 measures that Prof. Larry Sabato proposes be enacted at a Second Constitutional Convention in his 2007 book A More Perfect Constitution. (And readers' suggestions for the 24th measure.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined several other key Republican leaders and conservative commentators who are calling for Congress to review the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Consitution. The Citizenship Clause has been interpreted, since the Supreme Court decision United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898, to give "birthright citizenship" to children born on U.S. soil to non-citizens (whom some GOP politicans call "anchor babies"). McConnell's comments are not the first time (see section "A Sensible Immigration Policy") the GOP has tried to question the clause. Some see the move as another attempt to capitalize on anti-immigration sentiment in the build-up to the mid-term elections.
1. Always be calm and cool. 2. You have the right to remain silent. 3. You have the right to refuse searches... 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. [more inside]
Former Second Daughter Liz Cheney (who, it should be noted, received her JD from The University of Chicago Law School in 1996) and her Keep America Safe 501(c) posted a video demanding that the Justice Department publicly release the names of its "Al Quaeda Seven," seven Justice employees who served as counsel for Guantanamo detainees. Reaction has been swift and fierce. [more inside]
"This was national scripture, a piece of our Constitution's history," she said of her find in November. "It was difficult to keep my hands from trembling."
Asheville, NC City Councilman-elect Cecil Bothwell is scheduled to be sworn in today. But critics of Bothwell say he cannot hold office citing NC's constitution which states: "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” [more inside]
"I was just sick and tired of Texas law that allowed the defendant to destroy the very evidence that we need to protect society." Starting September 1st, police in Texas will be able to draw blood for alcohol testing from anyone involved in an auto accident without a warrant. Lauded by law enforcement officials such as Williamson County DA John Bradley (quoted above), and Dallas Police Chief David "we believe in the no-refusal process," Kunkle, it has others worried about what happens if someone refuses the test.