Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Call

Having had a while to chew on today's SCOTUS rulings, I have to say that the ruling on Arizona's immigration law was the most interesting.  The court made a 5-3 ruling (Kagan recused as she argued the case as Solicitor General) that Arizona went too far on a number of issues.  Chief Justice Roberts sided with the majority, but Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito basically argued that not only should Arizona should be able to take whatever measures it deemed necessary in order to defend its border, but that all states summarily should be able to, even non-border states.

If that sounds moderately insane, that's because it is.  Greg Sargent:

The court’s decision to strike down the first three provisions is welcome news to immigration advocates, and suggests the Obama administration was right to challenge the law. But advocates expected that those provisions wouldn’t survive the decision. The problem is that the court upheld the aspect of the law that is most worrisome — the part that requires police to check the status of a person if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is here illegally.

“The real make or break was the show-me-your-papers provision,” Frank Sharry of America’s Voice tells me. “Basically they upheld it.”

There are several problems here. The first is that this could lead to racial profiling, says Marshall Fitz of the Center for American Progress. “It’s not a sweeping victory for the other side, but the provision we most worried about was the one giving cops the ability to stop people and ask for their papers,” Fitz says. “We think this will lead inevitably to racial profiling, based on the way they sound and the way they look.”

Second: The fact that the High Court has suggested that there are ways for states to implement and/or interpret this law could encourage other states to try their own versions of it, rather than dissuade them from doing so. Efforts to emulate the Arizona law are already underway in a handful of states.

“There are lots of Joe Arpaios out there,” Fitz says, in a reference to the Arizona sheriff. “States will say, `Look, they upheld this.’”

That's a problem.  How the entire law wasn't trashed 8-0 I don't know.  We basically came within a hair or two of this becoming the new standard:  that states should be able to take whatever action on immigration they deem fit because Republicans refuse to allow a national policy to pass that's anything short of mass roundups and deporting millions.

Having said all this, the parts of the law that were struck down are, as Eugene Robinson puts it at the Washington Post, a big win for the Obama administration.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, points out something that many who seek to participate in the immigration debate fail to understand: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”

That’s right. It’s not a crime for “illegal” immigrants to live and work here without the proper documents. By “here” I mean all 50 states. The United States is one country with one immigration policy, and the Supreme Court means to keep it this way.

That’s why analysts who see this as a split ruling with “something for both sides” are wrong. The Obama administration won across the board on its central contention, which is that Arizona was trying to usurp a federal prerogative. This has huge implications for the other states, such as South Carolina and Georgia, that are also trying to design their own immigration policies.

So yes, this fight is not over.  A case will come before SCOTUS that claims that Arizona's paper check provision is in violation of civil rights (which it is).  Yet another reson to make sure President Obama is the guy picking the justices in the future, yes?

Follow Up: Mother Who Tried To Sell Baby For $25 Gets Prison Time

(CBS/AP) SALINAS, Calif. - A California woman who tried to sell her baby outside a Walmart is going to prison for four years after she asked a judge to lock her up because she'd probably violate probation again.
Samantha Tomasini, of Salinas, was arrested in June 2010 after witnesses reported that she and her boyfriend Patrick Fousek were offering their 8-month-old daughter for $25.
I remember the first time I read this, and how upset I was.  I was out with my husband, and we had just paid for dinner.  It was right at $25.

The stupidity of trying to sell a kid is enough on its own, but imagine what might have happened if someone had accepted the offer.  No decent person would participate, and that kid's future could have been another headline in a few months, one just as sad as the original.

The child has since been adopted.

Another Brave Boy Survives Intruders

An eleven-year-old boy was sitting at home, waiting for his father to return with dinner.  He heard a window break, and men's voices as they tore through the house.  The boy grabbed a phone and hid himself and the family dog, and called 911.

If you hear his voice on the call (it's a very short video) it will break your heart.  He is scared and collected at the same time, and the relief when he hears police outside the window was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

The hero tag is both for his strength and for thinking of the dog, who most assuredly wouldn't have made a criminal blink if they thought to kill it.

Gummy Bears... High Adventure That's Beyond Compare

(CBS/AP) MENTOR, Ohio - Police near Cleveland arrested three New York men during a traffic stop after searching their vehicle and allegedly finding drug-laced gummy bears, CBS affiliate WNCX reports.
Mentor Police Sgt. Dustin Richards told WNCX that driver Eric Kenny and passengers Arkady Koroshihk and Michal Nemcok were arrested under suspicion of using drugs to make hallucinogenic candies.
Police reportedly spotted a car speeding early Tuesday morning, and pulled the vehicle over suspecting that Kenny was under the influence of alcohol. Upon searching the car, officers said they discovered drugs, drug paraphernalia and items used in the manufacturing of drugs.
Police said they also found a gummy bear mold along with ecstasy, bath salts, LSD, and prescription anxiety drugs in the car, according to The Associated Press.
It's as clever as it is terrifying.  That teenagers were able to figure out how to do this, and get the quality and amount of drugs involved is beyond upsetting.  I wouldn't know how to find LSD if my life depended on it.

Even scarier is being one of the innocent people in traffic who had no idea what was right next to them.

I also hate to see the good name of gummy bears drug through the dirt.  As sticky as they are, that will ruin them for sure.

Teenage Hero Saves Siblings From Intruders

Teenage and hero don't often collide in the same sentence.  This young man did everything right, and I hope his parents are proud of him.

PHOENIX — Police say a 14-year-old boy shot an intruder who broke into his Phoenix home and pulled a gun on him as he was watching his three younger siblings.

Police Officer James Holmes said Saturday that the teen and his brothers and sisters were at home alone when a woman rang the doorbell Friday. The teen didn't open the door because he didn't recognize her.

Soon after, the teen heard a bang on the door, rushed his siblings upstairs and got a handgun from his parent's bedroom. When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw a man breaking through the front door and point a gun at him.
If he had done anything differently, it's hard to say how it may have turned out.  But anyone who puts a gun on a boy that age wouldn't have spared them much.  Good for this kid.  

Supreme Superlatives, Part 3

James Fallows makes an interesting point here about the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act.

Normally I shy away from apocalyptic readings of the American predicament. We're a big, messy country; we've been through a lot -- perhaps even more than we thought, what with Abraham Lincoln and the vampires. We'll probably muddle through this and be very worried about something else ten years from now. But when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we'd identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.**

He expands on that last thought:

** You can try this at home. Pick a country and describe a sequence in which:
  • First, the presidential election is decided by five people, who don't even try to explain their choice in normal legal terms.
  • Then the beneficiary of that decision appoints the next two members of the court, who present themselves for consideration as restrained, humble figures who care only about law rather than ideology.
  • Once on the bench, for life, those two actively second-guess and re-do existing law, to advance the interests of the party that appointed them.
  • Meanwhile their party's representatives in the Senate abuse procedural rules to an extent never previously seen to block legislation -- and appointments, especially to the courts.
  • And, when a major piece of legislation gets through, the party's majority on the Supreme Court prepares to negate it -- even though the details of the plan were originally Republican proposals and even though the party's presidential nominee endorsed these concepts only a few years ago.
How would you describe a democracy where power was being shifted that way? 

I'd reply with "A democracy where one party is playing to win and the other party has gotten the crap kicked out of them for the last twelve years...and let the first party continue to beat them senseless."

Republicans are on the edge of completing a long-term plan that will give them complete control of our government at the federal and control of the governments of a large majority of the states.  This control is judicial, legislative, and executive.  Fallows describes the steps in the plan perfectly.

So why did we do this?  Well, in the 1930s FDR did.  We got 50 years of growth out of it.  Then Reagan came along in 1980 and started the ball rolling the other direction.  It's been three decades of growing conservative rule, and now the Republicans are pretty much a couple months away from having permanent control of our country.

We can stop them, but every time we try we go "It's too hard!" and attack the people trying to make the change.  Meanwhile the other side has been gaining ground a little at a time over the last three decades because we're too busy destroying each other over not magically having a progressive country.

They've earned it.  We're blown it.  Now we face another milestone in our country's near permanent destruction, a milestone where a number of noted Supreme Court experts believe the ACA is legal, but openly say that this Supreme Court will strike the mandate down.  When that decision comes down, the ones on "our side" who blame President Obama?

They are the reason why we're in this mess.

Remember that.

[UPDATENo health care decision today, but most of Arizona’s immigration law has been invalidated (but not all of it).  Sections 3, 5, and 6 of the law go bye-bye.   Also, 5-4 decision that juveniles convicted of murder cannot be sentenced to life without parole.  Apparently Justice Alito had to rail against that reading his dissent.

[UPDATE 2]  the “papers, please” part of the law stays, 8-0, as there’s no reason apparently to overturn it on Supremacy Clause reasons.  However, the decision does say that the provision can still be challenged in the future on other grounds, like, say, counting as racial profiling.  Hint, hint.

Like A FOX In The Pope House

Papa Ratzi is having a few problems these days crafting his message to the world.  His last butler was a bit too close to the Italian media and tended to leak things...embarrassing things.

The Vatican has been scrambling to contain the damage after the leak of hundreds of Vatican documents exposed corruption, political infighting and power struggles at the highest level of the Catholic Church. The pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, is under arrest at the Vatican, accused of aggravated theft after the pope’s own documents were found in his Vatican City apartment.

One Holy See investigation into the links is a criminal one headed by Vatican gendarmes; there is also an internal probe led by a commission of three cardinals tasked with getting to the bottom of the scandal.

Last weekend Benedict met with the cardinal’s commission to learn details of some of the two dozen people they have questioned.

So when you're a conservative Pope and you need to craft a conservative message and spin a disaster away, who do you call?  What do you do, hot shot?

You hire the Vatican correspondent for FOX News as your new media guru, of course.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become the senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told The Associated Press.

"I'm a bit nervous but very excited. Let's just say it's a challenge," Burke said in a phone interview.
He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as being along the lines of the White House senior communications adviser: "You're shaping the message, you're molding the message, and you're trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that's tough."

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II's longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei and was known for the papal access he enjoyed and his ability to craft the messages John Paul wanted to get out.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Navarro-Valls was replaced by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who had long headed Vatican Radio and still does, along with running the Vatican press office and Vatican television service.

Dr. Navarro-Valls has degrees in both medicine and journalism and speaks four languages.  Rev. Lombardi is a trained Jesuit priest who also speaks 4 languages and can read and understand two more.  Greg Burke's qualifications on the other hand is that he's a member of Opus Dei and works for FOX News.

You can't make this up, folks.  And he's apparently been offered the job a couple of times before.  We Issue Papal Bulls, You Decide.


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