Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for October, 2016

He Shoots, He, No It’s an Airball

[ 76 ] October 31, 2016 |

shaq_freethrow

Hugh Hewitt is just trying so hard.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Eee! Frankenfood!

[ 36 ] October 31, 2016 |

Apparently GMO stands for Get More Orders.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.

The Trump E-Mails

[ 92 ] October 31, 2016 |

c149a3ec73184db8bfa13af72ca8e003-c149a3ec73184db8bfa13af72ca8e003-0

Eichenwald’s latest seems kind of important.

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

This behavior is of particular import given Trump’s frequent condemnations of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, for having deleted more than 30,000 emails from a server she used during her time as secretary of state. While Clinton and her lawyers have said all of those emails were personal, Trump has suggested repeatedly on the campaign trail that they were government documents Clinton was trying to hide and that destroying them constituted a crime. The allegation—which the FBI concluded was not supported by any evidence—is a crowd-pleaser at Trump rallies, often greeted by supporters chanting, “Lock her up!”

But Trump is good for ratings and we only have one more week to set record viewers for Election Night so no way can we talk about this hypocrisy.

Welcome to the James Comey comedy hour, or maybe 15 minutes

[ 153 ] October 31, 2016 |

great pumpkin

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former FBI official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

He’ll be here all week, or at least for the next eight days.

BTW, one of DC’s most egregious rituals is when all sorts of insiders vouch up and down for the sterling impartiality of some political hack who doesn’t even have the self-awareness to realize he’s a hack. I realize Obama has to play the game, but lots of smart people who aren’t professionally obliged to keep up pretenses are still waiting patiently for the Great Bipartisan Pumpkin to rise above the mists in Foggy Bottom.

First ABA-approved school announces closing

[ 81 ] October 31, 2016 |

ef

For the past five years or so there’s been a rather lively debate about how many, if any, ABA-approved law schools would shuffle off their previously immortal coil and kick the institutional bucket, given cratering applicant numbers and the often-grim job prospects for new lawyers that, when publicized, caused said cratering.

Now one finally has:

Indiana Tech [President] Arthur Snyder said the university has lost $20 million on the law school and, given projected enrollments, expected the deficit to continue. “This was an extremely difficult decision for all involved,” Snyder said. “Over the course of time it has become apparent that the significant decline in law school applicants nationwide represents a long term shift in the legal education field, not a short-term one. Specific to Indiana Tech, the assessment of the Board and our senior leadership team is that for the foreseeable future the law school will not be able to attract students in sufficient numbers for the school to remain viable.”

Indiana Tech Law School currently has a total of 71 students, and Snyder said they will have the option to complete the year, with those in their third and final year having the ability to graduate from the law school in May. First and second year students will have the option to transfer to other law schools at the start of the January 2017 semester, or to complete the year at Indiana Tech Law School and then transfer for the start of the fall 2017 semester.

Chris Mackaronis, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing one of the faculty members affected, said the university’s Board of Directors had recently voted unanimously to close the school at the end of the academic year in June 2017. The vote, he said, conflicts with years of representations to the students, faculty and the American Bar Association regarding the university’s commitment to pursue full accreditation and long-term success for the law school.

“Most of the faculty accepted their appointments at great professional risk (based on that commitment),” Mackaronis said, calling the closure a “complete betrayal of what the university and the Board of Trustees represented to the faculty, staff, and students repeatedly over the last few years . . . By all measures, the plan was working,” he said.

Indiana Tech was always an absurdly unnecessary addition to an already-saturated field, so this development is a good thing from a structural point of view, especially since it could be the first of several dominoes to fall. (History shows again and again that the closure of one school in a field tends to embolden administrators at other institutions).

Those $20 million in losses produced exactly one graduate who passed the Indiana bar this summer, which surely establishes some sort of unbreakable record.

Students with federal student loans can have those loans forgiven if the school they’re attending goes out of business, although I don’t know whether this rule applies to individual schools within a still-extant university.

Earlier coverage of Synder’s folly here here, here, and here.

. . . Yet Another Lawyer in comments:

By the way, I recognize that taking absurd positions on behalf of the client is part of the legal profession, but this is really something:

“Most of the faculty accepted their appointments at great professional risk (based on that commitment),” Mackaronis (a Washington, D.C., attorney representing one of the faculty members affected ) said, calling the closure a “complete betrayal of what the university and the Board of Trustees represented to the faculty, staff, and students repeatedly over the last few years . . . By all measures, the plan was working,” he said.

Yes, the “lose twenty million dollars to generate one graduate who could pass the bar” plan was working perfectly. We called it Operation Snowflake!

Coal and Poverty

[ 21 ] October 31, 2016 |

index

I am as anti-coal as anyone else. It’s a terrible energy source if you care about the future of the planet. However, there’s no question that there’s a good reason why people burn coal, especially if you are poor–it is cheap and relatively abundant. The use of coal was central to the Industrial Revolution and continues to be for newly industrialized nations. That doesn’t mean it has to be that way–certainly we could be investing huge amounts into clean energy in newly industrializing companies to forestall this.

But that said, it’s really a cherry picked argument to say that coal actually doesn’t help the poor in the short term.

More coal doesn’t help people living close to the grid

The report notes that approximately 15% of people in energy poverty live close to existing electric grids, but there are a variety of barriers blocking their connection. For example, the poor consume relatively little electricity, so the costs of connecting them may exceed the resulting profits. The power lines used to connect them also result in high energy losses and power system instability. The poor also have little political influence in many developing countries. As the report concludes:

This means that for energy-poor families living close to the grid, building new power generation capacity – coalfired or otherwise – will not help them get connected. Instead, access will require financing the upfront costs of new connections, and rationalising tariffs to reflect the true costs of supplying power.

More coal also doesn’t help people in rural areas

Approximately 84% of energy-poor households live in rural areas further away from the grid. For this group, decentralized stand-alone and mini-grid solutions are much quicker than waiting to build a new centralized power plant and distribution lines. A single power plant can take a decade between planning and ultimate completion, while distributed wind turbines or solar panels can be deployed much more rapidly, as Elon Musk explained in ‘Before the Flood’:

So more coal only helps the capitalists? I mean, you might argue that coal is not the most efficient way to provide this electricity in terms of getting up the fastest. But that doesn’t mean that coal isn’t useful, especially on a smaller scale.

It then goes on to an unfortunate use of Bjorn Lomborg of all people to “show” that China’s poverty reduction in recent decades wasn’t really because of coal use. Um, OK. To be fair, China’s rise was due to a lot of factors. But very cheap energy built by a government that couldn’t care less about pollution was a big part of it.

At the end, the author notes that coal causes lots of pollution and the poor bear the burden of that. True enough but then that’s not really the argument here, right? In the short term, coal helps the poor. In the long term, it probably doesn’t. Finally, the real point:

Wind and solar are already becoming cheaper than coal

Not only are wind and solar better for the poor in terms of ease of deployment, clean air, and slowing climate change, they’ve also become cost-competitive.

South Africa, for example, is the cheapest place in Africa to generate coal-fired power, yet electricity from its new 4.7 gigawatt Medupi advanced coal plant will cost … 17% more than the electricity generated from South Africa’s 2 gigawatt of new onshore wind power. In India, the minister responsible for power development recently stated: ‘I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant’ (Climate Home, 2016). The statement is supported by the extremely low bid prices for recent solar procurements in India (Kenning, 2015). Renewable energy investment in the emerging world now outpaces that in developed countries (McGrath, 2016).

Renewable energy also has low operating cost and zero fuel cost, while fossil fuel costs are variable and susceptible to price spikes. And renewable energy creates more (and safer) jobs than coal.

Coal companies and their allies often argue that we need to burn their products to lift the poor out of poverty. For example, Matt Ridley has claimed:

those who advocate no support for coal are effectively saying that the adoption of renewable energy is more important than alleviating African poverty

In reality, there are better, faster, cleaner alternatives to help deliver electricity to the energy-poor. Those who argue to the contrary often do so to advance their own agendas.

That is starting to happen, but there’s no good reason to prevaricate about the role coal has played and continues to play in poverty reduction and rapid industrialization. Once again, these things would happen with far less damage to people and nature if wind and solar were built instead of coal. But the article as a whole is far from compelling in refuting the arguments for coal. The argument needs to be that “Yes, coal is an effective way to move people out of poverty but that the long-term damage makes it a terrible idea. Instead, let’s engage in the rapid buildup poor nations’ industrial capacity through renewable energy.” Fudging the facts about coal doesn’t help.

The Senate and the Court

[ 86 ] October 31, 2016 |

la-na-ted-cruz-supreme-court-20150722

We’ve been hitting this point for months, but once again, if the Democrats don’t take the Senate, Republicans simply will not allow Hillary Clinton to name a justice to the Supreme Court, and very few if any to the lower courts. John McCain’s “flub” from last week saying this out loud was of course a flub only in that it was a little early to talk about it. But it’s certainly the plan.

In a stunning political move, conservatives are already strategizing on how to block any future Supreme Court nominee from moving forward during Hillary Clinton’s presidency before the election even happens.

“I don’t think there is precedent for it. It really does reveal just how politically charged and polarized our judicial politics have become,” said Charles Gardner Geyh, a professor of law at Indiana University who advised then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) during the 1991 confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas. “We are at risk of losing legitimacy as a nation in terms of being able to govern effectively.”

A number of Republican lawmakers and scholars have already begun openly rationalizing why Clinton shouldn’t be allowed to appoint Supreme Court justices. (These are many of the same people who argued President Obama shouldn’t get a nominee in the last year of his term because it should be up to the person who wins the November election.)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told reporters that the Senate would have a “debate” about whether to accept Clinton’s nominees and that there was nothing wrong with having just eight justices.

“You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue,” Cruz told the Washington Post, when he was asked if the Senate would move forward with Clinton’s nominees. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

Cruz’s suggestion that the Supreme Court may continue to operate without another justice under Clinton also casts the stakes of U.S. Senate races across the country in a new light. If Republicans do hold the majority, will they follow Cruz’s lead and refuse to move forward with any of Clinton’s nominees no matter the nominee’s record or qualifications?

I fail to see how this is stunning, unless you still believe that Mitch McConnell cares about Senate traditions. What’s stunning is that reporters would find this stunning. This is why it’s not more important to win the Senate than the presidency, but it is almost as important.

Does Hillary Clinton Need More Republican Daddies In Her Administration? (SPOILER: LOL No.)

[ 210 ] October 31, 2016 |

1000509261001_1813392965001_BIO-Paul-Ryan-Random-Facts-SF

In addition to whatever else the state can prove, Ben Wittes’s call for a government of national unity was guilty of bad timing:

On a practical level, a government of national unity means on Clinton’s side putting more than the expected number of Republicans in her cabinet and, on the Republican side, a willingness to serve in that cabinet. An astonishing number of Republican former senior officials of the top notch have very publicly joined this coalition. Some have done so by endorsing Clinton. Some have done so by resisting the pressure to back their own party’s ticket. The more Clinton can engage these democratic elements of the Right, the better. This should be easy in the national security field, where the differences between the responsible elements of the parties just isn’t that great. But it should be the ambition across the board.

Mr. Comey has, at least, done us the favor of providing dispositive evidence that the idea that Hillary Clinton can unilaterally create bipartisanship or that a Democratic president can earn points with Republicans by appointing Republicans to important executive branch jobs is to enter a land of fantasia. But, really, this should have been obvious before Comley’s procedurally and substantively indefensible intervention into the election. As Wittes half-admits while arguing that Clinton should re-nominate him anyway, Merrick Garland is another example of how pre-compromising doesn’t accomplish anything. Whatever the merits of bipartisan cooperation, that ship has left the port and been around the world a dozen times. It’s over. The fact that a small minority of Republican elites oppose Trump doesn’t mean they support Clinton.

Before the Comey scandal broke, Mark Tushnet raised another obvious point:

How might that happen? Well, in part by what I called gestures of reconciliation by Republicans in the Senate and the House. As to the Senate: Assume, as I do, that a President-elect Clinton sends a clear signal that she’s OK with Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court nominee. Senate Republicans could move forward with his confirmation immediately after receiving that signal, by scheduling a pro forma hearing and an immediate vote on the nomination. I suspect that there’s more that they could — and should — do to signal good faith in pursuing a government of national unity.

As to the House: I’ve suggested the possibility that there might be cross-party voting for the Speaker of the House — either (I assume) Paul Ryan soliciting votes from Democrats by proposing a formal power-sharing arrangement, knowing that he would lose votes from Republicans (and completely dash his hopes, if he has them, of being the Republican nominee for President in 2020) or, more interesting, Nancy Pelosi soliciting votes from Republicans by proposing a similar, though of course substantively different, power-sharing arrangement. I’m been persuaded that the structure of American politics makes such formal arrangements impossible.

But, without participation by the House and Senate, we wouldn’t have a real government of national unity. We’d have a government in which the President tries to govern from the middle out, and in which the Senate and or House continues to obstruct that effort.

We can discuss a government of national unity as soon Paul Ryan gives significant power to House Democrats and…OK, we can stop right here. I mean, really.

This Day in Labor History: October 31, 1978

[ 8 ] October 31, 2016 |

150408102128-09-era-key-players-restricted-super-169

On October 31, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. An amendment to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the new law stated the pregnant workers “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other person not so affected, but similar in their ability or inability to work.” This law was the culmination of a long movement to give female workers equal rights on the job, as opposed to special protections that could ultimately lead to discrimination against them.

Earlier women’s activism in the workforce tended to focus on protecting women on the job, often granting them special rights that would protect them as mothers. The Consumers’ Bureau led by Florence Kelley was central to this strategy, which played a critical role in the Muller v. Oregon case that carved out an exemption from the predominant idea of employees entering into a voluntary contract with employers and thus deserved no protections. Because women were mothers, the Court decided that reducing their work hours made sense. Battles between women’s labor activists and Alice Paul’s branch of the women’s movement continued for the next 50 years, as the National Women’s Party focused exclusively on the Equal Rights Amendment and worked with employers to defeat labor legislation. By the 1970s, these debates had become more than stale. The women’s movement united around the ERA and women were demanding true equality on the job. The 1970s saw serious activism on women’s reproduction and work for the first time. The 1975 decision by Idaho’s Bunker Hill Mining Company to demand the sterilization of women working in certain jobs, wrapping itself up in a fetal rights argument to protect itself against unsafe working conditions demonstrated the need for broader equal protection of women on the job.

Moreover, courts were finding against pregnant women’s rights. In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in General Electric v. Gilbert. GE had an insurance plan that paid part of a worker’s wages for 3 weeks for any disability except disabilities caused by pregnancy. GE employee Martha Gilbert took the company to court. GE’s policy violated the 1972 EEOC policy covering pregnancy. But they feared the men would start wanting time off when their partners had children and that doctors would allow “malingering” women to stay at home. Gilbert won her case at each level until she reached the Supreme Court when William Rehnquist wrote an opinion for the majority that pregnancy discrimination didn’t exist becuase pregnancy is what made women different than men. But the decision also opened the door for Congress to clarify the issue. Feminist lawyers agreed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that if Congress was “genuinely committed to eradicating sex-based discrimination,” it could provide “firm legislative direction assuring job security, health insurance coverage, and income maintenance for childbearing women.”

Congress has never gone as far as Ginsburg wished of course. But in response to GE and other cases, it did pass the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by a vote of 376-43 in the House and 75-11 in the Senate. President Carter signed it soon after. As with most labor laws, it had an unfortunate exception to any employer with less than 15 employees. Everyone else could not treat pregnancy any different than other occupational disability. Treating pregnant workers differently became sex discrimination. This law specifically reversed General Electric v. Gilbert. But the PDA also had some pretty severe flaws, problems that of course made it easier to pass. It did not provide any new benefits for women workers. It depended completely on whatever programs employers provided for other workers. If an employer had no health benefits for workers, pregnant workers would receive no benefits. If an employer did have health benefits, they would now have to include pregnancy. Five states went further than the federal law. California mandated that employers had to grant pregnant workers 4 months of unpaid leave with job security, effectively a precursor of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Still, the new law led to a whole new set of discrimination cases. When Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock did not improve its health plan to include full coverage for childbirth to the female wives of male workers (as opposed to its female workers), this led to a suit. In Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock v. EEOC, the Court ruled in 1983 that the company must provide the benefit to the wives of workers. Even the California extension of the right led to a suit, when a bank employee filed a case in 1982 when, after a 3-month leave after a difficult pregnancy, was fired because the employer said the PDA superseded the state law. The bank sued to repeal the state law. This once again split feminists between labor feminists and the National Organization of Women. NOW urged that the federal law which eliminated gender difference be upheld but also argued that Title VII required the extension of benefits as opposed to their removal, as argued by the bank. The Coalition for Reproductive Equality in the Workplace, led by Betty Friedan, worked with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), many other unions, and Planned Parenthood in support of the California law, noting that the statue did not protect women like laws of the past, but rather remedied the discriminatory impact of employer health policies. In California Federal Savings and Loan Association v. Guerra in 1987, the Supreme Court found in favor of the California law by a 6-3 margin, with Scalia joining the majority strictly out of his belief that federal laws should not supersede state laws. Thurgood Marshall wrote the decision that noted that Congress and California had similar goals and that the employer was free to extend benefits to other disable employees. It might be special treatment, but it paved the path to equal treatment. Byron White, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist dissented, as one might expect.

I borrowed from Nancy Woloch, A Class by Herself: Protective Laws from Women Workers, 1890s-1990s in the writing of this post.

This is the 197th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

John Paul Stevens attended World Series games at Wrigley Field in 1929, 1932, and 2016

[ 15 ] October 31, 2016 |

jps

The very first Cubs game Stevens ever attended was also the first World Series game ever played at Wrigley Field, in October 1929. That game is remembered for Connie Mack’s decision to start veteran side-armer Howard Ehmke, who struck out 13 Cubs — a World Series record that would stand for many years. (I looked at the box scores for that series, which Philadelphia won in five games. One oddity is that Lefty Grove didn’t start any of the games, although he did appear twice in relief. Anybody know why?)

If that isn’t cool enough, Stevens was also at Babe Ruth’s famous called shot game three years later.

And he was in the stands tonight, 84 years later.

The 4th Amendment Problems Presented by the Latest Clinton Snipe Hunt

[ 170 ] October 31, 2016 |

hoover28a-4-web

There is absolutely no question that James Comey’s intervention into the presidential election was a serious violation of well-settled procedural norms. One can imagine circumstances in which such a violation might be justified. But given that Comey’s letter contained no substantive information and indeed did not have any discernible purpose other than influencing the election — and hence constitutes a textbook example of why the relevant norms exist — it is blindingly obvious that this case was not such an exception, and Comey’s letter was at a minimum grossly irresponsible.

Orin Kerr raises another interesting question: could the search of Anthony Weiner’s emails led to an investigation of Clinton without violating the Fourth Amendment?

If these facts so far are accurate, the FBI may have violated the Fourth Amendment in expanding the investigation from Weiner to Clinton. Here’s the problem. If the FBI was searching Weiner’s computer, it presumably had a warrant authorizing the search of the computer only for Weiner’s communications with underage girls. If that is correct, going from that narrow search to a broader search of Clinton’s emails raises two potential problems for the FBI.

The first issue is whether the FBI was permitted to search through Abedin’s email account for records of Weiner’s illegal messages with underage girls. In People v. Herrera, 357 P.3d 1227 (Colo. 2015), the Colorado Supreme Court provided some reason to think that the answer may be “no.” In Herrera, the government had a warrant authorizing the search of a cellphone for messages between the defendant and an undercover officer who had posed as a underage girl. When the police executed the warrant, the officers also searched a folder that contained messages between the defendant and a different (real) underage girl. The court held that searching the folder violated the Fourth Amendment because the only evidence authorized to be seized in the warrant — the messages between the defendant and the undercover officer — weren’t likely to be in the folder containing messages between the defendant and the other girl. I have criticized that reasoning, but it raises questions about whether the FBI could look through Abedin’s account for Weiner’s illegal emails.

There might be similar problems because the alleged Weiner texting crimes apparently occurred in 2016. I gather that the Clinton emails were from her time as secretary of state, which was several years earlier from 2009 to 2013. If I’m right that there was a several-year gap between the warrant crime and the second investigation, it’s not clear the government could search through older emails for evidence of such a recent crime. See Wheeler v. State, 135 A.3d 282 (Del. 2016) (holding that the Fourth Amendment was violated when a warrant to search computers for witness tampering that occurred in 2013 did not include a date restriction on how far back the search could extend; evidence of crime from a computer not used since 2012 suppressed as a result).

A second issue is whether the FBI was permitted to seize the Abedin emails, which were outside the scope of the warrant, and to use them to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s email server. I think this is the bigger legal issue for the FBI. Most courts have treated this as a matter of the “plain view” exception. If the government is searching a computer, and it comes across files that are outside its warrant but are clear evidence of second unrelated crime, the usual government practice is to take those files and use them to get a second warrant to search the computer for the second crime. That’s what the FBI appears to be doing here. They are getting a second warrant after discovering Abedin’s emails because what was likely a first warrant for Weiner’s emails wouldn’t justify the second and broader search. See, e.g., United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268 (10th Cir. 1999).

But if that’s true, there’s a problem: The plain view exception does not allow evidence to be seized outside a warrant unless it is “immediately apparent” upon viewing it that it is evidence of another crime. Just looking quickly at the new evidence, there needs to be probable cause that it is evidence of a second crime to justify its seizure, which would presumably be necessary to apply for the second warrant. See Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321 (1987); United States v. Williams, 592 F. 3d 511, 522 (4th Cir. 2010).

Read the whole etc. It’s possible that the search the FBI is now undertaking is constitutional, but it’s very possible that this particular application of the Clinton Rules is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

The Cubs Must Not Win (V)

[ 55 ] October 30, 2016 |

When last the Cubs won the World Series, House Savoy still ruled Italy:

Great coat of arms of the king of italy (1890-1946).svgThe House of Savoy is one of the oldest noble families in Europe. In 1003, Humbert the White Handed was made Count of Savoy, a mountainous region along the modern French-Italian border, in return for military service. Humbert’s heirs would add slowly to the holdings of Savoy, periodically becoming involved in larger European wars. In 1046 Piedmont was added to the holdings of the House of Savoy, and in 1416, for continued good service to the Emperor, the Counts of Savoy were made Dukes.

In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries Piedmont became a battleground between France and Spain for influence on the Italian peninsula. The House of Savoy, lacking the capacity to fight either power for very long, was forced to combine periodic military activity with canny diplomacy in order to remain independent. A clever split with France in the War of Spanish Succession allowed the House to consolidate its holdings, and made Vittorio Amedio II the King of Sicily. Finding the Sicilians a bit unruly, King Vittorio exchanged Sicily for Sardinia a few years later. During the French Revolution, the House of Savoy retreated to Sardinia before resuming rulership of their ancestral lands after the Congress of Vienna.

Piedmont was the one of the two most powerful of the Italian states in the 19th century, and was well positioned to take advantage of the Risorgimento. Through deft diplomacy and patient military action Piedmont’s Prime Minister, Conte di Cavour, managed to play off or defeat the French and the Austrians, eventually annexing most of the remaining Italian kingdoms. In retrospect, the unification of Italy must be considered a more difficult diplomatic task than the unification of Germany, given the strength of the Italian players. After only 858 years, Vittorio Emanuele II, House of Savoy, became King of Italy. Along the way, Savoy had acquired claim to the crowns of Armenia, Cyprus, and Jerusalem, the last in reference to the Crusader Kingdom destroyed in the 13th century. The Savoy’s record as Kings of Italy was decidedly mixed, as it witnessed several disastrous colonial adventures, involvement of limited effectiveness in World War I, the rise of Mussolini, and the disastrous Italian intervention in World War II. The penultimate King of Italy was Vittorio Emanuele III. He was overly tolerant of Mussolini, and was driven from the throne after World War II. Power briefly passed to his son, Umberto II, before the monarchy was abolished and the royal family exiled.

Vittorio Emanuele 1964.jpgAfter the death of Umberto II in 1983, leadership of the House passed to Vittorio Emanuele, who would become Vittorio Emanuele IV if he ever manages to regain the throne. Sadly, the latest Vittorio Emanuele is no prize. Exiled from Italy in 1946, he has spent most of his life in Switzerland. In 1978 he killed a guy; responding to the theft of his yacht’s dinghy, he began firing at random passengers on a neighboring yacht, killing Dirk Hamer. For some reason, he received only a six month suspended sentence. In 2002 he formally renounced the crown in exchange for the right to return to Italy, which led monarchists to start favoring the Duke of Aosta. Apparently irritated by this turn of events, Vittorio Emanuele punched the Duke in the face at the wedding of King Juan Carlos’ son. Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, has since claimed the titles of King and Duke of Savoy, as Vittorio Emanuele married without his father’s permission in 1971. Since his return to Italy, Vittorio Emanuele has allegedly spent his time recruiting prostitutes and making friends in the Mafia. This has not, strangely, endeared him to the Italian public. In 2006 he was arrested on charges of corruption and association with prostitution; he was acquitted in trials in 2007 and 2010. In apparent response to these charges, Vittorio Emanuele made a formal request to the Italian government for a 260 million Euro payment in restitution for properties seized during the abolition of the monarchy. The government was not amused.

Prospects for a restoration appear grim, in no small part due to the excessive douchebagginess of the heir.

Page 1 of 2212345...1020...Last »