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Us-A-What?

[ 3 ] December 11, 2007 |

The good news is that I have accepted offer on a co-op that I fell in love with immediately upon seeing it. The bad news is the immense blizzard of paperwork that is required for the approval process. At any rate, one of the documents required is a brief letter from the bank certifying that I have accounts, for how long, etc. The cost of this service? 30 dollars. I mean, it’s a great racket; what are you going to do, walk away from the purchase? Take your money elsewhere (assuming you can find one that forgoes this level of extortion) and have to deal with changing your direct deposit, lose the advantage of having had stable accounts, etc. ?

See also: the fees required to send out standardized test scores.

Buh-Bye!

[ 1 ] December 11, 2007 |

SEIU tells union-bustin’ Chris Lehane that his services will no longer be necessary. Good. Now if only Democratic candidates will follow their lead…

Lesser Sentence For Crack Distribution Upheld

[ 8 ] December 10, 2007 |

I’m guessing Bean will have more to say about this, but the Supreme Court today held in a 7-2 decision that lower court judges are permitted not to apply federal sentencing guidelines (including, in this case, guidelines that mandate much harsher sentences for trafficking crack than powder cocaine) so long as the sentence is reasonable. In this case, Ginsburg wrote that considering the gross disparity of sentences for similar offenses was something judges could take into account. One of the dissents was (predictably) from Alito, the other, somewhat surprisingly given his record on sentencing cases, was from Thomas. If I understand Thomas’s dissent correctly, he objects to the Court’s decision in Booker — a decision that saved the federal sentencing guidelines from Sixth Amendment violations by reading them as advisory — but as long as it’s in force (and he recognizes it as valid under statutory stare decisis) the guidelines should be considered mandatory.

The majority makes the much more convincing case. If the guidelines being advisory means anything, it’s that federal judges should have some measure of discretion in applying them, and in this case there were perfectly rational reasons for a reduced sentence.

The Steyn Complaint

[ 9 ] December 10, 2007 |

I agree with Jim Henley and Roy Edroso that the complaint filed in federal and provincial human rights commissions against Mark Steyn is a dangerous threat to free speech. Not because, as Maclean’s is saying in defense, Steyn’s writing isn’t “Islamophobic,” but because the suppression of political speech is exceptionally dangerous. Some people may object that the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Charter is, in Section 1, subject to “reasonable limits” that “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Well, even when the right to free speech (as in the American Constitution) is stated categorically and without explicit exemptions, free speech rights are never absolute. The direct advocacy of violence against groups and individuals, for example, can be regulated if it’s a serious threat. But limitations to free speech that go so far as to include political writing that some groups or individuals find offensive would swallow the right entirely; I can’t see how such limits can be “demonstrably justified.”

But even if we assume arguendo that the legislation permitting the complaint is legal as a matter of constitutional law, it remains true that the legislation is overbroad and that the filing of complaints against Steyn is a chilling attack on free speech. As Henley points out, “it’s naive to think that the political process, which is all about the deployment of relative power, can sustainably suppress the expression of the strong in favor of the expression of the weak.” As I’ve written before with respect to the Canadian Supreme Court’s well-intentioned but misguided attempt to permit the censorship of pornography on feminist grounds — which predictably led to the harassment of gay and lesbian bookstores — if such censorship is necessary it won’t work and if it can work it’s not necessary. The application of inherently vague standards to censor speech is highly unlikely to work to the benefit of groups with less access to political power in the long run. And a right to free speech that doesn’t include speech that one considers objectionable is not a right to free speech at all.

Cooperstown Union-Busting

[ 0 ] December 9, 2007 |

Fay Vincent has more. I didn’t know this, but apparently the new inductee brought the same level of competence and integrity to his post-baseball career:

When Kuhn was pushed out of baseball — as I was years later — he went back to his law firm. In 1988, he and another lawyer started a new firm that was expected to be a grandly successful practice. At the end of 1989, Myerson & Kuhn filed for bankruptcy. At this point, Kuhn moved to Florida — a move that his creditors’ lawyers said was made to claim the protection of that state’s homestead exemption.

Under that law, the home of a debtor may not be used to satisfy debts, and so Kuhn, with a large, valuable and recently purchased Florida residence, was literally home free. In effect, he thumbed his nose at the banks and court in New York, and he left his partners, some of whom he had vigorously recruited, holding a huge empty bag. One such former partner, a tax expert, complained bitterly to me when I was in baseball. He has since died but I wonder how he would have felt about this latest honor by an institution that claims to value character when it considers candidates.

The members of the committee that elected Bowie Kuhn and passed on Marvin Miller should feel ashamed. But they do not. They almost surely believe that Miller and the union won the war, but they refuse him the honor of his victory. This is a set of actions by little men making small-minded decisions.

As King Kaufman points out, even leaving aside the unconscionable exclusion of Miller the election of Kuhn itself is ridiculous. He wasn’t even a competent union-buster; it would be like putting Bill Frist into the Political Hall of Fame.

This silliness also reflects the recurrent pattern James identified in The Politics of Glory. The Hall of Fame creates rules that make it virtually impossible to elect anybody; this won’t hold, because the Hall need new members; and then the rules are changed in a way that makes the arbitrary selection of transparently unqualified members (in many cases cronies of the selection committee) inevitable. Stacking the selection committee primarily to exclude one obviously overqualified individual seems to be a new twist, though.

The Children Of Ezra

[ 3 ] December 9, 2007 |

With Ezra Klein moving to the American Prospect, his weekend crew — featuring many excellent bloggers and friends of LGM — have started a blog of their own. Very much worth checking out/bookmarking.

The "Liberal" Republican Candidate!

[ 5 ] December 8, 2007 |

Mike Huckabee favored quarantining people with AIDS…in 1992. But he doesn’t favor tax cuts even if they would involve ignoring court orders, so clearly he’s some sort of free-thinking anarchist!

Baseball’s Own Hugh Hewitt

[ 0 ] December 7, 2007 |

Mr. Kenny Williams:

Reacting Wednesday to the blockbuster deal that sent power-hitting third baseman Miguel Cabrera and former All-Star left-hander Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers — wrecking the Sox’ latest offseason plans — Williams said: ‘‘All this has done is put the Tigers in a better position to contend with us.”

Yes, contend with you. I’m sure you believe that!

Apparently, Williams is also the prime candidate to be the idiot who takes Juan Pierre off the Dodgers’ hands; that seems about right. Which reminds me, it really should be noted that the much-maligned-by-anti-Beane-nitwits Paul Depodesta was about a hundred times better as a GM than Ned Coletti, although in fairness the Mets never would have had their incredible stretch run this year without Paul LoDuca’s incredible clutchiosity and leadertude. And you could never wina World Series with a character like J.D. Drew on your team. Advantage: Bill Plaschke!

The Objectively Great Mitt Romney’s Objectively Great War On Constitutional Values

[ 0 ] December 7, 2007 |

I’m not sure — objectively! — that Yglesias or Cole fully understand the extent to which — objectively! — Mitt Romney’s speech was without question the greatest in the history of American political discourse. When even a dispassionate analyst like Hugh Hewitt can — objectively! — see the greatness of Romney’s attack on the non-religious and staunch opposition to the secular polity established by the Constitution, backed up by such brilliant analysts as Sean Hannity and Michael Medved, I can only conclude that only the most embarrassing hack could fail to see Mitt Romney as the greatest orator in the history of mankind. Objectively!

Destroying Torture Tapes

[ 17 ] December 7, 2007 |

The CIA deliberately destroyed tapes of two of its “severe interrogations.” The First Rule of the Bush administration: it can always get worse. Marty Lederman correctly calls out Jay Rockefeller, who at the very least has been sitting on this information since 2006, for yet again shedding crocodile tears after failing to do anything when it mattered. Marcy Wheeler, among other good points, notes that this will be the first major test for Mukasey, “a clear case of obstruction of justice involving Goss and a bunch of other people.” We’ll see if there’s been any progress from the Gonzales regime soon enough…

"A National Joke"

[ 7 ] December 7, 2007 |

I haven’t always agreed with Murray Chass’s analysis of labor issues, but he’s been doing great stuff about the exclusion of Marvin Miller from the Hall of Fame, this time by a committee stacked with Lords of the Realm after he was becoming to close to being elected under the old system. And, adding insult to injury Bowie Kuhn, the dimwitted reactionary who (thankfully) lost one battle after another in his attempt to make sure that players continued to receive grossly below-market salaries, was elected:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame has become a national joke. Its latest electoral contrivance elected three former executives to the Hall yesterday, none named Marvin Miller. Making the committee’s decision even worse, one of the three is named Bowie Kuhn.

For any committee of 12 supposedly knowledgeable baseball people to elect Kuhn, Barney Dreyfuss and Walter O’Malley and not Miller defies reasonable and logical explanation.

Of the three men elected by this newfangled panel, O’Malley deserves the honor because by moving his Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles 50 years ago, a move for which he is still reviled in Brooklyn, he opened the entire country to baseball. The new geography made a significant impact on Major League Baseball.

Few men, if any, however, made as significant an impact as Miller on Major League Baseball. You don’t have to like what he did to recognize that impact. The game today is what it is in great part because of what Miller did as executive director of the players union from 1966 through 1983.

That only 3 of the 12 voters on the new executives committee acknowledged his contribution, and voted for him, is a sad commentary on the committee members and the Hall’s board of directors, which concocted the committee.

The committee was weighted heavily in favor of management candidates. Seven of the 12 members were or are management figures, owners and executives. If ever a system was created for the failure of one man, this was it.

“They are not a jury of my peers,” Miller observed last week, “but a jury of my antagonists.”

This would seem to be payback by people who should know better. Miller wrecked the owners’ cushy setup as lords and masters of the players and they would show him. I didn’t think Miller would get the nine votes necessary for election, but I thought he could come close. I could never have imagined that only three members would vote for him. As a member of the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame but a nonvoter because The New York Times doesn’t allow its employees to vote, I am embarrassed for the Hall and everyone connected to it. Jane Forbes Clark, the chairman, and Dale Petroskey, the president, should especially feel embarrassed for what has occurred.

It is good that Dick Williams was selected; more on that later. Stephen Brunt has more on Miller.

The Boumediene Oral Argument

[ 6 ] December 6, 2007 |

Unfortunately, other professional responsibilities have prevented me from reading the full transcripts yet, so I’ve only heard the highlights so far (I’ll have more when I read them in full.) Marty Lederman found both advocates brilliant (as did TAP’s Phoebe Connelly, who was in attendance) and seems optimistic about the result. Linda Greenhouse also says that the case will turn on how far Kennedy is willing to go (implying that he will join the judgment of the Court’s four more liberal members but may — in his typical fashion — try to narrow the reasoning.) I don’t differ from the conventional wisdom here; the most likely outcome seems to be a Kennedy opinion (or an opinion designed to attract Kennedy’s vote) holding that Congress doesn’t need to provide full access to ordinary federal courts to satisfy the habeas requirement but does need to supply better procedures than it did in its most recent bill. Orin Kerr, however, argues that because Kennedy was uncharacteristically silent it’s hard to make a prediction, and argues that the Court may just send the case back to the lower courts after making it clear that “that there is a Constitutional right to habeas jurisdiction for the Guantanamo detainees.” Dodging the key questions in that why wouldn’t surprise me either, although in light of the Court’s previous decision such a clarification seems unnecessary.

…As Roger points out in comments, audio of the oral argument is also available online.

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