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New Blood

[ 0 ] June 18, 2007 |

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“Aw, if they hire a woman we won’t be able to spit on the floor.”
“And we can’t take off our pants when it gets real hot.”
“And we won’t be able to pee in the drinking fountain…Er, I mean, not… you know, if we wanted to… not that I ever did…”

It was recently brought to our attention by the Department of Justice that Lawyers, Guns, and Money does not employ a single woman. We were congratulated and offered a Medal of Freedom and free attendance at a Federalist Society banquet featuring Sam Alito and Bob Bork. Despite the temptation, the staff at L, G & M decided that it’s about time to we hired a woman, and some of this blog’s most fervent admirers have complained about the lack of lawyers as well. To address all of the first problem and large parts of the second, we’re pleased to announce that our recent guest blogger Bean (of A Bird and a Bottle) will be joining us full time. Bean has just finished 2L at an Elite New York Law School. Some of her interests–in feminism, constitutional law, and pop culture, for example–will be familiar. And she will also bring added depth and expertise to issues like The War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs and criminal justice, which we don’t cover as much as I would like, as well as some interests of her own. And most importantly (although I swear I didn’t know this until after she got the gig), she’s a hockey fan. Welcome her to our community!

Judicial Discretion and Mandatory Minimum Sentences

[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

Marcy Wheeler points us to this story about the administration’s call for mandatory minimum sentences in light of a Supreme Court ruling that federal sentencing guidelines are merely advisory. (This will be tested in an upcoming Supreme Court case where a judge’s decision to ignore a the minimum sentence suggested in a drug case was overruled on appeal.)

Where drug cases are concerned, I think it’s important to keep a couple issues distinct. Restricting judicial discretion, per se, is not necessarily a bad thing. Sentencing discretion given to judges must balance its good points (the ability for careful consideration of particularized circumstances) with the bad points (the potential for arbitrary justice in which the severity of sentences turns not on case facts but on the luck of the docket and the identity and status of the defendant.) For this reason, it’s dangerous to conflate drug law reform and increased judicial discretion. Allowing judges to refuse to apply draconian minimum sentences for drug possession is, I suppose, better than requiring them in all cases, but it’s not a very effective remedy for the underlying injustice. The defendants lucky enough to get this consideration are more likely than not to have better-than-typical lawyers able to negotiate better deals, and people with these lawyers are likely to be wealthier and whiter than the typical person convicted on drug charges. The fundamental problem with harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession isn’t that they restrict judicial discretion, it’s that they’re bad laws, period, accomplishing not much of anything worthwhile at immense expense. Giving a few lucky people a nearly random pass doesn’t really address the underlying problem.

Conservertarianism, Ladies And Gentlemen!

[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

Shorter Ace O. Spades, Heterosexual, as linked by nonpartisan libertarian Glenn Reynolds: “Gay men aren’t actually men.”

Template Modifications

[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

I’m going to be fiddling with and experimenting on the LGM template for the next couple of hours. Hopefully, actual downtime will be brief.

…got farther that time. Progress!!!

…okay, so still making modifications, but got the critical elements together. Going to re-add the blogroll, for example. Now would be a good time to report any serious problems with functionality.

…has anyone noticed any change, positive or negative, in download time?

Costs and Lifestyle

[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

At the risk of commenting on something that I have no business commenting on, I think Mona gives Mark Steyn too much credit here:

Mark Steyn actually has something insightful to say about the inherent risks of any nationalized, single payer health care scheme: namely, all taxpayers and the state then develop a stake in ones personal choices, and that becomes a potent reason to prohibit and regulate everything from smoking, to trans-fats to a sedentary lifestyle. Or, as he points out, gay sex. (“Promiscuous” het sex, of course, also carries health consequences which the state could acquire an interest in curbing.)

Okay, but two objections:

  1. There have already been numerous prohibitions on various lifestyle choices even without single payer health care; I suppose that single payer could give someone trying to pass a sodomy law an extra rhetorical wedge, but it doesn’t strike me as being terribly consequential.
  2. There are, as Mona says, 46 million uninsured in the US, but they aren’t uninsured in the sense that they can be regularly refused treatment in acute life threatening situations. As Ezra et al have pointed out regularly, the United States doesn’t actually have a private system of health care; it has a Frankenstein’s monster of health care, an amalgamation of many of the worst aspects of both a public and a private system. I doubt very much that a single payer system would introduce a new set of attacks on lifestyle choices that can’t already be made with the Medicaid/Medicare system.

Then again, it’s possible (probable?) that I just don’t know anything useful about health care, and perhaps a bit less possible that Mark Steyn actually does have something useful to say.


[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

The Times on the Bowles decision:

If the Supreme Court, with its new conservative majority, wanted to announce that it was getting out of the fairness business, it could hardly have done better than its decision last week in the case of Keith Bowles. The court took away Mr. Bowles’s right to challenge his murder conviction in a ruling that was so wrong and mean-spirited that it seemed like an outtake from MTV’s practical joke show “Punk’d.”

Mr. Bowles, an Ohio inmate, challenged his conviction in federal district court and lost. The court told Mr. Bowles that he had until Feb. 27 to appeal. He filed the appeal on Feb. 26, and was ready to argue why he was wrongly convicted. But it turned out the district court made a mistake. The appeal should have been filed by Feb. 24.

The Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, in a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, that Mr. Bowles was out of luck, and his appeal was invalid. So much for heeding a federal judge.

The decision was wrong for many reasons. The Supreme Court has made clear in its past rulings that deadlines like this are not make-or-break. Appeals could still be heard, the court recognized in the past, if there were “unique circumstances” that accounted for the delay. Clearly, following an order from a federal judge is such a circumstance.

Courts also have the authority to create an exception to the rules in the interest of fairness. The Supreme Court has recognized that an “equitable exception” should be granted when a party has relied on an order from a federal judge. By refusing to do so now, Justice David Souter argued for the dissenters, the court was saying that “every statement by a federal court is to be tagged with the warning ‘Beware of the judge.’ ”

The four dissenters distilled this case perfectly when they said, “it is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way.”


Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Pahlavi Dynasty

[ 0 ] June 17, 2007 |

In 1921, British support helped raise a capable, 43 year old Brigadier General named Reza Khan to prominence on the Persian political scene. Reze Khan had performed well as head of the Persian Cossack Brigade against a brief Bolshevik invasion, impressing British military officials in Persia. With British support, Reza Khan launched a coup in early 1921 that toppled the Iranian government. Khan then had himself made commander of the Army and Minister of War. Two years later Reza Khan forced Ahmad Shah Qajar into exile, and in 1926 assumed the title Shah of Iran for himself. He became Reza Shah Pahlavi, founder and first head of the Pahlavi Dynasty.

Although retaining de jure independence, Iran remained deeply affected by great power politics. Reza Shah Pahlavi concentrated his efforts on modernizing Iran and bringing it into the West, the latter project putting him at odds with Shia clergy. His efforts included the acceptance of Italian advisors into the military, and “Women’s Awakening” a project intended to eliminate the veil and modernize the position of women in Iranian society. Overall, however, the Shah’s reforms had the effect of alienating large parts of Iranian society. In August 1941, Iran was subjected to “peaceful” occupation by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. This occupation ensured that Iran would not enter the war on the side of the Axis, and that critical Western supplies could reach the Soviet Union. Primarily British suspicion of the Shah led to his deposition in September 1941, and the ascension of his son. Reza Shah Pahlavi would die three years later in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to some sources by British poison.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi continued his father’s Westernization project after assuming the Iranian throne. In the 1950s, British influence in Iran would be steadily replaced by American, but tensions with the Soviet Union continued. A British and American supported coup helped overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, with the general acquiesence of the Shah. Indeed, fearing that the coup was going badly, the Shah fled Iran for Baghdad and Rome, leading to serious anti-monarchy riots that were put down by the Iranian Army. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi would remain a staunch, autocratic ally of the United States for the rest of the Cold War. His position deteriorated through the 1970s, and in 1979 he was forced to flee in the face of revolution. Seriously ill, the former Shah would visit several countries, including the United States, before dying in July of 1980. He is buried in Cairo.

Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince prior to 1979, is the current Pahlavi heir to the Iranian throne. Reza Pahlavi received an undergraduate degree from USC in the early 1980s, and learned how to fly a fighter jet in Texas. An offer to fly for the Iranian Air Force in the Iran-Iraq War was turned down by Iranian authorities. Although Reza Pahlavi now uses the term “former crown prince”, there are indications that he would welcome a return to the throne. Notably, however, he has argued against the use of force against Iran, suggesting that such action would strengthen the Iranian government and that any change needs to come from within. Prospects for a return to the throne, however, seem unlikely, as even a post-revolutionary government would hesitate to return to the son of the unpopular Shah to the throne.

(Corrected to reflect the appropriate heir to the throne.)

Trivia: Revolutionary enthusiasm would lead to the naming of at least two American counties, two towns, and one alcoholic beverage after which royal house?

Submitted Without Comment

[ 0 ] June 16, 2007 |

Really, what can you even say about Insta/House at this point? It’s all merely unserious in an offensive way until rape threats and defamation are equated with criticizing other people’s blog posts. See also here.

The Ethics of Gemstones…

[ 0 ] June 16, 2007 |


Are there ethical gemstones? I’m familiar with the problems that diamonds present; artificial scarcity creates incentives for illicit mining and consequent warlord depredation in Africa. Is there a similar story for other precious stones, or is there such a thing as an “ethical” precious stone? Responses welcome in comments or e-mail.


[ 0 ] June 15, 2007 |

In a 5-4 division of justices I’m already sick of, on Thursday the Supreme Court overruled two precedents to throw out an appeal to a murder conviction as being outside of the deadline, even though 1)the filing was within a deadline given by a federal district court judge and 2)opposing counsel didn’t even object to the filing on technical grounds. Chief Justice Kafka assigned the case to Clarence Thomas, although his position as the “youngest, cruelest justice” has been supplanted by Sam Alito.

Thompson: Griswold Was Wrong

[ 0 ] June 15, 2007 |

I suppose there’s nothing terribly surprising about Fred Thompson asserting that Roe v. Wade is the worst Supreme Court decision since 1967. And nor is it surprising that he would repeat the abject nonsense that overturning Roe would “send the issue back to the states” (a claim that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the arbitrary federal ban on “partial-birth” abortions in Carhart II makes straightforwardly false.) Since many anti-choicers are smart enough to be vague about this, however, it is worth noting the significance of Thompson’s claim that Roe was “was fabricated out of whole cloth.” If one argues that Roe has no basis on constitutional jurisprudence, however, then it’s not only Roe but Griswold that is wrong.

If Democrats are smart, this should be a major weapon against Thompson and any Republican who makes similar arguments. As Amanda notes, Roe is a popular decision, generally favored by 2-to-1 majorities. It should be pointed out often that Thompson opposes any constitutional right of privacy, which means not only that the states and the federal government can force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term under virtually all circumstances, but they can also prevent married couples from using contraception in their own homes. Supporters of reproductive freedom should be able to use these openings to move the debate onto favorable ground.

…to clarify something that seems to be coming up in comments, I am not arguing here that Thompson must be opposed to Griswold because he’s against Roe. I am arguing that he is logically opposed to Griswold because he argues that Roe is “made up out of whole cloth.” As Justice Stevens has argued, “I fail to see how a decision on childbearing becomes less important the day after conception than the day before. Indeed, if one decision is more “fundamental” to the individual’s freedom than the other, surely it is the postconception decision that is the more serious.” If Griswold is correct, there must be at least a basis for Roe. It is possible to argue that a woman has an interest in reproductive freedom that in the case of abortion is trumped by a state’s interest in fetal life, but that’s not what Thompson (or Bork) are arguing.

Hey Matt, Bill O’Reilly Called; He Wants His Brain Back

[ 0 ] June 15, 2007 |

I agree entirely with Melissa; I often enjoy Matt Taibbi, but this article is a feeble embarrassment. Virtually no article that consists of generalizations about some vague entity called “the Left” is going to have any value, and given that Taibbi uses a great many words to argue that anybody who anybody who doesn’t share precisely his priorities or is situated in a less socially privileged position is a whiny bitch it’s certainly not an exception to the rule.

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