Posts Tagged first amendment

Reactions To Chik-Fil-A Bigotry Are Totally Reasonable. Did I Say ‘Reasonable?’ I Meant ‘Totally Unhinged.’

Posted by Matt on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

CHAPTER 1

Last week, the esteemed President of Chik-Fil-A officially came out as a bigot.  While they had a long history of sponsoring anti-gay causes, this was a surprise to many and an apoplectic rain of hellfire for certain people. [President] Dan Cathy’s announcement instigated immediate boycotts by some and classic authoritarian overreach by a few public officials attempting to be the most indignant.

CHAPTER 2

Chicago alderman Joe Moreno picked up the torch for the Chik-Fil-hAters.  He wants to block the city’s 2nd Chik-fil-A scheduled to be hatched in his ward.  He was soon followed by Chicago Mayor Emanuel, as well as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, [issued] his own statement: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

Seriously? I would never designate Emanuel as a liberal or progressive, but this is clearly an antiprogresive stance that is far from First Amendment friendly.  Are you really going to prevent entry into the market for every business that doesn’t align with your “values?”  How many Wal-Marts does the city have now?  (haha, just kidding – Rahm hates Labor and the ridiculous $10.50/hr they ask for.)

In general, I’m all for the “boycott.”  If Chicagoans don’t jive with Chik-Fil-A’s bigotry, or merely recognize Harold’s, Popeye’s, Crisp, etc…all provide much better products, soon the business will tuck its feathers between its legs and go back to whatever exurban shithole, cultural abyss it came from.  Emanuel’s overreach is unnecessary and undemocratic.

In the New Gilded Age, it’s really hard(for me) to avoid or boycott all products or businesses that don’t represent my “values.”

Get Some!

I used to try to boycott certain gas stations when I believed they were bad corporate citizens.  Eventually I ended up getting around via rickshaw because, wouldn’t-ya-know, they’re all self-serving, corrupt and exploitative.  Unfortunately, my rickshaw driver’s wife died choking on an undercooked potato, so he was vehemently anti-Irish.  I was soon back to square one.  Then I learned that the signs on the stations are fairly meaningless and sometimes you just need to stop at the Citgo.

CHAPTER 3

This story wouldn’t be complete without reaction from our Conservative Protectors.  Huckabee, Santorum, Palin, etc., climbed all over each other to blast the boycotters and make sure everyone knew how they would swim JetSki the Potomac to get their hands on a processed partial-chicken nugget.

Yesterday, Mike Huckabee organized Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  He encouraged all his minions to ”Stand Up for Chik-Fil-A (but not too quickly or they might get light-headed).” This was a genius move by Huckabee. Nothing motivates “Real Americans” like hatred and fried food from chain restaraunts.  Cars stretched around the block – because they sure-as-shit weren’t walking. Communities celebrated. The Insulin flowed like water. Kindred spirits copulated in the bathrooms (Mile Wide Club). In the end, Chik-fil-A had its biggest single day of sales in company history.

Why were they doing this?  Because of their strict adherence to the Bible and some words scribbled on a scroll thousands of years ago.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things  Leviticus 18:22, 24

See that, NOH8?! We are ordered not to defile ourselves with gayness.  We are not bigots. We just blindly adhere to every word in the Good Book.

Err..

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, just ignore this + eat up, fatties.  To profess your Tribal bigotry, you can hide behind your faith but probably not that load-bearing pole.  For y’all, it’s much easier to hate a group of people than treat your body like a temple.

I can’t wait for the next chapter.

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Catholic Church Not Cool With Employees Receiving Option of Sex-Related Prescription Coverage (Unless They’re Guys)

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

parents: tattoo this picture on the inside of your tween's eyelids

The Catholic Church, moral paragon of all recent millenia, is leading the charge against the Obama Administration’s decision requiring health insurance companies to offer the option of prescription birth control coverage to women.

According to bloviating bishops + many republicans, this option infringes on an insurance company’s 1st Amendment religious right to deny medication…or something.

(Imagine if the Church had confronted its rampant pedophilia problem with such zeal.)

Rick Santorum is taking time away from bemoaning the horror of granting property + visitation rights to two dudes who love eachother in order to consolidate the haters behind this issue.  Mitt Romney is losing ground because conservatives don’t believe he’s really into controlling the reproductive health of women and shrinking government down to the size where he can save it from your vagina. (That’s -1, Mittens.)

Politically, this issue may fire up the GOP “base,” but for most Americans, the antiquated war on women’s health is probably getting old.  The fact that birth control is beneficial to women’s health by allowing them to regulate periods, space out pregnancies, etc. is just too much to handle, and certainly infringes on conservatives and the Church’s rights to regulate American uteruses (uteri?).

Furthermore, the fact that women have sex for pleasure (or because they’re bored, it’s Wednesday, etc) is enough to make some heads explode.  However, that’s not true for the majority of Americans – Catholics included.

Public Religion Research Institute, asked if all employers should be required to offer healthcare plans that cover contraception:

  • All Americans: broad agreement, 55%-40%
  • Catholics: broad agreement, 58%-37%

the second survey asked the general question first (getting similar results to the PRRI survey) and then asked specifically if Catholic hospitals and universities should be included:

  • All Americans: broad agreement, 57%-39%
  • Catholics: broad agreement, 53%-45%

Don’t worry, Bishops. There will probably be a bigger religious exemption so you can still provide your white-haired minions with a 4-hour Boner Pill to produce genetically messed up sperm, while denying approved and prescribed drugs for female employees.  At least your generation-to-generation consistency is admirable.

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Governor Brownback Flips Out At High Schooler’s Tweet – Probably Going To Write Something Mean On Bathroom Stall

Posted by Matt on Friday, November 25th, 2011

"One thing I hope the Kansas Youth in Gov't participants took away is that criticism and dissent will land you in detention."

It has been a while since Sam Brownback was in the national news criticizing the Gays, creepily C-Streeting, or pretending evolution is a false prophesy of the Big Chimp lobbying machine.  Looks like he met his match.

Emma Sullivan, an 18-year old high school senior, was at an event in Topeka this past Monday for Kansas Youth in Government, which was addressed by Brownback. During the event, Sullivan posted to her Twitter account:

Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot

Haha. So simple, yet so effective to get a rise out of the thin-skinned (but oh yeah, I’m a turn-the-other-cheek Catholic) governor.

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Virginia Is For Lovers…

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

…Of Vanity Plate suppression. This hilarious defender of the First Amendment needs some new tags. And the state of Virginia has saved the lives of countless children.

This young attorney has another pelt on the wall.  According to reddit, the driver gave this explanation…

I received a second letter saying that I would then be going into a sort court hearing about it over the phone. There would be me, a DMV representative and a mediator. Long story short I had my ass handed to me and had no defense.

In the end I asked how many people complained and what they complained about exactly, since I was under the impression it was being taken away because of cannibalism concerns. I was told they received something like 4 letters and 7 phone calls. All of them generic “I’m offended and my right to not be offended trumps everything!!!”. The DMV then had a private round table meeting with something like 13 people in the meeting… JUST to discuss my plate.

On their own, they came to the conclusion that my plate advocated oral sex on children, oral fucking sex on underage fucking children!! I was completely shocked and couldnt form a complete sentence afterwords.
I then tried to get the plate “FUVADMV”, but it didnt pass muster.

So next time you see that H3 with the ‘SUPBRO’ plate, remember that 11 complaints is all it takes. so just say ‘license plate X’ encourages kid diddlin.’ and maybe throw in something about janet jackson’s titty.

Virginia DMV, thanks for thinking about the children.

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Taking The “Civil” Out Of Civilization

Posted by Matt on Friday, October 29th, 2010

Remember the health care debate and all the good times we had? Remember the tea partiers interrupting town halls with unintelligible rants about fascism, Hitler and the like? Remember when armed citizens protested outside the President’s speeches? Remember when this 1st Amendment expression was exalted by the Conservative Media? 2009 was a lot of fun.

Apparently, “First” Amendment means it’s a one-way street, and speaking of fascism, some recent incidents truly capture the spirit of the 21st century conservative. A woman was protesting (the seriously unhinged) Rand Paul outside the Kentucky Senatorial Debate. This foreign combatant’s dissenting opinion was apparently too much for some Paul supporters, as these heroic men decided to throw her in a headlock and stomp on her dome in the name of freedom.

Then there’s this. Old Man take a look at your life.

Stordeur, The Enemy Within

A 72-year-old man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 23-year-old activist protesting Dino Rossi’s Republican campaign for Senate in Washington state yesterday, according to local reports.

The incident occured outside GOP headquarters in Walla Walla County where the demonstrator, Christie Stordeur, was “one of five protesters standing about 40 feet from the entrance of the office,” according to the Tri-City Herald.

Stordeur and the other protesters “were wearing bags over their heads and holding a sign that looked like a check.” That’s when Victor Phillips, according to a Sheriff’s deputy on scene, walked over to Stordeur to “lift her bag off her head.” When Stordeur “lifted her arm in defense,” Phillips hit it “with ‘force.’”

Yes of course. Get off my (public) lawn with your free speech.

But the most insightful part comes from Tim Profitt, the Paul donor/worker who did the head-stepping. In his weird non-apology, he actually said this!

I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you,” he said. “She’s a professional at what she does,” he added, “and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing.”
What?! That lil’ bitch should’ve bit the curb so I could’ve showed her how Patriotic I really am!
 
There’s something pathological about many conservatives’ insecuirty-driven inaility to apologize or admit mistakes.  Bush never admitted a mistake until recently, when he acknowledged his failure of sending thousands to die in a pointless war, katrina, doubling the nat’l debt, negligently presiding over a crumbling economy, to privatize social security. I mean, Dick Cheney still hasn’t apologized for SHOOTING HIS “FRIEND” IN THE FACE! 
 
Predictably, Fox News and conservatives have downplayed these incidents. After all, they’re still getting mileage out of a big scary black man standing in front of a Philadelphia polling place 2 years ago.
 
Real Americans. Men beating women who disagree with them. Just another day walking in the shoes of GOP misogynists, whose most prominent public figure once took care of her constituents by making rape victims pay for their own rape kits.
  
America, this is really who you’re voting for? Enjoy that.

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What Do Ya Know?

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Joan Walsh runs a good website over at Salon. However, I’m rarely captivated by her columns. But last week she hit a home run.

When a couple select members of my Irish Catholic family start broadbrushing “Others,” whether Hispanic or Muslim, Russian or Mongolian, I always like to point out the historical context that so many Americans seem to blissfully ignore. I guess “Always Forget” would be the appropriate motto.

Unless you’re some aristocratic, blue blood WASP, there’s a good chance your ancestors have encountered varying degrees of intolerance from the country’s perpetual crop of nativists. This xenophobic sentiment is far from unique to America. But America is supposed to be unique. When people talk about ‘American Exceptionalism,’ it makes me think we have the capacity to be better - and not just the best at bombing shit, making trash and churning out billionaires and reality tv.  Our virtues, which also value the freedoms of expression, and to worship or not worship in peace, should be emboldened by our shared “melting pot” heritage.  I know haters hate. There will always that vocal, red-faced segment in any democratic society. Yet empathetic hearts should not be turned hard by screaming idiots, pandering to the basest tribalistic instincts. In order for that to happen, the purveyors of cruelty and intolerance need to be called out…So any time now, U.S. Media.

Joan Walsh…

"Look out, Itchy! He's Irish"

I would like to thank New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, on behalf of my Irish Catholic relatives; indeed, on behalf of all Irish Catholics, including the Kennedy family, for reminding us of the debt we owe to anti-Catholic “Nativists.” Yes, even though I was raised to believe the Nativists spread anti-Catholic prejudice and bigotry with lies about who we were and what we believed, Douthat says I was raised wrong (not surprising, given I was raised by Irish Catholics). In fact, Catholics like my family and the Kennedys should apparently thank the Nativists, because, as Douthat patiently explains, “Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.”

Got that? Until today, I had always thought the belief that Catholics couldn’t be “unambiguously Catholic and American,” or that the Catholic Church had “illiberal tendencies,” represented prejudice, the kind of prejudice that collided with and eventually gave way to American ideals about equality and religious freedom. I didn’t realize my people had to be “inspired” into fully embracing “the virtues of democracy” by Nativists, often by violence: from Charlestown, Mass, where Nativists burned a Catholic convent in 1834, to Philadelphia in 1844 (where thousands of Nativists attacked Irish Catholics, derided as “scum unloaded on American wharfs,” burned Catholic churches and convents, invaded the homes of Irish Catholics and beat residents), to St. Louis, where a Nativist riot against Irish Catholics killed 10 and destroyed 93 Irish Catholic homes and businesses, or Louisville, Ky., where Nativist mobs killed at least two dozen Catholics on “Bloody Monday,” Aug. 6, 1855.

I’m glad all that violence convinced Irish Catholics to stop being dirty, superstitious, lazy, drunken, anti-American Papists — the Nativist line on my people; the Pope was considered as anti-American as Osama bin Laden back in the day — so we’d one day deserve to enjoy the religious and political rights other Americans did. I was raised to believe the election of John F. Kennedy as our first Catholic president represented the triumph of American values of tolerance and inclusion over bigotry. But in Douthat’s bizarro-world version of American history, bigots help their victims, by making them deserve bigotry a little bit less. Is this a great country, or what? Or is Douthat’s argument a little bit like saying African-Americans owe a debt to the KKK, or Jews should thank Nazis?

Not surprisingly, Douthat made his astonishingly ignorant remarks in a column defending prejudice against the so-called “ground zero mosque,” which, again, isn’t a mosque, and isn’t at ground zero. The controversy, ginned up by Republican opportunists and kept alive by cowardly Democrats (thanks, Harry Reid!) is bringing out the “Know-Nothings” in American politics again — and I mean that in both senses of the word. The Know-Nothings were the violent Nativists of the mid-19th century who got their name from their vow to tell police they “know nothing,” if questioned about their foul anti-immigrant conspiracy. Our latter-day Know-Nothings are both peddling prejudice and propagating ignorance toward the Park51 Community Center, proving they indeed know nothing about what makes this country great. In fact, I’d call them un-American, if I’d been raised like Liz Cheney, but I was taught to believe we’re all Americans, even when we disagree.

I’m proud of the work of Salon writers on this issue, so I don’t have to dispel all the ignorance afoot with this one piece. If you read one thing about this issue, make it Justin Elliott’s tick-tock of the way anti-Islam blogger Pamela Zeller and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post manufactured a controversy where there wasn’t one. (Proof this is a fake issue: Substituting for Bill O’Reilly last December, Fox personality Laura Ingraham praised the project in an interview with the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Daisy Kahn, telling her, “I like what you’re trying to do.”) Just a quick digest of the worst lies: It’s not a “ground zero mosque,” it’s a Muslim community center with a prayer room two blocks from ground zero; there’s another mosque two blocks away; it’s not, as the blowhard Newt Gingrich says, “like the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.” We’re not at war with Islam, we’re at war with al-Qaida. Muslims died on 9/11, and have died since in the American military, defending our country against al-Qaida since.

It made me sad to debate Republican strategist John Feehery about this issue on “Hardball,” because Irish Catholics should know their own history, and the way prejudice was used to oppress their ancestors and limit their opportunities. Wait, “limit their opportunities” is kind of  wishy-washy language; the way prejudice was used to defend murdering Irish Catholics and burning down their homes, businesses and places of worship. Douthat ends his deeply dishonest column suggesting Muslims “need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.” Feehery made a similar point on “Hardball.”

The fact is, Irish Catholics had leaders who were “sensitive enough” to urge their people to try to mollify their enemies. In Philadelphia in 1844, Bishop Francis Kenrick closed all Catholic churches the Sunday after the first Nativist attacks, and told Irish Catholics to trust the government and forgo efforts to defend themselves. Of course the anti-Catholic rioting continued, and no Nativist was ever convicted or punished for it. (In fact, Irish Catholics who defended themselves were sent to jail, and the grand jury blamed the community’s ignorance and bad behavior for the attacks on them.) I asked Feehery if he would have urged his grandparents or great-grandparents not to build churches where people held anti-Irish Catholic prejudices; not surprisingly, he didn’t answer.

The exact same principles — and the same sort of prejudice — are involved in the case of the Park51 Community Center. I’m grateful to Douthat for reminding me of that, and I hope other people wake up.

Joan – May the road rise before you, may the idiot wind be always at your back… 

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I Don’t Want Them, You Can Have Them, They’re Too Dark For Me

Posted by Matt on Friday, August 20th, 2010

I'm rubber, you're glue...Elmer's Glue.

I don’t know why I should be surprised by the ridiculous idiocy and intolerance of the red-faced, mouth-breathing “The-Other-Haters” on the Right, but this mosque bullshit has done it.  After trading in their hard-to-explain ”Read the Constitution“ (spelling corrected) signs for their  “Fuck The Constitution, No Muslins Allowed” placards, these people will not shut up about a Muslim-associated gym being kind of near Ground Zero, and right next to an AT&T Store. What arbitrary distance will make you happy, you fucking douchebags?!

So as they go about protesting, their colors are worn clearly on their sleeves. And those sleeves are blanched.

Sunday’s crowd included representatives of the conservative Tea Party movement, some of them wearing anti-tax T-shirts that had nothing to do with Ground Zero, Islam or terrorism.

“We must take a stand and we must say no,” shouted rally organizer Pamela Geller as the crowd roared approval. Moments later, another keynote speaker, Robert Spencer, sparked more cheers when he asked, “Are you tired of being lied to?” [  ]

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

“Go home,” several shouted from the crowd.

“Get out,” others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called “The Way.” Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

I’m a Christian,” Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here,” a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

These poor guys weren’t even allowed to exercise their First Amendment Right to yell at the First Amendment!

New York City is one of the world’s greatest and most diverse cities.  Truly an awesome place.  Unfortunately, this issue was ginned up magnificently by Newt/Rush & co.  They knew the Media drones couldn’t resist this fairly cut-and-dry and relatively meaningless yet hyperbolic story.  Now Ground Zero has turned into a vortex of intolerance, and a stinging reminder of how far we haven’t come in the last 9 years. Senator Franken, one of the token non-pushover Democrats, summed it up appropriately…and then someone shot at his home.

 Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said on Wednesday that conservative criticism of plans to develop a mosque and Islamic community center in close proximity to “Ground Zero” in New York City is “one of the most disgraceful things that I’ve heard.”

“It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards,” Franken said. “They (Republicans) do this every two years. They try to find a wedge issue, and they try to work it.”

The most offensive thing I heard was from Newt Gingrich: ‘We can’t let the Nazis put up a building next to the Holocaust Museum,” asserted the Democratic Senator. “That’s equating all Muslims with Al Quaida. George W. Bush said Al Quaida is ‘a perversion of Islam.’

Gingrich analogized building the religious establishment near “Ground Zero” to Nazis putting up signs close to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. on Monday’s edition of “Fox and Friends.”

GOP Knows Drama.

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What An Awesome Time That Was

Posted by Matt on Thursday, August 19th, 2010

“At 3:53 am August 19, 2010, Baghdad Time, the last American combat troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait and the gates behind the convoy closed.” 

While 50K Troops remain, this at least partially closes the door on one of the saddest chapters of American history. However, no one in the ‘Media’ has really cared about the Iraq War since 2004. I wouldn’t expect them to spend much time on this either. The important thing is to apparently debate a manufactured issue on whether First Amendment Rights should be extended to Muslim Americans. That’s really bringing out the best in people. We’ve come a long way. 

However, it would be nice if we took a minute to remember this criminally unnecessary and destructive War.American Deaths…Since war began (3/19/03): 4415 (Total)  3493 (In Combat)
Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03) (the list) 4276 (Total)  3385 (In Combat)
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3954 (Total) 3187 (In Combat)
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3556 (Total) 2860 (In Combat)
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 187 88
Total Wounded: 31907 (Official) Over 100000 (Estimated)

This does not include the 10,000′s of innocent civilians and allied forces killed and wounded.

Next time we have a leader itching to invade some fucking sandbox, I hope people will remember this nonsense.

1. An administration uses a national tragedy, alarmist rhetoric, and manufactured (false) evidence to build a case for invading a country that had nothing to do with said tragedy.

2. After some photo ops, the American Media packs it in. The Government saves our eyes by not allowing dead soldiers to be shown on tv. Instead we get Deal Or No Deal. People yawn and get fatter.

3. In the Muslim World, the Invasion of Iraq becomes biggest reason for anti-American sentiment (more than support for Israel, regional military bases, etc..). A great brochure for the manipulative psychos to lure alienated youth to the lucrative sexual after-life career of suicide bombing!

4. $$Trillions$$ pissed away, with (mental + physical) medical costs just beginning. Much of this money went to multi-national-tax-evading-corporations with strong ties to the loudest chickenhawks.

Surely, this doesn’t mean the end of tragedy in Iraq. More troops will die. Iraqis still have less access to clean water and electricity than they did under Saddam. It will probably continue to become a hotbed of extremism.  There will be a lot more bad before there’s much good. Maybe it’s just the end of quite a self-destructive ‘bender.’

To all those who have served and remain serving, I thank you. And I’m sorry.

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Good Man Gone

Posted by Matt on Friday, April 9th, 2010

Justice John Paul Stevens is retiring. A great legal mind, and from most accounts, a humble and friendly guy, he will be missed (by some). However, as the young man closes in on 90 years of age, it might be a good time to call it a day. I hope he enjoys retirement.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Stevens initially made his name in 1969. According to the NYT,

Stevens turned down an offer to teach at Yale Law School and instead became an antitrust lawyer in Chicago. He joined forces with moderate and liberal good-government Democrats, who were opposed to the corruption of the Daley machine. In 1969, he was appointed to investigate a political scandal on the Illinois Supreme Court, an investigation that made his professional reputation. A citizen activist named Sherman Skolnick accused the chief justice and another Illinois Supreme Court justice of accepting bank stock from a politically connected Chicago lawyer in exchange for deciding a case in his favor. The Illinois Supreme Court set up a special commission to investigate the allegations, and Stevens was appointed general counsel. After a six-week investigation, culminating in Stevens’s dramatic courtroom examination of the accused justices, the commission concluded that both men had, in fact, violated canons of judicial ethics, and both resigned.

Ah, Illinois Politics. Reliable to many a fault.

Stevens was first appointed to the Federal Bench (7th Cir.) by President Nixon in 1970, and then nominated for the SCOTUS by President Ford in 1975. This is an excellent illustration of just how radically right the political + judicial moneychangers have trended over the last few decades, while we remain a center-left country. In fact, for whatever it’s worth, Stevens considers himself a “judicial conservative,” an admirer of Republican Centrist Potter Stewart. Yet he has been labeled, among other things, the “Chief Justice of the Liberal Supreme Court.”

Stevens Record:

  • Stevens drafts most of his opinions himself. He is fierce in dissent, and has a reputation as a tireless worker.
  • He has occasionally been criticized for a lack of consistency. Yet instead of haughtily adhering to some unyielding or convenient self-serving dogma, Stevens addresses each case issue on its own, acknowledging the practical effects of the Court’s decisions.
    • Death Penalty: Case in point, Stevens sided with the majority in Gregg v. Georgia, which overruled Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) and again allowed the use of the death penalty in the United States. Yet in a practical and (in my view) appropriately moral turn in later cases, Stevens held that the Constitution forbids the use of the death penalty in certain circumstances (juvenile offenders). He opined that “state-sanctioned killing is…becoming more and more anachronistic” and agreed with former Justice White‘s assertion that “the needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes…would be patently excessive” in violation of the Eighth Amendment (quoting from the concurrence of Byron White in Furman).
    • Affirmative Action: In 1980, Stevens dissented from the court’s decision upholding racial preferences in federal contracting, explosively comparing them with the Nazi laws excluding Jews from citizenship. More recently, however, he has voted enthusiastically to uphold affirmative action in universities and public-school enrollment plans, comparing them to welcome mats rather than no-trespassing signs. To Stevens, however, his views have been consistent. “There’s a tremendous difference in using affirmative action when you get a group to build a highway and affirmative action in the educational context,” he told me. “I think my rhetoric was probably a little strong,” he continued, but the federal law authorizing racial preferences for highway contracts was a “slapdash statute” that was based on pork-barrel politics, benefiting one group of contractors rather than citizens as a whole. In schools and universities, by contrast, “the whole student body profits from having diversity in the classes. So I really don’t think I’ve changed my views about this.”
    • First Amendment:  In Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), striking down an Alabama statute mandating a minute of silence in public schools “for meditation or silent prayer”, Stevens wrote the Opinion for a majority affirming that the Establishment Clause is binding on the States via the Fourteenth Amendment, and that: “Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual’s freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed of the majority. At one time, it was thought that this right merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.”
    • Women’s Rights: Abortion is another area in which Stevens has insisted on the duty of the government to act impartially rather than favoring some groups over others for sectarian reasons. He has suggested that restrictions on a woman’s right to choose may be unconstitutional because they reflect religiously motivated views about human life — thus violating the government’s responsibility under the First Amendment to be neutral between religious and secular viewpoints. “I think the less judges have to decide the better, and I frankly look at who should decide this,” he told me. “Obviously, I think basically the woman is the person most affected by it and has tremendously important interests; better to have her decide these questions with her own counselors and guidance than to have judges and legislators deciding something like this.”  Amen to that.
    • Fourth Amendment: Stevens has a generally liberal voting record on the Fourth Amendment, which deals with search and seizure. Stevens authored the majority opinion in Arizona v. Gant, which held that “[p]olice may search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant’s arrest only if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the compartment at the time of the search or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.”  On April 30, 2007, Stevens was the lone dissenter in an 8–1 ruling holding that high-speed police chases that result in death or serious injury do not violate the Fourth Amendment (Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372(2007)). Stevens maintained that the videotape evidence was not decisive and that a jury should determine if deadly force is justified, not “a group of elderly appellate judges.”
    • Executive Power: Another of Stevens’s longstanding themes is the need for judicial oversight of broad claims of executive power. Stevens’s repeated insistence that the president isn’t above the law has led him to rule not only against President Bush in cases concerning the prosecution of the war on terror but also against President Clinton in Clinton v. Jones, in which Stevens wrote the majority opinion in 1997 allowing the Paula Jones sexual-harassment suit to proceed while Clinton was in office. I mentioned that many people had ridiculed his prediction that the Clinton v. Jones case “appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of” the president’s time.  Nevertheless, Stevens insisted, it wasn’t fair to blame the court for having precipitated Clinton’s impeachment. “The issue in that case was whether he could have the trial postponed until he left office. But everyone agreed that the deposition had to go forward — even Clinton’s lawyers,” he said. “So the decision had absolutely no impact on the impeachment, but I know I get heat for it.”

During the GWB years, it was sometimes hard to distinguish the President from a monarch, as rapid expansion of executive power was used to rationalize many Bush policies (where were you then, teabaggers?).

In Hamdan, the Supreme Court, with Justice Stevens in the majority, held that Bush lacked the legal authority to create military commissions without approval from Congress, i.e., the Court (and Stevens) found Bush lacked the “legal authority.”

  • A pragmatic critic of the impractical and self-serving “originalist” (when convenient) doctrine touted by Scalia-Thomas, Stevens “saw it as his role to interpret the Constitution with fidelity to all of American history.”  Of course, originalism can be used to justify conservative or liberal decisions. As Stevens said, “Originalism is perfectly sensible. I always try to figure out what the original intent was, but to say that’s the Bible and nothing else counts seems to me quite wrong.”

Some legal scholars view Stevens’s sense of history as a reason for his warm embrace by liberals. “Stevens became the leader of the left on the court,” says Robert Post, a professor at Yale Law School, “because he’s able to say, ‘I remember, and I’m faithful to what has happened in the past, but my fidelity is to all of American history.’ ”

I admire Justice Stevens because he’s one of the Court’s last protectors of individual rights, and a staunch voice against recent trends expanding executive power. While many centrists and liberals were (appropriately) concerned about Justice Alito’s appointment, it has been Chief Justice Roberts who has led the assault on the individual. As Jeffrey Toobin wrote last year,

In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

As a major counter-weight to the radically Conservative leaders of the SC, there’s no doubt Stevens will be missed. President Obama prized judicial experience and intellectual capacity when he nominated Justice Sotomayor to the bench last year. Hopefully, he’ll nominate another qualified justice in the mold of Stevens.

Even as his opinions have made him a model for liberals around the country, Stevens is more interested in demonstrating his intellectual consistency and temperament as a judge’s judge. “You write what you think is correct and important,” he told me matter-of-factly. “I don’t consider myself a mobilizer.”

Justice Stevens began his public service on December 6, 1941 when he enlisted in the Navy and eventually joined its intelligence service. He earned a Bronze Star for his cryptography work which helped break the Japanese codes. A good run. And not a bad time to hang up the robe. Enjoy retirement, Justice Stevens. See you at Wrigley.

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And Then They Came For The Sane, And I Did Not Speak Out

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Glenn Beck drops the obvious Holocaust victim/FOX News comparison:

BECK: When they’re done with Fox, and you decide to speak beckcry3out on something. The old, “first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.” When you have a question, and you believe that something should be asked, they’re a — totally fine with you right now; they have no problem with you.

When they’re done with Fox and talk radio, do you really think they’re going to leave you alone if you want to ask a tough question? Do you really think that a man who has never had to stand against tough questions and has as much power as he does — do you really believe after he takes out the number one news network, do you really think that this man is then not going to turn on you? That you and your little organization is going to cause him any hesitation at all not to take you out?

If you believe that, you should open up a history book, because you’ve missed the point of many brutal dictators. You missed the point on how they always start.

I love the strawman argument.  Who the fuck are “they,” and what questions are they preventing you from asking? 

I’ll open up some history for youFirst they came for the guy spewing nonsense out of his ass, and they gave him a syndicated radio show

Then they came for the nutjob ratcheting up his hate-filled rhetoric, and they gave him his own tv show. 

And then they came for the douchebag who was spreading more hate and nonsensical conspiracy theories, and they gave him a fucking book deal which allowed the poor, oppressed victim to pull in $20 Million last year. 

It’s possible this is pretty insulting to some in the Jewish community, particularly on the back of Beck’s  attempt to politicize Yom Kippur.  But I’m sure they they can speak for themselves.

“First they came …” is a popular poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Although the precise origin of the poem is not known, Niemoller stated he prefers the version as:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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