Entries Tagged as 'History'

Bush v. Gore

At a law school Supreme Court conference that I attended last fall, there was a panel on “The Rehnquist Court.” No one mentioned Bush v. Gore, the most historic case of William Rehnquist’s time as chief justice, and during the Q. and A. no one asked about it. When I asked a prominent law professor about this strange omission, he told me he had been invited to participate in another Rehnquist retrospective, and was told in advance that Bush v. Gore would not be discussed.

The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush is disappearing down the legal world’s version of the memory hole, the slot where, in George Orwell’s “1984,” government workers disposed of politically inconvenient records. The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum earlier this year, he snapped, “Come on, get over it.”

There is a legal argument for pushing Bush v. Gore aside. The majority opinion announced that the ruling was “limited to the present circumstances” and could not be cited as precedent. But many legal scholars insisted at the time that this assertion was itself dictum — the part of a legal opinion that is nonbinding — and illegitimate, because under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts cannot make rulings whose reasoning applies only to a single case.

Bush v. Gore’s lasting significance is being fought over right now by the Ohio-based United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, whose judges disagree not only on what it stands for, but on whether it stands for anything at all. This debate, which has been quietly under way in the courts and academia since 2000, is important both because of what it says about the legitimacy of the courts and because of what Bush v. Gore could represent today. The majority reached its antidemocratic result by reading the equal protection clause in a very pro-democratic way. If Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis is integrated into constitutional law, it could make future elections considerably more fair.

The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. “Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms,” the court declared, “the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.” If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

The first major judicial test of Bush v. Gore’s legacy came in California in 2003. The N.A.A.C.P., among others, argued that it violated equal protection to make nearly half the state’s voters use old punch-card machines, which, because of problems like dimpled chads, had a significantly higher error rate than more modern machines. A liberal three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed. But that decision was quickly reconsidered en banc —that is, reheard by a larger group of judges on the same court — and reversed. The new panel dispensed with Bush v. Gore in three unilluminating sentences of analysis, clearly finding the whole subject distasteful.

The dispute in the Sixth Circuit is even sharper. Ohio voters are also challenging a disparity in voting machines, arguing that it violates what the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor, calls Bush v. Gore’s “broad principle of equal dignity for each voter.” Two of the three judges who heard the case ruled that Ohio’s election system was unconstitutional. But the dissenting judge protested that “we should heed the Supreme Court’s own warning and limit the reach of Bush v. Gore to the peculiar and extraordinary facts of that case.”

The state of Ohio asked for a rehearing en banc, arguing that Bush v. Gore cannot be used as precedent, and the full Sixth Circuit granted the rehearing. It is likely that the panel decision applying Bush v. Gore to elections will, like the first California decision, soon be undone.

There are several problems with trying to airbrush Bush v. Gore from the law. It undermines the courts’ legitimacy when they depart sharply from the rules of precedent, and it gives support to those who have said that Bush v. Gore was not a legal decision but a raw assertion of power.

The courts should also stand by Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis for the simple reason that it was right (even if the remedy of stopping the recount was not). Elections that systematically make it less likely that some voters will get to cast a vote that is counted are a denial of equal protection of the law. The conservative justices may have been able to see this unfairness only when they looked at the problem from Mr. Bush’s perspective, but it is just as true when the N.A.A.C.P. and groups like it raise the objection.

There is a final reason Bush v. Gore should survive. In deciding cases, courts should be attentive not only to the Constitution and other laws, but to whether they are acting in ways that promote an overall sense of justice. The Supreme Court’s highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court’s own standing. The courts could start to undo the damage by deciding that, rather than disappearing down the memory hole, Bush v. Gore will stand for the principle that elections need to be as fair as we can possibly make them.

Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named?
By Adam Cohen
Published: August 15, 2006; The New York Times

Originally posted 2010-09-09 02:00:33.

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Friday Fourteen April Nineteen-hundred and Sixty-five (Good Friday) Confederate sympathizer (and possibly Confederate agent) John Wilkes Booth shot and fatally wounded President Abraham Lincoln as one part of a much larger conspiracy.

Assassination has a long history of being used to force political change; however, Abraham Lincoln was the first of four sitting American presidents to be assassinated (there have been many more attempts).

While it’s clear at this juncture there is a need for a radical change in our government, my hope is that it can be achieved through peaceful, constructive change.

Originally posted 2010-04-14 01:30:45.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day grew from a celebration of Mother’s Days.

In 1909 Sonora Smart Dodd (of Spokane Washington) felt that a day should be set aside for honoring fathers (her father was a Civil War veteran and had raised six children after the passing of his wife).

While a bill had been introduced in the US Congress as early as 1913, and President Woodrow Wilson spoke in Spokane at a local celebration in 1916, and President Calvin Coolidge encouraged a celebration in 1924 it would not be until President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation in 1972 declaring the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day that it became a national day of honoring not only our paternal father’s, but our fore father’s as well.

Originally posted 2010-06-20 02:00:59.

Radical Religions

The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL at the urging of it’s pastor Terry Jones plans to burn copies of the Quran today to mark the anniversary of the radical terrorists who hijacked airplanes and used them as weapons nearly a decade ago.

Terry Jones wrote a book entitled Islam is of the Devil.

On The Dove World Outreach Center’s web site is a statement that said it plans to burn Qurans “to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful.”

What makes this entire episode totally ridiculous is that Terry Jones boasts that he has never read the Quran — so he has no idea what is in the book he intends to burn, and it’s likely he has absolutely no understanding of Islam.

Most of the world understands that radicals don’t represent the views of the main stream of any culture — and certainly we don’t hold all Christians accountable to the acts of the radicals who murder people or bomb buildings to save unborn fetuses… but somehow a back-woods, narrow-minded, ignorant, bigoted preacher in the deep South seems to think that he needs to publicly burn books held holy by another faith to make himself feel more secure in his ridiculous beliefs.

And we should set the records straight — more people have been killed by Christians than any other religion in the name of their god… so if we’re keeping tally for “radical” acts of hate, all Christian please move to the front of the line.

Originally posted 2010-09-11 02:00:24.

BP Profits

Byron Grove, BP’s chief financial officer said a week after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that it was too early to talk about how much BP would be spending on the cleanup.

2010 First Quarter financial statements for BP show profits double the same period last year at $6.08 billion.

Over the past few years BP has been fined for workplace safety violations… but apparently the company hasn’t had a problem staying in business and making record amounts of money.

The oil spill cleanup is after all, just a cost of doing business for BP; and perhaps it’s time to crank up that cost with hefty fines for each and every day it continues.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar has threatened BP with a government take over of the clean up… but last I check the government was already involved.  And US Coast Guard Admiral Thad W Allen has been clear that their is little more that they can do… mainly because there isn’t a contingency plan for this type of spill — by any government agency.

In 1989 Exxon was hit hard by a consumer boycott when they dragged their feet in the clean up of the Valdez spill; but so far there’s no sign that consumers are slowing their purchases at BP — the largest oil and gas producer in North American, and one of the largest in the United States (selling under the retail labels of BP and Arco).

Maybe when the news media starts providing images of animals and habitat that’s devastated by the oil spill consumers might wake up — but there are actually live feeds of the oil spewing from the damaged rig that show oil-soaked birds and now there’s plenty of footage of landfall of the spill in Louisiana… so maybe not.

The oil and gas industries are the 14th largest contributors to congress — almost $7 billion per year ( http://politics.usnews.com/congress/industries — don’t be shocked by how many times Harry Reid is the #1 recipient of that money — and by all means use this list to know who to vote out of office) — so it’s understandable why the federal government is slow is really punish BP; after all, we know that our elected official look out for their interests first (which involves looking out for the interests of those who give you money — over those who you consider sheep who’ll just continue to vote for you).

FINES FINES and MORE FINES — if BP is making money hand over foot, let’s make sure that they bare the full cost of this cleanup and the costs of un-doing the damage that they’ve caused…  I’m thinking $50 million per day would be just about right to force BP to take real action.

Originally posted 2010-05-28 02:00:19.

The War of Northern Agression

Or more commonly known as the American Civil War officially ended on 9 April 1865 when General Robert E Lee of the Army of Northern Virgina (Confederate States of America) surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant of the Federal Army of the Potomac ) United States of America) at the Appomattox Court House (Appomattox, Virginia).

In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

The war officially ended, and the country started the long road of reconstruction.

Originally posted 2010-04-09 01:30:38.

The Incredible Shrinking State

Rising Temperatures, Disappearing Coastlines
December 8, 2009

Greenland and Antarctica hold the world’s largest reservoirs of fresh water, locked in their giant ice sheets. Global warming may cause large parts of these ices sheets to melt within centuries — changing the shape of coastlines around the world.

See the entire article on NPR.

Originally posted 2010-04-14 02:00:12.

John Winston Ono Lennon

9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980 one of the founding members of the Beatles; a personality who’s life and death shape music and influence society.

John Lennon on Wikipedia

Originally posted 2010-10-09 01:30:38.

Political Change

I’ve seen a few articles about voters sending a signal of change this last Tuesday with an “anti-establishment” vote… the headlines sound great (along the lines of my “no incumbent” philosophy), but looking at the primary results makes me feel like the declaration of change is more comparable to ice melting in Antarctica in the Spring than anything truly significant…

Real change requires that Americans understand that we are where we are because of the short sightedness and the self-servings of  those we elect — though that said, each and ever American needs to shoulder responsibility for supporting our political leaders and our frenzied consumerism.

Simply put, there’s no such thing as a free lunch — and along with that, you can’t have everything right now.

If we American are to effect real political change, and put this country back on a track that insures our children a safe and prosperous future we need to commit to begin making changes now and pass on to each generation the responsibility and understanding of living in the present while planning for the future.

It’s not going to be an easy path, and we Americans will likely continue to have to address social ills and internal and external detractors; but we must move forward with our economy, society, and environment in a sustainable way with open hands and hearts to help the rest of the world do the same.

Originally posted 2010-05-21 02:00:42.

A New Hope

There have been numerous firsts in the course of human events; but my belief is that one singular event set in motion a new era for human kind.

One July 20, 1969 at 4:17  pm EDT Neil A Armstrong took one small step for man as he stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Module Eagle onto the surface of the Moon and subsequently returned to Earth with “Buzz” Aldrin and the Columbia Command Module pilot Michael Collins.

While many consider this the single greatest technological achievement of all time; I would go further to say that when humans left our tiny frail planet, stepped foot on another celestial body, and safely returned it was far more than a technological achievement, it was the event the redefined man’s destiny.

Thirty-three years ago human kind boldly went into the future.

Originally posted 2010-07-04 02:00:22.