Archive for September, 2011

Few people would mourn the passing of radical U.S. cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi. However, his reported death from a U.S. air strike raises the long-standing question over President Obama’s insistence that he can unilaterally label a citizen as a terrorist and order his killing. It is one of the policies (of many) that Obama continued from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and was one of the subjects of my column yesterday in the Los Angeles Times.

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Awkward. Primera (Texas) Police Chief Joe Rodriguez recently sent his opponent for the office of constable, Robert Lopez, text that contained transgender porn. Oops.
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A new study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has identified an area of young adults who have been overlooked by prior campaigns: young evangelicals. The study found 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex. That is virtually the same (8 percent below) the national average. With a campaign infused with religiosity this year and all of the talk of “real America” versus urban America, the study challenges stereotypes.
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In New York, Clyde Gardner, 57, hatched a unique plan to kill his ex-girlfriend that involved skinning a bear, hiding among garbage cans, and walking on all fours. After the plan proved a bit too complex, he returned to that old favorite: the car crash. It all ended without an injury when Gardner was accused by the would-be hit man. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced this week.

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Earlier today, I posted another case out of Illinois where an officer arrested a citizen for recording him in public — only to have the charges later dropped without any disciplining of the officer. Now in New York city we have another alleged case where an officer detains a citizen over public videotaping — not of him, mind you, but of ground zero. Meredith Dodson of Georgia says that Officer Mark DeSimone not only detained her but became threatening with her and other citizens who objected to his arbitrary action over her taking a photo of the famous site.
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A family in Pakistan is living in poverty and avoiding neighbors calling for their deaths. Their offense? The oldest daughter was raped and the family did not kill her as demanded as a matter of honor. Unlike hundreds of such girls killed in honor killings each year, Kainat Soomro, 17, is being supported by her family and refuses to back down in demanding justice for her kidnapping and gang rape.
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We have yet another person arrested for recording a police officer in public. Louis Frobe felt he was wrongly stopped for speeding and decided to use his phone to videotape and record the stop and its surroundings. When he held the phone outside of the window to videotape the surrounding area, the officer proceeded to arrest him and charge him with a felony in Illinois. The arresting officer is identified in a lawsuit as Ralph H. Goar of the Village of Lindenhurst.
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Saudi King Abdullah has again taken a step toward modernity. Yesterday, he revoked a sentence of 10 lashes imposed on a woman who drove a car. This follows his earlier decision to allow women to vote. The problem is that there is no law criminalizing driving by women. It is a religious edict which continues to apply to citizens with the same force of the law.
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Below is today’s column in The Los Angeles Times on the record of Barack Obama on civil liberties and his impact on the civil liberties movement in the United States.

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When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed doubt over the official account of the 911 attacks and accused the U.S. government, he has been condemned by other leaders and countries. However, it turns out that the most aggrieved party may be . . . al Qaeda and its allies and sympathizers. Inspire Magazine, a publication founded by Anwar al-Awlaki and often tied by the U.S. to Al Qaeda figures, has come out with a cover story attacking Ahmadinejad for suggesting that al Qaeda was not responsible or someone used in the attacks by U.S. intelligence. It appears that al Qaeda views this “truther” account as nothing short of defamation or at least product disparagement.

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In the high-pressure competition to ranking colleges, Sam Eshaghoff, 19, was a solution for those who long for high scores but lack of the ability or time to secure them. Eshaghoff and six students were arrested on criminal charges for a scheme in which Eshaghoff pretended to be other people to take the SAT exam for them — at the cost of $1,500 to $2,500.
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German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble left little question about his view of the wisdom of the economic policies of the Obama Administration. Schauble called the U.S. plan to pour trillions of dollars into the bailout fund “stupid” and said it would destroy the AAA ratings for the members — precisely what occurred to the U.S. this year. There is rising criticism of the economic views of Timothy Geithner, who some view as steering the U.S. into massive and unproductive spending.

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Now this is an interesting lawsuit. In Massachusetts, Marlboro Airport wants payment of $676,048 for damage caused by “negligent” use of its facility, including unauthorized vehicles that tore up its field. The problem is that the culprit is the U.S. government. In 2010, President Barack Obama descended on the airport and brought with him a huge entourage, including a massive vehicles that were too heavy for the tarmac. After trashing the field, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security refused to compensate the company that runs the field.
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Just after we ran a rare congratulatory piece on the Saudi King giving the right to vote to woman, the Saudi courts gave a chilling reminder of the plight of women in the Kingdom by sentencing Shaima Ghassaniya to be flogged for driving.
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Just when you thought flying could not get more stressful . . . ABC has learned of a secret White House report alerting U.S. officials of the theft of an estimated 20,000 portable, heat-seeking missiles from an Army warehouse in Libya.
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Now this is a takings case. Last week saw the last bullfight in Barcelona, Spain. This week there is talk of a lawsuit by bullfighting companies who want compensation for the ban on killing bulls slowly in a ring for the enjoyment of thousands of fans of the blood sport.
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Let no one say that criminal lawyers and their clients are not romantic. This picture is a staged death scene by a hired killer, Carlos Roberto de Jesus, who fell in love with his target in Brazil. Presumably, Sylvester Stallone is taking Spanish in preparation for the film.
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A Canadian police officer is the focus of an inquiry after a citizen filmed him shooting a Taser in the face of a teenager involved in a street brawl. While the 17-year-old is recovering, he took a surgery to remove the prong from his ear.
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There has long been an reasonable expectation among citizens that, if they are falsely accused of an offense, they will not have to pay either the fine or the cost of a hearing. Indeed, even if found guilty, there is generally not a charge for seeking justice in a court. Not in Salem, Massachusetts. The state supreme court ruled last week that motorists must pay the state even if they win their cases in court. The cost of fighting a ticket is $75, which can be roughly the cost of the ticket itself. It is a system that makes a mockery of the right to challenge a charge. No wonder so many witches were burned in the town . . . most could not afford the cost of an appeal.

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A Kuwaiti court on Sunday sentenced a Sunni Islamist activist to three months in jail for tweeting comments that were deemed derogatory to Shiite Muslims. I have previously written about the increase in such blasphemy prosecutions, including a trend in the West, as well as President Obama’s decision to support a U.N. resolution embracing the concept of blasphemy prosecutions – an abandonment of our long opposition to such laws. As previously discussed in a column and a line of blog stories (here and here and here and here), various Western governments have been curtailing free speech by prosecuting blasphemy and speech against various groups. In this case, Mubarak al-Bathali was convicted over his use of Twitter. It appears that you can blaspheme in 140 words or less.
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In Bay Minette, Alabama, felons are being given the opportunity to climb the wall. Not the prison wall, mind you. The Alabama court and local police are helping felons over the wall of separation of church and state by giving convicted citizens an opportunity to avoid jail if they volunteer — so long as it is with a church.
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Former Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn of Fayetteville has added her name to the expanding number of lawyers who are degrading the legal profession with faux court shows that mete out justice as a form of entertainment. I have previously denounced these shows and the types of lawyers who reduce their profession to the level of farce and freak shows (here). In Gunn’s case, the state bar informed her in 2010 that she was violating ethical rules by arranging to have her hearings filmed and released to shows. Rather than give up her desire for fame, Gunn resigned from the court and created a fake court called “Last Shot with Judge Gunn,” a show criticized by drug law experts as harmful and misleading. The problem with people like Gunn is that these shows are the product by unrestrained and self-consuming egotism built on the ruins of such professional values.
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We often criticize Saudi Arabia for its treatment of women and religious minorities under its extreme religious laws. Accordingly, we should also not hesitate to praise the country when it moves toward giving greater freedoms or embracing tolerance for minority groups. On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah announced on Sunday he was giving women the right to vote and run in municipal elections.
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Physicists did not take long to find the first practical application of the reported success of scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in making a subatomic particle go faster than the speed of light for the first time. The scientists used neutrinos, which were observed smashing past the cosmic speed barrier of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second). Below is the first joke being circulated around by our colleagues in the Physics Departments (and sent to me by one of my colleagues at the law school).
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Campus Republicans at the University of California Berkeley have reportedly received threats after creating a novel form of protests against California schools considering race in admissions. The students created a sale of baked goods priced according to their race: white men for $2.00, Asian men for $1.50, Latino men for $1.00, black men for $0.75 and Native American men for $0.25. All women will get $0.25 off those prices.
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In my torts class, we often discuss accounts of “spontaneous combustion” particularly after discussing the case of spontaneous combustion of a hay rick in Vaughn v. Menlove. Such cases have occasionally been reported with people, albeit to skeptical police. The latest comes from Ireland where Michael Faherty, 76, seemed to spontaneously combust.
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Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

 

When it comes to the Second Amendment and guns, it seems that President Obama can’t make anyone happy.  Ever since Obama announced his candidacy for the Presidency, the NRA has screamed that Obama will be taking away the guns. This scare tactic continued when Obama defeated John McCain for the Presidency.  Just what has Barack Obama done to make the NRA and gun owners frightened for their guns?  The simple answer to this question is nothing. (more…)

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Sunday in Paris With Eric

Here is our picture of the week from our erstwhile colleague in the City of Light, Eric Tenin.
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Ponzi Schemes vs. Social Security

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

In his 2010 book, “Fed Up,” Governor Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” A Ponzi scheme is an individual investment plan wherein investors are paid “interest” by the principal paid into the scheme by later dupes. A geometrically increating supply of new investor principal is required to pay off the “interest” to previous investors.

The WSJ calls Perry’s claim misleading and PolitiFact terms it False.

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Up On The Roof

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


For your listening enjoyment, we present The Drifters in glorious STEREO!

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger 

Part I

 Jonah Goldberg was not pleased with Banned Books Week: Just a Lot of Propaganda Says Jonah Goldberg, the post that I wrote for the Turley blog last Sunday. In my post, I criticized Goldberg’s op-ed titled Banned Books Week is just hype, which appeared in USA Today on September 5th. Goldberg responded to my criticism of his op-ed with a blog post titled Banned Book B.S. Cont’d at the National Review Online (NRO). He said that my effort to come “to the rescue of the Banned Book Week crowd” was “entirely underwhelming.” He added, “A big chunk of her response restates my op-ed while casting her incomprehension as if it’s a rebuttal.”

Goldberg said my insinuation that the threat of book banning is a more serious problem than we realize because of the book challenges that go unreported to ALA (American Library Association) was “incredibly lame.”

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With God on Our Side

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

 As a suitable companion piece to my last post, I present the less than dulcet tones of Bob Dylan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m5eEgB2MQE.html

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

To my mind the greatest movie satire on the idiocy of the Cold War and the fear it inspired in humanity, was Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”,  released in 1964. The plot in brief was, “An insane general starts a process to nuclear holocaust that a war room of politicians and generals frantically try to stop”. For those unfamiliar with one of the best American movies of all time check this link:   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/  

Rent the movie if you haven’t seen it, for it will bring you dark laughter and present you with much to ponder. At the time of its release, some disparaged the movie as being un-credible in its characterizations and not believable in it premises. I hadn’t thought of the movie in years until I came across this article at the website Buzzflash.com titled “The Theology of Armageddon” by Robert Koehler. http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13024 . The article is relatively brief, but well worth your time.

 The article deals with a course titled “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” at Vandenberg Air Force Base, given under Air Force auspices. As the Robert Koehler states:

“(I)t turns out that the point of the mandatory course, which was recently canceled by the Air Force after officers of numerous faiths complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about it and Truthout published an exposé in July, was to give officers in the first week of missile-launch training a Bible-verse-studded indoctrination in faux-Just War Theory (cynically known in the ranks as the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training)”.

What got me thinking of the movie Dr. Strangelove was a quote in the article from Dr. Wehrner Von Braun, which makes credible the satiric reality of the movies title character, Dr. Strangelove, hysterically portrayed as a heavily accented former NAZI, by Peter Sellers. Seller’s character was widely denounced as being unfair to Von Braun, at the time, but seeing this quote from him makes me wonder:

“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation . . . we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else,” von Braun is quoted as saying. “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

To me this is post facto justification by von Braun of his choice of the comfort of an honored life in the U.S. mirroring his NAZI lifestyle and providing a sop to detract from the truth that he was an enthusiastic war criminal. Von Braun had developed the V (I & II) guided missiles for the NAZI’s and became the head of the United States Ballistic Missile Program. Von Braun was a NAZI Party member of distinction and it seems dedication. His missiles fell upon Great Britain in the closing days of WW II as an attempt to cause terror within the British people and were random in their destruction. That he then became an honored man in the U.S., rather than a defendant at Nuremburg, is a tribute to our own hypocrisy in prosecuting the Cold War. A similar mindset seems to have infected some in our Air Force as I will show. (more…)

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Flynt’s Bounty

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Porn king Larry Flynt has issued a new bounty. On Thursday, the Hustler magazine publisher, offered $1 million to anyone with proof of “an illicit sexual liaison” involving Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry. Flynt is not too particular either, he’ll accept both gay and straight encounters.

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Honey Badgers Don’t Need A Guide

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The honeyguide is a bird famous for leading humans to bee hives. The humans raid the hive of its honey and leave some of the spoils in a convenient location for the honeyguide. It’s an incredible example symbiotic behavior. It has also been claimed that honeyguides lead honey badgers to hives. This turns out to be false. The origin of the misconception may have occurred since honeyguides would follow honey badgers and partake of the badger’s leftovers. It’s also a good excuse to embed this cool video:

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Claudette

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


Today we have The Everly Brothers in glorious STEREO!

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In another bad turn for the White House, Solyndra executives repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment on the company’s financial collapse and its receipt of $535 million federal loan guarantee. President Barack Obama has been criticized for ignoring warnings that the company was poorly structured and in danger of failing before highlighting the company as an example of his program of stimulus funds.

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We recently discussed the shocking outburst by conservative judges on the Seventh Circuit and Fifth Circuits. Now, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has joined the ranks of jurists engaging in visceral and, in my view, inappropriate commentary from the bench. The circuit sitting en banc split 6-6 Wednesday on whether to grant en banc review on a challenge of the federal wiretap law. What was most striking, however, was not the sharp division but the rhetoric of Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs. Building on a trend of federal judges to so narrow standing as to block any meaningful avenue to challenge government actions. However, Jacobs decided to vent his anger at public interest attorneys and their causes and clients.
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There is an interesting controversy in Fort Worth, Texas where Dakota Ary, an honors student was suspended for turning to another student in his German class and saying that he viewed homosexuality as wrong. The teacher at Western Hills High School became angry in overhearing the comment and accused Ary of being a bully.
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It has long been a tradition to give a dying man his last requests for dinner. Lawrence Brewer took that request to an extreme, ordering a meal fit for an entire cellblock. That produced a backlash from state Senator John Whitmire who demanded an end to the tradition in Texas. He succeeded and now death row inmates will simply get whatever is served that night at the prison.
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It turns out that Einstein was a bit slow after all. Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has made a subatomic particle go faster than the speed of light for the first time — something that shattered one assumption of Einstein’s theories. The scientists used neutrinos, which were observed smashing past the cosmic speed barrier of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second).
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Chief Judge Edith Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has long been unpopular with many lawyers and judges. Now her reputation for a certain nastiness has emerged in a public scandal after she screamed at her colleague Judge James L. Dennis to “shut up” or get out in the middle of an oral argument.

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Ken Anderson, 47, is understandably confused. As a teenager, he was abandoned by his mother, Shirley Anderson, 73, and had to live with other families, quit school, and raise himself. Now his elderly mother has filed in British Columbia for parental support.
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In a shocking story below, police have investigated the introduction of children as young as eight into cage fighting events. The children fight as adults cheer while drinking beer and egging them on. The police investigated and found no violations or crimes in such events.
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Harris County judge Charley Prine, a Republican judge in Texas, is under fire for a clearly homophobic order barring a gay father from leaving his children alone with his husband. William Flowers (pictured, left below) and Jim Evans (right) were legally married in Connecticut and are appealing the order that says that the children cannot be left alone with with any man who is not related to them by blood or adoption unless his ex-wife consents.
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And you thought your last seatmate on an airplane was a bit irritating . . . Try David Alan Anderson, 60. Anderson sat down on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas and immediately began elbowing the passenger next to him and claiming the armrest. It then got worse . . . much worse.
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We have previously explored our concern for a possible eating disorder by a leading Republican. Now, it appears an entire agency could have a serious need for intervention. A report found that the Department of Justice spent roughly $500,000 for food and beverages — at just 10 conferences. That included $16 muffins and coffee at a dollar an ounce.

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NASA still is unsure where a giant six-ton six-ton satellite will hit this week, but they are trying to calm nerves by saying that the risk of someone being hit is only 1 in 3200. I was struck by that figure because in tort law that would be considered an unacceptable risk in cases of product liability or malpractice.

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This newly released photograph has raised concerns that the recent deadly crash at the Nevada air race may have been caused by a defective cockpit seat. The pilot, Jimmy Leeward, should have been seen in the cockpit even if he had passed out in the Galloping Ghost, his vintage WWII-era P-51 mustang.
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On shows like The Daily Show, people have chuckled that former Senator Rick Santorum’s name is synonymous with a graphic sexual act. Gay columnist Dan Savage launched a campaign for people to link the name to the act on Google. This prompted Santorum to contact Google and complain that the company is “spreading filth.”

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