Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Christman goes to the Supreme Court, but no one notices

Almost every reader of this blog could identify Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools in 1954.  Some of you may even know that the “Brown” was Linda Carol Brown, an elementary school student, and the Board of Education was the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education.

What you may not know, and neither did I, was that Brown was not the only plaintiff.  Last week Harry Briggs, Jr., another plaintiff in the case, died at age 75.  Mr. Briggs’ parents actually brought the suit, but five separate cases were brought together and Brown was the first name used.  The others were part of the et al.  

I can identify with Mr. Briggs.  I too was a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case, March Fong Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee.  The case established that California political parties had the right to endorse in non-partisan elections and affirmed the free speech rights of California political parties.  I was one of the plaintiffs as the Chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.  Santa Clara County is where San Jose is located.

Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote the opinion.  [Lawyers reading this can look it up.  The case is listed as 109 S. Ct. 1013 (1989).]  

But here’s the rub.  It will always go down as March Fong Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Party.  My chance at glory, and I’m relegated to the et als.  I certainly can identify with Mr. Briggs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pro-Death Penalty

Timbuktu, an ancient city in the African country of Mali, is home to a number of old tombs made of mud and stone, many of which were recently destroyed by a jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda.  

Now one of the perpetrators, Ahmad al-Faqu al-Mahdi, has been sentenced to nine to eleven years in prison after a trial in The Hague..  Mr. al-Madhi, now contrite, identified structures to be destroyed and even provided the pickaxes and crowbars to carry out the destruction.

Andras Riedlmayer, a scholar of Islamic art, said, “The courts have been slow to recognize this, but there is a clear link between crimes committed against people and attacks on their cultural heritage.  The ethnic cleansers in the Balkans, like the jihadis in Iraq, Syria and Timbuktu and other places, are keenly aware of this, which is why they devote so much personnel and resources to the destruction of religious and cultural landmarks.”

The destruction of art work, like the massive Buddhist statues in Bamiyan Afghanistan, is permanent.  The original is gone forever.  

My opinion is that anyone who destroys an archeological treasure or an important cultural heritage deserves the death penalty.  Those evil people have diminished our world in ways never to be undone.

Information for this post came from “Extremist Pleads Guilty to Destroying Cultural Sites in Mali,” New York Times (Aug. 23, 2016), p. A8.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Disappointing Trump voters

If by some fluke Trump should win, millions of his followers will be terribly disappointed.  I am not sure if they have thought through a Trump victory.  They seem to be reacting to slogans with little thought about reality.  Here is a dose of reality.

Manufacturing is not coming back.  Bethlehem Steel is not coming back.  Robotics and automation mean that old-fashioned factory jobs are gone forever.  This is not only true of the U.S., but also of China and India.

Coal is not coming back.  The economics aren’t there.  Sorry West Virginia and Kentucky.

Climate issues will continue, and the sea will continue to rise.  Pretending a problem doesn’t exist does not make it go away.  

The wall will not be built.  I mean, really?

Eleven million undocumented residents will not be deported.  Won’t happen.  

The drug problem will not disappear.  If anything, it will get worse.

The U.S. will lose credibility in foreign affairs and be weakened internationally.  Other countries will begin to take advantage of our weakness within six months.  

America will no longer be great.  It will be a joke.  People who got caught up in the Trump bandwagon will feel like the British after the vote to leave the European Union.  They will wonder how they could have been so stupid.  I’m already wondering that.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Burkini

Let me see if I got this right. 

It is wrong for a religion to impose rules on what a woman can wear.  In order to prevent that from happening, some local French governments will impose rules on what a woman can wear.  

Actually, I kind of like the burkini.  I’m one of those guys who, when around women in bikinis, always feel like I should be averting my eyes.

On the other hand, I could understand if they imposed restrictions about how far a man’s belly can hang over the top of his swim trunks.  There are some things best left unseen.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pat Toomey, politico?

For years political science professors have been explaining two theories of representation to their students.  The delegate theory of representation states that the legislator should do what his or her constituents want.  If the legislator personally thinks that abortion should be an issue between a woman and her doctor, but a large majority of his or her constituents think abortion is wrong, then the legislator should oppose abortion.

On the other hand, the trustee theory of representation holds that a legislator should do what he or she thinks is correct.  This theory is usually credited to English parliamentarian Edmund Burke, who disagreed with his constituents and explained that they elected him because they trusted him to do the right thing, no matter if it went against their particular opinion on a specific issue.

More recently, a third theory of representation has emerged.  The third type is neither delegate nor trustee, but is labeled a politico.  Politicos have no fixed ideology, nor do they necessarily do what their constituents wish.  They do whatever it takes to get reelected.  If the NRA contributes a large amount of campaign contributions, they will oppose restrictions on weaponry, no matter what their personal beliefs or their constituents’ wishes.

The question is, why did Pat Toomey change his mind on the TPP?  For years he supported that agreement.  Now he sees that both Clinton and Trump oppose it.  When did he really decide the TPP was a bad idea?  Did he decide he better do what the voters want?  Or did his desire for reelection override his beliefs,and this was the road to victory?  I’m guessing politico.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Phasing out private prisons

Earlier this week the Obama administration said it would phase out the use of private for-profit prisons to house federal inmates.

It’s about time.  Those prisons were more violent, saved the government very little money, and actually encouraged longer sentences for greater profit.

The Pennsylvania scandal known as “Kids for Cash,” in which corrupt judges sentenced juveniles to for-profit prisons in return for kickbacks would never have happened if those facilities had been run by the public.

Unfortunately, states may still use private for-profit prisons.  They should be phased out as quickly as possible.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bat in the house

Tonight when I entered the house from the front porch, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a very large moth flying in through the open door.

About 15 minutes later I knew what it was.  A little brown bat was hanging above the doorway to Linda’s office.  I got a towel and very gently caught it and took it outside.  It seemed somewhat disoriented at first, but then it flew off, I’m hoping to catch insects and live a full life.  

If you do get a bat in your house, don’t panic.  Eventually they will roost.  Then you can catch them by using a towel or thick rag.  Since bats do occasionally have rabies, and their teeth are like sharp little knives, you wouldn’t want to pick them up with your bare hands.  

On the other hand, you don’t want to kill them.  Given the decline in the Pennsylvania bat population because of White Nose Syndrome, we need to save every possible bat we can.