The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for April, 2009

Will the GOP Listen This Time?

Posted by demkid on April 29, 2009

Good op-ed in the Times today by Olympia Snowe, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans on Capitol Hill.  I fully agree that the GOP (and the Democrats, for that matter) can’t survive without strong moderate voices.  As Senator Snowe states, “There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party.”  She also brings up the last major political shift, when Jim Jeffords left the party to become an independent (and caucus with the Democrats) back in 2001.  There are eerie similarities between that move and the one that happened yesterday.  Jeffords’ switch flipped control (albeit temporarily) back to the Senate Democrats, whereas Specter’s switch pushed them tantalizingly close to a supermajority. 

Jeffords’ move also brought with it serious warning signs for the Republican Party.  NPR’s Nina Totenberg said at the time, “Republicans, when they govern from the right and castigate their moderate members, do so at their peril.  It seems to me that the modern Republican Party and its moderate wing are in a sort of, to use the psychobabble of the era, in an abusive relationship…and the moderates are the enablers and the conservatives are the abusers and they just got used to doing it that way and suddenly one member said I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Eight years later, the same message is being sent.  This time, though, the GOP finds itself completely out of power with their overall numbers dwindling fast.  Will the party listen to their now-former member who wasn’t going to take it anymore?  Will they listen to their remaining moderate members who are being pushed further towards the edge?  Or, will they continue to play the role of the abuser, ignore calls to change, and find themselves even deeper in the political wilderness 8 years from now?  My guess is, Senator Snowe will have to go through a whole lot more pain before her party finally starts getting it.


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Posted by brightcoast on April 28, 2009

I think I posted about seeing the film a while back. Anyway, since I’m on the mailing list for the effort to repeal Prop 8, I got an email about signing a petition to recognize Mr. Milk’s importance, and urging the Governor to create a day in his honor.

I would like to add that I have still not heard back from either the LA lesbian rights firm or the SF lesbian rights center, to whom I offered my FREE legal research services to help repeal Prop 8. I guess people don’t know a good deal when they see one.

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Breaking: Senator Specter to Become Newest Dem!

Posted by demkid on April 28, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the 12th-most senior member of the U.S. Senate, has just announced that he will switch parties today and will run for re-election as a Democrat!  I’ve always admired Senator Specter, since he’s one of the few true moderates in the Senate and he’s been terrific on environmental issues.  It should be noted that he’s been a member of the Republican Party since 1966.  I think it’s most useful to post part of his statement:

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”  He added: “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”

Bravo, Arlen!  As I discussed yesterday, the Republican Party is shrinking, and now they’ve lost one of their most senior statesmen.  What else does this mean?  First, Senator Specter will be the 59th Democrat in the Senate.  This leaves the party one vote short of the magic filibuster-proof number of 60, and that 60th vote (hopefully!) will come at some point in the near future, in the name of Al Franken.  As you recall, Senator-elect Franken is being held up by a silly court fight in Minnesota by his defeated opponent, Norm Coleman.  Coleman has appealed a recount and subsequent election contest to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and this is scheduled to start next month.  I have a sick feeling that this breaking news today will push Coleman and the GOP to try and fight on further, even after a defeat by the state supremes.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on that front.

Next, Senator Specter’s switch to blue only serves to reinforce the fact that the GOP is now merely a fringe party in the Northeast.  Their lack of any sort of competitiveness up there must be troubling, and it leaves the two Maine women as the last “official” Republican senators (although they’re also very moderate).  This also shows that the party is losing the center of American politics, which isn’t that surprising given the last 8 years.  I think Senator Specter, in addition to following his heart today, followed thousands of his consituents who have also recently made the switch away from the Republican Party.  Of course, he also followed his brain, as he’ll have a much better chance of holding his seat next year running as a Democrat.

So, terrific news from Washington!  I’m happy to have Senator Specter as the newest member of my party…the party that truly has a big tent!

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For all you McLennoners

Posted by brightcoast on April 28, 2009

You’ll be pleased to know the Court will be hearing oral argument this Wednesday to determine whether the CRA is still necessary given the current legal environment. Does anyone else find it ironic the largest interview in the article is with a professor Katz, that can’t be inadvertent. Anyway, we shall see whether it satisfies the illustrious “congruence and proportionality” test. Ironically, if it does not, it seems to obliterate the potential arguments for subsequent issues and cases which have relied on Katzenbach‘s justifications.

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Apparently You Can’t Outrun Swine Flu!

Posted by demkid on April 28, 2009

That was going to be my strategy, until I watched this pair of PSAs from 1976:

Being that there’s no shot for this current strain of swine flu, I guess we’re just all doomed.  At least, that’s what I’m getting from a quick survey of the cable news networks.  Is it just me, or is the coverage of this WAY out of control?  There has yet to be one death from swine flu in this country, and it seems like those who have gotten it here have recovered fairly quickly.  Yet, the media is making it seem like it’s on everyone’s doorstep, ready to strike at a moment’s notice!  How about we all just settle down, wash our hands, cover our coughs, and take this as just one more reason not to travel to Mexico.

Returning to the PSAs, this is what happened when the government (President Ford) overreacted to that instance of swine flu.  30 people died from the shot, while just one died from the flu itself.  They didn’t even have Twitter back then to help aid the panic!  Oh, and by the way, in reference to the second PSA, what does poor Dottie dying of a heart condition have to do with anything?!  “Yes, you can spread the swine flu, even if it’s right before you kick the bucket.”  Or, alternatively, “Yes, you can get swine flu from your friend, even though her heart gave out and she’s now dead.”

PS – Wesley Pruden at the Washington Times pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.  I also found this story quite funny.  Ryanair’s boss says that unless you’re an Asian or Mexican slumdweller, you should be perfectly safe from swine flu.  This comes from the guy who wants to make you pay to use the lavatory while in flight.  (Not every thought of his is dumb, though…I did fly Ryanair from Barcelona to Holland for like 10 bucks each way!)

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Mommy, What’s A Republican?

Posted by demkid on April 27, 2009

If things keep going the way they are, the Republican Party could soon become as obsolete as rabbit ears and phone sex.  According to a new ABC/Washington Post poll (main story here), only 21 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, the fewest in over 25 years.  This number is striking, and it really gives credence to arguments made by people like Meghan McCain, that the GOP is becoming more and more of a fringe party that totally ignores important groups of the electorate, like young people and minorities. 

So what does this mean for American politics if the Republican Party continues to shrink?  Fights between liberals and moderates in the Democratic Party?  I’m not so sure that would be the best thing in the world.  I think a loyal and moderately strong opposition party is necessary to keep things in check and move the dialogue forward in Washington.  I fear that moderate voices would be drowned out completely if the liberal wing of the Democratic Party was able to act with little or no constraint.  At least, where the President is concerned, moderates like me give him high marks for job performance in his first 100 days.  75 percent approve of the job he’s doing, and I hope this number remains high.  A President with strong appeal to the middle can help diminish left-wing activism in his own party.  This is clearly a good thing, as we’ve seen where fringe activism has gotten the GOP in recent years.  If the Democrats are perceived to be out-of-step with most Americans (moderates and independents), they too could soon be on the way to 21 percent. 

Note: Other interesting findings in the poll show that President Obama is in a good position 100 days into his presidency.  No matter what many in the GOP think, a good portion of Americans (62 percent) call him “about right” on the ideological scale.  This represents the highest rating in 30 years.  50% of Americans think that the country is on the right track, up from 19 percent just before Obama’s inauguration, and it’s the highest level in 6 years.  Americans also trust Obama more than Republicans in Congress when it comes to handling the economy by a 61-24 margin, the biggest advantage for a president since 1991.  Most intriguing to me though, is that the ugly GOP/Cheney/Right Coast argument that President Obama is making this country “less safe” has no traction with Americans: just 21 percent (funny!) agree with this assessment, where the rest say his policies are either making the country more safe or that they make no difference.  There’s a lot of other good stuff in the poll (especially when it comes to international affairs), but I’ll let you take a look at it yourself.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Posted by demkid on April 27, 2009

If you’re a Verizon customer (like me) and are jealous of all the people who get to walk around with their cool little iPhones, using applications like this one, you’ll be interested to know that Apple is currently in “high-level talks” about bringing the gadget to the carrier.  In my opinion, Apple should have started with Verizon in the first place, being that it has a more reliable network than AT&T’s, but bringing the iPhone to Verizon now would definitely be a good thing for consumers.  I’m not saying I’d purchase an iPhone if it became available to me (since I’m of the opinion that a phone is most useful for calling people, not caring for a zen rock garden), but it’s something I might consider, if only to fit in with the “cool” crowd.  In any case, these talks with Verizon may just be to get AT&T into a better deal when their contract is up next year, so sadly, I may not have the iPhone option, afterall.

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The Other Draft

Posted by brightcoast on April 26, 2009

Admittedly I know nothing about football, ok, maybe something, but relatively little, and I know even less about the Draft, or this year’s draft in particular. That being said, it has come to my attention that a player from my high school was drafted to the Patriots. He clearly played well after I graduated, as his senior year their record was 13-0, and during my years there I distinctly recall the team being mediocre (at best), which of course did not dim my school spirit in the least. Anyway, congratulations Mr. Edelman!

I still don’t like the Pats though, sorry, blame it on my contempt for Tom Brady (though also a Bay Area native).

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I <3 Nor Cal

Posted by brightcoast on April 26, 2009

This is just one of the reasons.

Feds, tell me where in the Constitution it says the military can recruit kids under 18?

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New Backup Plan

Posted by brightcoast on April 26, 2009

Though many of us female law students have considered the option of planning weddings should the law thing not work out (actually one of my peers and I have discussed a prenup/divorce law/wedding planning agency, just imagine…), especially considering this wonderful economy we face after graduation, I think I’ve decided on a new contingency plan: organic urban farming. Here’s the best article I could find describing a clip I saw on transforming lawns, “the biggest waste of space,” into organic farms, and then eating what your family needs and selling the rest to local restaurants.

Perhaps Farm Town on Facebook has had something to do with the sudden inspiration, but nonetheless, I’ve got to find some way to make those hefty loan payments.

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Parental Rights Amendment

Posted by brightcoast on April 26, 2009

Link here. It’s interesting because section 1 seems to do nothing more than codify the holdings of Pierce v. Society of Sisters and Meyer v. Nebraska, both decided in the 20s, neither of which have been overturned. Presumably the arguable need for the Amendment would be that although those two cases held that parents have fairly extensive rights when it comes to deciding the educational route for their children, they are not guaranteed the same rights in other areas (e.g. public health). For example, I definitely do not know as much about this as I would like to, but I am under the impression that homeschooling in California by parents is not allowed, by statute. Meaning that unless you have some sort of teaching degree, or invite someone into your home to tutor your child, who has such credentials, you are violating truancy laws. Perhaps I shall investigate this once the tide of finals subsides, but suffice it to say, I am certain that parents would not be pushing for such an amendment unless they felt the current state of the law was inadequate to protect their interests.

I highly doubt it will get passed considering not only the incredibly arduous process of getting an amendment passed, but also for the main reason that current law, i.e. SCOTUS case law, states essentially the same thing; thus, many with the say so may find the amendment as superfluous if not redundant.

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Revenge of Babe the Pig

Posted by etechx on April 24, 2009

There was Bird Flu, now prepare for attack of swine flu. What’s next, canine flu?

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I swear the water isn’t mine!

Posted by etechx on April 24, 2009

San Diego has implemented a water rationing strategy which involves cracking down on those who waste water. While I applaud the effort, it is pretty funny that there will be “water cops”. And it’s a little appalling that for these 10 workers the program will cost $750,000 (hopefully that’s not just their salary). For those of you who take long showers… “bad boys,  bad boys,  whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, when they come for you”. 

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Yes, Torture is Counterproductive….and a Stain on America’s Reputation

Posted by progressivethink on April 23, 2009

There has been a massive uproar in the past few weeks regarding the release of Justice Department memos detailing the means used for interrogations of terrorist suspects.  This is a touchy subject for all, primarily because of the constant balancing test we need to strike in this country between pragmatic security concerns and the morals, ideals and civil liberties our country was built upon.  Too often this country has in the past ignored its founding principles; this is the true essence of being un-American.  Often these principles are discarded in a time of threat, however looking back they have always been an overreaction to current events, ultimately to be regretted by future generations.  Notable past examples of this include the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during WW2, jailing of protesters during the First World War (Socialists/Anarchists) all the way back to the Alien & Sedition Acts.  This current period of torture in the post 9/11 landscape has once again set us against our morals and founding principles.  I don’t care what anybody says – if you are tying someone to a board and simulating drowning — then there is no doubt this is torture, even if it leaves no physical marks on the victim.  It’s time America puts this behind us, as President Obama has indicated he will.  The people who wrote the legal opinions who contorted the law into supporting these actions should be prosecuted.  What people don’t realize is how often the law is used to justify the unjustifiable.  The genocide perpetrated by the Nazi Reich was orchestrated through the legal justifications of lawyers.  So was the Bosnian genocide. Today’s attorneys have a moral and professional duty to prevent the legal system from being used to justify such actions.  As such, the Congress should establish a panel to investigate these attorneys for violations of the Professional Responsibility Code.

But what about our security?  Doesn’t that override these petty concerns of civil liberties?  This is the speech often being preached by people such as Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.  These arguments are inherently flawed.  In fact, this type of torture is likely to be counterproductive.  Torture is painful.  When people are being tortured they will tell you anything you want to hear in order to get you to stop.  As such the information is not particularly reliable.  A much more reliable route is using leverage (such as protecting the person’s family from repercussions).

A few months ago, I met a friend of a friend who was an Army interrogator in Iraq.  He worked for military intelligence, and actually was based at Abu Ghraib (apparently way after the incidents there)  I had to know if these tactics were really necessary, and produced vital information, so I asked him about them.  He told me what worked best was being friendly with informants, treating them as an equal and guaranteeing protection for their family.  He said that most informants would then be willing to cooperate after these sessions.

Now i’m not arguing that terrorist suspects are necessarily going to bend to kindness, that’s not very likely.  I am however arguing that violating our country’s 300 year old moral values is a lot more damaging long term than any short term gains achieved by using these techniques.  I wasn’t totally sure of this.. perhaps this interrogation method had prevented imminent terrorist attacks, Jack Bauer/24 style.  However this new article in the NY Times today clearly contradicts that belief and argument. Ali Soufan, an FBI agent, was intimately involved in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who I believe is one of the individuals that Cheney and Rove indicated had provided valuable information regarding terrorist attacks due to the new torture tactics.  Soufan debunks the unknown here, by pointing out how these tactics had the possibility of backfiring on the United States, along with the loss of our mantle as the world’s guardian of Human Rights. Soufan further claims that this information that extracted from Zubaydah could have been achieved in other ways.

Due to these revelations on the part of Soufan and other interrogators (most of whom appear to be against the tactics) I am glad the Obama administration has brought this stain on America’s reputation to light.  Release of these memos will allow the new administration, and the American people to regain their rightful role as a moral leader in the world once again.  That is, as long as we take action against the lawyers authorizing these gross breaches of human rights.

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Posted by brightcoast on April 23, 2009

is all I can say. Seriously, people would actually pay to play a game like this. Perhaps this is proof that games like GTA create a sort of slippery slope where gamers can justify committing, albeit simulated, incredibly violent and disgusting acts. My question, though, is if you can justify causing virtual SBS/ infant death, what’s to say you wouldn’t react similarly if faced with a real life scenario? I think Sikalosoft could use an exercise in impulse control, and Apple, seriously, you approved that garbage?

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