August 18, 2006
Federal judges in two different states issued very bad rulings yesterday, reminding us of the dangerous consequences if the Democrats were to regain control of the Senate. In Michigan, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor (a Carter appointee) ruled that the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional. Her order that the program be halted was put on hold until a hearing on September 7, however. The Washington Post reported that impartial legal observers questioned the flimsy analytical basis for the ruling. Furthermore, it seems clear that there is a political agenda behind the lawsuit:
ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero called the decision 'another nail in the coffin' of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism strategies.
Well, those ACLU folks certainly aren't afraid of being accused of subverting the war against terrorism, are they? Legal blogger Eugene Volokh believes that the judge's ruling based on the First and Fourth Amendments is mistaken, and that "the strongest argument ... against the NSA program is that it violates not the Constitution, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." I come down on the middle of this issue. It should be obvious that in war time, the president needs extra discretion to defend national security, and there are emergencies when the law cannot be adhered to 100 percent. On the other hand, the Bush administration has not always been consistent on the applicability of the FISA statute, and has wrongly resisted suggested legal frameworks so that necessary anti-terrorist operations can be carried out in accordance with the rule of law to the maximum extent possible.
In the second case, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler (no relation to former Food and Drug Administration chief and anti-tobacco zealot David Kessler) found that American tobacco companies violated racketeering laws by conspiring to deceive the public about the health risks of cigarettes, and ordered them to undertake a massive public education program to rectify the problem. (She said she would have ordered them to pay monetary damages, but was constrained by an appellate court ruling in 2005.) I have zero sympathy for tobacco companies, but I could have sworn that this issue was already decided several years ago. In fact, it was decided, as the Washington Post indicates:
Eight years ago, the industry agreed to pay states $246 billion in compensation for the public money spent on treating the health effects of smoking. A year later, the Justice Department filed its racketeering suit in federal court. Anti-tobacco activists predicted that government and private litigation would ultimately cripple the industry.
Aside from the obvious "piling on" abuse of the government's legal powers via these multiple punitive procedures, there lies the more fundamental problem of letting individuals off the hook for the consequences of high-risk lifestyles. Anyone in the last thirty years who did not know that smoking was dangerous and potentially lethal was an idiot. Of course, many did know, but lacked the will power to stop. All tobacco advertisements since the 1960s have been required to carry health warnings, and that should have been enough. It's called personal responsibility.
This controversy just won't die down. Given that his mother is of French North African colonial heritage, the fact that he speaks French, and that "macaque" is a common French slang deriding people of African descent (see the newly updated page at wikipedia, which is "usually" accurate), the likelihood that Sen. Allen did not know that "Macaca" was a racial epithet is very low. The more I think about it, the more I fear that his silly gaffe on the campaign trail in Breaks, VA will end up making reforms in our immigration laws and practices much more difficult, giving rhetorical ammunition to apologists for the status quo. That is just awful. Another thing: Is Sen. Allen aware that India, from whence Mr. Sidarth's family originates, is the world's largest democracy, and that it is one of our allies in the war to resist Islamofascist expansion? I hope so, because the United States needs all the allies it can get right now. Some of Allen's apologists ask whether he would really be so stupid as to use a racial insult when he knew he was being recorded. I think he was just trying to impress his audience by showing that he was not intimidated by the presence of the video camera, and went just a little too far with his swaggering bravado. 'Nuff said?
The nicer term is "earmarked" spending, but whatever you call it, a list of all such projects in the Old Dominion can be found at: examiner.com. I noticed that Larry Sabato's University of Virginia Center for Politics raked in a cool million-plus bucks. Sweet! Oddly, Staunton and the rest of the Shenandoah Valley (except for Winchester) missed out entirely. Hat tip to Chad Dotson.