Category Archives: Political Commentary

Another Ignominious Anniversary

Everyone’s been noting that this is the anniversary of Roe v Wade, but it’s also the first anniversary of the introduction of that Congressional abomination, the McCain-Feingold “Campaign Finance” (read, “make the world safe for continued major-media free-speech monopoly”) legislation.

Fortunately, it didn’t pass, but in following the time-honored rule of hijacking current events to pass ill-thought-out and irrelevant legislation (see, e.g., gun control and Columbine, or Airline Security Bill and 911), the fall back position of the Democrats, should they not be able to pin Enron on the Bush Administration, will be to use it to pass some new campaign finance law.

In honor of the anniversary, I went back and read the bill.

The part I like the best is where no one can buy any ads within sixty days of an election. As an exercise for the lawyers in the audience, go back and read a few copies of the NYT and WaPo during October of 2000, and see if they broke the theoretical law by providing in-kind ads to various candidates.

In other words, since they sell column-inches, column-inches for their own editorial content could be considered to be of value (since they had to forgo advertising revenue for it). Thus anything that they print in preference to ads could be considered purchasing ad space for themselves. If they used it to put forth points of view favorable to one candidate or another, either on the editorial page, or even in the so-called “objective” news stories, then it seems to me that one could make a case against them under McCain-Feingold.

It will be quite amusing if the bill or something similar to it passes (well, actually, that won’t be very amusing at all) and ironic, if someone actually files such a complaint against them, since they’re the biggest cheerleaders for the legislation, and their hero McCain.

Ken, John, And Spike

There’s been a little ongoing discussion amongst Alex Knapp, the Uberblogger, and Boja Willy at Protein Wisdom, about the justice of prison rape (at least, I think that’s what the discussion is about).

I’ve got to go with Alex on this one. California politician Bill Lockyer was rightly castigated when he wished upon Ken Lay a sodomizing roommate named “Spike” a few months ago. That rape ever occurs in our prison system is an appalling indictment of it as an expensive, inhumane failure (at least to the degree that we have any hope for it being rehabilitative–it’s hard to see how this can contribute to an offender becoming a better citizen later), and the cause is the private (and occasionally public, as in l’affaire Lockyer vs Lay) attitudes and casual acceptance or blind eyes of our public officials to it. The War on (Some) Drugs, by overpopulating the system with non-violent offenders who are even more vulnerable to the few violent predators who haven’t been removed from it, in order to make room for them, makes it even worse.

If we truly believe that forced copulation is an appropriate punishment for anyone (though I have trouble conceiving of that as a just desert for anyone except perhaps, in the spirit of eye for eye, a rapist or child molestor), then we should make it the explicit punishment in law, and see if it will get past the Supreme Court and Bill-of-Rights scrutiny (gee, sounds like “cruel and unusual” to me, but what do I know…). Instead, we have a system in which the prison warden is simply given tremendous and arbitrary power over the well-being and ultimate punishment of the prisoners, far beyond what most legislators intended, or even conceived, when defining punishments for various illicit behaviors. And we all know what Lord Acton said about power…

[Monday Errata]

In my original post, I attributed the “Spike” comment about Ken Lay to Secretary of State Bill Jones. A thousand apologies. It was Attorney General Bill Lockyer who, as chief law enforcement officer for the state of California, should be even more ashamed of himself.

[2:10 PST Update]

Reader Quinbus Flestrin has a useful expansion on my theme:

Your presumption that rehabilitation is even a legal purpose of prisons or imprisonment in California is in error. Our betters have made it clear that they do not want anyone ever convicted of any crime to become “better citizens”. They just want to put people away, preferably for nonviolent and victimless “moral” offenses, and use them for slave labor.

CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE

SECTION 1170-1170.9

1170. (a) (1) The Legislature finds and declares that the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment. This purpose is best served by terms proportionate to the seriousness of the offense with

provision for uniformity in the sentences of offenders committing the same offense under similar circumstances. The Legislature further finds and declares that the elimination of disparity and the provision of uniformity of sentences can best be achieved by determinate sentences fixed by statute in proportion to the seriousness of the offense as determined by the Legislature to be imposed by the court with specified discretion.

* * end CPC cite * *

This provision, enacted overwhelmingly in the 80s IIRC, takes “rehabilitation” out of any legal issues regarding prisons. The only issue is whether punishment is “cruel and unusual”. As prison rape is hardly “unusual”, the only issue left is whether it is “cruel”. Even that is mooted by SCOTUS rulings (don’t ask for a cite, but IIRC the sainted “conservative” Thomas wrote one such decision), that “cruelty” can only be an issue in the *sentence*, not in how the sentence is carried out. If the judge doesn’t say “I sentence you to be raped in prison”, there is no issue.

So, if prison administrators, or prosecutors, decide to set forth prison rape as a policy (the administrators by encouraging it, the prosecutors by not prosecuting offenders), there is no real legal impediment to their doing so. (Don’t ever believe a prosecutor who says they have no discretion over which criminal accusations to prosecute–they have complete discretion.)

With the passage of California’s Prop. 21 in ’98 or so, prosecutors now have virtually complete discretion in whether juveniles are tried and sentenced as adults. Around the same time, Prop. 179 allowed prisons to contract out prisoners for labor in private industry.

The circuit for moral and financial corruption in California’s criminal “justice” system is complete. Prosecutors and police can select children for rape fodder to be used by prison administrators to further debase and corrupt their prisoner slave laborers.

Those who voted for such propositions, or who supported legislators enacting such laws, and who further cried out for more harsh criminal court procedures and sentencing, and “zero tolerance” for kids who even unwittingly carry a plastic butterknife to make their school lunch sandwiches, can now congratulate themselves. Of course, when their child is sent up the river to be Bubba’s girlfriend for carrying a butterknife to school in his lunchbox, they’ll whine that they didn’t really mean it. But the courts will say “Tough, the law is unambiguous. Government can do any of this. It’s nice work if you can get it. If you don’t like it, change the law.”

Don’t get me started on “Zero Intelligence^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HTolerance.” I’ll save that rant for another post.

Moral: Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

Indeed.

Wrong, Right Out Of The “Enron” Box

In an article titled “The Enron Box,” author Matt Bivens and The Nation attempts once again to pin the tail on the elephant.

Here’s the lead sentence:

When George W. Bush co-owned the Houston Astros and construction began on a new stadium, Kenneth Lay agreed to spend $100 million over thirty years for rights to name the park after Enron.

Only one problem. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers, not the Houston Astros.

Do you, like me, wonder what else they got wrong? Considering the source, is it even worth bothering to read the rest?

Wrong, Right Out Of The “Enron” Box

In an article titled “The Enron Box,” author Matt Bivens and The Nation attempts once again to pin the tail on the elephant.

Here’s the lead sentence:

When George W. Bush co-owned the Houston Astros and construction began on a new stadium, Kenneth Lay agreed to spend $100 million over thirty years for rights to name the park after Enron.

Only one problem. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers, not the Houston Astros.

Do you, like me, wonder what else they got wrong? Considering the source, is it even worth bothering to read the rest?

Wrong, Right Out Of The “Enron” Box

In an article titled “The Enron Box,” author Matt Bivens and The Nation attempts once again to pin the tail on the elephant.

Here’s the lead sentence:

When George W. Bush co-owned the Houston Astros and construction began on a new stadium, Kenneth Lay agreed to spend $100 million over thirty years for rights to name the park after Enron.

Only one problem. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers, not the Houston Astros.

Do you, like me, wonder what else they got wrong? Considering the source, is it even worth bothering to read the rest?

More Gun Control Success

In the most recent year, nine out of ten of shooting fatalities in Kenya were police shootings, according to this story.

One must get a certificate in order to own a firearm in Kenya. This is issued only after a detailed personal investigation and must be justified.

But police and other public officers and members of rifle clubs are the exception to the rule.

Enronwater

For all those fantasists who think that Enron will be George Bush’s Whitewater (and who, like Bob Scheer, apparently never had the cerebral propensity to understand Whitewater), the WSJ has an entertaining little reminder of the real Whitewater, and the continuing stark difference between this administration and the previous one.

Amnesty For Governments

David Carr has a little commentary at Samizdata on Amnesty International, which, in its support for gun control, is shown to be yet another “average post- modernist left-wing lobby group”:

Far from being a ‘Candle in the Darkness’, Amnesty International is just another one of those organisations that know everything about human rights and nothing at all about human liberties.

Not to mention human nature…

Logic Gymnastics

…should be an Olympic event for liberal pundits. I haven’t said much about the Enron situation, other than to point out that the only administration for which there is actually any evidence that favors were granted to Enron for political contributions was the Clinton Administration.

But Shields and Brooks on MacLehrer tonight was hilarious, watching the mental and logical contortions that Mark Shields was going through to try to pin the tail on the elephant. Given the paucity of real scandals, after the scandal du jour, the scandal continuum of the previous administration, this is the pathetic state to which their desperation finally leads them.

First, it was the old ploy of guilt by association and reputation–most of Enron’s contributions went to Republicans, Bush was good buds with Lay, then he tried to deny it, Bush has a reputation of being for the wealthy and powerful, blah, blah, blah..

When Brooks points out what I did previously–that Enron actually did get rides on diplomatic missions in exchange for contributions to the DNC and White House (with associated eventual contracts)–and there is not only no evidence that the Bush Administration helped Enron when they asked for it, but that instead there is abundant evidence that they hung them out to dry, then Shields says, “Well, it’s not what they did, it’s what they didn’t do. They wanted to not be regulated.”

Then, when it is pointed out that if this is what they wanted, and they actually got it (not at all clear), it seemed to not do them any good, since they are now bankrupt, the story shifts again. “Well, but they’re such crumbums, letting their business go under, and their stock melt down, and hurting all those employees, and widows, and orphans, and their puppy dogs.” Thus we progress from “Enron bribed the Bush Administration to grant them favors” to “the heartless Bush Administration let Enron go under, hurting all those poor people…” (This is a tactic that Henry Waxman is shifting to as well.)

I suspect that this whole thing is going to go over about as well as Daschle’s absurd attempt to blame the depth of the recession on tax cuts that haven’t happened yet (i.e., like a uranium Hindenburg).

If there is a scandal here, it’s not a campaign finance scandal (unless the SEC was paid off to look the other way). It is a scandal of corporate governance and the accountability of accountants, and while Enron is about to go mammaries up almost immediately, it’s also going to be long-term damaging (and appropriately so) to Arthur Anderson.

The latter company has built itself into an accounting and consultancy powerhouse, but if we are to judge by the Enron case, its clients have been getting poor value for their money (unless their intention is to use it as a high-paid consiglieri to keep a double, or even triple set of books, which are promptly burned at the first sign of the G-men…). This is what Enron paid twenty-seven megabucks for? Nice work, if you can get it. And stay out of jail…

If You Want A Friend In Washington, Get A Dog

For those who were complaining about some peoples’ (including moi) “insensitive” comments about the recent departure of the Clinton canine, here’s an interesting little nugget from Andrew Sullivan’s lunch with Dick Morris.

I also inquired about Buddy. All Dick said was that he had never seen Clinton so much as touch a dog in private. Figures.

Assuming that you believe Dick Morris (I always will, when it comes to his word against that of an admitted perjurer), this is why I had no compunction about Buddy commentary. Like his Wyoming vacation, or tears-on-command at Ron Brown’s funeral, Buddy was a show dog–Clinton probably ran a focus group beforehand to figure out which breed he should get.

I feel bad for Buddy, but he’s in a better place now. It’s hard for me to work up much sympathy for a sociopath.