24 May 2008

Oh no, we can't upset the pinkos!

An article on CNN this morning is rather humorous:
MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Members of Russia's Communist Party are calling for a nationwide boycott of the new Indiana Jones movie, saying it aims to undermine communist ideology and distort history.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" stars Harrison Ford as an archaeologist in 1957 competing with an evil KGB agent, played by Cate Blanchett, to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.

It hit Russian screens Thursday.

Communist Party members in St. Petersburg said on a web site this week that the Soviet Union in 1957 "did not send terrorists to the States," but launched a satellite, "which evoked the admiration of the whole world."

Moscow Communist lawmaker Andrei Andreyev said Saturday "it is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War."

21 May 2008

Thank God for the United Nations

From today's "utterly ridiculous file":

Bangkok - The United Nations will send nearly a quarter of a million condoms into cyclone-hit Myanmar to help needy survivors with no access to contraceptives, a UN official says.

So far, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said it had sent 72 800 condoms to survivors struggling to maintain their family planning after the storm hit in early May.

A total of 218 400 condoms would be delivered, UNFPA aid advisor Chaiyos Kunanusont said.

"We don't want regular use of contraception disrupted. An emergency usually damages the health system, so people don't have access to condoms and contraceptives," said Chaiyos.

Who needs things like food, water, and first aid kits when you can send condoms to disaster victims to make sure they can still have sex without that unwanted side effect of pregnancy? Good thing the United Nations is around to help these poor people!

16 May 2008

More thoughts on yesterday's events

Editorial from today's National Review (with my emphases):
The California supreme court, by a 4-to-3 margin, ruled Thursday that it is not sufficient that California has enacted a domestic-partnership scheme that makes available to same-sex couples “virtually all of the same substantive legal benefits and privileges” as marriage. The court instead invented a “right of same-sex couples to have their official family relationship accorded the same dignity, respect, and stature as that accorded to all other officially recognized family relationships.” In short, it required that marriage itself — both the term and the institution — be redefined to be fully available to same-sex couples.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George’s majority opinion is as arrogant as it is confused. Never mind that, as his opinion concedes, “[f]rom the beginning of California statehood, the legal institution of marriage has been understood to refer to a relationship between a man and a woman.” Never mind that the very right to marry that he so wildly misconstrues is built on that understanding. Never mind that California voters in 2000 overwhelmingly ratified that understanding by adopting by initiative — by a 61.4-percent majority — the California Defense of Marriage Act.

As associate justice Marvin R. Baxter aptly stated in dissent, "Nothing in our Constitution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old understanding of marriage — an understanding recently confirmed by an initiative law — is no longer valid. California statutes already recognize same-sex unions and grant them all the substantive legal rights this state can bestow. If there is to be a further sea change in the social and legal understanding of marriage itself, that evolution should occur by similar democratic means.”

Fortunately for Californians, they will likely have an opportunity this November to undo their court’s mischief. Headed for the state ballot is the California Marriage Protection Act, a voter-sponsored initiative that would amend the California constitution to provide expressly that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The initiative would thus override the court’s misinterpretations of the state constitution. (The California Defense of Marriage Act in 2000 was an ordinary law, not a constitutional amendment.)

Reasonable people of good will have competing views on whether and how state laws should accommodate same-sex relationships. Our own views on this matter are traditionalist. But in a representative democracy, everyone ought to agree that any changes should result from legislation, not from activist judges who twist and distort constitutional text to their own ends.

Both John McCain and Barack Obama say they are opposed to same-sex marriage, but both oppose a constitutional amendment to codify that view. Such an amendment is the surest way to prevent judicial meddling. But there is nonetheless an important difference between these candidates. McCain, judging from his record and his recent speech against judicial activism, will try to appoint judges who will refrain from engaging in such meddling. About Obama we know no such thing, and have reason to suspect otherwise. We hope that Senator McCain will be willing to draw this distinction, which puts him on the right and popular side of this issue.

15 May 2008

A sad day

A quick post, as today has been a hectic day at the office.

One of the joys of working at a well-connected firm that is involved in high profile cases is that I get the scoop on these cases before they become public knowledge. Such an instance came today, when I heard about the result in the case challenging the California same-sex marriage ban and had read much of the opinion before it became public. The Becket Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, hence how we knew of the decision before it was released to the news outlets.

The verdict was that the ban is unconstitutional, thus making California the second state (after Massachusetts) to allow gay marriage. What I can't understand is why the plaintiffs were challenging this law in the first place. Before this case, California had one of the most liberal and inclusive civil union systems in the country. Same-sex couples could enter these unions and receive virtually all of the important benefits that come with being married, such as survivorship rights, custodial rights of children, etc. In fact, the court explicitly stated that this was the case. Apparently still not satisfied with what they did have, however, the plaintiffs filed suit, claiming that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional because it violated due process and the right to privacy.

From what I can tell, the reasoning used by the California Supreme Court wasn't faulty. Unfortunately, however, it highlights the main recurring problem with a large part of our judicial system today: basing cases on the mythical right to privacy. The court followed in the footsteps of such well-reasoned decisions (sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell) as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, which held that a right to privacy can be gleaned from the provisions of the Constitution. For those of us who believe that the Constitution, you know, means what it says, this is somewhat problematic, as there is nothing close to a right to privacy anywhere.

I'm trying not to stress the moral aspect of this whole issue (though obviously anyone who knows me knows how I feel about gay marriage), only how it keeps being made clear to me that judicial thought in this country went downhill long ago.


13 May 2008

No, I'm not dead...

I know, I neglected my blog for almost a full month. I figured this was going to happen, and there wasn't really anything I could do to stop it. Here's a quick recap of what I've been up to:

First, finals consumed my soul for about two weeks, starting right after I posted my last entry. I felt OK about how they went...unfortunately, the school is very slow with posting grades, so I still don't actually know how I did.

After that, I had less than 24 hours in which I had absolutely nothing to do. It was glorious. Then write-on started. For those of you who don't know anything about law school, write-on is a competition of sorts for getting on a journal. It involves a week of fairly grueling writing, editing, and bluebooking (citations). It was a blast, let me tell you.

To top it all off, I started my summer job yesterday. I'm working at the Becket Fund, a public interest law firm that specializes in religious liberties work. It was a pretty laid back first day, with not much to do except research the use of "sectarian" as a synonym for Catholic in 19th century laws (pretty interesting stuff, at least to me). As a little background, in the 1870s, most states passed these laws now called the Blaine Amendments, which prohibit the use of public funds for "sectarian" schools. Most modern scholars agree that by "sectarian", the lawmakers meant "Catholic", thereby allowing funds for nondenominational (read: nonsectarian) Protestant schools while prohibiting their use for Catholic schools. These laws are still in effect today and have recently become relevant again with the rise of school vouchers. Taxpayers in several states have sued their state governments, claiming a misuse of their tax dollars. The Supreme Court has not declared these amendments unconstitutional, but they have ruled that school vouchers do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This is a step in the right direction, but what the Court really needs to do is declare these amendments unconstitutional and take the decision out of the states' hands. For more information on the Blaine Amendments and what the Becket Fund is doing to try to have them declared unconstitutional, see this website.

That's about all I have for now, as there's not much else that's happened recently that is worth writing about (it's amazing how quickly things went downhill after the Pope left). Hopefully now that I have more free time (and time to kill at work, like right now), I'll be able to write more.