Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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20 February 2007

As If on Cue!

In a Supreme Court ruling today, Scalia (along with Thomas!) dissented from a decision favoring Big Tobacco against a huge punitive damages award. How can that be - two conservative judges, ruling against big business and in favor of punitive damages in a tort liability suit? Because they rule based on the constitution and the law, not on what they wish the law and constitution said. It is clear that Scalia and Thomas are not ideological activists, but instead rule on each case based on their most narrow and sincere interpretation of the law. Again, counter-examples are welcomed - excluding Bush v. Gore.

19 February 2007

The Scalia Challenge

I was watching the PBS Supreme Court program last night, and noted that in discussing Justice Scalia's spirited dissent in Casey, one commentator noted that Scalia abhors the "imperial court" but is just as imperial himself in his opinions. I've heard this claim before - that Scalia (or any other conservative judge) is just as much an activist himself on conservative issues.

So my challenge is this: find evidence in Scalia's opinions where he makes law(1), or otherwise interposes his personal values(2) onto the law or constitution. Exception duly noted: Bush v. Gore. Though I might not agree, I will cede that Scalia was 'activist' in this one case for purposes of moving the discussion along and not rehashing that case. Here are summaries of his opinions through 1998. Here are all his opinions. While my blog readership (a small enough sample to begin with) probably has a very limited Scalia-bashing contingent, I'm hoping someone will rise to the challenge and at least attempt to validate this canard.

(1) Introduces rules, tests or procedures not found in the original law or constitutional text that effectively defines the law
(2) Employs language to justify his decision on the basis of what "ought to be" or what is "fair or unfair."

18 February 2007

Secularist Cluelessness

Very often people who write cynically on religious subjects exhibit very little understanding of the way religious people think. A good discussion of this can be found here. But a good example of this can be found in this review of a new book on Mother Teresa (via A&L Daily). The reviewer notes that the book reveals
some striking information with quite uncomfortable implications for supporters of Mother Teresa. Her devotion to Jesus was a personal attempt to deal with grief [over her father's death], and her dedication to the poor of Calcutta part of her effort towards self-salvation. Similar to many celebrity figures, it was all about me, me, me. This puts her work into a whole new and rather less flattering light.
Yes, christians everywhere will be appalled to hear that Mother Teresa dedicated her life to feeding the poor and caring for the sick in order to save her soul. You'd almost think that pretty much the entire message of the Gospels and Paul's epistles were about salvation and dedicating one's life to achieving it.

09 February 2007

The Importance of Cable TV

Consider, that without Cable TV, Americans would have had to have waited for the evening news, or perhaps even the following morning's news shows to learn all about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. And since mornings are busy, that would hardly allow for the kinds of in-depth coverage that only 24/7 cable-news outlets can provide. The next time I hear some whiny media-professor-types bemoaning the degrading influence cable TV has had on the news cycle, I'll remember this and smile smugly at the fool's cluelessness.

05 February 2007

Income Inequality Increasing, Bush Says

"The fact is that income inequality is real; it's been rising for more than 25 years." Didn't he just say the same thing about global warming? His policy prescription is just about as off the mark. To fight global warming and energy independence, he wants to make more ethanol (which is unlikely to help with the latter and irrelevant to the former). The only policy proposals he has to address income inequality are his health insurance tax deduction and increasing Pell grants for education, two pretty useless proposals.

Growing income inequality is unstoppable without radical measures (kind of like global warming). The greatest contributions to the economy come from a few (about a million or so) extremely talented individuals. These people are getting better and better at figuring out how to keep more and more of the wealth they generate for themselves and at finding other equally talented people to help them make more and more money (as well as finding more and more people to work real cheap). Plus, as our society becomes more stratified (more gated communities, more bad schools and elite schools) the elite become less restrained in their lifestyles.

The frustrating thing is it's hard to see what these people are doing that's worth so much money. If we were seeing dramatic improvements in our lifestyles from innovative new products, we'd feel a lot better. There was a time when people were treated to the introduction of one amazing technology after another: Automobiles, airplanes, tractors, electrification, vast railroad networks, telephones, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, powered lawn mowers, refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners - things that made people's lives orders of magnitude better than they were decades earlier.

The television was perhaps the first major invention that gave people something they didn't know they needed. Since then that's about all we've had - industry is not only inventing things but inventing the need for them. Home computers, personal audio devices, video games - these have not improved people's lives in any objective sense as, say, a washing machine did - they perhaps add to life's enjoyment, but that is surely debatable. The one industry that has without a doubt brought substantial improvement to people's lives over the last 50 years is probably the most despised - pharmaceuticals.

Granted, the remarkable advances of the first half of the century have not sat stagnant - all those things have been continuously improved. And, sure, it's great to have information at your fingertips and be able to make phone calls from anywhere to anywhere and to have all nine Beethoven symphonies on a device the size of a piano key (a black one) and be able to program a GPS device rather than have to write down directions. But is that all we get these days from our overlords, tinkering and trinkets?

Perhaps a return to the old steeply progressive income tax is in order. Something like a 30% rate from 100k thru 500k, then a 1% increase in the rate on each 50k after that. Someone making $2 million would pay 60 cents in FIT for each additional dollar made. How bad would that be? We had such rates in the past, and it didn't kill us. One thing seems clear - tax cuts this decade were followed by continued erosion in our manufacturing base, so that ain't working.

02 February 2007

Now That's How to Have an Affair!

They're all abuzz in California over the news that golden-boy Mayor Gavin Newsom admitted to having an affair with his campaign manager's wife. That clearly lands him in the "untrustworthy-bastard" category occupied by most politicians. But look at who he had the affair with - what a babe! I think our politicians should be encouraged to have affairs with striking women their own age rather than going after big-haired bimbos or overweight interns. While I may detest Mr. Newsom's politics, I don't think any of us can dispute his taste in women.

Related (perhaps): Gavin Newsom's musings on the pressures of family life is big news on NPR.