Justice Anthony Kennedy as a "moderate-conservative"?

According to Georgetown's Supreme Court Institute, six times he made the difference in 5 to 4 votes on the conservative side and 4 times on the liberal side. I am not sure that I quite agree with their count because Kennedy issued a divided opinion in hte Texas redistricting case, where he argued that there was discrimination against Hispanics in one district. Rather than a 6 to 4 division, possibly it should count as 5.5 to 4.5 or 5.75 to 4.25? In any case, Kennedy appears more moderate than conservative.

In the 17 cases during the 2005-2006 term that were decided by five-vote majorities, Kennedy was on the winning side 12 times, more than any other justice, according to figures compiled by Georgetown's Supreme Court Institute.

In six of those cases, Kennedy voted with the conservative bloc, made up of Roberts, Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. As a result, the court upheld most of Texas's Republican-drafted redistricting plan, restored the death penalty in Kansas, and ruled that police do not have to throw out evidence they gather in illegal no-knock searches.

But four times, Kennedy, a 1988 appointee of President Ronald Reagan, defected to the liberal justices, John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

As a result, the court not only struck down Bush's military commissions. It also ruled that the police need permission from both occupants to search a home without a warrant, gave a Tennessee death-row inmate a chance to win a new trial, and said that Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Latino Democrats in one district. (Twice Kennedy was part of mixed left-right coalitions.) . . . .

John McGinnis explains the changing dynamic on Supreme Court

I had been surprised by Breyer voting with the majority in the Vermont campaign finance case and possibly this explains it:

The court's new lineup is likely to change the dynamic in ways that extend well beyond the differences in how Roberts and Alito might vote compared with Rehnquist and O'Connor, says John McGinnis, a Northwestern law professor who worked with Alito in the Reagan Justice Department.

For example, there are some early signs that Justice Stephen Breyer may be inclined to vote more strategically to stay within the majority on certain cases, McGinnis said. And Roberts, for his part, may be assigning Breyer to write certain opinions in an effort to keep him from reflexively siding with the other liberals.

"I think that will be a story we should be following for the next five years," McGinnis said.

Eminent domain mess, Land taken by mistake?

Fox News has a nice video story about land that was siezed under eminent domain to build a WalMart, but now the city want to buy the land back because the WalMart store design is said to be "too boxy." Don't people check these things out before they take other people's property? I assume that people would be more careful taking property if they actually had to pay what it was worth.


More on UN gun control conference

Supreme Court out of control?

I have been reading Scalia's and Thomas's dissents in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and they are quite devastating. The liberals on the court not only seem to have completely ignored Congress's legislation on the court's jurisdiction, but the court ignores the President's war making powers and rely on international law. Good thing the Justices are there to set the congress and the president straight. Could you imagine the congress actually fulfilling their constitutional role to say what types of cases the courts can hear? Fortunately, we have five Justices who are competent to rewrite the laws and enter into the right foreign treaties when the congress and president ignore the obvious things that they should be doing.

Will Mexico Lurch to the Left this Sunday?

Fox may not be the perfect Mexican President from America's perspective, but if Obrador wins, we will wish that he were still president. It is hard for me to understand why Mexican's can't see the problems created by socialism and the corruption that it creates when they compare their own experience with America's. Obrador's campaign has been long on spending promises and reminding voters that women find him sexually attractive. It has been a wierd campaign. Most polls seem to show Obrador with a slight lead, but virtually all the polls put the election as too close to call. Obrador's campaign being partially funded by Venezuela Dictator Hugo Chavez didn't seem to hurt him very much. Unfortunately, the trend has been to Obrador, though his momentum seems to have stalled in the last week. Calderón may not be inspiring, but the economics in his campaign rhetoric emphasizes the need to privatize government holdings and create incentives.

Polling Data
What candidate would you vote for in the 2006 presidential election?

. . . . . . . . . . . Jun. 18 . . . . Jun. 11 . . . . May 2006
Felipe Calderón (PAN) . . . 33% . . . . . 37% . . . . . 42%
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31% . . . . .35% . . . . . 31%

Source: GEA-ISA
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 1,600 Mexican adults, conducted from Jun. 16 to Jun. 18, 2006. Margin of error is 3.5 per cent.

Polling Data
What candidate would you vote for in the 2006 presidential election?
(Decided Voters)

. . . . . . . . . . . Jun. 19 . . . . Jun. 9 . . . . Jun. 4
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36% . . . . .34% . . . . . 36%
Felipe Calderón (PAN) . . . 34% . . . . . 37% . . . . . 36%

Source: El Universal
Methodology: Interviews with 2,000 Mexican voters, conducted from Jun. 16 to Jun. 19, 2006. Margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

Update on UN gun regulation conference


Small comment on Texas Redistricting Case

The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents from office. . . . .

I really wonder how much of a long term victory this is for Democrats because it reinforces the majority-minority districts that very heavily concentrate minorities into certain districts. This is particularly true for Hispanics where a large majority of the constituents apparently have to be Hispanic to ensure that a Hispanic (read Democrat) will be elected. The problem is that this reduces the total number of Democrats elected. The bad effect for Republicans is that Hispanics are made to only be represented by Democrats and makes it less likely for Republican Hispanics to get a start.

George Will nails campaign finance debate

Roberts asked the attorney general for an example to validate his assertion that campaign contributions from Vermont interest groups "often determine what positions candidates and officials take on issues." The attorney general answered that he could not offer an example, and said that "influence" would be more accurate than "determine." People trying to influence elections and government? Heaven forfend. In another clarification, sort of, the attorney general said the problem is "undue influence." So there.

Incessant allegations about the "appearance" of corruption are self-validating -- they create a public impression of corruption. Such allegations enable the reform movement to keep raising money and raising doubts about the sufficiency of government regulations, however numerous, of speech about government. Hence reformers have a powerful incentive to argue two propositions.

One is that corruption is so pervasive and subtle that it is invisible. They resemble the zealots who say proof of the vast sophistication of the conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy is the fact that no proof has been found.

Alternatively, reformers argue that corruption is entirely visible everywhere: It is called politics. If politician A votes in a way pleasing to contributor B -- particularly if B enjoyed "access" to A -- that shall be designated corruption. Never mind abundant research demonstrating that money usually moves toward politicians of particular behavior, rather than changing behavior. . . . .

One minor comment: as far as I know, my research is the only one that shows this last point, but I am glad that he made it.

Defensive Gun Use in San Francisco?

This on the streets of SF? I assume that the person who defended himself is not anxious to come forward given the gun laws in California and the hostility towards guns in SF.

Police are looking for a man who turned the tables on three would-be robbers and shot them early Tuesday in the Tenderloin.

Police say the three first tried to rob a man at 3:30 a.m. at Turk and Leavenworth streets, but he was able to escape. The man then watched as the suspects confronted a couple and tried to grab a backpack from them, police said.

The man with the backpack pulled a gun and shot the three, police said. One man was wounded in the leg and was quickly arrested, and a second man wounded in the arm and buttocks was found around the corner.

The third man, wounded in the buttocks and groin, went to the Tenderloin Task Force police station for help.

"You've got to go somewhere," Inspector John Peterson said. "Where he was shot, he needed the help.''

The three men each were charged with two counts of attempted robbery. Their names were not immediately released. . . . .

Thanks to Don Kates for sending this to me.

"House votes to overturn mandatory gun locks"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to overturn a recently enacted law requiring safety trigger locks on all hand guns sold in the United States.

The Republican-controlled House handed a victory to opponents of gun control by a vote of 230-191.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican, argued that the added cost of the trigger locks is passed on to gun owners and that they "do not stop accidental shootings."

Last fall, President George W. Bush signed legislation giving gun makers broad protections from civil lawsuits, but that law contained the mandatory trigger lock provision.

The amendment overturning the requirement for trigger locks was attached to a larger law enforcement spending bill for next year that has not yet been considered by the Senate.


Nemerov: "AP Blames NRA for Violent Crime"

Howard Nemerov over at ChronWatch has an interesting article on media bias: AP Blames NRA for Violent Crime. Howard is right to point to the bias in who reporters rely on for their experts. I think that some of the points go too far, such as worrying about the fact that the initial crime numbers don't cover the entire country or that there are frequently small revisions in these initial numbers. I also wouldn't push the political bias that hard.

There is also the issue of timing. I thought that the federal funding was cut well before this increase occurred. In addition, the local communities bear the costs and benefits of crime and they are perfectly capable of deciding how much of their own money to spend on law enforcement. It is not really clear why you have localities send their tax money to the federal government only to have it returned to them with various strings attached.


Fox News on Canadian Gun Registry

Very good Fox News Video on Canadian Gun Registry.

See also this article (When I get a direct link, I will put it up.)

PUBLICATION: Calgary Herald
DATE: 2006.06.27
SECTION: The Editorial Page
COLUMN: Danielle Smith
BYLINE: Danielle Smith
SOURCE: For The Calgary Herald

Day misfires on registry claim

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day claimed in a news release last week that, "Canada's new Government fulfills commitment to abolish the long-gun registry." Turns out he was overstating things. If you talk to gun owners, they will tell you the government position is a massive betrayal.

Killing the registry while keeping the licensing requirements is not what gun owners had in mind when they demanded the government scrap Bill C-68. Maintaining the licensing component is also not what Conservative Party members had in mind at the party's policy convention last year.

Party members passed a new firearms policy that said the government would repeal Canada's costly gun registry legislation and instead implement such measures as "mandatory minimum sentences for the criminal use of firearms; strict monitoring of high-risk individuals; crackdown on smuggling; safe storage provisions; firearms safety training; a certification screening system for all those wishing to acquire firearms legally; and putting more law enforcement officers on our streets."

The idea of requiring a "licence" for law-abiding gun owners was debated by party delegates and voted down in favour of certification. The difference is huge.

Licensing and registering firearms is, in theory, similar to licensing and registering cars: you need a valid driver's licence to drive on public streets and you need to register your vehicle separately.

There is value in registering cars: police can run the licence plate on a vehicle to check for outstanding warrants, it is an easy way to track a car leaving the scene of a crime and it is a way for citizens to report a hit-and-run incident.

There is no comparable value in registering firearms. Nearly all guns used to commit crimes are not legally registered.

There is no value in the licensing scheme, either.

To understand just how offensive licensing is to gun owners, consider if the same rules for having a gun licence applied to having a driver's licence. Imagine what it would be like if you allowed your driver's licence to lapse, and you automatically became a criminal who could be thrown in jail for up to five years. Imagine if that lapse also allowed the police to raid your home and confiscate all your cars.

If you allow your driver's licence to lapse, you can still keep your car on your own property as long as you don't drive it on public streets. It is not a crime to simply own a car without having a valid driver's licence. Not so with firearms.

What is particularly perverse about the firearms licensing scheme is it only monitors legal gun owners. In a meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Nov. 24, 2004, MP Garry Breitkreuz questioned this logic: Under the licensing requirements, law-abiding gun owners are required to notify the government of a change of address, yet there is no requirement for the 201,097 individuals listed as "prohibited from possessing firearms" on the Canadian Police Information Centre database to notify government of a change of address.

If the government were interested in tracking individuals most likely to commit a crime, wouldn't they put reporting requirements on the latter group rather than the former? The firearms commissioner responded that firearms officers "have no authority to collect information from someone who is not a client of the program."

The government has it backwards. We should not have a registry of individuals who are allowed to own guns; we should have a registry of those who are too dangerous to own guns.

According to Breitkreuz, that should include "all persons prohibited from owning guns by the courts, all persons with an outstanding criminal arrest warrant, all persons with restraining orders against them, all persons with refused or revoked firearms licences and all individuals who have threatened violence."

A more effective registry would track known criminals, require them to report change of address, vigorously enforce ownership prohibition, and have severe penalties for those who violate the possession rules. Meanwhile, law-abiding gun owners would return to the kind of certification system we had before -- which required safety training and criminal background checks before a gun is purchased.

That's what Conservative Party members thought they were voting for when they passed the party's firearms policy. Does Day's proposal fulfil the government's commitment? Not by a long shot.

Supreme Court struck down Vermont's strict limits on campaign contributions and spending

This was a case that I was an expert witness for, and my side won.

The Supreme Court struck down Vermont's strict limits on campaign contributions and spending yesterday, in a splintered ruling that left intact the constitutional basis of current campaign finance laws but may make it difficult to put new curbs on money in politics.

Vermont's law, approved in 1997, was the toughest in the country with regard to setting limits on the amount individuals and parties may contribute to campaigns and, perhaps more significantly, on how much candidates may spend on their campaigns.

The measure was enacted as a direct challenge to Buckley v. Valeo , the 30-year-old Supreme Court ruling that has generally been read to permit limits on campaign contributions, for the purpose of stopping corruption or apparent corruption -- and to bar limits on candidates' spending as a violation of free speech.

A ruling in Vermont's favor would have opened the door to state and federal restrictions on spending by candidates. But, in a 6 to 3 vote, the justices opted to reject the state's law. . . . .

Even Justice Breyer notes:

That is because contribution limits that are too low can also harm the electoral process by preventing challengers from mounting effective campaigns against incumbent officeholders, thereby reducing democratic accountability. Were we to ignore that fact, a statute that seeks to regulate campaign contributions could itself prove an obstacle to the very electoral fairness it seeks to promote. Thus, we see no alternative to the exercise of independent judicial judgment as a statute reaches those outer limits. . . . .


New Op-ed on UN's Gun Control Negotiations