Making civil liberties litigation a losing proposition

Erwin Chemerinsky – Legislating Violations of the Constitution – washingtonpost.com:

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act – H.R. 2679 – provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

Imagine that lawyers who spent years defeating unConstitutional laws that prevented blacks from voting in the South were not able to be compensated. Why weren’t attorneys who successfully defend religious expression not included in the ban on compensation?

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This is what the spy agencies said the first time they were ignored

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting U.S. Terror Fight – washingtonpost.com:

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the “centrality” of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.

The President has blamed “bad intelligence” for our woes, but he continues getting the straight story, that invading Iraq is and always has been a bad idea. We can only hope that this time the President and his insular staff will take this report seriously and begin to change our approach to this incredibly misguided war. The Iraq invasion was the least effective way to provide the Iraqi people a choice. Instead, the U.S. should have extended the embargo on the Saddam regime, tightened the oil for food program and forced a confrontation between Saddam and his people rather than sending in our army, which only made a confrontation between the U.S. and Islamic militants inevitable.

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Another reason to vote Democratic: Stop torture

House panel backs Bush on detainees – Yahoo! News:

In an abrupt reversal, a U.S. House of Representatives committee narrowly voted on Wednesday to endorse President George W. Bush’s plan for tough interrogations and trials of foreign terrorism suspects after Republicans rounded up enough members.

Let’s listen to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was a soldier and knows whereof he speaks:

“If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions, whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we’re following our own high standards.”

Americans have stood against torture since the Revolutionary War.

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First they took out Steve Irwin, now they’re coming for us….

“Walking” Sharks Among 50 New Species Found in Indonesia Reefs:

More than 50 new species have been discovered off the coast of Indonesia, including small, slender-bodied sharks that “walk” with their fins along coral reefs, researchers announced today.

The timing of this revelation can only be significant. Without a crocodile hunter (into each generation a chosen one is born), what are we going to do when the walking shark armies emerge from the sea? A ray-shark axis can be the only explanation. So much for the threat of Islamo-fascism, the sea creatures are turning against us.

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You can’t make this stuff up: The strangeness of Tacoma, Pt. 1,983

Tip leads to arms, feds say | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA:

A University Place school crossing guard was charged with violating federal weapons laws Thursday, and agents reported finding explosives – including 10 hand grenades and the makings for more – during a search of his home, officials said.

This guy was my kid’s rocketry instructor. He was out sick a lot is what I remember most,he didn’t talk much, and my kid doesn’t go to the school anymore, because there were other problems, involving race and violence. But this tops the cake of that chapter of life with another weird Tacoma-area figurine, the bomb-making rocketry guy and crossing guard. He was very good at watching out for the kids at the crosswalk, seriously.

So, I found myself explaining to my son, after telling him about this today, that being from Tacoma isn’t really as strange as it feels sometimes. I went to the same high school as Ted Bundy and the Washington Sniper, John Mohammed, was from a couple miles down the road from my place—I didn’t point that out to him, but there you are, the reality of being from around here is that a lot of strange people from Tacoma make headlines for the wrong reason. There’s much else that’s strange about being from this place, yet here again we are confronted with the odd irreality of reality in the ’00s in the US-of-A.

Assuming that the grenades are not simply rocket engines, this is some strange shit.

The story goes on….

A federal complaint indicates agents found 10 improvised hand grenades bundled inside a Rubbermaid container; three homemade bombs made of PVC pipe; military igniters; and smokeless powders, Marshall said.

They also recovered enough grenade bodies and inert fuses to make 25 more grenades, the documents state.

….

He will be barred from work until the investigation is completed, Banks said.

Hulet passed a background check – which included checking his fingerprints against those of known criminals – before being hired, Banks said.

Checks performed Thursday by The News Tribune turned up no criminal records for Hulet in Washington.

He has worked as a crossing guard and playground and lunchroom supervisor at Chambers Primary School and Drum Intermediate School, Banks said.

He also was responsible for restocking and distributing science kits used by the district’s K-7 students, according to district records. Banks said she has ordered the science-kit storage area locked and the kits checked to make sure they haven’t been tampered with.

“I want to stress that we have no reason to believe there has been any tampering with the kits,” Banks wrote. “We are simply taking what may be viewed as an extraordinary precaution.”

Really, I would think it a quite ordinary precaution to take, reviewing the chemicals and materials used by students when the person responsible for them is suspected of federal firearms violations for selling explosives. Methinks the school district is taking too many pains to sound concerned, making perfectly ordinary actions in odd circumstances into “extraordinary” ones, when it just needs to be responsive to the situation.

Also, in an unrelated topic, note that this was uncovered without any recourse to illegal surveillance. Score another one for a justice system based on respect for rights and police work.

I’ve got to to stop writing now. My head is spinning.

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The thoughtful gaze

news @ nature.com – I’m not ignoring you; I’m thinking – Gazing into the middle distance improves your concentration.:

Teachers everywhere can be heard shouting “look at me when I’m talking to you”. But research presented today at the British Association’s Festival of Science in Norwich, UK, suggests that they should be doing exactly the opposite.

When posed with a conundrum, it is normal for adults and older children to look away, staring in an unfocused way out of the window or at a patch of the carpet. This aimless gaze isn’t necessarily thanks to an attitude of indifference or indolence, but instead might be helping the brain to concentrate.

I think a lot during conversations and have been painfully conscious of this habit, which Nature says was proven to be natural, when talking with people. I can hardly look at people when talking because I am focusing on what they are saying. So, now I can point to this article and move on.

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