Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Which Is It?

Is Wright right? Or not?

'Cause you Democrats out there need to decide. First it was, "You're taking Wright out of context!!"

Now it's, "He belongs in the right wing!"

Sheesh! Make up your minds, already.

Barack Obama has now disowned his pastor. Really, this time. Oh Discordia! But does it confuse anyone else that the Obama campaign obviously believed Wright would simply shut up after the last foofaraw?

He's a fiery preacher, for heaven's sake (no pun intended). It's what he does.

I'm sorry, but I'm starting to believe Wright is right, at least about Obama being your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill politician.


Now I'll just sit back and wait for the recriminations from Obama supporters (or adherents, or disciples, or acolytes, or whatever you consider yourselves now).

Happy Birthday To You

I'm beginning to think I should re-name this blog "VolokhWatch."

Guest-blogger Robert Brauneis has an interesting post about the copyright status of the words-and-melody to "Happy Birthday To You," currently "owned" by Warner Music Group.

The post discusses the possibility that copyright protection for this song may extend to the year 2030. Yuck! So I've got to endure 22 more years of restaurants making up their own idiotic birthday songs to keep from paying fees to WMG?

I wonder if anyone's copyrighted, "Happy birthday to you. You live in a zoo. You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too."

Maybe I can get some cash out of that.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BarBri Parody Video

I needed a laugh today.

Thanks to Volokh for the link:

Trans-Texas Corridor Update

Well, folks, Governor Perry is still gunnin' for your land.

CorridorWatch.org just sent me an email update containing the entire speech Rick Perry made to TxDOT's Transportation Forum yesterday. I went to Corridor Watch's website, and they haven't yet posted the remarks there, but I'm sure they will soon, so keep checking.

Here's a couple of snippets I'd like to comment on:

If anything, those challenges have grown larger, and this moment in time finds us at a crossroads. Our population continues to grow by roughly 1,500 people per day. For you Aggies in the audience, that means we could fill Kyle Field up with newcomers every 55 days, or fill it up 66 times in the next ten years.

That's a whole lot of people with a whole lot of needs, but that's not the only factor in play. We're also dealing with a funding crisis brought on by a less-than-reliable federal gas tax system. inflation at the national level for everything from materials to labor, and the fact that the bonds passed in 2003 have been spent. As of right now, TxDOT construction lettings are projected to be half of what they were in 2005.

That is not what I call progress. It's what I call a problem.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I travel around Texas and the country, one of the things I enjoy the most is bragging about the Texas economy. Texas is leading the nation in job growth and has been voted the top state in the nation to do business. Just yesterday, I read where we are now the leading state in the nation for corporate headquarters, recently surpassing New York.

Companies are moving to Texas in droves, creating thousands of new jobs for our people and investing billions in our economy. If we can't find a way to move their goods, services and workers around this state, they will leave just as fast.

The simple truth is: When it comes to roads, we need more of them.

Because I'm sure as heck not going to stop inviting companies to relocate their operations to our state. Those jobs mean income for Texas families, tax revenues for local communities, and a continually rising economic tide. And good roads mean a better quality of life for our citizens.

Unfortunately, folks on the various sides of this issue have lost sight of these simple facts. Too often, we have seen the issue of road construction driven by emotion, rather than reason. When this happens, honest debate is stifled, and solutions are sacrificed at the altar of politics.

Those "challenges" our illustrious governor speaks of are the challenges of ramrodding through a plan that the people of Texas overwhelmingly do not want. And yes, he seems committed to overcoming them.

He doesn't even pay lip service to the possibility that, with such a robust and growing economy, the increases in tax revenues alone should be more than adequate to keep our roads Texan-owned and Texan-operated. Sure, there's emotion involved. Texans care deeply about autonomy. We care deeply about our land and our rights. And most importantly of all, we care deeply that we should be able to rely on our elected officials to represent Texas, and not the interests of corporations and profits.

What he says he wants is:

...we need to innovate. We need to thoughtfully debate. And we need to bring all ideas to the table to tackle the overwhelming need our state faces. And we already have some pretty innovative ideas on the table.

I'm sorry, Mr. Governor, but your actions on this matter so far (and those of your appointees) have shown that you do not care about "thoughtful debate." You don't care about bringing "all ideas to the table." Because you've got your "innovative ideas," and you've shown so far your absolute disregard for not only the voices of the regular citizens of this great State, but also the voices of those folks in Austin elected to represent us. You've disregarded our voices solely so that you can force this corporate boondoggle, this monumental land-grab down our throats, and we're not going to be silent just because you're not listening.

A good portion of our legislators are listening, Mr. Governor. And it is my sincere hope that they keep their ears open. That they hear the concerns of ranchers who will have their lands split by a quarter-mile-wide monstrosity with no access points. That they hear the concerns of small communities that will be swallowed up and turned into ghost towns. That they hear the concerns of Texans who have paid for our highways all these years and don't want to turn them over to a corporation.

In closing, Mr. Governor, I'll leave you with the words of a song I learned as a small child. I think they're particularly appropriate:

The eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the live long day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
You can not get away.
Do not think you can escape them,
At night, or early in the 'morn.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
'Til Gabriel blows his horn.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eldorado Bombshell


Maybe that little voice I was talking about in my last post wasn't far off the mark.

From DenverChannel.com (link)

DENVER -- A Colorado Springs woman was arrested on charges of false reporting to authorities and is being investigated in connection with her alleged involvement in the call that tipped authorities off to possible abuse at a Texas polygamist compound.

Police said they arrested 33-year-old Rozita Swinton at her home on Wednesday.

The Texas Rangers were in Colorado Springs Wednesday as part of their investigation involving the compound in Texas. They left and have not filed any charges on Swinton, said Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. Skip Arms.

If you read the entire article, it looks like Jessop's hotline has been recording calls from "Sarah" for two weeks (at the Texas Rangers' urging). It was two weeks ago that the first affidavits were filed in the case affirmatively stating that the girl was calling from inside the ranch.

And those calls were traced by the Texas Rangers to Colorado Springs.

When were they traced there?

I wonder about the other calls allegedly made to the San Angelo shelter and to CPS. While they may not have "caller ID" hookups (in order to protect privacy), that doesn't mean they can't, at very short notice, get usage logs from the phone company showing the numbers people are calling from.

So the question I have for my fellow lawyers out there...

What does (or should) happen to CPS' case if it's proven the original warrants were based upon a fraud?

I've been monitoring the play-by-play from the hearing in San Angelo, and I can't find where anyone's mentioned this. The story was just released about 2 hours ago, so maybe they're too busy and don't know about it yet.

Although the CPS reps down there probably do. And the Texas Rangers down there certainly do.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Take on Eldorado

Yes, I'm an attorney in West Texas. So let me start off by saying that I am not one of the 350-odd attorneys serving as volunteer ad litems in the case. I say that only to let everyone know that I know nothing more about the case than the national and local media are saying, along with a bit of West Texas gossip thrown in for good measure.

I don't place much stock in the gossip. You can't really believe most of it anyway, so I'm not going to dwell on it here. I also won't be providing any links to news stories. There's too many of them, and I wouldn't want to pick and choose which ones to include and which ones to leave out.

I will provide a link to a page where you may find the affidavits (in the green box on the left-hand side) filed in the case, but only because a newspaper has already done so.

I'm a lawyer, but I'm also a plain ol' average everyday human being. My first reaction to the "raid" was probably the same as most others'. That anyone could force a child into a "spiritual union" is abhorrent to me. If what they're saying is true, and we've been given no clear reason to doubt that it is, then the State was pretty clearly justified in taking most, if not all, of those kids into custody.

But that depends on a bunch of stuff that the State, I believe, will have a hard time proving.

See, they received some phone calls from a 16-year-old girl who says she was forced into a "spiritual union" with a much older man. She apparently gave birth to one child (at 15) and, at the time of the calls, was pregnant with another.

This was the basis for the initial warrant.

They have yet to locate the girl, and the man she named apparently is on probation in Arizona. His probation officer says he hasn't left the state.

Now for my lawyer side to come out.

The natural thing, at least if you've ever been exposed to Texas CPS, is to have a tiny little annoying voice buzzing in the back of your head. That voice is saying,"Surely they didn't make that girl up just to get inside?" If not, where is she? Where's the phone records showing the number she called from? Was there a recording of the calls themselves?

I know that the Texas Family Code provides for "post-deprivation" procedures (essentially, the adversary hearing they're having today) when a child is seized in the absence of probable cause, and that those procedures have been deemed sufficient to protect the Due Process rights of families.

But, I can't get past the fact that they had one unsubstantiated allegation of abuse. One. And that entitles them to take all of the children from the entire ranch?

Yes, I know, the Family Code allows them to remove the subject child and others "similarly situated." That, however, has normally meant other children in the same home. Are there possibly families in this sect who haven't engaged in polygamous and pedophilic pursuits? Doesn't the law entitle them to that presumption until there's something to rebut it?

I think it does.

I've got to close by stating my clearly held opinion that anyone who harms a child should have the full force of the law brought to bear on them. That law, however, must be tempered by the protections of the Constitution. These people must be afforded the opportunity to defend themselves without being prejudged.

To those of you who would accuse me of condoning pedophilia, I can only say that's not what I'm doing. I'm merely defending the rights of accused persons in this State to have their cases fairly heard.

Scalia-Stevens Smackdown in Baze v. Rees

Saw this on Volokh (Paul Cassell).

Scalia, writing about Stevens' separately written opinion says:

Purer expression cannot be found of the principle of rule by judicial fiat. In the face of Justice Stevens' experience, the experience of all others is, it appears, of little consequence. The experience of the state legislatures and the Congress-who retain the death penalty as a form of punishment-is dismissed as “the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process.” Ante, at 8. The experience of social scientists whose studies indicate that the death penalty deters crime is relegated to a footnote. Ante, at 10, n. 13. The experience of fellow citizens who support the death penalty is described, with only the most thinly veiled condemnation, as stemming from a “thirst for vengeance.” Ante, at 11. It is Justice Stevens' experience that reigns over all.


Orin Kerr, apparently, concurs:

The Stevens concurring opinion is certainly a throwback to an earlier age. I think Scalia's response was devastating, as the Stevens opinion does seem remarkably uninterested in distinguishing good policy from what the Constitution demands. Perhaps the most puzzling line in Stevens' concurrence was his statement that the Supreme Court's decisions "retain[ing] the death penalty as a part of our law" have been "the product of habit and inattention." The Supreme Court is inattentive to the death penalty like college guys are inattentive to women and beer.

Couldn't have said it better myself.
I guess that's why I just linked it.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Okay, so I'm going to weigh in on the Obama "bitter" comments.

First of all, I don't care what Obama says about voters in Pennsylvania. What I think voters in Pennsylvania are most "bitter" about is that the Eagles can't win the Superbowl.

But let's look at the argument from both sides...


Those against Obama (Hillary, McCain, the right wing, half of the Democratic Party, and one or two media folks who haven't "gotten the memo") are saying his comments were "elitist." They point out the utter gall it takes to presume to speak for the feelings of such a large group of people. They point out also that it's pretty demeaning to suggest that just because government hasn't accomplished anything economically worthwhile in oh, about 6 decades, voters are going to become single(or double, or triple)-issue automatons so disaffected with the whole shebang that all they care about anymore is their guns. Or their church. Or their Klan buddies. Or their national isolationism. Or their economic isolationism.

Well, certainly some folks are bitter. And certainly some folks are bitter because the government (or lack thereof) has led to them being so.

But saying what he's said has effectively marginalized those issues he brought up. We'll leave out the comment about "people who aren't like them," since it's a cleverly worded play of the race card (good show, old chap!). Is he actually suggesting that people who value their faith would just give it up if an "economic Messiah" came along? Or that people who value their 2nd Amendment rights will be first in the "gun buyback line" if a factory's coming back to town?

Not bloody likely. And when you elevate economy above faith in one of your speeches, you've attempted to elevate yourself above that faith, as well.


Those who are for Obama (everybody else) say that his words are "the truth." Well of course they are. Especially when there's no way for them to be objectively proven. I've seen them actually referred to as "'unartful,' but not inaccurate." (Donna Brazile said that, and she'd know all about unartful comments and inaccurate ones).

Obama's response to the wave of criticism was essentially to say that he meant what he said, just not exactly the way he said it.


He said he apologizes to those who were offended by what he said. Great.

But does it bother anyone but me where he chose to say it? A closed fund-raiser in that last bastion of the liberal "we-know-better-than-you" elite?

That's right, folks. San Francisco.

I can't for the life of me figure out why he chose to address his comments not to the downtrodden, rural voters of Pennsylvania, but to the upscale $500-a-plate crowds in S.F. I'd really like to hear an explanation of that part of it.

Wouldn't you?

P.S. -- Obama supporters, please stop posting youtube videos of rural Pennsylvania voters saying, "You're darn tootin' I'm bitter." It proves nothing.

'Cause we all know by now that if Obama had stood on stage and said, "All those rural Pennsylvania voters want is a ham sandwich! And I intend to give 'em one!" You'd all be falling all over yourselves to video rural Pennsylvania voters saying, "Boy, I sure could go for a ham sandwich right now."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Trans Texas Corridor Update

Some have said it's dead. But, to borrow a line from Stephen King...

Sometimes they come back.

Now, apparently, TxDOT is lying about funding problems, saying they have to scrap current projects, even though State Senator Troy Fraser has said they have plenty of money for the current projects.

Now, do they honestly want to threaten like this? Are they trying to make transportation problems worse, in order to bring Average Joe Texan on board with their idiotic TTC boondoggle?

Governor Perry, stop serving corporate interests and start serving the people of this State. You weren't elected to shill for foreign corporations, and the people of Texas aren't interested in your land-grab.