December 5, 2012

While I Was Away

So, a few things have transpired since I went away to write my little book this year. The biggest, of course, is the election, which is finally behind us, at least until the Iowa caucuses start up in a few minutes. Here’s a few stories that caught my eye while I was away:

Citizen’s United's OK After All
I’ve never been a fan of the left’s freak out over Citizens United. I continue to believe that most of the people who got so worked up about it didn’t really know what the law at issue actually did. Regardless, in the wake of the election, it looks like liberal organizations made pretty good use of the decision, after all:
This may be one of the major takeaways of the 2012 campaign: When liberals learned to stop worrying and love Citizens United, they benefited from it more than the conservatives who supported the decision.
That’s not completely fair, since one of the two groups mentioned in the article, the AFL-CIO, supported the winning side in Citizens United via its amicus brief. Still, it does show that, even if Citizens United meant metric tons of additional money got pumped into the election, spending that money on advertising didn’t have much impact. The groups discussed in the article used PAC money to fund on-the-ground get out the vote operations, which provided much more bang for the bucks.

Rules for Thee, But Not for Me
One of the thing that kept me from voting for Obama this year is his fondness for an expanded drone war that knows know particular bounds, either geographically or legally. Apparently, someone in the administration must be bothered by it, too, but only to the extent that some other president may get to enjoy the same lack of oversight as Obama. Hence:
Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.
But, of course, now that the election’s over and there’s no fear that this particular machinery of death will fall into Romney’s hands, progress has slowed and the project:
will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.
Brilliant. If you’re wielding power that you’d be squeamish about someone else wielding, you should probably think twice about wielding it in the first place.

But I Thought People Found Jesus In Prison?
I’m all for creative sentencing in criminal cases, particularly for first offenders and juveniles. Even someone who takes a life, as an Oklahoma teen did when he crashed the truck he and another teen were riding in, ejecting the other and killing him, sometimes there’s room for mercy. But is there ever room for an unconstitutional coercion? Amazing enough, Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman sees nothing wrong with giving said teen a suspended sentence, contingent on his attending church services for the next ten years.

The problem isn’t so much in this case – the defendant agreed to the deal and was already a regular attendee of an approved church (which begs the question . . .). So there will be no appeal for a higher court to decide if it’s inappropriate (the ACLU is trying an ethics complaint against the judge, however). But what about the next case, which involves a defendant that’s either not religious or doesn’t belong to Norman’s flavor of choice? What’s the option for an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, or Hindu? Therein lies the problem. Norman’s creative sentence gets the force of the state behind a religious institution, which is what the First Amendment is designed to guard against.

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