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Monday, October 31, 2005

Racist, Sexist, Corporatist:
Judge Samuel Alito is Scalia's Mini-Me

This morning, President Bush nominated yet another Justice to the Supreme Court: Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito. Far right conservatives hailed the move; conservative Democrats like Harry Reid immediately assaulted the appointment. This man might just be more conservative than wingnut John Roberts.

Who is Alito?


He's a clone of Antonin Scalia, the most ideological Justice in perhaps the history of the Court. The resemblance has earned Alito the nickname "Scalito."

Republicans are already saying "nope, he's not like Scalia. See, there was this one case once where Scalia overruled Alito." That's true. There was this one case where Scalia overruled Alito. Obviously, not every judge will always vote the same as another judge. To take just one of several hundred million examples, Scalia and Clarence Thomas are the Supreme Court's bosom buddies. They vote together nearly every time, but not every time. In Thornton v. United States, to take just one example, Thomas and Scalia disagreed. But that doesn't mean that you can't compare Thomas to Scalia. Yet another phony line of Republican argument obliterated. An appaling Time magazine article claims that Alito and Scalia are not alike because of their disagreement on one case. This reads as if it were faxed out of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy's war room, not printed by one of the most respected news magazines in America. Readers, stop reading Time and supporting corporate evil.


He's a sexist who wants to tell women what to do with their bodies in defiance of the constitutional right to privacy. His most famous ruling was when he agreed with the majority in 1991's Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That case affirmed several Pennsylvania law that restricted abortion in several ways. Alito actually thought the majority didn't go far enough; he supported requiring women to notify their spouse before having an abortion as well. The Supreme Court, despite being dominated by Republicans, overturned Alito and the Third Circuit. Guess who agreed with Alito? Justice Scalia.

He's a racist who wants to prevent people from using the courts to obtain justice. In doing so, he's a corporatist who favors the interests of massive corporations above those of average, hard-working Americans. In Bray v. Marriott Hotels, Alito dissented from the majority decision that found racial discrimination. The majority explains the legal falsity of Alito's argument in damning fashion:
The dissent carefully explains each of the discrepancies in this record in isolation and concludes that none of them creates a material issue of fact. See Dissenting Op. at 8-11. We have previously noted that such an analysis is improper in a discrimination case:

A play cannot be understood on the basis of some of its scenes but only on its entire performance, and similarly, a discrimination analysis must concentrate not on individual incidents, but on the overall scenario.

Thus, we must determine whether the totality of the evidence would allow a reasonable factfinder to conclude that Bray has established the alleged bias.

Standards, shmandards? Alito apparently disobeys the law and follows his own illogical course when it suits his hard right concerns.

Alito also is a fan of discrimination against the disabled. (That's as low as low gets, in my opinion.) In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, Alito dissented from the majority that found discrimination against a disabled man. The majority said that under Alito's standard, "few if any…cases would survive summary judgment."

Alito also hates families and wants to punish people who need to take care of them. As an activist judge, Alito sought to strike down a large portion of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act.) In Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, Alito wrote for the majority that claimed that individuals could not sue their state under FMLA. Three years later in Nevada v. Hibbs, Rehnquist wrote a majority opinion that overturned Alito's anti-family ruling. Individuals can now sue a state for monetary damages for violations of FMLA. Remember, Alito was to the right of Rehnquist on this issue.

In an issue that currently means a whole lot to me, Alito disrespects the Fourth Amendment. A majority in Doe v. Groody held that a strip search of a mother and her 10 year old daughter violated the Fourth Amendment because the police only had a warrant to search a man and the home. Alito dissented; to him, the language of the warrant doesn't matter.


Bush appointed yet another white man to the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas, a traitor to African-Americans everywhere, is the only non-white; the generally reliable Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the only woman on the court. Bush took the opportunity to make the first two Supreme Court appointments of the 21st century look just like the first two Supreme Court appointments of the 19th century: rich white men who judge according to their racist and sexist hearts.

4. MOM ADMITS THAT ALITO IS AGAINST ABORTION (if that wasn't already clear)

Alito's own mother said that "Of course he's against abortion." Of course, the right wing smear machine will have us believe that his own mom is just some crazy loon and that Alito would never rule according to his personal beliefs. And if you believe either of those things, I have this great bridge to sell you.

In conclusion, Alito is a dangerous judge who will undermine the rights of American citizens everywhere. Democrats need to filibuster and stop this nominee at all costs. Like I said a few days ago, we were better off with Harriet Miers.


More SCOTUS news: Although Republicans constantly charge that liberals are "activist judges" and conservatives judges "are faithful to the proper role of judges," that lie fails to comport with reality. In fact, a new study proves that the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court are activist judges most likely to overturn the will of Congress and exceed their boundaries as judges. This is the smoking gun that the "activist judge" line has been total propaganda all along. I dare the Federalist Society to start a crusade against Thomas and Scalia for being activist judges. They won't because they were never concerned with activist judges, they were just selling that lie in order to covertly force their right wing revolution on the Courts. Here is the study:

How often do Justices on the Supreme Court strike down laws made by the United States Congress?

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O'Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

It goes right down partisan lines. The liberal Justices are the least activist; the conservative Justices are the most activist. Yet another Republican line of reasoning obliterated.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Here's the link to the actual indictment document of Scooter Libby. A must read for law buffs, but fun for the general public too.

Today's events made me remember how fair and just our legal system is at its core.
Criminalization of Politics?

Earlier this month, the vast right wing conspiracy (VRWC) launched a new marketing campaign: brand Plamegate as "the criminalization of politics." I first became aware when The Daily Show did a bit on the term last week, but here's the proof that the VRWC is behind a coordinated effort to push this misleading term:

Every reference of the "criminalization of politics" in the 30 days before October 17 occurred on FOXNews. Each time the term was used, a FOX anchor or correspondent introduced it, not a guest. Both Chris Wallace, one of Fox's more reputable reporters, and Bill Kristol complained about the "criminalization of politics" on Fox News Sunday on October 23. On the same show, Wallace asked conservative former independent counsel Robert Ray whether Plamegate amounted to "criminalizing political conduct."

Of course, this brand defies what Republicans were saying when Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a private, consensual affair. Any minor offense provided grounds to impeach the President; if that isn't the "criminalization of politics," I don't know what is. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) is a perfect example of the Republican hypocrisy on this issue. A few days ago she stated that she hoped Fitzgerald would indict "on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime, and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars." In 1999, Sen. Hutchinson voted President Clinton "guility" of perjury and obstruction of justice. Apparently when a Democrat perjures himself regarding a private affair, we should impeach, but when a Republican perjures himself regarding potential treason, it's just a technicality and we should ignore it if you can't prove the larger crime.

The "criminalization of politics" line is meant to send that message that what Libby and Rove did was merely politics as usual. Charging them for crimes related to that politics, in the eyes of the VRWC, constitutes "the criminalization of politics." Politics can get dirty, but there are boundaries in the eys of reasonable men. The current Republicans are not reasonable men. They see no problem with outing a CIA agent and jeopardizing national security in order to acheive their craven political goals.

Finally, a note about Plamegate. Earlier this morning I speculated that more indictments are on the way. Many smart people have pointed out that perhaps Libby is being set up as the fall guy and all blame will remain with him. I wouldn't be shocked at all if that is what occurs. Due to the lack of an independant counsel with the power to subpeona the President and Vice President under oath, I'm not sure that indictments beyond Karl Rove are on the horizon.


And in true Bill O'Reilly / Steven Colbert fashion...a challenge. I challenge a conservative to respond to this post and offer a coherent defense of the Republican role in Plamegate. If you don't, then you sirs, are all cowards.



I. Lewis Libby, Jr., Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff and a key architect behind the Iraq war, was indicted this morning on five felony counts: one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements to a grand jury. Libby’s felonies stems from a lie regarding his role in the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA working on weapons of mass destruction. The outing of Plame cost the United States valuable time, manpower and possibly lives. In a time of war, one can argue that the outing of Plame constitutes treason.

Libby immediately resigned his post and left the White House. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Shady Karl Rove is expected to be spared indictment for the time being, however, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is expected to continue his investigation of Rove beyond today.

What Next?

Sen. Harry Reid smartly tied together the fraudulent sale of the Iraq war with Libby’s indictment. The Democrats need to point out that Libby’s felonies were just part of a larger effort to discredit all opposition. Libby helped perpetrate the greater crime of forcing an illegal war upon the United States. Libby’s hands are covered in blood from dead U.S. soldiers.

Libby's indictment is the first time that the Republican Party had to pay for the crimes of the Bush administration. Expect more indictments. This scandal could very well end in Bush and Cheney's impeachment. Using the GOP's own words from the Clinton impeachment, the Democrats need to seize this moment to taint the GOP so much that we can retake the Senate next year.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Federalist Society: Dedicated to Corporate Evil

There's nothing wrong with an organization committed to presenting the other side of a legitimate debate. This is essentially the self stated goal of the Federalist Society, a right wing network of judges and lawyers. Here's the purpose statement from the Federalist Society homepage:

  • Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law.
  • The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.
Part of the purpose just attacks liberal ideology. First, it's highly unclear what a "centralized and uniform society" is. Second, it's unclear why it's bad to have a "centralized and uniform society." Third, no evidence backs up the bold statement that the legal profession engaged in a massive conspiracy to teach orthodox liberal ideology as if it were the law. I attend law school in liberal San Francisco; my professors leave their opinions at home, for the most part. But for the purposes of this article, it really doesn't matter whether "orthodox liberal ideology" is really being taught in schools as if it were the law. The problem is that the Federalist Society has a very different goal.

The real goal of the Federalist Society is to to transform the independant judiciary that we now have into a craven Republican machine. Creating a large network of young conservative lawyers is essential to the GOP's goal of ensuring that judicial appointments are not based on qualifications but rather on politics. This defies the Constitutionally mandated purpose of an independant judiciary. Republican politicians use the Federalist Society as a kind of vetting for potential appointments. If you aren't a Federalist, you aren't going to get appointed by Republicans.

What's so bad about trying to remake the judiciary as a Republican institution? Other than my disagreement with their politics, it turns the Federalist Society into lying hypocrites. The Federalist Society is against so-called activist judges according to this line from their purpose statement: " it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be." The problem, of course, is that the Federalist Society and other Republicans have no problem with activist judges as long as they are conservative. Liberal judges are framed as "activist judges," while conservative judges who stretch the law in the same manner are hailed as "originalists."

Former Judge Catherine Crier recently wrote a book titled "Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice." Crier is no liberal; 3 years ago she wrote a book called "The Case Against Lawyers" which largely attacked trial lawyers and huge damage awards. As a thinking centrist, Crier points out the danger in the increasing power of the Federalist Society and the covert Republican revolution in the courts:

An activist judge, or one who “makes law,” is frequently called “liberal” and denigrated, while “originalists,” or those who “strictly interpret” the Constitution, are usually deemed “conservative” and revered, at least by the very vocal extreme right wing that is putting American justice on trial. But these terms ignorantly pit political ideology against legal realities. As weapons, this rhetoric sounds quite damning, but the words are meaningless.

When opinions are analyzed, judges regularly move from one camp to another regardless of their labels or stated philosophy. “Originalists” have discovered meaning in the Constitution that does not exist, and “activist” judges have exercised considerable restraint when asked to strike down or change our laws. Often, judges render decisions that cannot be explained by their legal philosophy because they are more interested in justice than rigid consistency with a theory of constitutional interpretation. Ultimately, these categories are effective buzzwords used to inflame an uninformed electorate. In recent years, the Far Right has utilized this tactic for one purpose alone: to capture the last somewhat-independent branch of our government.

The Far Right wants to control our federal judiciary in order to enact its specific reactionary agenda. At first blush, this agenda would seem to center on social issues — abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and religion in schools. These items certainly garner the most press attention, but don’t be fooled. There is another insidious aspect to their designs. Economic and political issues are crucial to them as well. If they are successful in our federal courts, this plot will have a profound impact on citizens in every arena. They are making efforts to curtail federal regulation of businesses, environmental protections, worker’s rights, bankruptcy laws, tort liability, and property interests, among other causes.

This radical group also wants much more control exerted by the states. For over a century, the federal courts have built a safety net in order to uniformly protect the constitutional rights of every American. But as Edwin Meese began arguing in the 1980s that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states, the extreme Right believes that such Constitutional protections only exist to inhibit action by the national government. They want our individual guarantees surrendered back to the states, where enforcement will diminish and maybe disappear altogether.

Despite the Far Right’s claims that they want the courts to leave Congress alone, they actually aim to reduce congressional authority. They want ultraconservative judges to strike down a great deal more federal legislation and to negate decades of legal precedent — the very definition of “reactionary.” The extreme Right may argue against judicial “activism,” but they certainly know how to practice it.

If the Federalist Society and other conservative lawyers want to transform the court into a reactionary body that caters to the demands of the Republican Party, they have a moral duty to inform the public as to their true goal. By practicing deceit and dishonesty, the Federalist Society reveals their true goals to be too evil to honestly hold.
H.R. 420 Approved by the House of Representatives

The vote was 228-184 and was largely along party lines. H.R. 420 would rewrite Rule 11 and stilt it in favor of large corporate defendants. Rule 11, to refresh, is a mechanism for sanctioning lawyers for so-called "frivolous lawsuits." Should H.R. 420 become law, legitimate claims will never be brought in court and average Americans will be forced to bear the costs of corporate negligence.

Don't expect a massive overhaul of Rule 11 just yet, however. A version of H.R. 420 still needs to pass in the Senate and Senate leaders have already said that this bill will not come up for a vote this year. Further, H.R. 420 passed last year in the House as well. The far-right House can vote on whatever they like, but the House cannot make law unless the relatively moderate Senate approves.

With Bush's popularity reaching all time lows, President Bush is conceding battles in an attempt to win the GOP's war on the common man.


On September 9 I wrote about how the Republican plan to rebuild the Katrina devastation by exploiting labor. President Bush had decided to defy the 1931 Davis-Beacon act and allow contractors to pay workers below the prevailing wage.

Yesterday, Bush reversed himself because he didn’t want another political disaster on his hands. Rep. George Miller (D) of Martinez introduced a joint resolution into the House that would have forced a vote next week. With Supreme Court hearings on the horizon, Bush decided to just spend some money and avoid the fight.

It’s a huge victory for labor, but don’t give Bush any credit for this. Bush caved in to far-right elements of the Republican party who wanted to use the Katrina disaster as an excuse to force a conservative “new deal” down our throats. In response to Katrina, the GOP gave away billions in corporate welfare without accountability. When it came down to paying fair wages for the reconstruction, however, the GOP's first instinct was to screw over lower middle class, blue collar workers. People who expend their own blood, sweat and tears supporting this country's infrastructure deserve a lot better. To Bush and the GOP, a person is only as valuable and important as the size of their bank account.


"Don't blame FEMA. This is our responsibility." Those were the words of Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in response to the slow response to Hurricane Wilma. People waited hours in line to receive inadequate amounts of supplies. Even though Katrina occurred just last month, all levels of government failed in its response to Wilma. Not coincidentally, these words mirrored the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy response to Katrina: Blame the state, not FEMA.

So what do we have here? Is Jeb Bush really taking the blame because he feels that it's his fault? Or is Jeb taking blame as a form of "my bad" gesture towards his more powerful brother? I choose the latter. President Bush is caught in a tailspin due to his failures with Katrina and Harriet Miers, not to mention lingering resentment over Iraq and his failed economic policies. With a key Supreme Court nominee and potential indictments on the agenda, President Bush cannot afford any blame from Wilma.

So his brother stepped in and bailed him out.

Still, Jeb, like most Republicans, continues to live in la-la land when it comes to the reality of surviving in the aftermath of a hurricane. "People had ample time to prepare. It isn't that hard to get 72 hours' worth of food and water." Translation: Blame the victim. This is a very common Republican tactic. (see racism) Jeb essentially says "These people could have prepared and they didn't, so it's not really our fault for being slow." The truth, however, is much different. People may be able to save 72 hours worth of food and water, but what about refrigeration? Many residents reported waiting in lines to get ice to keep their medications cold. Others needed cold milk for their babies. What about gas? 72 hours worth of gasoline isn't easy to do either; many people filled up before the hurricane just to waste gas driving around to escape its wrath.

So Jeb took responsibility -- away from George W. But he didn't really take blame for the failures of Wilma. According to the Bushes, those who suffer should have helped themselves. Surely they could have chartered a private jet, right?

Out with the Crony, In with the Extremist?

Harriet Miers has declined President Bush's nomination to the Supreme Court. I didn't speak out against her nomination with the same vigor as I did John Roberts because Roberts had a much more expansive record. Roberts is on the record denying the right to privacy, making sexist jokes and undermining race relations. Miers hasn't done any of those things publicly. While she wasn't going to "go Souter", at least she provided the potential for having a reasonable Republican on the court similar to Kennedy.

While Miers really didn't have the qualifications for the job, I wonder if this is really a good thing for the United States in the long run. Bush will likely try and shore up his base with a qualified, far right conservative. The law might be damaged more by a wingnut Scalia clone than a lame Clarence Thomas clone.

Let's see what happens, but I can't imagine the Republicans failing in their chance to remold the Supreme Court in a conservative image.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Do liberals over-emphasize race when analyzing the plight of Black America?

My answer: No. This is actually a response to a couple comments that I received on the Call for a Brain Drain thread, but I decided to post on the main page so that I could include some links. (Call it home field advantage.) Check out the previous article so see the argument I am addressing in full. In a nutshell, my good friend criminlmstrmind believes that I was wrong to say that only Republicans ignore facts because Liberals also ignore facts. Criminlmstrmind argues that a fact that Liberals ignore is that race isn't the primary factor in the problems currently facing Black America. We specifically disagree as to whether Asian Americans provide a control group that proves that whatever is ailing Black America is due to a lack of so-called "community responsibility."

I believe my posts stand for themselves when I say that race is the main, if not the sole, source of the problems facing Black America. Overt discrimination constitutes a small percentage of the problems Black America faces; the real problem is institutionalized racism that prevents social mobility. The real reason why race is clearly the main, if not the sole, source of Black America's problems is that no legitimate alternative explanation exists. Criminlmstrmind posits that Blacks somehow lack community responsibility. But if only Blacks lack community responsibility, then that would mean that something genetically inherent in Black people is causing a lack of community responsibility. I disagree 100%. Eugenics is a discredited pseudoscience that invokes the very worst of all racist tragedies. If there is a lack of community responsibility in Black Community, a claim based solely on antecdotal evidence, then that is due to overt discrimination and institutionalized racism. Outside pressures must be the cause of a lack of community responsibility, if it exists, and I honestly don't believe it does. The problem with Black America is that they grow up poor and face institutional racism that prevents their escape.

What of Asian Americans? Does the financial success of Asian Americans prove that Bill Cosby is right and that blacks just need to take responsibilty in order to succeed? No. The argument implicit in criminlmstrmind's article is that Asian Americans constitute the "model minority" because, despite all the overt racism that they faced, they still succeeded financially.

The notion of Asian Americans as a "model minority" is a racist myth. The experience of Asian Americans bears little relation to that of Black Americans other than the fact that both groups are non-white and faced forms of overt racism. Asian Americans are a largely self selected population who tend to immigrate to the United States once they are already educated and relatively stable financially. Although some Asians came to this country as indentured servants and countless poor Chinese workers died building the railroad, Asian Americans, on the whole, came to this country voluntarily while 0% of Blacks came here by choice. Quotas determined immigration in this country until 1965. Before that point only a select few thousand Asian immigrants were allowed each year. The vast majority of these immigrants were wealthy because you had to pay for overseas travel to get to the USA.

Blacks don't have positive role models while Asians often do. An educated parent is probably the best role model one can have; far more Asians have this than Blacks do. Further, the reason that athletes and rap stars are role models in the Black community is because they are the only Blacks who can really make it out of the ghetto. Some poor kid in the ghetto doesn't really believe he can become a doctor or lawyer, but he does believe he could become a rapper. Sure, some Blacks consider Blacks who put on a suit and work for the man as "sell-outs." (So do I, for that matter, regardless of race, if you are going to work to further corporate evil.) But the classification of those few educated Blacks as "sell-outs" doesn't reflect a lack of community responsibility but rather reflects the frustrated response of those who aren't able to make it out of the ghetto. Rather than accept failure, people naturally would rather attack those who succeed. If we want educated Blacks not be thought of as "sell-outs", then Whites should stop giving the least funding to Black schools and ensuring that Blacks remain poor. I think the "sell-out" classification problem is probably the same in white trash trailer parks. ("John is into all that prissy, city boy booklearnin'.")

Blacks had it much, much worse than Asian Americans. Slavery ruined generations and effects Black America to this day. For a refresher course on the kinds of atrocities whites inflicted upon slaves, check out happytulip's blog.

Asian immigrants chose to come to the USA. It's much easier to be productive members of society if you have made the proactive choice to join that society instead of being forced to be on the absolute bottom rung of society, as has happened with Blacks.

Asian Americans are only 3.2% of the population; Blacks are 12% and Latinos are 10%. This small sample ends up skewing the results, For example, people with dual citizenship are counted as Asian Americans. People with dual citizenship are overwhelmingly wealthy because the average person has no desire or need to obtain dual citizenship.

Further, Asian Americans are not equal to Whites. College educated Asians make less than whites and the per capita income of individuals, not families, is lower than Whites. The myth of the model minority ignores the real racism that Asian Americans do face.

What of Latinos? Push factors forced Latinos out of their homes in Mexico and Central America while pull factors such as readily available low paying jobs brought them to the USA. Latino immigrants tend to be much poorer than Asian immigrants. First, Latinos didn't need to save up the kind of money that Asian Americans had to save in order to visit US. For many, two legs was all they needed to get here. For this reason, Latino immigrants lacked the kind of education and financial well being that Asian American have. Second, Latino immigrants mostly immigrated only in response to the open supply of low paying jobs. Miserable economies in Mexico and Central America created a situation where farm jobs paying pennies on the hour began to look promising to Latinos.

Also, what of White America's community responsibility? If I accept criminlmstrmind's idea that Asians have more community responsibility than Blacks and Latinos, what about whites? Are we responsible just because Whites don't commit as many crimes? No, we aren't. Whites close their ears to the problems of racism and hope that if we ignore it, it will go away. The fact that Whites have been so lucky exposes the fact that community responsibility isn't the real culprit behind the varying treatments of different racial groups in the USA.

Finally, some would say that if Blacks really wanted to escape poverty, they could. Hell, some have even used me as an example. My dad was a lawyer but his heart was bigger than his business sense. We were always lower-middle class and when he died four years ago, I was left to figure out a way to attend graduate school while not getting any help from my parents. The plan is for me to be a lawyer and comfortable despite my somewhat poor background. However, I've had tons of advantages and benefits to get me where I am today. I got my first office job with no experience. White kids have things like that happen all the time, black kids don't. I attended the best public school in San Francisco because I lived 5 blocks away. The black neighborhoods have the worst public schools in San Francisco. My father had a J.D. and provided me with intellectual stimulation throughout my life. In short -- I may have been poor, but my whiteness was an incredible property right that is largely responsible for my success. I am barely making it as is; had I been black there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be writing this blog or attending law school.


I don't think you can compare the GOP's denial of a proven fact -- global warming -- to liberals' denial of a racist theory -- the model minority myth. Do liberals overemphasize race when it comes to the problems of Black America? I would argue we don't emphasize it enough. What was the last piece of legislation that liberals enacted to combat the problems of institutional racism? Since LBJ, not much has happened.

As for community responsibility, it's a phantom problem. There is no way to prove it's really a problem and there's no way to fix it even if it is a problem. If true, it means that certain genes in racial groups doom them to be irresponsible. I don't think science can back up that theory. I believe that all races are the same on the inside, it's only the outside that's different. The outside isn't just the color of your skin but it's the color of your experiences.
Home Depot Update

Yesterday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors delayed a vote on whether they will approve of Home Depot's Environmental Impact report. This vote will determine whether or not the Home Depot is allowed to open its doors in San Francisco; it has been postponed to next week. Supervisor Bevan Dufty suggested that he would support a smaller version of the Home Depot.

Of course, the size of the store is irrelevant except to Home Depot's bottom line. Big or small, once the Home Depot has moved in the floodgates will be open. No legitimate reason will exist to keep big box retailers like Walmart out of San Francisco.

The cure for this ailment is to enact a law banning big box stores from San Francisco. The ordinance would be very easy to write:

"ANTI BIG BOX ORDINANCE: If a company doing X revenue and/or with X number of workers wants to build a store of X size in San Francisco, that store will be unable to open without the direct approval of the Board of Supervisors who will consider any and all relevant factors in their determination. Since big box stores squash competition, depress wages and funnell profits out of San Francisco, the burden will be on the big box store to prove to the Board's satisfaction that the big box store will not injure San Francisco."

The Board of Supervisors needs to enact such an ordinance immediately to prevent future attempts by big box stores to hurt business in San Francisco.

Finally, I have sent the San Francisco Chronicle a letter to the editor due to their paper's deplorable coverage of The Home Depot issue. Here's an example. I doubt they will publish it, so I've reprinted it below:

The Chronicle's aggressive stance to promote the Home Depot troubles me greatly. Tuesday's pro-Home Depot editorial was the first time this paper had addressed the issue in three months. Coincidentally, the editorial came the day the Board of Supervisors voted on the project.

This is a hotly contested political issue with enormous implications for San Francisco. If the nation's #2 retailer, Home Depot, is allowed to move in, the nation's #1 retailer, Wal-Mart, will certainly be next. Further, no new jobs or tax revenues will result from this store because existing jobs and existing tax dolllars will be lost when small hardware stores are forced to close.

To fail to provide the other side on such a heated issue constitutes journalistic failure on the part of the Chronicle. Of course, considering the fact that the Home Depot is spending a lot of cash to propagandize this store, perhaps this paper just wants its share. Either way, it stinks for the people of San Francisco.


Who will be the last to die for the Republican Party's mistake in Iraq?

Unfortunately, 2000 young American men and women have now died fighting Bush's illegal war in Iraq.

This "milestone" is a direct result of the Corporate Republican Party's war on everything that makes America great.

First, as I touched on in my Call for a Brain Drain article, Republicans ignore facts in favor of emotion. The GOP blindly followed Bush and forced a war in Iraq under the pretenses of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction. The evidence at the time was poor and most experts believe that Sadaam probably did not have WMD. The Republican Party used the post 9-11 climate to propagandize and squash dissent.

Second, once we realized no WMD existed, Republicans continue to tell the American public to "stay the course." The course isn't working and it never will. You can't force democracy on people at the barrel of a gun. It's never happened in human history and there is no reason to believe that it will. Iraq is made up of highly fragmented cultural groups who, historically, have only been united for 60 years. And even that required a strong man. Despite all the evidence that the aims of the war have failed, the Republicans insist that we still kill our troops so that Bush and co. won't have to admit to lying to the public.

Third, our military has been weakened due to Iraq. The military is too involved in Iraq to help elsewhere. World wide perception now reflects that the USA is fallible. Young men and women no longer want to join the military for fear that politicians will breach their trust and go to war when it is not absolutely neccessary. Every additional day in Iraq makes us that much weaker.

Fourth, the Republicans deserve all of the blame for Iraq. Sure, the Democrats should have made a bigger stink, but even if they did, nothing would have changed. The Republicans controlled every branch of government, leaving Democrats with no power. Karl Rove and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy orchestrated a climate of fear after 9-11 that destroyed anyone bold enough to stand up to the Bush administration. I fault the Democrats for making craven political decisions instead of taking the moral high ground and informing the American people as to the Republican Party's lies. However, the Democrats were in no position to prevent this war and all the blame lies with the GOP.

When addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Vietnam war, 27-year old John Kerry famously asked "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" We need to ask that question today. It's clear that Bush and the Republicans lied to get us into this war. Our subsequent rationale -- that we fought the war to spread democracy -- is fradulent for two reasons: 1) The USA supports all sorts of dictators and 2) the USA is in no position to go to war with every country whose leaders committed the kinds of violations that Hussein committed. Considering the fact that the war is pointless, the Republicans are arguably committing homicide against our troops. The death has got to stop. The party that claims to be "pro-life" is really "pro-hypocrisy."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bits and Pieces

Covert Changes to Rule 11: Stilting the Rules in Favor of Corporations

The Corporate Republican Party continues their assault on the American legal system. The Orwellian named "Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act" will be voted on in the House of Representatives tomorrow. This act, H.R. 420, will fundamentally change Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and create enormous incentives for plaintiffs to drop their cases or never file them to begin with. Corporations will be the primary benefactor.

There is no evidence that Rule 11, as is, isn't working. Lawsuits have gone down since the rule was overhauled in 1993 so empirical evidence indicates that it is doing its job. Conservatives point to antecdotal evidence to claim that so-called "frivolous lawsuits" are out of control. These lawsuits that they speak of are essentially exclusively against large corporate defendants.

H.R. 420 is a massive bill and the following will be completely uninteresting unless you have some familiarity with Rule 11. (It's all Civil Procedure.) Rule 11's goal is to discourage frivilous lawsuits by enacting sanctions when applicable. Rule 11 requires all claims and defenses to be warranted either by existing law or by non-frivolous arguments for the modifications to law. Generally, this means The changes will help Rule 11 punish plaintiffs by making it much more hazardous to bring lawsuits.

First, H.R. 420 will make Rule 11 sanctions mandatory, not discretionary. Judges familiar with the process often decide that either 1) sanctions are really not applicable under the circumstances or 2) a sanctions proceeding is simply not worth the time and expense. Making sanctions mandatory makes the judicial system less efficient and discourages meritorious claims. The only benefit whatsoever is that plaintiffs will be discouraged from filing lawsuits and mega-rich corporations can save money on their legal expenses. Further, large corporations can decrease precaution in safety standards because they will know that it is less likely that a plaintiff will prevail on a lawsuit. From a purely efficiency standpoint, this change is nuts.

Second, H.R. 420 eliminates the minimum contacts test for foreign corporations. The result is to effectively immunize foreign corporations for harms in the United States as long as the plaintiff's homestate or state of injury lacks minimum contacts with the corporation. Today, people injured by foreign corporations can sue in any state in which minimum contacts exists between the foreign corporation and the state. H.R. 420 would limit lawsuits against foreign corporations to 1) the plaintiff's home state, 2) the state of injury or 3) the state of the corporation's "principal place of business." The problem is that often the plaintiff's homestate or the state of injury will lack sufficient minimum contacts with the corporation. For example, If France's CheeseCo manfactures poison cheese, sends the poison cheese to New York which then gets shipped to Florida, an injured consumer in Florida would be unable to sue after H.R. 420. CheeseCo lacks minimum contacts with Florida, the plaintiff's home state and state of injury. Currently, the plaintiff could sue in New York becuase CheeseCo has minimum contacts with New York. If HR 420 is passed, however, since CheeseCo's principal place of business is not New York, and a conventional minimum contacts analysis is barred, the plaintiff's only recourse would be to sue in France. Given the expense, it's not going to happen.

Third, H.R. 420 will allow the recovery of "reasonable attorney fees" on a Rule 11 sanction. This burdens the party with less bargaining power because now relatively poorer plaintiffs have to fear the possibility of paying for the defendant's attorney fees. Again, this will discourage meritorious claims and encourage social waste on the part of large corporate defendants.

Fourth, H.R. 420 will dispose of the "safe harbor" protection of Rule 11. As it currently stands, Rule 11 allows an attorney 21 days to withdraw an objectionable pleading under the rule. H.R. 420 will impose mandatory penalities instead. Minor technical violations will not automatically give rise to penalties whereas before all attorneys received was the change to fix the minor errors. "Safe harbor" protects all parties from minor errors and increases judicial economy by preventing sanctioning hearings when unneccessary.

Fifth, H.R. 420 would result in detrimental reliance because it would apply as soon as Bush signs the bill. All pending litigation would be subject to the New Rule 11. Needless to say, the benefit to corporate defendants is immediate considering that plaintiffs currently filing lawsuits must fear being subject to New Rule 11 violations.

Finally, H.R. 420 will force state courts to conduct Rule 11 hearings. This is a revolutionary, potentially unconstitutional, encroachment on federalism. Conservatives claim to be for state's rights; if it wasn't obvious before that they don't care about state's rights, that's clear now.

Fight back against the right-wing assault on the legal system. Corporate Evil will be unquestionably furthered by H.R. 420. Help preserve Rule 11 as is by visiting this link.

Cheney Revealed as Mastermind Behind Plamegate

Will this be another Watergate? Unlikely, considering the partisan breakdown of Congress, but not impossible. Republicans are already starting to turn against Bush as his popularity dwindles. Every GOP Congressmen and many Senators need to run for re-election next year; the game at this point is to do anything and everything to win, including turning on beloved Bush.

All of this is relevant, of course, due to the stunning admission that Dick Cheney was I. Lewis Libby's source in the Valerie Plame investigation. To recap the story, Libby told several journalists, including right wing hack Robert Novak, that Bush administration critic Joe Wilson had a wife named Valerie Plame. Plame was a CIA officer who worked undercover on weapons of mass destruction. Novak printed an article outing Plame, her cover was blown, and the millions of dollars of Plame's work was wasted. Some have speculated that some of her contacts may have been killed as the result of having her cover blown. Regardless, it is a federal crime to knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover government agent. This is a lot more serious than Whitewater and even more serious than Watergate when you consider that people have died for Cheney's craven political move.

Stay tuned. Libby, and likely Karl Rove as well, will be indicted later this week. The crimes of the Republican Party continue to mount. For once, they are having to actually pay the price.

The Fine Line Between Torture and Murder

I know that many normally kind hearted liberals take a rather conservative stance when it comes to torture. Many people think that torture is justified by the potential to prevent future terrorist acts or other civilian deaths.

First, the problem is that medical experts don't believe that torture is an effective means of combating terrorism. Second, torture that ends up in death becomes first degree murder via premeditation and deliberation.

Up to this point, most torture proponents would scoff at the notion that the United States kills detainees during torture. The smoking gun that torture kills arrived yesterday. The ACLU released a report documenting that 44 people have died during or after interrogations. Enough evidence exists to classify 21 of those deaths as homicides. The most chilling part of the report: 8 of the homicides resulted from abusive techniques by military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation and blunt force injuries.

The Republican led defense department has created a climate where interrogators believe that they have the right to kill. All the harms of torture are abundant -- the killings, the physical pain, the psychological damage inflicted upon both the tortured and torturer -- yet none of the so-called "benefits" of torture exist. No terrorist attacks have been prevented via torture; obviously the Bush administration would publicize such an event had it occurred.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Why is Tom DeLay smiling?

Because the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy told him to do it.

The above picture is Tom DeLay's mug shot. As you likely know, Tom DeLay, the Republican House Majority Leader, was recently indicted on felony charges on conspiracy and money-laundering. DeLay is smiling because the Republican PR machine correctly predicted that Democrats will want to use the mug shot in campaign ads next year. Their idea was that a smiling DeLay doesn't pack as much punch.

However, DeLay goes beyond smiling here. It's an astonishingly maniacal grin more worthy of a madman than a congressman. It makes DeLay look 100% phony. It also makes him look like a bit of a fool. Nice try Mr. DeLay, but we'll be seeing this picture for a long time.

If a Democrat did what Tom DeLay has done, there would be no discussion about his political future. He would have none. The corporate media and their right-wing allies would be making this the #1 story each and every day of the week. The Democrats lack the ability to use a complicit news media to further the attack on DeLay, but the Democrats still need to make a more consistent case against Tom DeLay. Each and every day several congressmen and other important Democrats should be giving speeches railing against 1) corruption in general and 2) DeLay's corruption in particular. Further, the Democrats need to point out that Tom DeLay's behavior is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to Corporate Republican politics. Finally, Democrats need to connect Bush with DeLay as much as possible. The message should be clear: if Bush won't condemn DeLay, then Bush and the rest of the GOP approve of massive corruption.

Tom DeLay's felonies provide the perfect ammunition to obliterate the Republicans at the ballot box next year. Democrats must seize the moment and point out these essential truths to the American people.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mad Cow Outbreak?

I've long intended to do an extensive post on mad cow disease, but sadly, today isn't the day. For now, suffice it to say that a real threat of a mad cow epidemic exists due to our government's decidely lax standards regarding Mad Cow disease.

When mad cow disease spreads to humans, it becomes CJD disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). 9 people have suspected cases of CJD in Idaho; the only way to test is after death by an autopsy. Usually Idaho has only one case per year.

The attached report says that this isn't mad cow disease, silly, it's "sporadic CJD", the naturally occuring cousin of CJD. Of course, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the 9 cases are "sporadic CJD" because no tests have been done on the victims. This article just wants to refrain from sounding alarmist so it forecloses the possibility that the 9-fold increase in CJD might just have something to do with mad cow disease.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Eating beef these days is like having sex without a condom.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Response to An Anonymous Craigslist Post

A received a thoughtful yet misleading response to my anti-Home Depot post. I received the response outside the blog, so here's my response on my turf.

The Anonymous Poster attacks my entire argument by quoting just two paragraphs and making all sorts of assumptions. 1) He correctly points out that I was a bit loose with my use of the term "free market" and 2) he knows more about the hardware/home repair market and he's eager to make that count for something. The Anonymous Poster quotes from my first section, so here it is again, verbatim:

Squelching Competition, Injuring the Free Market

The Home Depot is the prototypical big box store. By proving every kind of product relating to "Hardware and Home Repair" under one roof, and doing so on a massive scale across America, no other business could possibly hope to compete. At this point in time, it would be functionally impossible for any new business to compete with the Home Depot unless they were of a similar massive size.

Is this capitalism? Is this the free market? No. The amount of wealth required to compete with the Home Depot is impossible for any competitor to attain, so for all practical purposes, The Home Depot has a monopoly on the home repair market. The only reason any other hardware stores are ever frequented is when a trip to The Home Depot is too far. No one can compete with their prices due to the scale of The Home Depot's operation.

Michael Alexander v. The Anonymous Poster

The Anonymous Poster's argument will be in italics. Let's begin.

You obviously have no understanding of capitalism or free markets. You are right in pointing out that San Francisco does not have open markets.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors stilts the laws in favor of minority-owned enterprises, women-owned enterprises and single store operators. They tax businesses up the wazoo so thay can pay homeless advocate organizations to lobby for their re-election campaigns and pad their personal expense/recreation accounts. Aside from these inconsistencies, the San Francisco retail home repair supplies market is a open, free and fair.

Home Depot has, through diligent efforts of its managers and utilization of resources, achieved enormous scales of economy.

That's a mouthful. First, my argument in that particular section centered on the fact that The Home Depot is an anti-competitive business. Personally, though I speak of a free market, I am not in favor of what conservatives consider a pure free market. We need government regulation of the market to ensure fairness. Antitrust law, for example, arguably infringes upon a pure "free market". The free market I speak of is the exact same on found in the Wikipedia link that the Anonymous Poster included in his response: A free market is an idealised market where all transfers of money, goods, and services are devoid of coercion and theft. Monopolies, as yet another Wikipedia link shows, defy the principles of the free market. And true capitalism, as another Wikipedia link can point out, involves the use of a free market. Ergo, under my use of the term "free market" (which is indeed a debated term), anti-competitve businesses harm the free market. My point is clear regardless of terminology.

Second, as far as my research shows, the Anonymous Poster is misusing the term "open market". Wikipedia defines it as the market in which bonds are sold. Open market operations also refer to a government's monetary policy. I believe he's really just saying the market's unfair because of the alleged bias the Anonymous Poster perceives.

I could write six or seven blogs worth of info about how ignorant the Anonymous Poster's next comment is, but I'll keep it short. The creation and enforcement of laws to address discrimination is an important enterprise. Social revolutions occurred after Brown v. Board of Education, desegregation laws, the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, and affirmative action. Women and minorities began to be able to compete somewhat more fairly with white males. The playing field is not balanced. White people make far more money than any other race, by the numbers. Men make more money than women by any empirical measure. Overt racism isn't the problem anymore, although it exists. Institutional racism keeps those without power in their place. If you are black, poor and live in the ghetto, your chances of success in life are diminished greatly. The schools aren't as good, you don't have those rich uncles, you get passed up for jobs in favor of whites and your role models are musicians and athletes, not judges and doctors.

We have a choice: either use affirmative action to remedy these undeniable problems or accept the status quo. Will there be isolated incidences of so-called "reverse racism"? Yes. Will there be a whole lot more widespread incidences of actual racism without affirmative action? Undeniably yes. It's a choice we have to make as a society. Whites, particuarly white males, have had all the benefits for 200 years and we now are creatures of entrenched privilege. To create a more just society, we need to start fixing these problems and giving women and minorities a chance to compete. Especially in business, where money can be made which can help create future generations of success stories. The Anonymous Poster is obviously a white male with little outside perspective.

Third, he correctly acknowledges that Home Depot works on economies of scale. Economies of scale occur when a business can increase the quantity of all input factors and costs increase proportionately. Under these conditions, a business can grow as large as their bank account allows. Economies of scale, at some point, get too large and start to threaten smaller businesses who don't have as large of a bank account. Why it's happened is irrelevant -- good business practices may have made The Home Depot what it is, but what it is today is the #2 retailer in the world who has gotten far too big for its own good.

Ok, back to The Anonymous Poster's argument.:

Its cost of sales for a garden hose or table saw is significantly lower than a typical hardware store that buys through a distributor. However, everybody that goes to Home Depot is shopping for a particular experience and it is primarily based on factors such as price, the reliability of products being in inventory and the cleanliness of the store. Home Depot is NOT the only successful business model in hardware/home repair. While the businesses that had shoddy service, marginal products and inconvenient locations have gone out of business, others have thrived in a Home Depot era. In San Rafael, Jackson's Hardware continues to thrive because it focuses on two segments:
Wealthy/time-constrained/home repair unsavvy retail customers who are looking for personalized service that Home Depot personnel are unable to provide;
Professional contractors who need custom-orders prepared for pickup or delivery at a specified time to meet project deadlines.

The retail group may be include individuals who occasionally shop at Home Depot, but also shop at Jackson's because Jackson's provides tools that are unavailable at any other store. For example, Jacksons provides tools for purchase or rental that Home Depot doesn't even carry, or that would be uneconomical to carry. Who needs to buy an industrial strength 25lb, 6 foot long steel weed wrench for $200 (unavailable at Home Depot) when you can rent it for $14/day? Without it, it is impossible to remove the invassive species plants like French Broom that grow on Marin County hillsides in areas like GGNRA, China Camp State Park, etc.

The Contractor group is often less price sensitive than most retail consumers. That is because the contractor often bills the customer for supplies... sometimes for tools as well as supplies. Consumers don't insist that the contractor go out and price-shop, because the price of the contractor is $50/hour. Contractors buy heaps of supplies on every job they undertake.

In this section, the Anonymous Poster just wants to show me he knows more than I do about Home Repair. Fair enough. But nothing he says changes any of my points. Here's his point: The Home Depot is not anti-competitive because there are other kinds of hardware/home repair businesses that stress service over price. The problem with this is that The Home Depot, as a corporation, has a duty to its shareholders. They must continue to increase profits. If The Home Depot realizes they are losing money to Jackson's because of their services, the Home Depot will adapt. I admit to not understanding the finer points of this particular market, but only a small percentage of businesses will survive the Home Depot's wrath solely due to their superior serivce. Many people who used to frequent small hardware stores in San Francisco will switch to Home Depot. It's moronic to say that no one will. Obviously some won't. But just as obviously, some will.

Second, the Anonymous Poster also mentions that occassional shoppers profit from the Home Depot because of their low prices on six foot steel weed wrenches, something I'm sure you've had to buy at some point. This assumes that anything that saves money makes it good. The problem is that there are costs associated with low, low prices. These costs go to society everytime we save $5 shopping at Walmart or Home Depot. They include lost wages from underpaid workers, lost profits from ruined small businesses and promotion of environmentally unsafe products.

Back to the AP for his final point:

If Home Depot consolidates some of the work currently being done by businesses in San Francisco, then maybe the industrial shit between the Mission district and Hunter's point will be turned into usefull commercial space that residents of the city will venture into. Instead, it is a maze of eyesore mafia businesses.

Well the mafia charge sounds juicy, but I don't know anything about that. What I do know is that the area near the proposed Home Depot site is indeed mess of "industrial shit." Most of the area is heavily polluted from industry and the military. In a horrible moment of city planning, the city placed large housing projects in this mostly industrial area. The projects, while well intentioned, largely were underfunded and didn't provide for a neighborhood in the way that affordable homes would have. As a result, the area is a mess. It needs to be cleaned up and turned into housing, if possible to create actual neighborhoods that promote community. If not, it needs to be left industrial and the city needs to make it as clean as possible. Business is fine, I have no problem with that, but any business needs to be socially responsible. The Home Depot is not.
Protect the Free Market: Oppose Home Depot

The Home Depot is the second largest retailer in the United States, trailing only Walmart. The big box power of Home Depot is not limited to America; Home Depot is also the third largest retailer in the world. Last year, The Home Depot collected over $73 billion in revenue. In short, Home Depot is one of the two most powerful corporate retailers on the planet.

Now The Home Depot wants to open up a store in San Francisco. This plan must be opposed at all costs by anyone with a say in the matter.


a. Squashing Competition, Injuring the Free Market

The Home Depot is the prototypical big box store. By proving every kind of product relating to "Hardware and Home Repair" under one roof, and doing so on a massive scale across America, no other business could possibly hope to compete. At this point in time, it would be functionally impossible for any new business to compete with the Home Depot unless they were of a similar massive size.

Is this capitalism? Is this the free market? No. The amount of wealth required to compete with the Home Depot is impossible for any competitor to attain, so for all practical purposes, The Home Depot has a monopoly on the home repair market. The only reason any other hardware stores are ever frequented is when a trip to The Home Depot is too far. No one can compete with their prices due to the scale of The Home Depot's operation.

b. No new jobs will be created by The Home Depot and even if they are, 200 measly jobs doesn't justify the costs.

Those in favor of The Home Depot point to the 200 new jobs that will be created by the store. Those opposed point out that those 200 jobs have to come from somewhere and the net result will be 0 new jobs. The reason for this is simple Econ 1: there is no shortage of demand for hardware/home repair products, adding to the supply with a new Home Depot store means that existing suppliers will lose business, small suppliers who have lower profit margins will be forced to close their businesses and fire employees due to the lack of demand. So the argument regarding the 200 new jobs is a phony, meritless argument. Further, the jobs at The Home Depot will 1) pay less and 2) provide for less benefits than the jobs at smaller, independent hardware stores.

Mayor Gavin Newsom supports the store because of the creation of 200 new jobs. This makes me wonder: if the Al Qaeda wanted to build a terrorist training camp in San Francisco, would Newsom support it if it created 200 new jobs? Obviously not. That displays the fundamental flaw in Newsom's logic: if you create jobs, even just a couple hundred, that automatically negates any negative effect from the business. That's not true, even without going back and remembering that 200 new jobs will NOT be created because existing people will lose their jobs. The costs to the city in injuring existing competition, siphoning cash from the local economy, helping the Republican party and encouraging racism/sexism far outweigh any benefit of 200 small jobs.

c. Using the same logic, increased revenues in property taxes won't actually occur.

Another phony argument is the one that property taxes will provide San Francisco with an infusion in cash -- when smaller hardware stores are forced to close, the property tax gain to San Francisco will be minimal if at all.

d. The Home Depot will siphon cash from the San Francisco economy.

Another reason why The Home Depot will hurt San Francisco: the profits made at the new store will go to corporate executives and shareholders not in San Francisco. The profits made at smaller, independent hardware store and reinfused into our local economy because the business owners live in the Bay Area. So allowing The Home Depot to move in drains our city of cash that gets funneled through all sorts of businesses.

e. Supporting the Home Depot empowers the Republican Party.

The Home Depot gives 82% of its political donations to the Republican Party. Since their revenues are so high, this is an enormous amount of money: $367,500 in the past year alone. Their corporate executives exclusively donate to the Republican Party. Currently, SanBush got a measly 15% of the vote on his way to re-election last year. The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: we do not support the policies of the Republican Party and we do not want to empower them. Allowing The Home Depot to profit off of San Francisco's residents does exactly that, however.

Francisco has no elected Republican office holders. For the past 12 Presidential elections, the Democrat candidate has won the majority of San Francisco.

f. The Home Depot is racist and sexist

Last month, The Home Depot settled a $5.5 million dollar class action lawsuit for discriminating against its employees based upon race, color and sex. In addition, the company retaliated against employees who complained.

Is this the kind of socially irresponsible company we want in liberal San Francisco?

g. If San Francisco can't stop big box stores, no other city can.

San Francisco is a liberal mecca, as most of us here appreciate. In many ways, our city represents the left boundary as to how liberal a city can be run. Other cities look to San Francisco for how far left they can go; Boston or Chicago is unlikely to do something more liberal than what we do in San Francisco.

So if San Francisco allows The Home Depot to build a massive new store, other cities will get the idea that they have no choice but to allow big box stores to build where they want. The result: more of the harm that the Home Depot generates.

h. If Home Depot comes, Walmart is next

Allowing The Home Depot to open in San Francisco means that the city would have no justification whatsoever for refusing to allow Walmart to open in San Francisco. Both businesses define "big box." Opposition to Walmart is much more intense because the scale of Walmart's corporate misdeeds are more well known and documented. Their low, low prices of Walmart easily expose it as a corporate plunderer while The Home Depot isn't considered to be as much of a threat to the free market. The numbers don't back up this perception, however, considering that Walmart and The Home Depot are #1 and #2 in the USA when it comes to big box stores.

How could the city possibly reject Walmart if The Home Depot is allowed to move in? What justification would we have? Accepting The Home Depot creates precedent by having the city, on record, refute all of my arguments against The Home Depot. Walmart would become inevitable.


Unlike my usual posts on this blog, this story has a bit to do with me. I was forced to move out of my last apartment in Daly City, California due to the construction of a Home Depot store across the street. Despite being an active Daly City voter who followed local politics, I received absolutely no notice of any sort of debate over The Home Depot project. In fact, construction began before residents were even notified that The Home Depot was the store moving in. Keep in mind that I lived directly across the street.

In The Home Depot's rush to make big profits this Christmas season, construction began every morning at 8am, including some Saturdays. Promptly at 8am, an enormous drilling began that shook the walls of our apartment. When you walked outside, you had to cover your ears or risk hearing damage. It was a miserable experience. When I was completely unable to study for my law school finals this May due to the noise, I moved.

Now I reside in San Francisco. San Francisco doesn't have a Home Depot store, but in addition to the new Daly City store located 1/2 mile south of the city, there is already a Home Depot in nearby Colma, which is just 15 minutes away. If you want to shop at The Home Depot, you have two easy options.

That's not enough for The Home Depot, however. Now The Home Depot wants to open up a store in San Francisco's city limits as well. They aren't in business to compete; they are in business to destroy all competition. The profits from opening up the San Francisco store won't be as high as most new Home Depots are since the new store will mostly drain the profits of the 2 existing Home Depots. The point is to make just enough profit in San Francisco to stay alive until all hardware competition is run out of business.

In July of this year, the Planning Commission voted to allow The Home Depot to build their store in San Francisco. This vote was supported by the kind of specious logic provided by Commissioner Michael J. Antonini: "I don't know that having a store in San Francisco is going to all of a sudden cause customers who are shopping at other hardware stores to now shop at Home Depot." Is he saying that every shopper at the Home Depot will be someone who doesn't shop at existing hardware stores? That somehow Home Depot's arrival will create a spike in demand for hardware and home repair products? Antonini's logic is ludicrous and quite frankly it's an abomination that someone with such limited mental capacity would be serving in any position of importance.

The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco have the final say on the project, although apparently they can only reject it based on the impact to the environment, not on any concerns about "big box" stores. Home Depot is treating this like a war, complete with a psy-ops department to launch a massive propaganda campaign. Home Depot has paid for its supporters to travel to public debates and has provided their supporters with free meals. This past weekend, the Home Depot staged a propaganda booth at a local street fair. No other booth had a corporate theme and politics were specifically omitted from the event. The planners of the event strongly implied that The Home Depot was a main reason that the festival occurred. Hogwash. The event didn't require much money at all and it's happened for the past 2 years without the support of corporate politics. The planners essentially argue that "but for" the Home Depot's participation, the event would not have happened. Considering that it turned into a propaganda rally and misled citizens, perhaps it shouldn't have happened. This argument just doesn't hold water, however, and the festival could easily have gone on without the support of The Home Depot.

Maybe it's too late to do anything. Maybe The Home Depot's construction is inevitable and big box stores can't be stopped. The ramifications of this particular store are huge and extend beyond local concerns to national and worldwide concerns. Right now, a small group of Supervisors in San Francisco hold the decision in their hands. All of them lean left; some of them are quite progressive. Craven political concerns should not factor into any of their decisions. I am hopeful that the Board of Supervisors will make the moral decision and stop the construction of a socially irresponsible big box store in San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blowing Smoke

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has released more than 2000 pages of documents relating to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. You can check out detailed scans of some of these documents at The Smoking Gun website.

They show two things: 1) Harriet Miers loves George Bush and 2) Harriet Miers isn't too bright.

Some examples (these are 100% real, even though they sound like something from The Onion:

"Dear Governor GWB, You are the best governor ever -- deserving of great respect! Thank you for your listening and for your time this week."

"Jesus is blessed!"

"Thank you for taking the time to visit in the office and on the plane back. Cool!
Keep up all the great work. The State is in great hands. Thanks also for yours and your family's personal sacrifice."

"Thank you for all you and Laura do for the people of our State!"

"You and Laura are the greatest!"

Good grief.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Call for a Brain Drain.

A large part of the problems with America is that most of our intelligent citizens choose to work for large corporations and their cronies, eg., insurance companies and corporate defense firms. The motto of University of San Francisco, where I attend law school, is "educating hearts and minds to change the world." Sadly, I feel that most of my colleagues won't be changing the world for the better. In this post, I propose that all intelligent people stop sacrificing the interests of the common good for the interests of their bank account. Smart people need to stop selling out.

It's only natural to want to earn money and become rich. Everyone wants to live a life free of stress as much as possible. No one wants to worry about creditors and living paycheck to paycheck. Everyone wants to own their own home and provide for their family. For the most part, these are noble goals and I share them. The problem is that most people I know, even if they don't explicitly express it, want more than basic security. They want the luxuries and the unneccessaries. They want to be able to take large vacations, get that 50inch plasma television and have that shiny new Mercedes in the driveway. As such, smart people mostly just want to get the jobs that pay the highest so that those smart people can maximize their own individual happiness and pleasure.

The problem with this approach is that it assumes the world exists in a vaccum. It assumes that all of our lives are meaningless other than how much money we earn. It assumes that we, as individuals, have no power to change the world for the better.

The reality is that when you choose to work for an insurance defense firm, you are hurting the world. You are ensuring that the rich and powerful get the best and brightest minds to work for them which the poor and powerless are stuck with the remainder. Of course, everyone deserves a defense, even corporate polluters and insurance companies. The real question is: do you want to be that person?

I propose a massive brain drain, particularly among lawyers since that's my future profession and I know the most about it. If smart people stop working for evil corporations (distinguished from socially responsible corporations), corporate defense firms and insurance defense firms, then those interests will suffer as a result. The other side -- plaintiff's firms, government agencies, nonprofits, etc -- will have their interests increased because the quality of their representation will be so much better. The result: more social justice in the world, less corporate activism creeping into the law. In my world, the insurance defense companies will still have lawyers -- but they'll have relatively crappy lawyers because the most sought after, exclusive jobs will be those that HELP the world rather than injure the world, and the top tiers will work at those positions.

I have no empirical evidence to back up this claim, but I'm 99.99% sure it's true: liberals, on the whole, are smarter than conservatives. This is true at least until we enter the working world. Many one-time "liberals" find that their new jobs at corporate law firms put their personal beliefs in direct opposition to their professional beliefs. Slowly, without noticing, these "liberals" become conservatives because the mental schism is unsustainable over a long period of time. People don't want to feel like they are hurting the world or that their jobs are pointless, so they change their personal beliefs to accomodate their professional life.

Why are liberals, on the whole, smarter than conservatives? This is a pretty dicey issue, but let me consider it nonetheless. First, many conservatives are very intelligent. I'm just talking about comparing the two groups on the whole. We all know that people like John Roberts are genuises. Second, liberals tend to value empiricism and facts while conservatives value emotion and faith. Many conservatives believe in a literal reading of the Bible and shun science that says global warming doesn't exist. Denying proven facts defies reason and intelligence. Third, being liberal necessarily requires a more critical mind than being conservative. Conservatism is all about reaching back to the past and maintaining the status quo. Liberalism is about critically thinking about the errors in our society and coming up with solutions for progress. This kind of thought requires a higher intellectual capacity than mere maintenance of the status quo.

Now, of course, many very poor and under-educated people are very liberal nonetheless. I'm not addressing these people in this article however. My point is that of the educated class of people who compose tomorrow's lawyers, executives and other high level jobs, the vast majority of these people start out their professional lives as liberals.

So what are all these liberals selling out their bodies, minds and skills to help further the corporate agenda? Many of them won't ever ask themselves this question. It's too dangerous to their fundamental beliefs. They'll say that someone has to do it, that they donate a lot of money, that they don't really make a difference anyways, that they couldn't do any good if they tried. These are all post-hoc rationalizations for why you decided to ignore your values in favor of cold hard cash.

So if you choose to work for Greenpeace, you may not have that Mercedes in your driveway. You might not be able to watch HDTV on your new plasma screen. But when you die and your life's work is complete, you will have made a difference. You will have used your "heart and mind to change the world." Your plasma screen won't go into the coffin with you, but the lasting impression that you've made upon this world will. If only smart people could resist the temptations of greed and opulence, we could make this world a better place. I've made my choice.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The First Veto.

For four and a half years, George Bush has never exercised one of the most powerful of Presidential powers: the veto. Congress has mostly been Bush's loyal accomplice in the pro-wealthy, pro-war agenda of the GOP, so there's simply been no need.

That may change. Bush has promised to veto a new bill passed in the Senate, 90-9, which bars the use of
"cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control of the United States government."

The bill's sponsor, conservative John McCain (who passes for a "moderate" in our backwards, right-tilted world), says the point of the bill is two-fold: 1) send a message to the world that the USA does not tolerate torture and 2) tell our soldiers exactly what kind of conduct is permissible when interviewing detainees. On both points, of course John McCain is correct.

Bush doesn't care. His entire foreign policy has been built about not giving one lick about what the world thinks. To him, the only people's opinions who matter are his base of conservative Christian Republicans. Second, Bush doesn't want soldiers to stop using torture. The Bush Administration simply doesn't care or respect the fundamental dignity that every human life has. Despite claiming to be Christians, they violate the tenents of their believes by condoning torture.

Torture isn't being kept around because it works. It doesn't. Study after study shows that torture results in bad information. Even if it does work, it's immoral. Torture is being maintained because an old-boys network has always done it that way. The threat of torture, unfortunately, may be seen to serve as a deterrent.

Yet another example of why George Bush is a giant hypocrite.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Did Bush Out Plame?

George Stephanopoulos mentioned this weekend that a source close to him said that George Bush and Dick Cheney were involved in some of the discussions about what to do about Joe Wilson. Evidence has emerged that Bush knew Plame was a secret agent 7 days before she was outed. Although Bush's involvement almostly certainly won't be proven, this would be an impeachable offense.

Read much more at the American Prospect.