Category Archives: Law

Lies and damned lies.

Because I mentioned it in a reply to an earlier post, I need to mention that Beverly Young Nelson apparently added the date and place to the inscription Roy Moore put in her yearbook. The way Vox tells it, that doesn’t constitute forgery. In her article, Emily Stewart links to Breitbart, which currently defends identifying the inscription as forgery.

The Breitbart writer, Joel B. Pollak, cites Black’s Law Dictionary in support of the forgery claim. He also cites several instances where Nelson and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, lumped the timestamp in with the rest of the inscription as belonging to Moore — instances Stewart never bothers to mention in her article. The definition Pollak cites appears thus:

forgery, n. 1. The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine … 2. A false or altered document made to look genuine by someone with the intent to deceive … 3. Under the Model Penal Code, the act of fraudulently altering, authenticating, issuing, or transferring a writing without appropriate authorization.

Pollak goes on:

Note that forgery includes altering a real document. It does not matter if part of the document — say, the signature — is real. If any part of the document is altered and presented as original and authentic, it is a forgery and the entire document is legally useless — or worse than useless, since it impeaches the credibility of the person presenting it.

Not being a legal scholar, and thus not having read the hundreds of cases which establish precedent for how to interpret forgery in a juridical sense, I can’t really say whether Nelson’s yearbook legally constitutes forgery. And I do think that Stewart reports on this story in bad faith by not even acknowledging that Nelson made a false claim — that is, she lied — about the nature of the inscription as a whole in the past.

Unfair or not, the fact that Nelson has been caught having made at least one false claim about her evidence against Moore makes it easier for people like Pollak to “impeach” her credibility.

At the same time, Nelson maintains that the actual signature belongs to Moore. Anyone who has seen the photo of the inscription can clearly see the handwriting difference between Nelson’s ad hoc timestamp and the inscription/signature. Nelson is claiming that even though she added the date/place, the rest is genuine.

None of this is to say that Nelson couldn’t have forged the whole thing, or had someone else do it. I lack the expertise to make an empirical evaluation of that sort of thing.

What I do know is that Moore has lied about knowing the women he dated. He believes that the last time America was great was when slavery was legal. He willfully spreads misinformation about Muslims in America. He refuses to obey the law of the land when it suits him. This man is a flagrant liar and a bigot, and often both at the same time.

I don’t want the Joel Pollaks of the world lecturing me about the impeachability of a woman who added a timestamp to a yearbook inscription and lied about it. Not when the person they’re defending has, for what I can only surmise is political expediency, impugned the honor of women who had, at one time, been proud to have known him. And not when that person profanes my faith by using it as an excuse to tell damned lies about good people.

The sad truth of the Roy Moore campaign is that this whole fracas is a sideshow. It’s a sideshow that continues to reveal the pathetic state of American culture. In a healthy society, Roy Moore wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming a U.S. Senator. But this is America. Donald Trump is our president. Here we are.


The only part that is concerning.

Others in Alabama shrugged at the allegations. “There’s nothing to see here,” said Jim Zeigler, the state auditor and a longtime supporter of Mr. Moore. “Single man, early 30s, never been married, dating teenage girls. Never been married and he liked younger girls. According to The Washington Post account he never had sexual intercourse with any of them.” […]

Mr. Zeigler said the account given by Ms. Corfman was “the only part that is concerning.” As Mr. Zeigler described it: “He went a little too far and he stopped.”

Had the girl been 16 at the time and not 14, he added, “it would have been perfectly acceptable.”

–Richard Fausset, Jonathan Martin, Campbell Robertson, “Sex Allegations Against Roy Moore Send Republicans Reeling”

Initial WaPo article.


Judge Roy Moore and American Christianity

In an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for Vox, one of Alabama’s Republican senatorial candidates, Judge Roy Moore, attempted to clarify his view of the relationship between the American Constitution and Christianity:

But to deny God — to deny Christianity or Christian principles — is to deny what the First Amendment was established for. You see, the First Amendment was established on Christian principles, because it was Jesus that said this: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and render unto God the things that are God’s.” He recognized the jurisdiction the government does not have — and that was the freedom of conscience.

If you were a complete atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or whatever, you have freedom in this country to worship God and you can’t be forced otherwise. That’s a Christian concept. It’s not a Muslim concept.

Developing his theme of contrast between Christianity and Islam, Moore claimed this:

There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities.

But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.

To recap: the U. S. Constitution — the entire basis of the American legal system — is founded on Christian principles, but Sharia law is different because it is founded on religious concepts.

Also, when Stein challenges Moore to elaborate on those communities allegedly living under Sharia law, Moore replies, “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter.” Because why would anybody care about things like verifiable evidence for  bold claims about a key issue?

Moore’s most basic claims about the legal relationship between religion and the U. S. Constitution are self-evidently contradictory and incoherent. By the way, Moore is a former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. And if you believe the polls, he’s about to be the Republican nominee for Jeff Sessions’s old Senate seat. In practice, this means that the people of Alabama are very likely to make him their next U. S. senator.

This is significant to me only as a barometer of the degree to which not-insignificant portions of the electorate are eager to embrace patent fruitcakery, so long as it is sufficiently white and sufficiently bigoted. As a Christian, I feel that it’s more significant to me because I hate that people like Moore too often symbolize my faith to people on all sides of the front lines in America’s culture wars.

Many on the right hasten to offer apologetics for his pernicious balderdash; many on the left hasten to cast all American Christians from the same mold as Moore, because they think that, deep down, he’s merely the most blatant, odious symptom of our unsupportable mass delusion. Judge Moore does not speak for me. To the extent that he represents any historical variant of the rich, multilayered tapestry of the Christian religion, he is representative of those threads tangled together underneath a moldy coffee stain.

And if you think Judge Moore speaks for you, then you are welcome to all the justifiable criticism and caricaturization that inevitably follows when a buffoon who has smeared himself in feces lights himself on fire and sings the national anthem in the public square. It’s an offensive spectacle to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear, and it is to be greatly regretted that the stench will cling to the clothes of all who happened to be present to witness it, regardless of where they happened to be standing at the time.


You won’t get privacy on the Republican party line.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation has pointed out, there are also serious implications for security: If ISPs look to sell consumer data, “internet providers will need to record and store even more sensitive data on their customers, which will become a target for hackers.” Even if they anonymize your sensitive data before they sell it to advertisers, they need to collect it first—and these companies don’t exactly have a perfect track record in protecting consumer data. In 2015, for example, Comcast paid $33 million as part of a settlement for accidentally releasing information about users who had paid the company to keep their phone numbers unlisted, including domestic violence victims.

This is all made much more difficult for consumers by the dearth of broadband competition. More than half of Americans have either one or even no options for providers, so if you don’t like your ISP’s data collection policies, chances are you won’t be able to do much about it, and providers know that. It’s highly unlikely that providers, particularly the dominant companies, will choose to forego those sweet advertising dollars in order to secure their customers’ privacy, when they know those customers don’t have much choice. […]

All is not completely lost. Your ISP still has to allow you to opt out of having your data sold, so you can call them or go online to find out how to do that. (If you do that, let us know how it went.) But today’s news is devastating for privacy overall. Consumers could have had more control over their privacy; your data could have been safer. Things could have been better, if Congress had done what it usually does and done nothing. Instead, they made things worse for anyone who doesn’t run an internet company or an advertising agency.

–Libby Watson, Congress Just Gave Internet Providers the Green Light to Sell You Browsing History Without Consent

 


“I think people should feel reassured that the rules cannot be violated”

Look, I think it’s important to understand that these minimization procedures are taken very seriously, and all other agencies that are handling raw signals intelligence are essentially going to have to import these very complex oversight and compliance mechanisms that currently exist at the NSA.

Within the NSA, those are extremely strong and protective mechanisms. I think people should feel reassured that the rules cannot be violated—certainly not without it coming to the attention of oversight and compliance bodies. I am confident that all of the agencies in the U.S. intelligence community will discharge those very same obligations with the same level of diligence and rigor, adhering to both the spirit and the letter of the law.

–Susan Hennessey, interviewed by Kaveh Waddell for the Atlantic


Not my president, quoth the constitutional lawyer

Donald Trump ran on a platform of relentless, thoroughgoing rejection of the Constitution itself, and its underlying principle of democratic self-government and individual rights. True, he never endorsed quartering of troops in private homes in time of peace, but aside from that there is hardly a provision of the Bill of Rights or later amendments he did not explicitly promise to override, from First Amendment freedom of the press and of religion to Fourth Amendment freedom from “unreasonable searches and seizures” to Sixth Amendment right to counsel to Fourteenth Amendment birthright citizenship and Equal Protection and Fifteenth Amendment voting rights.

Like an admissions officer at Trump University, he offered Americans a bag of magic beans and asked them in exchange to hand over their rights and their form of government.

Smiling, nearly 60 million complied.

I deny their right to give Trump my rights or those of others who cannot defend themselves. No result is legitimate that threatens the Constitution its very promise of the “blessings of liberty.” No transient plurality, no matter how angry, has the power to strip minorities of equal status and protection; no mass of voters, no matter how frightened, has the power to vote away the democratic future of their children and their children’s children. […]

The role of a professorial figure in crisis is to cluck reassuringly, note that something similar happened during the Taylor administration, and remind citizens that America is a favored nation and all will be well as we muddle through under God’s beneficent providence. But there is no evidence that any of that is true. The Constitution is broken, and I don’t know how, or whether, it will be fixed.

But I know this as well: Trump was elected President on November 8.

But he is not my president and he never will be.

–Garrett Epps, Donald Trump Has Broken the Constitution

So: the Constitution is broken and Donald Trump will never be the president and the 60 million American people who didn’t vote the way Epps wanted them to don’t actually have the right to vote. Glad we got that settled. Now that Epps has effectively liberated himself from the rules of law and social reality, he is (at last!) on the same ideological footing as Donald J. Trump. What wonders can such men achieve in dialectical tandem, free of such paltry constraints? We shall see, dear reader. We shall see…


“He appealed to common sense.”

The end of the six-week trial for seven people who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon can be summed up in two words: not guilty.

A 12-person jury found occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty Thursday of the government’s primary charge: conspiracy to impede federal officers by force, threat or intimidation. Their five co-defendants — Jeff Banta, Shawna Cox, David Fry, Kenneth Medenbach and Neil Wampler — have all been found not guilty as well.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on Ryan Bundy’s theft of government property charge.

Lisa Ludwig, standby counsel for pro se defendant Ryan Bundy, said her client and the rest of the defense attorneys had a simple approach.

“He appealed to common sense,” Ludwig said.

This is what passes for common sense in Oregon? A bunch of armed thugs took over a federal facility and prevented federal employees from doing their jobs. Were these facts even contested? A man who was part of this takeover died resisting arrest. Well, whatever. The jury has spoken. Rule of law and all that. The following says it all:

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown — whose coffee mug appeared to read “It is what it is” — began by reading out the not guilty verdict for Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation.

“Did I read the verdict correctly?” Brown asked the jury for confirmation.


“The Supreme Court should represent all of us.”

Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court, from last night’s debate:

You know, I think when we talk about the Supreme Court, it really raises the central issue in this election, namely, what kind of country are we going to be? What kind of opportunities will we provide for our citizens? What kind of rights will Americans have?

And I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy. For me, that means that we need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community, that will stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.

I have major disagreements with my opponent about these issues and others that will be before the Supreme Court. But I feel that at this point in our country’s history, it is important that we not reverse marriage equality, that we not reverse Roe v. Wade, that we stand up against Citizens United, we stand up for the rights of people in the workplace, that we stand up and basically say: The Supreme Court should represent all of us.

That’s how I see the court, and the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on behalf of our rights as Americans.

And I look forward to having that opportunity. I would hope that the Senate would do its job and confirm the nominee that President Obama has sent to them. That’s the way the Constitution fundamentally should operate. The president nominates, and then the Senate advises and consents, or not, but they go forward with the process.

Damon Linker:

On the Supreme Court, Clinton said, in effect, that she thinks the Court should serve as a second legislative body in which liberals hold a majority of the seats and exercise veto power over the other branches of government.


The market: a product, not a way out, of politics

In the end, Brennan’s argument for markets over politics is a moral one. Supporting regulation, he tells us, means supporting violence, because violence is what the state ultimately deals in, whether it is enforcing fair employment laws or sending people to war. It’s bracing to be reminded of this, but Brennan is wrong in drawing such a stark contrast between the coercion of politics and the informed consent of market transactions. The fact is that markets bring their own share of state violence. Supporting private property means endorsing violence against determined trespassers. Supporting market-based health care means endorsing violence against people who try to get the care they need without money—or, more plausibly, letting them suffer and die. Supporting the repayment of public debts over political calls to repudiate them, as the European Union has done in Greece, means endorsing violence against those who try to get food for their children in a country where reports of widespread malnutrition are growing. These are not intended to be sentimental arguments: They are precisely as rigorous as Brennan’s point that political regulation implies violence. There may be good reasons to support the market in some, even all, of these circumstances, but the market will always be a product of political and legal decisions, with legislatures and courts behind it and a policeman at its side. The market is not a way out of politics, but one of the products of politics.

–Jedediah Purdy, “Votes of No Confidence”


“Gawker delenda est.”

But observers seem eager to push the wrong message about that brokenness. The scary part of the story isn’t that the occasional vengeful billionaire might break the system and overwhelm even a well-funded target with money.  Such people exist, but getting sued by them is like getting hit by lightning. No, for most of us the scary part of the story is that our legal system is generally receptive to people abusing it to suppress speech. Money helps do that, but it’s not necessary to do it. A hand-to-mouth lunatic with a dishonest contingency lawyer can ruin you and suppress your speech nearly as easily as a billionaire. Will you prevail against a malicious and frivolous defamation suit? Perhaps sooner if you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a good anti-SLAPP statute. Or perhaps years later. Will you be one of the lucky handful who get pro bono help? Or will you be like almost everyone else, who has to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect your right to speak, or else abandon your right to speak because you can’t afford to defend it?

–Ken White, Gawker, Money, Speech, and Justice