Standing your ground

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

The Trayvon Martin case–where an unarmed Florida teenager was shot and killed by a man who has subsequently advanced a “stand your ground” self defense argument–raises a lot of questions about the nature of self defense, our tolerance for force in defense of self, the qualitative difference that race makes in police decisions about self defense cases, and the role of the Federal government in intervening where states fail to take action.

While you’re mulling all of those over, I’m going to check if this post has cross posted among the various vehicles that I’m looking to broadcast my thoughts, analysis, and opinion–as modest as all of those things are…

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Really kicking this thing off

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Okay, so I did not do very well keeping this thing going….

I am going to endeavor to re-start this thing seriously over the next three months.

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EDITORIAL: Eric Cantor and Federal Disaster Relief

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

You have to admire Eric Cantor’s consistency at least. For the last year he’s been demanding that any expenditure in the name of Federal Disaster Relief be offset by proportionate spending cuts. So, perhaps, it comes as no surprise when a spokesman indicated that any relief for damage caused by Hurricane Irene ought to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

No matter what way you spin this statement, it represents a particularly radical vision of the Federal government. What I would really like to see is some thinking moderate or left-wing politician stand up and differentiate these two versions of American government.

Under one vision of America, there is absolutely no question that Federal Disaster Relief is an important governmental function, and something that justifies governmental expenditures over and above the normal budgeting process.

The simplest reason for this is that risk is pooled at the highest level in the Federal government, thus the expense of disaster repair is spread out over the largest number of people. Additionally, and for similar reasons, it makes a lot of sense for the Federal government to have the administrative and bureaucratic infrastructure to handle disasters, whereas it would be a severe burden on states and localities particularly where specific kinds of disasters are unusual in that area (think earthquakes in Virginia and hurricanes in New York). So there is both financial and practical efficiency reasons why the Federal government ought to be in the business of disaster relief.

Now, why shouldn’t costs for disaster relief be balanced with cuts to other spending? I certainly agree that some sort of funds should be set aside in annual budgeting to cover some baseline amount of disaster relief, but simply speaking you can’t account for all potential disasters on an annual basis. So it makes little sense to rob from one program to pay for disaster relief because the amount required will vary from year to year and it will be impossible to adequately appropriate ahead of time. And, frankly, the Federal government has greater financial flexibility to borrow to pay for disaster relief than do states and localities.

In addition to these realities there is an element of bleeding-heart “we’ve got to help these people” involved in Federal disaster relief. And I’m not sure there’s a problem with that (especially given the fact that somebody has to pay for the recovery and, as illustrated above, it really makes sense that the Federal government does it).

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Children’s rights, corporate rights

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Joel Bakan writes an interesting op-ed in the Sunday Times comparing the rise of children’s rights and the rise of corporate rights and how we balance out those things.

Children’s rights in the United States are really frozen in the 1930s. While corporations have been steadily gaining the rights of a constitutional person, children have not made the same progress. In fact, it could be argued that corporations in America possess constitutional rights in some aspects of American society (specifically the First Amendment) that children in America are not even close to entitled to.

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A Response to NRO’s David French

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

In his column on August 19, the National Review Online’s David French begins with a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with (well, mostly, at least as edited by me):

In recent days and weeks, I’ve been pounding at the theme of how our culture and legal system place paramount importance on adult desires. Even when directly dealing with a child’s well-being …, the greater concern is adult happiness.

He states this premise, however, to begin a discussion of the ruling of the Illinois Circuit Court finding that Catholic Charities had no property right in providing foster care services in Illinois and that the State could cancel their contracts. So, to be clear about what the ruling said: The fact that an organization has long-contracted essential services with the state does not give that organization a right to provide those services and receive money under contract from the state.

Now, why French is upset is, well, I’ll let him say it:

After the passage of the state’s civil-unions bill, Illinois officials told Catholic Charities that its policy of placing children only in married households or where single parents live alone violated state anti-discrimination law and did not fit within the very narrow religious liberty protections contained in the civil-unions statute.

The consequence? More than 2,000 children are in danger of removal from Catholic Charities’ care — without any evidence that its care is deficient or harmful to these children.

So the oppressive state is picking on Catholic Charities and making them violate their own principles by forcing them to place children with homosexual couples in a civil union. Because, you know, the First Amendment, right?

Same-sex marriage advocates have long minimized its impact on religious liberty, but as this and other examples show, both religious liberty and child welfare are ultimately subordinate to sexual freedom.

Ah, yes, exactly.

Here’s the problem: French’s narrative is a fiction. It is absolutely untrue. The condition that Illinois civil unions be treated the same as marriages hardly came as a surprise to anybody. Right around the time that the Illinois civil union law came into effect Catholic Charities organizations in three separate dioceses indicated to the State of Illinois that as long as they were required to comply with the law that they would no longer be providing foster care and adoption services to any new foster children in their jurisdictions. Catholic Charities stopped these services and then sued the State of Illinois to ensure that they could continue to provide them under their terms.

So I think the fair question is who is actually abandoning children and for what principles. Or, to paraphrase French: which group is putting a “paramount importance on adult desires” over the well-being of children?

It is clear that Catholic Charities (and French!) is (are) advancing its (and his) tenuously grounded religious principle under the sword of the First Amendment at the expense of thousands of abused and neglected children in the State of Illinois.

Which is why I chuckled when I read French’s conclusion:

I had to chuckle when I read this quote from Kendall Marlowe, a state spokesman: “It’s in the best interest of children that we have an orderly transition.” Really? It’s in their best interest that they move from the care of a faithful and loving Catholic institution? In reality, the state only started to think about children’s interests after it made the decision to end its relationship with Catholic Charities. The transition itself driven by ideology, only its manner is dictated by child welfare.

No. It is not in the best interest of the thousands of foster children to lose their caseworkers (and potentially their placements) nor the institutional support of an organization that has been a zealous advocate for the wellbeing of Illinois children for over a century. However, it must be remembered that it was Catholic Charities that severed the relationship, not the State of Illinois. And, yes, the transition was driven by ideology: the ideology of Catholic Charities, not the ideology of the State of Illinois.

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Unification of courts to achieve positive outcomes for children

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

An article from last week in the Connecticut Law Tribune asks an incomplete question: “Criminal And Family Courts: Are They Actually Separate?” What this article rightly calls our attention to is the integrated nature of our justice system–in spite of the fact that individual components of the justice system are often intentionally segregated from one another.

I’m not sure what that should actually mean when it comes to justice-system impact on children, but I think that constantly considering that all parts of the justice system impact families and children is important.

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The politics and policy of sex offender registries

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

An interesting piece at Marginal Revolution on whether sex offender registries actually reduce crime.

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