(6350 comments, 335 posts)
Michael is a jack of many trades, and master of a few. His varied background includes government and private businesses, both large and small. His experience in the financial services and computer industries has led him to computer security.
Home page: http://logarchism.com
Posts by Michael Weiss
This week, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous, watershed decision. In evaluating Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, a case I covered in late April, the Court opted to avoid the figurative watershed in favor of the literal one.
As I noted before, Texas and Oklahoma, the states involved in the dispute, are “prior appropriation” states, whereby water is allocated based on permits issued to those who make “beneficial” use of the resource. In this case, the water in question flows down the Red River, which marks much of the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Tarrant Regional Water District (serving an area of Texas around Fort Worth) wanted to directly access water from within the state of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma law prohibited such diversions, which is why Tarrant immediately sued in federal court after filing the diversion request with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Tarrant’s argument was that federal law (in the form of the Red River Compact) trumps state law, and — even if it doesn’t — the Constitution’s Commerce Clause precludes a state from discriminating against interstate commerce with respect to water resources.
The Court sided with Oklahoma (specifically Rudolf John Hermann, who represented the state). But, in doing so, the Justices sidestepped the constitutional questions brought forth by Tarrant. (more…)
As a society, Americans aren’t big on subtleties or complex interactions; we tend to look at simple, single cause-effect relationships, despite the few instances in reality where an action has but one reaction. This makes us an odd bunch when it comes to the criminal justice system. Allow me to explain.
Criminal sentencing serves five purposes: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. Here’s what those terms all mean:
- Retribution: this is revenge, basically. The criminal hurt society, so society will hurt the criminal. An eye for an eye.
- Incapacitation: by locking the person up, that person cannot continue to commit crimes. It’s hard to rob a convenience store from within a prison.
- Deterrence: if you know you’re going to be punished for doing something, the punishment should be sufficiently severe as to keep you from doing it.
- Restoration: make the criminal literally pay for the crime. For example, someone convicted of graffiti can be required to repaint the wall, and pay for the materials necessary to do it.
- Rehabilitation: change the criminal so that person won’t commit the crime again in the future.
While it serves all five purposes, sentencing tends to be viewed differently by liberals than by conservatives. (more…)
Earlier this week, I discussed the Supreme Court’s decision in Maryland v. King. I focused my attention at the time on the way that the state used DNA to go on a fishing expedition to find potential crimes the defendant may have committed, though they were unrelated to his arrest.
Today I’d like to delve deeper into what it means to build a national database of DNA for the purposes of “identification”.
This is a critical topic. In essence, we are moving to a world where our DNA becomes our signature. Ostensibly, it’s more reliable than a written signature, or a fingerprint. How reliable? Well, in Math on Trial, we find out that a jury was told that the DNA markers found at the crime scene appear in only one in 1.1 million people. So what does this mean when we have a national database of DNA?
Let’s go through a thought experiment. (more…)
Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Maryland v. King, determining whether it is acceptable for law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from people arrested for “serious offense[s]”. We covered the case when it was argued before the Court. In a narrow 5–4 split, the Court concluded that it is acceptable because DNA collection is not fundamentally different from mug shots and fingerprints, which have long been collected by law enforcement agencies at the times of arrests.
What’s remarkable about this case is how the Justices stacked up. While Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts predictably sided with law enforcement, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan sided with the criminal defendant, two votes were surprising. Justice Stephen Breyer joined the conservative wing, and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the liberals. Justice Anthony Kennedy, as is typical, cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion. (more…)
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) died this morning at the age of 89. With a DW-NOMINATE score of approximately –0.5, he was significantly more liberal than the Senate Democratic average of about –0.36. That score put him in the company of such senators as Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Americans for Democratic Action said that he voted on the liberal side 94 percent of the time.
Lautenberg was notable for his attacks on the tobacco industry, including initiating the ban on smoking on commercial flights, and his support of Amtrak. He was also the last Senator to have served in the military during World War II.
Beyond his public service, Lautenberg was one of the founders of payroll giant ADP.
Governor Chris Christie will appoint Lautenberg’s successor, which probably means the seat will be filled by a Republican. While it is unlikely that Christie’s choice will be in the mold of red-state Republicans, it is certain that the junior Senator from New Jersey will be significantly more conservative than Lautenberg. This matters in terms of overall Senate voting, as the Democrats lost a reliable vote.
- New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg Dies At 89
- NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg dies at 89
- Sen. Frank Lautenberg Dead
- Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Dies at 89
- Senator Frank Lautenberg, Champion of Church/State Separation, Dies at 89
- New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg dies at 89: reports
- Senator Frank Lautenberg, Patron of Jewish Causes, Dies at 89
- US Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg dies at 89
President Obama wants to shut the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He’s made that clear since his campaign in 2007, and has not wavered from that stance. I support that, and applaud him for it. But he’s been implementing a policy that may well be worse, and that’s bad for all of us.
I alluded to this in some of my responses to dcpetterson’s article earlier this week. But it’s worth delving deeper to understand the source of my concern, and look at it in perspective. So I’m devoting my article today to that subject.
Let’s look at what the President has published on the topic. On May 23, he released a “fact sheet”, outlining the policies and procedures for dealing with terrorists that are neither in the United States, nor in “Areas of Active Hostilities” (e.g., Afghanistan). (more…)