Sunday, January 30, 2005

Science Fiction Authors Hoax Vanity Publisher

Science Fiction Authors Hoax Vanity Publisher

I am proud to have written a chapter in the referenced book, available here. Reading the nom de plume out loud before buying is advisable.

Friday, January 14, 2005 - Bush: 'Sometimes, words have consequences' - Jan 14, 2005

NOW He Tells Us

"[S]ome interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case."

George W. Bush on "Bring it on"

"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean"

George W. Bush on his declaration that he wanted to capture Osama bin Laden, let alone the "dead or alive" part.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts

Los Angeles Times: Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts

From what is probably the best non-financial newspaper in America right now (Newsday arguably does more with less) comes the subhead "In the last six years he has accepted free items valued at $42,200"

Opening paragraphs:
WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts since joining the high court, including $1,200 worth of tires, valuable historical items and a $5,000 personal check to help pay a relative's education expenses.

The gifts also included a Bible once owned by the 19th century author and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, which Thomas valued at $19,000, and a bust of President Lincoln valued at $15,000.

So that's, $19K + $15k + $5K + $1.2K = $40,200 in listed items. But wait, there's more:

He also took a free trip aboard a private jet to the exclusive Bohemian Grove club in Northern California ? arranged by a wealthy Texas real estate investor who helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court.

Ah, that must be the other $2,000--rather cheap for a "private jet." Let us assume he paid his own way at the Bohemian Grove Club.

Oops. There are more paragraphs:
Those and other gifts were disclosed by Thomas under a 1978 federal ethics law that requires high-ranking government officials, including the nine Supreme Court justices, to file a report each year that lists gifts, money and other items they have received. [emphasis mine]

So what are the other gifts? A Bic pen to go with his collection of Crosses? A plastic cat litter scoop (metal would be too expensive)? A pack of chewing gum?

So maybe the LAT reporter, editor, copyeditors, and everyone else who saw the story failed basic addition. At least they mention ethical considerations:
The Ethics in Government Act of 1989 prohibits all federal employees, including the justices, from accepting "anything of value" from a person with official business before them. However, under the rules that the federal judicial system adopted to implement that law, judges are free to accept gifts of unlimited value from people without official business before the court. [again, emphasis mine]

Let's flashback to that private jet trip, paid for by someone "who helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court." The LAT assures us that nothing is afoot:
"I don't see anything wrong in this. I don't see why it is inappropriate to get gifts from friends," said [former Thomas clerk] John C. Yoo, now a law professor at the UC Berkeley. "This reflects a bizarre effort to over-ethicize everyday life. If one of these people were to appear before the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas would recuse himself."

Gee, I guess he recused himself in those cases. Strange how that hasn't been reported.

But everyone does it, no?
Next in that period was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who accepted $5,825 in gifts, mostly small crystal figurines and other items.

Quite a gap between $42,200 and $5,825. But maybe there's more, since the LAT finally realizes we're going to wonder about the math skills of its staff:
Since joining the court, Thomas reported accepting gifts valued at $47,745. He also reported other gifts without citing a dollar value, ranging from "small gifts and flowers" to free plane trips and accommodations from friends. [you know the emphasis here by now]

So that plane trip isn't included in the $42,200 calculation. And we can no longer be certain that the club visit was on his dime either.

But don't work, the judges are defending against any appearance of impropriety:
By law and tradition, the Supreme Court justices are exempted from many of the rules that govern lesser federal judges. Moreover, each of the justices is free to decide how the general ethics guidelines apply to them.

For example, when the Sierra Club filed its motion with the high court asserting that Scalia should step aside in the Cheney case, the court referred the matter to Scalia for him to decide.

That warm, fuzzy feeling you should have about now is the working of American justice inaction.

UPDATE: Thomas's primary defender in the LAT piece made a prominent appearance in another, even less upbeat article in the NYT:
John Yoo, a senior Justice Department lawyer who wrote much of the memorandum, exchanged draft language with lawyers at the White House, the officials said. Mr. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said in an article published Sunday in The San Jose Mercury News that Mr. Gonzales did not apply any pressure on him to tailor the memorandum to accommodate the White House.

Instead, Mr. Yoo said that Mr. Gonzales was merely seeking to "understand all available options" in a perilous time, when the United States faced unprecedented threats. [again, you know the emphasis]

At least we have a Grand Unified Theory of Justice coming from the administration.