Why We Don’t Need Caylee’s Law

In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, a number of state legislators have proposed, either in their elective bodies or in the press, the enactment of a so-called “Caylee’s Law” to create or enhance penalties for not reporting death of one’s child. This is a bad idea for several reasons.

First, it has nothing to do with what happened to Caylee Anthony. It only has to do with what the Casey Anthony defense said happened to Caylee, which no one believes anyway. However, since murdering a child is already a crime and often an enhancement toward a death sentence, even when someone who might have done it gets away with it, the only new law available is one that covers what didn’t happen.

Second, what didn’t happen doesn’t happen very often. That’s what made Casey’s defense so unbelievable. It’s not what people do. Why do we need to create legislation for a non-existent need?

Because it meets a wholly different need. We need to feel good about ourselves. We need to feel that even though the law couldn’t do something to help Caylee, if we pass a law in her name, however remotely connected to actual events, we are creating some sort of justice for her. Is the need to feel good about ourselves, however ephemeral, a reason to enact laws?

Third, legislation by knee-jerk reaction is pretty much always a bad idea. Let me give an example from my other country, home to the Mother of Parliaments and the Mother of All Knee-Jerk Reactions. In August 1987, Michael Ryan, a mentally unstable man with a fascination for firearms, perpetrated what became known as the Hungerford Massacre. He killed 15 people  using a Beretta 9mm pistol, a Chinese version of the AK-47, and an M1 carbine. This is the first time that anyone in Britain had committed this sort of gun crime.

In response, Parliament outlawed all semi-automatic and pump action rifles and shotguns, any shotguns other than single shot or double barrel, and any shotgun with less than a 24 inch barrel. Remember, a shotgun was not even used in the crime. Also outlawed were any revolvers other than muzzle-loaders. Remember, a revolver wasn’t even used in the crime. At this point, it probably won’t surprise you that they also outlawed rocket launchers and mortars. To top if off, the Home Secretary (the cabinet minister in charge of law enforcement) was given the power to prohibit any firearm or ammunition not on the list, should he find it wise (or ideologically congruent) to do so.

All this legislation didn’t stop Thomas Hamilton from killing sixteen 5- and 6-year-olds in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996. The obvious answer was more legislation. The Conservative government wouldn’t do it, but lost in a landslide the next year. The first legislation by the Labour government was to outlaw all of the weapons left out of the previous ban and impose a mandatory five-year sentence for owning a gun.  As a result, gun crime in the UK has steadily climbed, from one-off incidences to regular occurrences.

So why do I give a worst case scenario for knee-jerk legislation? Surely the Caylee Anthony case and response is nothing like that. The problem is that we become accustomed to accepting knee-jerk reactions. We become accustomed to finding our national salvation in legislation, whether it is moral or economic, like destroying an economy with massive government debt in the pursuit of fixing a problem that was caused by massive debt in the first place.

Governments always over-react and when they over-react quickly, they tend to over-react disastrously. Even in the case of Caylee’s Law, look at the domino effect already in motion. The non-reporting of a child death is suggested in one case in Florida. I currently know of proposals for a Caylee’s Law in Alabama, Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course Florida. One organization is pushing for a federal law.

This is all with a matter of days after the Casey Anthony acquittal. Had Casey been found guilty, these proposals would never have been considered. Justice would have been seen to have been done and everyone would have felt good about themselves. What does this say about the need for Caylee’s Law?

Three Years is Not Six Days

It seems moral outrage does strange things to math skills. What is it with all the outrage over Casey Anthony being released next week? Headlines suggest that she is serving less than a week for lying to police. Twitterers and bloggers are beside themselves.

No one seems to realize that she’s actually being punished rather harshly. First, she’s gotten the maximum sentence. Second, she’s been sentenced to serve the penalty for each of the four count consecutively. Third, Florida is very stingy with time off for good behavior.

So many people seem to want the three years she’s been in prison to be substitute punishment for the murder she probably committed. It just doesn’t work that way. If she’s declared not guilty, she can’t be punished in a backhanded way. If her liberty has been deprived and she is found guilty of anything, she has to be credited for the time. That’s the way the law works for everyone else, and everyone is equal under the law.

I know it is hard for the public to stop rubbernecking at the train wreck that is the dysfunctional Anthony family and the tragedy of Caylee Anthony’s death. Surely there is another personal tragedy somewhere for people to latch onto and invest emotion. Let the law to its job.

Three years is three years.

Move along…

Disingenuous Interference in the Humberto Leal Case

Reading and listening to the news media, the uninformed might think that the international issues surrounding Humberto Leal’s execution have only just been uncovered. It might appear that the Obama administration has some sort of leg to stand on. These impressions are entirely without merit.

The whole issue Leal’s lack of access to Mexican consular officials after his arrest has been litigated.  Let’s set aside the facts that Leal never revealed his Mexican citizenship after his arrest and that his lawyers never raised the issue before, during or after trial, including his first trip up the habeas corpus ladder. When he filed a petition based on President George W. Bush’s order to the states that they review the cases of the 51 Mexican citizens on death row across the country at that time, that was fully litigated and denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal appellate court in Texas). He then filed a second federal habeas petition which was denied by the district court, appealed, and rejected by the Fifth Circuit in 2009 (573 F.3d 214).

The current administration and the media have tried to bolster their position (and yes, it is the same position) by suggesting that Bush endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that led to his order that the states review the Mexican cases. Rather, Bush only ordered the review because he thought he was duty-bound to do so, because the US was a signatory to the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention, which says that ICJ decisions are binding on the parties before it. He was under the impression that the Optional Protocol was binding on the states. However, in 2008 the US Supreme Court said no, in Medellín v. Texas (552 U.S. 491). Since the Supreme Court, not the Executive Branch, decides what is and isn’t the law, it didn’t matter what President Bush thought and it doesn’t matter what President Obama thinks.

The Supreme Court said no because the Optional Protocol is not self-executing. In other words, it requires enabling legislation. Now at the last minute, the Administration is arguing to the Supreme Court that enabling legislation has been filed in Congress and the Court should wait to see if it passes.  This is the only arrow left in the quiver of the Administration and it is blunted, bent, splintered and missing fletchings.

Congress has had three years since Medellín to pass enabling legislation. It chose not to do so with the proposed Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008, introduced into a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives by four liberal Democrats. It never made it out of committee, not to mention across the Capitol.

Now Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced S. 1194. It has no chance of passage, despite the Administration’s repeated assertions that it’s strong support makes a difference. I seriously doubt it would get through the Senate, but it doesn’t have the tiniest hope of getting through the House. It is telling that amicus brief goes on and on about the Senate and does not even mention the House of Representatives.

It is not even as if the passage of S. 1194 would have any effect on the execution of Humberto Leal. It might give him a chance to have a court determine whether not having had consular access unfairly prejudiced his case. The chances of success in such a challenge are infinitesimal. Leal’s guilt in perpetrating a gruesome crime is indisputable. Even the Mexicans admit that.

The last shred of his case, if the Supreme Court were to stay the execution, and if the Congress were to pass S. 1194, is a court might find that had the Mexican government hired the right attorneys for him (if they even would have done so at the time), those attorneys would have presented evidence in his punishment phase differently so that the jury would not have given him a death sentence. The Administration insists in its brief that unless this charade is played out, relations with Mexico will be irreparably damaged and all Americans traveling abroad will be put at risk. There is simply no credibility in any of this.

Unlike the characterizations by the Administration and media, this case has nothing to do with Texas refusing to follow international law. The Supreme Court answered that in 2008. This cases had been litigated and re-litigated, examined and re-examined, for years. It is time for the sentence to be carried out and the Obama Administration to stop interfering.

What the Casey Anthony Trial Says About Us

Casey Anthony is not guilty. I didn’t say she was innocent. The former is a legal declaration, while the latter is a moral state. But what does the trial and the public reaction to the verdict say about us?

It tells us that the media likes pretty people and good story. And that we are easily led. Caylee Anthony had what in the UK could be considered the Madeleine McCann factor. Madeleine was the three-year-old British girl who abducted while her family was on holiday in Portugal in May 2007. She has never been found, but she has never been out of the headlines. She’s a pretty little girl with attractive parents who are doctors. Madeleine was certainly not the only British child to go missing  in 2007, but it would be hard to realize that from the media coverage.

How many other small children have been murdered in the United States since Caylee Anthony in 2008? How many have been neglected and abused? Sadly, most of them aren’t as photogenic as Caylee with mothers who act as bizarrely as Casey, or maybe they would have been noticed by the world at large. Maybe we would have been just as outraged when the parents were let go, often without the scrutiny of a trial or other judicial process.

I could give you examples from my own client list when I had a small inner-city neighborhood general civil and criminal practice that would make you upset and angry.  That is, if you were so incline to have a fraction of voyeurism that America at large has had for the Casey Anthony trial. However, I don’t have pictures and video and live court proceedings with celebrity commentators. None of the perpetrators or victims were particularly photogenic. It is unlikely that there will be any demand for me recount my stories and change the names to protect the guilty.

Yes, Caylee Anthony’s death was a terrible thing and Casey Anthony’s trial may very well have ended up in a miscarriage of justice. Many people have felt the need to vent their righteous anger. Most don’t realize it is anger they never would have had, but for the opportunity cable news channels found to grab advertising revenues.

But what are we doing about the terrible things that are happening much closer to home? What would happen if we invested the emotional effort expended on a family tragedy in Florida in praying for the needs around us? Into whose lives can we invest our time, so that they do not become a statistic unworthy of notice by FoxNews, CNN, and Court TV?

The Information Age, with instant access to the whole world, can be a good thing. It can also mess with our priorities. You can’t change a thing about Caylee and Casey Anthony. You can change the lives around you.

On Violent Video Games and Strict Constructionism

When the Supreme Court issued their opinion in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association on June 27, there was an outcry of despair for the future of America and its youth. How could the Court rule in favor of children having access to violent video games? What the commentators, conservative and otherwise, missed is that they didn’t.

Those who wanted a conservative response from the Court got it and now many of them don’t like it. Let’s summarize what the opinion of the Court, written by Justice Scalia, said:

First, a legislature cannot create new categories of speech unprotected by the First Amendment simply by weighing the value of the new category against its social costs and then prohibit it if it fails the test. Unlike sexual content, there is no American legal tradition of protecting children from violent content. Second, because the California law in question imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless the state can demonstrate that it passes the strict scrutiny test. In other words, it has to demonstrate a compelling government interest and has to be narrowly drafted to serve that interest. California said the compelling interest was helping parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. Scalia said no, parents can choose what their children watch and the voluntary rating system is there to help them. And stores don’t have to sell the videos to children. Thus, children are already protected.

As might be expected, Scalia strictly construed the First Amendment. If some other form of speech were before the Court, we would be glad that he did. We would be glad that he and the justices in the majority hadn’t created a new legal tradition. The view taken by Justice Alito, concurring in the judgement but not for this reason, and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, is that the framers of the Constitution could not have anticipated modern technology and so we have to fill in the gaps for them. How many times have conservatives decried that very principle being applied in the past? We want a conservative, strict constructionist court unless it is inconvenient.

As to the second line of argument, Scalia said that if California had a compelling interest in keeping children from watching violence, it would have to outlaw Saturday morning cartoons, which for generations have depicted extreme violence. Likewise, it would have to outlaw violence in movies available to children. However, instead of comprehensively addressing the issue, it simply responded with a knee-jerk reaction to a new distasteful form of depiction.

The decision was 7-2 because even Alito and Chief Justice Roberts recognized that California had not drafted the legislation strictly enough to pass constitutional muster. “For better or worse, our society has long regarded many depictions of killing and maiming as suitable features of popular entertainment, including entertainment that is widely available to minors.” (Alito concurring in judgment, slip opinion at 6)  California would have had to have been very specific about exactly which kinds of depictions were illegal for minors and then demonstrated the compelling reason to “help” parents with regard to those depictions.

Finally, I need to address some flawed reasoning floating out there in the op/ed columns by writers who are convinced that they are much more in touch with the real world that the justices. For convenience, and since I’ve already linked to him, I’ll use Cal Thomas as an example. Thomas writes:  “Justices should step out of their safety zones and experience life on urban streets where mortal combat is for real and shootings are as commonplace as corrupt politicians. Where do armed teenagers in roving gangs get the idea that life is cheap and can be so easily taken without regard to social mores?” Thomas fails to recognize that gang violence far pre-dates the latest (or even the earliest) round of video games.

In this case, Scalia notes, the State of California tried to use psychological studies that

purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children’s feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game. (slip opinion of the Court at p. 12-13, internal citations omitted, emphasis mine)

Does this mean that disgusting violent video games are good, for children or otherwise? No. Are they offensive to Christian morality in suggesting that life is cheap and disposable? Certainly. However, we don’t use a combination of our disgust and specious arm-chair psychology to cut a chunk out of First Amendment jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court did not rule in favor of children having access to violent games. Rather, it ruled in favor of parents controlling access to violent games.

I will venture to suggest that as a father of nine, Justice Scalia knows a bit about raising children. He also knows a bit about the Constitution. I agree with him that it is better to keep the latter out of the business of the former.

The Cost of Littering

You have to wonder when Revenue and Customs workers finally starting thinking something might be up. Charlene Ostle kept ringing them up and changing the number of children she had, thus entitling her increased benefits.

She told them she had three sets of twins and two sets of triplets, all before reaching the age of 26. At one point she had given birth to five children in three months.

Even though she knew what she was doing was wrong, she said her pride kept her from asking from help. What? She had no shame in claiming to have had all of these children out of wedlock and no shame in asking the Government for help.

It got her £30,000 in benefits and remarkably only a nine-month suspended sentence. She was spared jail in part because she is actually pregnant with her third child.

Extended Binge

In another spectacular failure for the Government, the introduction of 24-hour drinking laws has resulted in a trebling of drink-related cases in the A&E (ER) department at a London hospital.

In March 2005, there were 79 night time cases involving patients with an alcohol-related problem. By March 2006, there were 250.  In addition to this, there were 27 alcohol-related assaults treated in March 2005. In March 2006 there were 62.

This is just one hospital. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that it is not representative of the country. The DCMS seems to have missed this from last year:

A report by the Centre for Public Health said binge drinking is overloading hospitals, reducing life expectancy and fuelling violent brawls.

At the beginning of the year a survey found that hospitals were having to deal with a significant rise in alcohol-related injuries in the wake of 24-hour drinking laws.

It revealed that many casualty departments have seen a greater volume of patients hurt in booze-fuelled fights or accidents.

Accident and emergency units are also finding problems extending much later into the night – increasing the demands on already hard-pressed staff.

The Government said the open-all-hours approach would end binge drinking, because none one would need to quickly quaff before closing time. Instead, the binge just goes on longer. Too many British drinkers just have no self-control.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

Forcing the Profane on the Holy

The local Anglican bishop was taken to an employment tribunal recently for turning down a gay man for a job as a youth worker.

Reaney was not denied the job because he is gay. Rather, the bishop made it clear to him during the interview that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the role. This seems to be a rather conservative view for Anglicans, especially in a diocese that has led the way in the ordination of women.

Nonetheless, the employment tribunal said Reaney was discriminated against “on the grounds of sexual orientation”. This has massive ramifications. First, it means churches must hire people whose sexual orientation they may believe is incompatable with a particular position. Second, it equates orientation with activity. This means church must hire people openly engaged in immoral behaviour (whether homosexual or heterosexual), even as youth workers. Third, this will logically and necessarily include those who have been hired while demonstrating good moral character but who susequently make different behavioural decisions. The Church in this country effectively has no way of preserving and living out its teachings about living holy lives.

Thought Conviction

The thought police aren’t just out there, they’re getting convictions.

A Scottish man who made a website with sick jokes about blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, disabled peopled pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated breach of the peace by producing and managing the website.  He only avoided jail by having no previous convictions and quickly admitting his guilt. Instead he gave 160 hours of community service. That’s a month of full-time unpaid work. Plus, he forfeited 12 pieces of computer equipment.

He didn’t make fun of any specific people, other than Simon Weston, the disfigured Falklands War veteran.

I’ve just been reading up on that amorphous area of the common law called “breach of the peace” and even as ambiguous at it can be, I can’t see how the website breached the peace. Breach of the peace is a catchall that the police seem to use when they have nothing else to go on to accomplish their goal. In this case, Andrew Love seems to have done something people find really distasteful, but he didn’t actually do it to anyone.

No one is forced to see his website and they are certainly free to immediately surf away from it the moment they find something they don’t like. No children or animals were harmed in the making of the website.

 According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Alistair McSporran, prosecuting, said officers found “numerous” items on the website “that had gone beyond the realms of bad taste”. These included a phoney Islamic jihad group and a picture which showed an American police officer being offensive to a young black child in a toy car.’ This is beyond the realm of bad taste?

While I don’t condone Mr Love’s choice of humour, neither do I think it should be a criminal offence.

New Definition of Failing Education

Some school are labelled failing because pupils aren’t getting an education. There are weaknesses in the quality of teaching or unsatisfactory progress in learning and abysmal exam results. Now they will be failing if they are white, unless they encourage children to mix with other races and religions.

This will be a new legal duty. White schools will have to “twin” with multi-ethnic schools. They will need to create events to brings parents from different ethnic groups together. If they don’t meet these obligations, Ofsted can have their governing bodies taken over by the local council or have the school closed altogether.

It’s multiculturalism and political correctness at any cost.

Keeping Chastity Out of School

Millais School must be an incredibly orderly school with lots of money. I have a hard time getting pupils to take off hoodies and pull up their ties. At Millais, if you are wearing a ring with a Scripture reference on it, they can pull you out of all your GCSE classes to study on your own. Since the school has an obligation to provide an education, I have to assume that they had provision for teaching and supervision in place.

As I mentioned last month, Millais student Lydia Playfoot went to the High Court to challenge the school’s policy, which allows for Muslim and Sikh jewellery and other non-uniform accoutrement. And now Millais need not worry about discriminating against Christians and their dastardly little sliver rings. The High Court has ruled against Lydia.

In response to the ruling, she said it would “mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith”.

The headmaster characterised it differently: “Any suggestion that our school is anti-Christian is not correct. We have always respected Lydia’s right to hold and express her views and believe there were many ways in which it was possible for her to do this during her time with us.” It just not possible to do it in the same ways as those of other religions, of course. No one would dare tell them how to practice their faith, but Christians are different. Maybe they aren’t anti-Christian – just pro-Muslim and pro-Sikh. They probably aren’t anti-chastity – just pro-promiscuity and pro-STI.

This isn’t going to affect her personally. She’s taken her GCSEs and left Millais. (It will affect her father, who has been ordered to pay £12,000 in costs to the school.) In the future the school can be a chastity-free zone. If someone wants to express religious ideas of sexual purity, they can wear a hijab.

Russian Civilisation?

If you were thinking that human rights are a reality in post-Communist Russia, you would be very mistaken. The former KGB officer serving president may claim to be a devout believer, but with another KGB agent leading the Holy Synod in which at least another two members were also KGB agents, perhaps its not surprising that things haven’t changed much in Holy Mother Russia.

When a Chechen meat wholesaler named Zaur Talkhigov helped the security services to negotiate the release of hostages in the Moscow theatre siege, he was arrested for terrorism and sent to Siberia. Investigating his case is one of the reasons investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. As reported in The Sunday Times:

Talkhigov is now in a cramped cell with 18 inmates sharing one lavatory in Komi, a remote and forbidding region that became infamous under Stalin for its many forced-labour camps. In winter, temperatures drop to -30C. In summer, the cell is a stifling 30C plus.

He is allowed out of his cell for just an hour a day and permitted to wash once a month. The food consists of buckwheat porridge, rancid fishbone soup and the occasional plate of boiled meat.

His mother Tamara can visit him only once a year, for three days. The return train journey to the prison from her home in Chechnya takes 84 hours.

“Conditions in the prison where I am now are relatively good,” said Talkhigov. “In Moscow I was held in a cell so cramped that we took it in turns to sleep. Tuberculosis was rampant. In another prison, where I was held in solitary confinement, two guards came into my cell shortly after I arrived and beat me all over my body with their truncheons as their way of welcoming me. I’ve been under constant psychological pressure.”

Yet this is a country that wants to be treated as an equal with the G7 nations. Putin has cooled relations with the US over NATO missile defence systems in free nations that have aligned themselves with the West, rather than their previous compulsory alliance with Russian under the Warsaw Pact.

In terms of law and justice, Russia still has a long way to go to be considered a civilised nation. The other question is whether the Church in Russia is going to be an agent of reform or of collusion.

The New Secret Police

When children are removed from their parents due to false or unprovable allegations, it is becoming increasing unlikely that they will ever return.

The Government has set targets on the number of adoptions it wants to see. Local councils, responsible for social care, are paid millions of pounds in cash bonuses to see that goals are reached.

It is hard to report on these cases, because secrecy laws prevent any party from even identifying themselves in the press. However, despite this, one family came forward to the Sunday Telegraph. This is the way it works:

The family’s ordeal began in late 2005 when they took their first daughter to hospital with abdominal pains. Doctors concluded she had been sexually assaulted weeks before.

Three days later, vanloads of police officers arrived with social workers at the couple’s flat to seize the girl, who was placed with foster carers. When her sister was born just weeks later, she too was taken away.

Police launched an investigation, tearing apart the couple’s flat in the hunt for clues. Suspects included a babysitter, some of the mother’s relatives, and the couple themselves.

The parents even agreed to separate after they were told by social workers it would give the mother a better chance of getting the girls back. Yet even while the criminal investigation was going on, a family court judge agreed to a social services request for a forced adoption.

At the hearing last autumn, the judge concluded that the mother, who had been abused by her own family as a child, needed a year of psychotherapy before she could look after children safely, which, he said, would leave the girls in limbo for too long. He also told the children’s father that they could not live with him because he had left it too late to submit his application to the court. Police cleared both parents in January this year, telling them there was insufficient evidence to proceed. However, they have been told by social workers the outcome makes no difference.

That same month, the girls were moved from foster care to live with the prospective adopters, and the mother received a voicemail message from social workers telling her all visiting rights would cease. [All emphasis mine.]

There is clearly a case of abuse here. This is an abuse of so many areas of the legal system and foundational principles of law in this country that it boggles the mind. I have said in the past that the Government here is an elected dictatorship. This is the work of a totalitarian regime with no regard for the rule of law.

Redefining the Downward Slide

The Times ran an op/ed piece last week by a New York trial lawyer bemoaning how graduates from Regent University Law School have “infiltrated” the federal government. Because Regent is a “faith-based” school, this is unacceptable and violates the separation of church and state. For James D. Zirin is comes as no surprise that this “faith-based” school is also ranked in the “fourth tier” by U.S. News and World Report. In other words, they are Christians and of course we know Christians are just stupid.

Zirin sees this as part of a bigger problem:

According to a Newsweek poll conducted in March, 73 per cent of Evangelical Protestants said that they believed that God created men and women in their present form within the past 10,000 years. In recent debates, four of the ten Republican candidates for President took the position that they do not subscribe to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, preferring the biblical creation narrative that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that many people are beginning to wonder whether America is on a downward slope towards its own form of Sharia, where secular matters are governed by religious law, especially when an increasing number of legal posts are being filled by students from one poorly regarded faith-based law school.

Zirin’s reasoning, which I have seen across the blogosphere as well – particularly amongst those who mock creationists or anyone who subscribes to intelligent design – is that Christians are somehow ushering new Dark Ages.

But what Zirin and liberal bloggers are missing is that it’s not like there is some sort of surge of belief in the Bible. It only that liberalism and atheism have not had the impact they would like.

There’s no downward slope, at least in terms of an increase in governance by religious law.  The law in the US has always been tied to religious (or specifically Biblical) law. The idea that there are purely secular matters is the innovation. The various facets of the separation of church (by which they invariably mean religious ideas, not the institution of any particular denomination) and state are all innovations, perpetrated piecemeal by the SCOTUS and increasingly irreligious legislators.

Occasionally those who hold to traditional Biblical values dig their heels in or claw back a little from the downward slide into secularism. That’s when liberals start complaining even louder about “Christian sharia”.

As for Regent’s low ranking, it has to be remembered the law school only started in 1986.  In terms of bar exam pass rate (one of the key factors in the ranking), in an average over the last four years, it is only six places below New York Law School, where Zirin is a trustee. This year Regent student’s won the American Bar Association’s national negotiation competition, beating all the top law schools.

Wigging Out

With all the constitutional changes and stripping of tradition brought in by Labour Governments since 1997, the latest developments should come as no surprise. The Lord Chief Justice announced today that in all but the criminal court, the wigs and gowns are to be abandoned. The change will also include the ceremonial full-bottomed wigs. Thus ends tradition dating back to the reign of Charles II.

This is more modernisation for the sake of it. There is no real need to turn lawyers into just more men in suits. It seems the wig would make it easier to say “M’lud” to the occupant of the bench.  The costume also creates an atmosphere reflecting the seriousness of the proceedings.

It seems almost pointless that one of the other changes announced is that solicitor-advocates (solicitors who have gained the right of audience in the higher courts) will be allowed to wear the traditional costume of the Bar.  Instead, barristers without their wigs, wing collars and bands will be indistinguishable from the solicitors instructing them in the civil courts.

The change will have a negative economic impact. There are several firms that specialise in making legal wigs. Job losses are expected.

No More Money for Nothing

Record companies are not happy these days. CD sales are slumping. It is predicted that this will be the worst year in nearly three decades. Of course artists and record company executives will still make lots and lots of money. Obscene amounts of money. Just less obscene amounts.

Legal digital downloads are much less lucrative than CDs, especially because customers can download just the tracks they want. Band and artists can’t put out two or three really good tracks on a CD and expect to get the full whack for it.

And what’s got to really irritate the grey suits that are used to running the industry? Not listeners who file share, but bands who don’t need them any more. They have to wonder how many more bands like Arctic Monkeys are out there. We are in the midst of a serious paradigm shift.

And I didn’t mean to leave out file sharing altogether. Record companies weren’t so worried when file sharing was making a cassette copy of your vinyl, or even your CD, for a friend. Really, that’s all that’s happening now. The only difference is that people have a lot of friends, with the means to share with all of them, and they are completely unbounded by geography.

I think the record companies are eventually going to completely lose out on the file sharing argument. I’m not saying they have a valid position in intellectual property law, but what we have is a new way of thinking about intellectual property due to the realities of the information age.

It’s a bit like why am I going to buy Encarta when I can use (and even participate in) Wikipedia? Or newspaper websites that have tried to charge for the news – still trying to live in the age of the cover price. Most of the time, I can find someone else with the story for free. The Times recently revamped their website and tried to put the newspaper edition with all the stories behind a subscription. When I went to have a look just now to see how much a subscription to that edition is, I discovered that it is free again, even though they haven’t publicised this and you have to know which link to click on (BTW, it is the “Our Papers” link on the right-hand side of the top row of the menu).

Record companies executives are just going to have to come up with other ways of making money that are viable in the current marketplace. Otherwise, they are going to have to put up with less stratospheric salaries.

Veiled Justice

If you have the impression that Muslim women wearing the full veil are not in touch with the modern world, you would be wrong.

A woman serving on the jury of a murder trial has been arrested for listening to her MP3 player under her hijab, while the defendant was giving evidence. He was later found guilty. I can see that one going up on appeal. Can you say, “re-trial”?

It’s not like this woman wanted to be in court listening to her MP3 player. She avoided her first two summons to jury duty. She doesn’t have a job, so she tried to say she needed to go job hunting or go on a nursing course, for which she could provide no details. Then she kept arriving late to court during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t dismiss her. She doodled instead of reading the evidentiary documents handed to her and refuse to put them in the into the lever arch files provided to her.

The judge even thought he heard “tinny music” but decided it was his imagination, until another member of the jury finally complained.

The woman almost certainly faces prison if she is convicted. I have a had time imagining how she could not be convicted. The maximum sentence is indefinite imprisonment and an unlimited fine. I would expect that she would get at least several months.

Twice a Victim

Jacob Smith was a victim of crime and as a result was made a victim of the justice system.

From The Times today:

A shopkeeper has been fined £250 and given a criminal record because he fought back when he was attacked by shoplifters.

Jacob Smyth chased three youths out of his hardware shop in Penzance, Cornwall, when he was set upon. When he was kicked in the groin by one of the hooded youths who had stolen cans of spray paint Mr Smyth hit back.

Police issued fixed penalty tickets to the shoplifters but charged Mr Smyth and a colleague with assault.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to assault at Truro Magistrates’ Court. He claimed after the hearing that he had been advised to plead guilty because otherwise he could have faced a six month prison sentence.

The court was told that Mr Smyth, a father of three, caught the youths stealing the spray cans in October last year. Two of them turned on him and he was kicked in his groin just weeks after a vasectomy operation. He retaliated and punched 18-year-old Craig Spiller to the ground.

So if you are ever attacked two-on-one and kicked in the groin, you must turn the other testicle. Do not defend yourself, or you will face a criminal record.

The Common Lord Chancellor

Gordon Brown has announced his Cabinet. In addition to moving or removing every Cabinet Minister except Des Browne at Defence (though he’s been given the Scotland portfolio as well), Brown without the “e” has chopped, changed, and renamed some departments.

This is not particularly uncommon with incoming Governments, though I have to wonder how quickly new premises can be secured, stationery and phone number changed, and civil servants shuttled around.  However, one thing has caught me quite by surprise and I’m not exactly sure how can even work constitutionally. I say that realising that Labour has heretofore defied just about anything else that would have otherwise seemed unconstitutional.

Though it hasn’t been mentioned in any news report that I have seen, I was looking at the official list of He Majesty’s Government on the Parliament website and discovered that Jack Straw is Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.  I knew that prisons were being shifted into the same department as the courts and away from the Home Office. The Lord Chancellor is no longer the head of the judiciary under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. He isn’t even speaker of the House of Lords anymore. But he’s still the Lord Chancellor.

Clothes Police

If you’ve heard of the clothes police, but never thought this referred to an actual law enforcement body, you may soon be wrong. It may soon refer to any constabulary in Scotland.

Under proposed Scottish legislation, unlicensed kilt wearers could face a £5,000 fine and six months in jail. Don’t worry about wearing the wrong tartan. It all has to do with the sporran – the pouch worn over the unmentionables due to the lack of pockets in a kilt.

Sporrans are traditionally made from leather or fur. Applicants for a license had better know the provenance of their sporran. The animal providing the materials must have been killed lawfully. That means it if it is made from badger, otter, deer, or a number of other animals, it must have been made before 1994.  It’s always a good idea to keep those receipts.

If you can’t prove how old it is (or that it is disgracefully made from non-traditional materials), not only will you have a criminal record and possibly a cellmate, but you will also have your sporran confiscated.

This crazy legislation is not entirely from the deranged collective mind of the Scottish government. It has been proposed to conform to the rest of the European Union.

Symbolic Justice

The case of Lydia Playfoot was argued before the High Court in London today. She is the 16-year-old girl who was banned by her school from wearing a chastity ring with “I Thes 4:3-4” inscribed on it.

This is a school which allows Sikh and Muslim jewellery, but not Christian.

Lydia eloquently put her view to the court in a written statement, much of which has been reprinted by the Guardian.

As a practical matter, Lydia has taken her GCSEs and left school, but the ruling by the court could affect others who not only want to wear chastity rings but other Christian symbols as well, in a culture that does everything to accommodate non-Christian faith practices. Even though a trial court ruling has no value in precedent (unless it is taken to, and upheld on, appeal) it will have a persuasive effect on other judges in similar cases and on schools facing litigation.

Leaving a Mark on Society

If you spank your child hard enough to leave a mark in this country, you can go to prison for five years. That’s the way the law was left in 2004 after an attempt to ban all chastisement whatsoever. But they’re back. The Government has announced a full review of the law.

There will be a public consultation period. It will include polling to assess whether attitudes to smacking – and the limits of state intervention in parenting – have changed in recent years.

A number of well-meaning completely misguided children’s charities favour a complete ban. Colette Marshall, the UK director of Save the Children, said: “Children are vulnerable and are currently treated unequally.”

The key piece of information Ms. Marshall is missing is that children are treated unequally because they are, in fact, unequal. Ms. Marshall is missing the very same information as a number of students I teach. I am sometimes told, “You can’t speak to me like that!” or “If you can this, so can I!” I frequently have to explain that I am an adult and they are a child; that I am a teacher and they are a pupil; that I’m in charge and they are not. This seems to come as a complete surprise to some. They seem incredulous that different rules apply to me than to them.

It is this idiocy – complete barmy lunacy in the face of empirical evidence – on the part of the left that has led to the smacking ban in schools and motivates the same move to ban it in the home. We might as well remove the age limits to buying alcohol and tobacco, for driving, and for voting as well. In fact, we probably put society in less danger by doing this than by furthering the smacking ban.

Killing in Iraq

Someone else’s bad news may be good news. I came across a liberal blog that was complaining that Congressional Democrats have withdrawn legislation to require abortifacients to be stocked on all military bases. Foeticide activists are outraged.

“The situation is unconscionable,” says Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). “If you are a military woman in Iraq, and you are raped, it is this country’s obligation to make sure you have access to emergency contraception.” Something tells me that Saporta would feel the same way if you are a military woman in Iraq and can’t keep your legs closed. After all, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that the NAF favours the absolute right to abortion on demand.

Saporta is concerned about this because a survey paid for by the US Defense Department found that almost a third of military women reported being the victim of rape or attempted rape during their tenure in the military. Of course this raises two issues that she doesn’t address – why aren’t a third of male soldiers being charged with rape or attempted rape and what are women doing in a war zone? Resolving the latter might solve some of the problem – forget the silliness that women belong in combat situations with men.

But back to the main issue. Cases of pregnancy from rape are very rare. Nonetheless, this is always dragged out as an excuse for protecting foeticidal rights. It’s emotive, but philosophically useless. One crime is unrelated to the other. If every new life is uniquely its own, the circumstances under which it was created are irrelevant.

I suppose the NAF can’t make an strong a case if they say men and women living together in close proximity, in an emotionally charged atmosphere is asking for at least the same level of fornication as you get in civillian society. They don’t want to say that if we are going to pander to those who can keep their pants on outside the service, then we should at least equally provide for them in the service.

I just have to mention one other thing about the NAF. Their website has lots of information on how to stop Crisis Pregnancy Centers.  Instead, the NAF has a toll-free hotline which “offers women unbiased, factual information about pregnancy and abortion in English, Spanish and French.” Did I mention that the NAF is, openly and by its own admission, a professional association of abortion providers. Surely they have no vested interested in shutting down CPCs and anything they tell you about abortion (except about the wads of cash they are stuffing into their pockets and what they do with the chopped up little bodies) is trustworthy.

It’s Not Fair

I have heretofore refused to say anything about that cranial vacuum known as Paris Hilton. However, yesterday’s antics were just too much.

I don’t even mean Paris’ own histrionics in the courtroom, though I have to say I don’t think I ever had a client behave like that when being sent down. You would think she was going to the scaffold, but even those facing death have almost always done it with more dignity. She has been sentenced to 45 days in an jumpsuit. I guess orange just isn’t her colour.

She is only going to jail because she was driving on a suspended license after two alcohol related convictions, the second of which resulted in probation, and both picked up within four months.  The only reason she was pulled over the third time, within six months of the first offence, was because she was doing 70 in a 35 in the dark with no headlights. Yet despite this she had to be dragged from the courtroom screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom! It’s not fair! It’s not right!”

She is right – it’s not fair. She should have had more consequences sooner. It’s not fair that people with lots of money can buy their way to leniency. It’s not right that the sheriff was either conned or paid to let her out on a false medical pretence. No, Paris, life isn’t fair.

But that’s not the worst bit. Like I said, who should care about a rich little airheaded bimbo spending six weeks in the Gray Bar Hotel? No one. Certainly not every TV network. This is worse than when I was in the States at Easter and watched the coverage to find out who fathered Anna Nicole’s baby. I watched it because there was nothing else on. The eyes of the world were focused on finding the lucky fornicator.

The leaders of the seven richest nations (and their belligerent little Russian friend) are meeting in Germany to develop coordinated policy on a variety of world issues and the live coverage is about someone best known for their acting in front of bedside camcorder.

And it’s not like the UK is immune to this. Every newspaper and television news programme has covered this. Why? Why do people care? What does this say about the values of western society?

Justice for the Ilois

The Court of Appeal has finally said what everyone has already known for ages. The British Government broke the law when it expelled the Ilois from their homelands in the Chagos archipelago, just so the US could have an airbase at Deigo Garcia.

The High Court said this last year, but the Government was given leave to appeal. This bought the Government and their masters in Washington an extra year. I am not usually particularly critical of US/UK relations, but this is the exception. The US wanted Diego Garcia to safeguard US interests so the British Government, showing the worst face of imperialism, cleansed an entire archipelago of islands of an entire ethnic group. They were forced to leave the only place they had known for generations – their homes, their lands, the graves of their ancestors and loved ones. US documents say the British Government agreed to “sweep” and “sanitize” the islands.

The story of the sanitizing is unbelievable horrible. Read more of this post

Rolling Through a Loophole

I hope I don’t catch any more flak for talking about the handicapped, but this story was just too good to pass up.

A wheelchair-bound German stunned police when they pulled him over for using the road and found he was 10 times over the legal alcohol limit for drivers.

“He was right in the middle of the road,” said a spokesman for police in the northeastern city of Schwerin on Tuesday. “The officers couldn’t quite believe it when they saw the results of the breath test. That’s a life-threatening figure.”

The 31-year-old told police he had been out drinking with a friend and was about 2 km from home when a squad car stopped him as he passed through the village of Ventschow.

Police said that because the man was technically travelling as a pedestrian, he could not be charged with a driving offence.

“It’s not like we can impound his wheelchair,” the spokesman said. “But he is facing some sort of punishment. It’s just not clear yet what exactly that will be.”

This says a lot about the Germans. They are going to make sure he is punished, even if they haven’ t come up with a charge yet. They won’ t let a little thing like the fact that there is no offence to match his behaviour stand in the way.

Digital Detection

HM Treasury could see a boost of an additional £120 million per year, thanks to upgrades in speed cameras.

The Government indicated some time ago that they weren’t inclined to increase the number of cameras on the road, due to public unhappiness at the prospect. However, they never said they wouldn’t increase the capacities of the existing cameras.

The traditional cameras can only shoot about 200 violators before needing the film replaced. The new cameras are digital. The old ones can only be pointed at one lane of traffic. The new ones can monitor four lanes at a time.

All of that additional money will go to central government. This is because as of last month all money from speed cameras goes to the Teasury. The local portion has been taken out of it.

The proliferation of camera has gotten so widespread that many insurers are no longer taking tickets into consideration when setting premiums. Some will let drivers accumulate nine points (three speeding tickets) without increasing the annual rate.

What’s Mine is Yours

The rate of property crimes in this country would shock most Americans. Now incidents of shoplifting are increasing even more.

Since 2004, shoplifters have not had to worry about getting a criminal record. A theft of goods worth less than £200 results instead in an on-the-spot penalty notice. It’s like a traffic ticket. Just pay the fine in time and it’s all done.

Shoplifters took £2 billion worth of goods in 2006.

British Retail Consortium spokesman Richard Dodd told the BBC, “At government level sentencing is so weak that people are just not put off stealing from shops. A lot of these are people who are repeatedly stealing in order to fund a drug habit and they believe, unfortunately rightly, that there will be no serious sanction on them if they are caught.”

Earlier this month Lord Falconer, the head of the judiciary in this country, called for further reduction in the sentences for property crimes.

Labour Favours Hybrid Humanoids

The Government in this country is now no longer opposed to the hybridisation of humans and animals.

The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill was published this morning. It will allow Parliament to review whether there is a good case for manufacturing human-animal embryos. The initial use would be for advancing stem cell research.

Health Minister Caroline Flint insists this isn’t a shift in policy from the proposal for an outright ban last year. “Our position was not to stop this research but to be clear that it’s sensitive research, and we have to be sure about what we’re going to permit to happen in the future.” Ministers expect Parliament to permit the creation of the embryos.

Of course the humanoids would be killed at 14 days for now, just as humans who are experimented upon. But that limit is up the to fiat of Parliament as well. All that has to be made is a good case for letting them live a little longer.

There are scientists out there like Panayiotis Zavos pushing for more license in this area. They will take anything governments will allow and stretch it to the limit. Professor Zavos has already cloned three embryos from dead people.

The thing about humanoid hybrids is that it can be argued they are non-human and therefore not entitled to human rights. If they can eventually be grown to birth, they could be considered chattel, yet able to do all the work of a human. They would look human, so it is likely that they would reproduce and eventually a significant part of the population of the planet would no longer be human. Isn’t this supposed to be the stuff of science fiction?