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Monday, April 30, 2007

 

High-Speed Police Craziness

In a case dated April 30, 2007 the Supreme Court decided that police are now able to use force in a high-speed pursuit to stop an individual that is driving recklessly from harming others. The 8-1 decision in Scott v. Harris No. 05-1631 that gives police extended powers during high speed pursuits was not found to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This amendment gives an individual the right to be free from unreasonable searches. Justice Scalia said that this decision by the court holds true “even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death.” Deputy Scott had hit the car that the 19-year-old Harris was driving. Harris lost control of his vehicle. He is now paralyzed and has attempted to sue. Since the Fourth Amendment was not violated he cannot sue for damages.

Harris was being chased because he was speeding. I know that the job of the police is supposed to be to protect all people. I wonder though, how well are they protecting all people if they are including themselves in the high-speed chase over speeding tickets? Could more people possibly be harmed from police forcing drivers off of the road for crimes such as a speeding ticket? Could the outcome not have been perhaps an extra fine of some sort for Harris? I’m kind of torn over this case. I want the police to be able to protect me, but at the same time I want my rights protected and not to see a police chase every time someone goes speeding down the highway. The courts have decided to give the police force more police power in order to “protect the people.” I just wonder where it ends. Hopefully it won’t go beyond this point.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

 

Large Acres of Land Selling to the Rich

For the very rich billionaires and the millionaires there is a new fad of buying up open land in the US. Brad Kelley has almost 800,000 acres of land that he is purchasing for ranching. There are others, like Roxanne Quimby, who buy forest landfrom logging companies and open land used for ATV trails, and plan to use it as conservation land. It seems the rich are beginning to do the opposite of what Americans were doing in the early 19th century, of preserving the land and maintaining it not selling.

It seems that most of the private property owners are protecting the land from development, not preparing it to be sold to developers. If we consider economic prosperity of this effort, it clearly support the right of private property. It is also a good example of the corrective state involving preservation of land and natural resources. Maybe this fad will catch on.

As James Madison stated in his Essay on Property in 1792, "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own". So how is the Government going to react to these land purchases? Will they press for more eminent domain to take over the land to sell and make a profit, keep it as a public use? Even though it seems most of the private landowners will protect it. How will the Supreme Court react when faced with a case for the Takings Clause that has no grounds? Will they redefine takings and public use language again to come up with a public purpose policy? Or will they agree with common sense and let the private property remain private without government intervention?

Friday, April 27, 2007

 

Hmmmm Can she do that?!

In early April of 2007 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went over to the Middle East to conduct foreign policy. The concern that myself as well as author Frank Salvato has is that the Constitution does not authorize the Speaker of the House to conduct foreign policy in the manner in which Pelosi did. That power is strictly delegated to the Executive Branch of government. As Salvato writes “this isn’t to say that Congress doesn’t have any authority over the formulation of US foreign policy, it certainly does.” Article 2, section 8 is the part of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, States, and Indian Tribes. However, Salvato notes that it is Article 3, Section 2 that authorizes the President to make treaties, appoint Ambassadors, Judges of the Supreme Court, etc. Congress has the power to regulate business in the US and foreign nations and the President has the ability to appoint individuals to represent the US in foreign affairs.

Knowing all of the information presented above leads me to ask why the Speaker of the House thought it was appropriate for her to go over to the Middle East. She took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. So why, then would she even take this step? Some have suggested that this is an attempt by Congress to undermine President Bush or for Congress to overpower the Executive Branch period. I guess that it doesn’t really matter why she chose to do it. The point is that the Constitution clearly leaves that area of foreign policy to the Executive Branch. It is the choice of the Secretary of the State to go to foreign countries for diplomatic reasons, not the choice of Nancy Pelosi. I agree with author Frank Salvato that this situation has created a constiutional crisis.


 

Abortion battle...Again.

The supreme court has recently upheld the 2003 partial birth abortion ban act. The decision was 5-4 in favor of the laws constitutionality. The Democrats are appalled, the Republicans applaud. Several people are arguing that the decision would have gone the other way if O'Connor will still on the bench. The dissent argued that the main problem with the law was that it does not allow any exceptions for medical reasons. President Bush said the prohibition "represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America. Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America," The article also seems to take offense to the conservative nature of the court and repeatedly points out that two members of the majority were nominated by Bush.

Personal feelings aside I believe that the court has made the wrong decision. The court has turned over Roe v. Wade. Obviously, as it has proven several times, the court has no respect for precedent. The country is founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Of course there is the age old argument, does a fetus have a right to life? Are they people until they are born? At what point do they become people. Either way there is no statement in the constitution that can be used to justify banning abortion.

For me personally I am in favor of banning partial birth abortion. I would support a medical stipulation to the ban. Still, I am not sure that there would be no awareness of health risks that far along in a pregnancy. This is causing a paradox for me between liberty and morals. Who's to say that anyone has the right to tell someone whether or not they can have an abortion. I do not know if one could say that an abortion causes negative externalities and therefor justifies government interference. If we could say that it was a negative externality to the fetus then the solution would be to tax abortion, it seems like a strange solution but maybe it is the correct one. There seems to be no concrete answeres to these questions. It seems that whoever has the power of the White House determines which way this law will go. We will continue to see laws on abortion change.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

 

Slacking of the ropes

A recent article in the New York Times said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was leaving many of its regulations to be regulated by the industry. This article was about workers that worked in a microwave popcorn plant who started getting sick after the popcorn manufactures added and additive that gave the popcorn a more buttery taste. The workers were complain about the action not being taken saying someone needs to be monitoring the health and safety of the workers basically that if OSHA does not do it than no one will, since the beginning of the Bush administration OSHA has issued the fewest standards in its history. While reading this article I could not stop thinking about a case we talked about in class Holden v. Hardy. In this case the Court dealt with the unhealthy working conditions in the mine. The miners did not like the new regulations that were placed on them, so they filed suit. The only thing different about this is that government is not using its coercive power to regulate--some people are asking them to regulate it. To me the government is doing the right thing. Letting not only the industry control the regulations but also the market. The industry is not being coercive by forcing people to work in such conditions that it endangers their health. The workers have entered into a contract voluntarily. I also do not see any externalities. The workers received higher wages for working in the part of the factory that mixed the additives together. Though they did not know the risk associated with this type of work the manufacturers did not either. The workers were part of a market transaction with the higher pay.
I also believe their is some rent seeking behavior on behalf of the industry. Some of the biggest industries that OSHA regulates gave more than $630 million in political contributions since 2000, with more than half going to Republicans.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

 

Cablevision appeals network DVR ruling

Cablevision appealed a case recently that prohibited the company from rolling out their next-generation digital video recorder in NY. The new recorder would dramatically increase the rate at which the company could distribute DVR capabilities. Essentially, the new system would allow any household with a cable box to record their favorite show and play it on their computer later. The system would allow any cable subscriber access to DVR technology without expensive equipment installations. The Hollywood studios that successfully sued Cablevision claimed that they filed the suit in order to prevent additional broadcasts of their programs. However, the real reason probably lies in the fact that DVR owners can fast forward through commercials when watching their recorded programs. Obviously, if subscribers can fast forward through commercials then the companies that buy spots during shows will be less inclined to spend top dollar on commercials that people aren’t going to watch. Hollywood studios would lose money and therefore are probably trying to protect their pockets.

Legally, Cablevision should be able to rollout their new product without any interference from the New York government. That is, NY should not be able to prohibit the production and selling of any product. The only question is whether the new recorder violates the liberties of any specific person or group. For the most part, I think not. I believe that 99% of the people who use the system will just be watching the shows that they missed or re-watching the shows that they enjoyed the most. However, since the new system would allow people to put the programs on their computer, there is a significant probability that the television shows could end up on a website (You-Tube?). Again though, this is not the major concern for Hollywood studios. They don’t make their profits from individual consumers. Rather, they make their billions from the companies who buy commercial time. So, while the case and the ruling seem correct, there seems to be a case of rent-seeking involved. Either way, I think that the courts decided correctly in protecting the television studios that could possibly go out of business if a system like that was provided to such a large number of consumers.

 

Automakers challenge Vermont emission law

This article concerns the emissions law that congress told the Bush administration to rethink. Vermont as well as ten other states wants to cut the carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles by 30%. However, Vermont is the first state that will take their case to trial against the auto industry. The auto companies (GM and DaimlerChrysler) claim that the 10 individual states pushing for the law are overstepping their boundaries in trying to regulate vehicle emissions. Charles Territo, A spokesperson for the auto manufacturers states; “This trial is about whether or not states have the authority to set their own fuel-economy standards. And we will argue that they don't."

The Constitution doesn’t give congress the power to regulate production (Although in many cases The Supreme Court has granted congress this very power). The new law would involve individual states regulating the production of cars in their respective state in order to lower carbon dioxide emissions. As long as the state government doesn’t create a monopoly or a market failure, they should be able to regulate (not prohibit) the production of automobiles. As far as I can see, there is no market failure of any sort involved. Nor do I see any infringement on the liberties of the auto manufacturers. All that Vermont and the other nine states are asking is for manufacturers to lessen the emissions that their cars produce. Under the constitution and using my general understanding of liberty, I see no reason why any court would rule in favor of the auto companies.

Monday, April 09, 2007

 

Jailed journalist to be freed

Joshua Wolf spent more than seven months in a federal prison after refusing to obey a subpoena to turn over his videotape of a chaotic 2005 San Francisco street protest during the G-8 summit. The Government had been investigating how a police officer's skull was fractured during the incident and who set a police car on fire. Wolf's lawyer argued that the First amendment gave him the right to refuse the subpoena for the unaired video. U.S District Judge William Alsup cited a 1972 supreme court ruling that the U.S. constitution does not entitle reporters, or anybody else, to withhold confidential sources or unpublished material from a grand jury during an investigation in a criminal trial. Wolf refused to hand over the video tape and was jailed. After 226 days later the unaired video tape was posted online and it had been decided the Wolf had complied with the subpoena and was released.

After reading this article I am confused as to what exactly our government thinks it is doing. We have already learned about all the great things congress has the power to regulate, like global warming for example. Now it seems that pretty much anything we own is actually congresses. Apparently they can take our private property for whatever use they please and if we refuse we can be thrown in jail. It was believed that this video tape had some evidence on it of some sort and I guess that was the reasoning behind the taking. In the article it mentions that it turned out the video tape did not even show what investigators were looking for. So why exactly was Joshua Wolf jailed for over seven months? Well, I guess I can't say. I never read anything that says if you don't surrender your private property to the government you can be thrown in jail. I understand the concept of takings for public use with just compensation but this case doesn't seem to make any sense. Apparently the government has a lot more power than what has been specifically given to it by the constitution.

 

Global Warming and the Courts

Last Monday the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) has the power to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) and that they could not neglect the right for regulating greenhouse gases unless they could provide scientific basis for not regulating. The explanation from E.P.A. on why they had not regulated greenhouse gases was because the emissions from American cars were insignificant in the big picture. The court dismissed this explanation as inadequate. The decision does not force the E.P.A. to regulate CO2, but would most likely face more legal action if it does not. The dissent delivered by Chief Justice Roberts said that the Court should have never given the plaintiffs standing to sue and that it lowers the requirements for standing.
I agree with Chief Justice Roberts. I am not sure how the plaintiffs passed the three prong standing test. To be granted standing you must prove: first that injury was sustained; second that the injury was caused by the action in question; and third it is likely that the outcome will favor the injured party. How did the state of Massachusetts prove that injury was sustained? Justice Stevens said it met the requirements because global warming was raising the see level along its coast, if the government did something then harm would be reduced. I don't believe this is enough to prove the first two parts of the test. It sounds ridiculous to me that justice Stevens and the other five in the majority would agree with him. The rising sea level could be because of other countries failing to regulate greenhouse gases. I also don't think that the Clean Air Act that was passed in 1963 had anything to do with regulating CO2 from cars, but rather combating smog in cities. I think that the Court has overstepped its constitutional boundaries. The President and congress should be passing legislation to combat the effects of greenhouse gases not the Court. Even at a state level Massachusetts could better control how much CO2 they want to emit with harder emissions test. The E.P.A. can not hold full responsibility. California, for instance, has stricter emissions for regulating CO2 than the federal government. Massachusetts could do the same if they were really worried about their rising coast line.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

 

No legal obligation to shareholders, or protection from over regulation?

The supreme court is set to hear debates between the bush administration and shareholders of fiber-optic company Tellabs. The Bush administration is claiming that there should be a limit in lawsuits for corporate scandals, like the ones in 2002 involving companies like Enron. Their reasoning behind this is that too many lawsuits will “bog down” business and make Financial firms less competitive and less productive.The argument presented by the shareholders is that The “lost millions” when then CEO made false statements.Essentially, since 2002 regulatory laws on financial firms since 2002 have allowed shareholders to sue extensive class action lawsuits.This seems like a case of Rent-Seeking big corporations are looking to “ease” there business practices by making them unaccountable for their own actions. Sure competition should be encouraged in business, because it HELPS the economy. If, however, it is a kind of competition that comes from hurting shareholders, than it seems to be HURTING the economy.I see no justification for violating the personal liberty of share holders, making themselves unable to legally defend themselves, just to increase production.It seems like rent-seeking o the part of the financial businesses, to lower costs by taking away legal barrier

Sunday, April 01, 2007

 

Court Packing Cartoons

You might be interested in checking out a number of cartoons that were published around FDR's court packing scheme.

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