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March 10, 2006

The Fermi Paradox is a conundrum proposed by pioneer physicist Enrico Fermi that questions the likelihood of Intelligent Extraterrestrial life. The paradox begins with the Drake Equation or some derivative which guesstimates the possible number of intelligent civilizations in the universe, and then extrapolates expansion rates into the universe from a point location within the cosmos of that species or culture.

The paradox is that there should have been enough ET's over the last 10 plus billion years, that even if they moved at velocities achievable by human technology today, they could have swarmed over the galaxy, or even the cluster to which our galaxy belongs to, many times over.

Clearly, we don't know enough about the universe to draw any firm conclusions from the paradox. Still, it's an interesting thought experiment: Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years from rim to rim and contains perhaps 400 billion stars, each of which could easily have, on average, a half-dozen planets. The galaxy is perhaps 10 billion years old. If there were a single fledgling interstellar civilization in all that space and time, and it expanded away from its planet or point of origin on average at the measly rate of one light year every ten-thousand years, slower than our own Voyager Spacecraft are traveling, and grew in all directions, it would take 'only' one-billion years to get from one end of the galaxy to another and completely fill it up along the way. A little faster, at a mere one percent of the speed of light, it would take only ten-million years to spread from one end of the galaxy to another, and less than a billion to engulf entire clusters of galaxies.

Humans could begin constructing spacecraft that move at these speeds right now, if we put our minds to it. So if we could start spreading all over the galaxy using our current technology, why hasn't someone or something already spread all over us? Once cultures started spreading like this it seems likely a ruthless sort of selection would kick in and favor the culture, or the faction within a culture, which does so the most aggressively, quickly, and successfully. It's hard to see what would stop it. So where are they? Is there anybody out there?

Categories: Blogs

March 9, 2006

Pennsylvania's Senator Santorum is addicted to lobbyists.  The GOP's poster boy for ethics reform who was forced to take a backseat role because of his K-Street ties can't seem to wean himself off their influence for more than a few weeks at a time.

When he headed up the Republican K-Street project, Santorum would meet with lobbyists in the Capitol on Tuesdays, at 8:30 a.m., for an hour.  He'd go through line after line of lobbyists,  pressuring them to hire Republicans in exchange for special access to top officials. When he came under fire for those meetings, he pledged on January 30th to end them cold turkey. And he did. For a little over a month. Then little Ricky was overcome with a craving for lobbyists, and, with his willpower for clean government so weak, he gave in.  Today, we learn that Santorum still gets his lobbying fix.  Not in the halls of the Capitol, not anymore. That would be too obvious. Like any addict, Santorum tries to hide his relapse:

Instead of being held in the Capitol, however, the recent meetings were conducted nearby. The first was held about three blocks away, at the headquarters of National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the second was held around the corner from that building, at the Heritage Foundation.

He is sneaking around with the same crowd of influencers,  riding the high of peddling power. Well, not the same crowd. Because when you relapse, you relapse hard. So Santorum's new lobbying gang includes extra special 20 to 30 people, in addition to about 40 of his old friends.

No matter how loud they promise "reform," no matter how far they try to distance themselves from Republican lobbyists like Abramoff and the rest of the K-Street project, Republicans are and always will be hooked on corruption.  Addicted to impropriety, down to their very core.

Categories: Blogs
God help me, I believe I'm beginning to think like a Republican. Whenever I see anything -- anything -- related to the GOP messing with the federal budget, I immediately look for the political angle that benefits Bush's no-longer-so-hidden agenda.

Take this piece of news:

Tight Budgets Imperil the Nation's Environmental Satellites - Vital Forecasting Tools

The Associated Press

Budget cuts and poor management may be jeopardizing the future of our eyes in orbit, America's fleet of environmental satellites, vital tools for forecasting hurricanes, protecting water supplies and predicting global warming.

Amazing, thought I, upon first read. And convenient too, for an administration that has consistently downplayed the dangers (and reality) of global warming. This is a predictable pattern with this gang: Don't adequately fund or legally acknowledge an issue and you can pretend a problem doesn't exist, i.e., if you don't teach sex education, teens will stop having sex; if you don't let gays marry, people will stop being gay; if you don't let women have abortions, they will stop luring men into sex with their wicked, wicked ways, etc.  I think of it as the "If You Don't Buy an Umbrella, It Will Never, Ever Rain!" school of SimpleLand Leadership.

Everything in this administration comes down to three political positioning maneuvers (and note that #2 and #3 really are subsets merely designed to serve #1):

1.    Corporations should operate absolutely unfettered in order to line the pockets of the oligarchical elite (See: empire building, environmental and safety deregulation, using the armed forces to pry open new markets/ resources/cheap labor, tax cuts, union busting, privatization of anything and everything, etc.)

2.    Pandering to the Religious Right (in order to get the votes to further #1).

3.    Escape any and all responsibility for the obscenely awful consequences of #1 upon the 90% of Americans who fund the stupidity - and pay the personal price in their daily lives - for these policies.

So on a second read of this defunding the satellites story, we can catch a glimpse of future Monty Python "No one could have foreseen .... [fill in the blank: the Iraqi insurgency, planes flying into buildings, levees breaching, etc.]" moments.

Scientists warn that the consequences of neglecting Earth-observing satellites could have more than academic consequences. It is possible that when a big volcano starts rumbling in the Pacific Northwest, a swarm of tornadoes sweeps through Oklahoma or a massive hurricane bears down on New Orleans, the people in harm's way and those responsible for their safety will have a lot less information than they'd like about the impending threat.

Oh, goody! A twofer! Bush can now claim that global warming doesn't exist because it hasn't been observed or measured AND with a few years of defunding, he (or his Rove-ordained successor) won't be bothered with pesky, alarmist NOAA reports predicting unimaginable devastation. No more silly questions about why he ignored evidence, because there won't be any evidence to ignore. The U.S. simply won't fund it.

Carry this trend out long enough, and we'll all be thrown back into the 14th century, at the mercy of forces we can neither measure nor understand, a nation of praying sheep huddled in the courtyard of our feudal masters, praying to an angry and bewildering God for deliverance from mysterious phenomena visited upon us for sins we never knew we committed in the first place.

Ignorant and primitive vassals, all. Because that's how our leaders want us, in SimpleLand®.

Categories: Blogs

  • Religious charities are getting bigger and bigger slices of the federal money pie through different agencies, according to this AP account. About 11 percent of grants given through seven departments now go to religious groups. Because Congress has balked, most of these soulful giveaways have been authorized by executive order.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told senators Thursday that the United States faces "no greater challenge from a single country" than from Iran, according to CNN. Hmmm ... same message, different country. It's feeling more and more like Groundhog Day in the Middle East.

  • Rumsfeld continues his beautiful brain vacation in La La Land, declaring today that Iraq is on track for U.S. troop drawdowns if Iraqi security forces "continue to do the kind of job they're doing," according to Reuters. As an example of the kind of job they're doing, check out Robert Fisk here.

  • Bush showed up in the 9th Ward in New Orleans yesterday for the first time in six months and blamed Congress for its slow response to the crisis.

  • Remember this? It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time . . . Apparently, the Right Wing is full of Van Goghs [My favorite blog is ] Little Green Footballs. . . . When the history books are written, Charles Johnson will surely go down as a great American that made a critical difference between victory and defeat. . . . Van Gogh was ignored in his time too . . . (By Armando)

  • An action item for Los Angeles area Kossacks: a 14 acre community-run farm in South-Central LA needs your help -- (Hunter)

Categories: Blogs
The Senate is debating whether to accept a Democratic amendment to the lobbying reform bill which block the Dubai deal.  Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, just read a press release from DP World in which the state-owned company says it had agreed to divest itself of all American interests in the interests of the U.A.E.-American relationship.  Senator Schumer says it is a positive development, but "the devil is in the details."  Schumer's concern is that if "ultimate control" is still exercised by DP World, that would not satisfy the goals of the amendment.  Consequently, Schumer is refusing to withdraw his amendment, and is urging Senators to vote against cloture. The vote for cloture will take place at 2 p.m.

Today, Republicans met with the President to essentially tell him the deal was dead in both the House and Senate.  The President and DP World have realized that, unless they present a huge carrot in front of the Congress, both the President and DP World would suffer an embrassing defeat. Is this carrot big enough to avoid a veto showdown? Does it even offer anything substantial in its terms?  We should know within a couple hours the Senate's determination on those issues.

Update: From CNN's main page: Dubai Ports World has agreed to turn over all of its operations at U.S. ports to a United States entity, said Sen. John Warner, reading a statement from DP World. He said the reason is "to preserve" the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Update [2006-3-9 14:40:40 by georgia10]:: Full story here. The Senate voted 51-47 against cloture. Frist switched his vote for procedural reasons to bring it up for reconsideration, and says he will bring it up within the next few days. When pressed for a time frame by Senator Dodd, Senator Frist said "I'd bring it back if I had the votes." Priceless!

Categories: Blogs
The U.S. military will close Abu Ghraib prison within three months, the Washington Post Reports.  As one gate to hell closes, too many more remain open.  The abuse at that prison did not begin at Abu Ghraib; as was detailed by Emily Bazelon in Mother Jones last year (diaried here by SusanHu), the culture of abuse and maltreatment began in the prisons of Afghanistan. Instead of disciplining the soldiers who committed atrocities in that war, the military sent them to Iraq.  The abuse at Abu Ghraib then is not some self-contained phenomenon of "bad apples" that can be eradicated by closing up shop and moving elsewhere.  Rather, the seeds of abuse have been planted in prisons and detention centers throughout the world.

In Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, as reported on Feb. 26, 2006, the abuse rivals that of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo:

From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served [at the Bagram detention site in Afghanistan], a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.

"Bagram was never meant to be a long-term facility, and now it's a long-term facility without the money or resources," said one Defense Department official who has toured the detention center. Comparing the prison with Guantánamo, the official added, *"Anyone who has been to Bagram would tell you it's worse."*

At Bagram Air Base, detainees suffer through mock executions and sexual humilation.  In Camp X-Ray, detainees are released only to report torture that would make Lyndie England look saintly. The crimes of Abu Ghraib are being committed beyond that prison's walls.   And the sad reality is that shutting down Abu Ghraib does not wash the blood off our hands, nor does it wipe the shame off our souls.  

Update: To clarify, Abu Ghraib is being closed down and the facility handed back to the Iraqi government. The prisoners will be moved to a new facility in Iraq.

Categories: Blogs
(This is one of those few times that Krempasky and I are 100 percent on the same page -- kos)

Markos and I have sent a letter to every Member of the House this morning - urging them to pass HR 1606 as soon as possible. While there is a promising proposal from the Center for Democracy & Technology floating about - it's imperative that Congress send a clear message that ought to be protected. Full text below the fold - and .pdf version behind the thumbnail.

Categories: Blogs
Drudge, in his infinite idiocy, posted the following:


Now, I can't speak to Carville/Begala or Wonkette. But CTG pre-sold 5,100 copies, and the book hasn't been officially released. Heck, you still can't get it in book stores. The official publication date is March 27. Drudge's numbers are probably based on the few books Amazon shipped last week when it first got its hands on the book.

So let's see Drudge update this list in a month, after the book is actually released and is widely available.

For the record, Chelsea Green did a first printing of 40,000. The demand from booksellers has been so strong, and our promotional schedule so hot (I'm telling you, you'll get sick of hearing and seeing me), that they've had to a rush second printing of 20,000.

Categories: Blogs
The Club for Growth doesn't shy away from fighting battles, even though as an outsider organization on the Right that challenges Republican incumbents, it loses far, far, far more than it wins.

Pat Toomey, President of the Club for Growth, the nation's leading free-market advocacy organization with over 34,000 members, issued the following statement after the announcement of election results from the Democratic primary in Texas' 28th Congressional district showing Club for Growth PAC-endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar defeating former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and his coalition of ultra-liberal Members of Congress and advocacy groups to win the Democratic primary:

"A united coalition of the biggest mouths and money on the tax-hiking Far Left couldn't defeat Henry Cuellar and his commitment to pro-growth principles.

"With aggressive support from the Club for Growth PAC that included a series of phone calls to turn out pro-growth voters, along with Club members who donated more than $165,000 to his campaign, Rep. Cuellar was able to run on his agenda of pro-growth tax relief and increased economic opportunity through free trade and the voters responded by giving him a strong victory.

Cuellar is feeling mighty good about himself right now, with his new pals the CFG and Bush. But he shouldn't get too comfy in his seat. He has a ton of enemies in that district, and we'll no doubt have a top-tier challenger for him in 2008.

Categories: Blogs
(Bumped for the evening crowd -- georgia)

In response to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the ACLU, and the National Security Archive, the government has released a minuscule amount of information about the illegal domestic spying program. (See the documents here.) Part of the handful of documents disclosed is a series of emails between a former Associate Deputy Attorney General David Kris and Courtney Elwood, Attorney General Gonzales's Chief of Staff.  The correspondence, taking place after the story broke in the New York Times, reveals a behind-the-scenes scramble to find legal footing for the program.

As the Washington Post reports:

David S. Kris, a former associate deputy attorney general who now works at Time Warner Inc., concludes that a National Security Agency domestic spying program is clearly covered by a 1978 law governing clandestine surveillance, according to a legal analysis and e-mails sent to current Justice officials.

More below...

Categories: Blogs
The dying New Republic (what are your latest circulation figures, guys?) endorses a loser like Lieberman, and it's done on principle, but bloggers fight for underdog candidates, and we're losers.

But, like I said, their batting average is still a big fat zero.

Here's TNR's assignment for the day -- call Rep. Ben Chandler and ask him what the blogger batting average is? Then call Rep. Stephanie Herseth. And Sen. Barack Obama. And, yes, Howard Dean at the DNC. Then they can call Gov. Mark Warner and ask him why he hired Jerome.

Heck, call Kerry and ask him what bloggers can do. Because if it wasn't for his own little private stash, Dean would've won the nomination. And it's obvious Kerry understands this now. Heck, even Hillary Clinton recently hired a netroots outreach staffer.

They can even call people like Sen. Russ Feingold and ask him why he spends so much time posting on blogs. And finally, they can call Gov. Brian Schweitzer and ask him why he reads so many blogs first thing in the morning (he loves both the liberal and conservative Montana bloggers and some national ones). And ta da! You have an instant story based on facts rather than sour grapes.

Backing the underdog means you will lose more often than not. Backing outside-the-establishment candidates mean we have to build momentum over time. Good thing for the modern conservative movement that they didn't pack it in after Barry Goldwater got crushed. They knew they were in it for the long haul, unlike the bitter, obsolete crew over at New Republic, cursing that newfangled people-powered media that has stripped them of whatever ill-gotten influence they used to wield.

Categories: Blogs
Make sure your speakers are turned on if you watch this Hubble Space Telescope Collage.  
  • It was inevitable: The Chinese laughingly lash out at US criticism of their human rights record as they point to our torture camps abroad
  • A 'free and democratic Iraq' is apparently now defined as a no man's land of violent, feuding religious forces employing death squads and terrorists on all sides
This is an open thread.

Categories: Blogs
Via DemFromCt, an article in a recent edition of Nature again confirms the widespread frustration of scientists at the Bush Cheney Administration for meddling in science policy based purely on ideological and financial priorities:

[Science Under Attack (Subscription req'd)] The highlight of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) last week was an impassioned session  [...] organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the wake of revelations about how the administration's political appointees have sought to control the messages communicated by scientists to the public [...] And judging from the response at a packed and emotional hall in St Louis, a great many US scientists now believe that the Bush administration is prepared not only to ignore scientific facts in making policy decisions, but also to suppress findings that conflict with its own priorities.

Similar complaints have been coming from virtually every legitimate scientific agency for years now. And there's no reason to expect it to stop. Future areas of science where right-wing control freakery will likely rear its ugly head even higher are reproductive and developmental science, climate science, pharmacology, toxicology, energy, and on and on. Basically, any portion of science that contradicts a preferred ideological position, or which the CEO billionaire wing of the GOP finds inconvenient for the value of their stock options, may be savaged, suppressed, or corrupted, if it hasn't been already. The article concludes:

Yet Congress, in particular, should be doing much more to defend [science] from White House interference. And researchers should stand up and be counted with colleagues in the federal government in their hour of need.

Researchers you might have a shot with. But if Congress is unwilling to investigate acts by the Bush Administration which may be flatly unconstitutional and/or blatantly illegal, it would be borderline delusional to expect that they're going to suddenly stand against King George on matters of science. It seems apparent at this point that there is only one way to get to the bottom of any of a dozen potential scandals plaguing this White House: We're going to need a real Congress, not bootlickers and sell outs. That means we have to fire enough Representatives and Senators, and hire enough replacements, to get a majority of patriots in one or both bodies who will put America, the law, and the Constitution above covering for the White House, at the expense of we the people.

Categories: Blogs

March 8, 2006

Rumsfeld yesterday:

The news media in the United States and abroad has misreported the number of Iraqi civilians that have been killed and the number of mosques that have come under attack, Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference.

Tomorrow morning's Page 1 story in the Washington Post:

Official Says Shiite Party Suppressed Body Count

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 9, 2006; A01

BAGHDAD, March 8 -- Days after the bombing of a Shiite shrine unleashed a wave of retaliatory killings of Sunnis, the leading Shiite party in Iraq's governing coalition directed the Health Ministry to stop tabulating execution-style shootings, according to a ministry official familiar with the recording of deaths.

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he feared for his safety, said a representative of the Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, ordered that government hospitals and morgues catalogue deaths caused by bombings or clashes with insurgents, but not by execution-style shootings.

A statement this week by the U.N. human rights department in Baghdad appeared to support the account of the Health Ministry official. The agency said it had received information about Baghdad's main morgue -- where victims of fatal shootings are taken -- that indicated "the current acting director is under pressure by the Interior Ministry in order not to reveal such information and to minimize the number of casualties."

People, the Washington Post gets a lot of heat in these parts, often deservedly so. But this entire story - which reads like a spy novel - is an incredible piece of investigative reporting. The official who is the source began to retract his statements, the Post cross-checked with other agencies and sources and finally began sending Post reporters into the morgue (since late February). It's complicated, nuanced and analytical.

The Post is going to get blasted by the administration for this - and we're going to be told once again how the media is losing us this war. Do yourself a favor and read the whole piece. This is what America deserves from its media. This is what journalism - real journalism - looks like.

Categories: Blogs
For years, I've been complacent. Oh, I sent money. I slapped on bumper stickers. I voted for the right politicians. I swore at the passage of the latest restrictive statute. I sighed when a court ruling was announced. I shook my head in disgust upon learning that another doctor had felt compelled to buy a bulletproof vest or a shoulder holster. I got into a cocktail party argument every now and again. All along, I called myself pro-choice. A backer of reproductive rights. But, like a lot of people I know, I was lazy about it. Stupidly lazy. No more.

Here are three reasons why:
Bill Napoli
Julie Bartling
Mike Rounds

Categories: Blogs

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said she doesn't plan to drop out of the Senate race, a statement she made as rumors swirled Wednesday that she would end the campaign because of ties to a company involved in bribery scandal.

"I am out there. We are running hard. We think we have great momentum," Harris said in a telephone interview. She is the only major Republican in the race to unseat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

What is this, the 20th time Harris has had to waste a news cycle denying that she's dropping out? Good thing she's so pigheaded. If she were to go, Republicans might put up a real threat of a candidate.

Categories: Blogs
Congressional Quarterly has just changed its forecast for TX-22 to "no clear favorite".

Tom DeLay and his partisans are hailing his primary victory Tuesday as a landslide and vindication from his constituents that the Texas Republican's legal and ethical problems are behind him.

But the primary result in Texas' 22nd District -- 62 percent for DeLay, 38 percent combined for his three little-known GOP challengers -- should give him and his supporters pause. DeLay, who has been very popular in his home base in and near Houston through most of his 12-term career, lost nearly two-fifths of the partisan Republican vote: Tom Campbell, a lawyer who had never run for office before, pulled down 30 percent alone. (County-by-county results)

As a result, CQPolitics.com has changed its Election Forecaster rating on the 22nd District general election to No Clear Favorite -- a toss-up. It had previously been rated as Leans Republican (closely contested), mainly because of DeLay's legal problems [...]

Indeed, DeLay must reconnect with dissident Republicans if he is to win a 13th term, since the 2004 results suggest he has a slim margin of error. Though 64 percent of 22nd District voters favored the re-election of President Bush, DeLay took a modest 55 percent of the vote against low-profile Democrat Richard Morrison -- and that was before DeLay's biggest ethics controversies began to circulate.

DeLay received 27,000 fewer votes in the 22nd than did Bush; about one in every seven Republicans who voted for Bush declined to support DeLay.

And other Republicans who would contemplate a vote against DeLay this year, but can't bring themselves to back a Democrat, may have an alternative. Former one-term Republican Rep. Steve Stockman has stated his intention to run in the 22nd District as an independent candidate.

CQ is stingy with this classification. Only six House races in the entire country are thus designated.

Categories: Blogs

March 6, 2006

[Cross-Posted at the Swing State Project.]

This is crunch time.

All campaigns eventually reach this point - the final few hours before the election, when every staffer, volunteer and supporter pushes as hard as he or she can. Get-out-the-vote operations are in full swing, field is working around the clock, the remaining undecideds are aggressively being courted. The last few boxes of literature are cut open, battle plans for election day are finalized.

That's today. No one will sleep tonight.

Tomorrow, the already-frenetic pace will get ratcheted up several notches. Phone bankers will call people all day reminding them to vote. Van drivers will ferry people to and from polling places non-stop from morning till night. The candidate will try to shake as many hands as possible as the daylight hours wane. And as the last flyer is finally handed out and the last voter casts her ballot, everyone has left their hearts on the field. In campaigns, it's the only way anyone knows.

I'm talking about people like Beatrice and Lupe, two grandmothers - age 77 and 71 - who have shown up to HQ every day to make calls for Ciro. They should be an example to us all - never, ever, ever stop fighting! And it's not too late to help, not at all.

  • If you haven't contributed yet, the campaign could still use your help. There's a strong possibility that this race will go to a run-off (which would take place on April 11th). If it does, Ciro will need plenty of cash. If there is no run-off, Ciro has said he'll donate all of today's proceeds to ActBlue.
  • If you're anywhere even remotely near the district and you haven't yet offered to volunteer, click here to do so.
  • If you can't volunteer in person, join the virtual phone-banking brigades. Calling is fun and easy.
  • If you live in the district and aren't sure where to vote tomorrow, consult your local county election board (websites | phone numbers).
  • Like I say, this is crunch time - but we may yet go into overtime. So be ready for anything. But no matter what, tomorrow will be an exciting day.

    Go Ciro!

Categories: Blogs
Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake brings up an interesting question:

I brought up one of my favorite forced birth conundrums the other day, guaranteed to make wingnut "life begins at conception" heads explode. If a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you can only save a petri dish with five blastulae or a two-year old child, which do you save?

We just love Mike Stark, who takes this stuff to the streets. He called Andrew Wilkow's radio talk show and put the question to him, and Wilkow's head did, in fact, explode. He was reduced to a sputtering rage, screaming that he would not, in fact, save the two year-old child. Mike hung right in there with him and the results are predictably hilarious. You can just feel Wilkow's listeners flipping the channel and saying "F that noise, that guy's insane." It's a brilliant little sound clip.

Brilliant! That really exposes the whole RtL slogan--that a clump of cells in a petri dish is equivalent to a living child--for either 1) The absurd nonsense that it is, or 2) The medieval lunatics they are. Pick any one. What would be your favorite pro-choice conundrum to pose to a wingnut, given the chance?

Categories: Blogs
The Supreme Court today ruled 8-0 that Congress can restrict funding to universities that ban ROTC military recruiters. [DavidNYC kindly pointed out to me I have ROTC on the brain. The issue was military recruiting on campus.] In Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., the Court held that:

Because Congress could require law schools to provide equal access to military recruiters without violating the schools' freedoms of speech and association, the Third Circuit erred in holding that the Solomon Amendment likely violates the First Amendment.

Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court, described the Congressional power at issue as follows:

The Constitution grants Congress the power to "provide for the common Defence," "[t]o raise and support Armies," and "[t]o provide and maintain a Navy." Art. I, §8, cls. 1, 12-13. Congress' power in this area "is broad and sweeping," O'Brien, 391 U. S., at 377, and there is no dispute in this case that it includes the authority to require campus access for military recruiters. That is, of course, unless Congress exceeds constitutional limitations on its power in enacting such legislation. See Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U. S. 57, 67 (1981). But the fact that legislation that raises armies is subject to First Amendment constraints does not mean that we ignore the purpose of this legislation when determining its constitutionality; as we recognized in Rostker, "judicial deference ... is at its apogee" when Congress legislates under its authority to raise and support armies. Id., at 70.

Although Congress has broad authority to legislate on matters of military recruiting, it nonetheless chose to secure campus access for military recruiters indirectly, through its Spending Clause power. The Solomon Amendment gives universities a choice: Either allow military recruiters the same access to students afforded any other recruiter or forgo certain federal funds. Congress' decision to proceed indirectly does not reduce the deference given to Congress in the area of military affairs. Congress' choice to promote its goal by creating a funding condition deserves at least as deferential treatment as if Congress had imposed a mandate on universities.

Congress' power to regulate military recruiting under the Solomon Amendment is arguably greater because universities are free to decline the federal funds. In Grove City College v. Bell, 465 U. S. 555, 575-576 (1984), we rejected a private college's claim that conditioning federal funds on its compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 violated the First Amendment. We thought this argument "warrant[ed] only brief consideration" because "Congress is free to attach reasonable and unambiguous conditions to federal financial assistance that educational institutions are not obligated to accept." Id., at 575. We concluded that no First Amendment violation had occurred--without reviewing the substance of the First Amendment claims--because Grove City could decline the Government's funds. Id., at 575-576.

. . . The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything. Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military's congressionally mandated employment policy, all the while retaining eligibility for federal funds. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 25 (Solicitor General acknowledging that law schools "could put signs on the bulletin board next to the door, they could engage in speech, they could help organize student protests"). As a general matter, the Solomon Amendment regulates conduct, not speech. It affects what law schools must do--afford equal access to military recruiters--not what they may or may not say.

(Emphasis supplied.) Chief Justice Roberts deftly relies on Grove City, which should make us all understand what an acceptance of the arguments by the academic institutions might entail - a rollback of a generation of civil rights laws relying upon the Spending Power.

The most interesting counterpoint is the Dale case, which involved the SCOTUS striking down a New Jersey law that, by operation, required the Boy Scouts of America to not exclude gays from participating as scoutmasters, ruling the law was an unconstitutional infringement upon the Boy Scouts' First Amendment rights. I'll discuss the argument on the flip.

Categories: Blogs