Friday, November 30, 2007

Hidden Behind the Face

Every once in a while, concerted action elicits results.

The protest against Facebook by has resulted in a change to its invasive new advertising program. I first wrote about this unbelievably intrusive ad campaign in Suckface, where Facebook began using the personal information of its users for advertising purposes, without sufficient consent or disclosure. Fortunately, Moveon took the privacy invasion on as a campaign, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, and garnered over 50,000 signatures in 10 days in protest of the privacy of Facebook members.

As in Facebook Bows to Privacy Protest:

Critics objected to what they viewed as a breach in privacy because users would have to formally decline to have the information displayed after making purchases at each participating web site. Most Facebook applications involve a pro-active “opt-in,” with users choosing to participate. MoveOn and the more than 51,500 members of its protest group wanted Facebook to make the Beacon feature “opt-in,” too, meaning that if a user took no action, their information would not be displayed.

And that’s what Facebook will do, the site announced this evening.
See also, Facebook Retreats on Online Tracking. As the Times piece states:

The system Facebook introduced this month, called Beacon, is viewed as an important test of online tracking, a popular advertising tactic that usually takes place behind the scenes, where consumers do not notice it. Companies like Google, AOL and Microsoft routinely track where people are going online and send them ads based on the sites they have visited and the searches they have conducted.

But Facebook is taking a far more transparent and personal approach, sending news alerts to users’ friends about the goods and services they buy and view online.

Although Facebook has acceded to the "opt in" approach before a member's purchasing information is disseminated to the users "friends," it has not completely abandoned it's campaign. It has declined to adopt a universal opt out. Executives at Facebook believe that over time, members will get used to and accept the ad feature. Which, of course, is probably true. Over time, one can come to accept almost anything when constantly bombarded -- it's called brainwashing. It's apparently also company policy at Facebook.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And 45 Just Makes You Droop

Jon Stewart
Born this day in 1962

You just have to keep trying to do good work, and hope that it leads to more good work.
I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything. Yes, I want to look back and know that I was terrible at a variety of things.

~ ~ ~ ~

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Victor Hugo

For last year's Birthday note, see Quote of the Day.

Cartoon of the Day

* Matt Davies, The Journal News

Creme de la Costco

One of the topics of conversation at lunch yesterday was the shopping habits of the rich and famous. The Sunday Style section of the NYTimes described the sad state of affairs in DC, where the politically powerful have been spotted munching on the freebies at Costco. As was noted with some amusement in Tightening the Beltway, the Elite Shop Costco:

As a recent article in Vanity Fair lamented, the days of glamorous Washington dinner parties are long gone. Indeed, some hostesses today aren’t above serving Costco salmon, nicely dressed up with a dollop of crème fraîche.
The perennial joke in our office is that one of our LLWL* shops only at the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop (which means she's only happy if she's paying "retail plus"), while I want to buy all our supplies at Costco (I'm the discount queen). Everyone else falls somewhere in-between.

I admit that I am the epitome of the bargain hunter. My idea of a fun time is to wander through yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops. I'm not ashamed to admit that most of my clothes come from consignment shops (the upscale version of a thrift shop), such as Revivals in Narberth. Our home is furnished with an assortment of antiques and thrift shop treasures, lovingly mingled together.

Costco is definitely my favorite, in the big box warehouse category. See, Yes, We Have No Bananas. A 2005 article on Costco in the Times sums up all the reasons why. In How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart, the piece noted that Costco combines high quality and low prices, yet also manages to provide fair wages and benefits to its employees. It's the place where cheap rich people shop (and then those bargain hunters like me).

For the neophytes, Jimmy Kimmel gives a lesson on how to shop at Costco:

*(LLWL= Lady Lawyers Who Lunch, a/k/a my officemates)

(Video via Laugh Lines, the NYTimes Humor blog).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What Was I Thinking?

On Sunday, I was on the phone talking to my brother (who still lives in Scranton), when he mentioned that my nephew didn't have school on Monday. I didn't really give it much thought at the time. Because he attends Scranton Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school, I figured that it was to commemorate some Holy Day that I had long forgotten.

It wasn't until I picked up the paper last night that I realized why John had the day off. Yesterday was the first day of deer hunting season. D'uh! What was I thinking? (Answer: I wasn't.)

I guess that it was only fitting, since I had just mentioned that the schools in Scranton still close on the first day of hunting season. My comment was part of a recent post discussing gun control issues, Wanted: A Straight Shooter, in light of the upcoming review of the validity of gun control measures adopted by DC under the 2nd Amendment by the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania has also been grappling with the problems of violence and gun control. Addressing the snowball's chance in hell Governor Rendell has in persuading the Pennsylvania legislature to consider any gun control regulations, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed, Why gun control has no shot:

The strength of the gun rights movement can be seen and heard in the woods of Pennsylvania tomorrow for the opening of deer season. The state has nearly 1 million licensed hunters, second only to Texas. About one-fourth of them are NRA members, putting Pennsylvania among its top three states for both total and per-capita membership.

An estimated one of three Pennsylvania households owns a gun or rifle, and 415,075 firearms were purchased or transferred in the state last year.

However, in contrast to this portrait of the gun happy Commonwealth, I did note that the Scranton paper said that there has been a decline in hunting the past few years, especially among younger people. See Passing the buck. Apparently, they're more interested in video games and playing on their computers than communing with nature -- or hunting. Big surprise.

My route to work takes me through part of Fairmont Park & other woody areas filled with deer. I usually keep an eye out for passing bucks this time of year. I now know to be on the look-out & duck for the next week or so. This time, the flying bullets won't be from the violence-plagued city of Philly, they'll be a result of the Cheney wannabes.

UPDATE (11/28): This hunting season has had some strange occurrences. It seems that the deer have been exacting some revenge, turning the tables on the hunters. A man was killed on the first day of hunting season in Western Pennsylvania, when he fell 20 feet from a tree stand. Hunter dies in fall. The deer who knocked the stand over escaped and is still on the loose. WGAL Lancaster reported on another hunting related incident in Westmoreland County, where a hunter was shot in the foot with a rifle. The buck reportedly was seen fleeing with the rifle.

(Via Philadelphia Will Do)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Post-Gazette

It's The Reason Why They Lie

In his Face the Nation Commentary, Bob Schieffer criticizes the level of pandering and spin that has become a staple of modern American politics. He chides the candidates, saying: "My bet is not many people believe any of them, because frankly, we’re not that dumb. What annoys me is that these candidates seem to think we are.”

They certainly do, because we are. But not in the way you would think.

We just can't remember the truth once we've heard the lie. According to this study, Why debunking myths is difficult:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flyer to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views, and labeled them "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "the side effects are worse than the flu" and "only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flyer, however, he found that, within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

The psychological insights yielded by the research, which has been confirmed in a number of peer-reviewed lab experiments, have broad implications for public policy.

The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.

The GOP must have been on to this study years ago. This would explain why the Republicans so freely dissemble and spin, even when the truth can so easily be discerned afterwards. It doesn't matter, because for most people, the lie will be remembered as true, not the earlier reality. In fact, the article discusses this very issue:

This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept. 11 attacks and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may help keep it alive.

* * * *

Research on the difficulty of debunking myths has not been specifically tested on beliefs about Sept. 11 conspiracies or the Iraq war. But because the experiments illuminate basic properties of the human mind, psychologists such as Schwarz say the same phenomenon is probably implicated in the spread and persistence of a variety of political and social myths.

The research does not absolve those responsible for promoting myths in the first place. What the psychological studies highlight is the potential paradox in trying to fight bad information with good information.

The research is painting a broad new understanding of how the mind works. Contrary to the conventional notion that people absorb information in a deliberate manner, the studies show that the brain uses subconscious "rules of thumb" that can bias it into thinking that false information is true. Clever manipulators can take advantage of this tendency.

And I suppose -- in part at least -- that explains why the Democrats have had such a hard time of it. Because the GOP is willing to spin and twist the truth with the greatest of ease, it is left to the Democrats to try to explain the "reality" or the truth. Once the idea is planted, it's roots are difficult to eradicate. Trying to explain or correct the facts later just doesn't work. Add to this the fact that the Republicans are expert at the spin, repeat & spin again cycle, so the wrong concept is really embedded in our minds.

The Inquirer's conclusion bears this out:

The research also highlights the disturbing reality that, once an idea has been implanted, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information.
(Video via Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Can You See Me Now?

The intrusions on our privacy rights sometimes seem boundless. As someone who is a private person by nature, I value the right to be free of government intrusion into my private affairs as much as possible.

In my daily life, I try to guard my personal information as much as I reasonably can. For example, I generally decline to provide telephone numbers or other similar information that is routinely requested at check-out counters. In fact, I don't even have the various "super saver" cards that grocery stores and retail merchants give out, because I don't want anyone else tracking my purchases. I am extremely careful about providing my social security number and have questioned the need for that information on various forms.

Unfortunately, many of the basic protections that were part of our fabric have been shredded by the Bush Administration's continual assault on our heretofore inviolate constitutionally protected rights.

Now that we are hooked on the darn things, the latest affront is to use our cell phones as a tracking device for the government to monitor us where ever we might be. I'm a bit like Xsociate, who observes at the All Spin Zone, Can You Track Me Now?:

As someone who is pretty tech savvy, I’m well aware that any device like cellphones that are designed to connect to any sort of global network can in turn be used to track ones whereabouts. But your average Joe Q. Public might not understand or comprehend this. Further still, laws governing the use of such tracking technology are still very vague and ambiguous.
The technology may be new, but the 4th Amendment has been with us for awhile. The 4th Amendment -- that quaint remnant of the good old days when freedom meant freedom from government spying, has been battered and bruised by the Bushies. The Washington Post reports in Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request:

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

As The Carpetbagger Report notes, Bush admin gets cellphone-tracking powers — without probable cause :
We’ve learned quite a bit the last few years about the Bush administration tapping Americans’ phones. And reading their emails. And accessing private information, including medical and library records.

But we didn’t know cellphone-tracking powers were on the list, too.
How true. In this case, even the Justice Department recommends seeking probable cause warrants. The issue apparently surfaced because a federal judge (in Texas, no less) finally decided that the abuse was sufficiently egregious. As the Post notes:

In a stinging opinion this month, a federal judge in Texas denied a request by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for data that would identify a drug trafficker's phone location by using the carrier's E911 tracking capability. E911 tracking systems read signals sent to satellites from a phone's Global Positioning System (GPS) chip or triangulated radio signals sent from phones to cell towers. Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley, of the Corpus Christi division of the Southern District of Texas, said the agent's affidavit failed to focus on "specifics necessary to establish probable cause, such as relevant dates, names and places."

Owsley decided to publish his opinion, which explained that the agent failed to provide "sufficient specific information to support the assertion" that the phone was being used in "criminal" activity. Instead, Owsley wrote, the agent simply alleged that the subject trafficked in narcotics and used the phone to do so. The agent stated that the DEA had " 'identified' or 'determined' certain matters," Owsley wrote, but "these identifications, determinations or revelations are not facts, but simply conclusions by the agency."

Instead of seeking warrants based on probable cause, some federal prosecutors are applying for orders based on a standard lower than probable cause derived from two statutes: the Stored Communications Act and the Pen Register Statute, according to judges and industry lawyers. The orders are typically issued by magistrate judges in U.S. district courts, who often handle applications for search warrants.

Inexplicably, not all the judges have read the 4th Amendment lately. The Post article provides:

Since 2005, federal magistrate judges in at least 17 cases have denied federal requests for the less-precise cellphone tracking data absent a demonstration of probable cause that a crime is being committed. Some went out of their way to issue published opinions in these otherwise sealed cases.

"Permitting surreptitious conversion of a cellphone into a tracking device without probable cause raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns especially when the phone is in a house or other place where privacy is reasonably expected," said Judge Stephen William Smith of the Southern District of Texas, whose 2005 opinion on the matter was among the first published.

But judges in a majority of districts have ruled otherwise on this issue, Boyd said. Shortly after Smith issued his decision, a magistrate judge in the same district approved a federal request for cell-tower data without requiring probable cause. And in December 2005, Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York, approving a request for cell-site data, wrote that because the government did not install the "tracking device" and the user chose to carry the phone and permit transmission of its information to a carrier, no warrant was needed.

And, unless the courts step in, the issue isn't going to be going away anytime soon. We all know Congress isn't going to do anything anytime soon (or is it, ever?):
The trend's secrecy is troubling, privacy advocates said. No government body tracks the number of cellphone location orders sought or obtained. Congressional oversight in this area is lacking, they said. And precise location data will be easier to get if the Federal Communication Commission adopts a Justice Department proposal to make the most detailed GPS data available automatically.
This development was troublesome enough, but the another bit of news added another worry -- our cars are also spying on us now. A follow up article in the Inquirer about a multi-car accident on the Schuylkill Expressway in the Philly suburbs made matters even worse. In a piece entitled, Car's 'black box' and what it tells, it was revealed:
As she barreled her new Chevrolet Tahoe through construction signs and down the shoulder of the Schuylkill Expressway, police say, Brenda Jensen carried more than a bellyful of amphetamines.

Inside her 2008 SUV was a device known as an EDR, an "event data recorder," a small, carmaker-installed computer that captures information such as speed, braking and seat-belt use during a crash.

Jensen may not have even known it was there. Now, the device could be a witness against her - and potentially, as the use of EDRs grows, against anyone involved in a serious accident.

These ever-evolving machines are becoming standard equipment on new cars - an invaluable tool to law enforcement authorities, insurers and safety researchers, an increasing torment to lawyers and privacy advocates who see the boxes as silent police officers, always along for the ride.

Under current laws, auto manufacturers are not required to tell people whether their car has an EDR, which is similar to the "black box" on an airplane.

I was flabbergasted that the car makers don't tell the car owners this information. I'm the one paying for the car, not the government or my insurance company. Yet, they know about it & I don't? Although, at this point, the likelihood is that most cars are equipped with the devices:

General Motors, Ford, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Suzuki put them in all their vehicles. More than half of Toyotas have EDRs.

But many people have no idea if their particular model carries the device, said Paul Stephens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in California. "It's very concerning that what you're doing in your vehicle is being monitored and you don't know about it," he said.

The typical device records speed, brake use, accelerator depression, seat-belt use, air-bag deployment - and the number of collisions in a crash, since one accident may involve multiple impacts.

"Who owns the data?" asked Alisa Herman-Liu, a Swarthmore nurse whose family cars include a Volkswagen Passat, which doesn't have an EDR. "Can it be subpoenaed?"

The answers: It depends, and yes. In states that have laws on the issue, the EDR and its data belong to the person who owns the vehicle. But not all states have laws. And police agencies can almost invariably gain access to it. That's why ownership and access are at the forefront of the privacy debate.

For prosecutors, the machines have opened a new line of attack, enabling them to cite the black box as an impartial witness.

In 2005, a Florida court upheld the conviction of a man who crashed his Pontiac Grand Am into a car holding two teenagers, killing both. The EDR showed he was driving 103 m.p.h. just before the crash.

The defense argued that the data did not match other physical evidence in the case.

In fact, I tried to do a search on line to see if my Toyota Solara was equipped with an EDR, but I couldn't find anything that listed what automobiles have them. Oh, hell, what am I saying -- I'm sure The Red Menace does.

So, who does the 4th Amendment apply to these days anyway? Maybe it's the government, since they are pretty keen on maintaining secrecy to prevent the public from getting any information about what is being done for us or to us.

It's A Small World After All

I've seen this on a few sites, but wanted to put it here as well. It seems like a fitting video for a Sunday morning during the Thanksgiving holidays.

About the video, The Miniature Earth:

The text the originated this movie was published on May 29, 1990 with the title "State of the Village Report", and it was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays Sustainability Institute, through Donella's Foundation, carries on her ieas and projects. The Miniature Earth project was first published in 2001, since then more than 2 million people have seen this website.

The statistics have been updated based on specialized publications, and mainly reports on the World's population provided by different resources, like UN publications, and others. Bear in mind that these are only statistics, and consequently changes might occur after a few months or only after years.

Please see them only as a tendency, and not as accurate.
See The Miniature Earth Project.

(Via The Pennsylvania Progressive)

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, NYTimes

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Mark Streeter, Savannah Morrning News

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, seem to be in the news a lot these days -- for good, bad & ugly reasons.

In the good department, I read an article today on the use of a social-networking site as an aid to find a missing friend. In A Web tool in search for missing, it was reported:

When Daniel Scagnelli's best friend went missing this month, he turned to an unusual source for help - Facebook, the ubiquitous social-networking Web site popular with college students and young adults.

Scagnelli asked more than 400 friends linked to his Facebook page to spread the word about Kyle Fleischmann, who disappeared Nov. 9 after leaving a bar in Charlotte. So far, about 56,000 people have joined Scagnelli's Facebook group, and more than 1,700 messages have been posted.

The exponential reach of Facebook has fanned national interest in an otherwise routine missing-person case. Hundreds of volunteers have combed Charlotte for signs of Fleischmann, 24. A retired police officer from Burlington conducted searches using tracking dogs. Firefighters have volunteered for several searches, Scagnelli said, and the offices of the governor of North Carolina and the mayor of Charlotte have contacted friends and family.

The Today show and America's Most Wanted have publicized the case, as have newspapers, Web sites and radio and TV stations in North Carolina and beyond. Donors have contributed more than $30,000, which has been used to post a $10,000 reward and hire private investigators, Scagnelli said.

"This is a unique way to use Facebook," said Fleischmann's father, Dick. "It's been incredibly valuable to us."

Next up is Facebook on the bad side as well. I recently wrote about Facebook's use of personal information of its users for advertising purposes, without sufficient consent or disclosure, see Suckface. Fortunately, there seems to be a backlash building over the misuse of private information, Facebook: The fine line between personal and private. Moveon has started a petition campaign, Facebook must respect privacy, so that Facebook will revise its policy to explicit approval prior to using subscribers names or information to endorse products on the site.

Then there is the ugly. That, of course, is the case of 13 year old Megan Meier, who committed suicide after she was subjected to on-line bullying by the creators of a fake MySpace persona, named Josh Evans. The St. Charles Journal explains the story in a moving account, A real person, a real death.

As the LATimes reports, In MySpace suicide case, community fights back:
For nearly a year, the families who live along Waterford Crystal Drive in this bedroom community northwest of St. Louis have kept the secret about the boy Megan Meier met last September on the social networking site MySpace.

He called himself Josh Evans, and he and 13-year-old Megan struck up an online friendship that lasted several weeks. Then the boy abruptly turned on Megan and ended it. That night, Megan, who had previously battled depression, committed suicide.

The secret was revealed six weeks later: Neighbor Lori Drew had pretended to be 16-year-old Josh to gain the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with Drew's daughter, according to sheriff's department records and Megan's parents.
Adults giving children a bad name. I just can't imagine the self-righteous individuals who could engage in this type of behavior, all the while justifying their conduct as in the "best interests" of their own child, no doubt. However unintended the consequences, it still cannot excuse this horrific tragedy.

And now, to add to the horrendous episode, the parents who instigated this cannot be charged with any type of crime, since there is no statute that covers this conduct. So the outraged community has decided to take action itself:
In an outburst of virtual vigilantism, readers of blogs such as and have posted the Drews' home address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and photographs.

Dozens of people allegedly have called local businesses that work with the family's advertising booklet firm, and flooded the phone lines this week at the local Burlington Coat Factory, where Curt Drew reportedly works.

"I posted that, where Curt works. I'm not ashamed to admit that," said Trever Buckles, 40, a neighbor whose two teenage boys grew up with Megan. "Why? Because there's never been any sense of remorse or public apology from the Drews, no 'maybe we made a mistake.' "

Local teenagers and residents protest just steps from the Drews' tiny porch. A fake 911 call, claiming a man had been shot inside the Drew home, sent law enforcement officers to surround the one-story, white-sided house. People drive through the neighborhood in the middle of the night, screaming, "Murderer!"
The internet. Sometimes it reminds me of that child's rhyme:

When she was good, she was very, very good,
When she was bad, she was horrid.

Making My List

OK, now that we're done with all that giving thanks stuff, we can move on to the all important American holiday, the giving of gifts day, otherwise known as Christmas.

In honor of the upcoming season, I thought I would start my Christmas List.

The Number 1 item on my list is the Pessimist's Mug, from Despair, Inc., which reads mid-way down, "The Glass is Now Half Empty." It is the perfect gift for the coffee addict that I am. As the caption says, "It makes everything taste bitter," which is the best way for a lawyer to start her day.

NOTE: Suitable for optimists as well, see As Though We Needed An Excuse.

(Via Laugh Lines)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, NYTimes

Wanted: A Straight Shooter

Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Supreme Court agreed to review a case from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that invalidated a DC handgun ban. See Supreme Court to rule on right to keep handguns at home.

Gun control issues have received a lot of press lately in our area, both on a national and state level. Philadelphia is becoming known as Killadelphia because of out-of-control gun violence, yet the legislature in Harrisburg won't even consider even the mildest forms of gun control measures. Rendell can't sway panel on gun bills. The repercussions for even suggesting otherwise can be extreme. See A Chicken in Every Pot and a Gun in Every Home.

This, despite the fact, as I noted before, We're Number One, that "Pennsylvania leads the way with this ignominious 'honor' of having the highest black homicide rate in the country, with a per capita murder rate of more than six times the national average." Crime and violence -- mainly accompanied by guns -- has truly reached epidemic proportions, so much so that even a substantial majority of Pennsylvanians now support gun controls. STATE KEEPS SHOOTING BLANKS. Unfortunately, elected reprentatives in Harrisburg are owned by the gun lobby and they have long since ceased representing the interests of their constituents, so they frankly don't give a damn.

Our national gun fetish is no better.

The other evening, during dinner my husband (who is thankfully not a lawyer) and I discussed the pending Supreme Court case, as well as the likely outcome by the Court. Based upon his reading news articles and listening to radio and TV reports on the case, my husband concluded that the DC ban would certainly be held to be unconstitutional, since it infringes on the 2nd Amendment right to carry arms. He, like most people, believes that the Second Amendment restricts the government's ability to limit an individual's right to bear arms.

I tried to explain that the issue isn't that clearcut, that in fact the most recent Supreme Court case on the issue, suggests otherwise. As the LATimes article notes:

In its only ruling dealing directly with the 2nd Amendment, the Supreme Court in 1939 upheld a man's conviction for transporting a sawed-off shotgun across state lines and said these weapons had nothing to do with maintaining an effective state militia.

In their appeal, lawyers for D.C. cite this 1939 decision and argue that the words and history of the amendment show it was concerned with state militias, not individuals with guns. For example, the phrase "bear arms" is a military term, they say. The amendment "does not protect a right to own a gun for purely private uses," they maintain.
In fact, until the Bushies came along, the federal government's position on gun control was consistent with that view -- contrary to that which is espoused today. As with most of our constitutional rights, an argument can be made on either side of an issue. But back in the old ages (when I went to law school in the late 70s), this particular area of law was not the subject of much debate. As a Commentary on the Supreme Court blog, The government and gun rights, states:
More than five years ago, on May 6, 2002, the U.S. government told the Supreme Court — for the first time — that it had changed its decades-long position on gun rights. In footnotes dropped into two documents urging the Court not to hear two Second Amendment cases, the U.S. Solicitor General (then Theodore B. Olson) formally put before the Justices the government’s new support for an individual right to have guns for private use.

The footnote recalled that the government had previously argued in court filings that the Second Amendment “protects only such acts of firearm possession as are reasonably related to the preservation or efficiency of the militia.” But it then added: “The current policy of the United States, however, is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals, including persons who are not members of any military or engaged in active military service or training, to possess and bear their own firearms, subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse.”
Likewise, a recently reprinted Slate piece by Dahlia Lithwick , The Second Amendment, explained., reviewed the state of the law after then AG John Ashcroft announced a change in policy in 2001, finding "the state militia/collective rights test as a settled point of law:"
The Second Amendment provides that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The issue turns on whether that right to bear arms represents an "individual" or "collective" right. The NRA (and Ashcroft) advocate an affirmative individual right, akin to First Amendment free speech protections, granting us the right to have guns to hunt, protect ourselves, and hold government storm troopers at bay. Gun control activists and the Justice Department (save, apparently, for Ashcroft) hold that the right as it is codified in the Second Amendment only protects the states' authority to maintain formal, organized militias. Because the Second Amendment only concerns federal efforts to regulate firearms, state gun control efforts do not implicate the Second Amendment, and most gun laws are promulgated at the state level.
Of course, the irony is that Republicans only seem to assert the primacy of states' rights when dealing with the "Southern Strategy," otherwise -- not so much. The "less government" party now wants to wrest control of gun laws from the state level, so that it can dictate the rules (or lack thereof).

It hardly needs saying that the National Rifle Association has spent many years (and tremendous sums of money) promoting the idea that gun ownership is an inalienable right, subject to nary a limitation. In so doing, they have over time managed to convince the general public that this was as the original framers of our constitution intended. The relentless, persistent campaign has worked. Most people believe that is the accurate view of the 2nd Amendment.

Not so. As Kenneth Lasson writes on the op-ed pages of the Baltimore Sun, Pro-gun scholars twist Constitution:
But the blunderbuss proliferation of newly minted gun-rights advocacy perverts both the historical context and plain meaning of the Second Amendment.

Until 1989, virtually all law professors had endorsed the view that citizens have a collective right to raise an army but no inherent individual right to carry guns. Then the Yale Law Journal published a confounding essay by Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas that appeared to advocate "insurrectionist" theory - that the Second Amendment was designed to ensure the people's ability to confront a tyrannical government. In short order, Akhil Reed Amar of Yale and William Van Alstyne, then of Duke, published similarly ambiguous pieces (the latter suggesting that the right extends to handguns but not howitzers).

Buoyed by such high-profile support, the NRA undertook aggressively to promote still more friendly scholarship. In 1992, it funded Academics for the Second Amendment. In 1994, it launched an annual essay contest, offering $25,000 for the piece that best reflected its positions. In 2003, it gave $1 million to George Mason University School of Law to establish the Patrick Henry Professorship of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment. More than 50 articles endorsing the individual right have been published in the last 15 years, many of them written by lawyers who worked for gun-rights organizations.

The impact has been substantial, as Lithwick notes:
Why do opinion surveys show that most American citizens believe in the individual rights position? Some legal scholars call this widespread public conviction a "hoax" and "false consciousness." Some contend that the NRA has done a spectacular job of spinning an individual right out of law review articles, John Wayne movies, and effective propaganda.
In fact, based upon the oft-repeated litany of the NRA, you would think that the "individual rights" view was beyond question. Yet, as Lasson observes:

The overwhelming weight of available historical evidence is that the Founding Fathers' primary concern was to empower state militias. Records of gun regulation in eight of the original 13 states - Maryland among them - strongly suggest that private ownership and use of firearms were not countenanced.

The Founders gave the first clause of the Second Amendment careful attention, revising it several times and considering it essential to the whole. Though the sentence can be parsed in a variety of ways, it's very hard to deny that the first clause modifies the one that follows - that the right to bear arms is dependent upon the need to maintain a well-regulated militia.

But, even assuming for the sake of argument, that the individual right to bear arms is in fact the intent of the 2nd Amendment, see, e.g., Supreme Court Agrees to Hear D.C. Gun Case -- which it no doubt will be when the conservative Supreme Court rules on this case sometime this spring -- that does not unnecessarily translate into an absolute prohibition on the right of the government to regulate their possession and use. See, The government and gun rights.

That, I think, has been my major problem with the position taken by the gun proponents. After all, I may be part of the anti-gun liberal lobby, but my spouse & I were both born and raised in Scranton, deep in the heart of gun country. We are steeped in a gun owning tradition. Our friends and family members are gun owners. Even today, the schools in Scranton are closed for the first day of hunting season.

What is most infuritating to me is the fact that the NRA and other gun advocates basically take the position that no laws can intrude upon the free and open possession, use (and misuse) of guns. Ownership is one thing. Lack of regulation is another. The NRA is drunk with its power to control the lack of laws and sadly, Killadelphia is living with the results of that mistaken stance daily.

One can only hope that the Supremes won't make it a free for all on guns.

Black Friday Blues

Thanksgiving is over.

As a way to ensure that people get a little exercise after the overstuffed meal on Thursday, God invented "Black Friday," so shoppers could run from store to store, looking for Christmas bargains. According to the NYTimes, Retail Desperation on Display in Early Hours:

Most discount chains, like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Toys R Us and Sears, opened at 5 a.m., with department stores such as Macy’s waiting until 6 a.m. and Saks Fifth Avenue holding off until 7 a.m.
Yet, not everyone is observing the rituals of Black Friday.

As Don Davis of The Satirical Political Report observes, GOP CANDIDATES REFUSE TO CAMPAIGN ON ‘BLACK FRIDAY’.

Can it be true? Isn't that un-American?

No. As Davis explains:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Name That Dessert

So I picked up this dessert at Trader Joe's yesterday, along with a few others, to top off our feast of plenty Thanksgiving Dinner.

After the main course of our meal, the above dessert was a topic of much conversation during the clean-up. A spirited discussion ensued regarding the proper name for this particular dessert. My family insist that the label does not constitute truth in advertising, since they believe that it is not what is said to be on the package.

What do you think it is?

I'll let you know how it is after we have our dessert later.

Cartoon of the Day

* Bill Day, Commercial Appeal

Cartoon of the Day

* Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

Fall Feast

Posted by Picasa

At the office the other day, we were just talking about "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," so when I saw this quote, I had to include it as the Thanksgiving Quote of the Day, from A. J. Daulerio of Philly Magazine's The Daily Examiner:
[F]rom the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which is probably the closest thing to a Thanksgiving movie out there. Enjoy your travels; hopefully, your rental car agency won’t derail you from your final turkey destination.

And I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk down a fucking highway and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face. I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!

This one's for Anne.

If you are in to a more traditional tribute, try William S. Burroughs's Thanksgiving tribute at A Thanksgiving Prayer. And last year's Scenes From A Bush Thanksgiving is still worth a read.

Finally, don't forget to sing along with Adam Sandler in Love to Eat Turkey.


This tree, in our side yard, reminds me that fall is blazing as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. We can see it out our dining room window (room with rounded windows) as we feast on our turkey and the trimmings.

A Day of Remembrance and Thanks

In Thanksgiving and JFK at the Moderate Voice, Robert Stein notes that today is the anniversary of John Kennedy's death, as well as our national day of Thanksgiving, observing:

For anyone over 50, today is not only Thanksgiving but the day JFK died 44 years ago. He has been gone now for almost as long as he lived and, in these times of White House infamy, not nearly as much in the national mind as his antagonist, Richard Nixon, whose all-time low approval ratings have just been eclipsed by George W. Bush.

A few years after the assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy wistfully told me that her husband was being remembered too much for how he died rather than what he had lived for. She was right. It was too soon then for Americans to appreciate what they had lost.

He also provides some interesting thoughts about how JFK would look at the world today, in an earlier post at this blog, Connecting the Dots. In JFK: Bush, War and the Web, Stein speculates how Kennedy would respond to the challenges and changes of the world today, with the caveat:

This could go on like one of those montages on the Daily Show, but the difference between the President we lost too soon and the one we have had in office too long is as simple and as complicated as poetry.

See also, my post on JFK from last year, Gone, but Not Forgotten.

But Taylor Marsh makes another point as she notes the 44th anniversary of JFK's assassination, in He Couldn't Get Elected Today:

Indeed. Democratic partisans would throw John F. Kennedy to the wolves. So would this country today. Not long ago people were popping off about some rumor about a new Clinton sex scandal. This juvenile nation couldn't handle a consensual affair with an intern. Candidates squeal on each other about every little thing, while the issues that matter are ignored or exploited.

She mentions not only the women, but the various physical ailments and medications that he took. And then there was Jackie. Think John Kerry's wife, Theresa Heinz, times three. How would that go over with the Family Values crowd today?

I have had that thought on occasion as well. JFK would have problems both for his personal life as well as for his politics. I think John Edwards is a politician in the Kennedy mold, and look at how well he's doing. He too espouses traditional liberal values, he's wealthy and has the same boyish good looks and charm. If you read Kennedy's inaugural address at Shakesville, you can hear many of the same sentiments voiced by Edwards. Yet he has not caught on with the country in the same manner that Kennedy did.

As Taylor Marsh concludes:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but also the 22nd day of November. History forever haunts us, with so much left undone from that great era and so much of what Kennedy began having been destroyed. It's like his speech on Pax Americana never occurred at all.

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war… Not peace of the grave or the security of the slave… not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

And because we can't talk about the death of Kennedy without discussing the manner of his assassination, Nov. 22, 1963: A Magic Bullet, a Grassy Knoll, an Enduring Mystery, I would point you to a long, but interesting article in Playboy (yes, Playboy) by former Washington Post editor and writer, Jefferson Morley, The man who didn't talk.

(Photo from Wired: Bettmann/Corbis)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, NYTimes

Love to Eat Turkey

For many, Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without the two "As," as in Adam and Art.

Above is Adam doing his skit, a Thanksgiving Song for Turkey Day.

And the other is Art, whose Thanksgiving story begins:

One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant .

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims ( Pelerins ) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World ( le Nouveau Monde ) where they could shoot Indians ( les Peaux-Rouges ) and eat turkey ( dinde ) to their hearts' content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Americaine ) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai ) in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them to grow corn ( mais ). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pelerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins' crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

For the rest of the story (if you don't know it by heart) is at Le Grande Thanksgiving.

When you're done with that, stop by Extreme Mortman, for his Thanksgiving joke, Le Grande Thanksgiving Laugh De Belly, Again.

Lyrics here: The Thanksgiving Song.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Robert F. Kennedy
Born this day in 1925

Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law.
And when the law loses, freedom languishes.


What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists,
is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant.
The evil is not what they say about their cause,
but what they say about their opponents.

In 1968, when RFK was campaigning for President, in many ways the times were similar to now. If only the leaders were as well. For a trip down memory lane, here is a video tribute to Bobby Kennedy, accompanied by the song, "No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young) " by Queen.

(Photo via Mike Strong)

Cartoon of the Day

* Bruce Beattie, Daytona Beach News-Journal

Monday, November 19, 2007

7 Deadly Sins

You just have to wonder. I've heard the expression "women troubles" before, but for some reason there seems to be a lot of troubles with women lawyers these days. For example, there's the case against Cozen & O'Conner by Patricia Biswanger and the Ballard Spahr dispute with Jane Ennis Sheehan that I wrote about just the other day. See Nobody Does It Better.

But the winner take all is definitely Rachel Paulose, the US Attorney from Minnesota, about whom I've written several times. As I noted most recently in Princess Jasmine:

After her 'royal ordination' ceremony inducting her into office, she proceeded to cause great upheaval in the US Attorney's Office, so much so that 4 top staffers voluntarily demoted themselves to protest her dictatorial style.
However, the latest news about Paulose is not about the investigation by the federal Office of Special Counsel that is under way with respect to various allegations against her.

Rather, the news just out is that she is returning back from whence she came. After wreaking havoc on the US Attorney's Office in Minnesota, Paulose is returning to DC to take job as a legal policy adviser to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy. As TPM notes, Paulose Offered Justice Department Position:
So it sounds like she's returning to essentially the same job she had before she was appointed U.S. attorney for Minnesota. Before that appointment, she was 'senior counsel to then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty in Washington, D.C., where she was also a special counsel for health care fraud.'
Or as Wonkette so aptly sums the situation up:
Despite showing expertise as a prosecutor far beyond her years and bringing a new kind of racial harmony to the office of US Attorney in Minnesota, 34-year-old Rachel Paulose will be leaving that post after only seven months or so to come work for Justice in Washington.
So how did this come to pass? Well, although it doesn't seem possible, things were going from worse to worser for Paulose . The shine was definitely off the crown. It looked like a new wave of high ranking officials in the office were ready to resign en masse. More protest resignations of supervisors in Paulose office.

Anticipating this move, Paulose and her supporters apparently tried to do a preemptive strike. As Eric Black explains, Rachel Paulose plays seven victim cards:
The Paulose campaign team seeks to portray her as a martyr and as a victim of most of the forms of prejudice and unfair smear tactics known to U.S. history. On Friday, Paulose herself became the spokesperson for the defense team.

* * * *

On Friday, Paulose, in a single 48-word sentence, played the race card, the gender card, the religion card, the age card, the ideology card, the Federalist Society card, and the Joe McCarthy card. That’s a large percentage of the cards available in the victimology deck.

Here’s the sentence, published Friday at National Review Online by Powerline blogger and Paulose friend Scott Johnson:

Paulose adds: “The McCarthyite hysteria that permits the anonymous smearing of any public servant who is now, or ever may have been, a member of the Federalist Society; a person of faith; and/or a conservative (especially a young, conservative woman of color) is truly a disservice to our country.”

Black then proceeds to refute these silly claims in his post. See also, his follow up post on the resignation. Paulose resigns.

So, either Paulose was a victim of the 7 Deadly Sins (a victim of racism, sexism, ageism, bias against her conservative ideology and her religious faith, and as a victim of unnamed elements within the Justice Department that didn’t like the fact that she was aggressively prosecuting human trafficking) or it was something else. Let's see, it's either that, Rachel, or maybe -- Baby It's You.

The Race Goes On

Sure. No sooner did I spend a good bit of time putting a piece together on the silent battle of the Times Titans, only to discover this morning that Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher did the same thing, More Shots Fired in 'NYT' Op-Ed 'War' Over Reagan and Racism. He also alerted me to the latest in the Great Krugman-Brooks Feud of 2007, as Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report calls it, Republicans and race — the coda.

In Truth is Complicated -- For Republicans, I discussed the various recent columns by Krugman, Brooks, Herbert and others in the Times as it pertains to the "Southern Strategy" that was part of the Reagan legacy. In the latest salvo in the battle, Paul Krugman Republicans and Race:

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of commentaries about Ronald Reagan’s legacy, specifically about whether he exploited the white backlash against the civil rights movement.

The controversy unfortunately obscures the larger point, which should be undeniable: the central role of this backlash in the rise of the modern conservative movement.

In an amusingly ironic note, Krugman explains that -- much like the subtle debate occurring at the Times that never directly mentions names -- Reagan's race-bating was never explicit:

True, he never used explicit racial rhetoric. Neither did Richard Nixon. As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, “Chain Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics,” “Reagan paralleled Nixon’s success in constructing a politics and a strategy of governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along racial lines.”
Again, Krugman addresses the justification of Reagan put forward by his defenders:

Reagan’s defenders protest furiously that he wasn’t personally bigoted. So what? We’re talking about his political strategy. His personal beliefs are irrelevant.

Why does this history matter now? Because it tells why the vision of a permanent conservative majority, so widely accepted a few years ago, is wrong.

The point is that we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time. The “macaca” incident, in which Senator George Allen’s use of a racial insult led to his election defeat, epitomized the way in which America has changed for the better.

Methinks the defenders of the right (and Reagan) should just give up on this one. I just don't see a good way to spin this one. The options are either that Reagan was too ignorant of southern politics to understand the wrongful impact of what he did, or he was craven enough to ignore his own principles to use race to his advantage, by appealing to bigots. Neither helps old Ronnie's image on this issue.

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No Way Out

A newborn infant was left on someone's doorstep last week, a short distance away from Abington Hospital (in the Philly suburbs). The Inquirer reported on the discovery, Police seek help in IDing infant:

The baby was discovered wrapped in a blanket, with a note that read, 'You please take to the hospital. It's not that I don't love you, I just can't take care of you.'
As the papers and media have been reporting, the police are looking for the parents of the abandoned child. The Daily News notes:
The person who left the boy on the stoop could face criminal charges.

Few in the state seem to be taking advantage of the Safe Haven law, which allows a caretaker to bring a baby up to 28 days old to one of 240 hospitals in Pennsylvania if he or she can't care for the child.

Since the law took effect in 2003, Pennsylvania hospitals have taken in only five babies in this fashion - none in Philadelphia or surrounding counties.
See, Baby could have had haven.

Obviously, the precise details of the law are not known to most people. I'm also sure that someone contemplating using the law doesn't necessarily want to draw attention to herself by asking how it works. And although we don't want to "encourage" abandonment, we do want to give those who are unable to handle parenthood a reasonable option, which is what was intended by the Safe Haven Law.

I understand that the woman who left this child didn't technically comply with the Safe Haven Law, which allows the drop off an infant at a hospital with no questions asked. However, the problem is that the publicity generated in looking for the mother (or parents) and threatening criminal charges is that the next person who is in this panicked situation may decide to handle her situation differently.

I winced as I heard the press reports about this, because it brought to mind another recent case that ended up very differently. I have written about the Mia Sardella case several times, which involves the Drexel University freshman who is charged with killing her infant shortly after birth. See Momma Mia (and for the latest update on the status of the case, see Pretty Plea). Obviously, that is the worst result for a young woman who is unable to face the prospect of motherhood.

Yet, by publicizing the search for the mother here, along with suggesting threats of criminal charges, the next young woman may not want to run the risk of being exposed and may, in desperation, convince herself that she's not really killing her infant.

Instead, let's just give the child a fresh start -- and his mother too. That's what's best for everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Truth is Complicated -- For Republicans

David Brooks of the NYTimes wrote a column last week in praise of Reagan that has reverberated through the Times and elsewhere. The latest foray is an op-ed piece in today's Times by Reagan author Lou Cannon.

The original piece by Paul Krugman on the Jena 6 in September mentioned the racial tone of "southern white exceptionalism," in Politics in Black and White:

But the reality is that things haven’t changed nearly as much as people think. Racial tension, especially in the South, has never gone away, and has never stopped being important. And race remains one of the defining factors in modern American politics.

* * * *

Republican politicians, who understand quite well that the G.O.P.’s national success since the 1970s owes everything to the partisan switch of Southern whites, have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.

Thus Ronald Reagan, who began his political career by campaigning against California’s Fair Housing Act, started his 1980 campaign with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered. In 2000, Mr. Bush made a pilgrimage to Bob Jones University, famed at the time for its ban on interracial dating.
Brooks response was curious, in that it takes up an issue that is hardly topical for the GOP. In History and Calumny, Brooks attempts to redefine Reagan's use of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" during his presidential campaign, calling it an erroneous myth:
Today, I’m going to write about a slur. It’s a distortion that’s been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale.

The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.

The truth is more complicated.

It is? I always thought that the truth was based upon facts. It only gets complicated when you have to go through gyrations to re-engineer the facts to fit the spin of the day.

Apparently, this is Brooksworld, where truth is complicated. It's complicated because it's not easy to re-write the history of the GOP's Southern Strategy and Reagan's role in that strategy. Brooks tries to explain that Reagan stopped in Philadelphia, Miss. on his way to New York from Chicago merely because he was in the neighborhood, rather than because he intended to send a signal to southern racists by starting his campaign at a county fair there. As he notes:

You can look back on this history in many ways. It’s callous, at least, to use the phrase “states’ rights” in any context in Philadelphia. Reagan could have done something wonderful if he’d mentioned civil rights at the fair. He didn’t. And it’s obviously true that race played a role in the G.O.P.’s ascent.

Still, the agitprop version of this week — that Reagan opened his campaign with an appeal to racism — is a distortion, as honest investigators ranging from Bruce Bartlett, who worked for the Reagan administration and is the author of “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy,” to Kevin Drum, who writes for Washington Monthly, have concluded.

But still the slur spreads. It’s spread by people who, before making one of the most heinous charges imaginable, couldn’t even take 10 minutes to look at the evidence. It posits that there was a master conspiracy to play on the alleged Klan-like prejudices of American voters, when there is no evidence of that conspiracy. And, of course, in a partisan age there are always people eager to believe this stuff.

So facts -- otherwise known as "slurs" -- have this nasty habit of intruding on the spin. After all, no reasonable person would believe that pandering to the southern white crowd what Reagan intended in Mississippi. Those were the old facts, since replaced by the new version. Actually, the "whitewashing" (apt phrase that, no?) of history began shortly after Reagan died in 2004. At that time, as Steven Gilliard wrote, in his THE NEWS BLOG:
First, Reagan rode to power on a wave of reaction to the Civil Rights struggle. California, a state with a deep well of racial resentment, supported Reagan, who would protect the establishment and call for students to be murdered on their campuses. Reagan was regarded as a crank by many on the left, but his appeal to middle America was strong. It wasn't that Reagan was a racist, as fas as is known, he wasn't. But he sure could pander to them, as he did in [1980] at Philadelphia, MS. For those of you unaware, that is the place three civil rights workers were murdered by the Klan. It would be like a British Prime Ministerial candidate going to Amritsar to talk about the glory of the British Army (the site of a 1921 massacre of peaceful Indian protesters). Reagan pandered to the racist right with ease, even as Barry Goldwater, the man he supported in 1964 with a convention speech, slowly backed away from many of his reactionary views. Instead, Reagan depicted blacks as 'welfare queens' leeching off the society, when in reality, white women are the largest recipients of AFDC. Reagan used race like a club to hammer minorities and pander to the racist right.
Even Ken Melhman, former Chair of the RNC, acknowledged and apologized (sort of) for the GOP's decade's long Southern Strategy, saying:
"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," said Mr. Mehlman. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
Of course, he was criticized for suggesting that those days were over for the Republican Party. See, An Empty Apology. Yet, at least he didn't try to deny that it occurred in the recent history of the GOP.

After Brooks' tit, Krugman responded with a tat, which eviscerated, as only he could, the unnamed "campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy." In his blog, The Conscience of a Liberal, Krugman labeled Reagan's missteps as a series of Innocent mistakes, as he scathingly recalls:
When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.

Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.

When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.

When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn’t mean to play into racial hostility.

* * * *

Similarly, when Reagan declared in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South,” he didn’t mean to signal sympathy with segregationists. It was all an innocent mistake.

In 1982, when Reagan intervened on the side of Bob Jones University, which was on the verge of losing its tax-exempt status because of its ban on interracial dating, he had no idea that the issue was so racially charged. It was all an innocent mistake.

And the next year, when Reagan fired three members of the Civil Rights Commission, it wasn’t intended as a gesture of support to Southern whites. It was all an innocent mistake.

Poor Reagan. He just kept on making those innocent mistakes, again and again and again.

Next up was Bob Herbert, providing historical context to the silent battle between the Times columnists. As he notes in Righting Reagan’s Wrongs?:

The murders were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.

That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. . . .

Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable. Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context.

* * * *

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Despite Brooks' essay, this was not just one instance of a slip by Reagan that was misconstrued by his visit to Philadelphia, Miss. As these series of unfortunate, but true, facts show, other instances abound. See also, Krugman v Brooks and Reagan’s ‘Mistaken’ Legacy of Racism.

With the facts against them, it is obviously time for a change of tactics. The latest is that these mean old liberals are trying to portray Reagan as a divisive racist.

Today's op-ed, by Lou Cannon, takes up that mantle, in Reagan’s Southern Stumble, with the observation: "Any fair-minded look at Mr. Reagan’s biography and record demonstrates that he was not a bigot. " Of course, this line is followed by a litany of examples, in the vein of "some of his best friends were black."

Apparently, this must be the flavor de jour , since Krugman also comments at his blog, Signs of desperation:

This represents a level of misunderstanding that has to be deliberate:

Enough already. Nobody believes Reagan is a bigot.

That is, of course, not the question. Reagan’s personal attitude is of no consequence. The question is whether he deliberately appealed to bigots, as a political tactic. And he did.

Personally, before the Republicans go too far down that path, I'm not sure how much this excuse helps. In my view, it almost makes it worse. Is it better that Reagan actually understood the effects of bigotry, yet acquiesced by knowingly taking advantage of those who subscribe to those beliefs, to the detriment of those who suffered at the hands of racism? I think not.

Rather, as noted by Canadian blogger Sans Everything, I think the words of Southern writer Eudora Welty, who lived in Mississippi, Eudora Welty on Reagan in Mississippi, are appropo:
Welty said in an interview she gave in 1985: “Mississippi is very conservative …. Reagan carried the state because he came down there and he talked about ‘We’ll be having states’ rights’ and a whole lot of things like that. You know that was very wicked of him.”

Welty was a lady of the old school. She never raised her voice and always used words precisely. When she said “wicked” she meant “wicked” with all its full and terrible connotations. (Emphasis added).

For a detailed of Brooks' position, see Driftglass' "A Rose for Bobo", (the 1st of 4 parts). See also, Group News Blog.