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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Name the Fish

What's my name?
Originally uploaded by Abe of Lincoln.
Does anyone know the English word for this kind of fish? The French call it a merluchon or possibly merlu. One translation says whiting, but that doesn't seem right. It's found in the Atlantic Ocean, so we don't see a lot of them in Nebraska.

Marriage or Rape?

We were resisting the urge to write about the story of this Fall City couple, but Ryne McClaren's blog post tipped us over the edge. Ryne quotes the Omaha World Herald story. Here's a link to the Lincoln Journal Star article on the same topic.

The basic facts are:
  1. She's 13 and pregnant
  2. He's 22
  3. They married with her mother's consent in Kansas, which allows that sort of thing
  4. She was pregnant before they married, and they plan to keep the baby
  5. He has been arrested for statutory rape
The Journal Star reports:
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says at a press conference at the Capitol in Lincoln that he's charged Matt with first-degree sexual assault, which carries a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

"I'm not going to stand by while a grown man has a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old."

The attorney general says his office learned about the relationship from "citizens in Falls City who were shocked by it."

He says he's confident of a conviction.

In Nebraska, anyone older than 19 can't have sex with anyone younger than 16. And no one younger than 16 can marry.

Bruning says it doesn't matter that they got married in Kansas, where a 12-year-old can marry with a parent's permission.

Or that the girl's mother gave her permission.

Or that the girl says it's love, not rape.

Says the attorney general: "She'll be married to a guy who is in prison."
This is such a mess, and you probably will not be surprised to find out the mother of the girl is a single parent with some past problems of her own (an assault by ex-boyfriend is mentioned).

Rationally, the child should be put up for adoption, but instead the family opted for a risky marriage. One hopes for the best, but the odds are long against this marriage lasting. The girl is not even prepared to take care of herself, let alone a baby. The husband is obviously not exactly mature, either. The circumstances suggest the grandmother is lacking some basic parenting skills, too.

Like Ryne, we have mixed feelings about prosecution in this case. On the one hand, they are legally married now. Kansas marriages are legal in Nebraska and other states, whatever one may think about the wisdom of allowing marriage at such a young age. Marriage should be an absolute defense against statutory rape. It seems to us that, if the girl can consent to marriage, she can consent to sex with her husband.

On the other hand, sex between an adult and a minor outside of marriage is the definition of statutory rape. If it can be proven that this occurred, a later marriage should not be exonerating. Being "in love" is not a defense, and the child cannot legally give consent. It is a crime for a 22 yr old to have sex with a 12 or 13 yr old, and it should be illegal for adults to have sex with children.

Sadly, the child already faces poor prospects for a successful life. Sending the father to prison is not going to improve those prospects.

There are some interesting differences in the two newspaper accounts. The World Herald doesn't name the girl, who is a minor in a sex abuse case, afterall, but the Journal Star does.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star story, the girl is quite good at math, although not a great student in other subjects. The husband calls her "Einstein." The World Herald says she's in special ed.

In 1996 there was a case in Lincoln of two Iraqi men, 28 and 34, who "married" 13 and 14 yr old Iraqi girls in arranged marriages. One girl ran away with her boyfriend. The men were arrested, and the girls were removed from their parents' home, their father charged with child abuse. This was a cultural issue as well as a legal one.

How to destroy the Earth

So you want to destroy the earth? Not just the people, but the planet itself? Here's the website for you, although you shouldn't expect it to be easy. Here's method 2, for example from Sam's Archive - How to destroy the Earth:
"Sucked into a microscopic black hole

You will need: a microscopic black hole.

Note that black holes are not eternal, they evaporate due to Hawking radiation. For your average black hole this takes an unimaginable amount of time, but for really small ones it could happen almost instantaneously, as evaporation time is dependent on mass. Therefore you microscopic black hole must have greater than a certain threshold mass, roughly equal to the mass of Mount Everest.

Creating a microscopic black hole is tricky, since one needs a reasonable amount of neutronium, but may possibly be achievable by jamming large numbers of atomic nuclei together until they stick. This is left as an exercise to the reader.

Method: simply place your black hole on the surface of the Earth and wait. Black holes are of such high density that they pass through ordinary matter like a stone through the air. The black hole will plummet through the ground, eating its way to the centre of the Earth and all the way through to the other side: then, it'll oscillate back, over and over like a matter-absorbing pendulum. Eventually it will come to rest at the core, having absorbed enough matter to slow it down. Then you just need to wait, while it sits and consumes matter until the whole Earth is gone."

Great Letter to the WSJ

Today's print edition of the Wall Street Journal had an excellent letter from reader William M. Banta of Littleton, Colo. In fact we couldn't have said it better ourselves. Unfortunately, the online link to it requires a subscription. So under the doctrine of fair use, we reprint this small portion of the Letters to the Editor:
"Daniel Henninger's July 15 Wonder Land 'High Court 'Battle' Began Back in 1935' was a good one. While Sen. Chuck Schumer may feel a Supreme Court nominee's judicial philosophy is important, I wonder at the very idea of a 'judicial philosophy.' The law is written; the judge is to apply the law; the court is beholden to the Constitution -- where is there a place for philosophy?

It's the same with the senator's reference to 'the legal form of reasoning.' There is no such animal. Reasoning is reasoning just as logic is logic. If something is nonsense, putting it in a legal form or a judicial opinion won't improve it. Along that line, I would not give away the point that the Supreme Court's New Deal decisions or its civil rights decisions around 1965 were ever defensible on account of a 'legalistic social philosophy.' 'Legalistic social philosophy' sounds like the platform for judicial activism.

For one thing, civil rights decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) were not activist; the activist court opinions were the segregationist cases, e.g. Plessy v. Ferguson (1898), which squarely contradicted the 'equal protection' requirement of the Constitution. By comparison, the Brown decision and other civil-rights cases around 1965 upheld to the letter the 14th Amendment ('equal protection') and the 15th Amendment (the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude). Those civil-rights decisions followed the Constitution and are therefore correctly reasoned regardless of any gummy philosophy.

On the other hand, many New Deal decisions were activist in that they superimposed a politics upon the Constitution in what amounted to the Supreme Court's misguided role in an unsuccessful economic experiment to end the Depression. The methods employed by the beleaguered (FDR threatened to 'pack' the court if it wouldn't yield up the Constitution to his political demands) Supreme Court became less than scrupulous, which is probably why New Deal cases continue to require the smoke of philosophy even today in order to pass the 'huh?' test.

Note that Sen. Schumer's 'legalistic social philosophy' is likely what led to the Supreme Court allowing state and local governments to take your home and transfer it to private developers (Kelo v. New London) contrary to the Bill of Rights. Philosophy and politics are important to lawmaking; they have next to no place in deciding cases."
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Roberts Document Dump

We have some misgivings about the wisdom of releasing the 75,000 pages of Judge Roberts' writings. For one thing, it increases the "ore" that the Left can mine for quotes out of context that may do some damage. However, the more serious issue is that is will make it harder to defend the failure to release other documents. As all living, former Solicitor Generals realized in defending the confidentiality of legal advice: if the president is going to receive good advice in the future, those giving the advice need to know it will remain private.

On the plus side, it was amusing to see the rejectionists immediately insisting 75,000 pages wasn't nearly enough. Hilary said she "wants to see more" documents. If she spent one minute per page on the current batch, it would take her over 156 8-hr days to review them all.

Meanwhile, conservatives worried that Judge Roberts might turn out to be another David Souter have to be breathing easier:
OpinionJournal - The Next Justice: "What a relief. Judge Roberts's writings as a young lawyer show him to be a solid constitutionalist.

Beyond the attributes of character, temperament and credentials, George Washington singled out one criterion for the first Supreme Court justices: that they support the 'new' Constitution. Powerful voices like Thomas Jefferson, who, lucky for us, was in Paris during the Constitutional Convention, would have drafted and interpreted the Constitution quite differently than the Federalists whom Washington picked for the high court. Adherence to the Constitution matters no less now.

George Washington would have been happy with John Roberts. Of the documents released this week, my favorite is his response to the House Democrat who proposed that the White House and Congress hold a 'conference on power-sharing' to iron out the duties of each branch. Said then-Mr. Roberts: 'There already has, of course, been a 'Conference on Power Sharing. It took place in Philadelphia's Constitution Hall in 1787, and someone should tell [Congressman] Levitas about it and the 'report' it issued.' If this is an indication of the nominee's wit and clear-headedness, move over Scalia."

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Friday, July 29, 2005

His Own Man

The Lincoln Journal Star on Thursday had a positively glowing tribute to Sen. Chuck Hagel:
"Even if it [stream of critical letters to the editor] represents the newest indicator that Hagel's candor and independence may have negative political consequences. 'I'm sure I'm doing political damage to myself with members of my own party,' Hagel said in a telephone interview last week. 'If I was calculating my political future, I would be doing things differently.'"
The full impact of the print edition doesn't come through in the web version. It's at the top of the front page, spanning 5 of the 6 columns. The headline screams in inch-high letters: "His Own Man." There's a 6" x 7 1/2" close up photo of the Senator's face with a furrowed brow and an earnest expression. One almost expects to read soon of a plan to carve the Senator's face into Chimney Rock.

For all that fawning there is some good information in the article about Hagel's record, which is more conservative than one might think from the Iraq issue alone.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hidden Eminent Domain Abuse

The Omaha World Herald reports that the University of Nebraska Foundation is reassuring people that it doesn't plan to use eminent domain. However, it has hired a company to acquire land near the Omaha campus. Why is this news? Thanks to the recent, appalling SCOTUS decision in Kelo v New London legalizing property theft through eminent domain, everyone knows the bar is set low now. (In fact, if the eminent domain bar gets any lower, it will be underground.)

There's more than one way to skin a cat, so the developers are just "mentioning" the possibility that eminent domain might be used in the future. Several owners perceived the implicit threat and complained:
"NU assures businesses it's planning no land grab.
The NU Foundation acknowledged last week that it has hired a real estate company to acquire businesses and homes south of Center Street for future development by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Three business owners told The World-Herald that executives of the real estate company, CB Richard Ellis/Mega, threatened that if they didn't voluntarily agree by August to sell, the university would use eminent domain and they would be forced to sell.

'Basically, what they said was, 'We're the happy faces. If you don't negotiate a contract with us by August, then the lawyers will be back,'' said Sam Amato, owner of Amato's Cafe and Catering.

Owners of Rainbow Recording Studios and Center Street Motors said the agents made similar comments to them.

A vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Mega, James W. Maenner, has said the NU Foundation contracted with his firm to acquire properties south of Center Street. He said he has mentioned eminent domain to property owners, but he said he didn't threaten anybody."
No, of course there was no threat. How crude that would be. He was just making them an offer they couldn't refuse. You don't have to point the gun at them; just showing them you have it is enough to get what you want.

But even the denial isn't reliable:
So while it may be possible, the use of eminent domain is not imminent.

"That's something that if it would ever happen, it will be on down the road," Wood said. But, he added, "Let's not say that it wouldn't happen at some time in the future."
There, isn't that reassuring?

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Freedom from Religion

Today's Omaha World Herald reports that Nebraska's State Senator Ernie Chambers has attracted national notice:
"A national organization fighting for separation of church and state will honor State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha.

The nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., describes its members as nonbelievers. It is involved in lawsuits across the country challenging President Bush's faith-based initiatives and other issues.

The group is honoring Chambers for his 1980s efforts to end the prayer given at the start of each legislative day by a paid chaplain. Chambers filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the official prayer."
The name of the organization, "Freedom from Religion Foundation," is surprisingly candid. Normally those who wish to suppress all religious expression claim to be acting to preserve religious freedom. It's almost refreshing to see the oxymoronic nature of their position right out in the open.

World Definitely Ending

We just found ourselves on the same side of an issue as Dennis Kucinich. Armagedon must be just around the corner. Dennis the Menace was just on TV arguing for a legislative fix for the malodorous Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London. Soon even Nancy Pelosi will realize what a mistake that was.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

French and Indian

The French, like many Europeans, have a peculiar, highly romanticized view of Native American culture and the Old West. Today Mrs. Abe found this story (in French) in the online version of Sud Ouest, the main newspaper of southwestern France.

A French couple, Moon and Chris, have converted an old tobacco farm into a sort of American Indian theme park they call "Eagle Moon." Tourists can come and "live like Indians," or at least like Moon and Chris imagine that Indians live. As the hosts say, "Being Indian is not just a way of being, but a state of mind." No doubt Ward Churchill would agree completely.

Now through the magic of the internet you can vicariously experience French people vicariously experiencing the Indian lifestyle. The site is largely pictorial, so you don't need to know any French to enjoy it. There are people roaming the farm dressed as Indians and other Old West characters. You can rent a teepee to sleep in. Other attractions include: men on horses doing rodeo tricks; archery; riding a mechanical bull; tomahawk throwing; stagecoach rides; and Native American dances performed by real French people.

Each year Moon and Chris have a big gathering of friends to celebrate Indian culture with motorcycles and Confederate flags. The overall effect is really something to see.

This place is quite close to where we were during our vacation, but sadly we were completely unaware of it. Perhaps next year.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Crashes Military Funeral

Normally, it's hard for a Lt. Governor to get noticed at all. We admit we couldn't have picked Dave Heineman out of a crowd before Mike Johanns left for the Dept. of Agriculture. Pennsylvania's Catherine Baker Knoll has managed to break out of her anonymity with her bizarre behavior. After showing up uninvited at a funeral for a Marine killed in Iraq, she told the family, "I want you to know our government is against this war."

Jay Bryant as the full story at, and we particularly love this quote:
"Reading the story carefully, what stands out to me is this: the Light Governor really thought she was saying something comforting."
"Light Governor," indeed. When this hit the fan Knoll stalled awhile before "appologizing" to the family. As is often the case these days, the parts of the letter actually quoted by the WaPo don't sound like a real appology:
Pa. Gov. Says Apology Sent to Marine's Kin: "In a letter to Goodrich's widow, Amy, Knoll said she left a card in case the family wanted to contact her 'and as a sign of my willingness to help the family through this difficult time in any way I can. To do anything that was deemed insensitive was completely counter to my intent.'

Goodrich, 32, of Westwood, died July 10 in Iraq. His family said that they felt they were owed an apology by Knoll and didn't understand why she attended the funeral in Carnegie.

'Sergeant Goodrich's service was beyond the call of duty,' Knoll's letter said. 'If my regard for his family's grief was seen another way, it is thoroughly regrettable. The fact that you have been offended deserves and receives my most profound apology.'"
Perhaps there was a real apology in the full letter, but there's not much on that score here. The last sentence comes close, but the phrasing throughout is so weird we can't give it full credit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I was speaking to our company's attorney today about a patent application. The examiner wants to change one claim by adding a specific list of things it will cover rather than just a general description. Rather than saying that, our attorney said, "She wants the embodiments to be set forth with particularity."

I laughed out loud into the phone and repeated the phrase, which got him laughing, too. I'm going to keep using that one on him for awhile...

Collapse of the AFL-CIO

The unions are revolting. The AFL-CIO has been eroding steadily for years, and now big chunks are breaking off. We've been curious as to what the fight was all about. One aspect is that President John Sweeney's emphasis on Democratic Party politics has failed, and others want to move on:
OpinionJournal: "In the wake of the GOP takeover of Congress the year before, Mr. Sweeney promised to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into electoral politics to stop the Gingrich revolution. He staffed AFL-CIO headquarters with activists from the political left--environmental groups, culturally liberal outfits--and made the union consortium a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

A decade later we can see how that turned out. Democrats remain in the House and Senate minority, and union membership continues to decline across the American economy. The unionized share of the total U.S. work force has been sliding steadily for years, and was down again last year to 12.5% from 12.9% in 2003. In the more dynamic private sector, only 7.9% of employees now carry the union label.
Service workers President Andy Stern wants to arrest this decline by diverting more labor resources into union organizing, especially at such large employers as Wal-Mart. One of his rebel allies, Terence O'Sullivan of the Laborers International Union, wants to more aggressively use union pension funds and financial assets to influence corporate decisions and gain seats on corporate boards. Mr. Sweeney doesn't oppose either idea, but he also wants to pour cash into Congressional lobbying and Democratic coffers. Mr. Stern replies that this money will largely be wasted until unions increase their member ranks, and for our non-union money he's probably right.

What's missing on both sides, however, is a vision of economic opportunity that might actually make workers want to join a union in the first place. Tactics aside, both factions continue to believe in the idea of unions that arose in the Industrial Age: Greedy management versus the exploited working man, seniority over flexibility, fixed benefits and strike threats over working with management to keep a U.S.-based company profitable and innovative in a world of growing competition. On the political front, both factions favor trade protection, higher taxes and government help to enforce restrictive work rules. This is the agenda of Old Europe, where jobless rates are above 10%, and it merely offers more economic insecurity in the U.S. as well. "

Judicial Term Limits

Perhaps this is an idea whose time is coming soon? John Fund explores the question of lifetime tenure for Supreme Court Justices on the OpinionJournal site:
"John Roberts is only 50 years old. That means, should he be confirmed, he could be issuing opinions 'when my granddaughter is in her 30, and she was born just a year ago,' noted liberal and Harvard University law professor Larry Tribe put it recently.

Is this something even the right should be celebrating? Do we really want lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices? The Framers of the Constitution, of course, gave us this judicial sinecure for the express purpose of insulating the courts from political pressures of the moment. But then again, 220 years ago life expectancy wasn't what it is today and the courts had yet to claim the power of 'judicial review,' the power to determine which laws meet constitutional muster. For the Founders, the courts did not exercise the sweeping, unaccountable power they do now. That's one reason why many people are now coming around to the notion of instituting an 18-year term limit on Supreme Court justices. They include conservatives such as former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and liberals such as Paul Carrington, the former dean of Duke University's law school."
Alexander Hamilton thought the judical branch would be the weakest, but that's certainly not true today. Eighteen years on the court should be plenty of time. Read the rest.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Presidential Leadership

While I was on vacation, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Presidential Leadership : Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House, editted by James Taranto (Wall Street Journal) and Leonard Leo (The Federalist Society). There is a short essay on each president, each written by a different author. Collectively, they provide a fascinating story of the gradual evolution of the presidency and the entire federal government from the founding of the country through 2004. There are some additional essays on "issues in presidential leadership" and a survey that ranks the presidents.

It's really an all-star cast of authors, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every chapter. I particularly loved Christopher Buckley's article on James Buchanan (1857 to 1861), widely regarded as the worst president in our history to date. Other notable contributors include: Victor Davis Hanson; Peggy Noonan; Glenn Reynolds; Ken Starr; the late Robert Bartley; Michael Barone; Fred Barnes; Pete Dupont; Theodore Olson; Ed Meese; and John McCain.

Although I borrowed the book from the library, it's the kind of book I like to keep around for reference. I'll probably end up buying a copy of my own before too long.

Moonbats Sighted in Omaha

Yesterday in Omaha a soldier's funeral was marred by the worst sort of moonbattery:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "OMAHA -- There were flags. Across the street from St. Bridget Catholic Church, flags hung from protesters: drooping, dirty, dragging on the ground. A forlorn backdrop to the protesters' signs, which read, among other things, 'God hates the U.S.A.,' 'God hates soldiers' and 'Thank God for IEDs.'

About 10 protesters stood on the sidewalk across from the church where the funeral for Staff Sgt. Tricia Jameson, 34, of Omaha was about to be held. The Nebraska Army National Guard medic, a member of the 313th Medical Company of Lincoln, died in a Humvee ambulance on July 14 as she rushed to the aid of three Marines wounded in an attack on their convoy in western Iraq. She was killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, less than three weeks after arriving in Iraq.

The sunburned protesters were members of a radical Topeka, Kan., church led by anti-gay crusader Fred Phelps. They have protested at everything from schools to churches across the country, spreading their belief that America is damned because of its tolerance of homosexuals. They're taking their signs to soldiers' funerals, claiming their church was bombed by an IED 10 years ago, and that God is retaliating by killing American soldiers with IEDs in Iraq."
Fred Phelps is not fit to clean the latrines of our troops with his tongue. It's hard to understand how his organization can be deemed a "church" in any meaningful sense. Can there be more than a dozen nutjobs in the whole country who have twisted these two threads together? Our sympathy goes out to the good people of Topeka and all of Kansas, who through no fault of their own, find themselves in the same city/state as these addled-brained imbeciles.

We salute Sgt. Jameson and her family for her bravery and sacrifice and for their quiet dignity in the face of the actions of these outrageous idiots.