Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Police searches? Only if no dissenters in the house

SCOTUS issued a wild 5-3 decision today (Justice Alito chilled), ruling that police without a warrant cannot search a house when one resident agrees but another says no. At first blush, it would seem this decision would cause chaos in attempted police searches.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
The court's liberal members, joined by centrist Anthony M. Kennedy, said Wednesday that an officer responding to a domestic dispute call did not have the authority to enter and search the home of a small-town Georgia lawyer in 2001 even though the man's wife invited him in.

Janet Randolph called police to the home in Americus, Ga., and over her husband's objections, led the officer to evidence used to charge Scott Randolph with cocaine possession. That charge has been on hold while courts considered whether the search was constitutional.

[Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote his first dissent, a harsh complaint that police may now be helpless to protect domestic abuse victims.

Roberts said that the decision apparently forbids police from entering to assist with a domestic dispute if the abuser whose behavior prompted the request for police assistance objects.” Although Roberts has disagreed with other rulings since joining the court in September, it was the first time he wrote his own dissent.

[Justice David] Souter called Roberts' concerns about domestic violence a “red herring.”

"“This case has no bearing on the capacity of the police to protect domestic victims,"” Souter wrote. "“The question whether the police might lawfully enter over objection in order to provide any protection that might be reasonable is easily answered yes."”
Of course, this administration is handy at providing the widest possible definition of "reasonableness" - see "Wiretapping, Bush Administration and -"

But also see the key phrase "without a warrant" - we'll assume police with a warrant don't care who agrees to a search, since their consent is irrelevant.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cindy Sheehan: Time to Go Home

Cindy Sheehan is a little too much of a commodity at the moment. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
She's averaging just two days per month here [ed. - in California]. The next morning she will fly off again, the surreal star of what is -- depending largely on one's political perspective -- either an epic tragedy or a farce. After stops for protests in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., she will breakfast in Manhattan with actress Susan Sarandon, who is set to portray her in a biopic movie. A crew will film Sheehan for a weekly reality series on the Sundance Channel. Her letters to President Bush inspired "Peace Mom," a one-woman monologue show in London. A memoir is due to her publisher April 1.
Sorry to be harsh, but someone needs to tell her that her 15 minutes are over.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Miss Deaf Texas killed by train

The reigning Miss Deaf Texas died Monday afternoon after being struck by a train, officials said.

Tara Rose McAvoy, 18, was walking near railroad tracks when she was struck by a Union Pacific train, authorities said. A witness told Austin television station KTBC the train sounded its horn right up until the accident occurred.

I'm sorry, but that headline just screams "d'oh!"


On-Star: Useful service, creepy ads

Is it just me, or is anyone else creeped out by On-Star's radio ads? For those unfamiliar with On-Star, it is a subscription-based service available on GM cars and trucks. If you press the little On-Star button, you can ask for emergency assistance, call for ticket reservations...all sorts of things.

Initial ads were rather funny, with actual calls from people who locked themselves out of their cars, people who ran out of gas, etc. But lately, the ads have taken a more ominous tone, with actual emergency calls from people whose passengers have had heart attacks, drivers who've just been in accidents, and so on. These ads feature screaming, hysterical people in the midst of emergencies.

The point of the ads is that these are precisely the situations where On-Star would be life-saving. At the same time, I don't think people who signed up for On-Star realized their voices would be heard on nationwide radio (I'm sure the authorization is buried somewhere in service's fine print). If it was your mother, your daughter, or your friend, would YOU want their panicked voices available in commercial format for years to come? Seems like a perverse form of emotional porn.

- P

Foreclosures rare in Katrina-hit areas

Foreclosures have generally been rare in LA and MS areas hit by Katrina. Why? Three reasons: From MSNBC:
In general, homeowners with government-backed loans were allowed to suspend payments for 90 days after the Aug. 29 storm, and that period was extended for another 90 days, bringing it to March 1.

Federal guidelines, which are followed by most large lenders, then gave borrowers another 120 days before foreclosure proceedings could be initiated, bringing it up to July 1, as long as borrowers make a written commitment to work with their lender on bringing their loan up to date.

Two other reasons are based on the condition of the properties:

> Lenders, who are generally reluctant to foreclose on properties to begin with, have concerns over the extent of Katrina's damage

> Homeowners are locked in litigation with insurance companies over homeowner's and flood insurance claims.

Some good news, kind of:
Congress is providing relief that could allow many homeowners to bring their mortgages up to date and rebuild. Under a bill signed into law in December some homeowners in Mississippi can soon apply for grants of up to $150,000 to cover uninsured damages. The future is less certain for homeowners in Louisiana who suffered uninsured damages.
Interesting that Louisiana wasn't mentioned in the description of the December law. Hmmmm.

- P

Monday, March 06, 2006

South Dakota and abortion

South Dakota, not previously known as a hotbed of issues other than American Indian/Native American rights, is attempting to become the first state to ban abortions outright. From CNN:
The legislation was decried by opponents who said it would particularly impact rape victims and poor women. Currently, a clinic in Sioux Falls is the only place where abortions are provided in South Dakota. The closest alternative is a Planned Parenthood location in Sioux City, Iowa, about 90 miles away.

"It's a sad state of affairs that we have only one choice (for abortion) right now," said Charon Asetoyer of the Native American Women's Health Care Education Resource Center in Lake Andes. "But if you have to go out of state, the cost of making that trip will be prohibitive."

If a rape victim becomes pregnant and bears a child, the rapist could have the same parental rights as the mother, said Krista Heeren-Graber, executive director of the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.

"The idea the rapist could be in the child's life ... makes the woman very, very fearful. Sometimes they need to have choice," Heeren-Graber said.

About 800 abortions are performed in South Dakota each year. Leslee Unruh, president of the Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls pregnancy counseling agency that tries to steer women away from abortion, said most of them do not stem from rape or even failed contraception, but are simply 'conveniences.'

Unruh said she believes most South Dakota women want the state to ban abortion, and many who have had abortions "wish someone would have stopped them."

Gosh, maybe we should just take a poll and resolve the issue that way.

About 15 years ago, Time Magazine had a cover story on why Roe v. Wade was already moot in many rural counties, simply because there was no abortion provider available. Given 15 additional years where there has almost certainly been a further decline in abortion clinics, the "slow road" agenda of pro-lifers becomes clearer. While Operation Rescue does the dirty work of confrontation and murder, pro-life politicians have poked and prodded at the outer reaches of Roe and have gradually confined its scope. As presently constituted, the Supreme Court would seem willing to continue this "slow road" approach.

The wild cards in the debate are now birth control and the "morning after" pill. If the goal is to greatly decrease and/or eliminate abortions, one would think a logical middle ground would be in this area. But after hearing polarizing arguments from both sides, is this really the goal radicals on both sides want to achieve in the larger picture?

Hmmmmmm.....don't think so.
- X

Random numbers on the UAE-US port control debate

From John Cummings, as reported on Air America Radio's website:
The number of US corporations owned by foreign interests:61,615.
The percentage of US transportation and warehousing corporations owned by foreign entities: 1.16%
The percentage of the US federal debt owned by foreign entities: 53%.

The number of cargo ships that made a port of call in the United States last year: 7,241.
The number of shipping containers received by US ports last year: 9 million.
The percentage of containers inspected by customs and border control: 5%.

The number of domestic airline passengers in 2005:590 million.
The number of bags screened by the TSA each month: 75 million.
The number of bags per day mishandled by US airlines:9,700.

What's interesting is the lack of discussion on how many US ports are operated by other Mideast nations, such as our "good friends" in Saudi Arabia.

Like a good neighbor...(not)

The current issue of The American Prospect features a cover story on Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), whose charity, Operation Good Neighbor, has come under scrutiny for its expenses. Details also from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Operation Good Neighbor donated about 40% of what it spent. The BBB says such groups should allocate 65%

The foundation's treasurer defended the organization's level of giving. If money set aside for future gifts is counted, she said, 45 percent of the money collected during the period will go toward charity.

"It is important to realize that the foundation does not have the same ability as better-known charities, such as the Salvation Army or or the American Red Cross, to raise money without spending much money to do so," treasurer Barbara Bonfiglio said in a letter posted last night on the charity's Web site.

.........or without so much campaigning to do for its Senator.