Feb 27, 2013

Biden: “just fire the shotgun through the door.”

F&S: What about the other uses, for self-defense and target practice?

V.P. BIDEN: Well, the way in which we measure it is—I think most scholars would say—is that as long as you have a weapon sufficient to be able to provide your self-defense. I did one of these town-hall meetings on the Internet and one guy said, “Well, what happens when the end days come? What happens when there’s the earthquake? I live in California, and I have to protect myself.”

I said, “Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.” Most people can handle a shotgun a hell of a lot better than they can a semiautomatic weapon in terms of both their aim and in terms of their ability to deter people coming. We can argue whether that’s true or not, but it is no argument that, for example, a shotgun could do the same job of protecting you. Now, granted, you can come back and say, “Well, a machine gun could do a better job of protecting me.” No one’s arguing we should make machine guns legal.

That didn’t work well for Oscar Pistorius.

And firing a gun into the air is also illegal.

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Feb 27, 2013

Tomorrow at South Texas College of Law at noon: Jeremy Rabkin Talk On Cyberwarfare

On Thursday  at noon, George Mason Professor Jeremy Rabkin will be talking to the South Texas College of Law Federalist Society about Cyber-Warfare and the Laws of Armed Conflict. Professor Geoffrey Corn will comment.

The event is open to the public. It will be held Thursday at noon in the Emilie Slohm Conference Room on the 6th Floor of the Library, Come by and say hi.


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Feb 27, 2013

Predict the Next Pope on FantasyPope.com

Welcome to FantasyPope.com.  FantasyPope is a prediction market that taps into the wisdom of the crowds to forecast who will be the next PopeBy ranking the top five candidates, FantasyPope will track in real time the movements and trends during the conclave.

FantasyPope is co-sponsored by the Center for Morality in Public Life. The Center for Morality in Public Life puts the pursuit of wisdom in service to right living and human flourishing—Prudentiam Sapientia Servientes. The Center for Morality in Public Life, under the leadership of President Andrew M. Haines and Content Director Mattias Caro, publishes the journal Ethikia Politika.



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Feb 27, 2013

A New Perspective of the Supreme Court

Courtesy of Art Lien, based on a scale-model of the Court.


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Feb 27, 2013

How to pass the United States citizenship test? Give wrong answers

ProPublica has a sobering account of how flawed the questions on the U.S. Citizenship test are:

But then we began noticing errors in a number of the questions and answers.

Take Question 36. It asks applicants to name two members of the president’s Cabinet. Among the correct answers is “Vice President.” The vice president is a cabinet-level officer but he’s not a Cabinet member. Cabinet members are unelected heads ofexecutive departments, such as the Defense Department, or the State Department.

The official naturalization test booklet even hints as much: “The president may appoint other government officials to the cabinet but no elected official may serve on the cabinet while in office.” Note to Homeland Security: The vice president is elected.

Still, a wonderful press officer in the New York immigration office noted that the White House’s own website lists the vice president as a member of the Cabinet. It’s still wrong, I explained. I told her that my partner wrote an entire book about the vice president and won a Pulitzer Prize for the stories. I was pretty sure about this one. A parade of constitutional scholars backed me up.

In fact, the Constitution aligns the vice president more closely with the legislative branch as president of the Senate. Not until well into the 20th century did the vice president even attend Cabinet meetings.

Then there is Question 12: What is the “rule of law”?

I showed it to lawyers and law professors. They were stumped.

There are four acceptable answers: “Everyone must follow the law”; “Leaders must obey the law”; “Government must obey the law”; “No one is above the law.”

Judge Richard Posner, the constitutional scholar who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, was unhappy. “These are all incorrect,” he wrote me. “The rule of law means that judges decide cases ‘without respect of persons,’ that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness, etc. of the parties or their lawyers.”

I am reminded of when Homer Simpson is tutoring Apu for the citizenship test.

Homer teaches Apu facts about American history, like that the 13 stripes on the American flag are for good luck, and the electrical college, while Chief Wiggum and boys prepare to deport the immigrants. The day before the exam, Homer asks Apu to study his 9th-grade history notes. Apu tries to study, but falls asleep after reading two words.

In the morning, Apu wakes up.

Apu: Ohh, I fell asleep! I have forgotten everything that Mr. Homer taught me!

Lisa: Perfect. Let’s roll.

And when Apu gave this answer:

Examiner: All right, here’s your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter…
Examiner: Wait, wait… just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.

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Feb 27, 2013

Who would vote against something called the “Voting Rights Act?”

Justice Scalia reportedly asked today:

“This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress. They’re going to lose votes if they vote against the Voting Rights Act. Even the name is wonderful.”

Another reason why naming laws after victims or politically charged concepts (especially those that make you feel good) is a terrible policy idea. There’s no way to oppose such a law without being opposed to the name. Similarly, voting against the Violence Against Women Act. Who wants Violence for Women?!

UpdateIan has a different take (I have not seen the entire transcripts):

The comment came as part of a larger riff on a comment Scalia made the last time the landmark voting law was before the justices. Noting the fact that the Voting Rights Act reauthorization passed 98-0 when it was before the Senate in 2006, Scalia claimed four years ago that this unopposed vote actually undermines the law: “The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there.”

That was an unusual comment when it was made, but Scalia’s expansion on it today raises concerns that his suspicion of the Act is rooted much more in racial resentment than in a general distrust of unanimous votes. Scalia noted when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965, itpassed over 19 dissenters. In subsequent reauthorizations, the number of dissenters diminished, until it passed the Senate without dissent seven years ago. Scalia’s comments suggested that this occurred, not because of a growing national consensus that racial disenfranchisement is unacceptable, but because lawmakers are too afraid to be tarred as racists. His inflammatory claim that the Voting Rights Act is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” came close to the end of a long statement on why he found a landmark law preventing race discrimination in voting to be suspicious.


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Feb 27, 2013

Constitutional Places: Teague v. Lane

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