A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place

A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a lot of things. But so far, none of those things include “good at being Attorney General.”

Would you hire a builder who, when he finds out you want a new house at some point down the road, just knocks down the one you have now, without thinking about where you’ll live until the new one is ready?

If you would, then Jeff Sessions is your man. Because he knocked down the Justice Department before even making the vague outline of a plan to put a new one in place.

Oh, and just in case you forgot, he’s a racist son of a bitch, too.

Alex Jones’ rock and hard place: Authentic lunatic or performance artist and fit parent?

In Travis County custody case, jury will search for real Alex Jones

Jonathan Tilove reports this story for American-Statesman:

Beginning Monday, a jury will be selected at the Travis County Courthouse that in the next two weeks will be asked to sort out whether there is a difference between the public and private Alex Jones, and whether, when it comes to his fitness as a parent, it matters.

Kelly Jones’ attorney, Bobby Newman, is engaged in some quality tactical litigation:

[Judge] Naranjo, meanwhile, said she had never seen or heard Jones on Infowars until Wednesday’s hearing, when Kelly Jones’ legal team started previewing Infowars videos it would like to play for the jury.

The first was a clip from a July 2015 broadcast in which Jones had his son, then 12, on to play the latest of some 15 or 20 videos he had made with the help of members of the Infowars team who, Jones said, had “taken him under their wing” during summer days spent at the South Austin studio between stints at tennis and Christian camps.

“He is undoubtedly cut out for this, and I intend for him to eclipse what I’ve done. He’s a way greater person than I was at 12,” said Jones, turning to his son. “I love you so much, and I didn’t mean to get you up here, sweetheart, and tell people how much I love you, but you’re so handsome, and you’re a good little knight who’s going to grow up, I know, to be a great fighter against the enemy.”

“So far this looks like good stuff,” [Alex Jones’ Attorney Randall] Wilhite said. Naranjo OK’d it for viewing by the jury.

But Bobby Newman, the attorney for Kelly Jones guiding the court through the Infowars clips, was laying the groundwork for the argument that there is no separation between Alex Jones, father, and Alex Jones, Infowarrior.

It’s a solid argument, and Alex Jones is in a bit of a bind here, forced to choose between maintaining the authenticity of a lunatic his inexplicably massive fanbase worships and sacrificing that authenticity in an attempt to hang onto custody of his young children.

Unenforceable ban on atheists holding public office still on the books in 8 states

Unenforceable ban on atheists holding public office still on the books in 8 states

This is an old story but after reading an article about a study [PDF] suggesting there are many atheists who don’t want to admit they’re atheists, I remembered reading about how a country which prides itself as a world leader in personal freedom still has laws banning atheists from public service.

My memory was correct, and that country is the United States. Oyez, which publishes Supreme Court resources including audio of oral arguments, has a great page on the 1960 case which declared such laws unconstitutional (as if anyone should have needed the Supreme Court to tell them that…).

In Torcaso v. Watkins, the Court held unanimously that, quoting Oyez:

such a requirement places the state of Maryland firmly on the side of those people who believe in God and are willing to state their belief. With this requirement, Maryland effectively aids religions that profess a belief in God at the expense of any other form of belief or disbelief. The First Amendment expressly prohibits a state from taking this position. Although the candidate has the option of not pursuing public office rather than declaring a belief in God, the test is an unconstitutional encroachment on the freedom of religion.

So these laws aren’t enforceable, but the fact that they’re still on the books is an affront to the Constitution and should embarrass any lawmaker who claims to respect that Constitution.

Mentally incompetent Utah man dies in hospital after jail episode left him paralyzed

Mentally incompetent Utah man dies in hospital after jail episode left him paralyzed

Is this the kind of country where we let mental illness go untreated to the point where someone in jail for fighting with a couple of cops is effectively allowed to commit suicide, while on suicide watch?

Jail video shows a naked Hall with disheveled long hair and beard running headfirst into a wall three times before climbing up on the sink and falling headfirst to the floor. At the time, Hall had been waiting five months for a bed and treatment at the Utah State Hospital. Utah designates 100 beds at the hospital for inmate mental health treatment, but once the beds are occupied, additional defendants await openings from jail cells.

And this:

The Utah LegislatureThe Utah Legislature recently set aside $3 million in an effort to resolve a federal lawsuit filed by the Salt Lake City-based Disability Law Center, which alleges mentally ill defendants are not provided a speedy trial and suffer in jail without treatment because the state does not provide enough hospital beds and specialists to treat them.

Why couldn’t they set aside $3 million before they were sued, to solve the problem before anyone died?

Senate Republicans Vote To Gut Internet Privacy

Senate Republicans Vote To Gut Internet Privacy

Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:

The Senate voted Thursday to make it easier for internet service providers to share sensitive information about their customers, a first step in overturning landmark privacy rules that consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers view as crucial protections in the digital age. The vote was passed along party lines, 50-48, with all but two Republicans voting in favor of the repeal and every Democrat voting against it. Two Republican Senators did not vote.

Disgusting. This is what buying policy looks like, folks. Kate Tummarello of the Electronic Frontier Foundation also did a write-up, and included a particularly scary piece of information:

Republicans in the Senate just voted 50-48 (with two absent votes) to approve a Congressional Review Action resolution from Sen. Jeff Flake which—if it makes it through the House—would not only roll back the FCC’s rules but also prevent the FCC from writing similar rules in the future.

(emphasis added)

This may not seem like a big deal, but it very much is, especially in an age where ISPs and the data brokers to whom they sell your information are frequently hacked.

More shameful behavior from Senate Republicans whose retirement can’t possibly come soon enough.

NJ law would require pet stores sell only rescue animals

NJ law would require pet stores sell only rescue animals

John C. Ensslin reports for The Record:

New pet stores in New Jersey would be allowed to sell only cats and dogs obtained from shelters, pounds and animal rescue organization under a bill the state Senate passed Thursday.

The bill still has to go to the Assembly and will face industry opposition there, but it’s a great step forward. Find more information about the bill here. You can read an embedded PDF of the Senate version below this post.


Re: Dumb conspiracy theories on Scalia’s death

Enough with the conspiracy theories about Justice Scalia’s death

I read this earlier today:

“As a former homicide commander, I am stunned that no autopsy was ordered for Justice Scalia,” William O. Ritchie wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, according to reports. After seeking to cast doubt on the conclusion of the deputy U.S. marshals who responded to a call from the ranch, he added, “My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas.”

My gut tells me there is some fishing for attention going on in the head of the former D.C. police officer who said that.

Why?

Let’s consider this:

  1. Why?
  2. Why??
  3. Why???

Was it a Liberal conspiracy to get President Obama one more lasting decision about the future of United States legal policy?

Was it a “Conservative” conspiracy to give Congressional Republicans and presidential candidates something “meaningful” to “stand up” to Obama about?

Was it Ancient Aliens?

There was no autopsy, they say! There was a pillow above his head, they say! The President was told long before anyone else, they say (as if the President doesn’t get most of the news before everyone else…)!

Conspiracy theorists demand: “What is your proof Scalia wasn’t murdered?”

These stupid theories remind me of one of the frequent arguments levied against atheists: “What is your proof that there is no god??”

Who proved god exists in the first place?

Pillows

Many articles note the ranch owner who found Scalia said there was a pillow above his head, and many conspiracy theorists point to this as suspicious. I sleep with a pillow over my head every night, and another one underneath it, using the two to drown out the sounds of an increasingly conspiratorial world so I can maintain my slumber all night long.

No conspiracy. Just a light sleeper.

Politics aside

I disagreed with much of Justice Scalia’s Supreme Court jurisprudence but his presence on the Court was invaluable to the development of United States law and the debates from which it springs.

He articulated his positions in such a way that I (almost always) respected them, even when I found it hard to believe someone so intelligent was seriously asserting them. He was rarely conclusory, giving reasons for his views, and whether you agreed with those reasons or not, that’s more than most politicians (and lawyers) usually do.

His death is a loss, but there are few more certain paths to some sort of immortality than thirty years on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Photo: Then-nominee Antonin Scalia, right, with President Ronald Reagan in 1986, via Wikipedia