SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Friday, March 04, 2005

CRITIQUE OF DEATH PENALTY EDITORIAL. See my comments about yesterday's Seattle Times editorial on the recent U.S. Supreme Court death penalty case at Sound Politics.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE... Given all my recent posting here and at Sound Politics on the very serious issue of human cloning, I thought I would post a cartoon I published in January of 2003 for the Seattle University Spectator. This was when ex-racecar driver Rael and his bizarre, mad-scientist sidekick chick were in the news, declaring their success in cloning human beings.

Let it be a reminder that BOTH Rael AND some Washington State elected officials support the cloning of human beings! BOTH support cloning human beings for use as natural resources. The main difference here is that the pending legislation in Washington State REQUIRES the eventual DESTRUCTION of the cloned humans. I don't know if those same elected leaders are likewise involved in UFO cults...

FYI, if you click on the cartoon you will find a larger, clearer picture.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)
ROPER V. SIMMONS SUCKS, PART I. Like many others (including The Wall Street Journal, Powerline and David Limbaugh), I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling from March 1 that categorically struck down capital punishment for ALL criminals who commit horrible crimes when under the age of 18. My views on the case will be interspersed here in posts over the coming days.

Part of the majority's miserly rationale for striking the death penalty as applied to ALL 16- and 17-year-olds is that society has evolved its sense of decency and now such practices are unacceptable.

Yes, societies do evolve. Duh. And societies can come to discover profound ethical and moral insights that had eluded previous generations and societies. That is not terribly controversial, either.

But wait a minute. Can't societies also devolve? Yes, they can. And have. At the time of our Founding, for instance, many in the South acknowledged that slavery was WRONG and that it would hopefully become extinct in due time. (Jefferson and Washington come to mind here.) However, later generations, leading up to the Civil War came to argue that slavery was morally GOOD (think John C. Calhoun), and that it was better to fight a war to preserve the integrity of a nation founded upon that viewpoint, than risk having that institution eventually limited. I call THAT a devolution of society.

In Roper, the majority's use of the term evolve insinuates that we have reached a better and more advanced understanding on a profound moral issue. But they never really bother to establish that society has evolved for the better on this issue. The majority simply assume that. And they ignore the possibilty that the so-called societal consensus (the subject of a future post) is the result of society devolving.

Rather than making appeals to selected international charters or governments (a subject of a future post), or to selected state statutes and constitutions, the Supreme Court majority COULD HAVE made a serious attempt to argue how our society has taken a morally improved stance upon this issue and why that stance is so clarly morally superior as to warrant a categorial rule on the subject. But they didn't. They never made much attempt to argue how a juvenile who commits a brutal, wicked and vile crime can never be culpable enough to face capital punishment.

It was the mid-90s when I was 16 and 17 years-old, respectively. I called my own shots and knew about the MAJOR do's and don'ts of life. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe Supreme Court justices are more highly evolved in their outlook.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

SPITZER STUFF. Matthew Continetti’s new Weekly Standard article “I, Spitzer” provides some interesting insight into NY’s big, bad Attorney General. It is a lengthy piece, and so while I will not go into detail on it, I will mention a few noteworthy items.

Continetti describes Spitzer and his powerful, active office as follows:

The attorney general of New York sits atop a huge and roiling bureaucracy; Spitzer employs 600 lawyers in four divisions divided into 16 bureaus scattered throughout 13 regional offices. At any given moment these lawyers are involved in thousands of cases. ("It's virtually impossible to get a count," one of his aides told me.) The tenor of these investigations is a function of the attorney general's politics. Spitzer's great innovation was to talk like a Republican and litigate like a Democrat.

An interesting story follows, however, about the number of campaign contributions that certain corporations have made to Spitzer’s campaign—and remained unscathed by litigation. Further, Continetti also describes how an intriguing number of Spitzer lieutenants have been hired by corporations who presumably would like to stay under his good graces. He goes on to say:

Burrow through all this material, and suddenly you are struck with the impolite notion that maybe the attorney general isn't saving--or even practicing--capitalism. Shear away all the highfalutin' language, and you begin to think that Spitzer looks more like a traditional political boss: rewarding his friends, and punishing his enemies.

In addition to describing some of Spitzer’s background and his rise to prominence though his office’s activities, Continetti discusses how reliant Spitzer is upon the “investor class” concept. (Roughly, the idea that when people become investors, they will begin to vote Republican.) Continetti, however, argues it to be a myth and writes of some corresponding concerns:

But while universal stock ownership may be desirable for other reasons--most economists believe that lower-income Americans would benefit from having at least some of their savings in stocks--it hardly guarantees political catnip for Republicans. For one thing, if 80 or 90 percent of Americans own stocks and bonds, "investors" will no longer be a class at all--unless it's the class of all voters, in both parties. Furthermore--and more immediately--there's a corollary to the investor-class thesis that favors Democrats. As more people enter the market, they may turn to politicians who offer protection from rapacious capitalists and irresponsible money managers. Burned by market downturns, they will want politicians to go after those who did them harm. And those politicians, in turn, will say they are "saving" markets in the process. Politicians like Eliot Spitzer.

Reading this article brought back memories of Dr. Michael Greve’s Federalist Outlook issue from 2002, entitled “Free Eliot Spitzer!” Greve provides an interesting-as-always discussion of competitive federalism principles, while taking on some of the problems that such a perspective reveals in some of the out-of-court regulations that Spitzer has helped to create.

Notes Greve:
Attorneys general have over the past decade managed to create a parallel national government on issues from product safety to antitrust law to tobacco regulation. In all those areas, some enterprising attorney general has reversely preempted the national government, typically in cahoots with trial lawyers and his fellow attorneys general. In all instances, the usurpation was made possible by the effectively unbounded extraterritorial reach of the usurpers' authority. What distinguishes the Spitzer campaign is its creator's enthusiasm in shouting his national ambition from the rooftops.

One can hardly defend deceptive practices in brokerage houses, but the primary issue for Greve is structural:

the notion that a state attorney general should push the national government into action perverts federalism. Putting aside that even captured federal bureaucrats may have independent, respectable reasons for doing nothing, our system of checks and balances is intentionally designed to impede federal action. Spitzerian policy entrepreneurship leaves Congress and the SEC no choice but to intervene, lest the securities markets be regulated into the ground by fifty ambitious state attorneys general whose agendas conflict in all respects but one—headline hunting. A state official's power to drive national action in this officious fashion is a power to preempt the national government. It is federalism upside-down.

Spitzer has announced his candidacy for Governor of New York. As the top Executive of the Empire State, I actually suspect his influence to DIMINISH nation-wide. A sad irony.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

NEW DIMENSIONS OF DECEPTION IN WA CLONING BILL. Yesterday the Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee conducted an executive session, which included action on SB 5594—the grossly misleading stealth cloning bill.

This is the bill that pretends to outlaw cloning, but then re-defines it so as to even allow for human cloning right up until the moment of birth. At that point, all of the cloned human life that has been grown is targeted for mandated destruction.

Now a handful of state senators, demonstrating all the statesmanship of totally unwitting dupes—or the YES men and women of human cloning proponents—have added a new twist: the bill purports to outlaw the horrible practice of “reproductive” human cloning while permitting “therapeutic” cloning.

This is a distinction without a difference.

In the staff briefing for the committee, committee coordinator Jennifer Straus briefly discussed the proposed amendment to the bill—which she said would basically insert the word “reproductive” before the word “cloning” in the bill’s text.

This amendment changes NOTHING about the bill. Wesley J. Smith explains things in a recent article analyzing this legislation:

If the cloned human organism is to be experimented upon and destroyed, the process is often called "therapeutic cloning." If it is to be brought to birth, the process is usually called "reproductive cloning." But it is important to understand these are not different types of cloning. They are different uses for the cloned human lives created via cloning.

Both the bill’s sponsor—Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D) and co-sponsor Sen. Rosa Franklin (D) stated that the amendment would “clarify” the meaning of the bill.

If anything, the bill should give increased confidence to cloning proponents who don’t want to see ANY sort of ethical limits placed upon their ability to clone human life for the purposes of destroying it and harvesting it.

Sen. Pallette (R) asked where the additional language comprising the amendment language was arrived at. Straus stated that it came from the University of Washington Medical School, apparently in response to questions as to whether it would really prohibit reproductive cloning.

Sen. Franklin then commented on the amendment:

…it does clarify, because…I am opposed to human cloning, and there is a difference between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. And so this clarifies the difference.

To the contrary, I will quote Smith again:

…these are not different types of cloning. They are different uses for the cloned human lives created via cloning.

Sen. Kohl-Wells went on to praise Sen. Franklin for being “…so much of an articulate spokesperson in opposition to reproductive cloning.”

There was nothing articulate about that portion of the executive committee session. Nothing. You can listen in for yourself via TVW here. (Discussion lasts approximately five minutes, beginning 1:36:45 into the February 28 hearing.)

The amendments were incorporated to a substitute bill—SSB 5594—which passed without objection. The bill will proceed to the Senate Rules Committee.

All of this goes to show that the legislators have a poor grasp of the issues involved. They’ve become lost in the terminology shell game, with human cloning proponents leading them along. That or they’re playing dumb…

In addition, there is currently underway a House Appropriations hearing today on HB 1268, concerning the regulation of stem cell research. That bill likewise contains duplicitous language about banning cloning AND the phony baloney therapeutic/reproductive cloning distinction. (See here for more.)

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

Monday, February 28, 2005

NEW AEI FEDERALISM PROJECT WEBLOG ON STATE AGs. AG Watch is the new blog--launched in the last week--following the goings-on by state attorneys general.

Of course, now that Washington State has an excellent attorney general in Rob McKenna, I am convinced that he will only be mentioned in positive terms on the new blog.

I intend to follow AG Watch closely. Michael Greve is an outstanding federalism scholar and I have long been and admirer of his work and his important law & economics emphasis. (He gave a dynamite performance on a panel in Seattle this summer for the American Legislative Exchange Counsel's convention.)

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)
MAD SCIENCE, BAD LAW. Yesterday at Secondhand Smoke Wesley J. Smith reminds us of the effort underway by certain idealogues to sweep away any ethical constraints to scientific experimentation on human life. The post is entitled "Science without moral limits," and is most definitely worthy of readers' attention.

While I won't analyze all of the arguments discussed , one argument of proposed by ideologues enthralled by a twisted scientISM is described by Smith as follows:

Some claim that any and all research, not just cloning, is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution since publishing the results of experiments is a form of expression. If this idea were enacted by a legislature, or more likely, imposed by the courts, it would mean that only the most compelling state interest would permit government to prohibit any area of experimentation that researchers might devise.

If not properly countered by strong scholarship in the relevant law and health journals, such an argument could conceivably hold sway with certain jurists. It would allow the ideologues of scientISM to their unfettered experimentation on human subjects, while giving judges the final say over what amoutns to a "compelling state interest." And I doubt ethical concerns would probably qualify in the mind of some.

But of course, the notion that any and all research would be protected as First Amendment speech because the published results are expression is completely ridiculous. NO ONE would say that shooting a man in cold blood would be First Amendment speech because the murderer later wrote down the story of what made him do it and why it was better for society and published it.

Furthermore, comparison of the Supreme Court's striking down antiquated state sodomy laws based merely public distaste of the conduct--as the court describes the law at issue in Lawrence v. Texas--offers a bad analogy to the issue of cloning. No one's privacy is impacted by cloning. Cloning involves the growing and harvesting of human life as a commodity--not the activity of two consenting adults behind closed doors.

Many proponents of cloning are likely motivated by benevolent hopes and aspirations. But not all ends justify the means. Ironically, even our Federal Constitution recognizes this, inherent in the Necessary & Proper Clause--and expounded upon by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist and Chief Justice John Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland. Means-to-ends relationships are also present in the Fourteenth Amendment's Enforcement Clause (concerning "appropriate" legislation). [Indeed, the articles comprising the Bill of Rights and some of the later amendmetns are essentially negative grants of power--provisions that restrict the means by which the federal government may pursue its ends.]

Only an erasure of all ethical boundaries in scientific experimentation plus a revisionist overhaul of our Constitution could enshrine such a contrived, unlimited right to research.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

TERRORIST-KILLING COMPLICATIONS. UPI's Shaun Waterman has a story about the CIA, legal complications involving terrorist detention and predator drones--among other things. (Hat tip to Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy.) Waterman discusses U.S. policy concerning the assassination of foreign leaders. This is a very interesting article.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)