Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Why "the least dangerous branch"?

The phrase comes from Alexander Bickel's book of that name, which in turn comes from Alexander Hamilton's characterisation of the judiciary in Federalist #78. Alexander Hamilton referred to the Supreme Court as the "least dangerous" branch of the government because it possessed neither the "power of the purse" (i.e. the legislative power) nor that of "the sword" (the executive power and the police and army).

I was not particularly familiar with this appraisal back when I was in ConLaw class, but I think I understood the essence of this issue without having it pointed out to me. At one point, there was a bit of discussion of issues such as judicial restraint and "political questions", and I believe that I pointed out that at base, all court decisions are "political questions". I said that there's nothing in the Constitution (or even practically in the government structure) that will actually enforce adherence to the Constitution (or at least what the Supreme Court says the Constitution requires). The executive is free to ignore the courts, as is the legislature. And there's nothing the courts can do to say boo about it. My ConLaw professor, and author of one of the ConLaw books (and an eminent pragmatist, near as I can tell), Jesse Choper, said, "yes, but that's outside the subject matter of this course" (or words to that effect). That is true: They were trying to instruct me on what happens when the legal system works as intended and people follow the rules. It is yet to be shown that the current ruling regime will follow the rules, though. . . .

Here's Rep. Hostettler (from Steve Gilliard's blog (via Atrios):

"When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them. Federal courts have no army or navy... The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We're not saying they can't do that. At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions."

Republican? Ya, yabetcha.

That's where we're at, folks.

-- Arne Langsetmo

Well, I guess I've done it

Those that Google me or look for me on Usenet will find that I've been pretty active in political discussions. I've often thought that I should start blogging, and at one time, one woman who has known me well for quite some time said she was surprised that I didn't have a blog.

But while I have a good job that allows me to spend a fair bit of time catching up on politics (and keeping Republicans honest), for which I am quite grateful, it also puts me on the road for days at a time, so that I thought that I wouldn't be able to put in the time and effort needed to keep a blog current, and to blog effectively.

But I thought I'd respond to Filkertom's blog, and I ended up here. It's a sign from the gawds, I tell ya! So, while I may take a while to get up to speed, here's my blog, FWIW.

A bit about me:

I have a substantial scientific background (biology, neurophysiology, science in general to a lesser extent [avid Science reader]), lots of technogeek experience (primarily telecommunications, but also computers in general), and I went to law school for a couple of years (but didn't finish; one of my failings ... otherwise known as personal quirks) primarily because I had a strong an abiding interest in Constitutional and civil rights laws over the years. I wouldn't make a good lawyer ... I know that now ... but that is no impediment to knowing what the law is ... and what the law should be. And from that comes my title here.

While what I offer won't be massive or even continuous and up-to-date, I hope to be able to offer topics from my somewhat singular POV ... and I hope you check in every once in a while. And feel free to chime in. I always welcome discussion ... and new victims, if you're of the Republican persuasion.

Oh and yeah, I hate this speciesism I see on other blogs. While I have a couple of the world's cutest cats, I think we need to stress diversity. Woot (over at Eschaton) has already got the birds covered ... and hat's off to him, so I think I'll go for the scaly stuff that has been long neglected. So my Friday blogs (when I have suitable material) will be piscine. . . .

Hope to hear from you all. And keep up the good fight, folks!

-- Arne Langsetmo