…filled with the events that alter and illuminate our time, but –you get the idea. Yesterday was fairly amazing. The Supreme Court says the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. (And Justice Stevens has his last day on the court, and Justice Ginsburg’s husband dies.) John Burge is found guilty of perjury and obstruction. Alex is becoming a hurricane. Eleven Russians are busted for –what? Spying? Not exactly.
Burge is probably the least familiar item on this list, to most readers. He was for many years a police commander in Chicago, in one of the more crime-ridden districts. In that capacity, he was accused of torturing suspects to extract confessions, some true, some not. He was sued for many of these incidents, and cost the Chicago taxpayers a whopping chunk of change. But nobody got around to bringing criminal charges until after the statute of limitations had run out. So the feds ended up charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice in the various civil cases. Burge had the nerve to testify, not only that he had never committed any act of torture, but that he had never known of any such act while he was on the job. Apparently he expected the jury, which was after all composed of people too old to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and therefore could not possibly have believed that Burge never even knew of the torture of suspects, to approve it by acquitting him with a wink-wink nudge-nudge, because after all, the victims were “rats” and “garbage.” It would have been a ringing endorsement of government by cop. And the jury, bless their hearts, refused to do it. Three cheers!!
Then there’s the Second Amendment. This one scares me. Admittedly, Chicago’s stringent gun laws have not prevented 80 shootings and 13 gun deaths in the last two weeks. But legalizing the guns already on the street can only make things worse. From a lawyer’s point of view, what this decision has probably set off is a stream of litigation similar to that spawned by Roe v. Wade. The Court spent the twenty years after Roe parsing out what state and local restrictions on abortion were an “undue burden” on the constitutionally established right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Now we’re in for twenty years or so of working out what state and local restrictions on gun ownership are an “undue burden” on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Will the automobile analogy hold up, so that it’s okay to require a license, and registration, and a test of competence, and even education? How about ballistic “fingerprinting” of every gun? Liability insurance? One can only hope.
Russian spies, after all these years? This one is plain mysterious. Apparently they’ve been under surveillance for ten years. And the charges have to do with “infiltrating” so as to be in a position to spy, rather than actually spying. They are charged, as nearly as I can tell, with behaving like ordinary middle-class American family men and women. O Levittown, where is thy sting?
Alex is on its way to becoming a Level 1 hurricane. It won’t directly interfere with the BP efforts at cleanup, but it won’t help any either. And speaking of the BP cleanup, every time I turn on the tv these days, I encounter a super-slick (you should pardon the expression), beautifully produced BP ad telling us how wonderful their cleanup work is and how well it’s progressing. Which they evidently expect the American public to accept at face value (not unlike the Burge defense expectations of the American jury.) Those ads obviously cost a mint to make. They were necessary mainly because BP is shutting the press out of the scene of the crime–oops–cleanup, so we don’t get any other information about it. If the press were allowed in, obviously, they’d tell us all about it on their own dime. And BP could use its ad budget to better fund the cleanup. We should be so lucky.
A bit further back in the news, a 5-inch turtle kept an AirTran flight on the ground in Atlanta until the jackbooted thugs of the TSA made its 10-year-old owner take it off the plane and throw it in the trash. (BTW, in looking up this incident I discovered that TSA also stands for “Turtle Survival Alliance.” Really.) But this story does have a happy ending—eventually the turtle, none the worse for its traumatic experience, was reunited with the owner’s father. OTOH, last week, when another plane landed unexpectedly in the middle of the night at a small “international” airport, the passengers were kept on the plane for three hours because no TSA or ICE staff was available to check on them. So, just in case any of them might be terrorists or illegals or whatever, they were not allowed to set foot on US soil. TSA, in short, is now replacing school administrators as the apostles of Zero Tolerance, which is Newspeak for Infinite Control, Zero Common Sense. (But no turtles were harmed in the earlier incident.)