Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why golfing world fears the loss of its iconic missionary

On Tiger Woods' popularity rides a coat-tail-holding industry of golf courses, equipment makers and, most of all, other players

Those who disparage the sport say "golf is a good walk spoiled". That is how it could feel for Tiger Woods from now on if he ever goes back to the fairways.

Holed up in a Florida gated community on "indefinite" leave from the game that made him a billionaire, Woods has enacted the great celebrity script of rise and fall. If F Scott Fitzgerald was right to think "there are no second acts in American lives", then the world's greatest golfer will stumble back to an unfamiliar landscape of sponsor hostility, audience coldness, and perhaps even a terminal decline in his golfing prowess if the old regal certainties desert him on tee and green.

This is the point of maximum darkness in his pro career, so judgments may yet turn out to have been excessively apocalyptic. Families survive infidelities and sportsmen endure divorce. But it's hard not to be mesmerised by the obliteration of the whole Woods myth, which bloomed in an industry of country club mores and shiny sporting values.

Team Tiger, the fabled say-nothing entourage of trouble-shooters and deal-closers, now appear as a gang of shambling amateurs who were powerless to save him from his amorousness and inept in their handling of the subsequent crisis, in which the old standby of PR haughtiness not only failed them but extended their client's writhings.

But the repercussions spread way beyond the International Management Group (IMG) and Mark Steinberg, Woods's manager. Golf is reeling at the prospect of losing its iconic market conqueror and missionary. By any standards, Woods is the foremost global sportsman since Pelé and Muhammad Ali, and on his continuing popularity rides a whole coat-tail-holding industry of golf courses, competitions, equipment manufacturers and, most of all, other players, who have seen their own earnings rise handsomely along with Woods's.

For the second consecutive year the gravy train will set off without the driver. Woods was out from July 2008 to February 2009 with a knee injury and golf felt the chill. TV ratings fell 50% and the winners of golf's major championships saw their victories downgraded by those who argued they had triumphed in "a Tiger-less year".

As his colleague and friend, Steve Stricker, said yesterday: "We knew before that he was coming back." This time there can be no guarantee that Woods will ever again brave the walk from the clubhouse to the first tee. "Indefinite is a scary word," said Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion. "If Tiger Woods indefinitely doesn't play, that's not good for us."

If he is to walk through fire before his favourite tournament, the Masters (8-11 April), it could be in the Accenture World Match Play in Arizona in February: the event in which he returned 10 months ago from reconstructive knee surgery.

Accenture, one of his backers, last week removed his image from their website's homepage and the communications giant AT&T says it is "evaluating" its relationship with him.

This is a Ryder Cup year, too. High on ceremony, rhetoric and etiquette, golf's clash between Europe and America marches in September to the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport in South Wales, where the home crowd will doubtless be urged not to take its cue from the sadistic chants we hear at football grounds. If Woods has returned long before then, he might escape into the anonymity of continental team competition, but forensic scrutiny of his every move and mood will continue for at least a year.

Sport knows only one post-transgression plot – redemption – and already Woods is being urged by no less an authority than the "Wild Thing", John Daly, to "go to Oprah, get on a show, get things aired out, tell the truth".

But even the generally empathic Daly succumbed to anxiety about what Woods's absence might do to the golf circus. "I hope we get him back soon. They always say there is no one bigger in golf than the game itself. But Tiger is," Daly said. But a measure of the story's emotional impact is that Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, issued a statement yesterday saying his organisation "fully supports" Woods's decision to take a sabbatical.

"The entirety of someone's life is more important than just a professional career," said Steinberg in an email to the Associated Press agency. On his website, where all the important pronouncements are made, Woods has finally arrived at the point of full public contrition, which, the PR industry would say, is the vital prelude to resurrection.

"I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness," Woods wrote, in contrast to his earliest response, which rebutted the "false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are circulating about my family and me and are irresponsible". That statement has destroyed the credibility of "Team Tiger" and made Woods seem even more alone in the maelstrom that has blown him off the golf course "indefinitely". The Masters, the Open at St Andrews and the Ryder Cup in Wales all wonder whether their great tournaments will now take second billing to endless talk about the man who wasn't there.

On the march in Copenhagen

The atmosphere on the streets was the antithesis of the gloom inside the centre Guest post by Stephanie Hegarty

Panda bears with flames coming out of their heads, flying blue dragons, the usual rake of tree-hugging environmentalists and an inordinate amount of polar bears took to the streets of Copenhagen today. Estimated at 100,000 strong, the march set off towards the Bella Centre, the venue for the UN's COP15 climate summit, at 2pm this afternoon. There they'll greet world leaders and give them a piece of their mind, irrespective of the fact that no one of note has shown up yet.

Suited up like Robocop, the Danish police are huge and ready to take on any climate heros but so far they have been left with very little to do. After an early ruckus in which 400 people- part of a peripheral march by the anarchist group 'Never Trust a Cop'- were arrested the march has been overwhelmingly peaceful.

At 1pm speakers greeted the crowd outside Copenhagen Town Hall, the usual rhetoric and a guest appearance from the new climate poster girl Helena Christensen left me withering and cynical in the cold. But the spirit is there and the atmosphere is a positive antithesis to the doom, gloom and general angst among those inside the centre.

Whether organisers planned this march in protest or solidarity with COP15 is hard to tell. Their demands are vague, they are calling for 'climate justice' and 'a legally binding agreement'. But they don't talk about numbers and avoid the kind of contentious debate over targets that has already caused drastic divisions within the conference.

The crowd is diverse and representative of one of the most interesting aspects of this summit. Here, for the first time, environmental action groups have come together with development agencies in acknowledging the threat of climate change to human lives. It is no longer just a movement of the green elite, a luxury guilt that only rich nations can afford. References to the human effects of climate change are ubiquitous. As Naomi Klein said yesterday this conference is about 'people not polar bears'.

As the first seven days round up it's clear that this first week was all about the little guys. Letting small islands states and the less significant developing countries have their voices heard before China, the US and the EU fly in and bang up a deal. Whatever influence figures like Sudan's Lumumba Di-Aping might have felt in the last six days (speaking out against the leaked 'Danish text') will be obliterated once the real bargaining begins. What could prove significant however are the alliances that smaller nations have had the chance to make and whether they can withstand the bargaining tactics of the greater powers. These tactics are the kind that stopped Phillipines negotiator, the 'dragon woman', Bernarditas Muller from joining her countries delegation at the summit.

But then this kind of cynicism has no place here on the streets of 'Hopenhagen' and I have to get back to the march. After all a bit of positive people action can't do any harm.

Vitali Klitschko eases to win over Kevin Johnson

Vitali Klitschko defended his WBC world heavyweight title with an efficient but unspectacular unanimous points victory over Kevin Johnson.

The 38-year-old was never troubled by his American opponent but still took few chances in front of an 18,000-strong crowd in Berne, Switzerland.

The previously unbeaten Johnson, 30, appeared more intent on survival than victory and looked out of his depth.

Klitschko is a target for Britain's WBA heavyweight champion David Haye.

The Urkrainian said he would be happy to fight Haye in 2010 but added: "Let's see what happens. He first has to fight [mandatory challenger] John Ruiz, and I wish him luck."

There is no love lost between Haye and the Klitschko brothers - Wladmir holds the IBF and WBO versions of the title - with the Londoner regularly insulting the pair and questioning their abilities.

Vitali, whose brother was in his corner, said: "Haye is a world champion trash talker. But if he fights one of us, he will lose."

Klitschko improved his record to 39 wins in 41 fights, with 37 by knockout, and two losses.

He was making a third successful defence of the belt he reclaimed in October last year after four years out of the ring.

For Johnson, the WBC's sixth-ranked contender, it was his first setback in 24 pro fights.

The judges in Switzerland scored the fight 120-108 and 119-109 in Klitschko's favour.

The champion added: "I'm not happy because I prepared to knock him out, but I'm happy I won every round."

Blair: Iraq War was "right" even if there were no WMDs

Discussing Saddam Hussein and the decision to invade Iraq, Mr Blair was asked: "If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?" Mr Blair replied: "I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean, obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat." He added: "I can't really think we'd be better off with him and his two sons still in charge but it's incredibly difficult... and that's why I sympathise with the people who were against it for perfectly good reasons and are against it now but, for me, in the end I had to take the decision." The Guardian: Tony Blair admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway.

'The Jacksons' shows family dynasty in sad shape

The Jackson 4: Brothers Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine Jackson reunite for reality TV. A&E photo

My first reaction to this reality series was that Michael Jackson's brothers were cashing in on his death.

We're told right away that this project began filming while he was alive, when the family decided to do an album celebrating the Jackson 5's 40th anniversary. But Michael doesn't appear in any scenes, so ...

My second reaction to this reality series was that Michael Jackson's brothers were cashing in on his death.

And boy can those brothers--Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Jackie--bicker while letting old sibling rivalries get in the way of their reunion project.

They sabotage each other, break down in tears and give all kinds of mixed signals. At some point in the first two episodes, each of them claims to be ready to do whatever it takes to make the album, but then they go AWOL for a time when they actually have to put in some work.

It's easy to see why Michael became the family's superstar.

That's not to say this isn't a somewhat interesting reality series. Angst is always fun to watch. But the best parts are when the brothers visit hometown Gary, Ind., and when we are shown old footage of the Jackson 5 in their prime--with Michael.

Four middle-aged wannabes won't keep me coming back for more.

Boeing 787 could lift off for 1st time Dec. 15

SEATTLE — After two years of delays, Boeing Co. says the long-anticipated first flight of its new 787 jetliner could come as early as Tuesday.

Boeing announced Thursday that its window for a first flight would open Dec. 15 with the actual flight timing dependent on final internal reviews, taxi testing, Federal Aviation Administration documentation and the weather.

For the 787 to be cleared for takeoff, there must be good visibility, no standing water on the runway and little to no wind, said Yvonne Leach, spokeswoman for the 787 program.

The company said it has completed "final gauntlet" testing on the 787 and verified that fixes it made to address a structural problem worked.

Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said in two days of testing the company checked out all the airplane systems, such as avionics, hydraulics and electrical.

Boeing, based in Chicago, earlier reinforced weak points near the area where the wings attach to the fuselage, then conducted a so-called static test — essentially bending the wings — on the repairs.

Fancher says Boeing successfully completed its analysis of that static test.

Boeing says the 787, made mostly of lightweight composite materials, will be more efficient, quieter and have lower emissions than other airplanes. The midsize plane also will have wider seats and aisles, and larger windows.

Depending on its configuration, the plane will hold as many as 330 passengers. Deliveries are now estimated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The company has taken a new approach to building airplanes with the 787, relying on suppliers around the world to build huge sections of the plane. But that approach so far has proved problematic, with ill-fitting parts and other problems hampering production.

Boeing identified the most recent problems when it postponed the 787's first test flight and deliveries for a fifth time in June. The plane is more than two years behind schedule and repeated delays have cost the company money, credibility and sales.

Some airlines have been forced to cancel or postpone plans to buy new 787s, partly due to weak travel demand amid the global economic downturn. Yet the 787 remains Boeing's best-selling new plane to date.

Mandela saw Freeman as the actor to play him in films

LOS ANGELES -- There was an actor Nelson Mandela had in mind when asked in 1995 who should play him in a movie of his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." Morgan Freeman was that man.

"From then on it was Morgan Freeman was going to play Nelson Mandela somewhere down the line," Freeman says in an interview about the Clint Eastwood movie "Invictus," in which he plays Mandela.

But, Freeman's performance is not based on Mandela's book. The story is based on John Carlin's "Playing the Enemy," a book that chronicles how the then president of South Africa challenged the country's rugby team to win the 1995 World Cup to show the world how the country had started to heal after the end of Apartheid.

Freeman, who is also the executive producer of "Invictus," tried for nearly a decade to turn Mandela's autobiography into a film. He had better luck with adapting "Playing the Enemy," and he is happy it allows him to finally play Mandela.

"This was the role to play to give the world an insight into who Mandela is and how he operates. It's perfect," Freeman says.

After Mandela's casting declaration, Freeman told the man he calls Madiba (an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan) that he needed to have access to his life to play the role. Freeman visited with Mandela frequently in his travels.

"I told him I had to be close enough to hold his hand," Freeman says.

The importance of who he was playing never left Freeman. But the actor, who won an Oscar for Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," approached the role with the same energy and attitude he's brought to the job for four decades. To Freeman, acting isn't a job. It's playing. And despite the serious nature of "Invictus," this film was just another chance to play.

"It might have become more if I was working with someone other than Clint Eastwood. He's is so enabling and out of your way as an actor. He likes to watch actors play," Freeman says.

And in this case, it was for a role Freeman was set to play years ago.

Woods' Mistress Tried to Get Pregnant by Him for Years

An unnamed woman who had a multi-year affair with Tiger Woods and recently hired an attorney, tried to get pregnant by the pro golfer for years. reports that she slept with Tiger sporadically and is now hoping for a payoff from him.

She reportedly tried for years to get pregnant by him, without telling him that she wasn't using birth control. A source told the website:

“She used to try to arrange to see Tiger when she was ovulating. She thought she’d be set for life financially if she could have Tiger’s baby.”

Tiger did not use protection with this woman, but she never fell pregnant. A few other mistresses also have said that he did not practice safe sex with them.

The woman's name hasn't yet been made public. apparently knows who she is, but is keeping that a secret until she comments on the story.

Friends of the woman also told the site that she bragged about trying to have Tiger's baby, and how it would solve her financial problems. They say that he never knew about her scheme.

US Muslim Leaders Say Arrest of Five Americans Pakistan a Wake Up Call

Officials at a Northern Virginia mosque pray for speedy resolution in arrest of five Americans in Pakistan

Pakistani officials say five American men arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of trying to join Islamist militant groups are likely to be deported back to the U.S., unless they are found to have committed crimes in Pakistan. Meanwhile officials at a Virginia mosque held a news conference to say they are praying for the young men's speedy return.

At the Northern Virginia Islamic center where the five young men are said to have worshipped - outreach counselor Mustafa Maryam says allegations that they were plotting a holy war against Americans in Afghanistan came as a big surprise.

"Our group discussions never talked about politics, never talked about ongoing conflicts, never talked about fighting against anyone indirectly or directly," he said.

The five American Muslims are currently under police interrogation in eastern Pakistan, captured after their families reported them missing earlier this month.

One of them left behind an 11-minute farewell video explaining why Muslims must be defended.

Mosque spokesman Essam Tellawi said he prays for a speedy resolution and thanked the men's families for notifying the authorities. "I ask all of us to pray for them. They are going through severe hardship. It is a very painful experience to see this happening to them," he said.

Analysts say the incident demonstrates that homegrown terrorism is a rapidly growing threat. Jena McNeal, a Homeland Security expert at the Heritage Foundation, said "There have been 27 plots foiled against the United States since 9/11. I think this demonstrates that while some of these people were homegrown terrorists and some of them were not, we do have a threat that needs to be taken seriously."

Islamic leaders say they are paying attention. Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said, "We are determined not to let religious extremists exploit the vulnerability of the emotions of our children through slick seductive and destructive propaganda on the Internet."

Although none of the men have been charged, people with knowledge of the case told Associated Press that agents are looking into whether there is evidence to charge the five Americans with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

98 year old woman charged with murdering her 100 year old nursing home roommate.

AP: A 98-year-old woman has been indicted on a second-degree murder charge alleging she strangled her 100-year-old roommate in a Dartmouth nursing home.
A Bristol grand jury on Friday returned the indictment against Laura Lundquist. A Superior court judge ordered Lundquist sent for a competency evaluation to Taunton State Hospital.
On Sept. 24, Elizabeth Barrow was found dead with a plastic bag over her head at Brandon Woods Nursing Home.
Barrow's son, Scott Barrow, declined comment on the indictment. He has said Lundquist had made threatening remarks to his mother about the number of visitors his mother received and told her she would outlive her.
Nursing home officials said the women both refused chances to switch rooms and were friendly and affectionate to each other.

Tool of the Month- Superintendent Arlene Ackerman

When Arlene Ackerman was hired as superintendent of the Philadelphia school district my friend from DC warned me that we were in for it. Apparently the woman jumps from city to city, accomplishing nothing but wreaking havoc and collecting a larger paycheck than the mayors of each city in which she works.

In light of recent attacks on Asian students by black students in South Philly High she performed at par in her usual style: she dragged her feet, then when finally meeting with parents of the beaten kids, she got defensive and wouldn’t even offer an apology.

Her bahavior was so inexcusable that it even offended frequent race-baiting Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall:

It’s bad enough that you waited four days to publicly respond to a gang attack at one of your schools. But it was even worse on Wednesday, watching you sit there dispassionately, as though you were listening to your voice mails, when students asked for an apology.

You know, a simple but powerful gesture that says, ” ‘I’m sorry that this happened to you, I’m sorry for the slow response time, I’m sorry that we have not stood with you earlier,’ ” said Ellen Somekawa of Asian Americans United.

Which is the human thing to do.

But how did you, the chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District, respond?

With silence. Defensive, deafening silence.

And then, you didn’t take questions afterward.

Immigration sweep nets 280 with criminal records

“Immigration agents arrested 280 people in California in their biggest push yet to round up suspected illegal immigrants with criminal records in local communities, authorities said Friday.

More than 400 agents and local law enforcement officers fanned out across the state in the three-day search led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

‘These are not people who we want walking our streets,’ ICE director John Morton said. ‘We’re going to focus on those people who choose to pursue a life of crime in the United States rather than pursue the American dream of education, hard work and success.’”

Miss World 2009 Live Update: Miss Gibraltar is the new miss world!

Johannesburg: Miss World 2009 Live Update: Miss Gibraltar Kaiane Aldorino is crowned as Miss World 2009 here on Saturday night.

23-year-old Kaiane was one of 112 contestants crowned Miss World at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.

Earlier, it is being believed that Miss South Africa Tatum Keshwar has chances of being the winner of the contest.

The contest was broadcasted live and an estimated 1 billion people viewed the mega beauty contest.

Kendra Wilkinson Welcomes Baby Boy Hank Baskett IV (Photos)

Former Girl Next Door Kendra Wilkinson and her husband Hank Baskett finally welcomed their first child, a healthy baby boy named Hank Baskett IV, who weighed 9lbs 5oz, via a C-section at an Indianapolis hospital early on Friday (December 11).

A source told that both mother and baby are doing well and that the new parents couldn’t be happier after several long hours of labor. Kendra and Hank wanted to have this baby but it wasn’t something they planned. “We always hinted to each other that we wouldn’t mind having kids soon,” Kendra said. “We weren’t trying, but we didn’t use a condom that night.”

Chris Brown Says Major Retailers Are Blackballing Him

Chris Brown has apparently been shooting his mouth off at major retailers via his Twitter account. He is accusing stores of not stocking his latest album, Graffiti, after fans have said they cannot find it. According to some tweets Brown has re-tweeted, store managers are saying they won't support a woman beater and that the CD will never be re-stocked.

The controversy has even become a trending topic (#graffitionracks). The following is Brown's frustrated 140 characters or less: "im tired of this sh*t. major stores r blackballing my CD. not stockin the shelves and lying to customers. what the f*ck do i gotta do." He also wrote that the industry can kiss his ass.

Mug Shot: Man Who Punched Woman on 'Jersey Shore'

"The Insider" has obtained the mug shot of Brad Ferro, a man who appeared to have punched a woman in the face at a bar on MTV's new reality series "Jersey Shore."

According to Seaside Heights, N.J., Police Chief Thomas J. Boyd, Ferro was arrested after cops were called to New Jersey's Beachcomber Bar in reference to a disturbance. According to Boyd, officers learned that Ferro had punched the victim in the facial area causing her to sustain injury to the inside of her mouth after having been flagged by the bar due to his level of intoxication. Ferro was then arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault.

Ferro was later found guilty of simple assault, was fined $500 and received a six month suspended jail sentence provided he did not get arrested again. He was also required to complete an anger management course.

'Pat Patriot' among 14 arrested in RI prostitution sting

A man who plays "Pat Patriot," mascot for the New England Patriots, is one of those charged in the prostitution sting that Rhode Island State Police announced Friday.

One of those charged was 47-year-old Robert Sormanti of Warwick. A query to the Patriots about his status with the team brought this response:

"The Patriot mascot costume is worn by multiple people, all are held responsible for their actions. The individual in question has been suspended."

Sormanti could not be reached for comment.

Chien-Ming Wang - Future Dodger?

Might be coming to the Dodgers? I wouldn't mind. But please don't let Jeff Fuller into the negotiations. Thank you.

Chien-Ming Wang's career as a Yankee seems on the verge of ending, with the club due to non-tender him a contract and fading hopes for a new deal before tonight's midnight deadline.

The right-hander has been linked to interest from the Dodgers, and one report put Los Angeles as a prominent destination for Wang, reuniting him with Joe Torre. Under Torre, Wang twice was a 19-game winner.

Tiger Woods Taking Indefinite Leave From Golf

Tiger’s off the PGA circuit for awhile, folks*. This just came in across the wire**. The following statement comes directly from the former undisputed worldly icon:

I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try. I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What’s most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf.

Wow. Can hardly blame the guy. If I were him, I’d probably already be taking a raging hot air balloon to nowhere rather than be anywhere near a golf course, millions of cameras, a freight train of reporters and drunk hecklers.

Expect golf ratings to soar … into a fiery tar pit.

Also, this is the final Tiger-Woods-Week-Ending-Post until the next one in 19 minutes. Best to put on a poncho.

Debt Ceiling To Increase by $1.8 Trillion

Not content with fiscally enslaving your children, Congress plans on doing the same to your grandchildren:

In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.

“We’ve incurred this debt. We have to pay our bills,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told POLITICO Wednesday. And the Maryland Democrat confirmed that the anticipated increase could be as high as $1.8 trillion — nearly twice what had been assumed in last spring’s budget resolution for the 2010 fiscal year.

The leadership is betting that it’s better for the party to take its lumps now rather than risk further votes over the coming year. But the enormity of the number could create its own dynamic, much as another debt ceiling fight in 1985 gave rise to the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction act mandating across-the-board spending cuts nearly 25 years ago.

You have to love the lead sentence: “In bold but risky year-end strategy …”. “Bold”? It’s more like feeding an addiction. And it’s hardly “bold” in another sense. They’re going to hide it in a defense appropriation bill:

“This is a defining moment,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the lead sponsors, and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the panel’s ranking Republican, is already maneuvering to try to add the legislation as an amendment to any bill tapped to carry the debt increase.

As explained by Hoyer and other Democrats, that will almost certainly be a pending $636.4 billion Pentagon appropriations bill that includes $128.3 in contingency funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s not “bold”, that’s cowardly. But what it buys Democrats is cover. Adding it (and hiding it) in a defense appropriations bill guarantees “bi-partisan” passage or contingency funds for our two wars won’t become law. But the fact remains this is an old tried and true tactic of both sides in Congress.

Somehow spending like this needs to see the requirement to stand alone imposed on it. Make them do this sort out in the open and in the sunlight. Make them pass any debt increases where everyone can see it – and judge it on election day.


District Court Preliminarily Enjoins ACORN Defunding Law as a Bill of Attainder

The decision came today in Acorn v. United States. I haven’t read the opinion yet, but it looks pretty detailed. Here’s my summary of the general legal framework, from this September 15 post:

1. The Constitutions bans both the federal and state legislatures from enacting “bills of attainder.”

2. This is understood as barring “a legislative act which inflicts punishment without a judicial trial.” (“If the punishment be less than death, the act [was historically] termed a bill of pains and penalties,” but “[w]ithin the meaning of the Constitution, bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties.”) So if Congress says, “We conclude that Eugene Volokh is guilty of treason, and we order him to be executed,” that would be a classic bill of attainder.

3. According to the Court, permanent exclusion of named people — or even a class of people, such as Communist Party members or people who had given help to the Confederacy — from government office may constitute “punishment” and be treated as an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. See U.S. v. Lovett (1946), U.S. v. Brown (1965), and Cummings v. Missouri (1866).

4. This may apply to punishment of corporations and other entities, and not just of individuals, at least according to Consolidated Edison Co. v. Pataki (2d Cir. 2002); I think that has to be right, but the issue is not clearly settled.

5. At the same time, even legislation that singles out individuals is not a Bill of Attainder if “the law under challenge, viewed in terms of the type and severity of burdens imposed, reasonably can be said to further nonpunitive legislative purposes.” See Nixon v. Administrator of General Services (1977); SeaRiver Maritime Financial Holdings Inc. v. Mineta (9th Cir. 2002) (upholding the legislative exclusion of “any vessel that spilled more than one million gallons of oil into the marine environment after March 22, 1989″ — a class that includes only the Exxon Valdez — from Prince William Sound, because it has the legitimate nonpunitive purpose of “reduc[ing] the environmental risk to the Sound” by excluding “a vessel with a history of substantial spillage, and encourag[ing] SeaRiver and other tank vessel owners to take greater steps to avoid a similar spill in any marine environment”).

But the trouble, of course, is that most laws, including punitive ones, also further nonpunitive legislative purposes. The hypothetical Eugene Volokh Execution Act of 2009 would further nonpunitive legislative purposes of preventing future bad acts by me (as well as punishing me for all my manifold past sins). Likewise, the permanent exclusion of certain people from federal employment, struck down in Lovett and Brown, was likely aimed at preventing bad behavior by the named employees (Lovett) and Communist employees (Brown).

So would defunding ACORN be an unconstitutional bill of attainder? My rereading of the precedents leads me to confidently and unambiguously say, “I don’t know.” The distinction between “punishment” and actions that “reasonably can be said to further nonpunitive legislative purposes” strikes me as generally elusive and perhaps even illusory, and especially so here. But I thought I’d lay out the basic questions and precedents, and see what the rest of you think.

Approval Index/President Obama/Lowest Ever Approval Index

Yes. It’s true. President Obama has reached an all-time low with his “approval index” for the Rasmussen Tracking Poll.

His numbers have been fluctuating around the MOE for some time. His 30-day trend numbers have been consistently sinking. However, today he hit rock bottom.

There is a caveat, however. This all may be due to an outlier among women. If it is an outlier, then the approval rating, along with the approval index, should increase by 1.5% to 2.0% tomorrow. If it doesn’t, look out Mr. President.

President Obama and his approval on the Economy and his approval on National Security have been sinking as well. Economist/YouGov released a poll with almost identical approval numbers to Rasmussen.

Support for Healthcare is crashing. All polling firms, from Fox News to Gallup shows the same thing.

So, what can be said? It’s simple, his approval on almost all issues, if not all issues, are decreasing. There is a steady drip, drip, drip.

Read the new records below and then check out the details on the approval rating post that is linked on the post below.