Thursday, April 28, 2005

Non-Lawyerly Thoughts on the New Bankruptcy Act

A fairly good synopsis on the new bankruptcy act is this Chicago Sun-Times column.

It gives no mention of a supposed cap on Chapter 7 filings by persons whose income exceeds the average income of a set percentage of that state's population. That provision is most likely unconstitutional. A person cannot commit to a Chapter 13 repayment plan without sufficient income above their expenses; a denial of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy would deny them any recourse to individual bankruptcy. If the sole basis for this arbitrary denial of individual access to bankruptcy is the relative wealth of the citizen, I believe the federal courts will overturn that decision.

A household with a combined annual income of $120,000 has as much right to spend 100% of its income as a household with a combined annual income of $12,000; a household which enjoyed $120,000 income but saw it plummet to $60,000 may have as great a need for bankruptcy protections as a household that saw its income drop from $12,000 to $6000. The fact that far more people earn more than $6000 per year than earn more than $60,000 is irrelevant to the needs of the households in question, and to their property rights.

The new act will probably result in an increase in Chapter 7 filings in some places. When I worked as a legal assistant filing bankruptcy petitions in Minneapolis, the 4th Circuit courts applied a much tougher standard than is set out in this act. A person who could apply $100 a month above basic expenses with an allowance for food, clothing, and entertainment, was most likely going to be compelled by the Clerk of the Court to file a limited repayment plan under Chapter 13. They were so strict up there, there was talk of prohibiting pet ownership by Chapter 7 petitioners; the $20-$30 a month to feed a dog or cat could go to credit cards, and larger animals could not only represent a sizeable savings in terms of food, but could be sold off for payment of debts.

It is now clearly arguable that such decisions are contrary to the intent of Congress, and looser standards will probably be adopted.

I am disappointed that the Congress and the President did not push to adopt two reforms that would probably reduce the number of bankruptcy filings: an end to the 28-day billing cycle that puts real hardship on bimonthly wage-earners, and lower interest rates for dormant credit card accounts than for active accounts.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Caught Napping

Justene gives me a nice plug...just as I note I haven't posted this week yet...

I hadn't posted on Benedict XVI because I was still absorbing the news. It's too bad the Pope's health won't permit him to travel as widely as John Paul II. I'm hoping he'll make some visits this year. John Paul II's accessibility greatly enhanced the prestige and power of the papacy, and I think in America especially there is a need for a personal appearance to strengthen the Church's message.

Drudgereport highlighted the fact that John Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the middle of June 2004, supposedly instructing them to withhold communion from pro-abortion politicians. The USCCB refused to impose this stance, and now Benedict XVI is in a position to demand it...

The trouble is that nobody outside the USCCB has seen the text of this letter. The USCCB has not released the text of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to them prior to their statement "Catholics in Political Life", but does release the Cardinal's letter supporting their stated policy that individual bishops may continue to chose for themselves whether or not to withhold communion. They have done so because of the persistent allegation that the USCCB did ignore the instructions of Cardinal Ratzinger.

We'll have to see what Benedict XVI says...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Then Again, Dean Ain't So Bad

Hugh Hewitt posts this New York Sun article on the Democrats' circling of the wagons.

In case Cokie Roberts was totally unaware, Sen. Schumer is named as a threat to people of faith because he cited William Pryor's "deeply held beliefs" as a grounds to vote against his confirmation. Since the beliefs in question included the Catholic teaching that abortion is an intrinsic evil, it is hard to see how Sen. Schumer could reconcile his veto with a belief in religious tolerance.

In fact, Schumer, Feinstein and Reid reveal themselves to be religious bigots. Unconcious bigots, but guilty of bigotry nonetheless.

Because they do sincerely believe in morality in public policy. Minimum wage hikes, total health care coverage, race-based set-asides, free access to abortion, environmental protection, gay marriage--these are not just pragmatic, economic, or utilitarian; they are morally necessary. Pursuing them is morally right, and anybody opposed to them is morally wrong.

But...but in the great debate on political morality, don't you dare bring a moral paradigm based on religious faith. That is theocracy. That is imposing values on other people.

These Democrats look at yes/no issues, and see one side representing the dark forces of extremism and superstition, and the other side, moral neutrality.

When in fact, secular humanism, especially its condemnation of public professions of faith and insistence on compartmentalization of religious faith, is not merely neutral towards Christianity, but opposite and hostile.

Some Democrats understand this point. Howard Dean, surprisingly, gets it. He wants Democrats to champion their policies in terms of their faith. Fortunately for Republicans the big-time Donks can't bring themselves to do it.

So long as Senate Democrats insist that politics can be both moral and purely secular, they are going to alienate every American who asks: What Would Jesus Do?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Better Stick to "Yeaaarrggh!"

Gov. Howard Dean has already proved he can't win any race outside Vermont for himself, or for his endorsed candidate. Now he promises to continue the streak for another two election cycles:
Dean, who has called congressional intervention in the Schiavo case "political grandstanding," singled out House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for his leading role in the matter.

"This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008," Dean told about 200 people at a gay rights group's breakfast in West Hollywood, "because we're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' "

Dean, a practicing physician until he became governor of Vermont in 1991, added: "The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?"

Before Schiavo's death, the Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation giving her parents the right to take action in federal court to have her feeding tube reinserted, but no judge intervened. Schiavo's husband had fought for years to withdraw the tube, arguing that she would not have wanted her life extended.
But that was precisely the argument of Mr. and Mrs. Schindler: that their daughter had not desired to die of dehyrdration, and that death by neglect was imposed on her by cruel caregivers and callous authorities.
To argue this case represented "theocrats" attempting to thwart the desires of the patient and her "loved ones" is blatantly false.

What is amazing is not that Dean can be so confused about the Terri Schiavo case and the impact of his promise to exploit it, but that nobody around him realized it in time to rein him in.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Open Letter to Senators

Jeffrey King at Three Bad Fingers has composed open letters to Republican senators, grouping them by their likely votes.
John McCain will not be pleased.

Since Jeffrey has asked other bloggers to compose and send open letters I'll add my own.

I'm writing to urge your support for a procedural vote to ban any filibuster of confirmation votes of judicial nominees.

The clear intent of the authors of the Constitution was that Congress create as many courts as it deemed necessary; that these courts be fully and competently staffed; that the President of the United States nominate judges and that the United States Senate vote to confirm or reject the Presidential nominee, with a simple majority vote.

The recent filibuster by the Democrat minority is a blatant attempt to impose partisan politics into the nonpartisan interaction of the three branches of government. The Constitution does not stipulate the existence of any political faction. The Constitution does not require a bipartisan consensus to maintain the operation of the federal judiciary.

By voting to deny the filibuster to the current partisan minority, and all future minorities, you make clear that the privileges of the Senate are subordinate to its constitutional duties.

I'm not one of your constituents, but am writing you because the Senators from my state are committed to frustrating the smooth operation of the judiciary. Sen. Boxer went so far as to publicly insist that a two-thirds majority was more sensible than a simple majority for judicial appointments, demonstrating that the Democrat opposition is both cognizant and indifferent to the unconstitutional nature of their radical design.

I hope that you will move swiftly and firmly to correct this aberrant policy, and allow the President to fill vacancies with qualified nominees.

Robert Novak is reporting that Frist has the votes. Let's hope so.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Prod from Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt today urges Frist to schedule a showdown on the filibuster buster, ready or not, successful or not.

It's instructive to see how Hugh has moved on this issue, from determined hostile to firmly supportive of the conservative base. Hugh remains firmly pragmatic, and can see the intense feeling of the conservative base regarding the liberal judiciary and the Senate's refusal so far to restrain it.

I have deep concerns that the Senate will end the filibusters of judicial nominees. Unfortunately, the greatest current threat to the Party is not a strong challenge from the Dems, but the fruit of decades of pragmatic horsetrading in the GOP nominations to select anybody who could beat a Democrat.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Novak Raps NYT's Knuckles

Robert Novak, in the Chicago Sun-Times, questions the integrity of farming out an op-ed request to Republicans--but only anti-DeLay Republicans:
According to [Christopher] Terrell, [NYT staffer Tobin] Harshaw's e-mail suggested [former Rep. Bob] Livingston might want to write ''a short op-ed on DeLay's political future.'' Terrell said he telephoned Harshaw, saying his boss would ''write a favorable piece,'' then asked: ''Is that really what you're seeking or is that what you would print?''

It clearly was not. While Harshaw asserted ''we would welcome any thoughts'' by Livingston, Terrell quoted him as saying ''we are seeking those who would go on the record or state for the good of the party he (DeLay) should step aside.''
Novak opines that such overstretch has actually consolidated the GOP behind DeLay.

DeLay is in the limelight, at this time, because of his efforts on behalf of Terry Schiavo. The "revelations" that large firms with lobbyists in Washington have hired DeLay's relatives seems awfully coincidental with the Representative's stand on principle.

By the way, what exactly could any of the members of Congress with relatives so employed, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) do to prevent it?

Require all their close relatives earn hourly salaries?

Permit the House Ethics Committee to exercise a veto over their hiring?

Demand the resignation of the member of Congress involved?

Seems to be fairly murky waters here for the House of Representatives...which is why nobody is calling for general reform, at most they want DeLay to remove himself quietly...

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Ass That Roared

Senate Democrat Badge
This past week, Sen. Lautenberg brayed forth against Rep. DeLay's condemnation of judges who handed down a death sentence in a civil trial:
I was stunned to read the threatening comments you made yesterday against Federal judges and our nation’s courts of law in general. In reference to certain Federal judges, you stated: “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

As you are surely aware, the family of Federal Judge Joan H. Lefkow of Illinois was recently murdered in their home. And at the state level, Judge Rowland W. Barnes and others in his courtroom were gunned down in Georgia.

Our nation’s judges must be concerned for their safety and security when they are asked to make difficult decisions every day. That’s why comments like those you made are not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, is it appropriate to make threats directed at specific Federal and state judges?

You should be aware that your comments yesterday may violate a Federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §115 (a)(1)(B). That law states:

“Whoever threatens to assault…. or murder, a United States judge… with intent to retaliate against such… judge…. on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison]”

Threats against specific Federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress. In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice. Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.

Federal judges, as well as state and local judges in our nation, are honorable public servants who make difficult decisions every day. You owe them – and all Americans – an apology for your reckless statements.


Frank R. Lautenberg
Are we to conclude that whenever Senate Democrats call for greater accountability by the CIA, CEOs, HMOs, etc., they are trying to spark a pogrom?

Lautenberg himself is an example of judicial overreach. A court in New Jersey concluded that the law expressly forbidding a change of nominations before an election, clearly could not refer to the Democratic Party--that would leave Democrats with nobody to vote for!

I cannot imagine what Senator Lautenberg thought to accomplish here, unless it was to provide written proof and public acknowledgement of his incompetence.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

America Honors the Pope


I can't recall the last time we went into official mourning for a foriegn head-of-state. John Paul II is fully worthy.