At this week’s GOP presidential debate, former pizza executive Herman Cain did not simply double down on his unconstitutional plan to require Muslim federal workers to swear a loyalty oath, he also engaged in a reality-challenged diatribe about Muslims trying to replace American law with Sharia:
Yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period. There have been instances in New Jersey. There was an instance in Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia law. I was simply saying very emphatically, American laws in American courts.
First of all, Cain’s claim that someone “tr[ied] to influence court decisions” is hardly a serious threat — people present ridiculous legal arguments to courts all the time. One guy sued Anheuser-Busch because Bud Light does not magically cause beautiful women to appear when you drink it. Another sued “Satan and his staff” for causing his “downfall.” Some GOP government officials have even presented courts with the absurd legal argument that the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution. Any claim that U.S. law should be replaced with Sharia law should be given exactly the same dismissive treatment that all of these utterly meritless legal claims deserve.
Second, there is absolutely no evidence that any court has accepted the bizarre claim that Sharia law displaces American law. A Lexis search of Oklahoma court decisions did not reveal a single court decision referencing Sharia or Islamic law, and the only New Jersey Supreme Court case to mention Sharia, a 1996 case called Ivaldi v. Ivaldi, refused to recognize a Sharia family court’s decision that departed drastically from American law.
It is true that some people have signed contracts or similar agreements agreeing to resolve their disputes under Sharia law, and American law generally requires these agreements to be honored, but that is simply due to the fact that American law typically allows people to be bound by their own word. American contract law would also allow people to agree to be bound by the laws of ancient Rome or by the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules.
In other words, Herman Cain is about as likely to be attacked by a chaotic evil, half-orc paladin as he is to be forced to follow Sharia law.
In response to a widespread foreclosure crisis, Philadelphia instituted what’s known as a mortgage mediation program. Under the program, banks are required to meet face-to-face with a borrower before foreclosing, to attempt to come to an agreement that would keep the borrower out of foreclosure. There is no requirement that the two sides come to an agreement, only that they meet.
Mediation programs have proven successful all across the country in keeping borrowers from losing their homes, and Philadelphia’s is no exception. According to a report from Ira Goldstein of The Reinvestment Fund, nearly 70 percent of borrowers eligible for meeting with their banks participate and about 85 percent of those who strike a deal with their lender are still in their homes 18 months later:
In 2007, the year before the program began, 27 percent of homeowners in foreclosure lost their homes. That fell to 14.5 percent in the six months after the program began, then to 5.7 percent thereafter, Goldstein found. In the first year of the program, 5,000 homeowners took advantage of it, according to data released in June 2009. Of agreements reached through June 2009, 733, or 84.6 percent of 866 homeowners, remained in their homes 18 months later.
“The success is we set the table. And we require the guests to come to the table,” said Judge Annette Rizzo, who set up the program. “Once you get that one-on-one, where the case’s facts come to light, that’s when individual deals come.”
Programs like this one, as we’ve noted before, could be key to combating the housing crisis, which has continued unabated for years. New data shows that housing prices have suffered a larger plunge in the last few years than they did during the Great Depression, while federal anti-foreclosure programs have fallen flat due to bank intransigence.
In 2000, the City of Los Angeles launched a program to train reformed gang members and other members of high-crime communities to prevent gang violence. L.A. city council member and Democratic congressional candidate Janice Hahn supported this program, and is now the subject of an impossibly vulgar web ad by conservative SuperPAC Turn Right USA. The majority of the 90 second ad consists of stylized African-American gang members waiving guns around while a woman shakes her butt at the camera and the following refrain repeats:
Give me your cash, bitch, so we can shoot up the street. Give me your cash, bitch, so we can buy some more heat. Give me your cash, ho, so we can get out the bin. Give me your cash, ho, because we?re back in again.
Turn Right USA’s ad is not simply offensive, it is also horribly misguided. The “gang intervention specialist” program that Hahn supported is part of a wildly successful decade-long effort to reduce crime in Los Angeles. Indeed, L.A.’s violent crime rate was nearly cut in half after its most recent peak in 2000. And the city’s crime rate is currently at a 50 year low, despite the pressures of a massive economic downturn.
Hahn’s Republican opponent, to his credit, denounced the ad as “inappropriate” and “highly offensive.”
Following efforts by North Carolina’s five largest emitters of toxic air pollutants, a bill proposing to discard the state’s clean air program will reach the House floor before the end of the week. Such a move, if approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, would eliminate the state’s own air pollutants standards and require instead that emitters comply with the federal air-quality standards, which are less stringent. The move caught environmentalists and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources by surprise, but many have since come out against the measure. According to Environment North Carolina representative Margaret Hartzell, “our public health is at stake here, and we do not want to see this bill move forward.”
– Sarah Bufkin
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of the top opponents of marriage equality, apparently aspires more to be like their oppositions, equality groups like Freedom To Marry. Louis Marinelli, who defected from NOM a few months ago, revealed today details about a secret NOM memo regarding their aspirations for visibility in social media:
MARINELLI: In a confidential new media plan, NOM dedicated an entire page to demonstrating how the Freedom to Marry website was a good example for NOM to follow moving forward to create a website that had a fresh, grassroots approach and had the style of a political campaign much in the way Freedom to Marry has.
On the following page, NOM expanded its demonstration to show commonalities between the Freedom to Marry website and that of other organizations and political campaigns it aspires to mimic in their overall effort to grow their grassroots support. Remember their grassroots support is essentially non-existent which is what prompted them to create their online propaganda teams to create the illusion of support that doesn?t exist.
Marinelli goes on to explain that NOM is frustrated about how high they appear in search results for “marriage” and “same-sex marriage.” NOM also wishes their supporters were as active as those who support marriage equality.
As Marinelli continues to reveal the inner workings of NOM, it’s becoming clearer that NOM is not nearly as confident as they present themselves in public. Unfortunately, among the things NOM admires about groups like Freedom To Marry, supporting equality for all couples is not one of them.
It strikes me as incredibly smart that Hulu’s moving to pick up British series and distribute them. There’s an obvious and obsessive market for British content in America that’s only partially fulfilled by BBC America, which because it’s only one channel can’t air everything coming out of all the BBC’s stations, and Netflix. Prime Suspect, for example, isn’t streaming live on Netflix, and with the remake coming up on NBC this fall, I imagine there’s demand, and will be increasing demand, for streaming access to the original. If Hulu could strike a bunch of these deals, and of course the rights would be complicated or Netflix would be all set already, I imagine it would attract a new class of subscribers that maybe isn’t buying Hulu plus for the sitcoms, and work to expand a market that very much exists but is a bit under-served by current options.
Sort of like with the Iran-Iraq War, the ideal scenario would be for both sides to lose:
For years and much to their frustration, big banks have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to a tiny Texas company to use a patented system for processing digital copies of checks, making Claudio Ballard, the inventor of the system, a wealthy man and the bank industry?s biggest patent foe. After years of fighting Mr. Ballard at the federal Patent Office, in court and across a negotiating table, the banks went to see one of their best friends in Congress, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who inserted into a patent overhaul bill a provision that appears largely aimed at helping banks rid themselves of the Ballard problem. The Senate passed the bill easily in March.
To me, though, the idea of getting rid of the “Ballard problem” through an ad hoc bill typifies everything that’s going wrong with American politics. The patent system in the United States is sufficiently broken that it harms the interests of all kinds of people, including politically powerful bank executives. But instead of their power being applied to generate momentum for some kind of reform, their power is being used to create an ad hoc provision that will let them slip the leash. If this gets done, the prospects for systematic reform get even bleaker and little guys who can’t get Senators to insert special provisions into legislation on their behalf get even worse.
Earlier this month, my partner and I took a short vacation in Southeartern Vermont...in the area of Putney (at the Putney Inn, to be precise. George Washington never slept here. The land was Tory-owned.).Our first day there, we visited Green[...]
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