Weekend viewing: “The Unfortunate History of the AMC Pacer”

It’s one of the most reviled cars of all time, but for a couple of years at least, it was a hit.  In fact, that was part of the problem: demand was so high that tiny American Motors ramped up production, and quality control suffered.

Admittedly I’m a sucker for old AMCs, but I always thought they looked kind of cool.  And a Pacer did serve Wayne and Garth well, after all.

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The greatest criminal mind Nova Scotia has ever seen

The only way this story could be any better would be if he’d been wearing one of these “FBI: Female Body Inspector” T- shirts:

A man in his 70s was observed impersonating a police officer at Aylesford Lake this past Canada Day.

The RCMP say a 74-year-old was patrolling the beach on Tuesday, flashing a badge and confiscating any liquor he found.

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Fred Pattje: Great Canadian, or GREATEST Canadian?

Someday, statues will be erected and songs will be composed about Nanaimo city counsellor Fred Pattje, who took it upon himself to, um, ban an event to be held on city property because it would feature anti-gay religious rhetoric one of the sponsors is a company owned by evangelical Christians.

Of course, some less enlightened folk might say the organizers of the event (which featured speeches by infamous, hateful radicals like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Malcolm Gladwell and Laura Bush) should have been given the chance to respond to Pattje’s motion, or that maybe they should have been given more than four days’ notice.  But who has time for such legal mumbo-jumbo when you’re right and they’re wrong?

On May 9, Nanaimo’s city-owned Vancouver Island Convention Centre had been scheduled to host Leadercast, a telecast of an Atlanta leadership conference featuring speeches from South African anti-Apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, Canadian-born writer Malcolm Gladwell and former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, among others.

But with only four days to go, Nanaimo Councillor Fred Pattje introduced a surprise motion withdrawing the event’s permit because it was “associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate.”

“It sends a message that I wish did not have to be sent, but here we are,” Mr. Pattje told the council.

Leadercast, which was broadcast in hundreds of communities across North America, is sponsored by the U.S. fast food chain Chick-Fil-A. Two years ago, Chick-Fil-A’s COO, Dan Cathy, attracted U.S.-wide condemnation from gay rights groups after he said that the acceptance of gay marriage was “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”

Through an affiliated charity, WinShape, the company has also funnelled more than $5-million to anti-gay groups, although public backlash has prompted Chick-Fil-A to dramatically scale back such support for in recent years.

[...]

Mr. Pattje told the council he was motivated to get Leadercast’s permit withdrawn after receiving two phone calls from constituents and doing some subsequent Googling. As city staff were not given any time to research the 11th hour motion, and since Leadercast’s organizers had not been invited to testify, city council had to rely almost exclusively on Mr. Pattje’s account.

“Good decisions aren’t made on scanty information,” said lose dissident Mr. McKay.

Despite media reports that Leadercast was a “Christian conference,” it had no explicit religious overtones. While virtually all speakers were acknowledged Christians, the conference did not touch on same sex issues and the telecast’s official website does not even contain the words “Christ,” “God” or “prayer.”

When asked at council whether he had invited event sponsors to make their case before council, Mr. Pattje replied that it was “kind of beside the point as far as I was concerned.”

Spoken like a true Canadian patriot, carrying the spirit of university politics into adulthood.  Sure, maybe some people – even those largely supportive of GBLT rights – might say Mr. Pattje and most of his fellow councilors are two-bit fascists who deserve to have their asses sued off, and also prove that sometimes the often-infuriating Ezra Levant is exactly right.

But who cares about such details? We have souls to save! Or whatever the secular equivalent of souls are!

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Why France can ban the burqa

With the Hobby Lobby outcry sucking all the air out of the room, another major religious-freedom decision isn’t getting much attention:

Judges at the European court of human rights (ECHR) have upheld France’s burqa ban, accepting Paris’s argument that it encouraged citizens to “live together”.

The law, introduced in 2010, makes it illegal for anyone to cover their face in a public place. While it also covers balaclavas and hoods, the ban has been criticised as targeting Muslim women.

The case was brought by an unnamed 24-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin, who wears both the burqa, covering her entire head and body, and the niqab, leaving only her eyes uncovered.

She was represented by solicitors from Birmingham in the UK, who claimed the outlawing of the full-face veil was contrary to six articles of the European convention. They argued it was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory”.

[...]

Her lawyer Tony Muman told the ECHR last November: “She’s a patriot” adding that she had suffered “absolutely no pressure” from her family or relatives to cover herself. While she was prepared to uncover her face for identity checks, she insisted on the right to wear the full-face veil, Muman said.

The European judges decided otherwise, declaring that the preservation of a certain idea of “living together” was the “legitimate aim” of the French authorities.

Isabelle Niedlispacher, representing the Belgian government, which introduced a similar ban in 2011 and which was party to the French defence, declared both the burqa and niqab “incompatible” with the rule of law.

Aside from questions of security and equality, she added: “It’s about social communication, the right to interact with someone by looking them in the face and about not disappearing under a piece of clothing.”

The French and Belgian laws were aimed at “helping everyone to integrate”, Niedlispacher added.

 

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Muslim women may wear the veil while testifying in court in certain cases, so it’s hard to imagine a ban as far-reaching as the French one being upheld in Canada (nor in the United States or Britain, for that matter).  The different approaches actually illustrate the degree to which individual rights are emphasized on this side of the Pond, compared to continental Europe.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the burqa or other restrictive religious clothing, but I also think it’s not that great a leap from a government having the power to ban it, and having the power to make you wear it.

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Who’s afraid of Hobby Lobby?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision exempting closely-held, for-profit corporations from having to pay for health plans that cover certain forms of contraception, should the owners have a religious objection to same.

A predictable outcry from the left (and plenty of gloating from the right) resulted.  But Doug Mataconis (whose readers will know he has no religious objections to birth control – or anything else, really) argues that the decision is quite limited in scope, and was probably inevitable under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Clinton:

First of all, the Supreme Court did not rule today that all for-profit corporations may make claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Instead, it limited its opinion to “closely held corporations,” which are typically defined as corporations where a majority of the shares are owned by five or fewer people (although the number can vary from state to state). Most closely held corporations are small businesses that don’t even have enough employees to fall under the requirement that employers provide coverage to their employees under the PPACA. Some, however, like Hobby Lobby, are larger corporations that still happened to be owned by a small number of people. …

…Reading the language of the statute, one has to admit that they had a strong argument in their favor in that regard and it’s difficult for me to say that the Court was wrong in its interpretation of the law here. Part of what the law requires is that the Court balance the religious claims asserted by the employers with the interests asserted by the government. In this case, the interest in question would be providing increased access to birth control to women. Even if you agree that this is a legitimate and important government interest though, it’s plainly obvious that there are means by which the government could accomplish this goal without requiring employers like the Greens to violate their religious beliefs. The most obvious means, of course, would be some form of direct subsidy to employees but there are other means as well. In addition, the Court found that the mandate in question placed a “substantial burden” on the religious liberties of the Greens and those similarly situated to them. Given this, the balancing test came down clearly in favor of the Greens.

Third, as noted above, the Court did not say that RFRA gives owners of companies like Hobby Lobby the right to refuse a whole host of items typically covered under a health insurance policy just because they might have a religious objection to those procedures. So, this case is not going to lead to Jehovah Witness employers refusing to cover blood transfusions or transplants. The Court also said that the holding should not be seen as meaning that a private employer of any kind could avoid liability for a claim of illegal discrimination based on their religious beliefs. This would seem to be addressed to concerns regarding people trying to use religion to avoid liability under laws banning discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. Obviously, what this decision actually means for future cases will depend on the facts of those cases and the Judges that hear them. However, it’s important to note that, just as it did in the Heller gun control case, the Supreme Court seems to be sending a signal here that its holding is not as broad as some advocates for one side or the other might hope or fear.

[...]

As for the opinion itself, I think the Court got the result right for the most part. In the end, a closely held corporation is really nothing more than a partnership with tax advantages. What ever you might call it, it is still a business that is owned by a small amount of people. If Hobby Lobby were a partnership or sole proprietorship, there would be no question that the Greens would be within their rights to assert a religious objection under the RFRA. Given that, it doesn’t strike me as being all that radical to say that they retain those rights when they enter into a different kind of business form that, ultimately, was chosen so that they could expand the company to the national operation employing thousands of people that it is today. We are still talking ultimately about the individuals who own the company and their rights, which is why this decision would not make any sense if you applied it to a publicly traded corporation owned by tens of thousands of individuals and institutions like Apple, or Exxon Mobil. …

There are perfectly reasonable objections to the Hobby Lobby ruling, but I don’t think it brings America any closer to The Handmaid’s Tale any more than the recent flurry of pro-gay-marriage rulings is turning the country into Sodom.

Speaking of which…

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In defence of Hillary’s defence work

The conservative Washington Free Beacon dug into Hillary Clinton’s representation of an accused rapist during the mid-eighties, and posted this audio recording from an interview given a few years later:

The Free Beacon‘s Alana Goodman argues that Clinton’s representation of this man, and her subsequent discussion of the case, raise serious ethical questions about the presumptive presidential nominee.  And to be fair, the fact that she discussed the case publicly, in such detail, is indeed questionable conduct for a defence lawyer:

From a legal ethics perspective, once she agreed to take the case, Clinton was required to defend her client to the fullest even if she did believe he was guilty.

“We’re hired guns,” Ronald D. Rotunda, a professor of legal ethics at Chapman University, told the Washington Free Beacon. “We don’t have to believe the client is innocent…our job is to represent the client in the best way we can within the bounds of the law.”

However, Rotunda said, for a lawyer to disclose the results of a client’s polygraph and guilt is a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “Unless the client says: ‘You’re free to tell people that you really think I’m a scumbag, and the only reason I got a lighter sentence is because you’re a really clever lawyer.’”

Clinton was suspended from the Arkansas bar in March of 2002 for failing to keep up with continuing legal education requirements, according to Arkansas judicial records.

This really isn’t what she’s getting attacked for, though.  And The Volokh Conspiracy‘s Jonathan Adler is troubled by Ms. Clinton’s zealous representation of client accused of a serious crime – something the legal system needs people to do – being used against her all-but-declared presidential run:

Much, if not all, of the criticism of Clinton resulting from this story is misplaced.  She was asked (by the prosecutor, no less) to represent a criminal defendant.  Her client was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.  From what I can tell, Clinton believed her client was guilty but was nonetheless able to obtain a favorable plea deal because the government had mishandled incriminating evidence.  A forensic lab performed tests on blood stains found on the defendant’s underwear, but discarded the relevant piece of clothing (literally leaving a pair of underwear with a hole cut out).  Lacking the necessary physical evidence to convict, the prosecution offered a plea deal.  Some of the relevant court documents are available here.  A previously unreleased interview with Clinton about the case is available here.

What should we make of this story?  Perhaps nothing more than that Hillary Clinton represented someone in need and fulfilled her duty as a member of the bar to provide a zealous defense of her client.  This is not something for which she should be attacked.  We are all the worse off if the message sent to young lawyers is that representing guilty or unpopular clients is likely to be a political liability down the road.  Ably and effectively representing a criminal defendant — even one you believe to be guilty — is not “scummy” or inappropriate. Forcing the state to prove its case before it deprives an individual of their life, liberty or property is a noble endeavor.  So while I think the story is newsworthy, I think most of the attacks on Clinton for this episode are misplaced, and a bit opportunistic. [Note that some attacking Clinton are also calling for more more due process protections for college students accused of rape.]

[...]

The bottom-line here is that Hillary Clinton’s work on this case as a young attorney 40 years ago is interesting and newsworthy, but that’s about it.  Unless and until more damaging evidence emerges, there’s no basis for the new attacks on her.  Anti-Hillary folks should look elsewhere.

Contra The Washington Free Beacon, there is nothing “scummy” or “semi-sociopathic” about what she did (and, no, I don’t find the uncomfortable laughter on the audio tape interview with Clinton a decade-or-so after the fact to be troubling either — listen to it for yourself.)  She engaged in able and (as far as we know) ethical defense work — and defense work is a noble calling.  The WFB may be correct that it’s not a winning political argument to defend the work that defense attorneys do.  If so, that’s a sad commentary on our political system, and not something thoughtful commentators should celebrate or exploit.

Adler and his libertarian Volokh Conspiracy colleagues aren’t Hillary supporters, and neither am I.  (Fact is, the more I look at both major parties’ potential nominees for 2016, the more I find myself wanting Mitt Romney to run again.  And I didn’t even back Romney last time around.)  But in this case, it seems like she did her job and did it well.

Related: in April Adler savaged the Republican Governors’ Association for a campaign ad against the Democratic nominee for South Carolina Governor, which attacked his criminal defence work, and bemoaned the growing trend of politicians and activists – not just conservatives and Republicans, for the record – going after lawyers for doing their work:

Representing unpopular causes or clients is never easy, but it is necessary.  Organized efforts to blunt the careers of those who take on such efforts are shameful.  It would be one thing if Sheheen were accused of unethical conduct in his representation of his clients.  It is quite another to attack him for defending those who, however horrific their crimes, needed a legal defense.  A lawyer is responsible for his or her own conduct, and is not responsible for the sins of the client.

The RGA is not the first to attack lawyers for having agreed to represent unpopular clients or causes, but that hardly makes the ad any more defensible.  Others on the right wrongly went after attorneys who agreed to represent Gitmo detainees.  Folks on the left assailed Bush nominees who represented corporations or defended administration policies and attacked King & Spalding and Paul Clement for agreeing to defend DOMA.  Some members of Congress are also currently attacking district court nominee Mark Cohen because he helped defend Georgia’s voter ID law.  All such attacks are misguided.  Left unchecked, they pose a threat to the adversary legal system.  As Paul Clement wrote when he resigned from King & Spalding:

Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do.  The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.

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The greatest movie summer ever

Via @SonnyBunch, check out the box-office chart from this weekend thirty years ago:

summer84

Yeah, I know, Rhinestone.  And few Star Trek fans would put Search for Spock at the top of their lists.  But any summer with Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Temple of Doom, the original Karate Kid and Top Secret! would rank as a particularly great blockbuster season under any circumstances.   (Also, The Natural, which I’m sad to admit I’ve never seen.) These were all playing at the same time – not to mention spring holdovers Romancing the Stone and the best Police Academy movie without Bobcat Goldthwait.

Things did cool off considerably in July, 1984, but a few more classics, near-classics and childhood favorites came out that month: The Last Starfighter, Purple Rain, Revenge of the Nerds (a true word-of-mouth hit that didn’t even debut in the top ten), Bachelor Party and The Muppets Take Manhattan.

August, traditionally a dumping ground, was pretty barren – Clint Eastwood’s Tightrope was biggest opener. But my theory is that one particular movie released in August, 1984, was so intimidating that all the other studios let it have the month:

I had a weird dream once that they remade Red Dawn with North Koreans instead of Russians, and starting the guy who played Thor or his brother or something. Must have been something I ate.

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