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  • Yes, various Christian denominations argued in favor of slavery and that was overruled by the anti-slavery amendments. No one can point to the first amendment and say “my religion gives me the right to keep slaves.” Similarly, Bob Jones got slammed for how they treated students, and they lost their first amendment case. That’s a very different legal issue from how a church hires and fires its leaders.

    SCOTUS was crystal clear on this issue as recently as 2012, in a unanimous (!) ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v EEOC. The first amendment says that churches get to make their own rules about who their leaders and teachers are, without any — ANY — interference from the state. As I wrote at the time,

    Chief Justice Roberts framed the issue at hand in the very first paragraph of the opinion of the court in this unanimous case [pdf, p. 6]:

    Certain employment discrimination laws authorize employees who have been wrongfully terminated to sue their employers for reinstatement and damages. The question presented is whether the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar such an action when the employer is a religious group and the employee is one of the group’s ministers.

    Period. It’s not about whether religious organizations can ignore any law they don’t like. It’s not about whether employees in religious organizations have rights and protections. First and foremost, this case is about who gets to choose who is a leader in a religious organization: the group, or the government. SCOTUS unanimously — and unsurprisingly — said “the group.”

    Imagine the alternative: six Roman Catholics and three Jews deciding who gets to be called a Lutheran minister.

    This situation at Cor Jesu is exactly the same. The Roman Catholic church gets to decide who can and cannot teach in their schools, and they’ve made the determination that LGBTs who are active and practicing cannot. I disagree with that position on so many levels, but there’s no way I want the state to decide who can teach in a Catholic school.

  • Thanks, John and James. The chat has been fun, and I look forward to finishing the book!

    What’s next, John?

  • The account of Nixon’s comparison of Jack Anderson getting a Pulitzer for his bugging while the GOP/RNC/WH will get condemned for trying to bug the DNC certainly makes this clear.

  • Not only is he not as clever as he thinks, but he makes blunder after blunder and refuses to address reality when he cannot bend facts to his distortions.

    That could be said of so many leaders, not just presidents. The chief of the Ferguson Police Department comes to mind, as well as the CEOs of companies like Enron, Bear Stearns, and others.

    It seems so simple — Molly Ivins’ version of it is her First Rule of Holes: “when you’re in one, stop digging” — and yet so many would rather continue to not address reality than admit that they have blundered.

  • John and James, what kinds of reactions have you gotten from lawyers at your presentations at continuing legal education events?

  • My own guess is that while Woodward and Bernstein may have upset the lawyers in the White House more, it was Washington Post’s cartoonist Herblock and political columnist Art Buchwald that really got under Nixon’s skin (as well as others).

  • But there was one more thing that made me wonder about how many break-ins the plumbers had done. On page 26, you write:

    Notwithstanding the bungled nature of the operation [the DNC break-in], Haldeman assured the president, “these guys apparently are a pretty competent bunch of people, and they’ve been doing other things very well, apparently.”

    Again, this makes it sound as if they had done a lot of break-ins, but (given your comment on this above) maybe not for the WH/CRP?

  • I’m a lover of footnotes, and this book is one I am reading with two bookmarks, so I can quickly flip between the main text and the notes.

    The long footnote about FBI special agent Daniel Bledsoe’s conversation with Ehrlichman was particularly interesting, both for the example of the pitfalls of memory (vs contemporaneous written documents), and for the tensions it lays out between the WH and the FBI.

    What prompted the 2009 interview to even take place — simple the Society of Former FBI Agents thought that Bledsoe would have an interesting story to tell, not knowing just how interesting it would be?

    The other interesting thing is that by Bledsoe’s account, he refused a direct order of the office of the president as delivered by Ehrlichman. Lots of people faced the kind of choice that Bledsoe faced here — do I go along with what is being asked of me by higher-ups, or do I do what I believe is legal/right? — but it seems that many more people choose not to follow the path Bledsoe did. Did you have any conversations with him about why he made the choice he did?

    And do you have any clue/conclusions about why Bledsoe’s notes were never given to the US Attorney’s office or the Watergate Special Counsel?

  • When I first read it, I took it as “The Plumbers were usually pretty good at these things, but boy did they blow it with Dr. Fielding’s office.”

    Maybe I was mentally giving Gordon Liddy too much credit, as your “common sense” explanation certainly . . . makes sense.

  • As someone who did some transcribing of recorded telephone interviews as part of a research project during my doctoral work, I found myself having flashbacks of being hunched over a tape recorder for hours, trying to make out indistinct words, catch nuances, deal with various accents of the speakers, and listen past background noises and such. I did something like 40 transcripts — and the thought of doing hundreds gives me the shivers!

    My thanks — and condolences! — to you and your research crew for all your careful work.

  • In reading the appendix where you discuss this in more detail, I came away unconvinced that knowing who did it is not terribly important. The six candidates you put forward are Nixon, Fred Buzhardt (Special WH Counsel for Watergate), Steve Bull (Special Assistant and personal aide to Nixon), Al Haig (4 star general, WH Chief of Staff), John Bennett (2 star general, assistant to Haig), and Jack Brennan (Marine Corps colonel and military aide to Nixon, later Nixon’s post-WH chief of staff).

    To me, the most interesting name on this list is Brennan. I can easily envision him hearing Nixon (or others) lament the existence of this tape (for all the reasons you lay out in the book), with a kind of “will no one rid me of this tape?” question either spoken or unspoken hanging in the air. Up steps the patriotic and loyal footsoldier (so to speak), who takes care of the problem.

    And yes, this reminds me of — or is colored by — the illegal activities of another Marine Corps colonel posted to the Reagan White House, who similarly cloaked his illegal actions in patriotism.

    The reason I consider knowing the answer to the “who” question important is that it gets to the question of civilian vs. military service in the White House. While the president is the commander in chief, military officers swear an oath to uphold the constitution. If Brennan destroyed this evidence, that makes both his and North’s illegal actions look less like each was a bad apple and more like a pattern of behavior on the part of overzealous military officers posted to the White House.

    And if so, then we need to break that pattern.

  • John, welcome back to FDL’s Book Salon!

    I’ve only just begun to read the book, and already it’s fascinating and engaging.

    The first thing that grabbed me was this simple sentence on page four, where you were speaking of The Plumbers and their pre-Watergate activities:

    This supposedly covert operation, which took place on September 3, 1971, had been a debacle, a conspicuously overt and unusually sloppy break-in at the offices of Dr. Lewis Fielding in Beverly Hills, California, that had produced nothing while putting the White House at considerable risk.

    It was the use of the word “unusually” that caught my eye. Just how many break-ins, illegal wiretaps, and other shady activities did the Plumbers carry out, such that this break-in and the Watergate break-in stood out as unusual?

  • Peterr commented on the diary post Studies Confirm Huge Wealth Loss of Middle Class by masaccio.

    2014-08-26 18:56:46View | Delete

    That chart is quite illuminating. The section labeled “equities and fixed claims (net of non-mortgage debt)” particularly interesting, as this disappeared as a positive number in 2005 or so. Can you say “student loan debt”? Sure you can. As the 90s turned into the 00s, student loan debt levels took off, as this chart from The [...]

  • Peterr commented on the blog post DOJ and Treasury Schooled by College Athletes

    2014-08-09 11:44:44View | Delete

    At this point, the practical upshot is that both of these are being appealed — the NU case to the NLRB national board, and the O’Bannon case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    If the NU case is upheld, it immediately applies only to NU, as they are the ones who requested to form a union. The logic of the ruling in that case, however, would extend to other schools, but not all of them. IIRC, some would be covered by state labor laws that preclude public employee unions, so students at Good Old State University would not be allowed to unionize — but students at a private school in the same state might be able to. Lots of ins and outs to this one.

    If the O’Bannon case is upheld, the judge has already said in her ruling that it would not apply to athletes who were recruited prior to July 1, 2016 (much of the logic being argued in court had to do with recruiting, and so to tie the implementation of her ruling to the “next” full recruiting class makes sense). She also noted at the very end that there are lots of other issues that were beyond the case here, which may be addressed in other forums. Perhaps tied to wynota skunk’s comments, earlier this week the NCAA altered its rules for the Big Five conferences, in part anticipating a ruling like this.

    The bottom line in both these cases, though, is that the NCAA cannot continue to act as an unregulatable tyrant over the athletes at its member schools. Both Ohr and Wilkens were on the same page: athletes have rights, and the NCAA cannot simply impose their will on the athletes and wish those rights away.

    There’s plenty to be sorted out about how those rights can and should be exercised, but that’s a different question entirely.

  • Oh, there were plenty of angles being worked on this one. The big hog farms saw what happened with the puppy mill initiative that was passed by the voters and later gutted by the legislature, and said “let’s just cut this off at the pass and put a ‘get-out-of-court free’ provision in the constitution.”

  • Oh, this makes a ugly followup to the ugly news from here in Missouri last night.

    Better take a few deep breaths before you click that link, Jane.

  • Peterr commented on the blog post FDL Movie Night: 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story

    2014-08-04 18:07:13View | Delete

    What, specifically, did you see from prosecutors and judges that led you to the conclusion that rehabilitation is irrelevant?

    I see the irrelevance in the political system, where legislators will vote to spend millions upon millions to build fences and walls and hire guards with guns, but pennies to fund education efforts, drug rehab counselors, and other non-vengeance-related items and people.

  • Peterr commented on the blog post FDL Movie Night: 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story

    2014-08-04 17:45:04View | Delete

    The word “rehabilitation” gets used in our prison system, but the word “vengeance” seems more appropriate. We have built a system that prizes meting out punishment even as it gives lip service to changing people’s lives. Parole is held out as a possibility, not so much to encourage inmates to change their lives in anticipation of life back on the outside as to encourage inmates to behave while they’re still incarcerated.

    The whole “trying underage teenagers as adults” idea makes a mockery of other aspects of the law — underage teens can’t sign contracts, underage teens can’t consent to a sexual relationship with an adult, etc. The only place underage teens are treated as mature people with the capability of giving meaningful consent in the legal system is when they are tried for adult crimes.

    Nadine, in making this film, what surprised you the most?

  • I don’t find it surreal at all. It’s part and parcel of life for people who are used to living in a bubble and controlling everything that affects them.

    See “Yertle the Turtle.”

    What I find fascinating in the tidbit of the story you shared there is that the reaction was simply “OK, we’re done now.” It displays great insecurity. It’s an admission that he doesn’t think he can say things clearly enough that they won’t be misunderstood, or that he’ll let something slip that he doesn’t want to get out, and so the way to deal with this is to either get you to sign that form or show you the door.

    How long had you spent with him on the tour of his place, listening to all he had to say about his artwork and such, before the interview ended? In refusing to sign, did you explain to him that you would be including this little request of his in the book? For someone who claims to be a “practiced combatant in the field of public relations” this is a pretty ham-handed attempt to control someone.

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