Monday, April 26, 2010

Immigration Reform and the Law of Unintended Consequences

So it appears that California's neighbor to the east, Arizona, has passed a ridiculously restrictive immigration law that requires all law enforcement officials in Arizona to enforce immigration laws, and allows law enforcement officials to pick up anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant.  The person would, I guess, have to prove their immigration status by showing their birth certificate on the spot. As you imagine, I have a few thoughts about this.

First, let me say that if I was planning a trip to Arizona, I'm not now.  Due to my Italian heritage, I am blessed with dark (though graying) hair and a decent tan.  So, I may not look Latino, but its close enough that I'm sure as hell not going to take any chances.  Given that the police officer need only have a "reasonable suspicion," (the legal equivalent of "hey, that guy is buying a taco, he must be Mexican"), pretty much everyone is at risk of being arrested for not being able to prove their citizenship on the spot.

Second, while Courts are unpredictable, there's no way in hell this law survives a lawsuit.  For one, foreign relations, which includes immigration, is solely an area of federal jurisdiction and the Constitution is very clear on this.  (Article 1, sections 8 and 10).  That's why every anti-immigrant legislation passed in the last 30 years has been overturned.  

If that wasn't enough, states are prohibited from passing laws that discriminate based on race or nation origin, unless the law is narrowly tailored to avoid racial discriminatory affects as much as possible (see the 14th Amendment).  Given that Arizona sits on the Mexican-American border, its safe to say that when Arizonans complain of undocumented immigrants, they're not complaining about Canadians.  A review of the legislative record will undoubtedly have some legislator complaining about the Mexicans. 

Lastly, and perhaps more interesting to me, is that this immigration law was passed largely because over the past 20 years, the Feds have been enforcing immigration laws to a greater degree.  Arizona, like San Diego, sits on the border, and for time, Mexican workers would cross the border to work in the U.S., but then cross back to live in Mexico.  It was the best of both worlds - American paycheck, Mexican cost of living.  When we made it more difficult to cross the border, Mexican workers had to choose between Mexico and the U.S., and they chose the higher paying jobs up North.  That's why San Diego and Arizona have seen increases in their Hispanic and Latino populations, and that increase in population inflames the populace, leading to more and more anti-immigration laws.  The irony is stunning and tragic.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Intrepreting the Constitution

Of all the classes I took in law school, there was only one that I truly despised: Constitutional Law.  That's not to say that I loved all of my classes - Civ. Pro., thanks to the professor, was too esoteric, and Tax Law was horrifically boring (go figure) - but for the most part, I didn't despise these classes like I did Con Law.  And I bet if you asked 1000 former lawyers and law students, you'd hear the same level of disgust when it comes to Con Law.

Now, this has to be a surprise for most non-law students because, of all the classes going into law school, Con Law is the one people think about when they think about law school.  And everyone has an opinion on the Constitution - from abortion to gay rights to the role of religion in government, and so on, Constitutional Law is the law we discuss when we talk about the law.

So how could a topic like Con Law be so despised?  Well, unlike any other area of law, Con Law is not shaped by 1000 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence, and reformed by legislative action.  Con Law is, at its very heart, whatever 9 people say it is.  And since those 9 people change over time, the law continually changes.  So, trying to make heads and tails of the law is completely unintelligible.  My Con Law professor turned the whole affair into a philosophy course.  Ugh.

By the way, the conservative critique of liberal justices being "activist" is complete and utter nonsense.  There may have been a time where the liberal wing pushed the boundaries, but the conservatives have been just as willing to overthrow the established law.

Let me also say that originalism - wherein the Supreme Court is supposed to determine the original intent of the Framers when interpreting the Constitution - is also nonsense.  First, the Constitution was written by James Madison, edited by a large group of people, and then passed and ratified by still larger groups of people.  Even if you had a letter describing why there's a comma here, or a word there, it would be signed by only one person, and his opinion could very well be different from everyone else's.  In reality, Scalia's originalism is merely a pretext to do whatever he wants. 

Instead, I'm much more of a textualist.  That is, I believe that, as much as possible, the Constitution means what it says.  Moreover, you have to read the policies inherent in the Constitution.  For instance, the right of privacy - which is really the right to self-sovereignty - isn't an explicit right in the Constitution, but the police can't arrest you without a warrant, can't search or take your stuff without a warrant, and you have the right to say what you want, believe what you want, and go wherever you want.  So, in reading the Bill of Rights, its pretty clear that the sovereignty rights of people was a pretty big thing.  Then there's the 10 Amendment which says, essentially, that if there's anything we forgot to mention in protecting an individual's rights, its in there too.

So, for me, I'd like to see a Supreme Court Justice take the following position - I'm going to take the Constitution on its word, unless doing so will result in an absurd result.  That's it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food Blogging: How to Make Pizza 101

Last night, I came home and had a relatively free evening. Pete was passed out from doggy day care (which, considering that he's been a total spaz for the past few days, this was a GOOD thing). In my free time, I decided to make pizza, which is both relatively cheap and easy.

Shortly after the pizza was made, and partially consumed, one of my neighbors (visiting my roommate) came over and said, "Your pizza looks good, what brand is it?" She had assumed that I made frozen pizza. In that moment, I simply stared blankly at her - probably not my best moment, in retrospect - but I wouldn't buying frozen pizza unless it was one of the pricier kinds, in which case, I might as make my own. Take out or delivery pizza is a different story, of course, because when I order pizza from somewhere, its because I want to avoid cooking.

Anyway, for those of you who want to make your own pizza, it is incredibly easy to do so - its not so much cooking or even baking as it is assembly.

Here are the ingredients:

1 28 oz. can of CRUSHED tomatoes (you should only use about half of it) - $2.60
1 lb. of mozzarella cheese (again, you should use only around half) - $6
1 lb. of pizza or bread dough - $2 (max).
Toppings: you pick

Spices - dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, honey, black pepper, red chile flakes, pecorino cheese and olive oil (all of which, you should have - sugar can be substituted for honey).

Hardware needed:

1 clean aluminum cookie sheet (preferably one that fits in your oven)
1 bowl, also clean
1 implement to shred cheese, also clean.
1 can opener
1 spoon (clean)
1 oven, preheated to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, here's what you do.


1) Put about a teaspoon or so of olive oil on the cookie sheet, and using a paper towel, wipe the entire interior of the cookie sheet, including the interior's sides.

2) Put the pizza or bread dough in the middle of the cookie sheet. Slowly, and carefully, stretch the dough so that it covers the entire interior of the cookie sheet. If the dough sticks to your hands, then put a little bit of olive oil on your hands, and that should help. Do not tear the dough. Put a towel over the dough and the cookie sheet and wash your hands.

3) Using the can opener, open the can of crushed tomatoes and pour the contents into the bowl. If the bowl now appears to be too small for the job, get a bigger bowl. Okay, now add the spices (except the pecorino cheese) to the tomatoes. You are now seasoning the tomato sauce, so do so to your own tastes. Stir with spoon. I happen to have a heavy hand with the red chile flakes and black pepper. If the sauce is a bit too thick, feel free to add a little bit of white wine or water. Set aside the sauce.

4) Shred half mozzarella cheese. If you bought shredded mozzarella, then you're ahead of the game, although the cheese you bought probably tastes like cardboard. If you have a cheese grater, then use the cheese grater. Otherwise, you can slice the cheese with a knife, and then hand-shred the cheese slices. Set aside.


5) Remove the towel from atop the cookie sheet and dough. If the dough has shrunk from the sides of the pan, carefully stretch the dough out, but don't tear the dough.

6) Using the spoon, put a small amount of sauce onto the dough and spread it out so that the sauce covers almost all of the dough, but leaving a frame around the dough of about an inch. This is important because if the sauce is too close to the edges, some of the juices of the sauce will run over the sides of the pizza, burn in the oven, and then cause the pizza to stick to the pan. Trust me, you do not want this. Also, you want a thin covering of sauce on top of the dough.

7) Put the cheese on top of the sauce on top of the dough, but don't stray outside the margins above. Pizza sticking to pan = bad.

8) Now, put a slightly thicker layer of sauce on top of the cheese. You should end up only using about half of the sauce you made (so save the rest for next time). Again, stay within the margins.

9) Here's the last step before going into the oven - put on your extras. For last night's pizza, I put on some kalamata olives that were pitted and sliced in half, lengthwise. If you want to add pepperoni, do so now. Also, take it easy with the toppings, and beware that some toppings (like mushrooms) will release liquids when cooked. So, I would suggest cooking toppings like mushrooms ahead of time. Lastly, sprinkle the pizza with oregano, pecorino cheese, and just a little bit of olive oil.


10) Open the door to your oven and put the pizza into the oven (preheated to 475 degrees) on the lowest rack in your oven. Close the door to the oven and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Because the pizza will be closer to the bottom of the oven (where the heat comes from), the bottom will cook faster than the top of the pizza. This is a good thing.

11) After about ten minutes, check on the pizza. At this point, the bottom should be pretty well cooked, so go ahead and move the pizza to a higher rack in the oven, and also rotate the pizza so that the side that was facing the door of the oven now faces the back of the oven. Close the door to the oven.

12) Continue to let the pizza cook in the oven for about 5 minutes, and then start checking on it. When the pizza is at your desired level of doneness, take the pizza out of the oven.

13) Let the pizza sit for about five minutes, then slice and serve.