- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

CONSERVATIVES

Judges criticize Scalia in gun case

Two recent critiques of Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the landmark decision guaranteeing people the right keep guns at home for self-defense are notable because they come from fellow conservative federal judges.

The judges, J. Harvie Wilkinson of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, and Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, take Justice Scalia to task for what they suggested was the same sort of judicial activism he regularly disdains.

Judge Wilkinson was interviewed by President Bush in 2005 for a Supreme Court vacancy. His article strongly suggests that the 5-4 decision in Heller v. District of Columbia would have come out differently if he had been chosen for the court.

“Heller represents a triumph for conservative lawyers. But it also represents a failure - the Court’s failure to adhere to a conservative judicial methodology in reaching its decision,” Judge Wilkinson wrote in an article to be published next year in the Virginia Law Review. “In fact, Heller encourages Americans to do what conservative jurists warned for years they should not do: bypass the ballot and seek to press their political agenda in the courts.”

Judge Posner, writing in the New Republic last month, said of Justice Scalia’s work in Heller: “The decision … is evidence that the Supreme Court, in deciding constitutional cases, exercises a freewheeling discretion strongly flavored with ideology.”

CONGRESS

Visitor center said to slight religion

More than 100 members of Congress are blasting the overseers of the soon-to-open Capitol Visitor Center for “censoring God, faith and religion.”

Led by Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, the lawmakers have sent a letter to the Architect of the Capitol’s Office protesting that the national motto “In God We Trust” appears nowhere in the mostly underground structure through which an estimated 15,000 visitors a day will pass once the center opens in December.

The 108 legislators also are upset that no photos of the annual National Day of Prayer or March for Life events are displayed, although space has been found to show pictures of Earth Day celebrations and an AIDS rally.

The architect’s office said it gets its marching orders from House leaders.

TELEVISION

Tina Fey returns to satirize Palin

NEW YORK | Tina Fey reprised her role as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” again appearing as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in an opening sketch.

Saturday night’s show - the third of the season for the NBC comedy program - brought back the season-premiere tandem of Mrs. Fey and Amy Poehler, who opened the season with a memorable sketch featuring Mrs. Fey as Mrs. Palin and Mrs. Poehler as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This time around, Mrs. Poehler played CBS’ Katie Couric, parodying the interview with Mrs. Palin earlier this week. Mrs. Poehler, though, mostly played straight man to Mrs. Fey, who ratcheted up her performance of Sen. John McCain’s running mate by satirizing her foreign-affairs experience.

When Mrs. Poehler’s Katie Couric pushed Mrs. Fey’s Sarah Palin to specifically discuss how she would help facilitate democracy abroad, Mrs. Fey gave in: “Katie, I’d like to use one of my lifelines. … I want to phone a friend.”

When a confused Mrs. Poehler informed her that wasn’t how the interview worked, Mrs. Fey’s character responded - alluding to one of the governor’s most quoted lines from the interview - “Well, in that case, I’m just gonna have to get back to ya.”

TORTURE

Iraq contractor claims immunity

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Defense contractor CACI claims it should be immune from lawsuits charging that torture took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, saying it was doing the U.S. government’s work as a supplier of interrogators.

The Maryland-based company and its sister firm, CACI Premier Technology, say in court documents that they’ll ask for the charges to be dismissed next week.

Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of breaking military laws in the Abu Ghraib scandal, but no contractors have faced charges.

CACI and another contractor, L-3 Communications, are accused in separate lawsuits of a conspiracy to torture detainees in 2003 and 2004.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys said the company’s claim of immunity has no merit.

TRANSPORTATION

More Americans are buckling up

Americans are doing better job of buckling their seat belts, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The department said 83 percent of drivers have been using them this year, compared to 82 percent at the same point last year.

That translates into about 270 saved lives, the department estimates.

The West is best in buckling up, with 93 percent complying. Next is the South (81 percent) and Midwest and Northeast (both 79 percent).

By vehicle: van and SUV occupants (86 percent); passenger cars (84); and pickup trucks (74).

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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