January 13, 2007

More Trouble In Paradise?

Looks like Queen Nancy is ruffling some of her fellow Democrats' feathers again. In her misguided rush to push a truckload of legislation through in the arbitrary deadline of the "First 100 Hours", she's alienating the mebers of commitees that would like to, oh, you know, maybe discuss the legislation first. Story here.

January 12, 2007 -- WASHINGTON - Powerhouse New York Rep. Charles Rangel is butting heads with fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi just a week into the new Congress controlled by their party, The Post has learned.

Rangel yesterday swatted down a tax hike that Pelosi has floated, and he made an end run around her decision to bypass House committees in a rush to bring bills to a vote.

"There's a lot of tension there," one Democratic lawmaker said of the relationship between Rangel and Pelosi.

Peolosi says, "We're gonna repeal the tax cuts" and Rengel says, "Says who?".

Rangel, who took over the powerful Ways and Means Committee after 36 years in Congress, smacked down the idea Pelosi raised on Sunday of repealing tax cuts for those earning more than $500,000 per year.

"We haven't gotten that far to be talking about tax increases," Rangel told The Post. "She hasn't discussed it with me . . . We haven't gotten into tax policy."

Ever the demogogue, her Highness... well, you could see THIS coming:

Pelosi had said nixing tax cuts for half-million-dollar earners "might be more important to the American people than ignoring the educational and health needs of America's children."

But Rangel, whose committee handles tax policy, dismissed Pelosi's idea as unlikely to happen, since the speaker didn't bother to vet it with him in advance.

"Saying it to me in private is far more important than whatever she says nationally," he huffed, referring to her weekend TV appearance.

I get the feeling that Rengel doesn't like getting his new chairmanship just in time to be frozen out of the process:

In another swat at Pelosi, Rangel sided with Republican lawmakers by opposing his leadership's high-profile push to jam through legislation in the first 100 hours of Democratic rule.

Pelosi decreed that none of the early legislation would go through the normal committee process, hoping to keep her party in lockstep to enact key agenda items and boost her own and the party's national image.

"I don't think the chairman [Rangel] likes the idea that there were no hearings on a lot of the bills that were coming up in the 100 hours," said the Democratic lawmaker.

Sources say Rangel went to Pelosi urging that his committee be allowed to review legislation allowing the feds to negotiate with drug companies over prices and taking away tax breaks for big oil companies - but she refused.

Rangel got around her by setting up closed-door committee forums that were essentially hearings anyway.

Well, it's time to refresh the Speaker's memory that committees are a part of **...drumroll...** How a Bill Becomes a Law:

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:13 PM | Comments (352) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006


I went bird hunting up in Easton this morning. There aren't too many game birds around here, but if you're lucky you can spot a wild turkey now and then. I had plenty of chances to bag a deer, but a) I don't really care for venison, b) I was alone and getting the thing into my hatchback would be difficult and c) I only had birdshot, not buckshot.

So, after about an hour and a half of moving stealthyly through the woods I looked up saw it. A spotted owl. It was perched and sleeping about 50 feet above the ground. One shot and it came falling straight down.

I got home around noon, fired up the grill and began to clean the bird. My housemate, Chris, asked me what the hell I was cooking and I told him.

"Dude, killing a spotted owl is illegal," he said. "It's an endangered bird!"

"I know," I shrugged. "But, I'm hungry and this was all I could find this morning."

Well, Chris is one of these animal rights wackos and he called the cops. The officer came into the backyard just as I was finishing the grilled owl -- which I flavored up with with a nice herb rub. After a few minutes of checking the police records via radio, and then giving me what for about shooting endangered species, the officer said "Well, since you've had no past run-in with the law, I'm gonna let you off with a warning...this time."

I thanked him and, just as he was leaving, he turned back to me and said "Oh, sir. Just out of curiosity, what does spotted owl taste like?"

I thought for a moment and said "Well, it tastes a lot like bald eagle."

My arraignment is set for 9 am Tuesday.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

Peggy Noonan on the Miers nomination

Nobody can hit all the angles like Peggy. This column defies excerpting. Er... excerption. Excerpation? Just click and enjoy the ride; it hits all the stops.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 12, 2005

Maybe we need a 9-11 Commission Commission

The big dogs in the blogosphere are doing a great job covering the cover-up by the 9-11 Commission about the "wall" that prohibited Clinton administration military intelligence and U.S. Attorneys from sharing with the FBI what they knew about anything.

I really want to know why that wall was put in place in the first place. Not that I'm given to conspiracy theories, but something really doesn't add up here. Since it can only hamper the investigation of crimes, why in the world would erecting the wall even enter into anyone's mind?

Could the reason have been, oh, I don't know, maybe.... to hamper the investigation of crimes?

I'm just askin' is all.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

the Eminent Domain of the People


Thanks to Stephen Macklin, the Open Source Amendment Project has now entered it's next phase. The revising is complete and it's time to drum up support and gather signatures.

You can read the history of the petition's language via the link at the bottom of this post, if you're curious.

You can sign the petition HERE!

Sign it and then spread the word, pilgrims. You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 07, 2005

"Support this Public school Teacher"? Uh... No.

Michelle Malkin says here that she wants us to "support this public school teacher" -- meaning the one named in this AP story.

Teacher fired after lowering grade of sleeping athlete

The Associated Press - ATLANTA

A Gwinnett County teacher was fired early Friday after refusing to raise a student athlete's grade he lowered because the student appeared to be sleeping in class.

The Gwinnett County School Board voted 4-1 early Friday _ after a marathon Thursday night meeting _ to fire Dacula High School science teacher Larry Neace, said school system spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

Neace left the building after the ruling and would not comment.

Sounds pretty harsh at first, eh? Firing the guy for "lowering" the grade of the nodding-off star athelete...?
Students are rallying around the 23-year veteran physics teacher.

"These students lost a teacher who cared not only about their academic growth, but their growth as individuals," said Deidre M. Stephens-Johnson, who represented Neace.

More than 200 students, parents and teachers packed Thursday night's hearing. Many of them carried signs or wore T-shirts and buttons supporting Neace.

Aw, that's sweet. He sounds like a great and well-loved teacher. How in the world could they take him away?! Uh... Read on.

Gwinnett school officials said Neace was barred from campus for insubordination after he repeatedly refused to comply with a district policy that prohibits using grades as discipline.

Neace, who has taught at Dacula High for 23 years, was removed from class after he refused to raise the grade he had given a football player on an overnight assignment. Neace said he cut the student's perfect grade in half because he thought the student had fallen asleep at his desk the day the assignment was made.

I had always gotten perfect grades in mathematics. Math just always came easy to me. (Until I hit calculus, that is.) One semester in my high school sophomore year my teacher decided to lower my grade from 95 to 85. Why? Because he thought I'd missed too many days of school. (Yeah, I played hookey a lot that year, what of it?)

My classmates argued for me. He refused to restore my proper grade, y'know, the one I earned on those tests we'd taken -- the tests that result in the numbers that are crunched at the end of each marking period that result in the grade. To this day I regret not hauling his @$$ into the principle's office.

But, this guy's @$$ was hauled in by the rightfully outraged student. Fire the man.

School officials said they gave Neace a chance to restore the football player's grade. When he refused, they sent him home. He has not been allowed back at school since April 14, when he was told he could resign or face being fired.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks recommended to the board that Neace be fired.."

First of all: Why is the student repeatedly being refered to as an "athlete" or "football player"? He's a student and the incident took place in a physics class. Many are claiming that NOT to have cut his grade in half would have been "coddling" the "star athelete".
This is purely a case of a teacher abusing his presumed and arrogantly assumed authority. Fire the man.

"He cannot have a policy that supersedes board policy," Wilbanks said. "He had no right to do that."

"No right"? Damn right! Discipline cuts both ways. Fire the man.

Neace said he had a practice of reducing the grades of students who waste time or sleep in class. His course syllabus warns that wasting class time can "earn a zero for a student on assignments or labs."

No administrators had previously complained about the practice, which he adopted more than a decade ago, Neace said.

Maybe that's because none of his previous victims knew that he was violating district policy which disallows such Draconian fiat from a public employee, so they just took it.
Mr. Neace substituted his own rules for the Board of Education's rules and got called on it. And for this blatant and defiant disregard for the Law he is somehow championed as a hero by many -- even some bloggers whose judgement I respect immensely. Why?

Many of Neace's champions echo his esteemed council:

"What we have in this case is a case of a pampered football athlete sleeping in class and being given favored treatment on an academic grade," said Michael Kramer, another of Neace's lawyers. "What we have here is the principal essentially attempting to coerce and intimidate a teacher."

Uh, no. What we have here is a teacher who thinks that he is above the law and likes to grade students not soley on their actual grades, but on whether or not they appear to be paying attention to his every precious gilded word.
(And, once again: The fact that the student is an athlete is as relevent as the fact that he may be left-handed. Sheesh!)

Neace crossed the line. He called himself the Law and then -- when clearly shown the obviousness of his own hubris -- still refused to yield. Fire the man.

School system spokeswoman Sloan Roach said she did not know when the termination would take effect. "He was already suspended with pay until the outcome of this hearing," she said.

Ferchrisakes, just fire the man!

UPDATE: Having read this post, now read the Associated Press article again. Read only the blockquoted italicized text and that bold title and then tell me that this AP story isn't teacher('s union)-friendly and student-athlete-hostile. Thanks for the fair and balanced reporting, AP. [/sarcasm]

And glad t'see that at least one one (1) fellow Munuvian seems to be able to see straight!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:48 AM | Comments (15)

April 30, 2005

McCain Responds to Macklin. We respond to McCain.

Stephen Macklin wrote a letter a while back to, I believe, Senators McCain, Feingold, Leiberman, Shays and Meehan. (Maybe not Meehan -- don't recall exactly.) He recieved an email from Leiberman's office a short time later and, finally, has received his second response, via snail mail, from John McCain.

Steve addressed it (at the link above). And since I just can't resist, I'm gonna add some fiskilicious points of my own.

Dear Mr. Macklin:

Thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform and “527 Groups”. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

As Stephen noted over at Hold The Mayo, his letter to the Senators didn't mention 527s at all, which makes it clear that this is a prefab letter sent out to anyone who writes Senator McCain about BCRA. Steve critiqued the response not only for it's content, but for how it failed to address his central points. I'm just gonna concentrate on the content of McCain's letter.

As you know, after seven years of sometimes fierce and vigorous debate on the issue, President Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) into law on March 27, 2002. On December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court, in McConnell v. FEC, upheld the constitutionality of key provisions of BCRA dealing with soft money and electioneering communications.

As Stephen points out (yes, I've got something original to add, just gimme a minute), notice how the F for "finance" is missing from the abbreviated title. This Act's erosion of speech was never meant to be restricted merely to when financing is involved. But, we'll get to that later. McCain continues:

This legislation ended the practice of the President, party leaders, and members of Congress from soliciting huge donations from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals. BRCA's overriding goal was to reduce the corrupting influence of unlimited soft money contributions to political parties, usually solicited by federal candidates and office holders.

I'll never be one to deny the corruptive influence of large-money donations. I mean, I voted for Ross Perot in '96. But, BC[F]RA goes a lot further than that -- effecting (or now, trying to effect) all donors, large or small.

When people complain that they can never be heard because they're "only one voice" my blood pressure rises. If you want your voice to carry then join a chorus. One singer can't sing Handel's Messiah at the Christmas pageant; s/he wont be heard in the back rows. But get a hundred singers on the platform and their strains will be heard half a mile away.

There are associations of people for nearly every imaginable interest. Some bigger than others, of course. The NRA, NAACP, AARP, ACLU, Swiftboat Vets for Truth (SVT), MoveOn.org, etc etc, all organized to spread their concerns and influence lawmakers.

But, the key to removing corruption is to remove the corruptible. Let's say you're a New Jersey Democrat and your choice boils down to a Republican or Bob Torricelli. Yer screwed. Incumbants rarely face challenges in their own party's primaries. This is a travesty. Parties don't like to have their candidates "weakened" by the challenges that neccessarily result from a primary season, so they just end up sending the same old blithering faces back to Washington without being held to any serious accountability by their own party members or their constituents.

If the choice for a New Jersey Democrat is between a Republican or a corrupt Democrat, the Democrat will usually win. Torricelli found himself in a position of being the exception, not the rule, and opted out. (While I deplored the extra-Constitutional way in which Frank Lautenburg was able to replace Torricelli on the ballot, at least all them New Jersey Democrats had a relatively clean candidate to vote for.)

Anywho, McCain continues:

There can be little doubt that this new law has improved the system. Despite predictions to the contrary, the parties have thrived, raising as much in limited donations from individuals in this cycle as they did in hard and soft money combined in 2000.

That, in and of itself, is a big plus. But, at what cost? And what more cost is Senator McCain willing to burden us lowly av-er-age bears with? Now we get to the meat of the matter:
While BRCA has proven successful, the recent growth of political committees commonly known as “527” groups, referring to their exempt-status under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, have emerged as a new vehicle for raising and spending illegal soft money. [Emphasis added]

McCain calls 527s "illegal". Let's look at McConnell v. FEC, shall we?

[BCRA] §323(d) prohibits national, state, and local party committees, and their agents or subsidiaries, from "solicit[ing] any funds for, or mak[ing] or direct[ing] any donations" to, any organization established under §501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code that makes expenditures in connection with an election for federal office, and any political organizations established under §527 "other than a political committee, a State, district, or local committee of a political party, or the authorized campaign committee of a candidate for State or local office." 2 U. S. C. A. §441i(d) (Supp. 2003). The District Court struck down the provision on its face. We reverse and uphold §323(d), narrowly construing the section's ban on donations to apply only to the donation of funds not raised in compliance with FECA. [Emphasis added]

In other words: So long as there is no coordination between the 527s and the political parties, or candidates themselves, the 527 exemption remains just as it was under the old 1974 FECA.

If John McCain thinks that 527s like SVT and MoveOn.org were/are illegally spending "soft money" then he is at odds with his precious McConnell v. FEC. Either that or he just likes to call what he doesn't like illegal. This isn't "straight-talk", Senator. This is, to be kind, "dissembling". 527s -- associations of interested like-minded individuals -- are perfectly legal. You haven't squashed all dissent yet and you just hate that, don't you! HA!

What's interesting to note, at this point, is that McCain's letter is arguing for the further expansion of campaign reform (notice the absence of the word "finance") to a letter-writer who'd prefer to repeal what's already been enacted. Whatever. It's a prefab form letter..

527 Groups supporting both presidential candidates raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in soft money on ads and partisan voter mobilization efforts to influence the presidential election.

THE HORROR!!! The wee folk are organizing against their overlords! [/sarcasm] Yes, Senator, some of us actually give a damn about who wins elections and want to mobilize and convince others to see the big picture and vote in their own interests, not yours. It's called "government of the People, by the People, for the People." Is "influence" a dirty word all of a sudden? Is, then, a fellow Arizonan's threat of withholding their vote for you in the next election an illegal "influence" on your re-election? How far are we going to take this nonsense? Huh?! ANSWER ME!!!

At the core of the financing for these 527 groups was a relatively small number of very wealthy individuals making very large soft money contributions. Four individuals alone gave a combined total of $78 million to these groups! The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has shamefully failed to do its job to require these obviously political groups to register as political committees, which would obligate them to comply with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974.

Okay, let's get something straight here. When McCain says "soft money", he isn't talking, anymore, about the money that's given to political parties (as opposed to specific candidates). He's now talking about your money. He's talking about private individuals who're spending their own money to announce their own po-lit-ic-al op-in-i-ons. Are we clear on this? John McCain equates you spending your own money, as a private and sovereign citizen, to get your message out, with **gasp!** political corruption!

"These people are talking amongst themselves! And they're talking about US! And they have opinions! THIS MUST BE STOPPED!"

F@#$%k you, John McCain. (Pardon my Freedom.)

1974 campaign finance law and the failure of the FEC to properly regulate the activities of these groups. THE BCRA reforms continue to function, despite the presence of these 527 groups. It is significant that FEC registered hard money contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign has outnumbered the 527 political groups spending by a factor of seven at last count.


If you're tauting the figure ("a factor of seven") as evidence that 527s can't compete, financially, with the party's own "hard money" as a sign that 527s are less influential than the individual contributions of supporters then I got news for ya: A $2,000 individual contributer can't get his @$$ on the news. That's why we ban together into 527s. (Can't let the big guys hog all the ink.) Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Because the FEC had failed to properly enforce federal law and require the 527 groups to register as political committees, I have introduced legislation along with Senator Feingold that would require all 527s to register as political committees unless they raise and spend money solely in connection with non-Federal candidate elections.

Can't have us talkin' about ya behind yer back, now can we...?
It is unfortunate that Congress must take legislative action requiring the FEC to properly enforce the law, but we cannot allow the obstinate acts of non-elected commissioners to obstruct the law and to dilute the influence that average American's have in determining who will lead their country.

Er... did I read that right? Hmmmm... Sadly, yes.

In case anyone is still in the dark about this, let's recap.

Remember the last election? Remember those Swiftboat Vet guys? Remember those MoveOn.org ads? Remember all that precious yammering on and on by people from Dan Ra™er to Powerline? That's what John McCain wants to squelch. If you still think that that's not what he wants then think harder. He equates debate and advocacy with... bribery. If anyone might be in danger of actually making a difference then it's, obviously, nothing more than corrupt influence peddling! No? Yeuh!

What Senator McCain wants to do away with is corruption. I get that. Unfortunately, by his chosen method of doing so, he'll only end up -- if he has his way even more than he's already had -- doing away with the very Liberty and accountability that he claims to cherish; thus only exacerbating the problem that he seeks to solve.

By "taking the money out of politics" he would gladly take the discourse out of politics. No way, no how, Senator. Dispite your worst efforts we are still free to yammer on and on as long as we like. And, yes, we'll talk about you and, fair warning, there ain't sh@#$t you'll ever be able to do about it.

Again, thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform.
Please feel free to contact me on this or any other matter of concern.

(Autopen signature) John
John McCain
United States Senator

No, I will not feel free. I am free. But, thanks for the invite... bitch.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:02 PM | Comments (1)

April 01, 2005

New Hope For The Wretched

I love America. We'll tear ourselves apart debating what should be done about one hopeless, useless shell of a woman.

Our courts will spend years upon years hearing appeal after appeal even though they come to the same sad conclusions each and every time.
State and federal legislators put all of their influence to work on her behalf and find their houses divided.
State and federal chief executives do all that can, within the law, to save her.
People flock from near and far to stand vigil until she either is saved or dies.

A nation watches as her parents find yet one more reason to appeal and is, again, rebuffed. The parents are barred from her bedside, then are let back in. No last rites, no communion, then communion and last rites. Finally, she dies.

Many were calling for Governor Bush to ignore the courts' rulings and take custody of Terri by force. NewsMax and Pat Buchanan even went so far as to suggest that he do this and, if he is found guilty of violating the seperation of powers doctrine and in contempt-of-court, that he simply be pardoned by his brother, the President. But, we knew that George and Jeb Bush weren't very likely to do that. Thankfully, they didn't.

Thankfully? Yep. In America we have a rule of Law. When we don't like the law we can change it. No one is above it or below it; not Jeb Bush and not Terri Schiavo. We had to let Terri go because we have to keep our principles. Our system of justice and government (rule of Law, seperation of powers, legal jurisdiction) have to be maintained in all cases if they are to be retained at all.

Terri Schiavo is a casualty of law. Just as we know that a soldier will probably die while defending liberty, Terri Schiavo died to uphold the law. An armed abduction by Governor Bush might have saved Terri's life for a short time, but it would have killed something a whole lot bigger: our way of life.

So, with the passing of Terri Schiavo, I think not only of what was lost but what was preserved. A constitutional crisis could have let her live, but she died to save us from it.

Americans looked at what was happening. Many found it difficult to accept that a woman who seemed awake and responsive to her family and friends could be, in fact, not there at all - as doctors had testified. But, through many years, judges and courts, this was said to be so.

We saw what we saw and came to our conclusions. In the courts, in the legislatures, in the executive mansions, in the newsrooms, the talk shows, the blogosphere and at our dinner tables. The lines of debate were drawn, the battle was engaged and we fought it like champions. Some for Terri's life, some for her release, but always within the law and proper procedure.

Now another debate begins: What if this ever happens again? Bills will be drafted and rewritten and voted on, up or down, so that the results of this precedent are never repeated. Depending on which side you were on you'll believe that, either, the law failed Terri, or it rescued her. New laws will be coming because it'd be nice not to have to wonder which is the case. That's what we should do and, so, that's what we'll do.

God, I love America!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:21 PM | Comments (8)

March 07, 2005

Just An Aside On The Whole FEC Thang

I haven't written about this yet because, well, plenty of people were doing a fine job. But, I'd just like to get a word in edgewise because something needs to be noted that I haven't seen noted elsewhere.

Let's take this tidbit:

"Given the impact of the Internet," Ms. Weintraub said, "I think we have to take a look at whether there are aspects of that that ought to be subject to the regulations. But again, I don't want this issue to get overblown. Because I really don't think, at the end of the day, this commission is going to do anything that affects what somebody sitting at home, on their home computer, does."

No. They will not. Why?

A major reason why McCain-Feingold got by the Supreme Court is that the Court ruled that political contributions are a transfer of property, not protected free speech.

SCOTUS: Money does not equal speech.

What that wacky judge Colleen Whats'er-Face seems to be saying was that blogging and linking to materials found elsewhere on the 'net should be considered a contribution-in-kind to a campain.

Judge Whats'er-Face: Speech equals money.

What the huh?!

[And, yeah, I know, I should go find her real name. Let's just call this "punk blogging"!]

The very justifications for upholding McCain-Feingold are what make Judge Whats'er-Face's ingorant opining diametrically opposed to federal law.

If speech=money then money=speech, that speech is protected, and McCain-Feingold has no leg to stand on.
As it is: Judge Colleen Whats'er-Face's blather has no Constitution leg to stand on.

McCain-Feingold and the SCOTUS ruling that upholds it do not lend to her thesis; they contradict it.

(Or, at least, that part of it that inspired the Weintraub comments that I and others have been so worried about.)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2005

Free To Blog?

Apple Computers is making a case that bloggers are not protected by laws that protect journalists from being prosecuted for refusing to reveal their sources. Michelle Malkin has a post about it (with links to other blogs with commentary).

The skinny:

The Shield Law protects journalists from being held in contempt of court for refusing to disclose the source of any information that was gathered for news purposes. It applies to any "publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service."

The Shield "also likely applies to stringers, freelancers, and perhaps authors," according to The First Amendment Project. In one California case, People v. Von Villas, 10 Cal. App. 4th 201, 231-32 (1992), protections were extended to a freelance writer who had not yet signed a contract to publish his work. [emphasis added - TS]

That would seem to imply that bloggers -- "freelancing" for their audiences' benefit, not an employers -- would fall undre the protection of the Shield Law as well. That would only seem fair and logical in a society of free and open debate where information from within the bowels of government, from an un-named source, is seen as neccessary to the survival of a free state.

Some in the MSM have a different view:

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also confers protections to journalists seeking to shield their sources, but as The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press observes, these protections are restricted to "legitimate members of the press." They do not extend to "any person with a manuscript, a web page or a film...."

And councel for the plaintiff argues likewise:

Apple's lawyers argue that Jason O'Grady of PowerPage "does not perform an investigative reporting function in the manner of a legitimate news outlet" and thus is not entitled to journalistic privileges under either the Shield law or the First Amendment [still more emphasis added - TS]

What they are arguing is that a blog, such as PowerPage, is not reporting "legitimate news" because it is not part of a "legitimate news outlet" and, therefore, cannot claim to be protected by the Shield Law. The attorneys for Apple can be forgiven for arguing their client's case with all argumentation that they have at their disposal, I suppose. But, the "Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press" (whatever in the world THAT is) ought to be condemned for arguing against the added protection of free bloggers.

What is the purpose of freedom of the press if not to protect exactly what bloggers do? The problem here is that the loose conglomeration of MSM institutions is nervous about the growth of the blogosphere and the MSM - and the politics of incumbency - are trying to figure out what to do about us.

Michelle writes:

As in the FEC case, the effort to draw a bright line between blogs and traditional media outlets has some rather bizarre implications. For example, do I enjoy the privileges of a "journalist" when I am gathering information for my syndicated column but not when I am gathering information for my blog? Do bloggers at Slate, Salon, and MSNBC enjoy protections not afforded to Matt Drudge?

While the Shield Law, clearly, does not extend to Citizen Me when I have inside information that I wanna keep to myself, does it extend to me when I have that inside formation that I post on my blog? Is my source guaranteed anonymity when I am writing, not to one friend, but, to a general audience of strangers with a stake in this in formation?

I vote YES.

If a newspaper owner or editor is free to print and edit as he wishes -- and to protect his sources -- then I say that I, as a blog owner, have that right as well. My blog is my soapbox and, while it is not an incorporated "legitimate news outlet", it is, nonetheless, a news outlet. If a freelance writer, without a "legitimate" employer, is protected then so are bloggers. We are freelancers, we are our readers.

Bloggers are protected by the Shield Law precisely because we perform an investigative reporting function in the manner of a legitimate news outlet.

Scratch that.... We do it even better now and again. Somebody's running scared.

Let the Alliance of Free Blogs unite!!!

P.S.: This might be an apropos aside at this juncture:

incumbent (in-kum-bent) adj. 1. Lying, leaning or resting on something else. 2. Imposed as an obligation or duty; required. 3. Currently holding a specified office. --n. A person who holds an office.

I suppose that the original intent was to inspire an office-holder with a sense of responsiblity and obligation to the People. Nowadays, though, it seems that that imposition is resting more and more upon the People.

UPDATE: There's lots of talk out in the blogosphere about this. Check out Michelle Malkin for lots of links with different points of view.

Mike over at Blind Mind's Eye argues that the bloggers being sued by Apple are not entitled to Shield Law protection on the basis that leaking the information didn't in any way perform a public service.

"A regular reporter would not have gotten away with this either and the one thing that Apple is scared of is people with little to lose like Think Secret's Ciarelli spilling the beans at every turn."

That may be true (Captain's Quarters had a different take), but Apple's lawyers aren't just arguing that bloggers are not entitled to Shield Law protection in this case, but, rather, are to be denied Shield Law protection is ALL cases by virtue of not being "legitimate journalists".

The issue at the heart of this debate is not whether the identities of the specific Apple leakers can be protected, but whether a blogger can protect the identity of any source.

IOW, are you and I journalists if we publish the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times but not if we publish them on my own websites?

The California Shield Law seems to specifically exclude bloggers from it's prottection for not being part of a "legitimate news organization". The debate - as I see it - is about whether or not that is fair, and shoyld the law be rewritten to protect bloggers who use anonymous sources to expose the truth in important stories in the future.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:41 PM | Comments (12)

February 23, 2005

Terri Schindler-Schiavo has two more days of food and water

A new 48-hour stay of starvation and dehydration has been issued by Judge Greer. Woo hoo! But, it's still only a matter of time. Get blogging, people!

The court wants to explore the disturbing appearance of abuse and neglect on the part of Michael Schiavo, and Terri's parents' claim that he is unfit to be her legal guardian.

Well, duh! He deserves to be removed as Terri's guardian due to the little factoid that he is chronically hazardous to her health.

For updates and info on her case visit BlogsForTerri (formerly TerrisFight.org).

We need the "big dogs" of the Blogosphere in this fight. The MSM has ignored these critical last few days (though today was a little better). They'll be forced to focus on this story if we all put it on the front burner. Let's not forget what the blogosphere can do. (Glenn, Powerline, I'm looking in your direction...)

So, come on, cry Havoc!, and let slip the Big Dogs of the Blogosphere!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

Crunch Time for Terri Schiavo


Michael Schiavo wants to kill his wife by starvation and dehydration. He claims that a feeding tube, to keep her nurished, is "artificial life support" and, therefore, against her allegedly stated wish not to be kept alive artificially.

Nearly a year and a half ago Michael Schiavo had succeeded in getting a court to order that Terri's feeding tube be removed. Her starvation and dehydration had begun to cause great pain and discomfort until Governor Jeb Bush led an effort to reinsert her feeding tube.

But that was then and this is now and Terri Schiavo is once again in grave danger.

For background on the case during the 2003 deathwatch, read these excellent articles by Nat Hentoff, Wesley J. Smith and Jennifer Smith.

Michael Schaivo's efforts to kill his wife may finally "pay off", if you know what I mean. She may, once again, begin to die horribly in less than 24 hours.

For a complete history with timelines, constant updates and info on what we can do to try to save Terri's life, visit Blogs For Terri.

Her parents can't love her enough to save her. It's up to us, folk.

Praises to Jody and many others for keeping this story on their front burner. Time is critical and it isn't getting any coverage in the MSM, nor is there much coverage in the Blogosphere.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:44 PM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2005

Fisking Kinsley... er... sort of

I went searching something to fisk and went to my favorite target, Michael Kinsley. Unfortunately, Michael has a well-reasoned argument with himself, in today's column, about when and why journalists should be allowed to protect an anonymous source when protecting that source's identity might impede the investigation of a crime.
His WaPo article, titled Privilege and Presumption, is HERE (registration required).

I love his opening line:

American democracy is a conspiracy of special interests against the general interest, but every special interest thinks that it is the general interest.

He gives an example of a special interest (farm subsidies) and then compares how journalists' belief in the nobility of their profession is no different than a farmer's belief in the nobility of farming and, thus, journalist's feel equally entitled to special treatment by the law and by public policy.
That is why, even at this low point in public esteem, many journalists are unembarrassed to assert that they are above the law.

Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time have refused to testify about their conversations with government officials that might have concerned who leaked the identity of an undercover intelligence agent to columnist Robert Novak. Last week a federal appeals court ruling upheld a lower-court order that Miller and Cooper must testify or go to jail.

If Miller and Cooper were out of bounds in promising anonymity to their sources, Kinsley ponders, shouldn't the law in such matters be made clear? Kinsley is upset not at Miller and Cooper for arrogantly placing themselves above the law, but for the principle of "journalistic privilege" not being a part of the law in criminal cases.

The fact that Miller and Cooper believe in Reporter-Source Privilege, so much so that they might be willing to go to jail rather than identify their sources, is laudable:

Having made that promise, they feel obligated to keep it. If they shouldn't have made that promise, society should have sent them a clearer message to that effect. The message is still a muddle.
Why these two, who never published the secret name, and not others, including some who did? Before we start jailing journalists for keeping promises, we need to decide when such a promise should be made.

But, he writes, in any balanced approach, there are a prices to paid:
Journalists are claiming to be above the law in two senses.
First, there are laws requiring citizens to supply information under oath. Journalists are saying we get to decide whether and when these laws apply to us.

Second, testimonial immunity for journalists can make it difficult or impossible to enforce other laws.

On the other hand, he follows with:
So what? Lawyers and ministers are allowed to keep their secrets, even if that lets some criminals off the hook. What is so unreasonable about a similar privilege for journalists?

Kinsley then offers an "answer" to the difference between lawyers and ministers one the one hand, and journalists on the other. But, I don't wanna get sued for copyright infringement by posting the entire essence of the column. Ye must go read the rest.

While Kinsley supports recognizing, in Law, a balanced, reasonable "journalist-source privilege", he laments the arrogance by which it's being requested -- or, perhaps, the arrogance with which it needs to be requested in these ol' newfangled times. Noting that journalists aren't held in very high regard these days:

Very often the social benefit of encouraging whistleblowers would win such a balancing contest. But journalists mistakenly see the privilege as their right and refuse to contemplate such a balance.
Or they assert the authority to weigh the considerations themselves, which seems even more arrogant.

Read the whole thing. His last paragraph sums up - as if he's shaking his head - just how he sees the Miller-Cooper conundrum as it's being played out. Hat-tip to Michael Kinsley.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:54 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2004

Say It Ain't So, Bernie!

Welp, looks like 9-11 hero and Baghdad Police Department saviour Bernie Kerik has withdrawn his name from conderation to be the next Director of Homeland Security.

Bernard Kerik apologized to President Bush on Saturday after questions about the immigration status of a housekeeper-nanny he employed led the former New York City police commissioner to withdraw his nomination as homeland security chief.

Aah, remember Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood? They each had to be de-considered for Attorney General back in '92-'93 for the same reason. Then Hillary found Miss Janet Reno and at least we didn't have to worry about low-wage earning childcare specialists anymore.
"I owe the president an enormous amount of gratitude for this consideration. I owe him a great apology that this may have caused him and his administration a big distraction," Kerik said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Yep, sure do, Bernie. Remember when you were asked, prior to the public announcement of your nomination, if you had any skeletons in your closet? That was the time to chime in about the illegal alien you're harboring.
"I am convinced that, for personal reasons, moving forward would not be in the best interests of your administration, the Department of Homeland Security or the American people," Kerik said in a letter to Bush.

For personal reasons? What does that mean? Oh, right....:
While assembling paperwork for his Senate confirmation, Kerik said he uncovered questions about the immigration status of a housekeeper-nanny that he employed. As homeland security secretary, Kerik would oversee the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Oopsie! Kinda sucks when you gotta obey the rules that you're enforcing for others.
Hey, wasn't it the NYPD that announced a few years ago that it wasn't going to help to enforce federal immigration laws? I wonder what really inspired that policy?

I love ya, Bernie. You led the NYPD through 9-11 and it's aftermath and were the picture of strength and competence through it all. I give you three cheers and a huzzah for leading the rebuilding of the Baghdad police force. And when I first read that you were tapped to be the next Director of Homeland Security I'm sure I must grinned from ear to ear.

But, geeze! Did you simply forget about that lady who takes care of your kids all day, and why it is that you can skimp on her pay and her payroll taxes?

In the AP interview, Kerik said that on Wednesday he discovered financial records "that led me to question the tax filings regarding a housekeeper and nanny that was employed by me in my house, a very nice woman, a very good woman, someone who loves my children and they love her."

By Friday afternoon, Kerik said, "I came to realize that that there was not only a problem with the filings, there may have been a question with regard to her legal status in the country."

And not only is there a trail of crumbs leading from the kitchen to the kids' room, but the cookie jar may be a little light. But they're completely unrelated!

Well. they're obvious not unrelated because if they were you'd still be in the running for the post.

Democrats...were focusing on Kerik's recent financial windfall from exercising stock options in a stun gun company that does business with the Department of Homeland Security. He earned $6.2 million from the options received from Taser International.

You stuck to your guns. And those "Dems" were torquing me off, too. If you'd been running the Department of Homeland Security at the time then there'd be a conflict. But, sheesh, Taser International makes frickin' TasersTM. And who more than a former Chief of Police would see the company as a good investment.
As recently as midday Friday, the White House had defended Kerik against questions of conflict of interest involving his relationship with Taser. Now, Bush is turning his attention to finding a replacement.

As well he should. Busted.
Kerik's first anti-terrorism work was as a paid private security worker in Saudi Arabia. He joined the New York Police Department in 1986, first walking a beat in Times Square.

In 2003, he took on a temporary assignment in Iraq to help rebuild the country's police force. Most recently, he has been a consultant for Giuliani Partners, working to rebuild Baghdad's police force.

Great work, too. You're the top, Bernie, and what a shame this is. When it comes to law enforcement you're the bells of Saint Peter's in Rome and tissue paper on a comb. Just don't forget to obey the laws, too... all of 'em.

There's a lot of work yet to be done and we're gonna need you there. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2004

Jury Duty

Yep, I'll finally be serving jury duty for the first time.

I've been called many times in the past umpteen years but have either been told the night before not to show up, or sat and sat and was never called on.

This time I was called in the fourth group. Trial will last one day and concerns liablity for injuries resulting from a traffic accident on Boston Avenue on October 13th, 2000.

Nabisco is involved for some reason (probably the plaintiff's employer who doesn't want to pay workman's comp). I'll find out more on Tuesday.

I've been given several pieces of advice over the past few days about how to get out of jury duty. ("Just tell them that you think we live in an overly litigeous society".)

There's an old joke that we rely on juries made up of people not smart enough to get out of jury duty.
But, if I ever needed a jury, I'd want a jury made up of people who are smart enough to get out of it but don't.
Dagnabbit, I'm no arm-chair American!

I'll be happy to serve. I think it'll be a good experience for me, as well as a needed service to the parties to the case.

Just another note: I'll be watching Fahrenheit 9-11 this evening. Pray for me.
I may have a review of it to post tonight if I'm not successfully brainwashed by then...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

June 02, 2004

Yes, Virginia; There Is A Free Expression Clause

Here's an AP item about some wacky officials at Virginia's Falmouth Waterfront Park telling a Baptist pastor who was performing baptisms in the river to get off our property. Yes, it's a public park.

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- The Rev. Todd Pyle thought it was the perfect spot to baptize 12 new members of his church. The river was calm and shallow, and there was a shaded area offshore for people to stand.

"It was a very serene place," he said. "It was special."

But officials at the Falmouth Waterfront Park, a public park just outside Fredericksburg, weren't pleased. They tried to break up the ceremony, claiming it might be offensive to nearby swimmers or other people using the park. Pyle was able to finish the baptism, but then he was asked to leave.

Yes, friends, we thought that the Soviet Union was gone, but it's ever so slowly regenerating right here at home. Any day now someone is going to sue to ban any and all religious expression from public property. I used to say that and it sounded like a joke.
The incident has outraged free-speech advocates.

"These people are being discriminated against because of the content of their speech," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who heads the Christian Defense Coalition. "It's one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment I have ever seen."

Mahoney's group has threatened to file a lawsuit if the park refuses to allow future gatherings by religious groups, something for which the park admits it has no written policy.

Who needs a written policy when we've got Bolsheviks in charge? But there is a written policy; it's called the Constitution.
Pyle said he chose to hold an outdoor baptism, still common in parts of the South, because his Cornerstone Baptist Church in Stafford lacks an indoor baptismal pool. He said few people seemed to notice the small congregation during the 30-minute ceremony May 23.

But park officials said religious groups seeking to perform a service in the park still need to apply for a permit or else gather under a shelter or inside.

What's the difference between being indoors or outdoors? It's still public property! This is where our Rights are supposed to be protected! It's not that it was a baptismal service, but that it was performed outside?! Pardon me, boys, but yer just makin' this up as you go along without a frickin' CLUE about what your duty is, aren't ya...?

Get this:

"We don't want to tread on anybody's First Amendment or constitutional rights," said Brian Robinson, director of the Fredericksburg-Stafford Park Authority. "What we try to discourage is anything not formally permitted that just sort of occurs spontaneously."

Drat! My head just exploded! Pardon me while I gather the pieces and duct tape them back together...

...Okay, I'm back.

"We try to discourage...anything not formally permitted". These people aren't my countrymen; they're tyrants. Pure and simple.

"It's illegal unless we specifically say it's legal." "There are no Rights, only privileges." "All authority comes from the State." This is the creed of dictators. I'd like to think that Brian Robinson merely chose his words sloppily. But, clearly, he and the Fredericksburg-Stafford Park Authority act on their belief that they alone are the Law.
If that's not clear now, just wait 'til later.
In the meantime:

John Whitehead, director of The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based civil liberties organization, said that's a clear violation of the church members' constitutional rights.

"Could a church have a picnic in the park and sing hymns? Of course they could," he said. "Parks have been forums since time immemorial to do these types of things."

And encouragingly:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia also said in a statement: "If the park rules allow people to wade and swim in the river, then they must allow baptisms in the river."

Hooray for the ACLU! Sometimes they actually do something that reminds me of why I became a member.
Robinson said the park's board has formed a special committee to examine its policy and to put it in writing.

I suggest examining Constitutional Law and writing that into your purblind policy...
If the church applies for the proper permit, he said it's "certainly possible" they would be allowed to use the river for another baptism.

Didn't you hear what the ACLU just said you Stalinist barf bag? You're a government employee; a public servant. You do only what we tell you you can do! Stop powwowing with your commie clique, put down the crack pipe and read the damn Law!
Meanwhile, Pyle said he will find another place to hold outdoor baptisms.

"We're disappointed," he said. "Every single person that was baptized thanked me afterward, saying [the river] made their experience more meaningful."

No. N-n-n-n-NO! Reverend Pyle, gather up a few other pastors and priests and have a baptismal bash and dare the Park "Authority" to do something about it! Don't run from this; you have been chosen to fight this fight!

Look at this whole cross-on-the-California-seal business. Pretty soon we'll hear some thalamicly challenged theophobe telling us that Thomas Jefferson needs to be removed from our currency because to picture Jefferson on a Government (public) note is an endorsement of his philosophy of Liberty which is anchored in his religious beliefs and therefore violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Sounds like a joke right now, doe'n't it?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:20 PM | Comments (8)

December 15, 2003

Intent is 9/10ths of the Law

Once upon a time in the Land of Make-Believe there was a small band of thieves that stalked a public park wearing KISS make-up. They would jump out of the bushes and snatch the purses of old ladies, take the watches from yuppie men, and the candy necklesses from little boys and girls.
"I have no idea who they were or what they look like," each victim would tell the police. "They were wearing frickin' KISS make-up!"

The local citizenry was outraged that common criminals would conceal their facial features and make it impossible to indentify them in a police line-up.
The town's Council passed an ordinance making it unlawful to wear greasepaint, or any mask, to conceal one's true identity while on public property.
The townfolk were very pleased with this new law. Until Halloween came around.

"Oh, no! We've killed Halloween!" one mother of four cried to the Mayor as she consoled her sobbing children in the Town Hall, "and the Council is out of session until January! Whatever will we do?"

"Go to the Courts!" one brave high school student roared.

"That ain't gonna work," said the local florist. "The law is plainly written: 'No masks in a public place'. I'm afraid there'll be no trick-or-treating this year."

But the moms and dads of the Land of Make-Believe took the case to court anyway...and won.
The Justices of the Court wrote this very brief opinion:

This court finds that the statute at issue in this case does not prevent the celebration, observance or practice of Halloween; nor of any festivities heretofore traditional and appropriate including, but not limited to: individual mask-wearing, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples or any other similar produce, assembled masquerade parties, keggers or any other activities associated with Halloween at time previous to the enactment of said statute.

Why not?
Because the Court looked at the Legislative intent of the statute and found that it had been originally intended to stop thieves from hiding their faces during the commission of a crime. Since there was never any intent by the Council to interfere with the traditions of Halloween, the Court ruled (since the Council was out of session and could not clarify the law) that Halloween could go forward.

Determining the "legislative intent" of a law is one of the major tools of settling case law. In order to adjudicate the Law, a Court must know what the People -- via their elected legislators -- have intended that Law to be.

The Supreme Court of Massachussetts has recently ruled that the right of homosexual men and women to marry within their own gender is guaranteed by the Massachussetts state Constitution. They argue that to forbid marriage on the grounds of sexual identity is discrimination under the Law. But is it?
From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary:

mar·riage ('mar-ij) noun 1 a : the state of being married b : the mutual relation of husband and wife : wedlock c : the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family. 2 : an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities. 3 : an intimate or close union
The word "marriage" meant to John Adams -- author of the Massachussetts Constitution -- just that: a legal union between a man and a woman. The fact that recent cultural shifts (and the resulting etymology) has resulted in our use of such terms as "same-sex marriage" is irrelevant to the Law. The intent of the Law's authors and ratifyers -- the People -- trump any foggy notions of what any altered usage of the language might, to the selectively undereducated, imply.

What the Massachussetts Supreme Court has done is to take the language of the People as it was (and intended to be) understood, and translated it into the modern colloquial usage.
Whether or not you or I support or oppose the legalization of gay marriage or civil unions isn't at issue. (I happen to support them.) The issue is: Who, in a republic of laws, not tyranny, writes the Law?

Judicial tyranny is the fine art of changing existing Law by redefining the words that already make up that Law. The rule of Whim -- of a few black-robed government appointees over the People -- is the most dangerous and insidious of the ways in which the rule of the People may be undermined because it imposes upon them a Law which they did not write and to which they have not consented.

Oh, and that Gene Simmons guy? That was me. (hey, Tongue is 9/10ths of the Kiss y'know...)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2003


Here's what I came up with for an Introduction that will be linked on the sidebar over at Consent of the Governed. Comments and suggestions are appreciated!
UPDATE: Don't read this musty ol' version, read the latest tweaking HERE!

Throughout history, it seems, the natural order of States was that governments ruled the People. Tyrants crowned themselves as if they were convinced of their right to rule with Divine blessing -- or even that they themselves were Gods.
The divine right of kings was that they'd earned their station by being born into it. Order was bestowed to the great unwashed in society by their wise and literate betters.
All authority in the hands of the State, and the People were at it's mercy; always dependent on the kindness of the strangers who ruled them.

When the Law is taken into the hands of a powerful few who have no accountability to the People, then Liberty is in peril. There are, of course, many countries in the world today where the People's liberties are granted and lost at the whim of irrepressible tyrants.

The Declaration of Independence established that Americans had ceased to recognize a subordination of the People to a Crown. It stated that in order to secure to the People their inalienable Rights: "governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
The divine right of the People was that they'd earned their Rights by being born into them.

People have Rights, governments have powers; and only those powers specifically granted to them by the People.
The rule of Law, not of the whim of men in office, is essential to preserve if we are to protect the existence of "government of the People." The principle that a legislature, executive or court can not presume to have any authority that it has not been granted must be religeously re-enforced.
If we stand by silently as those who've been entrusted with power assume for themselves permission and authority that they have not been granted, then we, in America and in the free world, will simply be allowing tyrants to rule the People once again.

Congress may pass a law abridging the freedom of speech; a President may sign it; a Court may even uphold it (finding that the State has a "compelling interest" in abridging your Liberty), all without respect for the Constitutions proscribed amendment process.
It has happened, and it will happen again.

We here at Consent of the Governed are on a mission to preserve the rule of Law -- the rule of the People -- by exposing instances, great and small, where governments at all levels and at all branches excercize authority that the People have not granted to them in their Constitutions and Charters.
Hopefully we'll even spread the word to those who haven't heard -- or fully understood -- that if we allow one Right to be lost then that is a precedent in Law that can only mean that all Rights can be lost.

Tyrants will take power from the People until they are stopped, and so we must forever be vigilant in our proposition that "government of the People, by the People and for the People shall not perish from the earth."

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2003

Class-Action suit against "Big Booze"?

Gold diggin' lawyer David Boise (remember him from Al Gore vs The Rule of Law?) and some of his little friends are seeking to bring a class action lawsuit against several alcohol distributers on the premise that they wrecklessly advertise to minors.

Maybe it's not my place to judge these assholes, but, apparently the suits that attempted to suck the tobacco companies', McDonalds' and Microsoft's customers dry weren't enough to satisfy his lust for criminalizing the marketplace.

Several members of the alcohol industry are facing a lawsuit filed last week in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that seeks to recover "unlawful profits" these companies made by allegedly marketing and advertising their products to underage drinkers.

They profitted from advertising? I thought advertising cost money. If any minors actually bought the booze then there are some liquor stores that have committed a crime. This is like blaming the gun manufacturer for an armed robbery.

But, exactly what crimes have the alcohol distributers and advertisers committed?

According to the lawsuit, examples of this can be seen in Diageo's use of the Captain Morgan character to represent its spiced rum brand as well as Coors promotions that were tied to Scary Movie 3, a PG-13 movie. Noted also were Bacardi advertisements in magazines such as Stuff, FHM and Spin, which are read disproportionately by consumers too young to drink.

Wow. There's yer open and shut case right there! Captain Morgan, a painting of a pirate-type guy, is now some kind of fuzzy little cartoon character that entices the kiddies into washing down their Pixy Stix with some spiced rum. And they've tied a promotion to a horror movie spoof, and have even advertised in music magazines!

None of these actions have broken any laws that actually exist anywhere, of course. But I guess that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be made to defend themselves in a court of Law anywho.

If advertising the smooth rich flavor of a Coors Lite in a magazine that might be read by someone under the age of 21 is a crime (which, BTW, it is not), then Mr Boise and Co. need to announce their real intention: to criminalize the advertising of adult beverages in all magazines other than porno mags.
To do that: you take your case to the Legislative branch, not the Judicial branch.

But, then, this has nothing to do with protecting TheChildren(TM). It's all about trial lawyers who are so drunk on litigation that they see big green elephants everywhere where a profit is being made by anyone but themselves.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

Another Congressional Payraise

U.S. Constitution, Amendment XXVII

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

When this Amendment was ratified in 1992 it looked like any pay raise would have to wait for an election to take place, and that a pay raise couldn't possibly happen any more frequently than every two years.
But, lo and behold, the bums were ready to put THAT silly idea to rest!.

Once again -- and for the fifth year in a row -- the Senate and House has voted themselves a pay raise that goes into effect when the next session starts in January. How can this be? Because immediately after the 27th Amendment was ratified they wrote a law that automatically gives them a "cost of living" (COLA) increase unless they specifically vote it down.
In the past five years they've not unvoted themselves an additional $21,000 a year. (That's over 9 million of our tax dollars every year, and it'll go up again next year.)

Uuuuh, forgive me, but I don't believe that the cost of freakin' LIVING has gone up for Senator Graftcat by almost what I make in a year.

Unless, of course, the price of the Congressman's food, mortgage, electricity, cable TV, gasoline, telephone and heating oil has gone up 6 or 7 times what mine has. I haven't gotten a raise in two or three years, and many people have lost their income altogether, but our esteemed "leaders" get a COLA increase on their entire income, most of which -- if we accept a strict definition of a Cost of Frickin' Living -- is discretionary.

Oh, goody! Congressman Backscratch gets to buy three new Armani suits and hire another maid next spring.

So with respect to the 27th Amendment, they get a pay raise but it's not a new law.
'm guessing that the language of the Amendment was deliberately worded to allow this rot.

Grrrr, I've got more to say on this but Kristine Vander Hauvel is on Chris Mathews torguing me off because she has no understanding of the history of Vietnam nor, obviously, the current situation in Iraq.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003

Whose Law is it Anyway?

The Emporer has an excellent post about the Federal District Court's ruling that the granite display of the Ten Commandents must be removed from it's prominent place at the Alabama Judicial Building that includes this:

Let's take it again:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

Which law did Chief Justice Moore make? And how is the Fed ordering this monument removed NOT "making law respecting [i.e. 'with regards to' - M.] an establishment of religion"?

A monument to the Ten Commandments at a court house creates no law that establishes a State religeon. What it does, however, is make the point - through symbolic display - that religeon (in particular; Judeo-Christian monotheism) is the basis of our legal code.

And it is... to a degree. The first three Commandments -- having to do with strictly religeous matters (have no G-d before me, observe the sabbath, worship no idols, etc) -- are not codified into Law because they would violate the First Amendment.
Adultery, envy and most of the others, are not crimes either (though adultery was at one time in most states).

Three Commandments that are codified into Law are the one's forbidding murder, theft and perjury; but, these have been crimes in every legal code ever devised in the whole history of civilization. While it was Christianity that provided the Authority for what we consider to be justice, the framers of the Constitution provided the protection against the establishment of a Theocracy.

But, more interestingly, as Misha points out, does the Federal District Court have any jurisdiction in the Alabama State Court's displaying of the monument? There is no law that's been enacted by Congress at issue here. The monument was erected by the judicial branch of Alabama's government, and there is no law that forbids this.
What the Federal Court has done is created Law where there was none. Not only is there a Seperation of Powers issue (the legislature makes the Law, the judiciary applies them to disputes), but it also violates the tenet that the Federal Government has only the authority specifically granted to it by the Constitution.

So, regardless of the appropriateness of the monument, and the way it's so prominently displayed, and how it jibes with our idealism about the "seperation of Church and State", the only question for a Federal Court is; "Does this violate the Law as written by the Legislature, or the Constitution?"
Since the establishment clause addresses only potential Acts of Congress, not the decor of a courthouse, it seems to me that there probably really is no Federal issue involved.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:36 PM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2003

and from out of the woodwork:

The law firm of Cauley Geller Bowman & Rudman, LLP has filed a class action suit against FirstEnergy of Ohio for damages resulting from the Blackout.
Read a news item HERE that provides a link to the firms website (where you can read the suit).

Operative paragraph:
The complaint charges FirstEnergy Corporation (NYSE: FE - News; "FirstEnergy") with recklessly causing the power outage that began on August 14, 2003 and darkened parts of eight American states and Canada. More specifically, the complaint alleges, among other things, that FirstEnergy, in reckless disregard of industry practice: (1) failed to have a functioning alarm that could have timely alerted controllers to trouble with its power lines; (2) failed to cut back tree limbs that came into contact with power lines, which resulted in the tripping of the power lines; and (3) failed to maintain a failsafe system that could have separated the local system from the rest of the power grid. The Complaint seeks actual damages for injuries suffered by the public as well as punitive damages to ensure that FirstEnergy never again engages in similar misconduct.

I sent them this playful e-mail:


Seeing as FirstEnergy lost oodles of revenue due to their reckless disregard for their paying customers, I'd like to join the class action suit. There's been billions of dollars in loss due to the pause is economic activity (due to our reckless choices to digitize everything from cash registers to toothbrushes), and I think it only serves FirstEnergy's customers right to take some more. But why stop there?

I had reservations for dinner at a restaurant in western Connecticut when the power went out. I think the restaurant is liable for damages to my dinner plans for recklessly not having their own generator on site.

Also, I failed to fill my gas tank before recklessly setting out on the 45 mile trip, and was unable to have gasoline pumped into my Lexus. I'd like to sue the gas station I almost stopped at for not having their own generator.
I mean, what do they think electricity is; a convenience?! It's a G-d given civil Right! Imagine what my great grandmother (had she not died 40 years ago) would think of having to read by candlelight and wash the dishes with her own hands.
(More on that note: I think we're all due Reparations from the descendents of our ancestors for not getting the electricity thang going a bit sooner. I mean, think of the billions and billions of humans who lived and died without electricity. The horror!)

Finally, since I don't have a home generator -- and didn't think to fill the tank by 4:00pm last thursday -- I'd like to recklessly sue myself, as well.

Wow! Being a bloodsucking neurophobic skidmark on the shorts of humanity is kick-a$$$$!!!
Does the pain of self-loathing go away after a while?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2003

We Collect Taxes for the State; pro bono

Here's something I've been mulling over all day for some reason.

J'ever notice that state sales taxes are added to our subtotals? Y'have?! Good!
If a "sale" is being taxed, shouldn't the merchant be paying it, rather than the customer? Isn't it really a "purchase tax"?

If the transaction itself is being taxed -- rather than specifically the "sale" or the "purchase" -- then shouldn't the tax be split? Let's say your State has a 6% sales tax (as Connecticut does), should the tax be 3% to the customer, and the remaining 3% to be forked over by the merchant?

Now, I know what you're thinking: "But, Sporkster (my granny calls me "Sporkster"), the merchant has to protect his profit margin regardless, and would raise the price of everything in the store to cover the sales tax. The customer pays the whole thing anyway."

Okay, fine; wrap the cost of the tax into the price. It could then at least legitimately be called a "sales tax."

But since the tax is blatantly added -- right in front of him -- to the customer's total, it is obviously, by definition, a "purchase tax" on the customer. This means that every merchant in the State is an agent of the State and being employed by the State as a tax collector!
The merchant isn't paying his own taxes to the State, he's forwarding his customers' taxes!

As a merchant, I would think hard about demanding a salary from the State for collecting my customers' taxes for It.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:49 PM | Comments (6)

August 11, 2003

Davis' Recall Severability Case

I wanted to blog about an argument that Gray Davis could make to overturn the entire recall process, and found that Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein -- two contributers to findlaw.com -- had already written the essay that I was going to. Of, course, they did a lot more research than I was going to do, but they addressed the very same issues.

Under their subheading "Was the Signature Gathering Process Proper?", they point out that California's recall law demands that signature gatherers must be registered voters. This same requirement (though not a part of a recall statute) was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving Colorado election law, in 1999.

If Davis could convince the California court that the requirement be stricken as unconstitutional, then the question over severability comes into play.
Meaning; if the court strikes a single section of a law, does the entire law fall, or only the offending section?

Philisophically, I oppose severability because bills are passed by legislatures in a finished form that has come to be after the haggling and bartering of the interested parties. A severed section might have been the only redeeming feature that gave the bill support from some key legislators, and so what remains is something on which they never would have voted "aye," and that would suck rocks.

I believe that severability amounts to a "line item veto" for the Court, and an Executive line-item veto has already been ruled unconstitutional because it puts the Chief Executive too much into the Legislative process, thus violating the principle of Seperation of Powers.

Ironically, it may be possible to overturn the entire century-old recall laws by simply arguing that the signature gathering process -- while more stringent than the recallers would like -- violates the 1st amendement Rights of non-registered voters.

While that's the gyst of what I wanted to write about, this is the paragraph in the linked essay that jumped out at me the most:

Section 11382 provides that "No vote cast in the recall election shall be counted for any candidate unless the voter also voted for or against the recall of the officer sought to be recalled." Put simply, this requirement conditions the right to vote for a successor to a recalled official on the voter's willingness to weigh in on the recall itself, by voting for or against the recall measure.

Is it just me, or is the language of the Statute put more simply than the authors' "simplification"?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:48 PM | Comments (1)

August 06, 2003

Justice Ginsberg's Global View

I've been surfing the blogosphere in recent days looking for something - anything - that I'd be interested in blogging about. Not much happening in the on the Iraqi front, Andrew Sullivan ran himself exhausted on the gay marriage issue, Drudge and the news sites all talked about Kobe Bryant alot. Even Emporer Misha's been relatively quite the past few days. Hell, I even checked out Instapundit for ideas! Nothing.
I ended up presenting my case for the identity of Deep Throat and blathering on and on about tobacco taxation.

But, I finally found something that piques my perspicacity (sorry), and I can hardly believe that everyone let this little item from Yahoo News pass by unmolested!!

Ginsburg: Int'l Law Shaped Court Rulings
Sat Aug 2, 9:48 PM ET

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court is looking beyond America's borders for guidance in handling cases on issues like the death penalty and gay rights, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites) said Saturday.

WHAT?!!!! Ex-squeeze me?! I baking powder?!! Look to the U.S. Constitution, Ruthie. You remember that, that thing you took an oath to uphold...?

The justices referred to the findings of foreign courts this summer in their own ruling that states may not punish gay couples for having sex.
And in 2002, the court said that executing mentally retarded people is unconstitutionally cruel. That ruling noted that the practice was opposed internationally.

As for executing the mentally retarded being unconstitution on the grounds of it being "cruel and unusual", that requires no look beyond our shores.

But, the Authority of the Federal government to rule on a State sodomy case requires an examination of our own Constitution -- whatever the verdict -- and not on any non-U.S. law or court decisions.
Most foreign courts have no sworn Duty to observe and protect a Seperation of government Powers, nor to respect the sovereignty of local jurisdiction. Apparantly Justice Ginsberg, and a few others on the SCOTUS, don't believe they do either:

"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.

Am I the only one who sees something bizarre in that sentence? An "American Constitution Society" that seems intent on undermining the purpose of the Constitution. Precious.

And "Our island or lone ranger mentality"?! Er, would that be the Independence from European rule that our forebears fought and died for? Would that be our belief that we govern by a Rule of Law, not of the whim of tyrants? Would that be our belief that governments derive their just powers only by the consent of the Governed, not by the "mentality" of unchecked -- and unbalanced -- Judges?

Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.

How 'bout being more open to recognizing the limits of your Authority? A "global view of judicial decision making"?!! Who the hell are you to look to anything but the Law and Constitution of the United States -- written by the People whom it governs -- to adjudicate a U.S. case? Huh? Answer me!

Okay, the article then presents some clear-headed rebuttals from Justice Scalia and others, but since reading that calms me down, let's just skip to the final paragraphs:

Ginsburg said Saturday that the Internet is making decisions of courts in other countries more readily available in America, and they should not be ignored.

God, you're dumb. Courts in other countries don't make decisions based on U.S. Constitution law, ours does.

"While you are the American Constitution Society, your perspective on constitutional law should encompass the world," she told the group of judges, lawyers and students. "We are the losers if we do not both share our experiences with and learn from others."

What have you been smoking, Ruthie? Can you hear yourself talking? In all my years of studying law (as a hobby) I've never seen a more dumbass oxymoron that what I underlined.

And "learn from others?" We've learned a lot from other over the centuries. The framers of the Constitution learned that tyrants will tax a people into poverty to fund their glory.
We've seen how they disarm the people to secure their station, ravage village after village to subdue the People into docile servitude.
We've learned that racism can, when authority is centralized, result in genocide.
We've learned that Socialism breeds despair and hopelessness, leading only to economic mediocrity at best.
We've learned that imposing any small restrictions on the speech, assembly, media, privacy, right to due process of law, and Property will only lead to large ones.
Yep, we've learned alot from others.

But, for the sake of the issue directly at hand, just remember that it all comes down to this one: We've learned that a judiciary must be constrained to Law as written by representatives of, and accountable to, the People that it governs.

Oh, and I got a global view for you right here....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:02 AM | Comments (6)

August 05, 2003

Smoke Screen

Thanks to a link over at Misha's I've been able to calculate what the price of a pack of cigarettes might be today were it not for the rediculous Taxes (read: "freedom-of-Choice fines").

In 1972 the price of a pack of cigarettes was $.35 (I know that because my cousin Danny used to buy them -- for his dad *ahem* -- when we were kids.
Projecting that price through the inflation idex to 2002, the price of a pack should be $1.52.

I can't get a pack in Connecticut for under $4.45, and most places sell them for a price much closer to $5. (and in tobacco-tax-crazy New York City the cost is closer to $8!!)

It's a travesty that the local and State governments profit many times more from the sale of tobacco than the tobacco producers, yet the States sue the tobacco companies for even MORE millions and billions on top of it.

The rationale behind the lawsuits -- and also behind the taxes -- was that the States needed the money to offset the costs of medical care for smoking related illnesses. Strangely, very little of the billions won in the lawsuits was ever spent on health related services. (I'll provide a link to a report on that topic that came out a few months ago..if I can find it..)

So here's the trick: First the State offers help to pay for any medical costs that you may incur due to smoking related illness. Then the State taxes the bejeezus out of you, specifically, the smoker who's been offered this benefit, to cover these alledged costs to the State.
If I smoke one and a half packs a day, I'm paying about $100 a month in cigarette taxes to the State. I think I could get some pretty good insurance policy for less than that price, even as a smoker.

Some political blatherbots claim that they want to impose high taxes on cigarettes in order to pressure smokers to quit. What a load of rot.

First of all, taxing people for daring to exercize their Right to make a choice about their lives that is perfectly legal -- no matter how "unpopular" -- is tyranny, not Service.
Secondly, the reason they claim we need the taxes (as opposed to public service announcements, etc) to help to stop people from smoking is because nicotine is so highly addictive. "Hit 'em in the pocketbook, that'll learn 'em." But, since it's so addictive, the vast majority of smokers will only end up poorer, spending a greater chunk of their disposable - and not so disposable - income on the taxes. The Ledger-slaters know this. Cigarette tax bills are revenue bills, not healthcare bills.

Bill Clinton's favorite excuse, when calling for federal tobacco taxes, was to claim that it would keep cigarettes out of the mouths of The Children(TM).
Uuh... Excuse me, but, I am not a child. Why would I have to pay this tax?
We already card people who might be under 16, or 18, or whatever it is in your State (or has sovereignty on this issue gone the way of the drinking age, the speed limit, and "controlled substances"?). The purchasing of cigarettes by a 15 year old is already illegal, and is strictly enforced at each point of purchase.

Apply the Clintonian logic to this: It's illegal to vote in a State election without being a legal resident of that State. This is enforced at the polling place. But wait, we can make it more difficult for non-residents to vote illegally if we move all of the polling places to the geographic center of the State!
Live near the border and have to drive hundreds of miles just to vote? Too bad, homie; think of the chillllldren!

Adding another @$&%*(^@$* tax to a pack of smokes in order to enforce a the age/sale law is not only just as outrageous, it's a fraud.

Legislators like money. They don't need reasons to raise taxes, only self-righteous-touchy-feely sounding excuses.
Cigarette smokers are a perfect cash cow. Non-smokers hate smoking. Smokers are easily ridiculed and their Rights are rarely defended.

Legislators will claim to want to reduce and/or end smoking. This is so they can raise taxes, file class-action lawsuits, and maybe get a few votes from anti-smokers (as opposed to mere non-smokers) by banning smoking in "public" places. (Most of these "public" places are, of course, private property... but let's not stop the government from clouding that issue as well...)

But one thing they will not do is ban the sale of tobacco. Legislators don't want you to quit smoking. Why would they? There's no money in it for them.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:58 PM | Comments (3)

August 04, 2003

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: if you use it, you lose it?

Bill Gates, of Charleston, S.C., was sick and tired of the danger to his family caused by gun-toting drug dealers. See HERE.

"I told the police, 'Bring the coroner and body bags the next time you come out here,' " he said. "Nobody is going to run me out of my home."

At about 4:30 am on Friday, Aug 1st, Bill and his wife were rudely awakened by gunfire on their front lawn, just outside their bedroom window. His wife, Yvonne, screamed and dropped to the floor. Bill thought maybe Yvonne had been shot. He grabbed his shotgun and fired three rounds at the punks, hitting two. A third dirtbag lay wounded from a 9mm bullet taken in the firefight between the the drug dealers.

This was only the latest in a long string of such events. Inside the home -- on a wall facing the street -- is a bullet hole from a previous gunfight on their lawn.

"The good Lord was with me that day because I had just moved my grandbaby from that couch," Yvonne Gates said. "She would have been killed because the bullet hit the couch."

This is the house that Bill grew up in. His parents owned it, and passed it on to him when they died. The drug dealing punks were on his property spraying bullets that occassionally entered the home where there are people inside. Bill Gates had every right to respond to that early morning scumfest in exactly the way that he did.
And the police seem to understand that:

While police did not publicly approve of what Gates did, they filed no charges against him Friday.
"We have no plans to arrest him," Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg said. "We can't see from where we sit where a crime's been committed. People have the right to provide for their safety, and we believe that is what he was doing."

So, can someone explain the reason for what came next?

Gates, who is an avid hunter and proudly displays two large mounted deer heads among the photographs of children and grandchildren in his living room, had all seven of the guns he owns confiscated by the police until their investigation is complete.

Since when do the police have the authority to violate Bill's Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms... when no charges were even filed, and when all of his arms are legally owned? Was there even a warrant issued for the seizure of this property?

Leaving Bill and Yvonne defenseless -- and making a public declaration about their defenselessness -- against possible retaliation from the friends and colleagues of the wounded warloons makes about as much sense as... as... aw hell I dunno... selling the car for gas money.

Bill wont be taking this laying down, though;

He vows that he will be ready if friends of the three men try to retaliate, and he smiled as he said he planned to acquire a gun to protect himself.
"They better make sure they get me if they come back, because if they don't get me, I'm going to kill all of them," Gates said. >"I'm 67 and don't have that long to live anyway."

Well, I don't know 'bout that, Bill. Stick around a while longer, will ya? Some people believe that only the police should be allowed to have guns. We need every person we've got who realizes that those who are threatened have the primary right to defend themselves; not some right to be defended only by their government.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2003

Reading the 2nd Amendment to the U.N.

An excellent post - and thread of comments -- over at Misha's about a UN effort underway to register all firearms worldwide(!) reminds me of something I've wanted to say for a long time about how to read the single sentence of the Second Amendment;

"A well-regulated militia, being neccessary to the security of a free State, the Right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

As you can see by reading in the second item in my Links list, "know your Rights", an accepted interpretation (at least among those who can decipher plain English) is that "since the State needs a militia for it's security, and the militia is comprised of all able men of a certain age group, the people need a secure right to bear arms."

Of course, as made clear in the "know your Rights" link, the 2nd Amendment does NOT a) restrict that Right to be protected only if the 18th century structure of State militias remains in practice, or b) reserve the Right only to members of a State militia...as many gun-grabbers like to argue. The militia is invoked only as one example of why the Right is protected.

So, anyway, here is my suggested additional interpretation:
"Since the State must, for the sake of it's security, neccessarily have a standing militia, the People also must have a Right to bear arms for the sake of their security."

Read the 2nd Amendment again with that interpretation in mind. You will see, I hope, that it is just as legit. It's just another way of saying "If all firearms were in the hands of the State, then the last means of removing tyranny would be gone."

The rationale that a well-armed Citizenry is the last line of the defense of their Liberty is not only sound, it is consistent with everything we know about the intent of the Founders.
For example, James Madison wrote in Federalist 46:

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of."

Madison was not refering to the ambitions of a foreign State, but of the Federal Government of the United States.
Yes, he's writing about the power of the States, through an armed militia, to secure our Rights. But I insist that the Right of the People to take up arms -- even independent of the States -- against a tyrant is implied.
Wha..? Yes. Because what is being defended are the Rights of the People, not the State.
(People have Rights. States have powers; limited by Law and granted by the Governed.)

Madison compared the prospects of a well-armed American people to securing their Rights with that of the subjects of European tyrants, then and now:

"Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.
Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors."

Someone once said (I don't remember who. Probably some tyrant...): "I keep my friends close, and my enemies closer."
The principles of Federalism -- the philosophy that authority is best kept as local as possible -- is the best way to ensure that a powerful centralized government wont even be in a position to become a tyranny.

The UN wants us to register our guns with them. If we value our Freedom and our sovereignty, and our ability to secure them, going along with their little plan would be unhealthy, unwise, and, daggummit, unAmerican!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:47 PM | Comments (5)

July 18, 2003

welfare as match-maker: sound investment or big brother bloating up?

The Bush Administration has some good intentions, and is pushing an initiative to promote marriage among Welfare recipients as part of an overhaul of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. See a news item here.

The bill would earmark $300 million to do...er...what exactly?

"The Administration is vague about what the money would go for, but says it would help couples that are already interested in marriage, perhaps through financial incentives or by offering counciling."

So, we're going to pay people, with public funds, to get married? Or, perhaps, just council them into it? Hmmm. The obvious question is; "Why would the Federal Government have any business even CARING about who gets married and who doesn't?" The obvious answer is: "Because it spends our money."

This is yet another illustration of how the self-appointed "social engineers" in Government rationalize their ever-more pervasive presence in our lives; Since the Government is paying for it, the Government must regulate anything that effects the bottom line. And that means regulating our Choices.

Since the Government offers to provide a healthcare program, It has the authority -- nay, moral duty -- to levy fines, in the form of taxes, on our personal choices about what we eat, drink, smoke, etc.
Since the Government offers so generously to send the States' they're own money back for the funding of roads and bridges, It has the Power -- nay, moral duty -- to extort the States into writing speed limit laws and "National Drinking Age" laws.

In this case, the Marriage Initiative in the revamped Welfare Reform Act, it's a little more subtle (participation would be, presumably, voluntary for couples already interested in marriage), but the principle at it's core is the same thing: the Fed's assumed Authority to regulate whatever effects It's bottom line.

While touting the initiative's well-intentioned goals, Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa), said, "The fact of the matter is, marriage is very important tool for economic survival."

Of course. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all parents were also spouses! The kids have a family that is whole again! Yes, yes, yes, that's all well and good. But do the keepers of the Public Purse really believe that marrying for money...a more secure financial situation... is something that single mothers and fathers have never thought about before? "Wow, I wont be so broke if I got married? That's amazing insight Mr Government Counsellor! And thanks for the check!"

The extortion, as usual, is directed at the States:

"The Government would spend $300 million per year on programs promoting marriage. That includes $200 million in federal dollars, and $100 million States would have to spend in matching funds."

(((Actually, since I haven't seen the actual text of the bill that passed in the House, I'm having trouble figuring out how the extortion will be enforced.
The "national speed limit" and "national drinking age" are enforced by threatening any State that refuses to write the neccessary laws with requiring that their Highway funds by directed at promotional campaigns against drinking and driving and speeding and thinking. If a State refused to budget for the Marriage Initiative matching funds, would they then have to re-direct their Welfare funds to...er...a promotional campaign tauting the benefits of marriage? I'll have to look into that...)))

There's a very simple Law of Good Intentions; good intentions aren't enough. Throwing our good money into this proposed program -- whose promise of any meaningful success is, it seems to me, anemic -- is a classic example of why our personal and State sovereignty is being co-opted and centralized at the "top"; the Constitution is not respected when it's in the way of "progress".

As Mike Tanner of the Cato Institute said (in a manner dangerously close to sarcastim): "Who can be against marriage?...Especially if you're going to face re-election in a year and a half. You don't want to be on the record against marriage!"
In Politics; poll results are the only results that matter.

^originally posted Fri. July 18 6:06pm

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:06 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2003

double murder charge for scott peterson?

Mavra Stark, NOW's Morris County, New Jersey chapter President, has expressed some concerns over charging Scott Peterson with the murder of his and his dead wife Laci's eight-month old fetus. A Bergen Daily Record article about this can be read by clicking HERE.

As Ms. Stark states her concern; "If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder." "There's something about this that bothers me a little bit," Stark said. "Was it born or was it un-born? If it was un-born
then I can't see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder."

The issue is abortion rights, and how "elevating" an un-born fetus to a status whereby it's intentional demise (by a third party--mother exempted presumably) could bring a murder charge upon the person(s) responsible for it's death. If the killing of an eight month old fetus is be considered murder, is that only the first step in the slippery slope toward calling all abortion murder?

The legal and philosophical questions can give you a migraine. Roe vs Wade guarantees an abortion on demand to any woman during the first trimester of her pregnancy. After that a State can write it's own laws regarding the status of the fetus. One State can outlaw any and all abortions after the first 90 days, another can legally protect any and all abortions right up until the actual birth of the child. Since the Federal government doesn't recognize a person as a citizen or non-citizen until they're born, the States are free to put whatever restrictions on abortion they see fit.

According to the linked article, "Under California law, murder charges can result if the fetus is older than seven weeks." This is either a misprint -- as seven weeks falls well within the first trimester wherein Roe vs Wade has operatively ruled that a fetus is not a person entitled to any legal protection whatsoever -- and it should read "seven months", or, the California laws allow the fetus to be protected if the mother is not the one responsible for the loss.

Assuming that the language in the article is accurate and the latter interpretation is correct, the legal and philosophical gymnastics inherent is fashioning coherent abortion law is at the heart of the Peterson double-murder debate. When is a fetus a person, and who is to decide that? One six month old fetus is not a person because it's mother decides it is not a person. Another six month old fetus is a person, because it's mother decides that it is.

That's all well and good for many Americans, it seems like an acceptable compromise between our conflicted thoughts and feelings about the issue. But when the subjective individual decisions on the status of a human is codified into law there is a curious problem: equal protection doesn't extend to the un-born. If the legal status of the fetus is settled by the whim of the mother, then it's not the fetus' rights that are being protected; it is the mother's. But, then, if the fetus has no such inalienable rights, it can have no such status that the mother might claim it to have. A would-be "murderer" is at the mercy of the Rule Of Fiat, not the Rule Of Law. But it's the Law that allows this to be! Oy, my brain hurts!

I believe that NOW, at least as evidenced by Marva Stark, is in favor of legal abortions right up until birth since she also said:

"He (the 8 month old male fetus) was wanted and expected, and she (Laci Peterson) had a name for him (Connor), but if he wasn't born, he wasn't born. It sets a kind of precedent."

She is clearly in favor using only the Federal government's criteria for deciding upon the status of the un-born: If it ain't born it ain't a person, and has no legal status and no right of protection under the law. She (and presumably NOW) opposes any restriction on abortion on demand through the entire nine month term. State laws that put restrictions on abortion after the first trimester that are actually enforced represent a "kind of precedent" that she fears will lead to the spread of more restrictions, resulting in the those rights only guaranteed by Roe vs Wade....and then that will fall as well.

Not for nothin', but I think that opposing the double-murder charge for Scott Peterson is evidence that Stark is a bit paranoid. It's kind of like a pro-2nd Amendment guy saying "If they take away our anti-aircraft missle launchers then our shotguns are next!" One shouldn't be so worried about the slippery slope of vanishing rights that one supports infanticide to defend one's privacy.

Well, I think Ms. Stark is aware of that as she did qualify her understandable concerns with the caveat, "it's just something I've been ruminating on." I've been ruminating on it, too...and now I need some Advil.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:31 PM | Comments (3)

February 23, 2003

Independence vs. the courts: entrenchment of the incumbant party

Well, the 2002 election ballots are still warm and the 2004 cycle has begun. Richard Gephardt becomes the 47th Democrat to announce his intention to seek the nomination, John McCain is mulling over a possibility that he might challenge George W. Bush for the Republican nod. Or is he...?

It may seem like old news now, but when all this talk of election campaigns starts raging, my thoughts often turn to that travesty of a New Jersey Supreme Court decision made last October. You remember the one: Robert Torricelli--in a scandal induced freefall in the polls--bowed out of the race in order to be replaced on the ballot by a Democrat who had a chance of winning. The one where State law was tossed aside by the Democrat-packed bench. The one where the so-called "two-party system" was officially codified into law.

In 2000, Sen. McCain threatened court action in the case of the New York state Republican primary--where George W. Bush was the only one of the several contestants listed since, by law, the Republican Party of New York had the right to list only the candidate(s) it wished to list. Steve Forbes, in a televised debate, spoke against the practice as the institution of "a Soviet-style" forced party conformity. Shouldn't Republican primary voters have a choice among willing candidates? While the inner-workings of a political party may seem out of the jurisdiction of a state court; the outer-workings of a general election are clearly subject to existing statute. If McCain decides to seek a "third-party" nomination in '04, he may find his tussle with the New York Republicans to have been inadequate preparation for what lies ahead.

There are many reasons to protest the 2002 NJSC ruling. Sure, they ignored the statutory 51-day deadline for a party to change it's Statewide ballot. Sure, they substituted their definition of a "right to vote" for the Legislatures Constitutional authority to proscribe the voting process. Sure, they invoked their "duty" to divine the legislative intent of a statute that was wholly unambiguous. But those aren't my main concerns with the ruling. (Those are, of course, important concerns. But, for the sake of this post, I'll confine myself to the most unprecedented aspect of the ruling.)

Consider this seemingly high-minded portion:

"...the Court being of the view that -(it) is in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system and to submit to the electorate a ballot bearing the names of candidates of both major political parties as well as all other qualifying parties and groups." "And the Court remaining of the view that the election statutes should be liberally construed --to allow the greatest scope for public participation in the electoral process, to allow candidates to get on the ballot, to allow parties to put their candidates on the ballot, and most importantly, to allow the voters a choice on Election Day."

Since they are claiming that this ruling, on the clear and unambiguous election law, is to "preserve the two-party system", and to make sure that candidates "of the two major parties" get on the ballot, they are stating in no uncertain terms that the Democrat and Republican parties (the Incumbant Party) are to be treated, in a court of law, with priviledge and deference not to be extended to any other party. The "Soviet-style" establishment of political parties has taken root in the New Jersey Judicial branch.

Political parties are not government institutions, they are associations of citizens pooling their resources and working together toward a common cause. The candidate on the New Jersey ballot was Bob Torricelli, not the Democratic Party.
Their defense of voter choice, as they consider that to be "most important", is completely indefensible. The voters had, as allowed by law, a Democrat candidate on the ballot--and his name was Torricelli. There were also six other candidates on the ballot. The fiat that there would have been no choice without both major-party's fronting of a candidate establishes that "third-party" candidates (no matter how many there are, they're always called "third-party" candidates) are henceforth functionally illegitimate; they offer no choice: they are not an option.

One can only conclude that if the New Jersey Legislature were to exercise their constitutional authority and, as was once common practice, appoint their Senators, the NJSC would have to rule that action unconstitutional. Also, that if the justices of NJ were instead in Massachusetts, or Virginia, or any of hundreds of other states, towns and districts, that uncontested elections (such as the uncontested re-election campaigns of John Kerry [D-Ma] and John Warner [R-Va]) would have to be ruled unconstitutional. Shall we mandate that political parties must sponsor a candidate? Should that mandate be restricted only to the "major" parties?. Is that any of the Courts damn business?

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, we've been told. New Jersey may have saved the Democratic Party from defeat last November, but they've paved the way for all "non-major" parties to be lawfully discriminated against in the future. These "third parties" are also associations of citizens pooling their resources and working together for a common cause, and entitled to equal protection under the law. Yet the Court, by virtue of the very stated rationale that formed it's judgement in the Torricelli case, has ruled against them. Shall we all hail the death of dissent?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

the Legislation that Ate my Freedom

Seems US Congressmen actually take notice when they realize that the victims of their well-intentioned incremental erosion of liberty turn out to be themselves.
It just makes me giddy these politicians will pass campaign laws they haven't read. They don't notice it--or care--that much when their willful incompetence governs the rest of us, but when the unintended consequences come back to bite them, well, they're positively horrified.

See Wednesday's New York Times story on the McCain-Feingold seminars. It made my week!

Seeing the number of constitutional issues involved (speech, assembly, due process, equal protection et al), one can't help but be further convinced that legislators are willing to knowingly pass unconstitutional laws, add language about "severability", and wait and see if the courts will bother to clean up the mess. In fear that opposition to a popular measure (though campaign finance reform never really was "popular") in defense of the Constitution and rule of law--as they'd taken an oath to do--may not sit well with their constituency, the alleged protectors of liberty shrug, pass the buck, and become the architects of tyranny.

The precedents for this operative contempt for the Constitution have been mounting. The national speed limit, the national drinking age, the Controlled Substances Act, and many others, all claim Federal authority in areas where none is granted by the Constitution.

In the Controlled Substances Act, title 21 sec 801, the difference between inter-state commerce and intra-state commerce is made irrelevent in Federal Satute when the needs of the Government to enforce the spirit of it's pet policies are literally limited by Art. I sec. 8.
In the speed limit and drinking age laws, the 10th amendment is overrun by Federal extortion and strong-arming. The statutes even go so far as to claim that the States still retain their sovereignty since they are free to make a choice about where their Federal dollars are going to be directed; for roads and highways-as they're designed to be, or for public service projects to educate the unwashed masses about the evils of drinking and driving.

When a State or Individual's "free choice" carries consequences, and retaliation, from the Federal government, that Constitutionally protected Sovereignty no longer exists.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)
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