Tag Archives: constitution

Kathy Weppner Gets Participation Award

24 Sep

Now that the Erie County Democratic Committee’s biennial re-org shenanigans have devolved into Pigeon/Mazurek self-parody, let’s check up on Kathy Weppner, the very serious candidate for very serious congress

Ms. Weppner took to Twitter and Facebook to tout her 1st place award in the ArgleBargle olympics. Or something. 

She received some sort of press-release-only “award” from a school choice advocate in New Jersey.  For the uninitiated, New Jersey is quite far from here and not at all within the 26th Congressional District. Rabbi Israel Teitelbaum is the head of this “Alliance for Free Choice in Education”, which has one of the reddest, whitest, and bluest webpages in all of the world. 

Rabbi Teitelbaum’s cause is to force taxpayers to fund religious schools under the guise of “school choice”; a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Under the Supreme Court’s test in Lemon v. Kurtzman, any alleged violation of the Establishment Clause will be determined through a three-prong test: (1) whether the government’s action has a secular or a religious purpose; (2) whether the primary effect of the government’s action is to advance or endorse religion; and (3) whether the government’s policy or practice fosters an excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Handing out taxpayer money to fund religious schools violates all three prongs of the Lemon test; to be unconstitutional, in need only violate one. As Kathy Weppner points out, if we don’t enforce the law, we’ll become a lawless society

So what does western New York’s most unintentionally hilarious candidate do? She accepts an award from a ersatz Constitutionalist group that advocates violating the Constitution. 

The Alliance for Free Choice in Education is pleased and proud to congratulate Kathy Weppner, Republican & Conservative candidate for the House of Representatives from New York’s 26th District, for leading the battle to restore Constitutional Government. She joined candidates from across the country who visited the new nonpartisan website [omitted], and took the pledge to do all she can in support of the Constitution, beginning with lower taxes, individual-controlled healthcare and parental choice in education.

So, in order to get this “congratulations”, all Weppner had to do was scour the internet for some cockamamie pledge to take – a pledge not to her putative constituents, but to a particular special interest group that seeks to starve the public schools and subsidize religion with taxpayer money

The site was recently developed by the New Jersey based Alliance to provide the ways and means for citizen candidates to identify themselves as champions of the Constitution, and where voters may meet them, vet them and support them.

While the site is nonpartisan, its mission is to restore Constitutional government by identifying and supporting those who are truly committed to the Constitution and its clearly-defined limited powers. Although most Americans profess to support the Constitution, and every public official takes an oath to do so, a plain reading of the Constitution’s opening paragraph – the Preamble – does not resemble twenty-first-century America.

What’s great about that passage is that the Preamble has absolutely no legal effect.  It’s an introduction.  

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Constitution has been our founding document for over 200 years, and some obscure Rabbi in New Jersey has declared that it bears no resemblance to contemporary American society, and Weppner touts this as totally cool.  So, what the hell are these people talking about? 

One-million-four-hundred-thousand gang members roaming the streets of American [sic], and a crime rate that impacts at least three percent of Americans annually, cannot be described as “domestic tranquility.” Open borders will not lead to “the common defense,” and the “blessings of liberty” are inconsistent with government financially coercing parents to send their children to substandard schools where they are subject to government indoctrination.                                                                                                                                            

Gosh, that doesn’t sound nice at all. Gang members roaming the streets! Remember back in 1787 when there was no crime at all? Remember how we committed genocide against the American Indians? Now that’s what I call “domestic tranquility”.  Also, the War of 1812, slavery, the Alien & Sedition Acts, the Burr/Hamilton duel in New Jersey – all of these things are ostensibly better examples of “domestic tranquility” and “liberty” than what idiots call “open borders” and public schools -an idea pioneered by Horace Mann.  

The United States was a product of the Enlightenment – not the middle ages. 

One need not be a Constitutional expert to recognize that we have veered far off the Constitutional track. In an attempt to turn the tide, masses turned out to vote in the most recent midterm election of 2010, and changed more seats than in any midterm election since 1938. Yet, the distance from our founding principles continues to grow more quickly than ever. It will take informed and activated voters to drive us back on track.

I thought this was a “nonpartisan” organization? 

We can restore Constitutional government, provided we not only vote, but also vote for those who stand for the Constitution and its essential principles of liberty, limited government and equal opportunity under the law. Ideally, we need to meet the candidates and vet them, just as we would do if we were hiring an employee. Alternatively, we may rely on those who have done so. Modern technology now makes it possible for this to be facilitated online.

The ways and means to restore our nation back onto its Constitutional track are now available. It’s now up to every American to do what it takes to turn our government onto the right track. We are most grateful to Kathy Weppner, of New York’s 26thCongressional District, for her courage, fortitude and tireless efforts on behalf of us all. 

TL;DR: Phony Constitutionalist Kathy Weppner gets a “thank you” from an obscure New Jersey crank who doesn’t understand the Constitution. 

Transforming Americans into Enemy Combatants

19 Aug

Stealing a pack of cigars and shoving a clerk justifies being shot 6 times to death

If the rioting in Ferguson, MO is to stop, the police should be as forthcoming with the incident report of Brown’s homicide as they were with the surveillance tape of him apparently ripping off cigars from a store. If cops could justifiably kill every kid who shoplifted or shoved someone, we’d probably be almost all out of kids

What I’m waiting for is all the big swinging 2nd Amendment / open carry dicks to defend Ferguson residents against tyrannical government behavior. The people who live in that community have a right to protest, and, as one Facebook friend writes, “the police are supposed to be peace keepers. Not funeral planners in fucking camouflage and armored tanks.”

Many have already convicted Michael Brown of Black thugdom in the 1st degree, and are using an irrelevant incident to justify his killing. In the meantime, we don’t have a copy of the police incident report regarding the shooting (those who support the shooting don’t wonder why, or give a damn because it might interfere with their conviction of Michael Brown), and the police officer has, as far as anyone knows, not once been required to give a statement to anyone in any forum, much less under oath. 

No one is justifying looting or violence in connection with these protests, and not all of the demonstrations have been thus. Consider whether a police response that looks more like Iraq than Missouri is a ham-handed provocation that serves mostly to treat local residents as enemy combatants. 

Scary big Black kid may have resisted arrest or talked back to a cop, so don’t tase or pepper spray him. Just shoot him 6 times.

2nd Amendment and Kathy Weppner

29 May

According to the silly lady, the founders of our country supposedly included the 2nd Amendment so that our servicemen and women could keep their arms and use them to commit treason and insurrection. 

I’m pretty sure the intended purpose of the 2nd Amendment was the exact opposite of that. But here’s a chillingly awful video that Tea Party Kathy released on her husband’s YouTube account. My favorite is when she stuffs the pistol in her pants. 

UPDATE: As you can see, Weppner removed this video. I looked at her other accounts – Friends of Kathy Weppner and Weppner for Congress, and it doesn’t appear there, either. Most of her videos appear on an account labeled “Dr. Weppner”

Weppner has already made herself famous by scrubbing just about any trace of her pre-2014 existence from the internet. Now, the scrubbing takes place in real time. 

WBEN: Fascism Advocacy

13 Apr

Over the next week, consider for a moment that the radio station that brings you the traffic and weather together in the morning, along with a roster of commentators whose extremism builds as the day rolls along. 

But in the last few months or so, the station’s operations director, Tim Wenger, has developed for himself something of a largely off-air personality. In some ways, it’s even more malignant than that of his top talkers. He conducts himself like the most deluded and hateful trolls on the WBEN Facebook page. 

Consider Wenger’s completely unprofessional and false attempt to shame WEDG’s Josh Potter, and this series of horrible, reactionary pronouncements from Wenger’s own Twitter account, as well as the control he obviously enjoys over the WBEN Twitter and Facebook accounts at various parts of the day.  

Whatever personality Wenger is trying to manufacture for himself, it’s horrible and repugnant. 

It culminated in these two Tweets from him, one of which was, of course, simultaneously posted to the WBEN Facebook page. 

No, actually, I’ve never felt like “throwing a shoe” at any American political figure. Mostly because I’m not a violent moron, but also because I feel secure enough in the political system and in debate and discussion that “throwing a shoe” or otherwise committing an assault and battery doesn’t enter into it.  Remember when an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush? Did Wenger think that was acceptable? Reasonable? Rational?

I didn’t think it was persuasive or appropriate. People enter politics, and they should expect to be vetted, scrutinized, and questioned. They should not expect to dodge physical assault. They do not deserve battery – no matter how much you disagree with them. For everyone who thinks Hillary Clinton deserves to be hit by a shoe because of Benghazi, I can probably find you two who think that Bush should be behind bars for war crimes. 

So, there’s nothing at all funny or appropriate about someone throwing a shoe at George Bush or at Hillary Clinton. Anyone who thinks differently is no different from a fascist blackshirt, trying to do with violence what they can’t do with words. It is beyond un-American. 

 

The video Wenger loves shows a small handful of protesters minding their own damn business. They had in no way attacked, provoked, or otherwise antagonized the two servicemen who attacked them. You can see in the last few frames, one protester with his hands to his side – he’s asking to reason with them.

In response, they curse at him – this from Tim Wenger, who just can’t tolerate the profane blogs. It’s ok to say “fuck” if you’re a Marine intimidating, assaulting, battering, and robbing a couple of guys on a moped. 

That protest, by the way, took place in Albuquerque.  The people on the moped were protesting an epidemic of police brutality in that city, culminating in the homicide of an unarmed homeless man. The people on the moped were exercising their right to free speech, protesting police shootings. Their use of an upside-down flag wasn’t an act of disrespect – the upside-down flag is a distress signal, used in many protests as political speech indicating that the republic is in danger. Go look at the title card for “House of Cards”.  Should belligerent and ignorant young men throw shoes, perhaps, at TVs displaying it? 

There is nothing to love about what that Marine does to the protester, whether he’s an “ass” or not. (More profanity! Shock! Horror!). Engaging in street fights with political opponents is what the blackshirts and brownshirts did in the 20s and 30s. That is the only context within which this assault and robbery of a flag can be viewed. The only lens through which we can see this as acceptable or lovable behavior is the lens of fascism. 

 

So, understand that Buffalo: the guy who runs operations for the Entercom corporation locally is a proponent of violent, fascist behavior. He is an outspoken, unabashed fan of violence and intimidation for political ends. To say this is un-American is a dramatic understatement. But even more insidious is that – whether he holds these views sincerely or not – he is encouraging that sort of behavior from the malinformed people listening to WBEN who think Michael Savage is too liberal. 

Tim Wenger and WBEN are encouraging violence against people who hold different political views from them. I don’t know why this is not a big deal. 

If this was happening in the 1930s, this newsreel would be appropriate: 

Shane Kinney’s NRA Shirt and Your Rights

15 Mar

A public school cannot stop a kid from wearing this

The Bill of Rights in our Constitution – it’s easy to cherry-pick the parts of it you want to defend. It’s also easy to see who cherry-picks what. 

Western New Yorkers have tested the First Amendment on two occasions in the past few weeks. I highlighted one of them already – the efforts of a handful of people in the Clarence community to censor books, censor parts of the curriculum, and demagogue the disease prevention unit of the sex education curriculum. The other is Shane Kinney’s NRA t-shirt on Grand Island

Kinney was asked to remove a “Protected by Smith & Wesson” sweatshirt, and then to turn a pro-NRA t-shirt inside-out. The school apparently gave Kinney a suspension when he refused to do so. 

I don’t like the gun lobby, and I don’t like guns. I detest the gun culture in all of its incarnations. I don’t like Freudian allusions whereby one extols the virtue of self-protection with killing machines and their long, cold, hard shafts. As point of fact, I hate guns. 

That doesn’t mean Shane Kinney’s rights to free speech should be infringed. 

Eugene Volokh explains that at least one federal circuit has declared school prohibitions on shirts that display guns. The issue is a tricky one for schools. A school is a government entity, but it deals almost exclusively with minors. A school is well within its rights, for instance, to censor a child’s clothing if it, for instance, glorifies or promotes violence, drugs, alcohol, or some other inappropriate or harmful behavior. When it comes to guns, the Constitution is invoked, and it’s a matter of degrees. 

An NRA t-shirt that quotes an excerpt from the 2nd Amendment is completely acceptable in all aspects. There is nothing objectively controversial about it, regardless of whether or not you like guns. The issue in cases such as Kinney’s revolves around the depiction of actual firearms. Here, you run into an analysis that requires you to parse the definitions of terms like “disruption” and “violence”.  A picture of two crossed rifles is not a big deal. On the other hand, a t-shirt depicting, say, a trenchcoated figure using an assault rifle to shoot a schoolkid in the head would be patently objectionable. 

But if you look at the Grand Island school district’s own dress code, it doesn’t really say much about guns. It prohibits “vulgar” or “obscene” t-shirts, and clothing cannot “promote and/or endorse the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs and/or encourage other illegal or violent activities”.  Courts use a case from the mid-60s to handle these sorts of issues. From the case Volokh cites,

Because most public school students are minors and school administrators have the duty to provide and facilitate education and to maintain order and discipline, the Supreme Court “has repeatedly emphasized the need for affirming the comprehensive authority of the States and of school officials, consistent with fundamental constitutional safeguards, to prescribe and control conduct in the schools.” Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 507, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969). Consequently, while a public school student does not “shed [his] constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the school-house gate,” id. at 506, those rights may be limited as long as the limitation is consistent with constitutional safeguards…

…”conduct by the student, in class or out of it, which for any reason — whether it stems from time, place, or type of behavior — materially disrupts class work or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.”Id. at 513, 89 S.Ct. 733. Accordingly, Tinker “requires a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance.” Saxe v. State Coll. Area Sch. Dist., 240 F.3d 200, 211 (3d Cir.2001). In sum, “if a school can point to a well-founded expectation of disruption — especially one based on past incidents arising out of similar speech — the restriction may pass constitutional muster.” Id. at 212.

Courts have upheld, for instance, students’ rights to wear black armbands to protest war, and also upheld a school’s ability to restrict or punish lewd and inappropriate language.

Arguably anything involving firearms is by definition “violent”, but in Kinney’s case, the firearms were merely depicted – in the image, they were not being fired at anyone or anything. The “protected by Smith & Wesson” sweatshirt was likely closer to the line, as it specifically invoked a threat of deadly force in response to a provocation. Even deadly force in self-defense is, by definition, violent, and under the “substantial disruption” standard in the Tinker case, that invocation of violence might be legally restricted, depending on whether the school could establish that the restriction was based on ” something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” and instead on whether the shirt would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”

I remember I was once handling a criminal matter in Massachusetts and a man with an Irish surname was being arraigned on an assault & battery charge. He had been arrested while wearing a Notre Dame jacket, which depicts an angry leprechaun with his fists up, waiting for a fight, and I thought to myself that it was an especially funny thing to be wearing under those circumstances. Does that belligerent Irish stereotype violate high school dress codes because it glorifies violence? I doubt any principal would punish a kid for that. 

But while local right-wing media have been milking this NRA shirt thing for a week now, even causing it to go national, they’ve been completely silent (as far as I can tell) as far as efforts to violate the 1st Amendment when it comes to banning award-winning literature in Clarence schools. They’ve not said anything about protecting the sex education unit recommending that kids who have sex use condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. (Abstinence is part of the curriculum, incidentally, but not the entire curriculum because that would be insane). 

So, Shane Kinney should be free to wear his NRA t-shirt and probably even his Smith & Wesson t-shirt.  It’s not my favorite thing in the world, nor something I would send my kid to school in, but my sensibilities and opinions can’t be the arbiter of what is and is not appropriate or legal. The school district likely owes Kinney an apology. 

Clarence Schools Urged to Ban Books

9 Mar

Note: At the February meeting of the Clarence school board, new trustee Jason Lahti asked the board to add an agenda item to the next meeting so that certain inappropriate materials could be discussed. The following letter was circulated to some Clarence families over the last week. The author of the letter is Lahti’s wife (and co-trustee Roger Showalter‘s sister). Shown below the embedded letter is the text of what I sent the board in advance of Monday’s school board meeting. In 1999, an effort was made to ban Harry Potter in Clarence schools. Now, we have a wider range of materials under attack. I think my letter speaks for itself, but I will add that banning books in schools is a 1st Amendment issue, and if this happens, I will gladly participate in an effort to bring a Constitutional challenge. Banning books is a much clearer and more present danger to education than anything relating to Common Core. 

Clarence School Curriculum Letter March 2014 by Alan Bedenko

 

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Clarence School Board,  

It has come to my attention that there will be an agenda item and discussion at the March 10th board meeting to address concerns about certain curriculum materials having mostly to do with English, literature, and sex ed. 

I will be blunt – I do not want the school board legislating, micromanaging, or censoring the ELA curriculum or the ELA teachers. I think that these teachers are professionals, and that the school and parents can trust them to make appropriate curriculum choices in order to stimulate our children’s minds, turn them into critical thinkers, and make them hunger not only for knowledge, but curiosity. 

It is also my understanding that a policy exists whereby a parent can opt a child out of a particular reading assignment if they have a problem with the subject matter, so the issue is moot. 

The timing of this is highly suspect. I perceive this as a renewed attempt to divide this community into factions. Last year it was the budget. This year it’s the books. Next year it will perhaps be rejection of the science curriculum, or abstinence-only education. 

The NYS School Board Association maintains that a school board member must be, among other things, a “representative of the entire community”, and not just one faction of it. 

I do not support the censorship or banning of books, and I hope that in these lean budget times, the board would choose to avoid a costly and embarrassing constitutional challenge. 

1. CONFLICT OF INTEREST

There was an informational packet sent around to some town households in the last week or so, containing a call to action and a list of wildly extracontextual selections of themes and passages from books, essays, songs, and sex ed materials. It can be found at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/211263269/Clarence-School-Curriculum-Letter-March-2014 

That packet was prepared in part and sent by Ginger Lahti, who is the sister of one board member and the wife of another. There is a clear and obvious conflict of interest, and Mssrs. Showalter and Lahti must recuse themselves from any discussion or vote on this curriculum issue. This is not to punish Mrs. Lahti from speaking out – she has every right to petition the board for whatever she chooses. But because of the close family relationship she has with two members of the board, fairness and ethics demand recusal. The Board’s own Code of Conduct demands high ethical standards and mandates avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety. I believe that this issue meets that standard, and demands recusal.

2. SEX ED

There is a handout about avoiding STDs that Mrs. Lahti finds objectionable. Another one a “sexual behavior chart”. I’m willing to bet that there are more materials that exist within the sex education curriculum, some of which likely contain information about not having sex at all. But teaching abstention does not free our district from not teaching kids how to avoid sexual risk as part of the larger health curriculum. Some kids and parents are embarrassed to discuss matters such as these, but it’s critically important for adolescents to know how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and disease. None of it forecloses a household from emphasizing abstinence within its own personal morality. 

3. LITERATURE

10 of the 24 objectionable materials are for AP classes – college level reading. These kids are at an advanced, mature stage of their academic and chronological lives and can absolutely be trusted to read about adult themes. Likewise, the educators can be trusted to select age-appropriate literature, and the uncomfortable parts of these works can be addressed and discussed.

Where one finds only “male love dolls” and “flavored lubricant”, another finds a brilliant essay on life as a homeless person. Does Jonathan Swift’s classic 1729 satire, “A Modest Proposal”, which mocks the mistreatment of the poor, now merit censorship? After all, Swift is not really advocating for the consumption of infants. Steinem didn’t write about frathouse rape to excite people’s prurient interests, but to expound on the college experience that some women endure. The “Fraternity Drinking Songs” piece demonizes sexual harassment and mistreatment of women – people should be outraged by the song, not by the piece criticizing the song and its rape lyrics.

Farewell to Manzanar isn’t about glorifying child abuse, but one Japanese-American family’s experience in the WW2 internment camps. Those camps were a nightmare – we’re now going to censor teachers from teaching about American history, because some of it was unpalatable? Should we restrict anyone from using Anne Frank’s diary in the classroom because her experience is just too much? These allegedly serious concerns include – apropos of nothing – lyrics from a 5 year-old Nelly Furtado song, and a Donn Esmonde column.

It would appear that there are passages and themes picked out of a larger work, completely out of any meaningful context. They are selected by trained, educated, licensed, professional AP English or Literature teachers so my child can become a critical thinker, a lover of reading, and a lifelong learner.

4. CONCLUSION

Education shouldn’t just be the rote memorization of facts and figures. Sure, that’s part of it, but school exists also to teach kids how to think. Life and this world are full of things that make people uncomfortable. Thinking about things that make us uncomfortable is to be encouraged, not legislated away. Given that most kids in Clarence come from a home with involved parents and relative comfort, we should all make sure that they understand, appreciate, and think critically about the world and their role in it.

If layperson parents want to ensure that their children are exposed only to “wholesome” materials (the definition of which is wholly subjective), they have myriad ways to accomplish that goal. The problem is that Clarence is not some monolith – one person’s “wholesome” is another person’s unconstitutional censorship.

Mrs. Lahti’s call to action closed with a quote from utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill; “bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men look on and do nothing.” Setting aside for a moment the insulting notion that Clarence’s ELA and health educators are “bad”, that one quote is – like all the others in that packet – wildly out of context and wholly inappropriate here. Mill’s 1867 inaugural speech at St. Andrew’s University is a great read, and a brilliant exposition on the purpose and value of higher education.

Mill went on to say that schools, “are not intended to teach the knowledge required to fit men for some special mode of gaining their livelihood. Their object is not to make skillful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings.” He described education as many things, including, “the culture which each generation purposely gives to those who are to be its successors, in order to qualify them for at least keeping up, and if possible for raising, the level of improvement which has been attained.” These children will go on to do great things, if we let them. Here’s a better Mill passage:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

Please do not censor or redact what is taught to kids in the schools. Our professional educators do not seek to add violent, or pornographic texts in order to elicit similar behaviors from students, or to excite some hypothetical violent or sexual propensities. These texts all serve a particular purpose, within their proper contexts, whereby our children are molded into adults capable of critical thought and rational analysis. Please don’t legislate someone else’s morality on our children, and breach the Constitution in the process. If parents truly fear exposing their children to the materials at issue here, they can take advantage of the existent opt-out provision. This is sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Alan & Maryl Bedenko

Clarence Center

Parents of two children in the Clarence Central School District, and School Taxpayers

Extremism in Too Many Forms

24 Feb

Obama is unser Unglück, sagte der Idiot.

Some guy was on WBEN’s Hardline with Debo show on Sunday talking lovingly about his metallic penis extenders guns. I have no idea who this person was, but he was discussing how the Heller Supreme Court decision guaranteed an individual’s right to bear arms, and that state licensing schemes are illegal prior restraints of one’s 2nd Amendment rights.  

I’ve seen a lot of gun-huggers equate the first and second Amendments and prior restraint, despite the fact that, e.g.,  an anti-government polemic in a newsweekly never put a hole in another person. These people might be interested to learn that the 1st Amendment is not interpreted as being without limitations. Likewise, Heller held that your right to bear arms is absolutely subject to limitation. States have the right to regulate the time, place, and manner of one’s gun ownership and possession. The absolutist on WBEN made no exception for ex-felons or the mentally ill, nor did he make any exception for the type of weapon. Maybe the radical gun-huggers want ex-cons to have the legal right to own grenade launchers, but thankfully the Constitution has not been so mangled by even the most activist right-wing court to allow that. 

By this time, extremist cretin and has-been one-hit wonder Ted Nugent has reneged on his promise to die or go to prison following President Obama’s re-election. Nugent has made himself the de facto spokesman for the extremist gun-hugging movement, and the reactionary tea-party right has embraced him.  Mostly, it’s because he says wildly hateful and ignorant things, and suffers no palpable consequences therefrom. Because of this, he escalates his rhetoric from time to time, and has most recently, surprisingly found some pushback after having called the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel“. Some prominent Republicans located their courage in the lost & found, and gently criticized the driver of the gun-hugging clown car. 

Why was this beyond the pale? Because subhuman, or “untermensch” and mongrel, or “mischling” were specific terms used by Nazis to dehumanize Jews and other racial undesirables. So, the gun huggers who support Nugent’s plain-speaking hatred should be fully cognizant of the fact that they are expressly condoning and supporting Nazi propaganda. Nugent and his ilk are too unintelligent and ignorant cogently to express genuine disagreements with President Obama’s policies, so they opt instead for racism, and then cry foul when they’re quite appropriately identified as racist. Simply put, not all Obama opponents are racists, but it’s safe to say that all racists are Obama opponents, and it’s not inappropriate to point out when they overlap. 

Let’s be clear on another thing: lefties sometimes say stupid things, too. When they do, they are criticized and in some cases ostracized. In at least once case, Nugent was doing the criticism. A lefty saying something stupid does not excuse Ted Nugent.  Each stupidity stands on its own demerits. Rage Against the Machine are not Democratic spokespeople, but Ted Nugent is a Republican mascot. 

It’s odd that Nugent should be the cause débile in any serious debate over policy. Ted Nugent is an admitted pedophile, (he convinced one girl’s parents to let him be her legal guardian so he could bang her that way, because ‘Murka), and avoided service in the Vietnam war by feigning insanity and shitting his pants. He loves huntin’ and shootin’ stuff that can’t fight back, but when it came time to serve his country, Nugent, “just wasn’t into it”. 

Meanwhile, we have a slide back into Apartheid as the Kansas and Arizona legislatures voted to legalize the separate but unequal treatment of the LGBT community in those states. The bill in Kansas never made it out of committee, but the Arizona bill is on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.  Both laws purport to legalize discrimination against gay people in public accommodations to protect bigots’ religious freedoms. Getting a tattoo and eating shellfish are just as prohibited in the Bible as being homosexual, but no state legislatures have yet addressed these matters.  Cowering behind a phony cloak of religion in order to justify your own bigotry, hatred, and fear is nothing new.  People used religion to justify slavery and racial discrimination. Hitler effectively created a new religion – with himself as deity – to justify the subjugation of a continent. Your religious beliefs may instruct you to hate or fear gay people, or to treat them as subhuman mongrels, but gay people are equal under the law. This is why church and state are separate. Nugent’s Nazi rhetoric and these pseudo-religious anti-gay bills are cut from the same cloth of ignorant hatred, and they serve to demean what America is and should be. 

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, it’s fun for fraternity pranksters to hang a noose and a flag of treason around a statue of James Meredith, the first black man to attend “Ole Miss”. Meredith, incidentally, is still alive and at 80 years old has more bravery and integrity in his toenail than these frat boy racists-in-training will ever have in their lives. 

University Chancellor Dan Jones said the ideas expressed by the vandals had no place at the university. But others have disagreed, saying the university should not necessarily punish free expression.

Expressing a desire to lynch a black man is protected political speech? That’s quite a stretch. Slavery and Jim Crow were based on a belief that black people were subhuman. Also

Mr. Meredith, whose iconoclastic life included a stint as an aide to the arch-conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, says the lessons of the incident have more to do with religion than race or higher education. “What has happened in America, particularly in Mississippi, is a breakdown of moral character,” Mr. Meredith, 80, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a lack of teaching of right and wrong and good and bad, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. That’s what the problem is.”

Mr. Meredith said the “nonsense” episode would intensify his effort to have his likeness removed from the university’s campus.

“It’s a false idol, and it’s an insult not only to God, it’s an insult to me,” Mr. Meredith said.

Free speech, like the right to bear arms, isn’t absolute or limitless and the government has to tread lightly when punishing or restraining speech, but it isn’t completely without authority to do so. Just try saying “f_ck” on prime time network television. What I’d like to see is the media report the names of the people who committed this hateful act. It should perpetually haunt them on Google. They’re not charged with a crime, but they did rightfully get expelled from their fraternity and the school. 

It’s not Barack Obama or a private health insurance marketplace that is un-American; sharting Naziistic propaganda to de-humanize a sitting President is un-American. It’s not Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid who are extremists, it’s the 2nd Amendment absolutists who argue for the insane to own M1 tanks. It’s not gay people who are an abomination, but those who would relegate the LGBT community to second-class non-citizen status. It’s not integration and multiculturalism that destroyed r weakened America, it’s racism. 

Obama came to office promising to change America.  He did, in many ways.  Not the least of which? Inadvertently emboldening neofascist extremists and racists.

Gun Hugging Drama Queens

7 Aug

Via WBEN

Tuesday afternoon, Buffalo’s gun-hugging right wing lost. its. shit. You know what this means – angry, tweenish drama queendom and a segment on knee-jerk freak-out radio. 

Evidently, all the immigrants had been demonized, all the poors had been denigrated, all the liberals had been insulted, the notion of people having health care had been called a socialist trainwreck, all the health care bills had been repealed, Cuomo had been called a monster dictator, and climate change had been sufficiently denied, and science rejected for the day. 

And so, it inevitably turned to guns. It was alleged that the Erie County Fair was hateful of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, refusing to let a local he-man gun-hugging club to distribute free bumper stickers; that lie got halfway around the world before the truth had a chance to get its pants on. 

The “Second Amendment ain’t about Duck Hunting”, no. It also “ain’t about overthrowin’ the gubmint, neither”. Also, “SCOPE”: 

And some people need to be part of the equation. 

Of course, this became a BREAKING NEWS ZOMG topic on right wing drama queen radio station WBEN during its new afternoon drive show. As it turns out, there was no controversy.

Instead, the Erie County Fair has a standing policy against allowing any exhibitors from handing out free stickers, because kids take them and stick them every which place, and the Fair has to clean them up. Furthermore, if SCOPE and the gun-huggers had simply called the Fair’s administration, they’d have discovered that their signs weren’t being excluded. 

According to WBEN

The Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) is claiming that they are being shut out of the fair because of a political bias against their pro-gun stance.

Fair Spokeswoman Lou Ann Delaney says that’s not the reason they’re being shut out.

“The first time that I was aware of them contacting the Fair was this morning, to hand out stickers” Delaney said. “We don’t allow any stickers to be given out by any organization because kids put them where they shouldn’t put them.”

Delaney also says that the process for allowing vendors at the Fair starts in January, and SCOPE was very late in attempting to be included.

SCOPE president Stephen Aldstadt doesn’t see that to be the case.

“It seems more like they have taken a particular political position on that particular issue and they are not welcome of dissenting views” Aldstadt said.

Delaney once again disagrees with Scope, saying that the Fair is not at all taking one side of a political issue. “The Erie County Sheriff’s Department is doing several times throughout the fair Gun Safety on different stages. We just have to have certain policies in place, and that’s for our guest’s benefit.”

The Erie County Fair is neither run nor funded by any governmental entity. 

Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership corporation, which annually produces the Erie County Fair.  The Society is the oldest civic organization in western New York, established in 1819.  The Society does not receive funding from New York State or from the County of Erie. 

As a private entity and private event, the fair’s organizers could, if they wanted to, reject and exclude any group, message, sign, or sticker they feel like for any reason whatsoever. It also means there’s no 2nd Amendment issue, nor any 1st Amendment free speech issue, either. Imagine these constitutional scholars attempting to infringe the fair’s right to allow whatever things or people it wants at its event. It would seem as if what they perceive to be their rights trump everyone else’s actual rights. 

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear stickers shall not be infringed.

Tea NY: Tantrum Advocacy

29 Apr

Some people have facts and rational factual, legal arguments on their side, while others have volume and little else. 

On Friday afternoon, a western New York tea party group nominally led by Paladino chauffeur Rus Thompson, brought a contingent of about a dozen people to hold a protest outside the local office of State Senator Mark Grisanti. 

Grisanti is already on the tea party enemies list thanks to his vote in favor of marriage equality a few years ago. Now, the target on his back is bigger still thanks to his vote in favor of the NY SAFE act – the recent gun control legislation that has sent a lot of gun enthusiasts and right wingers into a fury. 

Before NY SAFE, New York already had among the most restrictive set of gun laws in the country. For instance, you’re not allowed to own a handgun unless you apply for – and receive – a permit to do so. New York followed the prior federal assault weapons ban, and NY SAFE strengthened it further.  Rifle magazines are never allowed to contain in excess of 7 rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns with certain features (e.g., pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug, etc.) are banned, but if you owned one prior to the law’s passage, you  get to keep yours. A person’s weapons may be seized if there is probable cause to believe that the person is about to commit a crime or is mentally unstable. In New York State, the government has discretion in issuing pistol permits or conceal carry permits. In New York City, the rules are more restrictive than that. 

What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? 

Well, the right of the people to bear arms is restricted, not infringed. It is up to the courts to determine whether a restriction is a 2nd Amendment infringement. Furthermore, each state’s laws differ on gun ownership and possession. Usually, conservatives cheer that sort of 10th Amendment state’s rights sort of thing, but perhaps that cheering is absent when the states choose policies with which the right does not agree. 

When Rus Thompson and his band of a dozen SAFE Act opponents protested outside Senator Grisanti’s Buffalo office on Friday, the Senator did something that doesn’t happen that often – he went outside to speak with them. It is amazing to see what happens next. As Senator Grisanti begins discussing whether the SAFE Act will be repealed (it won’t), Mr. Thompson begins screaming at him, quite palpably for the benefit of the cameras. One supposes that Mr. Thompson thought he was scoring points here – that the general population would see this a brave exercise of 1st Amendment rights – getting right in the face of an elected official. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Thompson, that’s not at all how it came across. The Senator calmly hands out a statement and engages, occasionally, in debate with Mr. Thompson.  By contrast, Mr. Thompson is having what can best be described as a temper tantrum. He is screaming wildly at the Senator who reacts calmly but, at times, firmly. It is all a show that Mr. Thompson stage-managed for himself to make the news. Here it is, and the video speaks for itself. 

The animus that the tea party has for Grisanti is longstanding and pointless. Grisanti’s district is made up mostly of Democrats, and Grisanti is a moderate Republican. The likelihood of an ultra right-wing candidate winning that district is remote. In the video, Grisanti says he came outside specifically to confront Thompson on something he wrote online about Grisanti getting in another Senator’s “face” over gun control.

 So, Grisanti supposedly “yelled” at Senator Marchione to “back off”. Here’s what she has to say about it, 

So, that’s a lie.  

There’s a poignant irony at the end of the tape, when the assembled sweatshirt wearers are left taunting Grisanti – a two-time winner of a contentious state Senate election – with “loser”. Yet Grisanti is the only one seen in the video who seems dressed for work, and has someplace to go. Check out how a few other people (casino fight guy excluded) seemed interested in genuinely speaking with the Senator about the issue, but Mr. Thompson drowned out their conversation with screamed non-sequiturs. One man, Rick Donovan, claimed to be an Independence Party representative and yelled at Grisanti about petitions and betrayal. Donovan manages a Facebook Page for the “Independence Party of America” that has a whopping 17 likes. He ran last year – unsuccessfully – as Republican and IP candidate for Assembly 141 (Crystal Peoples-Stokes). On his Facebook page, he deftly identifies the largest issue facing the 141st Assembly district – the wholly and exclusively federal matter of immigration. 

Enlightening stuff. 

So, what is going on here? Looks like there’s a political club operating in New York State that is soliciting donations. In a reflection of their utter failure and decline, of the four political committees registered with the state Board of Elections containing the word “tea” in their name, only one is still active – Mr. Thompson’s “TEA NY PAC“. The other three, Elma’s “Tea Party Coalition PAC“, the redundant “Tea Party Conservative PAC“, and the “Tea Party Taxpayers for Liberty” – all formed in reaction to President Obama’s election – have been defunct for at least two years. 

The address for the “Taxed Enough Already NY PAC” is on Grand Island, where Mr. Thompson lives. Perhaps a reflection of what a political powerhouse and game-changer it is, it has $548 on hand, according to its January campaign disclosure report. In 2010, a Steve Garvin from Derby contributed $15,000 to Thompson’s group. $14,980 of that went to pay for radio spots during the 2010 general election.

Garvin gave to Lenny Roberto in his 2010 run against Brian Higgins. His only other contribution on record is $100 to a town-level candidate

In 2011, Thompson’s wife contributed $100 to offset bank fees from Citizen’s Bank and to pay a late filing fee fine to the Board of Elections. There were no other contributions in 2011. $100 was again deposited in 2012 to avoid bank fees. 

In the July 2012 periodical report, almost $1,370 in unitemized contribution were reported, as were $700 in expenses. Since then, Tea NY has been operating off the remaining $800 or so. It spent absolutely zero money on anyone or anything during the 2012 primary and general election campaigns. It spent $166 in late 2012 for an event.

Hardly the way to influence elections or policy. 

So, when Thompson emails his list claiming poverty and that it’s “impossible” to “wage a proper offense without the proper resources,” why didn’t he raise money – or spend any – to “wage an offense” (or defense, for that matter), in the 2012 election? 

Maybe Mr. Thompson can wage his offense simply by screaming intemperately at calm and knowledgeable elected officials. That’s free. 

 

The Second Amendment and Tyranny

16 Jan

Tyranny is defined generally as oppressive, absolute power vested in a single ruler. The United States cannot, by definition, be tyrannical because it is a representative democracy where you have the right to overthrow any person or party every two, four, or six years – depending on the office. Your recourse is political action and being enfranchised to vote, organize, and petition. 

When the 2nd Amendment was drafted, the United States did not have a standing army – because of our experience with our British oppressors, America was decidedly hostile to the idea of a standing army.  As a result, our new nation depended on amateur on-call militias; Switzerland still uses this model wherein only 5% of its military is made up of professionals, while the militia and reserves are made up of able-bodied men aged 19 up to their 30s and 40s.  Because these people are members of a reserve militia, they keep and own their own military equipment. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

But we long ago reconfigured our domestic military structure to switch from state-based reserve militias into a professional national military. To the extent the old state militias exist, they’re made up of the various National Guards. We don’t call upon average citizens to keep arms to fight off the Indians or the British; we have the Pentagon. 

If you look at the two recent Supreme Court cases which held that the “well-regulated militia” language, which was so carefully inserted into the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, doesn’t really mean anything. Astonishing, that, but little can be done about it. In DC v. Heller , the Court affirmed an individual right to possess a firearm without respect to whether the bearer is a militia member, and that these arms can only be possessed for lawful purposes, such as self-defense. 

Heller also confirmed that your 2nd Amendment rights are not absolute or unlimited. Concealed weapons can be banned by states, you can limit their possession by felons and the mentally ill, and you can ban carrying a weapon in certain areas and regulate the sale of weapons. Particularly dangerous and unusual weapons can also be regulated or banned.  Although Heller applied only to federal districts, a subsequent case – McDonald v. Chicago – held that the 14th Amendment ensures that the 2nd Amendment and its jurisprudence also apply to state action. 

Because handguns aren’t unusual, and the petitioner in Heller intended to keep a handgun in his home for personal protection, his use was lawful and DC was ordered to issue him a permit, and could not require him to keep the gun essentially unusable while being kept. 

Nothing that happened yesterday in Albany is violative of the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment is silent on the number of rounds a clip can hold, and bans on certain types of weapons have been consistently upheld. If you have to re-register to drive a car every few years, you can re-register to own a gun. How do we monitor felonies or mental illness with lifetime permitting? 

But I want to pivot back to something – tyranny. How many people have you heard in the past month since the Sandy Hook massacre explain that assault weapons and other militaria must be legal because we have some sort of right to fight tyranny. How many people have suggested to you, with an astonishing ignorance of history of propriety, that, e.g., German Jews could have halted the Holocaust if only they had been armed. 

Make no mistake, notwithstanding Jefferson’s tree of liberty, there is no law, statute, or Constitutional provision that exists in this country to allow someone to fight domestic “tyranny”. What these people are saying is that they detest the government – especially Obama’s government, because he is Kenyan or an usurper or a Nazi or a communist or a “king” or maybe just because he’s brown-skinned. At which point do we determine as a society when we have made the flip to “tyranny”? Who is the arbiter of “tyranny”? At which point do we determine that all of our anti-treason statutes and the constitutional provision found in Article III, section 3 of the Constitution can be set aside because of “tyranny”? 

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

You have no right to possess militaria to fend off “tyranny”. If you think you do, show me the statute or law that says so. Show me the statute or law that repeals our anti-treason legislation. It doesn’t exist. 

If New York wants to ban assault weapons or clips holding more than 10 bullets, it can. If you don’t like it, get your tea party buddies together and elect a legislature in Albany that will repeal it.  But there’s not a thing in the world that suggests that you can, if you don’t like it, take up arms against Albany or Washington. That would be a crime. If you try it and you’re armed, law enforcement won’t like that. Not at all.