Archives for: May 2013

The McConnell Taper Confesses

Is your jaw sitting a bit too high on your face? Or have you had trouble getting it open wide enough to eat? Well, then. Feast your eyes on this piece from the guy who recorded Mitch McConnell … gasp! … talking strategy about a possible Senate opponent. We discussed this before and it wasn’t clear whether the eavesdropper committed a crime.

The answer now appears to be Holy Fucking Shit Yes:

The front door to the office building [of McConnell’s campaign HQ] was unlocked, and there was no one behind the reception desk. Walking down the hall of the second floor, I recognized McConnell’s voice. He was talking about Sen. Rand Paul’s strategic use of the Tea Party in procuring his 2010 election.

The voices were coming from the other side of a nearby door, which had a window. I pulled out my Flip camera and started to record.

I don’t need to tell you what a weapon the pocket video camera has become. Bartender Scott Prouty changed the trajectory of the entire 2012 election when he captured Mitt Romney in his now classic “47 percent” speech. You just never knew when a politician was going to open his mouth and accidentally reveal his true agenda. And as I held my Flip up to the window, that’s what I was hoping for, but I soon realized that the video I was capturing was the back of a projection screen, and only the audio was of value. So I held the Flip closer to the door vent instead of the window, and began recording the 11:45 minutes of footage later released by Mother Jones.

I was sweating. My heart was racing. I tried to record backup audio on my phone, but my cheap replacement phone would only let me record voice memos of one minute in length. Every time the minute was up, the phone would beep, which was excruciating for the person crouching by a door vent. When a gentleman walked out of the campaign headquarters and into the hall, I put my Flip and phone back in my pocket, and headed to the elevator.

Shawn was already there. We made our escape.

That, my friends, is the description of a felony, not journalism. Journalism would be meeting with a politician and recording the interview. Journalism might even mean having a hidden microphone on a staffer. Journalism does not include breaking into the campaign quarters, hunting down the candidate and recording a private conversation to which you are not a party.

The whole op-ed is just bizarre. There is a smug “everything I did, I did for Kentucky” tone to it; as if Mitch McConnell’s views justified any tactic. He cites people who’ve claimed he didn’t do anything illegal ignoring that their support was predicated upon a very different version of events (the initial reports were that he happened to be walking by and heard the conversation clearly). He says he intends to go to law school but I’m not sure how once this is over.

I almost feel sorry for the guy. What the hell kind of a lawyer does he have who would let him write this? If I were the prosecutor, I’d present it to the jury and rest my case. He thinks his life was turned upside down before? Wait until he’s a convicted felon. I wish I could feel schadenfreude here but this is just sad.

(Ken at Popehat always says that the must frustrating thing about clients accused of crimes is when they won’t shut the hell up. Let this be an example to everyone. If you are accused of a crime, shut the hell up.)

The Law is the Law

I want to address a point that came up in our discussion of the the Kaitlyn Hunt case last week (which is turning out to be a little more complicated than my initial post). No one questions that Kaitlyn was in literal violation of the law. She was an 18-year-old who has sexual contact with a 14-year-old, which is illegal in Florida (and most other states). So shouldn’t we enforce the law? Whatever we may think of the law, she broke it and should be punished, right?

Let’s pull back a moment from that particular case into the broader legal issue. There is a school of thought that says that we should enforce all the laws without exception. If a law is badly written, we should change it. But refusing to enforce a law or making an exception to the law that is not written into it is the pathway to anarchy. That used to be my philosophy but I’ve come to realize that such a rigorous approach puts us on a short road to legal disaster.

The problem is best illustrated in this excellent cartoon. First, we have thousands of laws that apply to any of us at any time. It is almost impossible to go through your life without having violated one of them. We have bureaucrats who are constantly extending not just the law but very real criminal sanctions for violating those laws. Second, we have abandoned the concept of mens rea, that someone had to have had evil intent in violating the law. And so we end up with a situation where a woman picks a father up off the ground and end up with felony charges for violating the Migratory Bird Act.

In an ideal society, we would be constantly looking over our books to remove bad laws, clarify unclear ones and modify or remove outdated ones. But we don’t live in that society. On the contrary, we live in a society where bureaucrats are constantly pushing the boundaries of law and politicians are afraid to change obviously bad laws for fear of being pilloried. Sex offender laws are a perfect example. We’re putting children on these things and ruining their lives. But no politician is willing to do anything about it because they don’t want to be branded as sympathetic to child molesters (even though molesters are a small fraction of those on the registers).

To prevent innocent people from being gobbled up by bad laws, we used to fall back on Common Law. We recognized that laws are not written on stone tablets by God, but crafted by men. As such, they are imperfect and can not anticipate every eventuality. Bureaucracies specifically tend to see things in a very narrow light. So we used to apply common sense to law enforcement, recognizing when someone might be technically violating the law but it made no sense to prosecute them. We recognized that the law is not an end in an of itself. The law is a means. The end is justice. What would be just about putting a woman in prison for picking up a hawk feather?

We should enforce our laws. But we also need to recognize when a law is unjust or when it is simply inappropriate to a situation. We’ve gotten away from the idea that judges and juries are supposed to judge both the case and the law. We think only the Supreme Court can judge laws. But jury nullification and prosecutorial discretion are in the very DNA of this nation, from when juries and prosecutors refused to enforce the King’s unjust laws. Putting someone in jail for violating a badly written law and only then changing the law is like mapping out a minefield by stepping on all the mines.

The Hunt case, specifically, is a little more complicated than her supporters let on. But the general point stands. We should not become robots mindlessly enforcing laws in a Napoleonic fashion. The intent of the law is to protect young teenagers from being taken advantage of by grown adults. If the law is threatening felony charges against a high school senior for having consensual sex with a high school freshman (14 and 18 years old, not 15 and 17), I would submit that the law is faulty. And it is the duty of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury to recognize that and account for that.

“But we need to be a society of laws, not men!” Yes. But if we become a society of rigid adherence to every law on the books, we will all end up in prison. We will all find, whenever the authorities don’t like us, that we have violated some obscure law intended for some completely different purpose. We will find that a federal law intended to protect migratory birds from being hunted to extinction is jailing some lady who picked a feather up off the ground. We will find that sex offender registries intended to protect us from predators ruin the lives of 12-year-old kids. We will find 16-year-old girls who take nude pictures of themselves prosecuted for child pornography. We will find that laws intended to stop 50-year-old men from taking advantage of naive 14-year-old girls snare high school seniors instead.

The law is not perfect. Nor is not perfectible. Let’s not pretend that it is. The question in the Kaitlyn Hunt case — and in any similar case — should not be if she technically violated the law since she clearly did. The question should be if applying the law in this case is just. I’m witholding judgement now since some of the information circulated by her supporters has turned out to be inaccurate (H/T to Thrill for fact-checking me on that). But “that’s what the laws says so … too bad” is simply not enough when it comes to a potentially life-ruining prosecution.

Hey Mr DJ: Culture Clash Edition

As some of you know, I’m very interested in Generational Theory as described in The Fourth Turning by Strauss & Howe. The intricacies of their writings are a bit too much to detail here, but as early as 1997 they clearly saw what we were heading for. The future they predicted is happening now and it is as bad as they thought. In fact, worse is coming. Much worse. We cannot stop it, but we can avoid prolonging it.

The authors described the era of their time as a Third Turning, an Unraveling, a cyclical period in which the social order begins to fall apart. Strauss and Howe called that era the Culture Wars and forecast that as the Baby Boomers rose into the senior leadership of the nation, they would wage it as a continuation of the great social issues of the 60’s. And how they did.

The authors saw that America would remain divided on social and economic issues until our society was no longer able to resolve any problem. The result would be a devaluation of assets, national debt, and other upheaval as parties serve their own interests and bicker too much to stop any of it. It would lead to a Crisis period, or Fourth Turning where everything is broken apart and remade. Previous Fourth Turnings included the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Depression/WW2 eras. Yeah. It’s going to be that kind of decade.

In 2008, the surviving author Neil Howe pronounced that the Great Devaluation had begun. We are early in a Fourth Turning area that will see a radically different America by the time it ends, sometime in the 2020’s.

Anyway, it’s a fascinating book.

One characteristic of a Crisis period is that as the greater problems facing society become more daunting, the small, previously unsolvable issues become manageable by comparison. The Culture War issues are already starting to either resolve themselves or take a back seat. The best example is probably our society’s complete reversal on gay marriage over less than a decade.

See how the Boy Scouts finally dropped their objection to admitting openly gay members. Similarly, we await a Supreme Court verdict that may spell the death of the Defense of Marriage Act as well, making this the greatest year in the history of gay Americans since track lighting was inventedsince the first male masseuse filed a complaint against John Travoltasince Magic Johnson cured AIDS…ever.

Abortion continues to dominate the battlefield. The federal courts chose to protect Planned Parenthood’s funding, but the states are still finding ways to kill it with a thousand cuts. The Gosnell trial may have had an impact in altering the public’s perceptions, but it’s too soon to tell.

The Supreme Court (which, as an institution is mostly to blame for the Culture Wars, in my opinion) is also set to rule on Affirmative Action. Who knows what to expect?

We also have guns, church and state separation, drugs (a lot of movement happening there at the state level), birth control, and on and on. I believe that all of these issues will be decisively resolved within 15 years, for better or for worse. It’s not that we will so much change our minds on things, we just won’t be interested in fighting over it anymore. Bigger fish to fry and all that.

The paralysis in government and the chaos that is ruling the news are there because Americans have not accepted the Crisis stage and still want to cling to the simplistic comforts of the Culture Wars. Democrats won in 2012 by scaring the bejeezus out of women and minorities on old Culture War issues. Conservatives didn’t turn out to vote because they couldn’t support the Mormon. Am I simplifying? Probably, but does any serious person truly believe that America chose to keep Obama in the White House, the Democrats in the Senate, and GOP in the House because they thought that was the answer to the debt and deficit crises, bankrupting of Social Security, or any other problem that is gazing right at us? Fear of The Other and apathy won the day.

This is why I was so despondent after Election Day. It’s not because “my guy” lost. It’s because the American people showed that they are going to let it all keep slipping out of control, because they won’t acknowledge the real threats and stop bitch-slapping each other until they’re forced to.

We have to start finding common ground, folks. I know some people would rather let it all burn than work with the other side, but that’s what it is going to take. We need a realignment. We need to find a consensus.

So here’s your chance to get the Culture War out of your system. Let’s have:

1. Sounds of the Third Turning: Music from 1984-2008. Particularly that which really captures the death of the American dream, culture clashing, and decadence.

2. Culture Warriors: Artists who are known as lighting rods for social issues. Lady Gaga is a good one.

3. You Have Issues: Songs about any Culture War issue you can think of. Race, religion, abortion, homosexuality…

Bankruptcy Bonus: Songs that truly captured the spirits of their eras. They saw things as they were and spoke up about it. We really need that now.

Oh, and in true RTFLC tradition, I encourage everyone to support their selections with outrageous personal insults whenever possible. We never merely argue explosive social issues with reason and logic do we, you dicks?

Biggie G, have some white boy blues, you neck-bearded hipster. Sums up how I feel about our current state: Everything is Broken by Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Mississippi Yankee, you should enjoy this, you tea-bagging jarhead: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other by Ned Sublette

Santino, ah, I just can’t do it. I’ve even learned to accept your lifestyle choice of enjoying Oasis. You’re too good-natured for this blog: Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis

InsipiD, you are a straight-shooting gentleman and I cannot find fault with you for anything except that time you lost an arm-wrestling match with Rachel Maddow’s clitoris. Let’s be friends: Sexuality by K.D. Lang

stogy, if I thought that Eric Holder needed to be circumcised, I’d simply kick you in the jaw and have it done. Let’s destroy the institution of marriage: Divorce Song by Liz Phair

pfluffy, you once believed that Barack Obama was an acceptable libertarian alternative to Ron Paul once he bowed out of the GOP primary. Just let that settle in. It will start to sting shortly. This is a great Third Turning band: A Drug Against War by KMFDM

WVR…Damn you. Just damn you. Bodies by The Sex Pistols

Iconoclast, you forgot to post a song last week, you bloviating theocrat! But I’ll let you have a dedication anyway: Theologians by Wilco

DJ Thread Subpoena: I summon dakrat. A powerful culture warrior, this one.

This week also proved to be a great personal milestone for me. It held the first thread in which one of my comments was downvoted into oblivion, despite my best efforts to upvote myself on as many computers as I could log onto. Remarkable, given my astonishingly high personal popularity around here. Proof, if proof were needed, that I remain the most divisive individual in the annals of RTFLC. Seriously: You guys are pricks.

Nailed It

Nothing has really changed, women still have all the power, and men will turn off their brains just to get laid, some of us are such pussies:

It's Not About the Nail from Jason Headley on Vimeo.

Oddly, this is how I feel about most liberals. Their problem is obvious, nothing that can’t be fixed almost immediately, yet, with all the whinning, leaving them to stew in their own juices is the path of least resistance. And since the arrogance, the certitude, and sanctimony blinds them to any real solution, half the fun is just leaving them alone, Schadenfreude.

Packing Brits

Blimey, our cousins across the pond would like a fighting chance, just like the rest of us:

A Daily Telegraph online poll has revealed that over 80 percent of Brits would rather a repeal on the hand gun ban over various other “new law” choices.

Uh oh, so much for the notion of living in a gun free zone.

With the Woolwich attack some folks have figured out that living gun free is a fool’s errand. And all over one death of a soldier, how rankled would they be if those double terrorist clowns went Ft. Hood style and started blasting away in to the crowd?

But Britons seem unconvinced by the law. The proposer, known as “Colliemum” asked, “…why should only criminals be ‘allowed’ to possess guns and shoot unarmed, defenceless citizens and police officers?”

Well, DUH!!!!

The epiphany of realizing that their hide is just as valuable as anyone else’s, some Brits think their little gun free utopia is not working and would like the chance to even the playing field, do they not get to decide what kind of society they should have?

That argument, expressed here by some (one), that more guns walking around will make people less safe, OK, probably, but we cannot uninvent firearms, they already exist, so the notion of living anywhere gun free is ridiculous, they are out there. The individual citizen should, armed with the fact that he cannot prevent the existence of firearms in his neighborhood, should get to decide what if any precautions he will take knowing that guns are a reality.

The utopian society, where no firearms exist (hell, why stop there, lets roll with it and say no mean people or rude people exist either) would be preferable, but we have what we have, a violent world where some people will ply the upper hand ,illegally if necessary, to personally profit or gain.

Whether enough folks will decide to make a change, who knows, but more jihadi shenanigans will only make people more afraid, and more determined to become pro active in their own survival.

The Farm Follies Continue

The latest CBO report shows that the FY2013 deficit will come in at around $642 billion, a dramatic reduction. Naturally, the usual suspects are calling for more “stimulus” spending now that the deficit problem is “solved”. But they should read some critical points raised by Peter Suderman. The “small” deficit is a result of tax hikes, spending cuts and about $200 billion in one-time revenues (Fannie/Freddie dividends and tax adjustments). The “small” deficit will only last a few years before entitlements and Obamacare began to raise it again even under optimistic budget scenarios. And even under optimistic scenarios, interest payments will reach historic highs.

(As an aside: what’s really hilarious is to watch the Left scramble to explain why “austerity” hasn’t crashed the economy. Most of them are simply going the Krugmann route and ignoring everything they’ve been saying for the last five years.)

So now is not the time to open the spending or tax cut floodgates. Now is the time to keep to build on the budget momentum and reign in entitlements. Now is the time to … oh, shit:

House and Senate farm subsidy supporters are pushing to enact the first big farm bill since 2008. Democratic and Republican supporters say that this year’s legislation will be a reform bill that cuts spending. Hogwash.

Last year, House farm subsidy supporters proposed a bill that would spend $950 billion over the next 10 years, while the Senate proposed a bill that would spend $963 billion. By contrast, when the 2008 farm bill passed, it was projected to spend $640 billion over 10 years. Thus, the proposed House bill would represent a 48 percent spending increase over the last farm bill, while the Senate bill would represent a 50 percent increase.

Congress is bizarrely claiming that they have “cut” the farm bill because it’s 3% less than the original proposal. But not only is this their usual “cut spending growth” trick, it runs into the problem that the farm bill is usually much larger than originally budgeted. Next year’s farm bill be almost 50% more than originally proposed.

The spending “discipline” of the last two years is already eroding in the face of temporary unsustainable deficit reduction. And even worse, it’s opening on one of the many places it shouldn’t: the massive pile of corporate welfare euphemistically called the “farm bill”. Now is not the time to be shoveling more money into this hole. Now is the time to follow the advice P.J. O’Rourke gave twenty years ago: “drag the Omnibus Farm Bill out behind the barn and kill it with an axe.”

The Somalia Canard

In Josephine County, Oregon, a woman was recently raped by her ex-boyfriend while she was on the phone to 911, begging for help which never came. I’ll forgo the usual “this is why we have the second amendment” point to concentrate on something a little different.

The Sherriff’s office is blaming the lack of response on recent budget cuts and the refusal of the citizenry to support a tax hike. But as Radley Balko points out, the city has had plenty of resources to go after legal medical marijuana growers or small-time illegal pot smokers. When it comes to the things that bring in asset forfeitures and pad arrest stats, they have all the resources they need.

This problem, however, is being enabled by the likeliest of political suspects:

The partisan political reactions to this story are typically awful. Wonkette’s Rebecca Schoenkopf mockingly calls Josephine County a “libertarian paradise,” and chides the dumb rubes for rejecting property tax increases that would (allegedly) fund police officers to respond to 911 calls. (More likely: It would fund more drug raids.) The post then takes the obligatory shots at people who favor local government over national government. You can find similar reactions at ThinkProgress and The Stranger.

Here’s the thing. Maybe part of the reason Josephine County is facing budget woes is because more than half the land in the county is owned by the federal government. The federal government doesn’t pay property taxes. And property taxes are primarily how local government is funded. Perhaps, just perhaps, the county’s residents reject the idea that their federal tax dollars are going toward buying up local land that is sapping the county’s tax base, and they resent the notion that if they then want basic services — like police protection — they are then asked to make up the difference through higher property taxes. And perhaps — just perhaps — they also resent the federal government because while county residents can’t get the local cops to respond to a woman being raped, the federal government is imposing its will on the state by funding task forces to raid medical marijuana facilities in a state where voters have expressed a clear will to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

But that would require an analysis of this story that involves some nuance, extra reading, and empathy. Better to just make Ayn Rand jokes and mock the dumb, low-income bumpkins for mistrusting the government.

This is simply another variation on the Somalia Canard. Idiotic liberals have a tendency to respond to libertarian-conservative arguments with some variation of, “Well why don’t you go live in Somalia?! That’s a libertarian paradise!” I regard the Somalia Canard as the libertarian version of Godwin’s Law. When someone brings up Somalia, you know they have run out of arguments and are just going for the ad hominem.

But, OK, assholes. I’ll do this thing. Here’s why we don’t all move to Somalia: because Libertarianism is not anarchism. And conservatism is a long way from anarchism.

The vast majority of libertarians and conservative have no problems with funding things like law enforcement and fire-fighting. Most of us don’t have a problem with making sure our water is clean and our meat is healthy. And many of us even think public schools are OK!

But these are not the only things that government does. They are not even a majority of what the government does.

A lot of what the government does is either unnecessary (if we’re lucky) or damaging (if we’re not). It pays out hundreds of billions in transfer payments every year. It pays employees generous salaries and extravagant benefits for which we are now on the hook to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. It uses asset forfeiture to seize people’s property without trial because they might be dealing drugs. It uses eminent domain to force people to sell their property to rich developers. It fights unnecessary wars. It fights a stupid and devastating War on Drugs. It shovels tens of billions into corporate welfare and tax exemptions to favored businesses. It seizes well-cared-for children because their parents have a little pot.

I have no problem giving government money to do the things that government needs to do. But no one should be willing to just throw money into the equivalent of a wishing well in the hope that, somehow somewhere, it might be spent wisely.

How about, instead of laughing at the low-income people of Josephine County for not wanting yet more money extracted from them, you look into what kind of stupid shit Josephine County was spending money on instead of funding the police? If you can’t find any waste, then I might be prepared to listen to you chuckling at the brutal rape of a defenseless woman.

Update: I shoulde not that what is going on in Oregon is a pattern we have seen at all levels of government in response to budget cuts: getting rid of essential services first in order to increase pressure on the public for tax hikes. One place where this did not happen was Wisconsin, where Walker’s reforms allowed the state to retain thousands of teachers they would otherwise have had to fire. But anytime shrinking governments choose to cut the meat instead of the fat, can you count on the entire Liberal Ecosphere to blame conservatives.

Putting The “Fat” In Fat Cat

I absolutely love stories like this:

Union fat cat Mark Rosenthal spends more time sleeping at his desk than organizing labor, a series of damning photos reveals.

The 400-pound president of Local 983 of District Council 37 — the city’s largest blue-collar municipal-workers union — often downs a huge meal, then drops into dreamland in the early afternoon, members of the union’s executive board told The Post.
—-
“He eats lunch when he arrives at work at 2 p.m. Then, like clockwork, he goes to sleep with a cup of soda on the table and the straw in it,” said Marvin Robbins, a union vice president.

“Then he wakes up, looks at his watch and says, ‘I have to get out before the traffic gets bad.’ He’s usually out by 4 p.m. after being at the office two hours.”

I always wonder if these bureaucrats who get caught exhibiting behavior that is all too prevalent and paints them in a bad light with the public, if they feel at all embarrassed or remorseful. Remember that GSA official who got caught living it up on the public dime? I’m thinking that instead of shame, these clowns look at it as a feather in their cap. When they all get together at the fat cat Christmas party, he can high five his fellow trough eaters, yelling to the crowd ,”Top that, bitches”.

Much like photos of cops eating donuts, pics of politicians pinching the rear ends of young interns, or school board functionaries allaying fears of student past criminal confessions (You can trust us, really, your secret is safe with us), it is probably (?) more isolated then ubiquitous and says nothing about the industry as a whole, but direct evidence of unflattering stereotypes wrt to those making their living on the public dole, we can’t lets these pass by without the requisite derision pointed their way.

Now, if you will excuse me, I feel a power nap coming on.

Past Practices, Irrelevant

I am usually a strong advocate of our judicial system. Having been a part of that system for the better part of my life I have (mostly) felt that the system has worked. The Sixth Amendment speaks to the need for a fair trial and it assures those accused certain requirements that the state must meet. The system is not perfect, since those implementing the system are flawed, but the pendulum has always swung farther towards assuring impartiality (the blindfold on Lady Justice speaks to this) and the rights of the accused, the rule of law demands it. But in just 2 weeks the George Zimmerman trial (dead man walking) will commence , he does not stand a chance.

A judge in Sanford, Fla., ruled Tuesday against George Zimmerman’s defense team on several key issues in preparation for his trial on charges of second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

In a two-hour hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled that defense attorneys will not be able to mention Trayvon’s past marijuana use, his suspension from school, or his alleged participation in fights in their opening statements.

The rulings came after Mr. Zimmerman’s defense team recently posted online photos and text messages from Trayvon’s cellphone. The texts included several about being a fighter, smoking marijuana, and being ordered to move out of his home by his mother. The photos included a picture of what appeared to be a .40 caliber handgun.

Obviously I don’t agree with this ruling, here’s why. The rule of law and precedent makes clear that the state can not use instances of prior criminal acts as evidence of the crime at hand, independent collaborating evidence must show that the defendant committed this specific crime. This is as it should be. But Travon Martin is not on trial (as the family lawyers keep telling us), George Zimmerman is and evidence of past incidents of violence and fighting on Travon’s part is relevant. A fight broke out between the two men, one of them is dead and the other is on trial for his life. Zimmerman’s basic defense was that he was not the instigator but was attacked, he should be afforded the opportunity to expose prior Martin behavior as bolstering his (Zimmerman’s) version of the story.

All the other stuff, the marijuana use, his suspensions from school, even his home life, these are not relevant since they do not speak to the crime at hand nor ads any clarity to events. And if we had independent witnesses that saw the whole thing unfold then I would say that we don’t need the weight of prior violence to consider. We would know what happened here, but we don’t. We have one man’s version of the story, he should be allowed to present any circumstantial evidence he wants to bolster or add weight to that defense. The jury can determine the probity.

There will be no happy outcome to this trial. If he is acquitted, riots and destruction will ensue. If he is convicted, whether by strong evidence or a jury intimidated by events, then the judge will be forced to come down hard on him, probably beyond what is deserved.

I will hope for a fair trial and calm heads to prevail………………..what are the odds?

This Aggression Will Not Stand

Ah, the public schools:

A Batavia High School teacher’s fans are rallying to support him as he faces possible discipline for advising students of their Constitutional rights before taking a school survey on their behavior.

They’ve been collecting signatures on an online petition, passing the word on Facebook, sending letters to the school board, and planning to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Students and parents have praised his ability to interest reluctant students in history and current affairs.

Dryden, a social studies teacher, told some of his students April 18 that they had a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves by answering questions on the survey, which had each student’s name printed on it.

The survey asked about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and emotions, according to Brad Newkirk, chief academic officer.

The results were to be reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

The survey was not a diagnostic tool, but a “screener” to figure out which students might need specific help, Newkirk said.

The school is considering a “letter of remedy”. This has the potential to result in any level of discipline, up to firing.

The school’s position, which is not completely unreasonable, is that this survey was not going to be shared with police but was going to be used to identify students with problems and Dryden may have interfered with students getting some needed counseling. Dryden’s position, however, is that writing your name on a piece of paper and saying you’ve used drugs or alcohol is just asking for legal trouble. Is it really that hard to imagine the path from “we’ll give you help if you want it” to “you’re going to get help, wether you want it or not” to “enjoy juvie, sucker”? And is not that unreasonable for a social studies teacher to use this an example of what the Fifth Amendment means?

This does seem like bit of an over-reaction by the school. There’s a part of me that wonders if the school’s problem isn’t so much that he interfered with the survey but that he taught them a lesson in their Fifth Amendment rights. School administrators love things like locker searches, drug tests and student searches. They have routinely chafed against the very modest legal requirement of “reasonable suspicion”. Politicians and “educators” at all levels aren’t terrifically fond of any of our liberties really (James Taranto recently wrote about his experiences with censorship in college).

If you teach student to exercise their fifth amendment rights, they might start escalating to thinking about their fourth and first amendement rights as well. They might even start wondering about — the horror — their second amendment rights! And we can’t have that.

(In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, check out the picture of Dryden at the linked article and tell me he doesn’t look like the Dude.)