He’ll be baaaccck ….

Go get ’em Arnold!  He’s promising to sue the feds over their recent refusal of the EPA to grant California a waiver, allowing them to set stricter standards for emissions than the federal government requires.  President Bush, again angering small government types like me, shows a lack of understanding of states rights stunning for a former governor …

“Is it more effective to let each state make a decision as to how to proceed in curbing greenhouse gases? Or is it more effective to have a national strategy?”

Of course, his answer ignores the fact that California wants STRICTER standards, that presumably would be more effective in cutting emissions, the supposed point of the feds recent bill.  It ignores the 10th Amendment too, but I think we can say we’re all used to that by now.  And in truth, it quite likely WOULD be MUCH more effective for each state to set their own standard.  A federal standard has to encompass not only smog-choked cities like Los Angeles, but also the largely rural areas like the Dakotas where emissions are not nearly as concerning.  With that idea in mind, you’d think the federal bill would end up being not nearly strict enough for LA, and overly strict for the Dakotas and how many other states.

Dang, this government has become the biggest of big governments, intruding on states rights on all kinds of issues.  From medical marijuana to assisted suicide to now emissions standards, the era of big brother is here.

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Emperor Ahmadinejad’s buck naked

Foxnews’ reporting of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia was nothing if not predictable last night.  I think it was the intro to Shepherd Smith’s show that couched his visit with the question if the First Amendment can be “taken too far sometimes” and asked whether Columbia, by inviting him, had given him ‘legitimacy’.

As has been the case way too often over the recent years, the right has been shown that they take these guys way too seriously.  He showed up.  He exploited (to the thinking of some) our right of free speech, and spoke to the friendliest possible audience he thought he could find.

And in front of millions on tv Ahmadinejad was excoriated as ‘uneducated’ and ‘petty’ by some of the farthest left-libs this country can assemble at one place.    Worst of all, he was laughed at.  Not with, at.  Laughed at derisively in fact.

The GOP should not be afraid of the First Amendment.  As was shown last night,  the best possible way to get these terrorists and their sympathizers to lose all respect in the world is to not be afraid to give them the platform they desire.  Ahmadinejad came to Columbia a provacateur, and left it a clown.

A ‘chilling effect’ on free speech?

The IRS has concluded a three-year investigation into an L.A. church, deciding not to punish them while still claiming they believe the church “broke the law”.

In its latest letter to All Saints, dated Sept. 10, the IRS said the church continues to qualify for tax-exempt status, but said that Regas’ sermon did amount to intervention in the 2004 presidential race. The letter offered no details or explanation for either conclusion.

That sounds about par for the course if you’re trying to force the so-called ‘rule of law’ on people while also doing everything you can to avoid scrutiny of your interpretation of the law. Or, it also rings familiar as the IRS knowing they have no case against the church, but trying nonetheless to intimidate them into silence.

This also shows that just because you may be just about the only group still supporting the President’s agenda, you will be afforded no protection from the administration once you go ‘off the reservation’, so to speak. Republicans became alarmed in the 90’s that President Clinton may have been using the IRS to go after his political enemies. Will they show the same alarm that the IRS is trying to chill speech over the most critically important issue of the moment?

I’ll ignore for the moment my disgust at the general idea that tax-exempt organizations must remain silent from political activism. So was this church violating the law? OMBWatch.org has a report from the Congressional Research Service on the history and meaning of the ban. We can thank (Senator at the time) Lyndon Johnson for the ban on political campaigning …

The political campaign prohibition was enacted as part of the Internal Revenue
Code of 1954. The provision was added by Senator Lyndon Johnson as a floor
amendment. Upon introducing the amendment, Senator Johnson analogized it to the
lobbying limitation; however, he mischaracterized the lobbying limitation by saying
that organizations that lobbied were denied tax-exempt status, as opposed to only
those organizations that substantially lobbied. The legislative history contains no
further discussion of the prohibition, including whether Senator Johnson’s overlybroad
description of the lobbying provision and inaccurate analogy were noticed.
Although Senator Johnson’s motives behind the provision are not clear from the
legislative history, it has been suggested that he proposed it either as a way to get
back at an organization that had supported an opponent or because he wished to offer
an alternative to another Senator’s proposal that would have denied tax-exempt status
to organizations making grants to organizations or individuals that were deemed to
be subversive.

Wonderful, so a church in 2007 cannot talk about war because a Senator in 1954 may have tried to exact revenge on a political opponent, using an erroneous argument as his justification. So what does the ban mean?

The organizational definition in IRC § 501(c)(3) prohibits these organizations
from “participating in, or intervening in (including the publishing or distributing of
statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate
for public office.” The IRC does not further elaborate on the prohibition.

Doesn’t sound too bad, so what actually happened at the church? From the LA Times article …

One of Southern California’s largest and most liberal congregations, All Saints came under IRS scrutiny after a sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election by a guest speaker, the Rev. George F. Regas. In his sermon, Regas, the church’s former rector, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and John F. Kerry.

Regas did not endorse either candidate, saying that “good people of profound faith” could support either one. But he strongly criticized the war in Iraq and said that Jesus would have told Bush that his preemptive war strategy in Iraq “has led to disaster.”

Even though they’re banned from political campaigning, tax-exempt organizations ARE allowed to engage in issue advocacy. From the CRS report …

On the other hand, IRC § 501(c)(3) organizations are allowed to conduct
activities that are not related to elections, such as issue advocacy, lobbying for or
against legislation, and supporting or opposing the appointment of individuals to
nonelective offices.
Additionally, IRC § 501(c)(3) organizations are allowed to conduct certain
election-related activities so long as the activities are non-partisan and do not indicate
a preference for any candidate.

So an argument can certainly be made that the church was in no way violating the law. What was the argument of those saying it did? Some of the factors used by the IRS to determine issue advocacy by tax exempt groups may be illegal, again from the CRS …

Key factors that indicate an issue advocacy
communication is not political campaign intervention include:
! the communication does not identify any candidates for a given
public office,
! the communication does not express approval or disapproval for any
candidate’s positions and/or actions,
! the communication is not delivered close in time to an election,

So the problem for the church was that the sermon did mention both Bush and Kerry, despite not endorsing either one. As well, the timing (2 days before an election) was problematic as well. Nonetheless, the vagaries of this ban sure seemed to indicate that by not endorsing either candidate, the church was avoiding the intent of the law, whose original concern was the tax-deductible donations being used for political advocacy. While the IRS can make an argument that they violated the law, the church seemingly can make a much stronger case that they were obeying the spirit of the law by refusing to endorse any candidate.

I could not find any cases of the Bush administration prosecuting a church because of it taking a pro-war (or pro-Bush) stance. Nonetheless, the only conclusion I can draw is that not even the church is immune from the crackdowns of the Bush administration, no matter how friendly the administration is supposedly seen as being to religious people. You can’t have totalitarianism without total, after all.

Not a police state

Great grandma charged with not watering her lawn. Roughed up by police and charged with resisting arrest.

Remember, we must respect the rule of law, and not reward illegal behavior! If she had nothing to hide, she obviously wouldn’t resist arrest, so anything they did to her is entirely understandable.

Attention-monger and occasional attorney Gloria Allred, has the quote of the day, succinctly putting the Orem police right where they deserve …

“Today, law enforcement in Orem has enshrined itself as the laughing stock of our country by prosecuting a 70-year-old great-grandmother for allegedly not watering her lawn,” Allred said. “This ill-conceived action ensures Orem’s law enforcement authorities first place in the [Guinness World Records] for stupidity.”

Disarming the law abiding …

The New York Times reports that Miami police officers are being given the option of carrying assault rifles with them to counter an increase in use by criminals …

I think the money quote for this story is right there in the last line …

Not all officers may choose to carry the new weapon. But Chief Timoney said, “If I was a police officer out there in a tough neighborhood, I would want to have that in the car.”

So let’s take count.   The criminals have assault rifles, and now law enforcement does too.   Who’s left?  By my account, that only leaves the law abiding, including the victims of crime.   The assault weapons ban only served to victimize more people and make the world a more DANGEROUS place for the law abiding, not a safer place.

Federal judge overturns part of Patriot Act!

Specifically, the parts that force internet providers to turn over records without being allowed to speak about it. Only downside I can see is he has delayed implementation for 90 days.

The issuing judge, Victor Marrero, has a reputation for fairness and listening to both sides, not as a partisan gunslinger. Good to see some sanity coming from our government for a change, and, as is usually the case when common sense prevails, it again comes from the judicial branch of government. This is a classic example of why I no longer rail against ‘activist judges’. And why I see attempts to remove judicial review from segments of our society as nothing more than baldfaced attempts to get away with something people know is unconstitutional.

I don’t need to say that the very concept of secret police actions goes against everything the Constitution was enacted to protect, but I’ll say it anyways! 🙂 Some of the key quotes from the Honorable Mr. Marrero’s opinion …

Important quotes from the Washington Post article …

Marrero wrote in his 106-page ruling that Patriot Act provisions related to NSLs are “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values.”
….
But Marrero wrote that “in light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual’s personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association–particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies–a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes.”

ooh, our government concerned about the civil liberties of it’s citizens… I must be sick, I feel dizzy, gotta sit down. 🙂

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