not a police state?

If you liked the idea that governments can seize property from drug dealers, you’re going to love the inevitable expansion of this idea

This month the city of Rockford, Illinois will begin allowing residents to call the police and have any vehicle seized on the mere accusation that the car used a loud stereo system.

Merely having a loud stereo is enough! You don’t even have to proved guilty, the arresting officer’s judgement will be enough. And they’ll keep your vehicle until you pay your fines, no matter if you’re guilty or not. The city can wait up to 45 days to hear your appeal of your impounding, while fees accumulate up to $1100!

They say crime doesn’t pay. But it sure appears that fighting crime pays very well, and like any business, the more customers you can create (in this case, criminals), the more it pays.

Another take on Bill O’Reillys foot to mouth insertion

“It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun,” he said. “And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

I think the interesting thing about his quote about eating at an African-American restaurant with Al Sharpton is the nature of the quote itself. He noticed something I wish today’s anti-immigration ilk (O’Reilly being a primary player there himself) would recognize and understand more clearly. People ASSIMILATE. Society demands it of those who want to prosper, as does the free market. This hysteria that somehow, in 50 years America will be North Mexico are, well, way out of whack. A 20 year old Mexican who comes here and works for 50 years will, for all intents and purposes, be a 70 year old American whose children may have never even visited Mexico and has just finished a half century contributing to American productivity through his work and American economic health through his consumption. O’Reilly just realized that, although he doesn’t seem to know it.

He’s getting very close to realizing, it, though:

His radio commentary, he said, “was an attempt to tell the radio audience, black or white, that we’re all Americans [and] the stereotypes you see on TV are not true.”

Is a high school student streaker a sex offender?

A Pleasant Grove, Utah, high school student streaks across his schools auditorium as a prank, and is not only arrested, but a possible mandatory registration as a sex offender! Have people lost their friggin minds?

Not only is this charge a joke, but, if he is forced to register, it will be another step to making the sex offender registry a joke as well. Now granted, that is unlikely to happen, but I’d be foolish to dismiss the possibility. Clearly, a streaker is NOT a sex offender. Nudity does not equal sex, not in every situation. Flashing, perhaps. But not streaking. That’s more than clear to anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense. But if the sex offender registry won’t make the distinction, it will lose it’s effectiveness as fewer people will take the ‘sex offender’ status seriously, assuming the list does not use the common sense it’s users do.

Police complain: The police are too tough!

I think it’s generally accepted that there is no single group of people out there more insulated from the force of police action than fellow policemen. The code of silence is well known, as are the urban legends about what you do and don’t need on your car/license plate to help yourself get out of a traffic ticket.

Apparently, in this age of law-and-order crackdowns, not even the police are immune. And they aren’t happy about it either. CopsWritingCops.com decries, and this is no exaggeration, those policemen who treat other policemen the same they treat everyday citizens! They even go so far as to ‘out’ other policemen in a “Dick of the Month Club”. Could you imagine the coronary Bill O’Reilly and similar ilk would have if a private citizen started ‘outing’ police? There’d be cries of ‘targeting’ and ‘vigilantism’…

The web site maintains that this is simply a ‘perk’ of the job. That they simply want to avoid a ticket for the same things a private citizen may conceivably get away with just a warning. Nonetheless if even policemen themselves are unhappy with the way they are treated by their fellow officers, perhaps there’s a problem?

My favorite quote, from the first story on the main page, an officer upset at the Illinois State Police …

The thing that bothers me is 1) she showed no respect for me. All the years I have worked, the different units I’ve been on, the shitheads that I have arrested didn’t mean squat to her.

Wasn’t citizens he’s arrested, or even criminals. Shitheads. Not as much fun when you’re the shithead, eh?

p.s.  The officer upset at the Illinois State Police for his/her ticket was clocked at 85 mph! Best case scenario, that’s still 20mph over.  What about the concern for fellow drivers?

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.

Rudy, your autocrat is showing

The more you read between the lines, the more Rudy Giuliani sounds like a big government conservative and the closest thing in this race to W …

Glossing over the less appealing line items on his gun control resume, ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani presented himself as sympathetic to the aims of the National Rifle Association and pledged, as president, to protect gun rights.

“Your right to bear arms is based on a reasonable degree of safety,” he said.

So much for the second amendment, that bit about “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Rather, America’s Mayor seems to be saying, “You can play with these as long as you behave. But I’ll be watching.” Ouch. Don’t forget, he’s TRYING to win over the NRA. He’s expressing (trying, actually) his belief in personal freedom! He’s not wrong, but it is telling that he can’t or won’t just express a simple belief in personal freedom. He’s saying “I’ll ALLOW you to do this” instead of “What right do I have to stop you?”.

In case we might dismiss this rhetoric as simply a poor choice on words, he start’s going off-topic and ensures us that, yes, you MUST “respect his authoritah!”

Giuliani said that MoveOn.org’s ad criticizing Gen. Petreaus was out of bounds and hinted that the group should face some sort of sanction.

“They passed a line that we should not allow an American political organizations to pass,” he said. “We are at war right now, whether some people want to recognize it or not.”

As disgusted as I was (and I’m rather agnostic on the war at the moment, leaning towards withdrawal) by MoveOn.org’s ludicrous and tasteless portrayal of “General Betray-us”, I’m not willing to just throw out the First Amendment to get back at them. Unfortunately, many of today’s Republican’s are, and judging by his words and actions, perhaps none moreso than Giuliani…