Archive for the ‘State’s Rights’ Category

I wrote the other day about how the new voter ID law in Texas will disenfranchise over a million voters, many of whom are women.  Well, the law went into effect just in time for early voting for the upcoming November 5th elections.  And, as predicted, citizens are already having problems.  A Texas District Judge said she

was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name. This was the first time she has ever had a problem voting in 49 years.

You probably won’t hear about this on the news very much because they’d rather cover the circus in Washington, D.C. While I’ll admit that clowns are distracting, they’re not quite as important as the death rattle of voting rights.

Voter ID laws are all the rage now (North Carolina, Kansas, etc).   Most if not all of these laws were written by a guy from Kansas, Kris Kobach, on behalf of ALEC (an organization I’ve written about before).  You might remember him better as the asswipe who wrote SB1070 Paper’s Please law.     Well, Arizona also passed another Kobach drafted law in 2004 called Proposition 200 that required voters to prove they were citizens instead of letting them just attest to being citizens.

The Inter Tribal Council of America, a Native American organization representing 20 different tribes with reservations in the state, filed suit and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court (aka, SCOTUS).  Why the Native Americans?  Because many of them are born, live and die on the Reservation and do not have Birth Certificates.  A very large percentage don’t have photo ID’s.  None of that changes the facts that they’re still citizens and they should have the right to vote and be treated equally (14th Amendment and all that).

So SCOTUS FINALLY ruled in June of this year that the National Voting Rights Act of 1993 overrides Arizona Proposition 200 and said that AZ could not reject Federal registration forms using AZ legal standards BUT they didn’t say that the AZ requirements were unconstitutional–just that anyone who used Federal forms can’t be rejected.   Unfortunately, this gives the resident fascists a lovely little opening to screw those pesky voters (who, oh so conveniently happen to be brown and/or female).  AZ Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, has decided that there will be two classes of voters now.  People who register to vote using the AZ state form, which requires proof of citizenship, will be allowed to vote in all elections and sign petitions for initiatives, referenda and recalls.  But those who use/used the Federal form, which only requires the applicant to attest to the fact that they are a citizen, can only vote in Federal elections.

Voting is complicated enough but now they’re trying to specify who has the right to vote and who doesn’t.  This sounds really effing unconstitutional to me and others.  But I’m not hearing about this outrage much in local and state news.   Google searches show up very few articles…one of which is simply an interview that allows Bennett to defend his strategy.

As informed as I am, I don’t even know whether I used a Federal form or a state form.  I’m sure millions of other Arizonans won’t either.  And since they don’t know this is happening, they’re going to be mighty effing shocked when they go to vote in the next election and are told they can’t vote for governor, legislators, ballot initiatives, etc.  But by then it will be too late.  They will have lost their right to vote, the state Republican party will have benefited and any court ruling will be another decade in the future (maybe).  This is another arrow in the heart of democracy and it’s happening far too quietly right under Arizonan’s noses.

It’s not all confetti and party hats this week. The Supreme Court also decided to get rid of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act required that nine states get pre-approval from the Department of Justice before implementing any voting changes because those states had a history of making changes in voting laws for the express purpose of minimizing the ability of minorities and the poor to vote. Now that pre-approval requirement is gone and boy are Conservatives happy. Of course, Arizona happened to be one of those places (emphasis in the following quote is mine).

In one of the strongest statements welcoming the decision, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the law requiring federal approval of voting changes “humiliates Arizona by making it say ‘Mother may I’ to the federal government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws.”

Ummm, voting is not a “minor law”. It’s a big fucking deal. In fact, it is one of the BIGGEST reasons we live in a free country today. To someone like me, someone who doesn’t have health care and keeps getting turned down, my vote for President Obama meant something very concrete and important. I will be able to get healthcare in 2014 and the insurance companies can’t turn me down. It is very likely that having insurance may save my life at some point in the future (I’m not getting any younger). That’s a BIG fucking deal and my vote helped to make that happen. So please Atty. General Horne sit down and STFU.

Thankfully, it doesn’t mean that states still get to do whatever they want. State laws can still be challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional–Arizona had it’s new voter ID law overturned on a vote of 7-2 by the Supreme Court just last week. The bad part is that judicial oversight happens AFTER the law has passed and done it’s damage. This is all conservative preparation for the 2016 Presidential Race. If they can’t win fair and square, it’s become apparent they’re willing to violate the foundation of democracy in order to tip the scales.

The GOP released it’s platform in advance of their convention next week and it is VERY extreme.  Here’s some of the planks:

  • Women banned from combat – yet another right and responsibility they want to take away from my gender.
  • Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – what will happen to all those soldiers who have already come out?  Some have been promoted into the High Ranks.  Will we lose these highly trained and exceptional soldiers because of this?
  • Deny any legal recognition of Same-Sex Marriage–even a lot of moderates think Civil Unions are ok, but not the GOP.  And what about state rights?  If a state wants to allow Civil Unions or Marriage, why does the supposedly “small government” GOP want to prohibit states from doing that?
  • Salute to Forced Ultrasounds – remember the VA bill that made it legal for a doctor to force a woman to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound WITHOUT THE WOMAN’S CONSENT?  That particular gem was specifically praised.
  • No abortion in cases of rape or incest – this speaks for itself
  • Replicate AZ Immigration laws – what do they not understand about the concept of constitutionality?  What do they not understand about the Feds constitutional  responsibility for maintaining our borders?  Why the HELL don’t they advocate for a complete Immigration overhaul so that the Feds can do their job?
  • No new taxes except for war – what if we have several major natural catastrophes that are unplanned for?  What if we have a largescale epidemic for which no funds or not enough funds were appropriated?  If those are too remote a possibility for you, here’s one that is already occurring.  What if population and thus the need for basic services increase without a corresponding equal increase in tax revenues to cover the cost of those services?  This is happening now with the Baby Boom generation.  The wealthy have not paid their fair share of taxes since Reagan was in office reducing revenues to historic lows while our population has naturally grown through birth and legitimate immigration and combine all that with the aging Baby Boomers who will need more and more services as they age.   An increase in revenue MUST occur or our debt and deficit WILL become dangerous.  One more point.  Republicans (and Dems) allowed President Bush to start two unfunded wars.  They are not fiscal conservatives and this plank is utter bullshit.

Source:

http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/08/22/723241/gop-approves-most-conservative-platform-in-modern-history/

For years I felt that it was pretty clear we had the right to bear arms but I never had an answer to those who insisted it needed to be a completely unfettered right because the Founding Fathers intended it to be a safety against tyranny from within. A conversation on another blog made me re-think things.

For instance, modern weaponry simply didn’t exist when the Constitution was drafted and what did they mean by “arms”?   There is no way the the Founding Fathers could have envisioned rifled barrels being widespread, 100 round mags, infrared scopes, etc. Muskets, the individual weapon of choice for the Continental soldier had no rifling–the twisting grooves in modern gun barrels that turn the bullet and improve accuracy. Although it had been invented in the 1500’s, the ability to manufacture rifled barrels in mass didn’t occur until the 1800’s1, long after the Founding Fathers were dead.

When most people armed themselves during the 1700’s they would buy a musket. In fact, because people usually hunted in addition to farming, almost every family in America had a musket of some kind (not to mention for personal defense because we had nothing like modern law enforcement at the time). If they had a bit more money and anticipated the need to defend themselves in close quarters, then they might have purchased a flint-lock pistol and/or a sword. However, those weapons weren’t common because they were expensive and the average citizen/soldier was not expected to carry anything more than a musket and a hatchet. Other things that the average citizen was NOT expected to have were the Colonial equivalents to automatic weapons such as  cannons, grenades, howitzers, etc.

Even if you don’t buy the argument that the Founding Fathers could not have conceived of things like the AR-15 assault rifle nor could have wanted the average citizen to have one, there are other things to think about. For example, what did they mean by a “well regulated militia”? The concept of a militia2, as we recognize it in the U.S., was created by the Anglo-Saxons (think back to England between the 5th Century until the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066). In Anglo-Saxon England a militia consisted of every able-bodied free male and its purpose was to protect the populace from outside invasions and to enforce the ruling feudal Lord’s laws, etc when the Lord’s standing Army was not around. These militias were called to duty by men called Sheriffs (the origin of our modern Sheriffs). In Colonial America, the militia was basically always “on duty” to defend colonists from hostile Native Americans. Thus it was that when the Founding Fathers decided they had no choice but to fight for independence, they turned to the standing militia as their army since it was the closest thing to a standing army.

So yes, armed citizens were a part of the militia and that militia ended up being the military force that fought against British tyranny. However, there was also a firm belief by many in the Colonies that we should never have a standing army as we do now and that a militia would have to be maintained as a result. One can see this in The Virginia Delcaration of Rights3 and its definition of a militia:

SEC. 13. That a well-regulated militia, or composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Note there, the consensus was that a militia was meant to exist if we had no standing army. In spite of the widespread cultural attitude of wariness of a standing army, the Founding Fathers felt it would be necessary. So as soon as the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1784 to end the War, the Founding Fathers disbanded the Continental Forces and then immediately re-formed them as the United States Army–this became our standing military4.   As a result, the consensus was that no militia was needed at that time. The concept of a militia didn’t disappear, of course, because we have the National Guard and the Reserves. The modern National Guard was formed in 1903 as both a reserve force for the standing army but also as a “militia” in the traditional sense to keep the peace at home5, if necessary. That’s why we say a Governor “calls out” the National Guard. The Executive of each state has the right to “call” up that militia. The Reserves were formed early in the Cold War in order to act as a true strategic reserve in the case of a ground war between us and the very large Communist armies of China and Russia and can only be called up by the Federal Government.

So the concept of a militia remains an important part of our culture. However, what is new is the conservative veiwpoint that a militia consists of untrained, armed civilians. The National Guard is highly trained. Reservists are highly trained former active duty soldiers. Your fat La-Z-Boy surfing neighbor with his gun safe in the basement full of automatic weapons is not, nor should he ever be part of a militia UNLESS he signs an official piece of paper and verbalizes an oath, loses 50 lbs, gets some damn training, learns how to follow orders, etc. A “well regulated militia governed by civil power” also does not include the various indepdent groups formed by charismatic libertarians (or neo-Nazis as is sometimes the case in AZ) that build compounds out in the hinterlands. Sometimes these groups take it upon themselves to patrol our national borders with Canada and Mexico, but they are certainly not what the Founding Fathers defined in our Constitution. These self-same militias and conservatives sometimes encourage secession of a state and openly renounce the power of the Federal Government (especially since President Obama became the Democratic Party’s nominee for the President in 2008). For some reason they fail to note that the militia was supposed to be governed, like all military forces should be according to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, by civilian power. In the U.S. Constitution civil power is the people and the people wield their power through their elected representatives that are sent to State and National Legislative Bodies and Executive Offices.  This is why we have never suffered from a “military coup” and it distinguishes us from many other countries in the world.

Okay, so you don’t agree with this historical interpretation of a “well regulated militia”. What about the fact that the Founding Fathers never wanted bloodshed during the Revolution? Yes, you heard that right. They tried, repeatedly, to find a diplomatic solution. A careful reading of the history shows that they only acquiesced to the idea of a bloody revolution when they felt they had no other choice.

Still don’t buy it? Then what about simple logic (which I am borrowing from a post on another blog by someone who regularly makes incredibly intelligent comments–GrafZeppelin127). Graf posits that it makes absolutely no sense for the Founding Fathers to create a new form of government that was supposed to be stabilized by the three separated powers of Executive, Legislative and Court branches and then allow for its violent, bloody overthrow by a bunch of angry armed citizens6. We absolutely, positively KNOW that the Founding Fathers, almost all of whom were patricians, feared the violence and capriciousness of the mob. They were not fans of ‘direct democracy’.  So when the French Revolution devolved into various factions fighting for control and mob killings not only of the nobility but each other, their fears were justified.   That fear is  precisely why the Founding Fathers created the Legislative Branch, to create a filter and a process that would make the change of laws a more deliberative process. In fact, the entire concept on which our United States is built is the concept of a peaceful, bloodless change of power through election. Graf argues:

If any person can unilaterally and arbitrarily decide, on his own initiative and for any reason, that “the government” is by his own subjective definition “oppressive,” take his gun, go to Washington and shoot his, your, my, and others’ duly-elected representatives, then this is neither a free country nor a republic nor a democracy nor a nation of laws. The exercise is ultimately and entirely self-defeating.

I think Graf is absolutely right. The Founding Fathers feared instability as much as they did tyranny. That’s why they created our “experimental” form of government. Furthermore, the argument made by conservatives that our right to bear arms was meant to protect us from internal tyranny of our own government ignores the fact that the actual structure and process of governance (i.e., elections, the three branches, the states versus the federal, the separation of church and state, etc) are our protection against internal tyranny.   No particular group–not the military, a church, the rich, the poor, the majority, the minority–could gain enough power, quickly enough to establish tyrannical control.   To claim that the Founding Fathers meant to introduce the wildcard of armed yokels with itchy trigger fingers into that wonderfully stable and tyranny free system is absurd.

Strangely enough I have made this argument to libertarians before but I never realized it.  I would always sputter something about, ‘well that’s what Congress is for….go vote…don’t take up arms”.  The next time I encounter a conservative that wants to discuss why he can’t have an Uzi, I’ll be much better prepared.  Thank you, Graf!

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rifling
2. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/223015/fyrd
3. http://www.constitution.org/bcp/virg_dor.htm
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Armed_Forces#History
5. http://www.ng.mil/features/birthday/index.html
6. http://bobcesca.com/blog-archives/2012/07/progress-10.html#disqus_thread

They’re at it again! A group of Republican lawmakers here in AZ have proposed a bill to censor the speech of teachers. Evidently some teachers have been using naughty words and corrupting poor innocent high school students–as if!

Seriously though…they are actually proposing to limit the speech of teachers to words approved by the FCC for network broadcast. This law would apply to anyone who works at any public preschool, K-12, community college or university. So that means Charter schools get a pass, right? Boy, charter schools getting to do whatever they want seems to be a developing trend. I have a problem with this (obviously) for several reasons.

First, it’s unnecessary. School prinicipals and district administrators should have all the power that they need to discipline teachers for inappropriate language and conduct. It’s called an Employee’s Manual along with a Policy and Procedure manual that defines expected professional behavior. Second, why is it only applying to public schools but not private schools. They are supposed to serve the same population, our kids, and though charter schools are technically private, almost every private school in this country gets some tax dollars. Many laws (but not all) that apply to charters should apply to public schools and vice versa. This proposed law is the perfect example of the double standards “privatization” champions are constantly pushing on the public sector. Third, don’t our state legislators have anything better to do? It’s not as if the state is facing record budget shortfalls, like a $1.5 billion projected shortfall in 2012. And its not as if our Educational system doesn’t need some major work. Arizona was ranked 45th among the states in 2010. That’s pretty embarrassing. I could go on and on about things that need immediate attention in this state and high school teachers cussing isn’t one of them.

Fourth, why put this limitation on college level teachers. Students in community college and college are legally adults. They can serve in the military and get their heads shot off. I can guarantee the average 17 year old going into the military will hear and learn a lot more swear words at Basic than they will in their entire educational career (including pre-school through graduate school). Saying that a college professor can’t use a curse word in front of adult students is absurd. I’m not advocating that they do that (as cursing rarely has a place in the classroom) but to make a law to prohibit it is just offensive.

The fifth and final reason relates to a principle. Conservatives claim to hold dear the idea that the government should intrude into our lives as little as possible. However, there are some topics on which they simply cannot restrain themselves from intruding in our personal lives. Basically, how can conservatives say they want LESS government but constantly be proposing and passing bills that actually puts MORE government into our lives? Here is a list of the things that the GOP in AZ and nationally want to do to increase the size and reach of government.

1. New “volunteer” state militia to secure border costing taxpayers $1.9 million to start and answerable to the Governor’s office only since she can put anyone in charge of her little army she wants…no qualifications specified in the law*. Must be nice to have one’s own private army. Who does Gov. Brewer think she is, some kind of Somalian Warlord?! Furthermore, there is no idea on what it is projected to cost in future years to maintain. It takes a hell of a lot of money to train that many men, administrate that kind of organization and pay out in law suits when they screw up….and they will, eventually. Give any human being a gun and some authority, mix that with jingoistic pride and a lack of ongoing training and multiple balancing agencies watching over them and you have a disaster in the making. If you want to see what happens with groups like this, look no further than the Brisenia Flores murder. Oh, and never mind the redundancy–we already have the National Guard with troops on the border, not to mention tens of thousands of Border Patrol agents and active duty military personnel on the border. Oh, and never mind Gov. Brewer’s complete lack of constitutional authority over border security.

2. The initial refusal and then slowness in implementing new Medical Marijuana law. The Federal courts threw out Gov. Brewer’s case to delay the implementation. Then she said she will have the Dept. of Health issue licenses for dispensaries just as soon as a State court judges whether the rules created for the dispensaries are legal or not. This excuse was just more delay tactics by her office. Finally the State Judge said, “implement the darn law” (paraphrasing of course). If the GOP is so “less” government interfering in our lives, why on earth are they coming between sick people and their doctors who believe nothing else will relieve their suffering?

3. And speaking of getting between patients and their doctors, the state of Arizona requires women to appear in person to sign an “informed consent” form the day before the procedure. There is no logical reason for this to occur since it is standard practice for the Doctor and the patient to have consulted face-to-face previously to even schedule the procedure. Ultimately the state government is trying to make it more onerous on women to have the procedure done, to stretch out the time between a woman’s decision and the actual procedure, and to give time to anti-choice protesters the time to rally forces and be present when the poor woman does go into the procedure. BTW, these protestors will sometimes follow women who sign a consent form one day by tracking their car, going to their house, place of work, etc. If that’s not “harassment by proxy”, I don’t know what is. Now here’s the insult to the injury….Arizona only allows abortions to save the life of the mother….but the state also says that health care providers now have the right to NOT discuss the option of abortion, emergency contraception, or birth control. That’s right…the state has authorized doctors, nurses, pharmacists the right to simply not mention what could be a life-saving procedure to a woman, which violates thousands of years of tradition in the medical community to give a patient all of the available LEGAL options, the risks, and let the patient make the choice. Now they can simply avoid discussing it entirely and if the patient is not educated enough to ask about those things, then oh well, they’re just SOL. That sounds like BIG, BIG government to me.

4. SB1070 the strict immigration law making it a misdemeanor to be in AZ as an illegal immigrant. Specifically the law says that officers when making a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” can also detain a person on the charge of being here illegaly “when there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant”. The “lawful stop” part is fine. Reasonable suspicion is fine….it’s the part about “reasonable suspicion of illegal status” that is the problem. So the minute an officer asks you for papers, they have to already have a “suspicion” and it has to be “reasonable”….but how can you tell illegal status? By their race? By the way they drive? By their clothes? By their speech? By their lack of documents? Guess what…within hours I can find dozens of very brown people who only speak Spanish, don’t have documentation on them but are indeed U.S. citizens. Hell, I don’t carry my Social Security Card around with me, because it’s just asking to have someone steal it and then my identity. I have on occasion been pulled over for speeding and have been unable to find proof of insurance and struggled to find my registration (once I had forgotten to renew it). Under this new law, I could have been deported for crying out loud! I can also find people who are blond or red-head who speak English fluently and are actually Hispanic or of some other origin who are not citizens. What about someone in U.S. military uniform…I bet the police wouldn’t suspect them of not being citizens, right? Guess what….There are soldiers in Afghanistan (and were in Iraq) that are fighting for the U.S. but are not citizens. So how can an officer form a reasonable suspicion EXCEPT by using racial profiling, which has been illegal for quite some time? A recent study has found that since the increase in deportations under Pres. Obama and the shortening of the time it takes to deport someone, thousands of U.S. citizens have been illegally detained and deported. The ability to take away someone’s freedom is the most dangerous power we give to the government and it should be the power that we restrict the use of the most. Yet the GOP in AZ (and any Democrats acquiescing to such nonsense) are allowing the systematic violation of this most important right every day.
5. Arizona Republicans love them some “eminent domain”–when the state/city forces someone to sell their property so the government can build something else on that spot. Eminent domain was used in the Light Rail project in central and downtown Phoenix, to put up a police substation in Mesa (note that author of that was one of the biggest supporters of SB1070), and to take land away from the Federal Government (yes, you read that right).

This post would be pages and pages long, if I were to list the stuff that has happened in other states and what is being proposed by many of the Republican nominees such as a ban on all contraception. So next time a conservative starts spouting off about liberty, ask them why they’re okay with taking people’s homes and businesses or controlling what happens in a woman’s uterus. Odds are they will change the subject.

Notes:
*Anyone want to lay bets that Sheriff Joe, if he is forced to resign from MCSO or if he decides to retire (with full pension), will be appointed by Brewer to head up the new “militia”?

Sources:

http://tucsoncitizen.com/arizona-news/2012/02/12/bill-aims-to-censor-arizona-teachers-speech/

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=711

http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2010/08/30/daily41.html

http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2012/02/13/arizona-legislature-could-fund-militia-for-border/

http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/local/article_6040b13e-3e58-11e1-bc0b-0019bb2963f4.html

http://www.keytlaw.com/arizonamedicalmarijuanalaw/2012/01/brewer-illegally-delayed-marijuana-law/

http://www.libertariansolution.com/advocates/159/phoenix-loses-land-auction-then-threatens-eminent-domain

http://www.azcentral.com/community/mesa/articles/2009/05/27/20090527mr-fiesta0529.html

http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/04/29/20110429arizona-bills-brewer-24-vetoes.html