The Supreme Court decided yesterday, in a narrow vote, that if you want to remain silent – and stop police from peppering you with questions – you have to say you wish to remain silent (and thereby legally end the police questioning).
Our newest Supreme Court Justice, Sotomeyer, dissented saying this ruling “turns Miranda upside down.”
“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”
That’s what happens when the word “right” is thrown around haphazardly as it is in today’s culture. What Sotomeyer is attempting to do (and what the court has done in the past) is imbue a legal privilege with the mantle of “right”. Telling someone they have the option of remaining silent has nothing to do with a right. It is a privilege our legal system has granted to those who’ve been arrested so they won’t incriminate themselves mistakenly.
There’s nothing wrong with requiring an acknowledgement that they wish to invoke the privilege of silence. There is likewise nothing wrong with assuming they aren’t invoking it by their silence. They must speak when they’re asked if they understand the Miranda warning, and they must speak to acknowledge their desire for a lawyer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with speaking to say you are invoking the legal privilege of silence.
It’s an “opt in” situation (just as speaking up for a lawyer). Otherwise, police are free to assume that privilege isn’t being used and can continue to try to question the suspect.
I see no right – in real terms – violated by this ruling. And I assume that the Miranda warning will be modified to say that the person arrested must clearly state they choose to be silent and that will be recorded or attested too. The simplest way is verbally followed up by a standard form invoking the privilege and signed by the defendant. I don’t see a problem there.
BTW, Elaina Kagen, now a SCOTUS nominee, had this to say about the case to the court as solicitor general:
“An unambiguous-invocation requirement for the right to remain silent and terminate questioning strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the suspect’s rights and permitting valuable police investigation.”
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One of the things I most admire about Walter Williams is his ability to succinctly state a point. In this case the point is about the false assertion that health care is a “right”. The primary argument against such a “right”:
True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of non-interference. If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.
This is the argument that the left tries to wave away. They do so on various grounds. “Well, it’s the humane thing to do”. Or, “we’re a better society than one which lets people go uninsured”. Or, ‘we owe it to the less fortunate”. Always the imperial “we” in which they decide to force an obligation on others using the power of government. And it all stems from a basic misunderstanding of “rights”.
No “right” as defined by the Constitution (a statement of law) or Declaration of Independence (a statement of philosophy undergirding our country’s law) impose obligations on others for their exercise. What they do impose is a responsibility of non-interference which allows others to exercise their rights. But, as Williams points out, the “right” to health care does impose an obigation on others for that person to exercise their “right”:
Say a person, let’s call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab’s and Dr. Jones’ services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?
You say, “Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay.” You’re right. Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another? There would be one important strategic difference, that of concealment. Most Americans, I would hope, would be offended by the notion of directly and visibly forcing one person to serve the purposes of another. Congress’ use of the tax system to invisibly accomplish the same end is more palatable to the average American.
Disguising it doesn’t change the fact that an obligation is being forced on others for the exercise the “right” of health care. The point, of course, is calling something a “right” doesn’t make it a “right” simply because one wishes it to be – not if you understand what a right is and what it means. Instead of a “right” it should be called what it is – a coerced obligation imposed by government. Calling it a “right” is simply an artifice used to try to make the coercive use of force more palitable.
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What do doctors and florists have in common in the state of Louisiana? Both have to be licensed by the state. That’s right – the person who preforms heart surgery on you and the person who arranges the flowers you get afterward both have to meet licensing requirements set by the state.
A 7-decades-old state law requires florists to pass a test and get a license to arrange and sell flowers, making Louisiana the only state in the USA with such a requirement. Supporters of the law say it ensures florists know what they’re doing and deliver quality products.
“Know what they’re doing and deliver quality products?” I thought the market, i.e. customers, usually rewarded or punished those in that profession who didn’t “know what they’re doing and [don’t] deliver quality products”.
So is this licensing requirement a) rational b) necessary and even c) constitutional? What it certainly is, though, is a bar to entry into the market imposed by government.
The arguments about licensing in general fall on two sides. Some see no reason to license anything – the market will sort out the good from the bad. Those that approve of licensing argue than in many cases lives and health are at stake and, in such cases, it is the role of government to step in and ensure those who pursue those professions are competent enough to do so.
Arranging flowers certainly doesn’t seem to fit the category of a risk to either the life or health of their clients.
What it certainly does is limit those who can enter the market. First, it imposes a $2,000 licensing fee. That will obviously keep a certain percentage who might otherwise become florists from attempting it because they don’t have the money. Certainly that might be a small percentage and you can make the argument that anyone who can’t afford the fee probably can’t afford to be a florist, but is that your or the state’s call? Instead it is an artificial barrier to entry in the market arbitrarily imposed by the state.
And, usually, when such a bar to entry is evident, you’ll find businesses who’ve met the bar to be the most ardent of supporters. Why? Because it is an artificial means to limit competition. For instance, this case:
The test to obtain a Louisiana florist license consists of an 80-question written exam and a four-part hands-on section, where aspiring florists are scored on how well they put together funeral wreaths, table bouquets and other arrangements, said Mike Rome, vice president of the Louisiana State Florists’ Association, which supports the law.
On the written exam, candidates are asked questions about floral arranging and flowers in general, including how to prolong the life of flowers, wiring methods and plant identification.
In the design section, the aspiring florists have four hours to arrange four designs: a wedding arrangement, corsage, funeral wreath and table bouquet.
Judges then score the designs using guidelines such as “Has the design the proper focal point?,” “Is the correct gauge wire used on flowers?” and “Is a corsage pin attached to the corsage in a way that will not injure anyone?”
Candidates are judged by a panel of three licensed florists. The average score of the written and floral arrangement sections needs to be 70% or higher to pass. The arrangements are judged more on technical competence than creativity, Rome said.
“The florist license gives the consumer a little more assurance that you get a quality product,” Rome said. “Florists are artists; they’re very opinionated. But sometimes you have to follow industry standards.”
“Industry standards?” What “industry standards”. Louisiana is the only state in the union that licenses florists. So whatever standards are imposed by a rather biased group, who apparently brook very little deviation from whatever arbitrary standards they’ve dreamed up, have control over who or who doesn’t join them in that state’s florist market.
As John Stossel reminds us:
Established businesses have always used government to handcuff competition. Years ago, small grocers tried to ban supermarkets. A&P was going to “destroy Main Street,” the grocers cried. Minnesota legislators responded to their lobbying by passing a law that forbade supermarkets to hold sales. Consumers were hurt.
And that is the result of this legal travesty.
As it turns out, 4 would-be florists have taken the requirement to court:
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here last week is challenging the law’s constitutionality, claiming it infringes on a resident’s right to earn a living. The suit, filed by the Institute of Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm based in Washington, D.C., lists as plaintiffs four local florists who have either failed the test or refuse to take it.
“Who is the state to tell me I’m not an artist?” said Monique Chauvin, 42, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Chauvin, owner of Mitch’s Flowers in New Orleans, failed the test in 2000 and has not retaken it. “It’s time for this archaic law to be off the books,” she said.
Chauvin, who has apparently owned a successful florist business in New Orleans for 10 years is defacto proof that the requirement is unnecessary. She’s obviously been successful enough in the marketplace (i.e. her customers find her floral arrangements satisfactory enough to keep her in business – even in a recession) without licensing to stay open for 10 years.
So, why is Chauvin bringing a lawsuit now? Enforcement:
Chauvin said her legal fight is about keeping her shop open through the economic recession. She now has two options: hire a licensed florist or take the test again. If not, she’ll be forced to close her shop.
The market, not a state panel, should be the final judge of her bouquets, she said.
“If a customer is not happy with what we do, he’s not going to come back to me,” Chauvin said. “That should be the quality control.”
Exactly. So in answer to the three questions above – a) it’s not rational. It imposes arbitrary requirements as well as artificial bars to entry on a profession which threatens neither life or health. b) it’s not necessary. Consumers don’t need government “protection” from florists. and c) it’s most likely not constitutional since most would agree it interferes with a person’s fundamental right to earn an honest living in profession which doesn’t threaten life or health.
Of course, my use of the words “life or health” imply I find the licensing of those who work in professions that can have a detrimental effect on life or health, such as the medical field, to be ok. Well, yes and no. I think, for instance, a market solution is possible for those professions as well. Think, for instance, if the American Medical Association, instead of being a shill for government health care reform, was a body that set minimal professional standards for the medical profession and anyone seeking membership had to demonstrate competence enough to meet those standards. If you were seeking out a doctor, most likely your first question would be “is he (or she) a member of the AMA?” And, in this day and time, you’d most likely be able to access an AMA data base to check doctor’s out before going to them. And your insurance carrier would certainly require you use such a doctor, wouldn’t it? In fact, you’d likely be leery of any doctor that wasn’t a member. Same solution as now exists done on a voluntary basis without government intervention. And certainly there might be other associations that would form which would also lend credibility to a doctor’s abilities than just the one.
Would the AMA have a reason to assure its members met their standards and continued to meet them? Of course it would. It’s very existence would depend on it, as would the credibility of every one of it’s members.
Of course that’s all been rendered moot by government deciding it should be the final arbiter in that regard. But it is food for thought, isn’t it?
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Why? Because history is what it is and resists attempts to rewrite it for political reasons.
A week or so ago, I pointed to an attempt by Ezra Klein to change the history of the Civil Rights bill of 1964 by claiming that the Democratic Senators in the South were a “third party” with which the real Democrats formed a coalition. Of course, as I pointed out, that’s pure nonsense.
Today we see an attempt to whitewash the same period in history. In an article in The Hill, J. Taylor Rushing discusses the latest attempt by the Senate majority (the Republicans talked about it when they were in the majority as well) to do away with the filibuster. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will introduce a bill to take away the minority’s power to filibuster. Of course, it takes 67 votes to change that rule, something highly unlikely to happen.
But within Rushing’s story where the history of the filibuster was being recounted, I noticed this sentence:
In the 20th century, Southern senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a majority of the Senate.
Here, let me fix that so it accurately reflects what happened:
In the 20th century, Southern Democratic senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a bi-partisan majority of the Senate.
Al Gore, Sr. Robert Byrd. Richard Russell. William Fullbright. Etc. All staunch Democrats – never anything else. All filibustered the Civil Rights act of 1964 as Democrats.
There is no chance that the Senate filibuster is going to be ended by Harkin’s bill. And there’s equally no chance that I’m going to let any attempts to whitewash this portion of history escape my attention. The conventional wisdom about which party is the friend of civil rights is a myth. And I intend to take every opportunity availed me to point to the actual history of that event, not the contrived one.
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Anti-tax zealots denounce all taxation as theft, as depriving citizens of their right to spend their hard-earned incomes as they see fit. Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed. Nor does it grant us the right to harm others with impunity. No one is permitted to steal our cars or vandalize our homes. Why should opponents of taxation be allowed to harm us in less direct ways?
Oh, Jeez. Correcting all of the problems with this statement could fill volumes, but at its core is this mind-numbingly stupid assertion: “Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed.”
That’s right, genius, it doesn’t. Wanna know why? Because nowhere does the Constitution grant us any rights, you imbecile! That’s not what the Constitution is about or for. It doesn’t grant us the right to free speech, or to bear arms, or to due process, or to be secure in our possessions and properties. It doesn’t even grant anyone the right to vote. What it does is protect those individual rights, all of which existed prior to the Constitution even being contemplated. Which, incidentally, was the point to having a government in the first place (and not to use the state’s police powers to dole out goodies to favored constituencies, as seems to be all the rage nowadays).
Indeed, the only thing that Constitution does grant is limited powers to the federal government, all other powers being reserved to the States or the people (see Amendment X to that Constitution you are blathering about).
Accordingly, your argument is not just “insane”, to use Mr. Ponnuru’s term, it is also fundamentally misinformed. In the future, should find the need to expound upon the foundation of our government and/or its relation to individual rights, perhaps you should educate yourself about those concepts first.
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Corey Doctorow at Boing Boing has gotten a leaked copy of what is characterized as a “secret treaty” – secret because of so-called “national security” implications (secrecy, as we were told during the last election, is the first refuge of tyrants). In fact, it is a copyright treaty alleged to be a part of the Anti-Counterfitting Trade Agreement. Doctorow distills the treaty’s salient points as he understands them:
* That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.
* That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
* That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.
* Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM).
I’m assuming “DRM” stands for Digital Rights Management.
Read each of those points carefully. If accurate these measures would effectively shut down much of the internet and certainly, at a minimum, change the way political blogs function. And there is no question, given the onus being put on ISPs by this treaty to police copyright infringement, that they would err on the side of caution.
This is being negotiated right now in Seoul, Korea by the administration (and, as this Canadian blogger points out, these provisions are being pushed by the US) which so derisively trashed the “Patriot Act” during the presidential campaign. As Doctorow points out, it’s draconian provisions leave ISPs with little choice but to take down anything about which there is even a hint of doubt. “Chilling effect” doesn’t even begin to describe the effect of such a treaty on free speech.
As for the transparency promised by this administration, this, among a mountain of things since it has taken office, apparently doesn’t fit that category. Being negotiated away in secret is your ability to access the internet and speak out if there’s even a hint (proof is not necessary) that copyrighted material is included in your piece.
Sound reasonable? Or are you still a bit of a traditionalist and want to see legal due process and the presumption of innocence remain as the first line defense of your rights? If you enjoy the ‘net as it stands now, you need to speak out against this obvious attempt to control speech. Treaties, even secret ones, still have to be ratified by the Senate. The way to stop this one is to make it not so secret and demand that the Senate vote it down.
UPDATE: Reason’s Jesse Walker:
As the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement enters its sixth round of secret negotiations, rumors are emerging about the provisions under discussion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted the reports it has heard here; if the leaks are true, the treaty will be filled with measures that, in EFF’s words, “have nothing to do with addressing counterfeit products, but are all about imposing a set of copyright industry demands on the global Internet.”
See Michael’s discussion about “corporatism”. It’s like slipping an amendment to build a museum to Ted Kennedy into a defense appropriations bill – hide the desired but unpopular special interest legislation in a more popular and necessary bill.
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As you recall when Honduras invoked its Constitution and kicked out its sitting president for violating it, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica stepped forward and volunteered to act as an intermediary to help settle the “crisis”.
It was, apparently, only a “crisis” to those outside Honduras and now we’re beginning to understand why. It seems Arias wasn’t at all the honest broker everyone thought he was. Cato@Liberty reports:
President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.
But Arias is also apparently at war with the media which to this point is still free and able to oppose the changes for which Arias is calling. The Arias argument against the media sound very familiar:
However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.
This is precisely the formula followed by the new leftist despots in Central and South America. Use the system to subvert the system and expand the executive’s power to a defacto dictatorship. The first step, of course, is to rewrite the country’s constitution to abet their grab for power. And, of course, along the way it is critical that they silence and then control the media.
This formula isn’t a hard one to discern, and the the result is obvious. Despotic governments imposing ruinous socialism while a muted press is powerless to do anything about it.
And where is the US is all of this? Busily engaged in undermining the one government, Honduras, which has actually stepped up to thwart the formula and enforce its constitution.
The US should be on the side of self-determination and the rule of law. Instead, we’ve ended up on the side of power-grabbing future despots and potential ruling cliques of nepotism. How did this happen, and why hasn’t the national media shined its light on Arias’ interests in this dispute? Could it be that it would make Obama look like a bumbling fool on the international stage — or worse?
Good questions with no easy answers. However, one has to wonder why the media hasn’t gotten into the details of what is happening in Honduras and why it is so heavily opposed by the players in the region, such as Chavez, Ortega and Correa. There’s an unacknowledged revolution going on which is neither good for the people of the region nor good for the US and we seem to be not only blind to the fact, but implicitly and perhaps unknowingly aiding it. And now we find Arias too is a player.
Honduras is the only country in the region saying “no” to the trend and they’re under increasingly heavy fire to give in. In fact reports now say the Obama administration is contemplating cutting off foreign aid to Honduras unless they reinstall Mel Zelaya in the presidency. The willing ignorance the US is displaying concerning the problem in Honduras cannot be seen as anything but pandering to the likes of Chavez, Correa and Castro. It certainly isn’t based in respect for a nation’s laws and their right to self-determination – and that certainly makes the Obama administration look foolish on the international stage.
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Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.
So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.
President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.
In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.
Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):
The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.
But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.
The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.
The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.
Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.
In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.
And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.
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As we discussed on the last podcast, as well as in various posts here at QandO, the biggest missed opportunity in the whole Gates kerfuffle was to draw attention to the civil liberties issues. By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner. Of course, if he hadn’t behaved the way that he did (calling Sgt. Crowley a racist cop), then he likely would never had been arrested in the first place. Nevertheless, what we should have taken from the l’affair Gates was that scenes such as the following are all too familiar:
Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.
Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.
“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”
One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.
Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”
According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.
“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?”
It should come as no surprise that, in fact, Tuma was arrested on a charge of ‘disorderly conduct”:
D.C.’s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others” or by shouting or making noise “either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons.”
Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. A “post and forfeit” is not an admission of guilt, and Tuma doesn’t have a court date — but the arrest will pop up if an employer does a background check.
So, adding insult to injury, Tuma gets arrested for expressing his opinion on a public street, spends the night in jail, and then is “legally” pickpocketed by the police. This is a problem, just as it was with the Gates mess, and is the real issue that should be discussed.
Forget racial profiling and other obscurants for a moment and contemplate just how much power has been granted to the police here. Is that a wise decision? Surely we want the police to be able to use their judgment in a given situation, but when a law is drafted so broadly as to provide cover when a cop feels insulted then such law flies in the face of constitutional protections.
Furthermore, situations like this really undermine the concept of police being “professionals”. Having the power to arrest someone because they get a little mouthy is not a power any real professional should want or need. Being a professional means being able to negotiate the situation through one’s abilities, not through one’s grant of extraordinary power. I mean, could you imagine if lawyers had the ability to throw people in clink for insulting them? Who would be safe?
The fact of the matter is that there are just too many laws to begin with. Cut down on number if infractions cops are expected to enforce, and you will cut down on the number of incidences where the police overstep their authority. When the only thing in danger is a cop’s feelings, then I think it’s safe to say that incarcerating anyone is a monumental waste of time and resources that could be better spent going after real criminals.
If I could see my old buddy Ed Morrissey today I’d give him a hug. A man-hug of course, but still, what he wrote today deserves that.
Ed managed, in a well-written and timely bit of sarcasm, to lay bare the rotten claim that health care is a “right”. And he does it brilliantly by using everyone’s favorite foil – lawyers – and illustrating absurdity with absurdity.
Heh … it’s OK Michael, you’ll enjoy it too.