Voter ID laws

Voter identification laws are getting a lot of attention in Virginia this legislative season.

Proponents are correctly noting that ID requirements can help to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents are correctly noting that voter fraud is not a big issue.

Opponents are also claiming that voter ID laws disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, and minorities.   In some way, that’s true.  Those groups are less likely to have ID, though with the possible exception of elderly individuals born before widespread (one might even say mandatory) issuance of birth certificates.  Opponents are claiming that minorities and the poor are less likely to have driver licenses — also (perhaps) true, but irrelevant if the acceptable forms of ID are not limited to drive licenses.

The real purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent unscrupulous political operatives (are there any other kind?) from offering to drive any group of people to polling places (to “exercise their god-given rights”), extolling the virtues of their candidate (and the “evils” of his opponent) during the drive, and thus swaying the elections.  This type of community do-gooder action (“driving people to the polls”) is touted highly, but is actually most often buying a vote.  If an individual calls a campaign headquarters and asks for a ride, it would be reasonable for that campaign to presume the individual will vote for its candidate.  For a campaign to go out to seek out people to take to the polls is disgusting.

I would surmise that amongst those people who would likely not have gone to the polls otherwise, there will be a percentage who do not have, for one reason or another, an ID.  I’d like to see actual data, but apparently it doesn’t prove a thing or the sides would be trotting it out.

Now, one might argue that it is a damn shame there are groups of people in any area who might be subject to such practices.  I’d agree.  That’s also irrelevant to the voter ID issue.

So one party is always afraid the other party will perform such “community service.”

It just so happens this time it’s the Republicans who believe the Democrats have more to gain by using this tactic.  This time, the Republicans believe the Democrats buy votes with promises of government programs (or loss of same).  It has not always been this way.

A tale of two hardware chains

Or are they “home-improvement” chains.

Whatever.

On the one hand, Home Depot, whose customer service has become atrocious lately, has stood up for its beliefs.

The hate group “American Family Association” *  has been pressuring Home Depot not to speak out in favor of human rights.  Apparently, it’s okay to favor human rights; you just can’t say so and stay on AFA’s good side.

On the other hand, Lowe’s chose to pull its advertising from the TLC Show “All-American Muslim”.  All-American Muslim follows families in Dearborn, Michigan.  Yet the primary hate group opposing it is the Florida Family Association (*).  Lowe’s comment:  “We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”   Apparently they’ll defer to communities far removed from the one portrayed.

I haven’t watched All-American Muslim.  It’s not in a time slot I pay a lot of attention to; I know a number of American Muslim families; and I’m not a big fan of TLC.   I  cannot comprehend, though, a company pulling advertising based on opposition from a hate group.  When verifying the information on the Florida group’s web page, I note they’re pissed that neither Hershey’s and Campbell’s Soup has bent.

Excuse me.  I’m off  to buy Hershey’s cocoa, Hershey’s chocolate, and a few dozen cans of Campbell’s soup.   Then I’ll stop at Home Depot for my DIY needs.

Hurricane Irene

I’m not much concerned about Hurricane Irene.

As an advocate of personal responsibility, I’m all for preparation and knowledge.  I’ve been watching the storm track for Irene since it became a hurricane, checking every so often (not every hour) for status.  Thursday I learned we had a 40% chance of tropical storm-force winds by today.  Those in the Outer Banks had greater probability of stronger winds.

So why on the planet of the gods is news not able to lead in to a story with “those most likely to see damaging winds and rain should …” or “most of you don’t need to …”?

Oh, for the record, many of us do need to be prepared for power outages; it seems power companies in this area have a hard enough time dealing with average rainstorms, much less anything that might drop a limb onto one of their lines.

And individuals fall into one of three categories.  Fortunately, some say “I’m prepared for the likely eventuality, and know what I’ll do should stuff hit the fan.”  Others prepare to make laxative french toast, buying up milk, bread, eggs, and toilet paper.  A third faction fails to make any preparation at all, and expects the government to take care of them if they’re wrong.  That’s not personal responsibility at all.

The media enables the second group, adding to traffic congestion, short tempers, and empty store shelves.  Seems the media assumes everyone is too stupid to make any personal-responsibility decisions for themselves, and must be told what to do and when.  Sort of like most politicians.

 

Edited to add this link to a YouTube video showing the storm not strongly formed at all.

Unclear on the Concept

Since you have to be registered to read this part of the Washington Post, I’ll quote the entire letter to the editor:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Perhaps the record snowfall in the Washington region will give us pause to reflect on the value that a functioning and financed government plays in our lives. Those who seem sure that they want less government are equally sure that they want their streets plowed and their loved ones rescued when necessary.

All one need do is reflect on the tireless efforts of plow drivers, police, firefighters and emergency workers to understand that most government workers are proud of what they do and do their jobs well. Most of them also are paid a lot less than many of those people who are least supportive of the increased taxes necessary for government to meet growing demands for services and infrastructure.

We do not really want less government, particularly when we need services. We just do not want to pay for those services. So those of you who don’t want to fund the federal, state and local governments on which we all depend would do well to hope that the rest of us continue to do so at necessarily increased levels, so your streets will be plowed and your loved ones rescued.

Larry Beck, Kensington

Anyone else wonder where he went to school that he doesn’t understand the difference between “governing” and “providing services to the governed”?

And these people VOTE!
Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Never thought I’d thank the Washington Post

The Post printed a fabulous editorial piece on Sunday, though.  By Christopher M. Fairman, the piece was headlined “Saying it hurtful.  Banning it is worse.”  The piece presents a thoughtful response to the do-gooder movement to remove the word “retarded” from the English language.

I have such an emotional response to this issue that I have quit supporting the ARC of Northern Virginia (oh, by the way, ARC comes from Association of (for?) Retarded Citizens) and their rabid stance on it.

Yes, I understand.  Being called “retard” hurts,  as does being called “fatso” or “four-eyes”.   But people need to understand sometimes the meaning of a word is separated from a faddish use.  Legislating away the use of the word “retard” may make some feel good, but it will not change the fact that some people have a retarded intellectual, social, emotional, or multi-faceted development.

I sympathize with the effort in the pledge “I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”  (The pledge is from http://www.r-word.org (as if that isn’t patronizing … like I can’t understand what the word might be?)  The kicker is in “… the derogatory use …”.  If you can’t tell the difference, legislation is not going to help you.

As the parent of a retarded son, I feel it important to retain the distinction.  My son is retarded … his intellectual capacity is significantly less than that of most of his peers, and his social development lags.   He is not stupid in any way, though.  No, he can’t read or write.  He doesn’t understand a cold shoulder, or the concept of what most people consider personal space.  He has difficulty with any number of abstract concepts.  But he understands his world, and in a way, is probably much more fortunate than many of us.  He doesn’t question his abilities, or doubt himself, or long for impossibilities.

But as much as I would challenge anyone who derogatorily call him names, I also challenge those who think they’re “doing something” to get over their paternalism and offer a supportive hand instead.

Even the Wall Street Journal tells only half a story …

I’m only partially joking.  The Wall Street Journal pegs the cost of federal government shutdown at $100 million per day in lost productivity.  If you look at the money the government spends when it is “productive”, are we really losing anything?

Those of us who live in the DC area can see that, while the national news may show a snow-covered capitol building, the real story is the 20-30″ of snow the region cannot adequately remove.  The major streets, congested at best on a normal day, are restricted to 2/3, or even 1/3, their normal width — removing a lane.  Add to that lane markers are not visible, and the “me first” mentality of this area, and you can imagine how many lives and how much property was saved by this shutdown.

Imagine the “me firsters” parking in lots that are clogged with snowbanks.  Hell, parking is atrocious enough on the best of days in this area.  (Governments at all levels will “help” us, though, by mandating hi-rise construction near Metro stops so we can pay a corrupt quasi-government entity for poor, unsafe service while sharing oxygen atoms with the neighbors — but that’s another story altogether.)

If only the House and Senate would stay away rather than stay in session, we could probably save that $100M several times over.

Response from Supervisor Hyland

I wrote Supervisor Hyland regarding the issue of phones/cameras in the courthouse.

A staffer responded; Hyland apparently doesn’t care.

The response:

“Ms. xxxxx – I have shared your email with the Court.  The Chief Judge in cooperation with the Clerk to the Court and the Sheriff propogate rules to keep our resident’s safe at the Fairfax County Courthouse Complex.”

Aside from not answering the question, expecting me to buy the security theater answer, and blowing me off, he blew me off with a staffer who can’t spell and doesn’t understand the rules of grammar.

The word is “propagate” and the plural of “resident” is “residents” — no apostrophe.

If this isn’t a “shut up and color” response, I don’t know what is.

Fun with Fairfax County … NOT

Dummy here let a Concealed Handgun License expire.  My fault, and I have no excuse, so some of this I brought on myself.  Had I mailed the renewal, I could have avoided some of this frustration.  Still, I have to wonder who thinks this stuff up.

According to Virginia law, I carried my firearm openly to the courthouse, and safely secured it in my vehicle prior to entering the courthouse.   FAIL #1.  At the entrance to the courthouse proper, though (NOT in the parking garage, where one could be proactive) is a sign that prohibits all kinds of things bureaucrats are afraid of — knives (no matter the blade length), firearms, cameras, voice recorders, etc.  You know, the stuff that might show what they do, or do not do, as the case may be.

Daughter had her camera in her purse, so she returned it to the car.  She was going to take our phones, which have cameras, but we discussed and decided they wouldn’t take our phones.  WRONG.  They don’t care that people might need to get in touch with one another from inside the courthouse.

So at the door, when the guard wants to take my phone, I told him I had to wait until my daughter returned, as she’d never find me inside.  FAIL #2. He informed me I couldn’t wait for her inside the doorway.  Not “please step outside so others can come through this narrow walkway” but “you have to go outside to wait.”  I told him of course I would, but I resented being ejected from my courthouse.  That was where he told me it was his because he worked there.

Daughter returns from the car; we’re going to give up our phones.  FAIL #3. Guard tells me I have to give up my holster too.  Never mind that it’s empty.  He tells me gun paraphernalia is not permitted in the courthouse.  I ask for a citation, since the law says firearms are not permitted, and he tells me not to quote the law to him; he knows what he’s been told. (BTW, this is not the first time an official in Virginia has used that line — “don’t quote the law to me”; I know it’s been used in Prince William County and have now heard it myself in Richmond and Fairfax.)  After I asked for a citation, he called a deputy.  When she arrived, I asked her the rationale for having to give up my holster, and she informed me, and the guard, I needn’t.  Of course, I did have to remove my belt and holster to go through the metal detector; I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to remove my shoes and underwear as well.

FAIL #4.  NO SIGNAGE. I knew I needed to submit the application to the clerk of the court.  On the first floor, that office is listed as room 304 — which we never found.  Eventually we found a sign that said for information go to 301, which we did find, and that person told us to go to 319 — which is in no way marked for clerk of the court; it says Civil Intake.

KUDO. Debby.  I didn’t bring extra copies, or a self-addressed, stamped envelope.   Nothing on the state police web site or the application says these are required.  Nice lady at the window tells me the state police website says these are jurisdictional (which means exactly what to me?) and I need to go to the Fairfax County website to see this information.   When I said “Oh, yes, the extra-legal requirements” she immediately made copies for me and handed me an envelope to address.  Perhaps they’ve heard that before.

Back to the front door, gather up confiscated phone.  Outside, I took a photo of the sign prohibiting recording devices (photo).  At this point, I truly expected to be stopped from doing so.  When I got home, I uploaded this photo, and looked up the authorizing sections of the code (cited below).  I sure don’t see authority for him to prohibit recording.  I suspect there are two factors at work — protecting the unions that the transcriptionists belong to, and protecting court employees who do stupid things.  I come from that old school, apparently, that believes court transactions are supposed to be open, protecting ONLY the identities of the innocent.  Where I’d draw the line is:  Proceedings = public; Records = private by default, with discovery being the point where a release/no-release determination is made.

The security at the courthouse might make some feel safe, but could likely easily have been circumvented (she posits, given the way in which they dealt with my mentally retarded son, who wasn’t in any mood to empty his pockets or give up his belt or radio, despite my best efforts to get him to comply).  The efficiency with which business could be transacted could be improved hundredsfold with some appropriate signage.  I’d bet a month’s pay that the number of people needed to run the courthouse could be significantly cut with some appropriate policies put in place (or a bunch of policies rescinded), some decent signage, and a culture that believes MOST people are there to take care of business quickly and professionally, not to thwart the bureaucrats.

——————————————-

Code sections referenced by the sign:

8.01-4. District courts and circuit courts may prescribe certain rules.

The district courts and circuit courts may, from time to time, prescribe rules for their respective districts and circuits. Such rules shall be limited to those rules necessary to promote proper order and decorum and the efficient and safe use of courthouse facilities and clerks’ offices. No rule of any such court shall be prescribed or enforced which is inconsistent with this statute or any other statutory provision, or the Rules of Supreme Court or contrary to the decided cases, or which has the effect of abridging substantive rights of persons before such court. Any rule of court which violates the provisions of this section shall be invalid.

The courts may prescribe certain docket control procedures which shall not abridge the substantive rights of the parties nor deprive any party the opportunity to present its position as to the merits of a case solely due to the unfamiliarity of counsel of record with any such docket control procedures.

17-116.2(B) The chief judge of the circuit shall ensure that the system of justice in his circuit operates smoothly and efficiently. He shall have authority to assign the work of the circuit as between judges, and in doing so he may consider the nature and categories of the cases to be assigned.

Hypocrisy

You can’t rail against rationing health care, then pass laws that outlaw medical procedures because you don’t like them.  That’s rationing the health care people can get.  Or if you decide your medical plan can’t cover certain procedures, that’s rationing health care.

You can’t argue that the “other party” will stand between a doctor and patient, then define which medical procedures that doctor and that patient have as options.

You can’t insist your tax dollars won’t pay for one thing without allowing there are lot of things that are an anathema to many, even most, taxpayers.  Therefore, you can’t single out abortions without singling out plastic surgery, war, congresscritter staffs, bailouts, government takeovers of private industry, and myriad other things.   When you’re ready to present a menu from which ALL Americans can pick and choose, you’re free to not fund health care.

Turn the tables …

Imagine, just for a second, this quote came from US Attorney General Eric Holder, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, or Democrat Steve Shannon:  “I will not defend what I, in my judgment, deem to be an unconstitutional law.”  (K. Cuccinelli, 4/4/09) [emphasis mine]

The fearmongers would be having a heyday.  Fox News would go national (probably giving it even a more tabloid spin).  Anti-liberals would be apoplectic, sputtering all over themselves about people who would ignore duly passed laws.  They’d be arguing that it’s not the government’s role to make those determinations, but the people’s.

So I cannot in any way comprehend why these same people are endorsing that attitude for the Virginia Attorney General seat.

What are they thinking????  Don’t tell me “conservatism” (in Cuccinelli’s case, conservatism manifests itself as anti-gay, anti- non-traditional family, anti-choice, holier-than-though power plays to control what choices you make for yourself), or logic.    Call it what it is … hatred of “liberals” – another undefined term.