Friday, August 23, 2013

August 22, 2013

NBC News took another step yesterday. It was a small one, but it may be significant. On the Nightly News, there were two follow-up reports to the elementary school incident in Georgia. The first largely followed the usual cautious line but did include a clip in which a pertinent question was put to a police official: how did a man who was on probation following a death threat obtain an AK-47?
The other, again by Ann Curry, was an interview of parents who lost children at Newtown. They expressed their frustration on the failure of gun control at the federal level. One summed up the reaction to the Georgia near-tragedy: "Silence. We are a nation in denial."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21, 2013

Better late than never and better one out of four than none. That’s the scorecard for NBC Nightly News on August 20. NBC has managed to report, often, on shootings with no mention of the proliferations of guns, much less the need for control. It has reported, repeatedly, on weird weather with no mention of climate change, let alone of human responsibility for that, still less of measures to combat it. On Tuesday, that changed, only partly, but in that part rather dramatically.

The broadcast carried two stories in the former category, one about a man caught at an elementary school with an AK-47, the other about three teenagers who shot and killed a stranger simply for something to do. In line with its policy, practice, ideology, irresponsibility or simple cowardice, it again said nothing about the gun culture.
There was the usual lack of comment in a story about forest fires. However, in a report on melting Arctic ice, NBC apparently no longer could ignore the elephant in the room (pun intended) and therefore allowed a report by Ann Curry to mention, forcefully, global warming, its effect on weather systems and the major human contribution through the burning of fossil fuels. There was nothing about solutions, but still, this is progress.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013
On June 23, I referred to a bill introduced in the New Hampshire legislature which was based on fantasies about a false "corporate" federal government created some time in the 1860s or 1870s. (In some iterations, it is a foreign-owned corporation). The groups which spread, and apparently believe, this nonsense are instances of the "sovereign citizen" movement. There seem to be two branches of the movement, those who think that everything about the "corporate" government is illegitimate and awful, and those who agree but think that they have somehow replaced it with a new regime.
One of the latter began life as The Guardians of the Free Republics, famous — if that is the word — for delivering eviction notices to the governors in 2010. A falling out among its founders led to its rebirth that year as the "Republic for the united [sic] States" (RuSA) The President of this imaginary entity is James Timothy Turner, who had been a founder of the Guardians. RuSA has declared: "De Jure Government is Restored! The re-inhabited Republic for the united States of America has been Restored circa 1791 Constitutional Law[.]"[68] (Jargon and peculiar syntax are marks of this movement). However illusory all that may be, when drafting manifestos the sky is the limit for the RuSA:
We no longer give our consent for the "UNITED STATES" corporation or any of its . . . representatives of any type to use any of the lands, national parks, . . . resources, . . . air, water, . . .public buildings, . . . roads, . . . lakes, rivers, . . . military men and equipment, . . . technologies, . . . vehicles, ships, . . . aircraft, . . . trains, . . .or any other thing within our national and/or territorial borders that was purchased, developed or leased with funds that were derived from any assets within our territorial borders or from revenues received from our people within our borders.[69] 
(Within the ellipses are listed still more things the false federal government must abandon). 

In their saner moments, the RuSA folk recognize that, although "the Republic for the United States of America has been the only lawful de jure government in America" since 2010, the evil corporate government has, for some reason, not gone away. Therefore RuSA will exist "as a parallel provisional government in America while the UNITED STATES municipal corporation collapses."[70] Imminent collapse is expected, from "failed economic/financial policies," or so they pretend.
The other branch of the sovereigns, apparently having no new entity, simply tells us how awful things are under the false government. Again, this is all fantasy; here are a few samples:

• America is a British Colony.
• A 1040 Form is for tribute paid to Britain.
• Britain is owned by the Vatican.
• The Pope can abolish any law in the United States; but somehow,
• The U.N. also holds all of the land of America in fee simple.
• The IRS is not a US government agency.
• The U.S. Treasury is now the IMF (International Monetary Fund).
• Social Security numbers are issued by the U.N. through the IMF.
• Social Security is not insurance or a contract, nor is there a trust fund.[71]
In practice, "sovereign citizens" concentrate on schemes to avoid paying taxes or other debts, a program which is somewhat less noble than remaking the world, but more revealing of their true impulse. An FBI report noted that they also "create false license plates, driver’s licenses, and even currency."[72] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, they also don't like child support obligations.[73] The RuSa proposes to end the use of "covert contracts" such as Form 1040, car registrations, birth certificate applications, and bank signature cards; deeds and marriage licenses will go as well.[74]

The despised federal government has, not surprisingly, disapproved of their tax-avoidance schemes. James (Tim) Turner and Sam Kennedy,[75] another Guardian founder, were indicted last year on charges of tax fraud; Turner has been convicted and sentenced. Other sovereign citizens have had the same fate, including two locally.[76]  Though most sovereign citizens are peaceful, there have been several armed confrontations with police, as documented in the FBI report.

Leaving aside any criminal activities, several themes run through the tales by various members of the sovereignty movement: the illegitimacy of the federal government; extreme independence, free of government tyranny; a strange (and ludicrously false) view of American history; a general detachment from reality; a desire to turn the clock back to an earlier and largely imaginary time; a sense of mission; paranoia. Like nullifiers, they think that they can decide which federal laws to obey, but take it a step further and apply that theory to state and local laws as well. The sovereigns clearly are around the bend, but it is estimated that there are about 300,000 people who subscribe in one degree or another to their notions, not an inconsiderable number. More importantly, sovereign themes bear considerable resemblance to those found on the far right edge of the GOP, and have some specific influence within the Party, as shown by the New Hampshire bills.[77]

71. Provided by Winston Shrout, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a leader of the sovereignty movement. The full list is at
75. "Sam Kennedy" is an assumed name of Glenn Unger.
77. The 13th Amendment bill was introduced by Republicans, as was the bill to mandate following Magna Carta.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 10, 2013
On June 25, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. On the same day, Texas announced that it would proceed with voter-ID and redistricting changes which would have required preclearance. Within a month, the North Carolina legislature passed a repressive voting law, and Florida announced this week that it will resume its voter purge. All of these actions are likely to suppress minority voting. They were taken with such speed that they mock the Court’s pretense that those states and others covered by the Act do not now discriminate. Texas was covered by the Act (except for two utility districts), along with forty counties of North Carolina and five in Florida. Those states have made clear that the Act should cover them entirely.
Nothing can be said in defense of the states’ actions, but the greater blame must be assigned to the Court, which not only made a bad decision — both in terms of reasoning and result — but extended a string of decisions which raise doubts about its competence and integrity.
In a system such as ours, respect for the decisions of the Supreme Court is crucial. This is so because we have a written constitution, which tends to convert political issues into matters of Constitutional interpretation. It is so because we are a litigious society, and tend to think of all issues as legal issues. There must be genuine respect, not merely acquiescence or resignation, if there is to be political peace, confidence in legal outcomes and stability of government. No such respect is possible now. The Court has become philosophically polarized, its conservative wing — Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito, often made a majority by the addition of Kennedy — has become politically oriented and activist, and its legal reasoning would embarrass a first-year law student. Consider District of Columbia v. Heller (guns), Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (money in elections) and Shelby County v. Holder (the Voting Rights Act). Consider the strange Roberts opinion in Nat’l Fed. of Ind. Business v. Sebelius (health care).

Three of the present Justices — Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy — have had little credibility since Bush v. Gore .[66]  That decision was so blatantly political, so clearly result-driven, that the Court’s opinion had to note that it was "limited to the present circumstances."[67]  In other words, it was so indefensible that it had to be labeled "good for this day and trip only," not to be cited as precedent. Justice Stevens summed up the issue in his dissent in that case:
It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. . . . Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
He added that "[t]ime will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision." Time certainly hasn’t restored confidence yet, and probably won’t until there is a change in the Court’s personnel.

We can’t blame Roberts and Alito for that decision, but the converse is true: Bush v. Gore put Bush in the White House and he put the terrible twins on the Court. 
8/12/13: The N. Carolina governor signed the voting bill today


They were joined by former Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor.
67. Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), per curiam opinion

Friday, August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013

Two evenings after listening to Faust, I played Rigoletto. This again was a CD remastering of my favorite recording, of 1968, with Cornell MacNeill, Reri Grist and Nicolai Gedda. It had the same effect as before, leaving me so mellow that I hadn’t the necessary indignation to ramble on about the myriad ways in which the world is not sorting itself out as I would like. However . . . .
Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day