Saturday, July 27, 2013

    1. Who smiles for a mug shot?
    2. Peggy Noonan fans the flames
    3. Trivial rights, real Rights
    4. Pat Robertson is relatively sane
    5. “Thank God!”

1

Angela Swagler, a model child just graduated from high school, took part in a peaceful and lawful pro-life demonstration. But someone in a high or low place didn’t like it. She and all the others were arrested, shackled, jailed, strip-searched (only the girls, of course) and eventually charged with B.S. charges – loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey the law.

That’s just what Prosecutors do to protect rogue cops. They file unjust charges, expensive to defend, and then offer plea agreements with “good and lawful [future] behavior” conditions to silence the innocent Defendant in two senses: complicate a civil rights lawsuit and intimidate so that the Defendant won’t risk arrest by telling any unpleasant truths in public again for a few years. Rogue police can make a Prosecutor’s job hard if he doesn’t protect them, y’know.

But Angela and her father were made of sterner stuff than most of the others, who took the plea agreement and stopped pro-life demonstrating (to avoid violating the vague plea agreement). She sued, and four of five years later won:

After a four-year legal battle, Angela won a decisive legal victory. Harford County and the state troopers formally acknowledged that the officers’ behavior was unconstitutional, and agreed to train officers about First Amendment and free-speech issues. Angela stood in front of the Bel Air station as the settlement was announced, fielding reporters’ questions and publicly forgiving the officers who had abused her.

I love stories with happy endings, but I hate the police state tendencies this story illustrates.

2

A less lurid but wider-spread Police State story won’t die: IRS targeting of Tea Party groups. Peggy Noonan fans the flames:

It doesn’t take long to crater a reputation. The conferences, seminars and boondoggles in which $49 million was spent, including the famous “Star Trek” parody video—all that happened between 2010 and 2012. The targeting of conservative groups, the IRS leadership’s public lies about it, the leaking of private tax information to liberal groups or journalists, the abuse of donor information—all that took place since the administration began, in 2009. Just this week, an inspector general report revealed excessive travel spending by a handful of IRS executives in 2011 and 2012.

All of it has produced the biggest IRS scandal since Watergate …

One irony here is that the Obama White House, always keen to increase the reach and power of government, also seems profoundly disinterested in good governing. It is strange. The long-term project of liberalism involves encouraging the idea of faith in government as a bringer or guarantor of greater justice. But who needs more government if government works so very badly, and is in its operations unjust?

This White House is careless with the reputation of government. They are a campaigning organization, not a governing one …

[T]he president and his spokesman just run around and call the scandal phony.

Thus ends the parallel with Angela, with Barack Obama playing the role of corrupt Prosecutor protecting his corrupt police.

3

How can such things be happening in America? A hint come from Foreign Affairs magazine:

If human rights were a currency, its value would be in free fall, thanks to a gross inflation in the number of human rights treaties and nonbinding international instruments adopted by international organizations over the last several decades. These days, this currency is sometimes more likely to buy cover for dictatorships than protection for citizens. Human rights once enshrined the most basic principles of human freedom and dignity; today, they can include anything from the right to international solidarity to the right to peace.

[T]he 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, without qualification, that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” Yet during the Cold War, at the instigation of communist states, conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is still at the heart of the international human rights system, prohibited certain forms of “hate speech,” with no clear guidelines on how to resolve the inherent conflict with freedom of expression. The consequence of this legal and moral confusion is that human rights are now sometimes invoked to restrict rather than protect free speech.

(The Danger of Human Rights Proliferation: When Defending Liberty, Less is More)

Foreign Affairs is concerned that proliferation of rights gives cover to “illiberal states,” but the same phenomenon is at work in liberal states as well. We may not have the real right to demonstrate peacefully against abortion without fear of bogus arrest and calculated police humiliation, we may find the IRS blocking tax clearance for grass-roots groups uncongenial to The Regime, but we do have rights to

  • “international solidarity”
  • “peace”
  • devour smut that commercially exploits poor runaways with drug problem
  • get our rocks off with whomever we wish
  • dump the spouses (unilaterally and without so much as the pretext of a reason) to whom we pledged “as long as we both shall live”
  • whelp and sire without wedlock at all
  • enter into new “marriages” with others with whom a one-flesh union is impossible
  • die and stop wasting the state’s resources, increasingly with the aid of a lethal dose of something from a post-Hippocratic medical mercenary

We may be in a totalitarian state – okay, “pre-totalitarian” if you insist – but they do provide bread, and boy are those circuses diverting!

We now return to our regularly scheduled torpor.

4

Richard J. Mouw reports that Pat Robertson really isn’t as crazy as you think, by which he apparently means that more mainstream Evangelical figures as long ago as 1971 said parallel things. Robertson’s only sin, it seems, is a relative lack of nuance.

I dissent. It seems to me that both Robertson and his mainstream compadres from decades ago are, in their pseudo-prophetic alarums, applying a sort of Deuteronomistic historical spin to events in the United States — to which the promises and warnings of the Deuteronomist don’t really apply.

Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but – sit down now, as you might swoon from shock – the United States is not ancient Israel, nor do God’s promises and warnings to ancient Israel apply neatly to us.

Or, in other words, sometimes a hurricane is just a hurricane, not God’s punishment of moral slackers.

5

A George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin vignette I had not seen:

Seattle radio host John Carlson–who, like B29, initially thought Zimmerman guilty–notes:

One of the most important, and remarkably under-publicized facts that came out at trial is that one of the detectives, while interrogating Zimmerman at the police station that night, told him that the entire incident had been caught on surveillance video. The detective was bluffing, but Zimmerman didn’t know that. His reaction: “Thank God.”

“Thank God.” How many people who do something wrong, lie about it and are told it’s on tape react that way?

(James Taranto)

Some may see this as evidence Zimmerman was innocent. <Sarcasm>I see it as proof of Prosecutorial incompetence. A competent Prosector would have assured that this did not come to light — get the detective to lie and destroy the video of the interrogation, maybe.</Sarcasm>

You also can be that The New Republic would never report such a thing. It  prefers reckless lies against Zimmerman, and declines fully to correct them when called on it.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.