Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rusty Hair And A Rusty Heart

Verily I say unto you: journalism careers doth corrode your soul. As a compassionate human being who wants the human condition to improve I naturally wish for a country led by leaders both wise and incorruptible, but as a journalist I think “If the government starts making sense, what the hell will I have to write about?”

These are the thoughts that keep me awake nights. But then the dawn breaks, and by the clear light of day I realize my nighttime terrors are ridiculous: government wise? Sane? Incorruptible? Clearly, if I’m going to live in fear I should at least find something less stupid to be afraid of.

Here's a gently snarky piece I wrote for my paper this week, highlighting the pointless unconstitutional bullshittery of random police checkpoints. Before y’all read it, bear in mind this was written for a non-libertarian audience that, despite disagreement on issues like the drug war, generally believes that Government Is Good. That’s why I waited for a few paragraphs before introducing the whole “innocent people should not be harassed” idea.
Before 1990, checkpoints in America were mostly seen on television, when low-rent stations aired old black-and-white movies about life under the Nazis or Communists. “Your papers, citizen.” Pre-1990 civics teachers bragged to their students that Americans are protected from that sort of thing by the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees: “The right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures … but upon probable cause.”

In other words: you can’t be stopped for searches or questioning unless the cops have a warrant or at least a very good reason to suspect you’re up to something. No “fishing expeditions” netting the innocent in hopes of catching a few guilty along with them are allowed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Better A Serial Killer Than A Parent

Any middle-school civics teacher will tell you that constitutional protections for criminals are actually intended to protect the innocent: humans are fallible, governments consist of humans (I’ve been told), and thus governments themselves are fallible. The best justice system in the world will still ensnare innocents in its net, so anyone accused of a crime must be guaranteed certain rights, such as the right to face and confront your accuser, know the charges against you and see what evidence the state has to support them.

This not only protects the innocent, but society as well: if you are, for example, imprisoned for a murder you never committed, that means the real killer is still at large and free to cause more deaths. There are a depressingly large number of people these days who would gladly subvert individual rights in the name of the Greater Good. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they mean well, but they don’t understand that strengthening the rights of the individual enhances the Greater Good as well. Society is composed of individuals, and how can you build a healthy society out of sick individuals, or a free society out of slaves?

Unfortunately, Connecticut has carved a for-the-children exception from the notion of individual rights. The Department of Children and Families is charged with the (admittedly important) task of protecting children cursed with abusive parents. But the constitutional rights granted to those accused of crimes ranging from shoplifting to serial murder are withheld from parents investigated by the DCF.

At the newspaper for which I write, I’ve been working on a series of articles highlighting DCF abuses. My first piece, which came out two weeks ago, discussed how the DCF is gunning for homeschooling parents, charging them with “educational neglect.”

My second story, which came out yesterday, focuses on the DCF’s lack of constitutional oversight.

“The [DCF] is not a law enforcement agency and does not charge citizens with crimes,” department spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said in an e-mail. “Therefore, the agency has no involvement in the enforcement of constitutional rights that relate solely to criminal activity (jury trial, confront accuser).”

“It’s a gimmick,” charges Michael Agranoff, an Ellington-based attorney who specializes in defending parents in DCF cases. “Making [these cases] civil instead of criminal is a gimmick to get around the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution.”

While DCF does not have the authority to impose prison sentences, Agranoff says: “The ultimate penalty you can face [with DCF] is TPR, Termination of Parental Rights. … Most people I know would rather spend a year in jail than lose custody of their kids.”
(Editor’s note: I’m writing this post at an insanely early hour, and reserve the right to go back and fix any mistakes I notice once I’m awake.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Continuing Degradation

I’m thinking of switching my political registration from Independent to Republican so I can vote for Ron Paul in the GOP primaries, except I don’t know if I can fit being a registered Republican into my self-image. Especially not since it’s morphed into the party of young-earth science deniers. How could I look in the mirror in the morning?

Damn. If only Paul ran as a Democrat. That registration, I could handle for a couple of months (so long as I could switch back immediately after the primary, and then take a long, long bath in a vat of warm Lysol). The Democrats aren’t as bad as Republicans these days, though that’s no great accomplishment. Democrats are better than Republicans the same way being gang raped by five biker scumbags is better than being gang raped by ten. Either way, you’re badly screwed.

Figures – for the first time in my life there’s a chance I might actually get to vote for a President rather than against his opponent, but first I have to corrode my soul. (Not that there’s anything inherently soul-corrosive about being a Republican; I’m just one of those fragile sensitive types.)

Also, I don’t want to end up on any Creationist mailing lists. Though if anybody asked I could probably say it’s part of a grand scheme to bring down the intelligent-design movement by inflating their postage costs.

Sigh. What to do, what to do? When I close I my eyes I can almost hear the serpentine susurrations of certain people reading this and saying “Join us. Join ussssss.”

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