Archive for July 20th, 2006

Creep: DC Kidd

In a conversation over at WRIM (get yer own link) over repealing the 17th Amendment – a debate I don’t want to get into here, but suffice to say I’m against it for many of the same reasons I support the end to our Electoral College – commenter DC Kidd dropped this little bomb:

So little faith in democracy! So little faith in the people!

Maybe campaign contributions aren’t the problem at all. Maybe you’ve given the wrong people the right to vote.

*****

Rich:

Every constitutional amendment since the Civil War is bogus and ought to be repealed.

We’ve given the wrong people the right to vote? Remember this is a paleo-conservative speaking. We can only wonder who he means.

First, let’s look at those amendments passed since the Civil War, shall we?

Thirteenth Amendment: Abolishes slavery. (1865)
Fourteenth Amendment: Made all people born in the US citizens; government can’t take away citizenship; extends protection of law to all citizens. (1868)
Fifteenth Amendment: Gives all citizens the right to vote, regardless of race. (1870)
Sixteenth Amendment: Allows income tax. (1913)
Seventeenth Amendment: Direct election of Senators. (1913)
Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition of alcohol. (1919)
Nineteenth Amendment: Extends the right to vote to women. (1920)
Twentieth Amendment: Speeds ascension into office of elected President; clarifies succession of President; sets new dates for beginning of Congress. (1933)
Twenty-First Amendment: Repeals prohibition (the 18th Amendment). (1933)
Twenty-Second Amendment: Limits President to two terms. (1951)
Twenty-Third Amendment: Allows Washington DC to select Electors to vote for President. (1961)
Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Prohibits poll taxes (a fee paid for the chance to vote). (1964)
Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Sets up succession for Presidency after the V-P. (1967)
Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Guarantees suffrage at age 18. (1971)
Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Limits Congressional pay raises. (1992)

So, which of these would you give away? The one prohibiting slavery? The one extending the vote to women? I think it’s safe to say the 18th Amendment – Prohibition – was a throw-away. But the others?

Some of you might be tempted to dump the income tax amendment. But would you prefer raising taxes through other means, like a sales tax, or further property taxes? An income tax is probably the fairest kind: we each pay according to our means.

Others might be curious about the 17th – direct election of Senators. Me, I prefer to do things myself rather than hand my (feeble) power to some other body. Although if this were repealed, you bet your sweet *ss Burns would be out and Tester in. It might also make the state legislature races more interesting… Hm…On the fence. Could be a great topic for debate…moving on…

The succession Amendments, Presidential term limits (aren’t you glad about this one now?), pay raises, etc, seem unglamorous, but necessary administrative corrections.

The others protect the individual from arbitrary voting restrictions.

And DC Kidd would like to see them all go away? Why? Kidd:

Shane M. wrote: “The only solution I see is a more informed public.”

That is not a solution at all because the majority of people in this country are incapable of being informed. They can only be propagandized and programmed by mass media. Forget any dreams you may have of an enlightened proletariat.

The solution to the problem of low-quality, pandering political leadership is controlling the franchise, i.e., the laws that govern who is legally qualified to vote. Presently, the franchise is extended to just about anyone, with little or no regard to his personal attributes. Our liberal, and therefore misguided, interpretation of “equality” has enfranchised a very large number incompetent and unproductive people, who in turn tend to elect incompetent and unproductive politicians. By restricting the franchise to only citizens who have met certain age, education, and property ownership requirements, the quality of elected officials would naturally rise.

Of course, the qualifications for voting could be further specified to further improve the quality of the political leadership, such a language requirement or several years of military service, for example. But age, education, and property ownership would be start.

Let’s pause for a moment while we ponder the irony of a conservative decrying a political system that panders to its electorate…

The problem with this view, is how do we decide who should vote? If we go by DC Kidd’s guidelines – property ownership and education (age limits already exist) – does that mean if you rent, you can’t vote? So much for the majority of New York City. Or college students. Does that mean if you don’t have a college degree you don’t vote? Or a high school degree?

What makes a property owner a better voter? What makes a college-educated person better informed about civic issues than a high-school dropout? Would the education requirement disqualify military veterans who haven’t finished school?

You could argue that owning property makes a person more interested in local issues, but is that always the case? Might you be disenfranchising a number of people who actually have more knowledge about local issues? And who’s there to protect the rights of renters against landlords if renters can’t vote? Don’t renters have a say over how and where roads, schools, and bus lines are built?

And how do you guarantee that voter limitations wouldn’t be abused to, say, disenfranchise African Americans in Southern states or Native Americans in Montana or women or any minority group who would receive voting rights only as a privilege from the powerful majorities?

The assumption here, of course, is that DC Kidd himself is the model of an “informed” voter. He would like only those like himself voting. That’s why he mentions these qualifications – education, property, military service. These are the things he holds dear.

I, on the other hand, would require an essay test, thorough knowledge of literature and baseball statistics, and maybe a maximum income level. Definitely an amount of service to nonprofit or charitable organizations. Art is more important to me than property, in my opinion, in deciding who’s a better citizen.

But that’s me.

DC Kidd’s view is not uncommon among conservatives. It’s part of this “eliminationist” push you see from the right – this desire, not to debate or best liberal opposition, but to remove all non-conforming ideology from the public sphere. DC Kidd wants to tailor voter qualifications to ensure that his party of preference and his ideology never meets opposition or encounters debate.

In essence, he disdains democracy. If you don’t agree with his point of view, he doesn’t want you to vote.

There’s an irony here, of course. Be careful what you ask for.

David Crisp:

dc kidd,

But if standards for competence and productivity were imposed, wouldn’t you miss voting?

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Links…

Pogie notices that RedState rightwing bloggers think Burns’ source of funding is shameful.

Speaking of using the dead for political purposes, it turns out Mke DeWine’s ad featuring the 9/11 dead was doctored.

Lamont leads Lieberman in the latest poll.

Meanwhile, Lieberman thinks he’s running against the blogs and has forgotten Ned Lamont.

Meanwhile the right-wing spin machines are looking to pin US failures in the Middle East…on John Kerry. Take some accountability for your actions, you m*therf*ckers!

At least one Republican war supporter softens his stance after seeing for himself how bleak the situation is in Iraq.

Kevin Drum hopes the Democrats will embrace for 2006 the issue economic disparity between the growing wealth of the richest, and the shrinking paychecks for the rest of us.

Digby on Ralph Reed: “Ralph has always been a sleazy Republican operative who pretended to be a Christian.”

Katrina victims can’t talk to the press “without an official escort.” FEMA has gone from incompetent to creepy. Or maybe it’s both now.

Dan Quayle gets offended by John Mellancamp, Charles Barkley admits he’s given up on the GOP: “I was a Republican – until they lost their minds.”

Colbert discusses Bush’s first veto and a little girl who flips the President off.

We bloggers tend to rush to judgment, cry “foul” whenever we see a perceived slight or possible malicious tinkering with information found in traditional media outlets – newspapers, television, radio. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re wrong.

The other day I blogged about the disparity in coverage of possible inmate abuse at the Missoula County detention center. I was aggressive in my judgment and concluded:

The real story now isn’t whether an officer violated an inmate’s basic civil rights, it’s whether the Sheriff, in collusion with the Missoulian, is covering the story up.

After I posted, I called Tristan Scott, the author of the Missoulian story, “whistleblower” Mike Burch, and emailed the Independent’s Brad Tyer to find out why parts of the story were omitted.

The answer certainly isn’t collusion. Tristan Scott wasn’t trying to cover up the story.

What appears to have happened is that Scott, faced with deadline pressures, time constraints, and a slog of work, might have rushed the story to print assuming that the real story in this incident was the way the inmate was subdued, hinting that possible excessive force was used when shooting the inmate seven times with a pepperball gun.

In Tyer’s story, I think emphasis was correctly put on what happened after the restraint. Namely that the inmate was tied to a chair while still covered in pepper powder, which causes severe physical distress, and that the inmate’s physical distress was used to coerce her into cooperation.

As for the radio reports – which I haven’t heard – apparently they either followed Scott’s lead, or independently came to the same conclusion, that the actual restraint was the real story.

Both Tyer and Scott hinted that they were working on follow-ups to the story, but wouldn’t reveal what those stories may be. (Rightfully so. I’d post a rumor in half a heartbeat if I thought I’d get ten extra readers.)

What’s certainly at the heart of this particular incident is that it does seem to fall into a long list of such incidents playing out at the jail. And Independent reporter Brad Tyer has already gone over this ground, with perhaps some disturbing foreshadowing (emphasis mine):

It was March 2004 when Missoula physician Liz Rantz, medical director for the Montana Department of Corrections, announced her retirement after 12 years as doctor for county inmates, including the last six at the Missoula County Detention Center on Mullan Road. On her way out, Rantz vented her frustrations—including an increase in mentally ill patients being warehoused in a detention center unprepared to properly care for them, inmate alcoholism and the challenges of balancing appropriate health care with the requirements of tight county budgets—telling the Missoulian, “the whole justice prison system is based on things that to me are flawed.”

If you haven’t read Tyer’s story, do so now. It lists a long string of abuses involving detention officers, medical attention, turnover rates, complaints – the whole shebang.

Let me get one thing clear. I am not indicting the whole staff at the jail. Like most organizations, I assume that the bulk of the staff are good, competent officers trying their d*mndest to do the job right. The high rate of anonymous complaints, resignations accompanied by whistle-blowing (like in Mike Burch’s case), the apparent infighting within the organization attests to the concern the majority of the staff feels for the deteriorated environment at the jail.

H*ll, I don’t even judge the officer in the most recent case for his use of seven pepperball bullets to subdue the inmate in question. I wasn’t there! I can’t imagine the stress of having to deal with a hysterical and (according to Sheriff McMeekin) physically imposing woman who might be violent! I probably would have kept shooting the d*mn gun myself twice as much!

(The ensuing torture is, of course, a different matter. Considering the officer in question left the inmate for forty-four minutes showed that he wasn’t acting on impulse or out of fear, but that he had plenty of time to think over his actions, plenty of time to cool down. The torture was deliberate and malicious.)

The problems at the jail boil down to one thing: discipline.

You can’t allow a few bad officers to keep perpetrating abuses and act unethically. They need to be disciplined swiftly and severely. Otherwise disorder will follow.

To me, this is an institutional problem, and ultimately I agree with Tyer’s conclusion in the 2005 piece: McMeekin is the problem.




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