Thursday, March 23, 2006

SCOTUS Rules On Searches

It seems that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to weigh in on searches.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot search a home when one resident invites them in but another tells them to go away...

Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear from Alito, who didn't participate in this particular case. However, the decision was 5-3, meaning that the ruling would have been the same. There was dissent from the new chief justice, but with some understandable reasoning:

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his first dissent, predicting severe consequences for women who want police to come in but are overruled by abusive husbands.

This ruling, however, does not impact an officer's ability to enter a home to prevent violence. Rather, it decides whether or not police can search a home without a warrant if one person says that they can enter but another says that they cannot. In any case, probable cause can always be invoked. It's just harder to prove. Most prosecutors will tell you that they'd rather have a warrant anyway because it's just a lot less sloppy and legally sound.

The reason why I'm so interested in this case in particular, though, is because I think it shows how the court might rule regarding government wiretapping without a warrant. If they are this strict on enforcing privacy in a situation where one person consents and another does not, I have some idea as to what might happen in a situation where there is no consent, no knowledge, and no warrant. I'm thinking that it could go either 5-4 or 6-3 against the wiretapping if it is brought before the Supreme Court. If it shows anything, it shows that the court isn't nearly as right-leaning as some would have hoped.

It's called an "ashtray"

If you smoke, learn to use one.

This is why I have such a beef with smokers at times. I have no problems with the act itself. They are, after all, your lungs. I have a problem with the fact that 99% of the smokers I know are also some of the most inconsiderate people I know. These are otherwise very polite and wonderful people to hang out with, but they also have some really bad qualities that unfortunately revolve around their habit:

  1. They "require" extra breaks at work. Those of us who choose to take better care of ourselves are forced to take up the slack in a lot of situations.
  2. They really don't care who else has to breath the smoke from their cigarettes. The general attitude is that others are free to come and go as they please. Well, not exactly. If the situation were reversed, the smoker would be free to come and go and choose to light up elsewhere. I can't choose not to breathe, so my only alternative is to not be there. As for smoking sections, I've yet to see smoke pay any attention to a sign that says it can't go past that point.
  3. They litter. A lot. That's probably the reason behind the incident cited above. Someone just flicked a butt to whatever spot was convenient. I get to watch every day as someone empties his ashtray out of the car window or throws a butt onto the side of the road. How is that okay, exactly? Most vehicles come equipped with an ashtray, and most areas have a designated garbage receptacle. I don't throw my used tampons out of my car window. Do you guys think you could possibly consider proper disposal of your refuse as well?

Now please note that this doesn't include all smokers. I happen to know of a few (a very select few) who don't fit the above description at all and are very happy smokers and very considerate people.

St. Clair unlikely to get to vote on appraisals

To be honest, as a resident of St. Clair County, I have no problems with annual appraisals. This isn't exactly Jefferson County, where taxes are completely ridiculous.

But I do have a major problem with one thing-- not allowing the voters to decide how they are taxed.

To be fair, all four of the representatives from my county are asking for a vote from residents to decide whether their homes are appraised every year or every four years. But Montgomery County has decided to butt in:

...Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, who chairs the House General Fund budget committee, led the move to block the St. Clair bill. Knight said property taxes collected by counties also help fund state services, such as prisons, Medicaid, schools and veterans' programs.

...Other single-county bills to address the issue also have stalled. Bills that would call for a statewide vote limiting appraisals to every four years have stalled.

Only Montgomery County did annual appraisals before 2003...

Montgomery County, for those who missed my rant from yesterday, is the same place that originated the oh-so-intelligent bill that would require children across the state to be in booster seats until junior high school. Brilliant guys, these are. (That would be sarcasm, folks.)

Now for those who are going to say that I'm hypocritical because I favored the state representatives from Jefferson County for overstepping the Jeffco Commission, let me explain the difference. The legislators from Jefferson County were voted on by the people of Jefferson County just as much as the commissioners. At no time did anyone in St. Clair County vote for the representatives from Montgomery County.

But then there's the argument that this money goes toward state-wide programs.

Lobbying groups that represent school boards, county commissions and others support the annual appraisals. They say the old four-year method kept taxes artificially low.

Some St. Clair County school officials say they want to keep the annual appraisals, partly because they say the growing system needs the increased revenues that will result.

Okie dokie, so it does. Problem is, I didn't vote for the lobbying groups, school officials, and friends to decide how my taxes would be collected and spent. That's what I voted for Rep. McClendon to do, and this is what he had to say about it:

But Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said government's need for the money should not keep county voters from having their say.

"The fact is, it's the people's money," McClendon said. "It doesn't belong to the county commissions, school boards or anybody else."

And that is why I love him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

To Boost Or Not To Boost

I understand the need for proper child restraints as well as any parent, but...


For those who don't quite understand what I'm getting at here, try to remember where you were at twelve. Chances are, you were beginning junior high school. Now that we're on the same page, how many junior high school students do you honestly think need to be in a booster seat?

While I'm at it, let me touch on one other thing. Go to your local Wal-Mart and check out the pricing on child seats. Imagine replacing it over a twelve-year period. It ain't cheap, and I heavily suspect that there's a lobbyist for Graco or Fisher Price who is hiding behind a door in Montgomery.

The truth is that other states have similar laws, but upon my last review, the toughest requirement for any state was age nine. That's still pushing it as far as I'm concerned, but nine years is better than twelve in my opinion.

From what I can remember, I was out of a child seat by the time I started the first grade. (That would be about age six.) While I think that a lot of kids might not quite be ready for adult-size seatbelts, there are alternatives to a booster seat, like seat belt adjusting straps or child-size seat belts, that are just as effective and can be installed and inspected for free by your local fire department.

Yes, it would probably save a few lives, but why not call for "appropriate child restraints" as opposed to specifically calling for booster seats? At the same time, you can't save every child from every possible danger. There has to be a reasonable line drawn somewhere that lets the parents decide on which measures are appropriate and which are just overdoing it. Otherwise, what are we (the parents) here for?

Rep. Thad McClammy of Montgomery decided to make the case for the bill:

McClammy recounted a recent Montgomery tragedy where a young mother backed over her child, who had gotten out of his car seat and out of the car. "Her message was, `I don't care if you are only going one foot, put the baby back in the car seat,'" McClammy said.

Here's my argument. The representative's example showed a child that lacked supervision, not a child seat. If a two-year-old child can figure out how to open "child-proof" caps and cabinet latches that adults have a hard time getting into, then such a child can figure out how to maneuver out of a child seat. The exception would be if the parent had a padlock on it, and even then, I wouldn't be surprised if the child had a pick for the lock. I've worked with toddlers before, and they'll surprise you.

It almost reminds me of the review that I recently read on about a highchair that I wanted to buy. The mother gave the chair a one-star rating because she felt that the easy removal of the tray made the chair unsafe. Her reasoning? Her child removed the tray (as they tend to do), spilled the contents on the floor (as they tend to do), and then slid right out of the chair onto the floor. She then went on to say that she hadn't used the harness, "but who uses those 100% of the time, anyway?" She also mentioned that she wasn't watching the child, who wasn't even two. Yep. That was the chair's fault. Thankfully, her daughter wasn't hurt.

I like the comment from Rep. Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills, who opposes the bill:

But Williams vows to amend the bill, if necessary, to also require children to wear fire-retardant suits and crash helmets.

Sarcasm is a gift seldom given to politicians. I like this guy.

In Other News - 3/22/06

There's a lot going on in the news today, so I'll just touch on a few:

State truck driver nominee for highway hero award With all the times that I've griped about how commercial drivers are just not as good as they used to be, I think it's about time I posted something good about one of them. I like to see stories like this in the news. It's a refreshing change from the norm.

Sessions leads push for Iraq to form government I've also been known to say some not-so-nice things regarding Sen. Sessions. This time is one of those rare moments when I start to agree with him. Don't get comfortable, though. I still think he's far too much of a rubber stamp Republican.

Jeffco Commission to vote on buying sewer video system I want to know who exactly thought this was a good idea. These guys need to have their heads beaten in with a copy of Quickbooks.

Moore staying put in primary Great news for us. Bad news for Moore. I've said for a while that Moore's best hope for actually becoming governor would be if he ran as an independent.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Let The Green Beer Flow!

I saw this on Alabama Improper (link to the right), and I had to put it on my own blog!
You're 60% Irish
You're very Irish, and most likely from Ireland. (And if you're not, you should be!)
For the record, my family (the part that isn't Italian) actually IS Irish, but St. Patrick's Day over there is no different really from any other saint's day. You get up, go to mass, and that's pretty much it. Too bad I'm not Irish Catholic.

Suspects' parents, others attend grief service at BSC

After reading an Associate Press article (which shall remain unreferenced) that mischaracterized certain Methodist leaders as distancing themselves from the arson suspects, it was nice to see that this was being reported as well.

As for the Associated Press writer, I can't even begin to express how disappointed I am. There's reporting, and then there's stirring up trouble where there is none. That was just uncalled for.

Those Opposed

I was checking my email this morning and was thrilled to discover that Don and Poser had saved me a lot of trouble. Here is a link to a post on Between the Links showing (somewhat) those opposed to I&R. (I was happy to see that my own representative, Mr. McClendon, voted for the resolution.) There's also a nice explaination as to what exactly traspired. Thanks, dude.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Legislators to Constituents: "We don't trust you."

People in Alabama are used to disappointment when it comes to their lawmakers. They’ve been waiting for a long, long time for things like term limits, sunshine laws, PAC to PAC transfer limits, and a re-write of the Alabama constitution. Yet, state lawmakers time and time again fail to provide. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just pass these laws on our own, without having to worry about special interests and lobbyists rewording them to suit their own purposes? Wouldn’t it be nice if Alabama’s government could truly be ruled by its people and lawmakers were held accountable to the role of public servant? Sounds almost like a dream, doesn’t it?

Only it isn’t a dream, and we came very, very close to having it come true. It’s called Initiative and Referendum. The voters want something passed, they sign a petition, have it added to a ballot, the people vote, and it becomes law— no political drama required! But there is a problem. In order for us to have I&R, the legislature has to pass it. That’s what turns the dream into a nightmare.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Ball’s most recent attempt at passing such legislation failed miserably. His bill actually made it out of a House committee and on to the full House and was actually place on the schedule for debate. That’s when the predictable happened:

The bill died after lawmaker after lawmaker stepped up to question it. Rep. Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, after more than an hour of talk, saw the handwriting on the wall and withdrew his bill.

Now why on earth would lawmakers have such a big problem with this type of legislation? Why would they have a problem with their constituents passing laws that they couldn’t and, in effect, saving them some precious time? Because they’re scared, and they should be. That’s why. I&R means almost instant gratification for voters, and it would hold elected officials accountable at all times. For certain officials who are ruled by special interest groups (and their own personal interests) with the rare exception of an election year, that’s enough to make you cry like a little girl.

But some good did come of this. As a result of the debate, we now know which legislators have openly opposed I&R:

The opposition from lawmakers was clear. "We have a representative republic and not a direct democracy," said Rep. Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa.

Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, said people should run for the Legislature if they want to pass laws. "If people want to legislate, let them run," he said.

And I fully intend to find out who else was opposed. I’ll be sure to post it here. I may even start calling or writing letters to their constituents if I get bored. That’s always fun. I agree with Rep. Ball on one thing:

"It will not pass until the public demands it."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

There is another...

It seems that there is a new evil out there, folks. Instead of just worrying about video games and music corrupting our youth, it seems that the Internet is now to blame as well...

Pollick said he's troubled by the cyberspace culture that seems to obsess the current generation of college students. "It's mind-boggling," Pollick said. "This is part of the climate in which we educate."

The behavior glamorized on the Web site may have created such an approving atmosphere of risk-taking and prank-pulling that it could promote not only uncivil but illegal acts, Pollick suggested.

"What is it that would make somebody think that would be acceptable behavior?" Pollick said of torching rural churches. "You look at their families, their life patterns, there would be nothing to indicate this type of action, this type of blindness. The parents are sitting there wondering how this could happen."

Mind-boggling, indeed.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Straw Poll In The Wind

For me, straw polls are a waste of time. They are taken far too early to be anywhere close to accurate, and they don't include anyone outside of the party so as to gather real world data on how these candidates would do in an actual election. Well, the Republicans have had one, and the winner was... Bill Frist. No joke. Then again, the conference was held in Tennessee. I guess home field advantage should count for something. But the vote was regarding the 2008 elections. For those keeping score, this is 2006, and we haven't even had mid-term elections yet. In fact, candidates for 2008 haven't all stepped forward yet. (There are still those hoping for a Condi Rice ticket. You know who you are.) The person that everyone was talking about, though, was John McCain. I was watching Hardball with Chris Matthews toward the beginning of the conference, and a tidbit caught my attention: John McCain asked his supporters not to vote for him. Instead, he asked that they write in George W. Bush's name. I watched as Matthews and several political pundits tried to figure this one out. Why would McCain throw away his votes like that? There was some speculation as to whether or not McCain was genuinely suggesting that the Republican party make a gesture of support during a time when most potential candidates are struggling to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular president. Then there was the suggestion that McCain, in some brilliant politically strategic move, was attempting to somehow knock Bill Frist out of the running. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that last one-- mostly because McCain is no Karl Rove. He's a great leader, but I wouldn't say that campaign strategy is his strongest point. If anything, he has a tendency to tick people off. Then I laughed, because I had a feeling that I knew exactly what he was doing. Based on McCain's personality and his relationship with his party, it would be more likely that he was (in his own way) giving them all the finger. Consider that McCain's relationship with "Dubya" hasn't exactly been peachy. Senator John was the target of some vicious attack ads during the early 2000 campaign-- Swiftboat Veterans style. Later, during the 2004 campaign, McCain's support of President Bush seemed nothing if not forced. McCain later co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Graham that would put an end to torture of U.S. prisoners, and although the president threatened to veto, the bill passed with enough votes to show that Bush's signature wasn't really needed. Regardless, the right-wingers have made it clear that they don't like or support Mr. McCain in any way, shape, or form. If they had the opportunity, they'd boot him out of political existence, and McCain knows it. He doesn't dance to anybody's tune. He tries to cooperate and compromise with Democrats when the need arises. He's a peacemaker. He's a negotiator. He's predictably unpredictable, and the Republicans are scared. They should be. But something else scares the Republicans much, much more: "President Hillary Clinton." With so many scandals rocking the Republican party, and with so many Americans sick of the Bush Administration, the concept is becoming more and more likely. Even people who were consistently shaking their heads from 1992-2000 are starting to believe that maybe those Clintons aren't so bad, after all. There is a hope for the Republicans, and that would be John McCain. They know it, and McCain knows it. When he went to the Republican Southern Leadership Conference this weekend, he was saying that he didn't really care whether or not conservative activists supported him because he really didn't need them. He already knows that, within the party, they'd rather have someone like Bill Frist. But he also knows that Bill Frist would lose badly to Hillary Clinton. So the question remains. Would the Republicans forgo their top choice and instead nominate McCain because he's the only one who can win? If not, would McCain run (and win) on an independent ticket? Time will tell. Interestingly enough, Matthews has posted a virtual straw poll on his site, with some very interesting results.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It Isn't My Birthday...

My husband just sent me this article from CNN’s website. Could it be that I may get my wish after all? I’ve been saying for a while that now is the perfect time for a new third party to gain a lot of political power. The best chance of this happening is if center-leaning Republicans and Democrats break away from their prospective parties and form their own third party. They’re already despised by members of their own parties for not being extreme enough and for attempting compromise as opposed to all-out political warfare in U.S. government. It has been said that McCain would be the strongest candidate for president in 2008, but that he’s highly unlikely to get the Republican nomination because he doesn’t march to the Republican tune on every single issue. The same is said for Joe Lieberman, who faces heavy opposition in the Democratic primary for his Senate seat. I think that most of us are sick of partisan bickering, though. We’d like to see some differing ideas, but we’d also like to see some reasonable compromises made so that our legislature would serve the better interests of all (or at least most) of the American people, as opposed to about half of them. DeWine, McCain, Lieberman, Graham… Are you listening?