Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rights of the Unpopular

I’m worried, and I think maybe you should be, too. The media had a lot of fun covering the April 3 raid by law enforcement on the FLDS’ so-called “polygamist compound” just outside San Angelo. The FLDS members have been roundly mocked, and in the public eye have been branded as outlaws and malcontents. If the charges against them are true, the FLDS members have engaged in conduct so far outside acceptable mores, that the leaders of that group should expect to never step outside a prison again in their lives.

But that’s the rub. There are, to be sure, problems with the legal case. First, it turns out that the call which started the raid may well be a hoax.

And a state judge has ruled that the FLDS has the right to challenge the legality of the raid.

Law enforcement and Child Protective Services have reacted defensively, almost in paranoia, arguing that concern for the children trumped any legal rights the FLDS had. This is where I think a line was crossed. Look, I don’t think there’s any chance I could conclude that the FLDS is the kind of group I could ever sympathize with, but even so the last I checked even the strangest kooks have rights. The Constitution protects the Klan, the New Black Panthers, Scientology, and all sorts of groups whose beliefs offend the general sentiment. It’s been twenty days since the raid, and more and more it’s looking as though there was not much in the way of ‘probable cause'. I mean, what evidence has the state shown to the media?

It turns out the phone call which prompted the initial warant is probably a hoax. So right from the start, a reasonable person could worry about whether this raid should have happened. The state has not shown any other evidence it had prior to April 3 which would justify its actions;

The motive for the raid, we are told, is the fear that children were being abused. Well, aside from being dressed strangely, the kids I have heard about all turn out to be pretty healthy, well-fed, not abused so far as anyone has been able to determine so far. And after nearly three weeks, I have to believe that if there was evidence of abuse, we’d have seen it. Instead, all we see are claims it happened, even though the FLDS unanimously says such behavior not only never happened, but would be considered sinful if it happened.

Some folks have gone on to claim that the FLDS leaders must be guilty, since they have not spoken out in public. But there are two problems with that claims – first, the FLDS women have come out and denied the claims, as do the FLDS’ lawyers. As for anyone else, last I checked the 5th Amendment and the old Miranda ruling say a person is not required to speak at all, especially to the press.

So, a raid based solely on a phone call probably made by a person known to have made similar fraudulent calls in the past, fails to produce evidence supporting any of the main allegations. Instead of freeing the FLDS members and apologizing for the mistake, Texas doubles down and asserts unproven claims which appear to be meant to spin the group as dangerous in absence of any real evidence, and instead of sending the kids home sends them off to CPS and ‘foster families' while it continues to pursue charges in the absence of any probable cause. Look, if someone commits a crime and you can prove it, nail them to the wall, but I am very concerned about the idea that a group’s ranch can be raided and everyone held in custody without charges, on no substantive evidence whatsoever.

I don’t agree with the FLDS, but I cannot agree with denying them their rights. Prove the charges have merit, or let them go. Anything else would be an insult to the Constitution of the United States.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jobs and Money

One of John Kerry’s biggest blunders in his 2004 run for the White House, was his inability to explain simple concepts or provide simple answers. Another was his elitist manner when dealing with regular Americans. One might expect that Democrats would have dissected the loss to make sure they did not repeat the mistake. Apparently not, judging by this year’s showtunes from Donk 08. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are reprising Kerry’s role with all the Everyman skills of Thurston Howell the Third.

So, let’s lay it down. People worry about having enough money to pay their bills and keep their families fed and healthy. To get that money, they want staedy jobs, because real Americans work for their money. So, the natural question is just where the jobs are going to come from. Clinton and Obama are trolling around blaming job losses on Republicans, often on no evidence at all, but even with that gambit they are finding it hard to sway voters much. The reason is simple, I think – if you have a job, you would care about how to protect it, but if you have already lost your job, what you want to know is not who some politician wants you to blame, but how and when you will get your next job. You want to know what, exactly, this yahoo is going to do to get you work.

It seems hard to believe that a career politician in a thousand-dollar suit who has never sweated a layoff in his or her life, is going to understand (let alone address) the job market in a way that will matter to you in any real sense. The voters know politicians much better than the politicians know the voters.