Archive for the 'The law and the jungle' Category

Us, too

November 20, 2008

On Monday, I did a post taking The Journal Gazette to task for not identifying those quoted in a story about illegal immigration:

I wonder if the JG would pull that “first names only” stunt if this were a bank robber or a burglar. As a matter of fact, would law enforcement let them get away with it, or would some reporter be hauled in front of a grand jury?

An alert reader (and, coincidentally, a JG employee) e-mailed to point out something I’d forgotten, a column by The News-Sentinel’s own Kevin Leininger from Aug. 4, 2007, about a man named Juan: “Juan is here illegally. That’s why he doesn’t want his last name used, even though he was willing to be photographed.” Now, it’s a lot more fun to bash The Journal Gazette, because — well, just because. But we deserve our lumps, too. By not naming illegal immigrants — by helping them stay “in the shadows” — newspapers contribute to the notion that immigrants who break the law by coming here are a separate class of lawbreakers whose only sin is that the rest of us are so heartless and xenophobic. Things are either illegal or they are not. Breaking the law either has consequences or it does not. Those who insist on blurring the lines because they have sympathy for the people in question help breed a disrespect for all laws and the very notion of law.

Advertisements

Don’t need yer stinkin’ edjemuhcation

November 20, 2008

Even if they don’t go to jail over the truancy, these parents probably deserve a little time for sheer stupidity:

A rural Richmond couple is facing a possible jail term for refusing to obey state truancy laws.

The case involves the alleged failure of Eli and Stephanie Collins, 3398 N. Salisbury Road, No. 44, to make their child go to school.

[. . .]

The child enrolled Aug. 19 and was withdrawn Oct. 3. In that time the child was absent 12 days. Further investigation revealed that the child had 87½ days of absence during two years in the Richmond Community Schools system and was tardy 60 times, according to the affidavit of probable cause in the case.

During a four-year period, the child changed schools 15 times, the affidavit said.

Indiana’s laws on home schooling are so lax and forgiving that we might as well not have any. All this couple had to do was inform the superintendent that they were home schooling their child. Then they could have done whatever they wanted to, or nothing at all. It seems almost unfair to punish them.

We don’t need home-schooling laws as strict and unreasonable as those in a few states, but they could use some tightening. But most of the home schoolers I know — and they range from the political left to the right — are very conscientious about their children’s education. So maybe I’m advocating a solution in search of a problem.

Fenceless in Madison

November 20, 2008

This Associated Press story about a certain problem at the Madison Correctional Facility has a wonderfully understated line — “A fenceless prison presents some security problems.” Gee, do ya think?

The Madison Correctional Facility announced Wednesday it’s putting up a fence because joggers, bicyclists and even parents pushing baby strollers inadvertently enter the grounds of the minimum-security women’s prison.

“The facility has made several efforts to reduce this type of traffic through the facility by increasing signage, adding a landscape berm and sections of wrought-iron fencing around the perimeter,” a prison statement said. “Still people often venture unknowingly into the middle of the correctional facility while leaving their vehicles unlocked.”

Keeping civilians off the prison grounds is a bigger problem than one might think.

Of course, there’s prison, and then there’s prison. A minimum-security facility for women is not exactly what you’d use to scare little kids. When I lived in Michigan City, we all knew exactly where the prison was, and nobody jogged or biked within a mile of the place. The Madison facility even sounds kinda friendly, doesn’t it, perhaps even a job-creating, economic-development tool? If Harrison Square keeps falling apart, maybe we should consider something like that.

God be with you

November 18, 2008

You may now keep God with you on your car trips, which, considering the skill and attentiveness level of Indiana drivers, is probably a good thing:

Hoosier drivers don’t have to pay extra to sport In God We Trust license plates, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel upheld the General Assembly’s 2006 decision to exempt the newly created plate from the $15 administrative fee Indiana charges on most specialty plates.

The suit was brought by an Allen County resident who had to pay extra fees for his Environmental Trust specialty plate and contended that “In God We Trust” is a “private religious message” that should also be subject to extra fees. That seems like a tricky argument to make, since the message is our national motto and can be found on the money we carry around every day (well, good days). If you haven’t been coerced out your Godless ways by now, the license plate probably won’t pull you in, either. Another hair the ACLU couldn’t split!

Home rule, up in smoke

November 18, 2008

Our editorial today remarks on the inevitability (though not necessarily the desirability) of a statewide public smoking ban, because of rather than in spite of the 36 counties or communities that already have smoke-free ordinances of some kind:

But the ironic truth is that the more local smoking ordinances there are, the more likely there will eventually be a statewide ban.

[. . .]

The increase in local bans makes people more familiar with the concept and lessens opposition.

[. . .]

Local control” is still the best operating principle – it assumes that communities know what is best for their residents. But it is not exactly the norm. That is especially true in Indiana, where every ounce of home rule for cities and counties is given up by the state only grudgingly.

But the trend everywhere is bigger and more uniform and more central. States are more powerful at the expense of cities and counties, and the federal government looms over states. As of last month, 29 states, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have smoke-free laws in effect. So don’t count out the possibility that there will be a nationwide smoke-free law sometime in the future.

Sure enough, The Richmond Palladium-Item also has an editorial today, saying that “Smoking ban deserves uniform action.”

Persuasive arguments have been waged here and elsewhere, for example, as to whether a private club is deserving of the same privacy protections of an individual’s home, or whether such a club would fall under the broad umbrella of “public places.”

For any anti-smoking effort to survive statewide it is going to have to be relatively simple and very fair, and that can be a tall order, as local governments wrestling with anti-smoking ordinances have discovered.

But how can a state law be both “simple” and also take into account such complexities as the fact that some communities might want to exempt private clubs and some might not? I suppose the law could set a minimum set of rules, which communities would be allowed to exceed in toughness. But that wouldn’t be much different from what we already have, except that no jurisdiction would be allowed the option of having no rules at all. What does it matter to those of in Fort Wayne or to the pooh-bahs in Indianapolis if folks in, say, Spencer County want to accompany their brain-cell-killing excursions with a little smoke? Home rule, it’s a beautiful thing.

Hard time

November 18, 2008

You know, you just try to do what you can, make the best of a bad situation, then along comes The Man and shuts you down:

Undaunted by a concrete wall separating their respective cellblocks, male and female inmates took advantage of a design flaw in an Indiana jail to engage in late-night sexual trysts. The Greene County inmates–three men and three women–pried open metal security tiles in the ceiling of their respective dormitory-style housing units to gain access to the adjoining cellblock, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Circuit Court.

Go check out the story at The Smoking Gun and take a look at the six mug shots. You’ve heard that the girls all get prettier at closing time? Apparently, both men and women become more attractive if you’re locked up with them.

Honk, honk!

November 17, 2008

You’ll be glad to know Indiana isn’t being left behind in the great cultural battle of the moment:

SOUTH BEND — Every time a car honked, they cheered. A group of about 20 people stood at the corner of Main Street and Jefferson Boulevard in downtown South Bend on Saturday, waving signs in support of same-sex marriage.

Wow, 20 people — that’s some rally. Honk if you love gays, then let’s go burn a Mormon church!

The number probably reflects an acknowledgement of reality by the gay and lesbian community — none of them are ever going to be married legally unless they leave the state to do it. The General Assembly will never act on same-sex marriage, unless it’s to introduce another bill to ban it in the state constitution. A judge isn’t likely to impose it, and if that ever did happen, the state Supreme Court would probably overturn it. Barring something startling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Indiana will be one of the last states in the union to abandon “marriage between one man and one woman.”

I’ve never understood the “take to the streets” mentality — the right to peaceably assemble has to be one of the most overrated rights in the Constitution. When I was a young’un, I was frequently asked to march in protest of the Vietnam War, and my reaction was, “Are you nuts?” Honk if you love peace, then let’s burn a draft card! The war wouldn’t end, and I’d be exhausted. I did sign a petition or two, though, if some enterprising blograker wants to dig them up and embarrass me.

The system did it

November 17, 2008

By now, should be used to bad parents offering lame excuses for their failure and neglect. Still, some are so outrageous that we can’t help but be repelled:

INDIANAPOLIS – A northern Indiana woman who left her 8-year-old son at a Nebraska hospital under that state’s safe haven law says she did so because she doesn’t trust Indiana’s child welfare system.

Stephanie Mote, 30, told Fort Wayne television station WANE in a Friday interview that she doesn’t trust the system in Indiana based on her own experience as a child.

“I took him there where I knew he would be safe because I didn’t trust the welfare system in Indiana and I didn’t want him to go through what I went through when I was growing up through the welfare system in Indiana,” she said. “So I felt like it would be the best thing to do would be to take him there where he would be safe.”

Almost every story about this incident has a variation on the same headline — “Woman explains why she left son in Nebraska” — but of course there’s no real explanation possible. A friend of hers is even quoted as saying she didn’t abandon her son — “She just wanted to get him help.” Right. She didn’t turn him out here because there would have been legal consequences. She took him all the way to Nebraska because a glitch in that state’s law would give her immunity, but she didn’t abandon her son? She offers the alleged failures of Indiana’s child welfare system as an excuse for why she can’t be a decent mother? She has knowledge of how good Nebraska’s system is?

This is either one of the most telling examples of denial on record or a woman so used to just saying anything that she expects us to believe anything. Her son is back with Indiana officials, which is, unfortunately, probably the best place for him.

Mixed drinks

November 17, 2008

Support continues to grow, slowly but steadily, to allow grocery and liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sunday. The Indianapolis Star and WTHR (Channel 13) recently commissioned a poll on the subject:

The poll showed 46 percent of Hoosiers support changing that law, while 45 percent favor keeping it. Nine percent were undecided.

That shows a slight change from two years ago, when a poll conducted by The Star found that 50 percent of Hoosiers favored the Sunday ban and 43 percent opposed it.

I’m with those who think the Sunday ban is just a remnant of our old blue laws for which there is little justification today; Indiana is one of about 15 states still clinging to the ban. Some of the strongest opposition to lifting the ban comes from package store owners, who are glad they don’t have to open on Sundays now to stay competitive.

But a good political rule of thumb is that if people are evenly divided on an issue, it’s best to stay with the current law. At least there are known sets of protagonists whose arguments we already know. That rule should be thrown out if current law creates a real hardship for some people or violates some fundamental right, but that isn’t the case here.

On a first-name basis

November 17, 2008

The Journal Gazette does a typical “life is tough in the shadows when you fear being rounded up any minute” heart-tugger:

Pilar can turn on her radio or television and hear Spanish broadcasts. At most specialty grocery stores or Mexican taquería , she can pick up a local Spanish-language newspaper.

But for Pilar and her counterparts in northeast Indiana’s community of illegal Hispanic immigrants, nothing beats good, old-fashioned chisme  – gossip.

“Everyone gossips,” Pilar said in Spanish. (Because of her immigration status, The Journal Gazette is using only her first name.)

I wonder if the JG would pull that “first names only” stunt if this were a bank robber or a burglar. As a matter of fact, would law enforcement let them get away with it, or would some reporter be hauled in front of a grand jury? Says a lot about where we are on this issue, doesn’t it? It’s like the old littering laws, but on a much grander scale. The law is routinely ignored by everybody, but everybody knows it’s there and can be called upon on the whims of the powers that be. Really reinforces a respect for the law, doesn’t it?

¡Buen provecho!

November 14, 2008

Did you know that grocery carts have more bacteria than public phones and restrooms? If you use one without at least wiping off the handle with one on the sanitary wipes the stores are starting to provide, you’re taking your life in your hands. But at least, by God, we’re being protected from those dastardly food pushers who are trying to kill us with their evil outdoor grills (third item):

Local health officials are proposing a rule change that would allow restaurants to grill outside whenever they want as long as they prepare and sell the meat inside.

The current ordinance requires food establishments to obtain a separate “onsite cooking” permit that only allows grilling up to 10 days a month. The current rule also allows food to be prepared and stored outside as long as there is adequate cover as well as dish-washing and hand-washing stations.

Yeah, pepare and sell the meat inside. No germs there! How do we ever survive picnics without the help of “local health officials.”

Armed and studious

November 13, 2008

The Muncie Star Press doesn’t think much of the idea of concealed weapons on the Ball State campus:

In Indiana, there is one very good reason for a campus ban on concealed weapons: Just about anyone can get a gun for any reason.

The only requirement for a gun permit is that you pay the fee, which runs around $100 or so, depending on whether you are applying for a four-year or lifetime permit.

There is no requirement gun owners actually be trained to use their weapons.

But that’s not so much an argument against concealed weapons on campus as it is an argument for the need to rethink the state’s concealed carry law, to require training, for example. If the state law were changed to suit the newpaper editors, would they then approve of concealed carry on campus? I doubt it.

Take it inside

November 13, 2008

This seems downright un-American, or at least anti-Hoosier:

HIGHLAND | It was a divided Town Council on Monday that passed an ordinance to prohibit alcohol from all public areas, including streets and parkways.

Prior to the meeting, Redevelopment Director Cecile Petro said sidewalk cafes are becoming popular and that the new ordinance would prohibit them.

“Outdoor dining is very important to revitalize a downtown area,” she said.

When asked if businesses could seek variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals, Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin said the ordinance completely bans alcohol in public areas.

Hope this doesn’t give Fort Wayne officials any ideas. Without alcohol, the Three Rivers Festival would die in its tracks. And how many people will go to Wizards TinCaps games if they can’t enjoy a beer or two? I’m not sure what the point of the ban is. Like the ban on open containers in cars (as if that somehow will keep people from driving while drunk), this seems misplaced. I know you all drink, this law says, but we just don’t want to see you do it.

A little bit violated

November 13, 2008

Police are going to be out in force to make the roads safer over the Thanksgiving season, and they’re just going to violate the Constitution a little tiny bit to do it:

In an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on Indiana roadways during the 2008 Thanksgiving holidays, the Rensselaer Police Department will join with thousands of law enforcement officers representing more than 250 state and local law enforcement agencies to promote safe family travel. This statewide campaign will take place from Nov. 14 to Nov. 30.

Through high-visibility patrols, sobriety checkpoints and other enforcement efforts designed to deter impaired driving particularly during the high-risk nighttime hours, law enforcement officers across the state will be on the look out for those who drive while impaired or intoxicated during this high-risk time.

But the constitutional violation has been endorsed by the Supreme Court, so it must be OK. The Fourth Amedment prohibits search or seizure without reasonable suspicion, and sobriety checkpoints by definition target people at random. The checkpoints do come under the Fourth’s provisions — that’s what Chief Justice William Rehnquist said in a 1990 case as his court voted 6-3 in favor of the checkpoints. After all, it’s just a small violation of the Constitution (a “minimal intrustion in individual liberties” is the way Rehnquist put it, which sounds a whole lot like “a little bit pregnant” to me), and that must be weighed against the need for and effectiveness of the DUI roadblocks.

The end justifies the means, don’t you know, so let’s just ignore the Constitution or make its requirements up as we go along — never mind, as one dissenter pointed out, that a careful review of statistics on DUI checkpoints found their net effect was minimal and perhaps even negative (if the drunks know where the checkpoints are — and word does get around — that encourages the most reckless among them to stay on the road and just drive elsewhere).

And this was the Rehnquist court deciding what policy should be and starting from there instead of using the Constitution as a guide. By such little steps do we start accepting the erosion of liberty as the Constitution loses its meaning. And Barack Obama has vowed to appoint justices who will turn the erosion into a landslide.

Gun crazy

November 12, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, we had a story about guns “flying off the shelves” because of the mere possibility  Barack Obama might be elected president. Now that he’s actually been elected, it’s beginning to look like gun sales nationwide are so huge that they could even save the economy!

“Gun sales doubled Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, and we’ve sold out of a lot of the guns we normally have in stock,” said Jim King, sporting goods manager at Thatcher’s Ace Hardware in Baker City, which still retains a tinge of its Wild West boomtown origins.

People are afraid of losing their Second Amendment gun rights, King said, although that would involve a lengthy and improbable attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution.

He said much of the buying frenzy involves assault rifles, which, King said, Obama’s Web site says he wants to ban.

As with so many issues, it’s difficult to say exactly where Obama stands on guns. He’s said he supports the 2nd Amendment, but he is for “reasonable” control, and he apparently believed D.C.’s total handgun ban was reasonable. There are some indications he is hostile to “concealed carry” laws. I suspect he is more anti-guns than I would like, but even if he wants to change the status quo, it will be a long and complicated process. I had enough of guns in the Army, so I’ve never been an owner. But I reintroduced myself to them at my brother’s home firing range, and I’ve been thinking about buying one or two. I do not feel compelled to run out and get them today, however.

I’m a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but I wonder who all these frenzied buyers are. Presumably, most people who want guns have them, and those who don’t don’t. Are these all fence-sitters who have been pushed into buying because of Obama’s election?  Are they just making a statement, or are they really scared? This smacks a little bit of “prepare for the civil unrest that’s coming” by loading the trunk with survivalist gear. Kinda scary, really.

A very sociable family

November 11, 2008

Not in the running for family of the year:

Indiana state police said that after a mother was arrested for drunken driving, the three relatives who came to pick up her 1-year-old son also had all been drinking.

[. . .]

The boy’s father arrived later to pick him up, but officers determined he was intoxicated and also arrested him on a drunken driving charge.

Police said the boy’s grandparents then arrived. Both of them also had been drinking, state police said, but the grandmother who was driving was not over the legal limit, so officers escorted them home with the child.

Model of restraint, that grandma. Love to hear a tape of this family’s next get-together (outside of jail, I mean).

Drop-it time

November 11, 2008

Indiana legislators are still going around in circles over illegal immigrants:

A panel of lawmakers studying illegal Immigration couldn’t agree on major legislation to propose in the upcoming legislative session. The group couldn’t agree on a more minor bill, either, and barely approved a report outlining its previous meetings.

The committee’s disagreements are a sign that Immigration bills proposed during the 2009 session could again spur impassioned speeches, political maneuvering and long hours of committee meetings — with no guarantee of a resolution.

Given how tough budgeting is going to be with the declining economy, maybe this issue is one the General Assembly should put off or just drop. It’s probably moot anyway, don’t you think? Barack Obama is clearly on record to give illegal immigrants a “path to citizenship,” and he has a willing Congress. Look for “comprehensive immigration reform” early in Obama’s first year, which will be just like it was the last time around. Everybody already here will get a free pass, there will be “tough” measures to prevent anybody else from coming that will be immediately ignored, and in a few years we will have twice or three times the problem.

Throw-away-the-key time

November 7, 2008

Just plain sick:

Bailey was wanted for the abduction and sexual assault of a 29-year-old Amish man that occurred before midnight April 26 near Topeka, about 35 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. He’s accused of tackling the victim and taking him at knifepoint to a secluded area, where he attacked the victim.

The victim told investigators that Bailey told him he had been looking for an Amish girl, but the man “would have to do.”

Gotta sexually assault somebody, just in the mood,  you know? Hey, you, you’ll do.

This is the type of sexual offender who will get out and have to register for life and won’t be able to live near schools and will go to court and sue when he’s told he can’t go into a park. Life with no possibility of parole would be a better option. Some people just have no business being allowed to be free. Anybody really think he’ll ever change and not be a threat?

Behind closed doors

November 6, 2008

Did you ever wonder about your neighbors? What does that scary looking guy do behind closed doors, and why does he keep the lights on all night? Why do so many people come and go from that house on the corner? Do all those kids really live in the house across the street, or are some just visiting?

What about those two women in the house next door? Oh, them — they’re fine. They’re sisters. And they’re both special-education teachers. That’s nice. What good neighbors to have:

Two local teachers are under arrest after a meth lab exploded inside a South Bend home. Investigators found the lab after it sparked a fire at a home on East Woodside Street.

Police arrested two sisters, Michelle and Maria Stancati, who lived in the home. They’re both special education teachers at Elkhart Community Schools. Michelle is a teacher at Northside Middle School and Maria is a teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School.

Some people say what happened Tuesday has changed the mood in this neighborhood.

Meth-making materials were sprawled across the driveway — not the scene people in this tight-knit neighborhood are used to.

Whoops! I bet it changed the mood in the neighborhood. I wonder if the sisters got the idea from “Breaking Bad,” the daring AMC cable series about a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he’s dying and starts a meth lab to make quick money to leave his family?

I was just getting used to seeing another teacher arrested in a sex-with-students scandal every week. Don’t know if I’m ready for the meth-lab scandal of the week,

Intolerant nonsense

November 3, 2008

OK, granted, this is a “complicated” story. Anybody who wants to put a Jesus statue or any other religious icon outside his patio door is free to do so. It’s part of our heritage — both of religious freedom and freedom of expression. But if you live in an apartment, the place isn’t yours — you have to abide by the landlord’s rules, even if he says to keep your Jesus inside. What got my attention were the dictates of federal fair housing laws:

For the owners of the Colonial Crest apartment complex where Long lives on Muncie’s west side, the statue is a potential violation of federal fair housing laws and a possible affront to people of other religious beliefs.

[. . .]

The 24-hour nature of Long’s display — which included a spotlight that cast a shadow of the statue on the wall of Long’s building — was part of the concern that prompted Colonial Crest manager Mike Desloover to send two letters telling Long to remove the statue.

“We appreciate the diversity of our complex,” Desloover told The Star Press. “I will not participate in anything that’s not open to everyone of every race, creed, color and religion. We don’t have political signs or anything religious that might be construed to violate the protected classes.”

[. . .]

Behind Colonial Crest’s concerns is the Fair Housing Act, which was part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The law outlawed discrimination in the rental or purchase of homes but also touched on many other housing-related discrimination issues, including the display of religious scenes and icons.

The act forbids “notice, statement or advertisement that indicates a preference, limitation or discrimination based on religion.”

That’s purely insane. If an individual displays something outside his own apartment, that in no way indicates the complex as a whole promotes it. And it is not “appreciating diversity” to make people hide anything that might possibly be offensive to anyone. How can we appreciate diversity if we are even allowed to express the things that show us in fact to be diverse? How intolerant do we allow bureaucratic thugs to become in order to promote tolerance?

Wrong rules

October 31, 2008

Unconstitutional as hell:

If you have a political sign on your property and live in Terre Haute continue reading!

There are a few rules you must follow. One, you can not have more than one sign per candidate on your property. Two, the sign can not exceed more than 32-square feet. Lastly they can not be up for more than three months at a time.

But if nobody challenges the rules, it doesn’t matter. Where’s the ACLU when we need it?

Just the fax

October 30, 2008

Faxes? People still send faxes?

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter has filed suit against three companies that sent unwanted faxes offering clothing and discount health plans.

Carter filed suit in St. Joseph County against Five Star Advertising, Inc. and Sportex, Inc., seeking injunctions to stop the companies from faxing unwanted advertisements offering sports apparel.

We forget what a bold and fun innovation the fax seemed at the time. When I was on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters board, it took us six months to convince the director that the agency needed a fax machine. You can get documents immediately without driving all over town or waiting days for the mail! Oh, all right, grumble, grumble.

Now, with the combination of e-mail and pdf files, the fax seems like today’s telegraph, passed by and just waiting to die. Maybe we can use it for money orders!

Local rules

October 28, 2008

The Richmond Palladium-Item jumps on the statewide smoking BANdwagon:

But as much as this newspaper traditionally champions local government and home rule decision-making on most issues, some issues simply command a wider, more uniform standard. Legislators have, for example, already said the time of day is one of those, weighing in mercifully a few years back to remove the state from a crazy-quilt pattern of time zones to embrace uniform, statewide daylight-saving time.

Smoking ought to be another. Richmond- area residents can accept the fact that our rules on smoking will differ widely from those of our Ohio neighbors. There’s an accepted level of jurisdiction sovereignty there. But Richmond’s rule ought not vary widely from those imposed on residents in Wayne County, or Wayne County’s variance from neighboring Henry or Randolph counties, and on and on.

There is every difference in the world between smoking bans and time zones, which the Richmond paper doesn’t seem to understand and which would be a useful topic for greater discussion. Time zones, like a uniform currency, are legitmate concerns for the national, never mind state, government. As we travel around this vast country, it is necessary to have some things in common so we know how to deal with each other. Smoking is, like prostitution and gambling and a thousand other things, one of those issues we should decide based on what kind of community we want to have.

There is a concept much admired in libertarian circles but mostly ignored in mainistream politics called “local knowledge,” the idea that communities know their own needs and desires and challenges and should decide their own fates accordingly. The more local our decisions, the more likely they are based on how we actually want to live. The more removed they are, the more likely they are based on somebody’s arbitrary idea of how everybody else should live.

It isn’t always easy to know where to draw such lines. The air above us moves freely, so it affects us all and should be controlled by the federal government, right? But the pollution above Gary’s factories doesn’t make it to the cornfields of DeKalb County. I should be in charge of the stream on my property, but if it empties into a tributary that empties into the common supply of drinking water, what I put into it matters to everybody else. Education is the quintessential “local knowledge” issue, but we also want to develop the skills as a nation to help us compete in the world economy.

Understanding those lines is essential to appreciating our federalist system, which at its core demands the careful defining of local, state and nation prerogatives. Unfortunately, the trend is away from local decisions and toward centralization. That means we are getting fewer rules based on how we want to live and more based on the arbitrary implementation of top-down power. That deserves a lot more debate than it has been getting.

Quick draw

October 27, 2008

So a teenager without a license or insurance rams into the back of a guy’s car. The teenager starts to flee the scene, and the guy takes his gun (fully permitted, and he’d been carrying for 28 years) and fires one shot into the air. The teen stops, and the guy holds him there until police arrive. Police don’t arrest the teen — they arrest the guy, for “pointing a firearm,” a Class D felony. Ten months later, a jury acquits the guy, and, under state law, he was supposed to get his gun and license back. But the state won’t give him either. The guy had pulled his gun once before, four years earlier:

According to a Noble County Sheriff’s report, Grimes was driving on County Road 400S on Jan. 17, 2004 when he was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Carl Liggett. “Grimes advised that Liggett was instigating a fight,” the report stated. “Grimes advised that he did have a gun in his hand which he removed from the glove box. Grimes advised that he did not point the gun at Liggett.”

The prosecutor and sheriff contend, and an administrative law judge agreed, that the two incidents together prove the guy is not a reasonable person “to have a license to carry a firearm – something state law also seems to allow under certain conditions. In this case, Shelton concluded, Grimes was not justified to fire his weapon, ‘displayed an inappropriate suspicion of others’ and had ‘demonstrated a propensity for violence and emotionally unstable conduct.’ ” He pulled his gun twice in nearly 30 years of carrying, and no one was hurt either time, and that demonstrates a “propensity for violence”? In both incidents, he was rammed from behind, and in one case the other driver was fleeing the scene, and that means “inappropriate suspicion of others”?

We all need to be reasonable about guns and the efforts to keep them out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. But on the surface, this seems awfully thin. Maybe the sheriff and prosecutor know more about this man than they’re saying — like he’s a well-known hothead or something, If you have to spend $20,000 (the guy’s legal bills so far) when you exercise a right, it isn’t much of a right.

One down, 364 to go

October 27, 2008

I guess this is supposed to be reassuring for parents:

Paroled sex offenders in the Evansville area – and across Indiana – will be required to attend a meeting during trick-or-treat hours on Halloween.

Dubbed Operation Safe Halloween, the Indiana Department of Correction is requiring sex offenders to attend the meeting to “remove them from the community streets during this traditional children’s activity,” according to a news release.

There have been so many warnings about the dangers of Halloween that it’s probably the one night when kids are the most supervised and watched-out for. So we get the perverts off the streets for this one night instead of the other 364. Sort of like spending hundreds of millions so airport screeners can make our lives miserable while the terrorists are already on to their next tactic.