13 December 2009

Merry Christmas, Dancing to The Single Issue Tango, and An Unfortunate Evening in a Rural Tobacco Barn

Personal privilege: LaG (that would be our mother, Opal, undisputed matriarch of the Monongahela Valley) was hospitalized for several days and now is home with home health people present.

Thus, this wretched scribe has been elsewhere for a while. LaG is doing better. Good wishes & prayers are appreciated.

Merry Christmas!

The right wing whine lines are humming with the sounds of Christmas, er, The Holidays. “The Reason for the Season!,” and “Put Christ Back in Christmas!” The theme, you see, is that Christ is being chased from His Own Birthday by those who would chant “Happy Holidays” and especially by people who erect “Holiday” decorations or, worse, “Holiday trees.” When the babble bubble bursts, we should conclude, they say, that we Christians are victims of a dastardly plot to secularize us out of our own faith.

What the Constitution says literally and how it is universally interpreted and accepted is a touch different. The First Amendment states, in full:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Universally, we recognize that the First Amendment does more than limit Congress. It grants citizens the right to freely exercise religion within very wide boundaries. (E.g., The U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the right of members of the Santería faith tradition in their practice of animal sacrifice, over the State of Florida's animal cruelty prosecution. Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 1993)

And so, when someone wishes the devout Christian “Happy Holidays!,” the Christian can cringe and cry, run in circles, scream and shout, or he or she can choose not to play "I'm a victim." His or her response can be, “Merry Christmas!,” “Up yours, satanic pig!,” silence, or “Whatever, who cares.” He or she will not be arrested for a sincere expression of Christian faith (unlike the situation if such an expression were made in downtown Mecca, Tehran, Riyadh, or Rangoon) nor, for that matter, subject to anything except what he or she just expressed: disagreement.

Government exercise of religion is proscribed. Government suppression of religion is proscribed, too.

So I hope this clears things up.

Now, I have set forth what amounts to a hypothesis. Let’s test it. So, from No. 3 Equity Court, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

There. See? It worked. Nobody prevented me from doing it. If I don’t get a response from that particular episode of “Merry Christmas!,” I’ll surely get a response from the other occasions where I extend that wish this year. None of the responses will force me to retract the sentiment. None of the responders will shame me for extending the wish to them. If anyone is offended, then they are simpletons. If they do not want to reply with some equivalent Christian greeting because that is not their faith tradition, that’s fine with me. I’m not offended by “Happy Holidays,” “Thanks, you too,” “Here’s mud in your eye,” “Happy Hannukah, too” and even a hearty “Screw you” won’t hurt me. (A Jewish lawyer friend had a well-meaning client wish him "Happy Chaka Khan" one Christmas and he solemnly returned the greeting in kind.)

So lighten up, people. Quit looking at ways to be victimized. Look for ways to spread positive messages and do positive things.

The Single Issue Tango

In the peculiar Rube Goldberg geometry of shuffling offices, there was a rush brought on by the elevation of Delegate Carrie Webster to a Circuit Judge vacancy in Kanawha County. Delegate Webster was Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, one of the two key House of Delegates Committess (Judiciary and Finance), the Chairs of which are big dogs in the Legislature.

The easy and obvious (and proper) answer in such a circumstance is to move the vice-chair into the chair. Any vacancy or, or that matter, any little crack that can be widened or exploited will be attacked by any number of opportunists who, in politics, swarm like platelets looking for a bleeding cut. There is another phenomenon of politics that also comes into play in such situations: In order to achieve their desired results, partisans will (1) make stuff up and (2) look at irrelevant single issues to the exclusion of ability, other issues, honesty, or consequences. That was the buzz for the past couple of weeks. The vice-chair of Judiciary was Delegate Tim Miley from Harrison County. He’s extremely intelligent and effective and has not the hint of improper compromise or taint about him. BUT - shhhhh - he’s against abortion. And Delegate Webster? She’s for abortion.

Abortion sells printer ink, but has little to do with what the legislature actually does from year to year. It is, however, the most powerful, visceral single issue hobby horse in the political stable. So rather than a discussion of how Judiciary would work, we were treated to a week of abortion this and abortion that. The purpose of that discussion had little to do with abortion, though. (Mind you, the people in the trenches stirred up by the manipulators honestly thought it did.) Realpolitik says that the votes aren’t there to do much of anything with abortion this year and that federal action is preempting most lines of action anyway, so it’s all about the power grab.

I’m happy to say that Delegate Miley, who is a good and honorable friend, was named Judiciary chair a few days ago.

Useless, Useless

There is a place in the garden for every flower. For everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. Your reach should exceed your grasp, or what’s a Heaven for? La-di-dah.

But grasping at soap bubbles?

The same old patent medicine floggers still flog the same old patent medicine, only in different bottles. Everyone wants a rainbow and usually that means some sort of Easy Living.

In the past few weeks I have been tempted, Lord, oh I have been tempted to the Jimmy-Swaggart-With-Hookers point by mesmerizing emails proposing that I abandon No. 3 and aim high, aim for a Career In Video Game Testing. The emails promise that I will average $750 per week after training. Presumably, the company which sent the email will “train” me (and they’ll have to - after “PacMan,” I pretty much lost interest in video games), and perhaps they will charge some modest fees. Surely they will send me to some willing employer who, despite having video game designers, needs persons trained as testers (but not programmers) to tell them how they’ve done and are willing to pay modest bucks for it. Right? Right?

Sigh - and I still run into teens who are certain that they do not need to take school seriously because they are “sure” to be models or skateboard “professionals.”

This is our fault, you know. We’ve sat on our asses because we have been lazy, stupid and afraid, and let the TV be the babysitter, and bound our youth to a Hannah Montana world which exists between the tube and the retina. Do we have the guts to confront this head on?

(PS - A book from the Three Parsec Bookshelf® for the first person to note the historic reference of the title to this section; and also to the second person if Pastor Josh is the first, since the answer is the old shooting fish in a barrel thing to him.)

Law Blogs

I’ve added several links to Law Blogs to the right. These are from the 2009 ABA Journal “Top 100" list, i.e., the ones I like.

Pippa passes.