New Revenue Stream in New Jersey

Bill: Seize homes that contain ‘illegal’ guns:

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Louis Manzo, D-Jersey City, authorizes the forfeiture of “motor vehicle, building or premise” if a firearm is found in it that is not possessed legally per state law – “even if the firearm was not possessed by the owner of the motor vehicle, building or premise,” states a summary of the bill, A3998. The legislation was introduced Thursday.

Manzo pointed out his bill extends government power now reserved for targeting those in possession of illegal drugs.

Behold the slippery slope. Hey, asset seizure of this fashion has all but eliminated the scourge of illegal drugs. Why not extend it?

Because I’m eventually looking forward to handing over pinks because a speed camera clocked me at two miles per hour over the speed limit.

(Link seen on Ravenwood’s Universe.)

Another Right that Compels Someone

Senator Barbara Boxer of California has found another right which compels someone to act according to another person’s will:

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, citing reports that pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control pills, has introduced legislation that she says would protect American women’s access to contraception.

Boxer’s proposal would require all pharmacies to fill all prescriptions or refer customers to someone who will, despite pharmacists’ religious or ethical objections to the nature of the prescription.

Securing the right to birth control, you see.

Hey, Babbles, I got some other ideas for your brand of Federalism which is far too crashing, snorting, and bellowing to call “creeping Federalism”:

  • Right to an Abortion. Compel all medical doctors to perform abortions on demand by anyone, even children, under the penalty of losing their licenses. Perhaps a phased-in approach to drive-thrus, too.
  • Right to Porn. Compel all bookstores to carry Hustler magazine. However, to protect the children, bookstores require ID to enter.
  • Right to Music with Swear Words. Compel Wal-Mart to carry the most “authentic” hip-hop music.
  • Right to Alcohol-Free Bars. Compel bars to only serve softdrinks and coffee so that they’re better family destinations.

Senator Babbles wants to inject the Federal Government virus into every small business in the land to protect the helpless against those who own property and want to use it as they see fit.

Step 3: (Government) Profit!

So we’re driving north on Interstate 39 in the middle of Illinois when there arises from the plain an almost unearthly sight. Dozens of towers break the horizon, each with spinning blades:

Wind farm near Paw Paw, Illinois

I don’t remember those spires from my frequent trips up the highway, and sure enough, they’re new:

Step 1: Anything innovative that moves human progress forward.
Step 2: …
Step 3: (Government) Profit!:

It really wouldn’t surprise many La Salle County officials if a wind farm sprung up on someone’s property in the county within the next couple years.

So in an effort to plan ahead and gather more revenue, county development committee officials Friday agreed to add a $25-per-foot inspection fee for all towers built in the county into its proposed commercial, industrial and multifamily building code ordinance.

“We need to do something quick-like because they’ll be here before we know it,” said committee member Richard Foltynewicz (D-Ottawa).

Because La Salle County officials have seen the construction of a wind farm in neighboring Lee County, they’ve gotten ahead of the curve and want to implement the tax before they actually have anything to tax.

Oh, sorry, it’s a $25-per-foot inspection fee. An arbitrary number that doesn’t account for the amount of time an inspector would have to spend on the site nor on the actual productivity of the wind farm or profitability of the company collecting the energy. No, it’s on the height of the windmill, which makes about as much sense as taxing a company based on the number of letters in its name.

So keep that in mind, gentle reader, whereas your elected officials want you to think they share your goals for cheap, renewable energy and less dependence on foreign oil, they really do, but they have their priorities. And the top of the list is getting more of that sweet, sweet tax money that will hinder progress and which will eventually come from your pockets.

You Might Be a Felon If….

(Inspired by this book and with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy….)

  • If you have ever poured a cleaning agent or solvent down your drain without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet and EPA regulations….you might be a felon.
  • If you have ever told a law enforcement official that you have committed a crime, even if you were joking or being a smart ass… might be a felon.
  • If you have ever put a sack of potting soil in a flowerbed before checking with the Army Corps of Engineers to find out if you’re on an officially-designated wetland… might be a felon.
  • If you have ever had trouble with a Federal form so you call their helpline and they tell you which box to check and you turn it in, but the helpline people were wrong….you might be a felon.
  • If you are a doctor and your receptionist’s 1s look too much like 7s to a Medicare data entry clerk… might be a felon.
  • If you have ever displayed a pellet or BB gun in such a fashion that someone can see it… might be a felon.

If only it were a comedy routine and not the law of the land.

An Anatomy of Bad Lawmaking

From a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled “Chain reaction“, we have this illuminating look at poor lawmaking:

  • Concerned citizen John Q. Everyman gets an idea.

    That’s what Connie Davie of Creve Coeur thought when she saw dogs tied outside, all alone, day and night, in every kind of weather. In fact, she thought, as images of the lonely, pathetic-looking canines kept creeping into her mind, surely there is a law against such obvious abuse.

    Curious, Davie called her local police department to find out just what the law said.

    It said nothing. There was no law. As long as a dog has access to food, water and shelter, the law was happy.

    Note the shading of story; a dog chained in a yard is subject to obvious abuse; the community must sanction the owner. Also, let’s understand the nature of this John Q., shall we?

    Or volunteering for Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Or walking Eddie and Sherry, the dogs she fostered for Stray Rescue and ended up keeping.

    But, she said, “I saw a need in my area for a law that addressed this issue of tethering.” Animals were suffering.

    And when animals are suffering, Davie acts.

    This particular citizen is an active volunteer for an animal advocacy group. One doubts that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch would wine-and-dine a Missouri Synod employee advocating schools to allow Lutheran youth groups meet on campus after school, but an animal group volunteer who agitates is just a plucky normal person.

  • The council drafts an ordinance to apply to everyone.

    “I worked with Beth for three to four months drafting an ordinance that we thought would be enforceable. I also worked with our police chief, Don Kayser, since he would be the one who’d have to enforce whatever we came up with,” she said.

    “When I first met with the police chief, I told him I didn’t expect the police to be cruising around looking for chained dogs. And I told the city council that I didn’t expect the police to be the dog gestapo. But if someone calls to report that a dog is being mistreated, the police need to have the leverage to act on it.”

    You see, the law is not designed for an instant enforcement; tether a dog, go to jail. Instead, it’s designed as a means by which to punish those select people about whom the neighbors complain, or whom the police want to punish. If cops see a tethered dog, they’re not always going to make an arrest. A good discretionary law, subject to arbitrary enforcement.

  • The legislators pay attention to detail to craft exactly the ordinance they intend.

    Davie smiled when she recalled that the final draft of the ordinance had a mistake in it. “It said that a dog could not be tied out continuously for more than six hours. It was supposed to say eight hours, because we wanted to take people who work into consideration. When one of the council members pointed out the typo, another council member said they’d be happy if it said we couldn’t chain a dog outside at all,” she said.

    I cannot bold this paragraph enough. They made an error in the final legislation they passed, but that’s okay, because one legislator would prefer to take all tethering rights from dog owners altogether.

  • Satisfied that she has altered her local community’s laws, John Q. Public returns to normal life.

    Davie still is amazed at the relative ease with which the ordinance passed. So much so that she has decided to broaden the battlefield.

    She wants to get a similar measure enacted in St. Louis County.

    So she wants me, and all St. Louis County residents, to adhere to her personal aesthetic standards of animal ownership. But wait, it’s not just me:

    Davie is hoping that others will join her crusade, not just in St. Louis County but in other municipalities.

    “What we did in Creve Coeur has been done in at least 59 other communities across the country,” she said. “It’s becoming kind of a movement, I think.”

    John Q. wants the entire world to adhere to her standards.

There you have it. An animal rights advocate uses anecdotal evidence and emotionalism to hand law enforcement a law it can enforce at its whim. Whom will it impact the most? Law abiding citizens who own dogs but cannot afford thousand dollar fences but don’t want to leave their dogs in their homes while they’re at work. While they might have provided their tethered dogs with water, food, shelter, and amusement for the periods when they’re at work, they’ll have to give up their dogs or violate the law (I bet they just violate the law).

The more laws you make, the more lawbreakers, particularly when the laws target trivial misdeeds that many people do without mens rea or particular ill effect. I wonder what our society will be like in twenty years or thirty years when everyone knows that they’re already breaking laws….what could one more crime mean?

Possession by Law Enforcement Is 10/10ths of the Law

In the story entitled “$3.3 million in suspect cash is seized “, we encounter a hint of another way the federal government has eroded property rights:

Under federal law, the money was turned over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. If the driver can’t provide proof he obtained the money legally, federal law requires that it be divided between Pontoon Beach police and federal agencies.

Understand that, citizen. The government can seize an amount of cash from you that it considers suspicious and can place the burden of proof upon you to convince them that it’s your money; if you cannot convince them to your satisfaction, they get to keep it.

Sure, this story is about $3.3 million, but it includes other enumerations as well:

“We catch people with anywhere from $5,000 or $6,000 all the way up to a half million usually,” said St. Louis police spokesman Sgt. Sam Dotson.

Carry five grand in cash on your person on your way to buy a car, and the government can take it from you. Sleep tight, citizens, in the bed you have at your government’s leisure.

Welcome, Fellow Felons (Unprosecuted)

Professor Glenn Reynolds, a little known blogger, writes in Tech Central Station:

Which means, in fact, the criminalization of almost everyone, too — if you haven’t been convicted of some felony or other, it’s probably because no prosecutor has tried to put you away, not because you haven’t committed one, whether you realized it at the time or not.

Or perhaps legislators just haven’t passed the law yet, but give them a couple of days. Certainly, someone must do something!

Steinberg’s Government Overreach

Get a load of this hyperbole from Neil Steinberg today:

You have to laugh. No sooner do we get rid of one Constitution-shredding attorney general, John Ashcroft, then in rolls another, Alberto Gonzales, the man who called the Geneva Convention “quaint.” The man who brought us Abu Ghraib. The man who revised not only American policy, but 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian morality into an ethical system that can be summed up as “torture is fine as long as we do it.”

Not only does Steinberg blame an executive for enforcing laws written ambiguously by those who inquisite Gonzales, but he also admits that his entire ethical system is dependent upon what the government tells him to do and it’s subject to revision by appointed officials at their whim.

No, no, it’s just hyperbole. Ill-conceived hyperbole, but just hyperbole.

The Far Reaches of Agriculture

I just browsed the latest Consumer Information Catalog from the GSA Federal Consumer Information Center. Certainly, if you’re not a damn kid, you remember the advertisements they used to run for this free catalog, often (it seemed) during Saturday morning cartoons. Well, I picked a copy up at the local library last week and paged through it. A couple things struck me: first, we have a National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases? Second, why do some departments, like Department of Justice and Department of Interior get abbreviated to DOJ and DOI, while Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services get abbreviated to USDA and HHS?

Finally, as I am paging through, I note most of the USDA (Department of Agriculture) publications don’t deal with growing things. We have:

  • How to Get a Great Deal on a New Car
  • Nine Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance
  • Guide to Health Insurance
  • Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance
  • How to Buy a Home with a Low Down Payment
  • Am I Covered? (deals with homeowners’ insurance
  • Indoor Air Hazards Every Home Owner Should Know About (joint publication with the EPA–although in certain circles, joints are not considered air hazards)
  • The Consumer’s Almanac
  • Annuities

Contrast this list with the publications offered by the Department of Agriculture that deal with products of agriculture:

  • Fabulous Fruits…Versatile Vegetables
  • The Food Guide Pyramid
  • How Much Are You Eating?
  • Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Eating

Non-agricultural topics outnumber agricultural topics by more than two to one. I know, you’re putting pen to paper right now to ask your congressional representatives how this can be. Are they trying to educate ignorant peasants in the country side to finance? Well, you’re not thinking that because I have few leftist coastal readers who would characterize the family farmers out here that way. But I don’t expect that these documents where designed to instruct farmers and farm hands or even migrant pickers on the topics they cover.

No, friends, these are budget burners if I ever saw them. Some department within the USDA had some money to spend and understood that if it didn’t spend that money, it wouldn’t get it next year. So it commissioned a number of booklets on topics which are undoubtedly useful but which should lie outside the scope of the Department of Agriculture. But since the funds were spent in the fiscal years in which the documents were created, undoubtedly future funds must be spent to keep these documents and to supplement the documents with further useful booklets.

Which leads me to guess why the Department of Agriculture goes by USDA instead of DOA. Because when its funding bills come before Congress, perhaps the department recognizes that the legislators don’t actually read beyond the title of bills for which they plan to bother showing up to vote, and any funding bill stamped DOA might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although this would be good for the country, it probably wouldn’t be good for the USDA and its professional communicators.

The Government is my Firewall

Whenever I read a story like the one I saw on entitled “Bush pressed for more Net security“, I immediately start putting the words crony and capitalist together and start leaving laissez-faire alone. For once we get into the details-that is, the first paragraphs-we see what this group wants:

Computer-security experts, including former government officials, urged the Bush administration on Tuesday to devote more effort to strengthening defenses against viruses, hackers and other online threats.

The Bush administration should spend more on computer-security research, share threat information with private-sector security vendors, and set up an emergency computer network that would remain functional during Internet blackouts, a computer-security trade group said.

It’s a trade group, which represents companies that take money to do computer security services such as researching computer-security, sharing threat information with private sector security vendors (each other), and setting up emergency computer networks to remain functional during Internet blackouts. That is, the trade group wants the government to devote money to pay to the trade group’s members. The call is as relevant as any group of potato farmers or mohair ranchers shrieking that the people of the United States need their product to survive.

I am alarmed, however, with the amount of play and seriousness given to the idea that the government should do something to ensure the security of computer networks. As companies have sacrificed security in developing their infrastructures and network capabilities in favor of cost savings, expediency, and convenience, they should not expect a government bailout now. The government undoubtedly should expend public funds to ensure that its capabilities remain intact during an emergency, but it shouldn’t retrofit, expensively and bureauwastefully, security for any factory or utility that placed its flow controls online on the Internet for convenience and a chance to lay off people who would have to check those controls in person. I don’t want to spend tax money to ensure that my bank is secure nor that my credit card companies can weather an attack, nor to ensure that my power company can continue delivering amperage down my pipes; that’s a cost of business, which the businesses often pass on to me through service fees and surcharges so that those costs don’t come out of the profit margin and the shareholder’s take.

However, since these lobbyists want the best of all worlds: surcharges to charge consumers for the cost of business and the government, and by that I mean us taxpayers, actually paying for the costs of business. Since the customer or taxpayer backlash hasn’t arisen, Willie, it’s go time.

As a taxpayer and a customer, I don’t look forward to the expanding synergy between government security administration and private industry. Let’s take an example from recent history: airports. Airlines, leaky boats which the government frequently bails out with buckets of taxpayer cash, and airport authorities, government bureaucracies in their own right in many cases and not very good at for-profit in others, abdicated their obligation to secure their places of business. First, they took government funds to pay for their own surly security employees, and when that wasn’t enough, the government stepped in and provided its own employees, surly and unaccountable to the private sector, to grope grandma.

So call it a slippery slope if you will, but private/public partnerships do resemble a water park. If a group of lobbyists paid highly by companies, whether profitable or failing, calls for government aid, they often get more than we customers or taxpayers want or deserve. Imagine a decade hence, when companies have pissed away the government funding on efforts to secure further government funding–which is where most government funding goes, even in the government. The private-public partnership has failed, and some legislator who wants to get on television midwifes the Computer Security Administration (CSA). This new authority dictates that computer owners must install the government flavor of McAfee anti-virus and must allow the government to schedule scans twice a week. Anyone who does not let the government perform its security function, loosely defined by Congress and arbitrarily envisioned by a mid-level Homeland Security manager looking forward to a better appointed position, faces a fine or felony charges just like impudent fliers do now. Our leadership class explains that responsible Internet travellers must accept this sacrifice, and the media will find some AOL user to explain that it’s a good idea and doesn’t impair his experience at all (it wouldn’t). The government gets to scan your hard drive every night for the good of the nation, and if you don’t like it, in four years you can vote for a different legislator too timid to agitate for its reversal.

Once the government takes over the security, all customer ill will regarding the inconvenience and the intrusiveness of the practices goes to the government and its employees, and the companies and their trade groups can only shrug their collectivist shoulders and say to their customers, sorry, it’s the government running its fingers over your shapely posterior, not us. All responsibility for irresponsibility successfully shirked, the trade groups can turn their attention to the next government handout–and hand over.

Sound crazy? Imagine what you would have thought about current TSA practices in 1994. Or 1987.

To make a short story long, Internet and corporate network security are not the government’s business. They’re the exclusive burden of companies who choose to participate in networks and of the consortia and standards bodies and organizations, well, organized by private industry. If our “capitalist” industries cede that obligation to the government, they’re putting their short term cost savings ahead of the ultimate best interests of their customers and the interests of the citizens of the Republic.

Property Rights Leaking

Fresh from triumphs in determining whom restaurant and bar owners whom those business owners can serve on their private property, government officials in Philadelphia now want to determine whom theatre owners can serve by limiting children under the age of 6 from some screenings. By law.

Mainly, I suspect, because although the human condition doesn’t change that rapidly, but because legislating is a full time job and computer solitaire can only fill so many hours in the day.

Benefits of Increased Incarceration

CNN reports Library offenders could go to jail:

Keeping library books too long could soon land some readers in jail.

Frustrated librarians want the worst offenders to face criminal charges and up to 90 days behind bars.

“We want to go after some of the people who owe us a lot of money,” said Frederick J. Paffhausen, the library’s system director. “We want to set an example.”

Paffhausen, who took over as director in October, is asking the Bay County Library Board for permission to seek arrest warrants for offenders who ignore repeated notices.

Now, I know that some of you would expect that I would think this sort of thing is overkill, and that it’s foolish to criminalize more behavior and to make more things punishable by actualy time in jail. Au contraire, but I understand the nuance of the situation. This benefits society by:

  • Making some mousy librarian types feel like Johnny Law, with the power to put those who offend them in the big house.
  • Punishing those who don’t add to the library’s coffers through overdue fines with hard time.
  • Frightening people from actually borrowing books from libraries and perhaps reading them, however slowly; this will free up library resources to do the library’s primary function in the 21st century: to be a publicly-funded Internet cafe that not many people use.
  • Helps balance the incarcerated population, as it’s not going to be 18-24 year old black males that this law throws in the slam.
  • Freeing library resources from fiscal collections, allowing them to focus more on their primary activities: protesting the overweaning government when it makes requests on libraries or on funds it allocates to libraries.

This, of course, these only represent the beginning of the bonanza! There will undoubtedly be conferences and communiques that emphasize the efficacy of this solution which many librarian and library administration will have to attend on the taxpayer dime to wine, dine, and discuss the pogroms.

Also, libtarians, who represent the most impotent and looked-down upon of the academic mindset, will finally have a status-bearing power that professors don’t. You can flunk or expel a student who cheats or plagiarizes, but you cannot sic the police on them with visions of the miscreants face down on cement and roughly cuffed, can you?

It’s a win/win situation. If you’re measuring by the librarian/statist standard.

New Government Seizure

Here’s an interesting story: U.S. orders airlines to turn over passenger data:

The government on Friday ordered airlines to submit personal information about all passengers who flew within the United States during June so it can test a new system designed to identify potential terrorists.

The records sought include the names, addresses and itineraries of passengers who traveled on 72 carriers, including AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration said.

You know, about 500 people complained during open comment period about how this invades their privacy, or how it invades the privacy of people who flew during this period, but it also violates the property rights of the airlines that collected that data. Instead of being compensated for the information they’ve collected, the TSA (hereafter to be known by the acronym TAY-za) just says, “Stand and Deliver!” without subpoena or judicial process.

It’s a continuation of a dangerous precedent that starts with eminent domain and what’s next? Source code for applications so that Homeland Security can audit it? The contents of an author’s first draft manuscript to ensure it’s not incitement of some sort? Your grandmother’s brownie recipe to make sure it lacks hashish?

But the government continues to find new and innovative ways to get private property from us, ainna?

Maybe They Ought to Make It A Felony

Looks like someone’s got the bright idea that cops ought to pull over people who are not wearing their seatbelts as a primary offense. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that some institutionally-important, but realistically-challenged hack explains:

“Enacting this bill is the single most important life-saving and deficit reduction measure you can take this session. It costs nothing, but will save much,” Healing said in prepared remarks to the Senate Transportation Committee.

That’s a bit frank, isn’t it? After all, we could make the world safer if we only made driving without a seatbelt a felony, but that wouldn’t exactly produce revenue, would it? We could make the world much safer by putting private citizens–you know, the only ones who hurt themselves–into straight jackets and feeding them Ritalin.

Jeez, just what I need, the ability for a cop to pull me over because he thinks he saw me without a seatbelt. Speed can be measured from outside the car. Driving without a brakelight, ditto. But seeing whether the people in the car are wearing seatbelts is not something easily seen from someone outside the car. It’s an excuse to pull people over, and a damn lot of work for a cheap ticket.

No Probable Cause? No Problem!

The Supreme Court has said that the police can stop your car and give you a flier, and then arrest or ticket you for whatever they uncover:

llinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the Supreme Court’s ruling “will allow law enforcement in Illinois and across the nation to seek voluntary assistance from citizens in their efforts to solve crime.”

Roadblock = Voluntary assistance

Once you embrace that, citizen, you will be happy.

The case stemmed from someone who was busted for DUI while stopping for one of these roadblocks for an unrelated crime committed a week earlier:

The constitutionality of the informational roadblocks was challenged by Robert Lidster, accused of drunken driving at a 1997 checkpoint set up to get tips about an unrelated fatal hit-and-run accident. The roadblock was at the same spot and time of night that the hit-and-run took place about a week earlier.

Authorities in Lombard, Ill., got no helpful tips that night in the death of a 70-year-old bicyclist, but they arrested Lidster after police said he nearly hit an officer with his minivan.

Law enforcement loves roadblocks. And they’re not just for dangerous criminals anymore! They’re for illegal immigrants, drunken driving scans, and for passing out literature. Did the roadblock work? No.

Lidster argued that police could have used other methods to get information about the hit-and-run driver, like billboards or stories in newspapers and on radio and television stations. Television coverage of the roadblock did lead to information that helped solve the case.

So the police handing out literature, nor stopping drivers in the middle of the night to answer a few questions, helped them in the case for which they set up the roadblocks. But those roadblocks did, however, come in handy for at least one unrelated crime. That’s the point.

This, like so many other handy law enforcement practices and new laws, is all about bringing you, the potentially guilty citizen, in contact with police where they have a pretense to look for probable cause. Now, police can pull you over for driving without a seatbelt, or if it looks like you don’t have a seatbelt on, or for driving in the left lane for longer than they want. And once you’re on the side of the road, then the fun begins. Where are you going? What’s in the bag? Can we take a look in your trunk?

It’s Cold Out There, Prosecutors; Don’t Forget To Layer Up

More from prosecutorial “layering” of charges indicated in a St Louis Post-Dispatch Law and Order round-up:

Two men are indicted in construction scams

Two men have been indicted on charges that they bilked people through home construction scams, the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis said Tuesday.

One of the men, Jeffrey Thomas, is accused of selling the same property in St. Louis County to three buyers. He collected more than $500,000 on the sales, and did nothing to build on the property, according to the federal indictment.

Thomas, 36, of the 300 block of Autumn Creek Drive in Valley Park, is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

The other defendant, Carlton Dinwiddie, 39, of East St. Louis, is charged with mail fraud and misuse of a Social Security number.

Perhaps I should write to my state legislator, Al Liese (who replaced his own term-limited son in the state legislature by posting signs that looked just like the incumbent legislator’s–ELECT LIESE–perfectly gaming the gullible voters), to enact laws against fraud committed for monetary gain, Crimes committed during commission of fraud, Fraud committed during course of a crime, English-language fraud, and Sound-wave fraud.

Double-jeopardy? Hah! We spit upon your double-jeopardy! Prosecutors need flexible and innovative tools to deal with their burgeoning political careers and their appearances as depicted by the media modern con artists.

All Your Rights Are Belong to the State

More property rights hijinks. This time, a man who refused to remove junk from his yard is sentenced to a year in prison. He’s completely framing it as a property rights issue, and whereas I dispute the aesthetic appeal of the man’s “cause,” I have to agree. Trying to force him to remove his unsightly possessions from his property–and then seizing them and selling them at auction– violates his right to own junk. I mean, raw materials for his art.

I really snicker at the judge, though, who said at the sentencing:

He [the judge] also said it was Davis’ neighbors who were victimized – not Davis.

“What you’ve done, sir, in my judgment, has torn at the moral fiber of the community, of the state.”

Stephenson held up 21 letters from neighbors, complaining about Davis.

“You have caused them psychological damage,” the judge said.

Moral fiber? Sounds like moral tissue paper, which could be rent by a stiff breeze. And what kind of support group or therapeutic drugs do you prescribe for a freaking neighor with a messy lawn? I mean, with the new perscription drug fiasco coming soon to a protected class near you, the every other house in Jefferson County, Missouri is going to be dopes up, and the other half will be in jail.

Ex Post Facto Are Just Words from a Dead Language

In Waukesha, Wisconsin, they’re throwing the new book at a guy who surreptitiously videotaped girlfriends nude. Well, not nude, since that’s art. They were naked. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

Avello was charged with two felonies in February for possessing the tapes without the women’s consent and producing them while each was “nude in a circumstance in which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

A possible legal problem arises since the videotapes were made in the late 1990s, and the law that they’re rolling up and spanking Avello with was enacted in 2001. Obviously, this would be an unconstitutional application, ex post facto, of laws. But this is a CINS (Crime Involving Nakedness or Sex) situation, so it’s important to chillingsworth this guy, lock him up for a decade or two, deprive him of rights to vote and own guns, and put his name in an extra bad database registry.

One of the State’s men says:

Assistant District Attorney Ted S. Szczupakiewicz disagrees.

“I don’t believe that time and place is relevant at all under the law as it existed in November, when the tapes were located and, according to the state’s position, found to be in Mr. Avello’s possession,” he told Binn.

There you have it. Ex Post Facto overruled by an ADA. Thanks for coming up with the idea, founding fathers, but it’s so eighteenth century.

Just in case you bump into a judge who disagrees, Mr., uh, Ted, you can always charge Avello with not having a business license.

New Streams of Revenue

The New York Daily News rounds up the ways that New York’s finest are enforcing all the laws on the books and citing everything to make up for the city’s revenue shortfall through fines.

My favorite: The driver who got into a car accident and then got a ticket for having a broken headlight three days in a row. The law in question states:

The law says it is illegal to operate, drive or park a vehicle not equipped with headlamps that are in good working conditions.

You cannot drive it. You cannot park it. The only answer is to destroy the car immediately when a headlight goes out. I would expect that sort of law in Detroit, not New York.

Sharpen your outrage, friends. I know this is confined to New York now, but rest assured your municipal officials are watching and learning. Soon, you’ll be paying for the upkeep of water parks and other flotsam from rich revenues with fines for grass that’s too tall for your particular suburb.

Okay, Hijinks Now A Felony

Back in May, I wrote about a young man here in Missouri who got caught videotaping the girls locker room. Lucky thing for him, he didn’t do it in New York, where Gov Pattycakes just signed a law making video voyeurism a felony.

Not only that, but if you record a someone unclothed in a bedroom against her (let’s be honest, it’s always gonna be a her) will, you get added to the state’s registry of sex offenders as though you were a serial molester of Webelos.

Ask me sometime and I will go on at length about the legislative insanity that assigns felony to minor offenses that cause no physical harm or threat. It’s easy to do something! about a perceived problem by getting tough, but it’s another thing entirely to continue to warehouse non-violent offenders for years on end.