Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I [heart] dead people

Ok, one in particular, today - George Santayana, who studied under Josiah Royce, who taught Walter Lippmann, and who said:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten
your aim.
Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without
reason and imitation without benefit.
Profound skepticism is favorable to conventions, because it doubts that
the criticism of conventions is any truer than they are.
All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else
they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be
Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with the
part of another; people are friends in spots.
Fun is a good thing but only when it spoils nothing better.
Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.
Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to
surrender it too soon or to the first comer.
The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who
have loved it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Opinion and other coverage of Constitution Day Free Speech fracas

Thursday update/summary:
  • Free speech of parade group curtailed by announcer at Constitution Day parade
    (announcer wouldn't announce group name; eventually announced name but still wouldn't announce full statement)
  • Announcer and parade president subsequently apologize to group for curtailing free speech
  • Local newspaper's unsigned editorial defends the curtailment, on dubious grounds:
    • To call for "impeachment for high crimes..." is to slander our leaders
    • Unpopular politics do not belong in a small town [Constitution Day] parade

  • NCFocus offers charity donation if unsigned editorial's author will come forward and discuss its logic
  • Author _does_ come forward, but refuses to discuss, and refuses to grant permission to reprint the email exchange.

(I'd told someone yesterday, "if he _did_ agree to discuss it, I swear I'd have a heart attack" - so while Hospice loses a donation(bad), cardiac health hazard is averted(good). Overall influence on local community health: a wash. )

(For more background see yesterday's introductory post, and the chronology posted earlier this evening.)
(And if story links require registration, try the passwords at BugMeNot.)

a 'rowback' variant:
From The Union's Mon. Sept 11 "Constitution Day parade president issues apology to group" breaking news article:
Co-announcer Greg Cook said the announcers edit statements on the spot and will sometimes omit segments for brevity.

"There was no agenda," Cook said Monday. ...
This assertion doesn't appear in the next day's Apology given in Sunday parade incident, wherein partial-statement-announcer Paul Matson explains:
"The words 'high crimes' stuck in my throat ... I felt uncomfortable with the accusations they were making. They were not words I would use at a celebration."
(Kudos to Paul for his honesty, apart from whether his reticence was justified.)

Constitution Day Parade Commission President Dennis Cassella's "nothing foul or inappropriate [in A.C.I.'s statement]" evaluation (in the Apology) of A.C.I.'s announcement was not shared by the anonymous architect of today's Union editorial, Parade announcer had a right to pause ["pause"... - ed.], which asserts that Paul was justified in omitting the second part of A.C.I.'s statement because uttering the phrase "dedicated to impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for high crimes..." would constitute slander against our nation's leaders.
[NCFocus note: This is an interesting legal argument; we'll run it by counsel tomorrow morning]
[Wed. am update: we're told it's not slander, because a) the statement doesn't assert guilt (it's of the form "they should be arrested", not "they did it") and besides b) the standards for slandering/libeling a public figure are extremely high; witness the recent ABC 9/11 drama.]

The Union's editorial anonymouse also regrets the incivility:
"It's also unfortunate that our small-town parade, intended mostly for the entertainment of citizens of all political and social persuasions, was marred by more of the same shouting and screaming that has polarized our nation."

"mostly for the entertainment"...
Nice to know the U.S. Constitution is still considered to have some value in Nevada County.

BTW, the tone of the many of The Union's reader comments can be explained: Nevada Union High School's Class List includes no civics class, although there does appear to be a U.S. Government/Economics class (no further information available) and one on American Government, with these details:
State requirement for graduation.
Course will cover:
1. Foundations of Government
2. Political Behavior.
3. The Legislative Branch.
4. The Executive Branch.
5. The Judicial Branch.
6. Comparative Political and Economic Systems.
7. State and Local Government.
I would feel a whole lot better about the future of our country if I saw the Bill of Rights featured prominently on the syllabus.


Disclosures, confessions, and views:
* Disclosure: I know several of the members of the A.C.I. group.
* View: I don't like the way the Constitution's been degraded into entertainment (it reminds me too much of what's happened to the press; and what comes next, banishing the injured in favor of blonde bombshells for Veterans' Day?).
* Confession: I haven't always appreciated previous years' Constitution Day "floats" that seemed political in nature, particularly when I didn't share the politics displayed.
* View: But allowing free expression of other viewpoints is a core requirement on Constitution Day.

(and it's all too easy to forget the meaning of impeachment, which is not "conviction", nor "eviction".)

BTW, it is widely speculated that above-referenced editorial anonymouse is in fact The Union's Publisher. Regardless of who the small furry individual quivering behind the wallboard may be, we do hope that he or she can look within, take a deep breath, and summon up the courage to emerge into the light for an open, intellectually honest discussion on the merits and logical underpinnings of this editorial.
I've made* the following offer (which, as of 9am Wed, has not yet shown up on this page) as an inducement:
I'll give $100 to Hospice if the director* of this editorial will take public credit for it and agree to answer several questions about it. (I realize the actual author may have written it under duress; I wish to speak to the person whose reasoning it reflects, not the one who was told to write and/or defend it.)

Thurs update - as mentioned above, he did subsequently self-identify, but refused to discuss it or to grant permission to reprint our email exchange.

Constitution Day fracas chronology

Updated Wed. am.

Initial "Free speech abrogated at Constitution Day Parade" summary (with links to news stories) was posted yesterday.

Here's the chronology, as I understand it:
(2nd draft; please send corrections of any inaccurate part(s) of this account)
(Does anyone know if the episode was videotaped, e.g. for NCTV?)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In Sunday's Constitution Day Parade in downtown Nevada City, the Billionaires for Bush group was followed by Americans for Constitutional Integrity (the "impeach Bush" group), which was followed by KVMR.
[This differed from the planned "parade list" order, which was BfB - KVMR - ACI.]

The standard practice is that when a parade group reaches the announcer's stand, it stops and spends about 2 minutes in the limelight, while the announcer reads the group's name and description (if the group has provided one).

Americans for Constitutional Integrity approached the announcers' booth.

They had provided this statement:
"Americans for Constitutional Integrity - dedicated to protecting the Constitution of the United States; activating the impeachment process defined in the Constitution, and impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for high crimes against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

Announcer Paul Matson announced the group: "KVMR".

The group said "no, we're not KVMR, we're Americans for Constitutional Integrity - read our statement".

Paul Matson again announced "KVMR".
The group again denied the appellation, milled around and waited, called for Paul to announce the group, for a period of one to two minutes.

Paul then announced
"Americans for Constitutional Integrity - dedicated to protecting the Constitution of the United States"
but did not read the remaining
"...activating the impeachment process defined in the Constitution, and impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for high crimes against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

ACI did not move forward, and continued to chant "Read Our Statement" (and"Free Speech"?).
This continued for several more minutes.

The watching crowd grew restless, started booing and shouting at the group, and throwing things at them.

A policeman - Dan, a Nevada City sergeant according to The Union, stepped off the curb toward the group, which was directed to move on (but not threatened with arrest) if they didn't), full announced statement or no.

They moved on.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Announcer and parade president have since apologized for the incident.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

The U.S. Constitution - we parade it, but don't follow it

Freedom of speech abrogated at yesterday's Constitution Day Parade in Nevada City; apology by parade president (with supremely unconvincing explanation* from one of the co-announcers) ensues.

Evidence of Nevada County's dire need for civics education abounds in the story comments.

confession: I wasn't there.
hunch: Somebody leaned on Paul (the other co-announcer), to make him do this.
(actual knowledge: none)
(Tuesday update: accuracy of hunch: none)
(Wed. am update: I'm going to provisionally retract my retraction.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Questions for Congressman John Doolittle

Tuesday Sept 12 updates:

1. Still no answers to these questions. I know I have to hire a lobbyist to get federal funding, but do I have to hire one just to get my questions answered?

I can't afford the 60k/year that Sierra College was (is?) paying to retain Pete Evich's lubricating-the-flow-of-federal-funds services, but then I don't need a $200,000 earmark either; how much does it cost for just a few true-false question answers?

2. Elsewhere, there've been Disclosures (to the extent that the anonymous can disclose) from the proprietors of the Dump Doolittle weblog

Friday Sept 15 updates:
1. Still no answers from Doolittle's offices.
2. See the blog setup disclosure below, with Oct 31 update.

The post:

Sent (again) today [Sept 8] to Chris Parilo, Congressman Doolittle's field rep. I've edited slightly and added links.

In case my email to you from last week got lost in the shuffle, here are the questions again. And if there's someone else that I should be directing them to, please let me know and I'll do so.

Over the last month or so I've tried
  • calling Congressman Doolittle's branch and D.C. offices
  • using his web "contact" form
  • faxing the questions to his spokeswoman.
These approaches have not worked.

  1. For the Earmarks joint project by The Examiner,, the Sunlight Foundation and others:
    Which of the earmarks in the upcoming Labor HHS Bill were sponsored by Mr. Doolittle?

  2. For a local project to survey and report Nevada County public servants' position on global warming -
    (I've also asked the other candidates these questions)

    1. Has he seen the film An Inconvenient Truth?

    2. Did he see the Discovery Channel 2-hour Tom Brokaw special on global warming, that aired in July, or the ABC documentary that showed more recently?

    3. Does he believe that
      1) a scientific consensus exists that global warming is occurrring and is mostly human-caused?
      2) it is a major and urgent problem that we need to address?

  3. Regarding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (I'm pretty sure he's opposed to it), would he take the "stem cell" pledge, as put forth by Jon Alter July 28 in Newsweek:

    "Because of my strong opposition to embryonic-stem-cell research, I hereby pledge that should I, at any point in the future, develop diabetes, cancer, spinal-cord injuries or Parkinson's, among other diseases, I will refuse any and all treatments derived from such research, at home or abroad, even if it costs me my life."

    (I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect someone to take this pledge, but would still like to know)

    I've sent email asking his opponents' positions on this issue, and if they're opposed, I'll also ask them if they'll take the pledge.

  4. A belated question for the Talking Points Memo "Shay's handful" project (e.g. here ) -
    In Fall 2004, how did Congressman Doolittle vote (in the voice-vote in the GOP caucus meeting) on the DeLay rule (where the House Republican Conference's voted to change a rule requiring members in leadership positions to step down if indicted by state grand juries)?

Update, 30 min after posting this - Doolittle's field rep. (Chris P.) says he has the questions but it might take [more] time to put together responses.

Monday update - I've replied by email asking this:
How long does Congressman Doolittle's staff consider to be a reasonable period of time, between receiving questions like these from a constituent and answering them?

(I ask for two reasons - first, I'm not clear on how long I should expect to wait to get answers in this particular instance, and second, it would be a useful metric for comparison between the Congressman and the other candidates for his position.)


Disclosure (added Fri Sept 15, updated Oct 31): I have set up a blog (as yet unused) for the group Republicans For Brown (and would be happy to do likewise for a Democrats for Doolittle group, if they existed and asked (and lo, they do exist - but it seems that the group's two members - Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner and Placer County Supervisor Bill Santucci - both have unlisted phone numbers, so I'll wait to hear from them...) - details/reasons in comments here and here.
Some past* "election blog setup help" offers to candidates in local races (regardless of political orientation) are recounted here and here.