Free Speech

According to CNN, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Virginia has ordered Albert Snyder, the father of Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, a marine killed in Iraq, to pay the legal fees of the people who protested at his son’s funeral. The protesters in this case were members of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church.

Phelps’ church is known primarily for its repeated anti-gay protests. Phelps’ motto is “God hates Fags.” He blames everything from 9/11 to soldiers’ deaths from IEDs on homosexuality in America. Phelps’ church protested at the marine’s funeral. The marine’s father sued the church alleging privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil
and won an initial judgment of over $10,000,000. The Fourth Circuit overturned the award and ordered the father to pay Westboro’s legal fees for $16,000. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide the case.

First, I have to preface my further remarks by saying that I am the father of two active duty US servicemen. One is currently serving in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne and the other is in a job that may also place him in harms way. So it is possible that I could someday be that father. Second, I must also say that as a Christian, a military father and an American, I find the actions of Phelps and his so-called church reprehensible.

But as an American, a patriot and a believer in the First Amendment I believe the court made the right ruling. I also hope that the United States Supreme Court upholds the Fourth Circuit.

The First Amendment reads:

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.

As much as I hate the way Phelps and his church have perverted the gospel of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as much as I hate the way they have attacked the Snyder family in their time of grief, as much as I hate the way they have dis-honored the memory of a young American hero — I believe that their actions are protected under the First Amendment.

In its opinion, the court said:

The protest was confined to a public area under supervision and regulation of local law enforcement and did not disrupt the church service. Although reasonable people may disagree about the appropriateness of the Phelps’ protest, this conduct simply does not satisfy the heavy burden required for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Maryland law

Among the five freedoms of the First Amendment, is the freedom of speech. It is precisely this sort of speech, controversial, offensive, and uncomfortable speech that requires protection. My sons are fighting, and Lance Corporal Snyder died to protect our freedoms — including Phelps’ freedom to spew his vitriol.

As much as I think this lawsuit is ill-advised, I understand that the Snyder family has incurred and will continue to incur significant legal expenses, If the judgment stands they will also have to pay the $16,000 in Phelps’ legal fees. Therefore, I encourage my readers to join me in donating to the Al Snyder Fund to assist with legal fees.

I believe in the First Amendment, but I also believe in supporting the families of our fallen heroes. Semper fi!

Linn County Republican Central Committee

At this week’s LCRCC meeting, chairman Tim Palmer resigned. Tim resigned in order to focus his efforts on Rob Gettemy’s primary campaign for the 2nd district congressional seat. Party co-chair, Mark Hudson has taken over as party chairman.

This has been a trying time for the Linn County Republican party for a number of reasons but we have an excellent opportunity. This morning Mark held a coffee meeting with several Linn County Republicans. The focus is on working to support and provide services for candidates.

Mark is beginning his term by reaching out to Republican activists from all different backgrounds. It looks like people are willing to look past the history and focus on electing Republicans. I think we are moving in the right direction, the proof will be this fall.

Local Republicans are Republicans too …

… and they should act like it. In Cedar Rapids we have two Republicans serving in city government, Mayor Ron Corbett and Councilman Pat Shey. We also have one former Republican, Councilman Monica Vernon. So when it came time to vote on the $540,000 fix to the city’s Yardy carts, imagine my surprise when the only votes to spend the money came from the two Republicans on the council. The only abstention came form the one former Republican.

My property taxes are going up and my guys think now is a good time to waste half a million dollars, on a product that no one wants from a vendor who can’t sell it to fix a problem that nobody has. Shame on you both.

4 Boxes of Freedom — the Soap box, the Ballot box, the Jury box and th Bullet box

One of the things I enjoy doing in the Republican Party is serving on the various platform committees. Over the years, I have chaired county, district and state platform committees. In 2008, my political dream was realized when I had the honor of representing Iowa on the national platform committee.

Several years ago, while serving on the Linn County Platform Committee, I met Dell Lawrence. Dell is a quiet unassuming man who seems like he would be a great grandfather. But in the years that we have been friends I learned that Dell has a passion — a passion for freedom

In that committee, Dell introduce the following plank (and he has introduced it every year since!)

We support legislation that would allow juries to be informed of their Common Law right and duty to consider both the facts and the law in reaching just verdicts.

I had never heard of such a thing. Isn't that what juries do? Well it is not so. Juries listen to judges and are often instructed precisely how they must rule. But the people are sovereign and it is ultimately the jury that represents the people.

Some would argue but isn't this what happened in the South when juries refused to convict whites for crimes against blacks? Yes, but it is the same principle whereby juries in the North refused to convict people for violating the Fugitive Slave Act.

Juries have the right and responsibility to decide and equally important they have the right and responsibility to know.

It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision… you [juries] have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.

John Jay,
First Chief Justice of the United State

In the recent Mark Becker trial a great injustice was done to the sovereignty of the people. Becker was convicted of killing Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. Becker's defense team presented an insanity defense. Whether Becker is/was insane I will leave for another discussion. My concern has to do with one poignant procedural moment during the trial.

The jury had been deliberating for almost four days and were at a deadlock. No one denied that Becker had shot Thomas the question was, was Becker guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury sent a note to the judge and according to KWWL:

.. jurors sent a note to Judge Carroll asking what would happen if Mark Becker was found legally insane. Judge Carroll responded that jurors did not need to concern themselves with the potential consequences of their decision. Carroll added the consequences of the verdict is a matter for the court and not for the jury. [emphasis added]

The judge essentially told the jury that it was none of their business. This unelected judge contemptuously withheld critical information from the jury.

In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both …

Today it seems nothing could be further from the truth whether Varnum or Becker today, judges seem to believe that they are supreme above the legislature, the executive and worse the above people.

If my last post didn't earn me a membership in the esteemed society of Keepers Of Obscure Knowledge (KOOKs) — then this post probably will 😉

I agree with Steve Deace …

I agree with Steve Deace

The Hurt Locker was the best movie I saw last year too. Actually I agree with Deace on several issues and disagree with him on several others. On The Hurt Locker we are in agreement.

Now, I am not a veteran, so I cannot speak to how accurately the movie depicted reality. But I found it to be compelling. Like Deace, I just did not see this as an anit-war movie. It is gritty and with a few exceptions feels to this observer like an accurate description of modern war.

By way of full disclosure, I was not a supporter of the Iraq war, I did support our entry into Afghanistan. I know that this may gain me entry into the esteemed society of the Keepers Of Obscure Knowledge (KOOKs) but I thought in both cases that George W. Bush should have asked for a formal declaration of war.

But I do support our troops. I have two sons who volunteered during the dark days before the surge and despite my concerns about the policy — I am proud of those who serve. My eldest son is on active duty in the United States Navy, given the sensitive nature of his job, we may never really know whether he is in the conflict zone. My second son is serving with the storied 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan (Hooah!) As I write this he is at a forward operating base that controls a key road from Kandahar to Pakistan.

If you have not seen The Hurt Locker go see it. When you are done thank someone who has served.

GOP State Convention in Minneapolis

Krusty has a post today about the GOP state convention possibly moving to Sioux City this year. Worse, as Krusty points out, since the decision has not yet been made, the location will still be unknown when we have our county conventions and delegates start signing up this Saturday.

This information has not actually been secret but it has not been very public either.  When I heard about this a few weeks ago, I called my SCC reps and told them that I thought it was a bad idea and they agreed.

As I understand it there are three cities bidding on the convention: Des Moines, Sioux City and Cedar Rapids. Apparently there are some other events in Des Moines and hotel space is at a premium. And even though I am from Cedar Rapids, I would think that we are a terrible location to host a convention of this size. There go my chances of serving on the CR City Council ;-(

The worst possible choice is Sioux City. Sioux city is on the western border of Iowa. So it is about as far as you can get from the geographic center of the state. Even worse given the population distribution of our state which leans heavily east, Sioux city is even farther from the demographic center of the state.

Even if hotels are short in Des Moines, holding the convention in Sioux CIty almost guarantees that a large number of delegates will need hotel rooms. I do not know whether there will be a major pre-convention event but if there is, it will be impossible for 1st and 2nd Republicans to attend without taking a whole day off from work.

Even worse, given the number of candidates for the 2nd and 3rd district congressional races there is the real possibility that the nominee will be chosen at a district convention. The state convention has been scheduled long enough after the primary to make resolving nominations at the convention possible. I cannot stress how bad a decision it would be to decide the 2nd CD race in Sioux City! The turnout from our district will be greatly suppressed if Siouxland is the choice.

I have called all three of my SCC reps and I left a voice message for Matt Strawn to to the same effect. If you agree that the convention should not be in Sioux City, please call your reps and let them know. The planning right now is being driven by the staff not the SCC. I hope the SCC asserts its authority and demands a real choice rather than having the location presented as a fait accompli.

Perhaps we should hold the convention in Minneapolis — for many of us, it would be a shorter drive.

Rob Makes 4 in the 2nd CD

Today, Marion entrepreneur Rob Gettemy announced his entry into the 2nd Congressional District Republican Primary field. Gettemy joins Marianette Miller-Meeks, Steve Rathje, Christopher Reed to make this a 4-way race. (By way of full disclosure, I have known Rob for some time, since we both worked at Parsons technology.)

In his press release, Gettemy said:

I believe our country has reached a tipping point. It is time for a national reckoning. Are we the country of our founders? Do we believe in unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Are we the country that guarantees my right to fail, without which there would be no opportunity to succeed? Or, are we a country that looks to Washington DC to solve all of our basic problems? Are we a country that will continue down its long path of unsustainable spending?

We need to decide that now This is why I am running. We won’t permanently solve our substantial problems until this fundamental question is answered.

This is shaping up to be a very interesting race.

Cash for Appliance Clunkers

Let me start by saying that this is a stupid program. Like the original cash for clunkers, it takes money from a large number of people and gives it to a small number of people to spend. It does nothing to encourage manufacturers to create products that people want and in many cases the appliances purchased will not even be made in the USA.

While I think the policy is stupid, if the government is going to waste our money this way, they may as well waste some on me. So, this morning I am trying to reserve my rebate for a new refrigerator. Reservations are necessary because the government has a limited amount of funds for this program.

Of course even the way the reservations are being handled is the typical government snafu. The government began taking reservations at 8:00am CST today via a website and over the phone. It is now 8:20am and for the last twenty minutes, the web site has been unavailable and the phone lines have been busy. You would think that the state’s IT shop would have anticipated the demand and farmed this out to a web and call center provider who actually had the capacity to handle it.

The government can’t even misuse our money efficiently.