January 2010

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I’ve been commenting on the President’s State of the Union address on and off for a few years now. I do it for three reasons: (1) to force myself to read the actual speech so I feel more involved in the civic process, (2) to pad out the blog, and (3) because everyone else is doing it (probably for reason 2). I’ve never bothered to look at the opposition response before, but blogging has been kind of thin this year, and picking apart another speech seemed like an easy way to get a little more content up.

So I Googled “state of the union republican response”, but all Google could find was last year’s Republican response. The new one hadn’t been indexed yet. Not a problem: I’ll just search one of the news sites…unless…

Seriously, does anybody really pay attention to the opposition response? It’s given by someone that the last election’s losers are hoping we’ll like better than the guy they ran for President last time, and nothing he says matters, because unlike the president, he’s not in a position to do anything about it. Most people probably don’t even know that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gave the speech. I know I wouldn’t if I hadn’t decided to write about it.

So…when I wrote my review of the Republican response to the State of the Union, I went ahead and used last year’s speech by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. So far, no one has noticed.

(Probably because no one cares, and also because no one reads my blog.)

[Note: In retrospect, it was stupid of me to deceive my readers in order to test them. Sorry about that. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again…except maybe on April Fool’s Day.]

Anyway, here’s my review of the real 2010 Republican response to the State of the Union, as delivered by Governor Bob McDonnell and transcribed by CNN (as far as you know, because you really don’t care enough to check. I wouldn’t.):

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Good evening. I’m Bob McDonnell. Eleven days ago, I was honored to be sworn in as the 71st governor of Virginia. I’m standing in the historic House Chamber of Virginia’s Capitol, a building designed by Virginia’s second governor, Thomas Jefferson.

It’s not easy to follow the president of the United States. And my 18-year-old twin boys have added pressure to me tonight by giving me exactly 10 minutes to finish before they leave to go watch “SportsCenter.”

(LAUGHTER)

I’m joined by fellow Virginians to share a Republican perspective on how to best address the challenges facing our nation today.

We were encouraged to hear President Obama speak this evening about the need to create jobs. All Americans should have the opportunity to find and keep meaningful work, and the dignity that comes with it.

As I’ve said before, too much of a focus on jobs makes for bad economic policy. Jobs matter, but so do things like productivity and producing things people actually want.

(APPLAUSE)

Many — many of us here tonight — and many of you watching — have family or friends who have lost their jobs. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans is unemployed. That is unacceptable.

I usually let this sort of thing pass, but just for the record, 1 in 10 Americans are not unemployed. Unemployment figures are given as a percentage of people in the labor force, which is everybody who wants to work, whether they are working or not. Since about half of all Americans are too young to work, retired, disabled, institutionalized, or just don’t want to work, our current 10% unemployment rate means that about 1 in 20 Americans is unemployed.

Here in Virginia, we’ve faced our highest unemployment rate in more than 25 years, and bringing new jobs and more opportunities to our citizens is the top priority of my administration.

Good government policy should spur economic growth and strengthen the private sector’s ability to create new jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

We must enact policies that promote entrepreneurship and innovation so America can better compete with the world. What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class.

Man, the right wing really is obsessed with tort reform…

It was Thomas Jefferson who called for “a wise and frugal government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” He was right.

Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much. Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs immediately and hold unemployment below 8 percent.

In the past year, more than 3 million people have lost their jobs, and yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and our grandchildren.

The amount of debt is on pace to double in five years and triple in 10. The federal debt is now over $100,000 per household. This is simply unsustainable.

The president’s partial freeze announced tonight on discretionary spending is a laudable step, but a small one. The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper limited role of government at every level.

(APPLAUSE)

Without reform, the excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and our prosperity.

In recent months, the American people have made clear that they want government leaders to listen and then act on the issues most important to them. We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship.

(APPLAUSE)

There is much common ground. All Americans agree that we need health — health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality. But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.

Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform health care, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.

And we will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your health care.

Allowing insurance to be sold across state lines is a great idea. It’s a good way to increase competition in the health insurance market, and it will cost very little to implement. Also—and this is a little unusual these days—it’s completely within the enumerated powers of the federal government since it’s a classic example of interstate commerce.

And our solutions aren’t 1,000-page bills that no one has fully read, after being crafted behind closed doors with special interests. In fact, many of our proposals are available online at solutions.gop.gov, and we welcome your ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

And still, no one has read them…

(LAUGHTER)

All Americans agree that this nation must become more energy independent and secure.

No they don’t. We don’t have to be energy independent any more than we have to be automobile independent, clothing independent, or consumer electronics independent.

We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all.

Why should we use our own natural resource if we can get them cheaper from somewhere else?

Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, alternative energy that will lower your utility bills.

Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to become the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas off-shore.

(APPLAUSE)

But this administration’s policies are delaying off-shore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap-and-trade energy taxes. Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices.

Uh, I’m pretty sure we can’t increase the number of people working on energy production without raising the costs. If energy gets cheaper, someone’s going to be out of a job.

(APPLAUSE)

All Americans agree that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy. As a young kid, my dad told me, “Son, if you want a good job, you need a good education.” Dad was right, and that’s even more true today.

The president and I agree on expanding the number of high-quality charter schools and rewarding teachers for excellent performance. More school choices for parents and students mean more accountability and greater achievement.

Since the president opposes the charter schools in D.C., you might want to check back with him on that.

A child’s educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her ZIP Code.

(APPLAUSE)

All Americans agree that we must maintain a strong national defense. The courage and success of our armed forces is allowing us to draw down troop levels in Iraq as that government is increasingly able to step up.

My oldest daughter, Jeanine, was an Army platoon leader in Iraq, so I am personally grateful for the service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform, and a grateful nation thanks them.

(APPLAUSE)

We applaud President Obama’s decision to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We agree that victory there is imperative for national security.

And we’ll know we’re victorious how? What would achievable victory look like?

But we have serious concerns over the recent steps the administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists. Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence.

He’s not getting the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, he’s getting the same legal rights we give to everyone who is accused of a crime. The only way it would make sense not to give him legal rights is if we weren’t going to put him on trial. I’m not ready to live in a country that summarily imprisons people without a trial.

Look, if they start attacking us with such fury and in such numbers that our justice system can’t keep up, then of course we can hold them without a trial. That’s a war. But one guy trying to kill some people? That’s not a war. That’s Saturday night in every big city in America. We handle those cases by the tens of thousands every year. The underwear bomber is just one more attempted murderer.

Also, “critical intelligence”? The terrorist leadership trusted critical information to a guy who was willing to put a bomb in his underwear?

As Sen.-elect Scott Brown has said, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them.

That would be those 30,000 troops you mentioned earlier.

(APPLAUSE)

Here at home, government must help foster a society in which all our people can use their God-given talents and liberty to pursue the great American dream. Republicans know that government cannot guarantee individual outcomes, but we strongly believe that it must guarantee equality of opportunity for all.

That opportunity exists best in a democracy which promotes free enterprise, economic growth, strong families, and individual achievement.

Many Americans are concerned about this administration’s effort to exert greater control over car companies, banks, energy, and health care, but over-regulating employers won’t create more employment, overtaxing investors won’t foster more investment.

That paragraph is dead-on.

Top-down, one-size-fits-all decision-making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our founders clearly stated, and we governors clearly understand, government closest to the people governs best.

Correct again. Where were you during the previous administration?

(APPLAUSE)

And no government program can ever replace the actions of caring Americans freely choosing to help one another. The scriptures say, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” As the most generous and prosperous nation on Earth, it is heartwarming to see Americans giving much time and money to the people of Haiti.

Thank you for your ongoing compassion.

(APPLAUSE)

Some people say they’re afraid that America is no longer the great land of promise that she has always been. They should not be.

America will always blaze the trail of opportunity and prosperity. America will — must always be a land where liberty and property are valued and respected and innocent human life is protected.

Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.

(APPLAUSE)

Our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to create this great nation. Now we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and independents — Americans all — to work together to leave this nation an ever better place than we found it.

As usual, I suspect that “work together” is politician-speak for “do it my way.”

God bless you, and God bless this great land of America. Thank you very much.

And that’s it. Next year, I won’t play games with the opposition response. Probably because I will forget they even have one.

[Note: This is not the real 2010 Republican response. It’s the 2009 response. I thought I’d post it instead of the real one to see if anybody actually paid attention. No one noticed. Which means…nothing, really. And it was stupid of me to deceive my readers in order to test them. Sorry about that. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again…except maybe on April Fool’s Day.]

This year, I thought I’d also take a look at the Republican response to the State of the Union address. As with my post on the State of the Union, I’ve quoted the entire speech, so this post is pretty long.

Now here’s Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, [as reported by CNN]:

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American president stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Indeed. That we’ve come so far in race relations is a very cool thing, and something we should be proud of. Electing a black man to the presidency is not the end of racism, but you can see it from here.

More after the break…

(more…)

I usually try to make a few comments about the State of the Union address. This time, I’ve decided to include the entire text of the speech—even the parts I have nothing say about—so this post is going to be very long.

Working from the official Whitehouse transcript:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 27, 2010

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

9:11 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union.  For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They’ve done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility.  And they’ve done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable — that America was always destined to succeed.  But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt.  When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain.  These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union.  And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.

As one nation? That never really happens. Also, did Obama just use the battle of Bull Run during the frickin’ Civil War an example of moving forward as one nation? We were literally killing each other!

More, after the break…

(more…)

By the way, Radley Balko is not just a guy who knows how to find wacky videos. He’s also one of the most interesting investigative reporters working today. His latest piece is about some of the shocking things being done in the area of civil asset forfeiture.

I’ve been saying for a while that asset forfeiture is theft by government employees, but what I didn’t realize is that they’ve started to privatize the thievery:

Timothy Bookwalter, the elected chief prosecutor for Putnam County, Indiana, did not represent the county in its effort to keep Anthony Smelley’s money. Nor did anyone else in his office. Instead, the case was handled by Christopher Gambill, a local attorney in private practice. Gambill manages civil forfeiture cases for several Indiana counties, and he gets to keep a portion of what he wins in court. “My contingency for my own county is a quarter; for the others it’s a third,” Gambill says.

Read the whole thing.

Scott Greenfield has a couple of interesting items up over at Simple Justice. First of all, there’s the case of the Jew with suspicious objects on board a plane, as originally reported in the New York Daily News:

A US Airways crew panicked by a Jewish teen’s prayer ritual aborted a flight from LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, landing in Philadelphia amid unfounded fears of a terrorist bomb.

The trouble began when the 17-year-old White Plains youth pulled out two small Scripture-filled boxes used for his morning prayers on the Louisville, Ky.-bound plane, authorities said.

The official story is kind of amusing in a we’ve-seen-all-this-before kind of way:

Officials with the airline, however, said crewmembers “did not receive a clear response” when they talked with the teen, according to a statement issued by Republic Airways, which owns Chautauqua.

Translation: “We didn’t understand his response.”

Scott sums up the problem:

Just because you don’t know what something is doesn’t provide justification to deem it a threat. 

There’s a whole world of truth in that sentence. People with power have always felt a paranoid need to crack down on things they don’t understand. From jazz to rock music, from ferets to pit bulls, from women who wear pants to men who wear droopy pants, unimaginative people have feared them all.

Anyway, when the plane landed, the kid explained what happened to the police and they let him go on his way.

In the other blog post, Scott tells us about a guy who got stopped for a traffic ticket and immediately told the officer he wanted a lawyer. This made the cop suspicious, and she promptly searched the car, finding his mother’s dead body in the trunk.

The problem here is that

the invocation of a constitutional rights cannot serve to give rise to probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, nor can the defendant be questioned after invoking right to counsel.

So the officer discovered the crime during a search that apparently wasn’t legal. Naturally, this will cause problems when the case goes to trial.

What I’m wondering, however, is whether the police and FBI would have let the 17-year-old Jewish kid go if he’d asked for his lawyer when they started questioning him. I mean, it must have seemed obvious to the kid that he could explain the problem and they’d understand. As it turned out, he was right.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good idea to explain himself. A lot of people are in jail because they explained things to understanding cops.

I really have nothing to say.

I blog about justice and economics and freedom and government perfidy, but the disaster in Haiti right now has little to do with any of those things.

I could probably find a way to link the disaster or the relief effort to one or more of my favorite topics, and soon I probably will. But for now…

For now I think we just let the governments and aid organizations do their thing.

Yesterday I started another one of my Avvo Answers experiments, in which I asked the free advice service the following question:

Is it legal to own lock picks in Illinois?

Chicago, IL

And it it’s legal, are there places where you’re not supposed to have them? In particular, does Chicago have different laws?

[typos in my original question]

This morning I got my first answer from Avvo Level 10 Contributor Alan James Brinkmeier:

This attorney is licensed in Illinois.

Illinois has stringent picklock laws and locales require a locksmith license to use lock-picking devices to open locks in situations where the owner needs access. Lock picks are devices used to lift the various pins found within the cylinder of a lock. These special tools are used in order to open the lock without the use of a key.

Criminal activity is one such reason for strict picklock laws.

You might find my Legal Guide helpful “Ethics: Yes I Need a Lawyer!”

http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/ethics-yes-i-need-a-lawyer

Good luck to you.

God bless.

NOTE: This answer is made available by the Illinois lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding

Brinkmeier’s Avvo page describes his practice as 30% appeals, 25% state, local, and municipal law, 25% aviation, and 20% defective/dangerous products. He’s apparently been practicing for 26 years.

I Googled “Alan James Brinkmeier” to see if I could find his firm’s website. No luck. But I did find listings for him at Zoominfo, Superlawyers, and LawPromo. I thought I also found listings for him at the Southeast Texas Record and CASA, but it turns out those sites are just offering free legal advice services which are really just a feed from Avvo. I guess Avvo is syndicating its Avvo Answers service to other websites.

I also discovered that Houston criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett has mentioned Brinkmeier in a post entitled “Avvo Answhores“:

Brinkmeier, who has “answered” more than 8,000 questions on Avvo, “answers” questions in the area of ethics and professional responsibility, employment and labor, car and auto accidents, debt collection, lawsuits and disputes, child custody, juvenile law, wrongful termination, DUI and DWI, immigration, appeals, civil rights, and domestic violence anywhere in the U.S.

The disclaimers should say that the “answers” are for entertainment, rather than education or information.

What’s the game? Why can’t people like…Alan Brinkmeier, who recognize that they have no clue what they’re talking about, just keep their traps shut and let the lawyers who have some chance of knowing the law answer the questions?

Brinkmeier took offense to this in the comments, and then he and Mark got in to a slightly bizarre argument about the comparative reliability of their respective phone systems.

As is my way, I took the following paragraphs from Brinkmeier’s response

Illinois has stringent picklock laws and locales require a locksmith license to use lock-picking devices to open locks in situations where the owner needs access. Lock picks are devices used to lift the various pins found within the cylinder of a lock. These special tools are used in order to open the lock without the use of a key.

Criminal activity is one such reason for strict picklock laws.

and I fed them into Google, which lead me to this page at Superpages.com (which is also the second result in a Google search for the title of my question) in which the first three paragraphs contain the following sentences:

  • “The states which have the most stringent laws on this matter include California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington DC and Canada.”
  • “In some locales, those individuals not identified in the statute as legally approved to possess this type of device have to obtain a locksmith license before purchasing a lock pick.”
  • “But qualified locksmiths also use lock picking devices to open locks in situations where the owner needs access and, for whatever reason, can’t gain it.”
  • Lock picks are devices used to lift the various pins found within the cylinder of a lock in order to open the lock without the use of a key.”
  • “Why in the world would anyone need to have a lock pick? Criminal activity is one such reason.”

(emphasis added)

I don’t think the apparent similarity of certain turns of phrase is entirely in my imagination, which leads to one obvious conclusion: Not only does James Alan Brinkmeier give free advice on Avvo, he also writes for Superpages.

This post at D.A. Confidential includes a link to a list of “The 6 Most Badass Skills You Can Learn in Under a Week.” Skill number 4 is lock picking, and the article refers to a Lock Picking School In A Box. which sounds like something you could make yourself by taking a lock apart.

I’ve always been fascinated by things like lock picking and safe cracking, and maybe some day I’ll take the time to learn more about it. Of course, I’d probably have to have some lock picks to do that, which got me wondering what the laws are on possession of lock picking tools. If only I knew a lawyer I could ask…

This seemed like a good time to try another question for Avvo Answers—Avvo’s forum where lawyers earn points by answering questions for free. The last time I tried this, it didn’t work out too well. The first lawyer pulled an answer out of his butt, and the second lawyer—Illinois criminal defense lawyer Jeremy Richey—was able to give the answer I was looking for only after we talked about it a bit here on the blog.

Is it legal to own lock picks in Illinois?

Chicago, IL

And it it’s legal, are there places where you’re not supposed to have them? In particular, does Chicago have different laws?

[typos in my original question]

Now let’s see if anyone provides any interesting answers.

Update: I’ve posted about a response.

…is still crazy:

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he’s “blacker than Barack Obama” and tells Esquire magazine that he was a real person in a political arena dominated by phonies.

Blagojevich, referring to the president as “this guy,” says Obama was elected based simply on hope.

“What the (expletive)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Blagojevich told the magazine for a story in its February issue, which hits newsstands Jan. 19.

“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived,” Blagojevich said. “I saw it all growing up.”

The White House refused to comment.

Yeah, I’m sure they had nothing to add to that.

A little later, I read something I like:

Blagojevich continues to accuse prosecutors of persecuting him for routine political deals.

We can only hope he’s right. And that it catches on.

 

Here’s an angle on the TSA’s new full-body imaging that I wish I’d thought of: Wouldn’t a full-body image of someone under the age of 18 be child pornography as a matter of law? Maybe.