Powerful argument for limiting bullets in a clip: Colorado Sen. Mike Johnston pleads to give victims a chance to escape

March 17, 2013

Here’s one of my nominees for the next editions of Great Speeches of the 21st Century, and Great Speeches in American History.  Sen. Mike Johnston, on March 11, in the Colorado State Senate, spoke against coward, “hollow men,” who commit mass shootings, and how to protect from them:

Notes from YouTube posting:

Published on Mar 12, 2013

March 11, 2013: Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) describes how gun safety legislation, particularly HB 13-1224, can make a difference.

What do you think?

Senator Michael Johnston

Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston – Wikipedia Photo

‘Eleven kids saved in eleven seconds’ seems like a powerful argument, to me.

And this:  “And so the bad news is that at that moment will be outgunned.  The good news is that in America that never means we will be outfought.”

And this:  “The task of taking lives, and the task of saving lives, are fundamentally different endeavors, and they require different tools.”

At about 6:04 into this, listen to Sen. Johnston talk about the “cost of living and loving is that it takes up so much space in our lives.”

Wow.

More:


School House Rock update: Reforms on “I’m Only A Bill,” the story of making laws

October 12, 2012

Remember the old School House Rock?  Disney finally put all of the old episodes out on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Short songs with animation explaining grammar (“Conjunction Junction”), or math, or history, or economics.

Schoolhouse Rock!

Schoolhouse Rock! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most popular was a later production that explained how a bill becomes law in the U.S. Congress, “I’m Just A Bill.”  You may remember how it was parodied by The Simpsons, too, and others.

It’s been updated by Fiore, now including the influence of the “American Legislative Exchange Council,” or ALEC, a Koch-brothers funded frat for conservative state legislators:

Maybe not suitable for elementary school classrooms; probably too violent for high schools, too.

More:


Sausage makers? Or U.S. Congress? Do you want to see how they do it?

September 15, 2011

How does a bill become law?

Charts in government and civics texts always amuse me for what they leave out — mostly the political machinations.  Anyone who worked or works in the halls of Congress knows the process is never so clean as Bismarck pretended with his old, misattributed bon mot (actually John Godfrey Saxe, not Bismarck) (and would Bismarck be chagrined at my using a French phrase to describe his words?).

At In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians at the Library of Congress, I stumbled across this post featuring a photograph of a chart hanging in a committee room on the House side.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of that available to teachers?

Andrew Weber wrote the post.

Sometimes the legislative process is a little more confusing than I’m Just a Bill.  As Margaret mentioned in The Curious History of the 2011 Debt Ceiling Legislation earlier this week, sometimes the legislative process takes interesting turns.  Christine also blogged about the unique situation of vehicle bills.  The poster below details the various status steps legislation can take, including Introductory, Committee, Discharge, Calendar, Floor, Conference, and Presidential Steps.

For tips on THOMAS that can relate to the legislative process, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or via email alert.  There is also a glossary in THOMAS to help.

Is the poster available?  I asked, and got this response from Mr. Weber:

This is what it says at the bottom right of the poster:

Committee on House Administration
Wayne L. Hays, Chairman
Prepared by House Information Systems Staff
Frank B. Ryan, Director

Also, on the bottom left it has a date:

Current as of November 1974

Wayne Hayes, the meanest man in the House according to Bud Shuster?  November 1974?  This was pre-scandal Hayes (Democrat of Ohio), just barely post-Nixon Washington. [

If you can find a link to this chart that makes the wording and details legible, or if you happen to find it and can photograph it so we can read it, will you let us know here?


Bull baiting bill not appearing ready, Utah legislator proposes for killing horses instead

January 20, 2011

You couldn’t make this stuff up, and if you did, you should see a therapist.

As the Utah 2011 legislative session gets underway, state Rep. Curt Oda wasted no time in introducing a bill that reflects his legislative priority. He is not using his position as a legislator, however, to try to create jobs, improve schools, or protect children, for example. Instead, his bill, H.B. 210,  encourages the torture and killing of animals.

Oda wants to amend the state’s animal cruelty law, Section 76-9-301, to exempt “pests” and “feral” animals from the definition of animal. This means that to the extent they were protected, these animals would no longer be protected by the state’s animal cruelty law. Oda is reported to have told a local newspaper that “feral” animals and “pests” could be shot with a bow and arrow, for example, decapitated or clubbed to death.

Why kill horses with such brutality?  Dog fighting and cock fighting clearly wouldn’t fly?  Bear baiting won’t work — not enough bears?  Surely there are more humane ways to deal with “pest” animals.


California legislator would bar Texas social studies changes

May 18, 2010

California may be down, but it’s not dumb.  According to AP in the San Jose Mercury-News (Silicon Valley edition):

Legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, seeks to protect the nation’s largest public school population from the revised social studies curriculum approved in March by the Texas Board of Education. Critics say if the changes are incorporated into textbooks, they will be historically inaccurate and dismissive of the contributions of minorities.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Under Yee’s bill, SB1451, the California Board of Education would be required to look out for any of the Texas content as part of its standard practice of reviewing public school textbooks. The board must then report any findings to both the Legislature and the secretary of education.

The bill describes the Texas curriculum changes as “a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings” and “a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”

“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes,” Yee said. “The alterations and fallacies made by these extremist conservatives are offensive to our communities and inaccurate of our nation’s diverse history.”

Bully for California and Rep. Leland Yee.

Tip of the old scrub brush to HeyMash.


Social studies insanity spreads through South

April 23, 2010

Texas isn’t the only state afflicted with people trying to gut social studies.

A Georgia legislator introduced a resolution to instruct the Georgia Supreme Court that our government is not a democracy, but is instead a republic.

See what the Texas State Board of Education wants to have happen?

Georgia House of Representatives H.R. 1770 (2010):

A RESOLUTION

Informing Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that Georgia is a republic, not a democracy; recognizing the great differences between these two forms of government; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, on March 16, 2010, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein appeared before the Georgia General Assembly for the State of the Judiciary address, and in her speech Chief Justice Hunstein mistakenly called the State of Georgia a democracy; and

WHEREAS, the State of Georgia is, in fact, a republic and it is important that all Georgians know the difference between a republic and a democracy -– especially the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court; and

WHEREAS, the word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “the public thing” or “the law,” while the word “democracy” comes from the Greek words demos and kratein, which translates to “the people to rule”; and

WHEREAS, most synonymous with majority rule, democracy was condemned by the Founding Fathers of the United States, who closely studied the history of both democracies and republics before drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and

WHEREAS, the Founding Fathers recognized that the rights given to man by God should not be violated by an unrestrained majority any more than they should be restrained by a king or monarch; and

WHEREAS, it is common knowledge that the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “and to the Republic”; and

WHEREAS, as he exited the deliberations of the so-called Constitutional Convention of 1787, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin told the awaiting crowd they have “A republic, if you can keep it”; and

WHEREAS, a republic is a government of law, not of man, which is why the United States Constitution does not contain the word democracy and mandates that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”; and

WHEREAS, in 1928, the War Department of the United States defined democracy in Training Manual No. 2000–25 as a “government of the masses” which “[r]esults in mobocracy,” communistic attitudes to property rights, “demagogism, … agitation, discontent, [and] anarchy”; …

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body recognize the difference between a democracy and a republic and inform Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that the State of Georgia is a republic and not a democracy….

Tip of the scrub brush to the Volokh Conspiracy, where you’ll find erudite and entertaining comment, and where Eugene Volokh wrote:

Now maybe this is just a deep inside joke, but if it’s meant to be serious then it strikes me as the worst sort of pedantry. (I distinguish this from my pedantry, which is the best sort of pedantry.)

Whatever government Georgia has, and whatever government the English language has, it is not government by ancient Romans, ancient Greeks, the War Department Training Manual, or even the Pledge of Allegiance. “Democracy” today includes, among other meanings, “Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them. In mod. use often more vaguely denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.” That’s from the Oxford English Dictionary, but if you prefer the American Heritage Dictionary, try “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” Government by the people’s representatives is included within democracy, as is government by the people directly.

“Joke” is an accurate description, but one that escapes the sponsors and irritates the impedants on the Texas SBOE.

Gavel to Gavel offers the insight that this is the legislative response to an address to the legislature by Georgia’s Chief Justice.

When legislatures have too much time on their hands, and engage in such hystrionics, one wonders whether the legislature wouldn’t be better off left in the dark by not inviting the views of the Chief Justice in the future.  Perhaps the Chief Justice should decline any invitation offered.

What we now know is that some Georgia legislators are all het up about the difference between a republic and a democracy, though I’ll wager none of them could pass an AP world history or European history quiz on Rome and Greece.  And what is really revealed is that some Georgia legislators don’t know their burros from a burrow.

You can also be sure of this:  Such action is exactly what the so-called conservatives on the Texas SBOE wish to have happen from their diddling of social studies standards.


Utah legislative craziness takes dark turn

March 1, 2010

Today I discussed legislative craziness, and she was surprised to discover Utah’s wackoes like Rep. Chris Buttars are national, and perhaps international stars of legislative dysfunction.  In my e-mail I get notes talking about a silly resolution from South Dakota’s legislature.

Then I stumbled into this:  “Utah bill criminalizes miscarriage.

From what I’ve read of the bill, I agree that’s what it would do.  It’s sitting on the Utah governor’s desk right now, deserving a veto, but probably headed into the Utah Code.

If it becomes law, women might be well advised to avoid any activity while in Utah, certainly not skiing or snowmobiling, nor hiking or river running, nor even jogging.  A woman who had a miscarriage within a week of skiing in Utah would be hard put to provide evidence exculpating her from a charge that her actions caused the miscarriage.  The contest of expert testifiers could be tremendously expensive.  Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, California and other states offer all of those activities, but without the specter of a murder charge to women who miscarry later.

No, there’s no excuse for a woman who doesn’t know she’s pregnant.

Yes, I know the bill was designed to punish the bizarre behavior of some people who attempt to induce abortion by physical activity early in a pregnancy.  No, I don’t think this bill does that job well, either.

You legislative drafters, take a look at the bill.  The language is bizarre, it seems to me — it backs into a law by defining what is not covered.  I see some great ambiguities.  The bill excuses medical abuse of the fetus — failing to get medical care for the mother, for example, which leads to death of the fetus — but calls into question any action a woman might take in seeking an abortion from a medical practitioner.  It seems to me that the bill directly strives to outlaw all medical abortions, though one section says that seeking an abortion is not covered.

Debaters would have a field day with the enforceability problems of this bill.

Oy.  From Chris Buttars, the craziness disease has spread to the entire Utah legislature.

Is there a quarantine law in Utah, for people who carry dangerous infections?

Resources:

  • Best description and discussion I’ve seen on the bill, at the New York Times; it confronts head on the chief problem with this proposed law:  It criminalizes the activities of a desperate young woman who needs counseling and other help, but does not need to be jailed, nor deserve it:

Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit group based in New York, said the focus on the child obscured the bleak story of the teenager, who also deserves, she said, empathy from the world, and the law.

“Almost nobody is speaking for her,” Ms. Paltrow said. “Why would a young woman get to a point of such desperation that she would invite violence against herself? Anybody that desperate is not going to be deterred by this statute.”


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