The ACLU: Upholding Constitutional Protection For Those Who Don’t Really Deserve It

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

Big showdown in Mason, Ohio pitting two of my favorite societal archetypes – The Man and Those Damn Punk Kids – against each other in a tussle over an underage teenager’s inalienable right to use a cell phone to plan to use alcohol and illegal drugs after school.  Students are claiming that teachers are seizing, without cause, their cell phones and reading through their text messages to try and ferret out illicit behavior.  It’s not stated in the article, but I would imagine that the kids who are found to have incriminating messages on their phone are being disciplined in some way, which has led them to complain to their parents.  And because the world is going to HELL ON A FUCKING BULLET TRAIN, those parents, instead of doing what I would do if my kid got in trouble because he’s planning on getting drunk or high at age 17 at someone’s house over the weekend (put him in one of these), have instead taken the brilliant step of getting the GD American Civil Liberties Union involved.  And the ACLU somehow found time away from their assault on common sense and decency to take up the cause.  The legal director of the ACLU Ohio, Jeffrey Gamso, fired off a sternly worded letter:

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I think my favorite epistolary device employed by Jeffrey is how he begins the letter making a token attempt to acknowledge that there actually are two sides to this situation, and these flagrant, awful, Republic-threatening, brownshirt tactics have not been investigated or proven by his frequent use of the word “alleged.”  But by the final paragraphs of the letter, it’s “our position is this policy and practice is undeniably unconstitutional and must cease…I am confident the Mason City School District has no interest in continuing to violate the rights of its students” (italics mine).  So much for “alleged”!  The school district has responded by explaining its cell phone seizure policy (if they go off in class, they take ’em) and further stated that fewer than a dozen cell phones have been seized in a school of 2,700 students. 

So the ACLU acted before it had conducted a truly thorough investigation of the facts of the case, acted on intelligence from a questionable source, has listened to only one side of the argument, and responded in a patronizing and threatening fashion despite having such a shaky foundation…wow, I had no idea the ACLU and the Bush Administration had so much in common! 

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Yet Another Award For Bill Belichick

sporting-civilizer.jpg Sporting Civilizer

So I’m starting a new feature here on All Things In Their Place.  It’s actually more of an award than a feature.  I’m introducing it because there are a lot of different types of real jerks in this world – there are the kind that you’d like to see actually removed from the gene pool, like the kind I put on The Cut List, the truly evil kind who cause worldwide chaos and suffering, like Vladimir Putin, and then there are the kind who are just so frustrating, so unlikable, that all you want to do is stick a middle finger right in their face.  And maybe flick them in the eyeball with it.

This latter category is who I am targeting with this award – The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse.

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The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse goes to that breed of person who you can’t even bear to look at – who inspires a burning desire to kick their ass whenever you so much as see their face.  You see his or her name in the newspaper and go “Man, I hate that guy!”  In the grand scheme of things, these aren’t very important people, very relevant people.  They’re not major figures in politics, or philosophy, or religion.  In fact, it’s their very irrelevance that makes them so annoying – they don’t even matter that much, and still you want to throw a brick through their windshield.  So I think it goes without saying that the inaugural recipient of the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is none other than New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

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Bill Belichick: Black power

And here’s why, in convenient list form:

1.  He makes millions of dollars a year and yet prowls the sidelines in a hooded sweatshirt.  A hooded sweatshirt.  You wouldn’t catch Tom Landry pulling some weak sartorial stunt like that.  Hey Bill – you’re going to be on national television every week, how about springing for a couple pairs of Dockers?  You look like you’re on your way to make a late-night run to the gas station for some jerky and RC Cola.

2.  He runs up the score.  In professional football, I think all’s fair through 3 quarters.  There have been some miracle comebacks in the history of the league, and you can’t take for granted that, given 15 minutes, a team won’t suddenly catch fire and score a lot of points on you real quick.  Look at what the Bears did this weekend behind Devin Hester.  So if you’re pasting a team with 5 minutes to go in the third, and you have the chance to paste them some more, by all means do so.  Hit them with a throat shot.  But when you’re into the fourth quarter and the game is out of reach, just pull your Hall of Fame quarterback and run the ball until the game is over.  Belichick, on the other hand, throws a pass on fourth down and 2 in the final quarter of play with a 45-0 lead and two plays later has widened that lead to 52-0.  Asked to explain his playcalling, Belichick displays nothing but disdain for sportsmanship and decency with this answer:  “We’re just out there playing.”  Now, there is a school of thought that says all’s fair until the game is over in professional sports, that it’s the job of the defense to stop teams like the Patriots from hanging 50 points on them.  I don’t entirely dismiss that point of view, but I do with regards to Belichick.  The reason for that rolls into #3.

3.  He is a cheater.  We all remember Spygate– Jets coach Eric Mangini blowing the whistle on the Patriots practice of videotaping opposing defenses’ signals in order to get an edge on the offensive side of the ball.   A lot of people have tried to blow this off in terms of its impact on the league.  And truth be told, I don’t think the infraction itself is a huge deal.  It’s not like its steroids, it’s not like Belichick is planting a hidden microphone in the opponent’s huddle, it’s not like he’s throwing games to pay off a gambling debt.  So as far as pervasive damage to the game goes, I think Spygate ranks pretty low on the list.  And I further buy the argument that a lot of other teams are doing it.  And I especially agree that videotaping the signals didn’t give the Patriots some sort of disproportionate advantage.  So what’s the big deal if Belichick cheated?  

He cheated, that’s the big deal.  Our integrity is one of the most important things we have.  And integrity is built on a lifetime of decisions, some little, some big.  We’re presented with moral choices every day.  And one day in the recent past, the choice came to Bill Belichick: “Coach, it’s against the rules and it’s unfair, but should we go ahead and videotape the defensive signals of our opponents so we can study them for the next time we play them?”  And Bill Belichick, confronted with the choice to honor the rules or to willfully break them, said “Yeah, do it.”  That, more than anything, is why Belichick deserves unending scorn and condemnation.  He cheated. 

And because he was caught cheating, he’s running up the score.  After the story broke, people started questioning the worth of the Patriots’ past victories.  They suggested that all the Super Bowl victories were tarnished.  Maybe Belichick isn’t a genius, they said…it’s a lot easier to win games when you know the other team’s defensive scheme.  So to wipe those ideas away, to clear his name (an impossible task, by the way, since win or lose, he’s still a cheater), to prove he doesn’t need to cheat to win, Belichick is killing everybody.  He’s passing on fourth and short when he’s already up 5 scores.  In short, he’s compounding personal dishonesty with unsportsmanlike conduct. 

So Bill, the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is yours.  Try putting a Super Bowl ring on this one.  

Liberté, Égalité, Ass-Kickeré, Sarkozy

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

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Buttoned blazer with jeans and a white oxford?  Man, this guy wants a GQ cover baaaad. 

It’s looking like the test of wills over in France is winding down, and the unions blinked first.  Nicolas Sarkozy was elected with a mandate to modernize the country’s pension system, which was proving to be a burden on national efforts to improve competitiveness and more effectively allocate funds in the globalized economy.  At the cost of his previously robust approval ratings, the French president had his Reagan moment and stared down the transportation union over the course of a 9-day strike that brought France’s vital rail system to all but a standstill, drawing the ire of a French public that supported his reform agenda in principle but hated being stuck in traffic in reality.  Sarkozy will face more strikes, from students, civil servants, and other sectors of the economy, but he has clearly scored an important initial victory.  The strikes that will come will likely not engender a lot of international goodwill for the labor side of the picket line – after all, who wants to support a bunch of fishermen who set fire to a boat in their clamor for oil subsidies? 

These are not the management vs. labor fights for a better wage and humane treatment that have shaped the narrative of unions in America.  These are, instead, reasonable and necessary initiatives on the part of Sarkozy’s government to get public sector workers off the public teat.  The French citizenry, which has low levels of private sector union participation, has expressed their displeasure with the public sector strikers as they have grumbled their way through long waits and crowded train platforms.  “I work in the private sector here in France, and do not actually benefit from all the wonderful perks that come with a public sector job – 35-hour working weeks, five weeks’ paid vacation, early retirement,” Kim Marohn told the BBC news website.  With sentiments like that taking hold as people realize the government just can’t realistically afford to pay workers full retirement benefits as young as 50, it would appear that for public-sector workers grown fat and happy off the taxes from their private sector amis, Hell just came to Frogtown.

What “Scandalous” Information Does Hillary Have on Obama?

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Only 6 weeks until the Democratic Iowa Caucus, so it’s about time for the leading candidates to pull on the clodhoppers and the slickers and start slinging some mud.  The heretofore-observed peace between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards may have actually ended with the South Carolina pretty boy’s snide “Is that question a plant?” quip at last week’s Democratic debate on CNN, but it’s starting to be actually newsworthy now that Obama is scolding Clinton for mud that she only allegedly has and, if she does truly have it, hasn’t yet thrown.  Obama, who has recently cut into Hillary’s Iowa lead and is in a dead heat with the New York senator in some polls, released a personally signed statement to the media yesterday in which he criticized Clinton’s hypothetical smear, which has not been made public or even verified to exist, as “slime politics.”  He called on Hillary to “renounce these tactics” that, near as I can tell, haven’t actually been used yet, but would apparently be quite damaging to Obama’s campaign, if they were ever revealed, which they have not been, and if they can be proven to be true, which they cannot be because no one knows what they are.  Obviously, this has all of Washington talking…what’s this dirt that Clinton has on the upstart from Illinois that has him so defensive?  Here are some of the rumors flying around the Beltway about the clean family man known for his soaring rhetoric:

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1.  Stubbed his toe once walking to a podium in Tennessee, swore quietly under his breath

2.  Real name not “Barack Hussein Obama,” actually “Pierce Wentworth Sterlington IV”

3.  Afraid their candidate comes across as aloof or “too perfect,” Obama’s staff had The Audacity of Hope “punched up” by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt before publication to include more relatable anecdotes about fast food restaurants and Star Wars

4.  Wears a Rob Zombie “Hellbilly Deluxe Tour ’98” t-shirt underneath his suit at all times

5.  The Clinton team has come into possession of an early Obama campaign poster, quickly scrapped, sporting the slogan “The Politics of Dope,” with the Illinois senator pictured wearing a sideways White Sox cap and flashing a gang sign

Well That Sure Happened Fast

treebeard.jpg Tree-Hugger Civilizer

I’m starting to wonder if the oil conspiracy paranoids were right.  For years, the auto industry (mainly the American auto industry) was rolling out these hulking fuel hogs for us to drive.  Even though they made us more dependent on foreign oil, even though they spewed more carbon emissions into the atmosphere, even though they were one big wallet suck on the U.S. consumer, Detroit shat out Escalade after Yukon after Suburban.  And as they were doing this, and gas prices crept higher, those screeching weirdos who are way too into The X-Files yelled “There’s a better way than the internal combustion engine and it’s already been invented but the government kidnapped the inventor and has the secret locked up at Area 51 because that’s what OPEC told them to do or else they’ll make oil $400 a barrel now I gotta go and check my Bigfoot trap.”  And then Art Bell would try and ask a follow-up question.

And we scoffed, because Americans love a good conspiracy theory, but we don’t love to believe a good conspiracy theory.  But given the pace of hybrid technology recently, you’ve gotta wonder:  did that guy escape from Area 51? 

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How else do you explain the fact that the Chevy Tahoe was just named the Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year?  Just 4 model years ago, in 2004, this blimp was sucking wind with just 14 miles per gallon in the city.  Fourteen!  That’s terrible!  And now it gets 21 mpg and is the Green Car of the Year – and to answer your rightfully skeptical question, no, that’s not some bullshit front organization for Chevron or Royal Dutch Shell, it’s a real-deal independent journal who put together a panel of bona fide environmental and industry experts that included Carroll Shelby, Jay Leno, Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Christopher Flavin (Worldwatch Institute), Jonathan Lash (World Resources Institute), and Jean-Michel Cousteau (Ocean Futures Society).  So if you entered college in 2004, your first day of class took place in an era where carmakers were shoving gas-guzzling Saudi prince cash pumps into the marketplace and saying “We’d like to make a more fuel-efficient car, really!  But that technology is decades away!”  And when you graduate this coming spring, you will be entering a world where an American-made full-size SUV gets the same gas mileage as a 4-cylinder Toyota Camry and is the Green Car of the Year.  (Also, on an unrelated note, you should probably know that college was a huge waste of your time.)  I think my favorite thing about the Tahoe getting this award is that it pretty much proves that market capitalism is the greatest conceivable form of economic system, as once fuel inefficiency became a problem of sufficient severity, significant downward movements in consumer demand for the inefficient cars created strong market forces which acted upon the car companies, who quickly redirected their resources into making a more efficient car to appease the marketplace and thereby win back market share so they could regain profitability.  So, the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid:  Screw you, Karl Marx.

But encouraging though the Tahoe Hybrid may be, there’s been another automotive development, this one coming out of the Los Angeles Auto Show, that has far more sci-fi, car of the future potential: Honda rolled out the FCX Clarity

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What’s so great about the Clarity?  I’ll tell you what, Sparky: it’s a hydrogen fuel-cell car, the first of its kind to be offered to the general public.  You think the Tahoe Hybrid’s 21 mpg is good, put this in your pipe and smoke it: the Clarity gets 68.  I have no idea how fuel cell engines work, so I will let Matthew Phenix of Wired explain it:

The FCX Clarity’s powertrain consists of Honda’s V Flow stack, a compact lithium ion battery pack, a single hydrogen storage tank, and an AC synchronous electric motor driving the front wheels. Hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen combine in the fuel cell stack, where chemical energy from the reaction is converted into electric power (with water the only by-product). The energy is stored in the batteries and fed to the car’s electric motor, with extra juice produced through regenerative braking and deceleration further supplementing the fuel cell stack when the need arises. Range on a full tank is expected to be about 270 miles.   

So, as far as I can tell, it uses one of these:

 clarity-fuel-cell.jpg  that you fill up with one of these:

 honda-clarity-fuel-pump.jpg and since you’re driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle, put this:

 hindenburg.jpg right out of your head.

Of course, given the quicker-than-expected pace of this technology, it’s becoming clear that the real challenge to the dream of a fleet of oil-free fuel cell cars and a castrated OPEC isn’t building the vehicles, it’s installing the infrastructure.  Hydrogen fuel cells need hydrogen fuel stations, and for right now, that fact is keeping the Clarity restricted to Southern California.  As of October of this year, there were only 122 hydrogen-capable stations in the United States, compared to over 180,000 gas stations.  Until there are plans with hard commitments to begin expanding this availability, automakers aren’t going to produce very many of these cars, obviously.  A pilot program for this infrastructure expansion is in California, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, which is a collaboration between automakers, fuel station builders, fuel cell makers, and government agencies. 

Here’s hoping it works – hybrids represent, in my view, a nice bridge technology to establish and maintain momentum in the demand for petroleum-free cars and thereby support the incentive for automakers to get us there.  But that’s all they are, a bridge technology…they’re still burning gas, just not as much.  The real holy grail is a completely clean-burning fuel source.  Because God knows, Americans aren’t going to start walking places, right?

The King Of Spain Cuts A Promo On Hugo Chávez

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

I think we can all agree that, generally speaking, assemblies of world governments are mostly useless.  The U.N., for example, is a corrupt, impotent body that long ago abdicated its responsibility to protect and strengthen all the countries of the world.  It had no credible role in the march to war in Iraq, and its Security Council is hostage to Russia and China on the issue of Iran.  On the matter of North Korea, the tipping point that brought Kim Jong-Il back to the bargaining table was not U.N. pressure, but America and its allies freezing key North Korean bank accounts.  For another example, the Doha round of trade talks has been stalled, re-started, and stalled more times by squabbling and obstinance than is advisable to try and recall.

Since it’s highly unlikely that anything of substance or consequence will ever come from one of these august assemblies, I think it’s high time that the individuals involved stop standing on ceremony, stop being diplomatic, throw Robert’s Rules of Order out the window, and just strip international politics down to its bare essence: people that don’t like each other, enjoy saying so, and who would jump at the chance to superkick their continental neighbors right in the mush.  So in that spirit, All Things In Their Place would like to commend His Majesty King Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias of Spain for cutting a five-star promo on Hew-go Chávez’s faux-populist ass.

king-juan-carlos-i.jpg macho-king-randy-savage.jpg

Two different kings, cut from the same royal cloth

Things got x-treme this weekend at the Ibero-American Summit, when Hew-go teed off on Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar, the former prime minister who Chávez believes backed a 2002 coup which put the chubby dictator out on his ass for a little while.  In an address to the attending leaders, Hew-go kept calling Aznar a “fascist,” prompting Aznar’s tag-team partner, current prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to use his address to tell Chávez to pipe down.  Chávez continued to interrupt Zapatero’s remarks, leaving the assembled throng in suspense. 

Would the Venezuelan Asshat continue his assault on Aznar?  Would Aznar and Zapatero overwhelm their pugnacious, loquacious opponent and finish him off on the summit floor with their feared finishing move, The Big Siesta?  The crowd was on the edge of their seats when, unexpectedly, King Juan Carlos FROM OUT OF NOWHERE!!! performed the greatest run-in in the history of international politics.  The King, seated next to Zapatero, turned to Hew-go and angrily said ¿Por qué no te callas?  Which translates to Know your role and shut your mouth you little jabroni Why don’t you shut up?”  Obviously, this turned the tide in favor of The Seething Spainiards and Aznar was able to take advantage of a stunned Chávez, rolling him up for the three-count.  It remains to be seen if Hew-go will honor the terms of the match and wear a dress and a blonde wig to next year’s Ibero-American gathering.

Now that’s a summit!  I’m not aware of any negative consequences that resulted from the royal smackdown, so I’m proposing that all international summits from now on be chaired by Vince McMahon.  And for all of you out there planning on making a fortune bringing next year’s Ibero-American summit to Pay-Per-View, don’t bother, I already locked it up.  You wanna see the rematch, you gotta go through me.

M. Shadows Is The Patrick Henry Of Our Time: Quote Of The Day

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All the way from the east to the west
We’ve got this high society looking down on this very foundation
Constantly reminding us that our actions are the cause of all their problems
Pointing the fingers in every direction
Blaming their own nation for who wins elections
They’ve never contributed a fucking thing to the country they love to criticize

(Avenged Sevenfold, “Critical Acclaim”)

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