Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'politics' category

Friday, 1 September 2017

Protected political speech, hidden in plain sight

Recently, local blog Greater Greater Washington reported that some residents in Washington D.C. have been exposed to flyers that promulgate a political opinion — an opinion that is likely not shared by the majority of said residents.

Flyers at a bus stop.

Some of the offending flyers.

Fortunately, people have taken it all in stride, as they’ve quietly acknowledged that the distribution of such flyers is protected political speech, a core facet of the First Amendment.

… Oh, what’s this? It seems that I’ve spoken too soon. Some are not taking it so well, and things are getting a little absurd. Councilmember Brandon Todd has even publicly called for police action (the thought police?) to curb this exercise of free speech:

Brandon Todd's Facebook post.

Are the people who distributed the flyers behaving lawfully?

Solely for the purposes of argument, let us concede that the flyers are indeed inelegant, offensive, and even hateful. But these aspects alone do not exempt the flyers from First Amendment protection, as the US Supreme Court recently reaffirmed:

… the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”

— Justice Samuel Alito

A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all.

— Justice Anthony Kennedy

Now, back to the flyers

The flyers didn’t encourage violence, they simply voiced a political opinion – one that is shared by tens of millions of Americans. Is advocating for a legal, non-violent political opinion not allowed in the District? Is it [Greater Greater Washington’s] position that flyers advocating for a legal, non-violent political opinion should be prohibited?

Anonymous commenter

To wit, the message of the flyers boils down to advocating for the enforcement of existing federal laws. While reasonable people can disagree about the particulars of settled law, in a general sense, advocating for the enforcement of a law is an entirely normal, constitutionally-protected action.

The people who distributed the flyers — if they are guilty of anything — might have violated DC law regarding the placement of signs/placards in public rights-of-way. This is a minor violation akin to littering.

Is DC leadership behaving lawfully?

Let’s take it back all the way to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which outlines powers of congress over the federal district (that is, Washington, D.C.):

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States …

Additionally, congress has granted the federal government the power to prosecute immigration crimes by way of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Federal law makes it clear that immigration offenses are criminal acts, not merely civil infractions:

Washington D.C., by declaring itself a “sanctuary city” for illegal aliens, does not magically nullify federal criminal law. To the contrary, DC and other such sanctuary jurisdictions are operating in direct conflict with Title 8, section 1324 of U.S. Code:

8 U.S. Code § 1324 – Bringing in and harboring certain aliens, subparagraph (A)(iii):

Any person who— … knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation;

The wording of 8 U.S. Code § 1324 is clear: A person who violates subparagraph (A) shall, for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs— … in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii), (iv), or (v)(II), be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both …

In other words, those who harbor illegal aliens can potentially receive up to five years in prison for each alien.

So, no. With respect to this issue, DC leadership is not behaving lawfully in two main ways:

  • Failing to prosecute illegal aliens or those who harbor illegal aliens
  • Openly encouraging residents and businesses to flout federal immigration law
Saturday, 20 March 2010

Political conventional wisdom

How do politicians acquire nicknames that are often inaccurate, or, at worst, downright wrong? Take, for instance, the Kennedy clan. They are frequently referred to as a “dynasty” or as “American royalty”. What makes JFK’s presidency “royal”, but, say, Woodrow Wilson’s or George H.W. Bush’s presidency not royal? Speaking of which, if titles such as “dynastic” or “royal” should be bestowed upon an American political family, it should be the Bushes, as they have served in executive positions for roughly 2.5 times as long as the Kennedys (26 years vs. 10.5 years). And I am including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s tenure in this equation, which is indeed generous of me.

And why is Barack Obama always referred to as a “rock star”? I have never heard him sing or play any kind of musical instrument. As far as I know, he has yet to release any songs. Furthermore, isn’t the typical rock star the last kind of person that one would want in the most important executive office in the land? The only thing Obama has in common with the typical rock star is the narcissism. Oh, and the cocaine use.

And why was Ted Kennedy known as a liberal lion? It was obvious that he was a liberal, but what about the lion, an animal known for a powerful libido and a ferocious appetite for raw flesh? Furthermore, people didn’t go around calling Jesse Helms a “conservative caribou” or a “Republican rabbit.” What gives?

And why-oh-why was Bill Clinton the first black president? Was it because of his saxophone playing, as Toni Morrison asserts? That musical ability alone would make Clinton much more deserving of the “rock star” moniker than Obama. And if Clinton truly was the first black president, then what of Obama’s supposed historicity?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Brain Dump, post-Memorial Day Edition I wonder what effect — if any — Billy Graham’s Crusades and ministry had on the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council. Ecumenicism is a major part of Vatican II and was one of Graham’s hallmarks.

Mixing equal parts Mike’s Hard Lemonade™ and regular lemonade should yield Mike’s Somewhat Firm Yet Pliable Lemonade™. Likewise, equal parts Mike’s Hard™ and, say, grain alcohol, should yield Mike’s Extremely Difficult™.

Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cloudy” may not be Paul Simon’s best song, but the arrangement is top-notch. If there is ever a Baroque-pop revival, “Cloudy” should serve as the blueprint.

Jens Meiert is delving deeper into the increasing pedantry that is long-term HTML/CSS maintenance.

Politician A from Political Party X just did [something]! If instead, Politician B from Political Party Y had just done [something], then media and public reaction would be totally different. Double standard! (wash, rinse, and repeat)

(\s\?[^>]|[^< ]\?\w|\?\s(?-i:[a-z])|“|”|’|?|?|?|—| \s|\s |(?-i:the) FAA(?!\s(?-i:[A-Z<]))|(?<!<cf.*)&(\s|(?!(\w{2,5}|#\d{2,5});)))

I’ve decided that I thoroughly enjoy swimming at the beach. Not just wading up to my knees like a little girl but actually swimming.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Pet Peeves

Being a snob, it was only a matter of time before this list surfaced. Enjoy.


The way that incredible technology always seems to be 2 or 3 years away from implementation or cost-effectiveness through mass production. Think mainstream electric cars, LED lighting, OLED display panels, super-efficient solar panels, SSD, or basically any improvement that promises to cut energy usage “in half.”

Microsoft Internet Explorer, namely the 6th version.

The subtle adverts that Quicken puts in its software — software that I’ve paid for, I might add.

The seeming inability to change the color of unread messages in Lotus Notes 6.5.1. It’s a bright fire-engine red. I just know that this must be having a detrimental psychological effect on me.

Politics and government

The over-reaching scope of the US Federal government. The apparent inability of the government to stop taxing, regulating, and subsidizing once precedents have been set. For instance, subsidization of corn and excessive taxation of diesel fuel.

Studies that reveal that many Americans can’t name the three branches of government, identify a single Supreme Court justice, or point to a well-known country on a map.

The tendency for people to vote for a candidate for non-political reasons, as such historicity, popularity, stage presence, or charm.


mama celeste The ingredients list of certain Celeste pizza products. Hint: you’re not eating cheese. Instead, your body will attempt to digest Imitation Mozzarella Cheese (Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Casein [Milk], Modified Food Starch, Trisodium Citrate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Artificial Color, Guar Gum, Sorbic Acid [to Preserve Freshness], Artificial Flavor) An abomination before the Lord! Lately, I’ve taken to making my own insalata caprese-style pizza. Now that’s what I call food.

My inability to ingest spicy hot foods without having an acute attack of the hiccups.

The ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup.

Social settings

Being expected to laugh or smile at jokes that just aren’t funny.

Having to resist the urge to say “I shouldn’t have to tell you more than once!” when playing volleyball.

Annie’s camera shyness. This is especially cruel, considering that she’s the most beautiful woman since at least the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Loud talkers with nothing to say.

The inevitability of the aging process.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Whom to root for

The film Casablanca got me thinking about the way many of us “choose sides” when we watch a film with war themes. What vexes me is that one can’t always pull for a certain country — no country provides an assurance of consistency. Even the United States is not exempt from this rule, as Clint Eastwood’s complementary films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima let on.

In general, yes, one can pull for the United States — unless they’re depicted torching huts deep in the jungles of Vietnam. Pull for England/the United Kingdom, except when they’re at war with America (The Patriot) or with Scottish clans (Braveheart). France is tricky: pull for them during the French and Indian War (The Last of the Mohicans), other colonial conquests, the American Revolution, but then not during the Napoleonic wars (War and Peace, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). With few exceptions (the Franco-Prussian War and the Algerian War come to mind), pull for them from the middle of the 19th century onward.

Pull for Germany during the Austro-Prussian War, but not during World War I (All Quiet on the Western Front) or World War II (Saving Private Ryan). It is also permissible to root for “good” Germans (a la The Pianist and Casablanca) but only if the films make it clear that most Germans are bad. Pull for Austria, but only in the months immediately preceding the Anschluss and the subsequent occupation (The Sound of Music). Pull for Russia/USSR during the Napoleonic wars and World War II, but not during the Cold War or the Invasion of Afghanistan…

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Our political environments

Lately, I’ve been wondering to what extent my political worldview was influenced by my parents and my environment when I was a child. Are my beliefs truly my own? Or am I simply regurgitating what I happened to soak in during my formative years? The same set of questions can be asked of anyone with political opinions: is what you believe truly “original”?

I see three possible outcomes, with the first two being the most likely:

  • Opinions are formed by childhood indoctrination — the environment — with little or no resistance by the subject
  • Opinions come as a direct result of rebellion (typically in the teen years). The subject ends up having opinions at odds with those of his environment.
  • The subject forms opinions objectively — with scant indoctrination during the formative years. In this case, the subject’s environment has little or no effect on the subject’s worldview, either positively or negatively.

Rarely is the third outcome given as a explanation of why someone has certain political beliefs. If his environment propagated similar worldviews, then it is likewise credited. But if his environment had dissimilar worldviews, then the subject must have rebelled.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

My City Was Gone

Medium Image The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone“, known as the bumper music with the killer bass line on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, has typically been viewed as a protest song: focused on then-president Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. Between the lines, Pretenders’ singer Chrissie Hynde argues that Reagan’s policies (the “government”) contributed to the mall culture in middle America — whereby bedroom communities and open spaces are replaced with big box stores, fast food joints, off-ramps, and strip malls. While there is some validity in protesting against the homogenization of American culture, Hynde’s anger may have been misdirected. Let’s examine if Reagan could have contributed to the injustices that Hynde rails against:

The Budget process of the United States government states that the president shall submit a budget proposal to congress, who will then approve and/or modify the proposal. Reagan’s first budget request was for fiscal year 1982, which started on October 1, 1981.

Since “My City Was Gone” first appeared on wax in October 1982, Hynde only had a small window by which to pen the supposedly anti-Reagan lyrics. Reagan didn’t even take office until January 1981, and his budget wasn’t effective until October of that year. I seriously question the influence that Reagan (and the gridlocked 97th congress) had on new construction contracts in Akron, Ohio between October 1981 and the day that Hynde wrote “My City Was Gone”. For the sake of argument, let’s say spring 1982, although it could have been much earlier. Various sources indicate that the song was written before the death of The Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott which occurred in June of 1982.

In reality, Hynde is lamenting that her Ohio isn’t the Ohio she knew when she was younger. In a perfect world, there should have been a moratorium on all real estate development in Akron, Ohio in 1973 — the year Hynde left for London. It’s becoming apparent that Hynde is railing not only against development and change, but against capitalism and the market economy itself.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Senior Citizen discounts

Poverty Rates by Age Put an end to senior citizen discounts. You read that correctly. No more 1/2 off breakfast platters at Denny’s and IHOP. No more $3 off movie tickets. No more discounted hotel rooms or plane rides.

The myth that seniors fall into poverty when they retire couldn’t be further from the truth, as a visit to the Census Bureau website will attest. In 2006, the percentage of seniors (those over 64) in poverty was a mere 9.4% — about 25% less than the national average. Minors (those under 18) were almost twice as likely to be in poverty, with a rate of 17.4%.

If an establishment must discriminate based on age, a “minor discount” or “under-18 discount” would be the most logical, as that age group has the highest levels of poverty. 45 years ago, though, seniors were the ones suffering the most. Sadly, they are still stuck with that reputation.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Communist chic

Cameron Diaz What really gets my blood boiling these days is the “Communist chic”, especially on clothing and apparel. Why has the wearing of the Soviet hammer and sickle, the red star (of both the USSR and China), or images of Che Guevara, Marx, or Mao become stylish?

First, let’s analyze communism/socialism on an absolute basis: 100,000,000 lives lost to democide. Communism, wherever it’s tried, leaves a trail of death.

And what of living conditions of the survivors?

The irony of this is that communism in practice, even after decades of total control, did not improve the lot of the average person, but usually made their living conditions worse than before the revolution. It is not by chance that the greatest famines have occurred within the Soviet Union (about 5,000,000 dead during 1921-23 and 7,000,000 from 1932-3) and communist China (about 27,000,000 dead from 1959-61). In total almost 55,000,000 people died in various communist famines and associated diseases, a little over 10,000,000 of them from democidal famine.[1]

Throw in chronic political oppression, slave labor, and a basic lack of human rights (including fundamental property rights) and suddenly celebrities, actors, musicians, and Middle America are clamoring to be seen in Communist-themed apparel. Am I missing something here?

I’ve seen images of popular musicians and even television personalities wearing Communist-flavored shirts and hats; for the most part, there is no outrage! These people are subsequently lauded and with no mention of their disgusting logos.

Imagine, for a moment, if a celebrity were to wear, say, a Nazi or Hitler-themed shirt or logo. Remember that Nazi Germany was responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000 people — a number that almost pales in comparison with Communism. This Nazi-logo sporting celebrity would be instantly vilified and his career would be essentially over. Well-meaning people would discuss his sanity (a-la Charles Manson). Yet if that same person were to wear a hammer and sickle shirt, replete with red star and perhaps a Fidel Castro-style hat, he would be seen as yet another rational, sensitive, well-meaning liberal. Unbelievable.

Friday, 9 February 2007

New York Nanny State

Recently, you may have heard about the New York City Board of Health’s push to ban artificial trans fats from restaurant menus. Never mind the fact that trans fat occur naturally in meat and dairy products. Or that trans fats are “FDA-approved”. According to the FDA, a full 17% of our fat consumption comes from margarine. I personally got off the margarine train years ago, but I’ll willing to bet that there are thousands of people of the misguided opinion that margarine is the healthier alternative to butter. Just wait twenty years or so, and margarine will be good for you again.

So: liquid oils — made into solid fats by adding hydrogen — will be banned. But what about saturated fats, shown to be correlated to higher rates of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease? When will the Board of Health push to ban meats, daily, and cheeses, all of which are typically high in saturated fats? Soon, all we’ll have left to cook with is olive oil. Until they declare war on monounsaturated fats.

Sure, the Board of Health may be trying to act in the best interests of the public, but how far should legislation go? Consider this nugget of wisdom from Barry Goldwater:

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

Goldwater’s words strike a chord with those who believe New York is turning into the “Nanny State.” Additionally, the excerpt stands up like a fortress to the illogic of New York State Senator Carl Kruger, who has proposed legislation banning iPods and other such devices whilst crossing a city street.

Kruger says that while he is trying not to intrude upon personal freedoms of New Yorkers, it becomes difficult to leave the problem alone when pedestrians tune-in to an iPod/Blackberry/cell phone/video game only to walk blithely into a speeding bus or moving automobile to meet with near certain death.

Yes, Kruger may say that he is “trying not to intrude upon personal freedoms of New Yorkers…”, but he is failing miserably at his goal. Even without considering the personal liberty issues at stake in this issue, consider the holes in his proposal:

  • People with headphones cannot hear approaching cars or their horns. Neither can the deaf. Should deaf people also be fined for crossing the street?
  • People watching their stock quotes or playing a portable video game aren’t watching traffic. For that matter, nor are the blind. Should blind people also be fined for crossing the street?
  • Should we fine people for not looking both ways?
  • What if the music is coming from an old-school boom box not directly attached to the pedestrian’s ears? What if the pedestrian is listening to music originating from a street performer, a source he cannot readily eliminate without force or coercion? Would the iPod cops put the kabash on street performers in the best interests of pedestrians?
  • Should we fine people who put their hands over their ears as they cross the street?
  • Kruger has said that people can simply take the earbuds out of their ears as they cross the street to avoid the fine. But what if the pedestrian simply pauses the song, essentially turning the device off? How would the iPod cops know? And what would they do about those twenty-something interns wearing earmuffs?

Seriously, Kruger acts as if pedestrian deaths suddenly started happening after the iPod was launched in 2001. I hate to break it to him, but non-attentive pedestrians have been getting run over for millenniums. If this illogical proposal becomes law, expect New Yorkers to take to the streets. With their iPods and french fries, of course.