Tuesday, August 27, 2013

County Sheriffs wrongly criticized for upholding the Constitution

The position of elected county sheriff is probably one of the most powerful government positions about which few people know.  They are the top law enforcement officer in their respective county, and can (and have) tell the federal government and state government to take a hike.

As our country in general, and some states in particular (*cough* California *cough*) have continued to disintegrate socially and economically, many Americans have looked for ways to try to stop the bleeding, especially at the local level.  Using the power of county sheriffs has been one of these major strategies.

One of the ways that Constitution-loving county sheriffs have attempted to pool together their power is through membership in an organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).  The members of this organization know their constitutional role, both at the state and federal level, and do everything they can to stop those governments from exercising more power than the Constitution allows.

Naturally, the statists among us don't like this very much.  This became painfully clear in an editorial appearing in the Sunday, August 25th Sacramento Bee.  The Bee's editorial board calls the CSPOA, "a deeply misguided and ill-informed organization whose reckless rhetoric directly challenges federal and state laws."

The Bee's editorial board especially has their panties in a bunch because the California sheriffs who belong to the CSPOA have announced they do not intend to allow to be enforced in their respective counties any anti-gun laws that they have deemed to be unconstitutional - whether it be the U.S. Constitution or the California Constitution.

According to the Bee's editorial board, doing this is to, "pick and choose which laws to enforce," and that the CSPOA's stated positions about upholding the Constitution and protecting us from government tyranny and abuse are a bunch of "tripe," and "extremist rhetoric."

No, see, the way it works is that if a law is truly constitutional, then the Bee's editorial board might have a point in criticizing county sheriffs for not upholding that law.  But if a law is deemed to be unconstitutional, then a constitutional officer, such as, say, a county sheriff, has every obligation to refuse to enforce that unconstitutional law.  I commend sheriffs such as Dean Wilson of Del Norte County, John D'Agostini of El Dorado County, and Jon Lopey of my childhood home county of Siskiyou and 21 other California sheriffs who are named by the Bee editorial as members of the CSPOA.

How about a little historical challenge to the Bee editorial board's position on this issue?  As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Congress passed, and President Millard Fillmore signed into law a strengthened Fugitive Slave Law that decreed that slaves from the southern slave states that escaped to the non-slave northern states were no longer safe and could be captured and returned to a state of slavery.  Furthermore, any northern state citizen (even one who was totally opposed to slavery) could be deputized on the spot by law enforcement in order to help capture or subdue an escaped slave.  If that deputized citizen refused to help execute the Fugitive Slave Law, that citizen could himself be arrested.

This was a law that was totally unconstitutional, but it was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President.  According to the logic of the Bee editorial board, a county sheriff in one of these non-slave holding states who refused to allow the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act to be enforced in his county would be guilty of "pick[ing] and choos[ing] which laws to enforce."  And if the sheriff publicly made his views against enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law known, he would be uttering so much "tripe" and "extremist rhetoric."

Now, I'm pretty sure I know what the editorial board's rebuttal would be to my argument:  They would insist that the gun laws the California legislature has recently passed or is attempting to pass are all constitutional.  Fine.  But the county sheriffs of the CSPOA can say that these laws are not constitutional and still refuse to enforce them.  The California State Supreme Court and even the U.S. Supreme Court can insist that the laws are constitutional, and the sheriffs can still insist the laws are unconstitutional and refuse to allow them to be enforced in their county.  Ultimately, it is up to the voters of the county to either agree with their sheriff's position by reelecting him or her, or booting that sheriff out of office in the next election, and replacing him or her with someone who will do what they are told by the federal government, the California government, and the Sacramento Bee editorial board.

That is what representative government is all about, right?

Monday, August 19, 2013

An allegory of a certain war

I was just going through some old papers of mine from my classroom, and I came across this gem.  See if you can figure out who is who in this scenario, and which war it is. I will decode it for you at the end if you need the help:

For years, Gilbert and Francis had been bigger and more powerful than Jerome; the couple never let Jerome play on the playground.  Gilbert and Francis would either completely ignore Jerome, or tell him that he was too little to play with them.  This always made Jerome angry; he decided not to put up with Gilbert and Francis' treatment any more.  Jerome began taking vitamins and working out regularly; he started to become bigger and bigger.  Eventually, Jerome was more powerful than either Gilbert or Francis.

Jerome finally felt confident enough to begin standing up to Gilbert and Francis.  When Francis tried to take Jerome's lunch money, Jerome pushed Francis to the ground and demanded her lunch money instead.  Francis became very fearful and asked Gilbert to protect her.  Jerome began to boast all of the time how he could easily handle both Gilbert and Francis.  Gilbert knew that it would just be a matter of time before Jerome began attacking him too.  Gilbert decided to ask his friend Russell to watch his back.  Russell agreed.

Jerome's little brother, Austin, realized how strong Jerome had become, so he began to push around some of his smaller classmates too.  One day on the bus, Austin was feeling annoyed by Sergio, so he tripped Sergio as he walked by.  Once on the ground, Austin sat on Sergio and told him that if he wanted to get up, he would have to say that Austin was his boss and that he would do whatever Austin told him to do.  Austin did not realize that Sergio's cousin, Russell, was sitting in the back of the bus and had seen the whole thing.  In order to protect his cousin, Russell felt he had no choice but to challenge Austin to a fight.

Shortly after Russell confronted Austin, Gilbert felt obligated to back up Russell, and, in turn, Francis felt obligated to back up Gilbert.  At the same time, Jerome jumped in on the side of his cousin, Austin.  Soon, everyone on the bus was fighting as well.  The conflict eventually spilled over into the schoolyard.  Before it was over, there were a lot of medical bills, as well as property damage to the bus and to the school.  Russell was transferred to another school before the fighting ended, but he too had been badly beaten up.  By that time, Gilbert, Francis, Jerome, and Austin had just about beaten each other to a standstill... until a foreign exchange student named Amerigo arrived to visit the school.  Amerigo, who had recently begun taking vitamins, and working out like Jerome had done, took a look at what was happening and decided to jump in on the side of Gilbert and Francis.  Together, a badly beaten up Gilbert and Francis, backed by a strong and fresh Amerigo, eventually beat Jerome and his friends.  Jerome wound up in the hospital.

Gilbert and Francis decided to make Jerome pay for all of the damage that they said he had caused.  They sneaked into Jerome's hospital room and broke both his legs in order to ensure that he could never hurt them again.  They threatened to break his arms too, unless he agreed to pay for all of the damages that the fight had caused to everyone.  Jerome was aware that he did not have any money left - nor would he be able to make additional money because of his broken legs - but he agreed to the terms anyway.  Gilbert and Francis also made Jerome agree to never go back to the playground and also to give away all his vitamins and workout equipment.  Jerome reluctantly agreed, and Gilbert and Francis felt much better.

Several months later, Jerome had his casts taken off his legs.  He secretly began to take vitamins and work out again, and he started to feel much better.  He began to think....

So, give up?

Here you go:

War: World War I
Gilbert: Great Britain
Francis: France
Jerome: Germany
Russell: Russia
Austin: Austria-Hungary
Sergio: Serbia
Amerigo: United States

Monday, August 12, 2013

A true story to get teachers back in the mood for the imminent return

Warning!  This post contains brief but intense profanity:

I begin teaching students this Wednesday; my wife will see her students for the first time on Friday.  The number one issue that always makes me a bit hesitant to start another school year is the inevitable incorrigible student I will receive and will have to deal with (usually accompanied by an equally incorrigible parent).

These thoughts took me back to an incident that happened at my wife's school near the end of the school year back in May.  My wife teaches 1st grade in a part of Sacramento that has what, in Educationese, is considered a "low socio-economic status."

My wife had a difficult enough year with behavior issues, but she got off easy compared to her next-door teaching partner, who drew a much tougher bunch.  Sometime in early May, my wife's teaching partner had to take a day off for whatever reason, and had a substitute teacher fill in.  This substitute was an imposingly large black man, who you would think would not have to worry about taking any guff from the students.

Yeah, right.

At some point during the day, my wife received a call from this substitute, who had been told in his instructions to call my wife should he encounter any insurmountable problems.  My wife walked in the classroom to see the worst-behaved student in that class - a little black girl (and a FIRST grader, mind you) - standing on top of a desk, with both her middle fingers raised, yelling at the substitute:


Remember, everyone:  The teacher is responsible for the test scores of this student.  If she does poorly on her standardized tests, the teacher, the principal, the school, the district takes the hit for her failure.  Not so for the student and her parent(s).

This is what we teachers face every day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why the dearth of blogging this summer? Backpacking and Camping!

And other assorted journeys.

June:  Upper Loch Leven in the Sierra Nevada, Northern California.  2 days, 1 night - 5 mile round-trip hike

Early July: Cliff Lake, Sky Lakes Wilderness, Southern Oregon.  5 days, 4 nights - 11.5 mile round-trip hike

Late July: Lake Helen and Bumpass Hell.  Lassen National Forest, Northern California.  1 Day - 3 mile round-trip hike.

Early August: Porcupine Lake, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Northern California.  4 days, 3 nights - 3 mile round-trip hike, along with a 20 mile round-trip drive along a treacherous dirt road to reach the parking area.

That about sums things up.  Now I am again ready to blog about education and politics (and the intersection of the two).  Seeing as how this year, I will be saddled with International Baccalaureate/Middle Years Program, Common Core Standards, Equity and Access, and Safe and Civil Schools requirements, I am sure I will have plenty to bitch about!

See you in the trenches.