Never miss your court date

This is pretty much sound advice, and advice I definitely kept in my own personal dealings. You see, I have the unfortunate ability to say that I was involved in a lawsuit — and I was the defendant.

One of my creditors decided to take me to court to sue me over a debt that had gone unpaid. The court date was set for March 11.

Now let me first explain this debt so you’ll get an idea of how far things went. The last payment on the debt was I believe in July 2008. In March 2008, I was laid off from my job and started collecting unemployment when my severance package ran out at the end of April 2008. Anyone who’s been on unemployment knows that, if you’re used to making more than $20K per year, you’re stuck.

The money I was receiving had to go to the most essential expenses: rent, my car, utilities, and groceries. Practically all of my credit accounts fell behind, and almost all fell into collections.

Now back in August 2009, I received first communication from the collector in question, and the address on the envelope was for Kansas City — the creditor placed the account with a local debt collector, certainly a smart move. Within a short time I sent off the validation request and waited for the validation materials to come back.

That didn’t happen, though. The next mailing I received from the collector was another letter that was another attempt to collect — a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I sent them a reminder that the debt was still considered disputed and that their attempt at collection was in violation of the law.

Really what I should’ve done, in hindsight, was not said anything and let them instead rack up the violations, but oh well.

In January of 2010, I was informed by mail that they were pursuing this debt through the Court. They provided the case number and all details, and I awaited service which would happen on February 13 with the court date set for March 11.

On March 8 I paid off the debt collector, in full. Because this happened so close to the court date, they said they’ll go for a dismissal in person in Court on the court date.

The account representative also said that I didn’t have to show up in person in Court.

Good thing I have a natural distrust for people to whom I previously owed money. Never trust when a person says, "You don’t have to show up in Court", or "Just ignore the papers".

So I decided to show up anyway, and it’s a good thing I did. As I sat in the gallery as a lot of people filed into Court, the bailiff walked around to collect everyone’s court documents to present to the Clerk, just to see who showed and who didn’t. A few minutes later they were handed back to us.

About 15 minutes later came the "oyez, oyez" — everyone rising as the judge entered the Court to preside.

When my case was called, and I approached the bench, I was asked only one question, "Do you agree or disagree with the petition?" Or something along those lines.

My response was that the debt had been resolved earlier this week. Simple response, to which the woman who asked the question requested the judge for a settlement hearing, which was scheduled for April 15.

I remember when walking out of the courtroom how surreal the experience seemed.

What would have happened if I never showed? I’m not entirely sure. But I’m glad I showed up. On March 23, I received in the mail a copy of a court filing showing that the plaintiff in the case — i.e. the debt collector — was moving forward with a dismissal, which was made final by the Court on March 26.

So if you’re ever served with a lawsuit and summoned to Court, don’t miss that court date unless you have confirmed with the Court that you do not need to show. For some, you might think this is common sense, but many debt collectors do bank on you not showing up to Court.

Never miss your court date.

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Constitutional reality

The Constitution is irrelevant.

There, I’ve said it. The Constitution is irrelevant. All of our arguing about the Constitution, all of our bickering over its meaning… worthless, wasted time.

You see, there is quite literally nothing stopping those in Washington from literally doing what they want. Nothing.

They can pass whatever legislation they want, using whatever methods they want. And if it’s overturned by the Court, they can just ignore the Court’s rulings. That is one fear that Chief Justice John Marshall had — that their rulings may not be relevant because the Constitution gives the Court no way to enforce them.

John Marshall was on to something when he said this.

If the Executive Branch and Congress chose to ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court, there was nothing to stop them.

The government recently showed how irrelevant the Constitution is. They’ve been ignoring the Constitution for years, passing legislation that usurps power and tries to make the Federal government as powerful as possible if not supremely powerful. And before you start thinking that this started with President Bush, try looking back further. Reagan? Nope. FDR? Nope. Woodrow Wilson? Teddy Roosevelt?

They’ve been keeping up the facade of the Constitution to give us the illusion of being in charge, but the People have lost their power. Little by little, the Federal government has been vacuuming up the power in this country.

The Constitution is irrelevant. Plain and simple. Why?

We have let it become irrelevant.

The Constitution is worthless unless We the People enforce it. It is not the responsibility of the police or law enforcement agencies to enforce the Constitution. They’re not even required to protect the people. Their only responsibility is to the Constitution and the laws.

We enforce the Constitution. Not the government. Not the Courts. The responsibility for enforcing the Constitution falls on us, the People.

And we have been derelict in our duty, and the government and those seeking power know it.

We must defend the Constitution when it is threatened from without, and we must enforce the Constitution when it is threatened from within.

We the People are the reason the Constitution is becoming irrelevant. The question now becomes what we can do to make it relevant again, and keep it relevant far into the future.

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On the Passage of the Health Care Bill

Earlier today, Bryce McMinn, who has the…opportunity of questionable fortune to be related to me by marriage through one of my cousins, penned a note on his Facebook profile expressing his obvious discontent with the recent passage of the health care measure in the House of Representatives:

We can’t be too upset or shocked. The damage was done in 2006 when Americans handed the House of Representatives over to Socialists and Communists like Nancy Pelosi. It happened in 2008 when we elected a Marxist President and even MORE Communists and Socialists in the House and Senate.1 [more…]

Now Bryce and I don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but we both have a mutual disgust of the unconstitutional health care reforms making their way through the political process. He’s definitely not afraid to speak his mind on pretty much any issue, and this latest example is definitely worth a read.

  1. McMinn, Bryce. (2010, March 22). "On the Passage of the Health Care Bill". []
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Rep. Steve King

On Glenn Beck‘s radio program, Congressman Steve King [R-IA(5)] said this on March 18, 2010:

This is my argument and I have made it publicly a few times, but in 1973, when Roe versus Wade was first a decision of the Supreme Court, ever since then, people over on that side of the philosophical line having making the argument that the Federal Government has no business telling a woman what she can or can’t do with her body but today the same people are making the argument that the Federal Government has every business to tell everybody in America what they can or can’t do with their body.1

Congressman, I am pro-choice. I argue that no government has the right to tell any person what they can and cannot do with their body. I am pro-choice in all respects — my body, my decision, and the government can get the hell out of my way.

I, contrary to the argument you publicly broadcast to millions of people across the United States, am not telling the American people what they can or cannot do with their body, and I never will, nor do I have the desire to do so.

Just wanted to clear that up for you.

  1. GlennBeck.com. (2010, March 18). "Will it pass? Steve King". []
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Commentary on the right to bear arms

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Arguably the most controversial of all the Amendments, the right to keep and bear arms is paramount to individual freedom and is key to not only individual sovereignty but the sovereignty of the United States. After all, if the military should fail to defend the United States, the responsibility to protect the country falls to the citizenry.

Under 10 USC § 311, all able-bodied men between 17 and 45 years of age who are citizens of the United States or who have declared intent to become a citizen comprise the militia of the United States. More specifically, it is called the unorganized militia.

And should the citizenry fail to protect the country, the country falls.

But the right to keep and bear arms extends further and comes down to one simple concept: the police do not have a responsibility to protect you, only to enforce the laws and ensure those who break them are arrested and appropriately prosecuted. And in some situations and locations, the expectation of police protection is unreasonable, such as in remote, rural locations.

Now the police do have a responsibility, to the best of their ability, to prevent crimes from occurring. This means that if an officer arrives to a crime in progress, they will try to put a stop to the crime through reasonable means. But if the police can’t arrive in a reasonable amount of time, it’s up to you to defend yourself.

Again, the police have no obligation or constitutional duty to protect you.12

But the Second Amendment applies to more than just firearms. It applies to anything that can be used or brandished as a weapon — crowbars, baseball bats, Coca-Cola bottles. To "keep and bear arms" means simply that you have the right to possess use a weapon.

But is this really a "right"? Let us recall what I said about the definition of a right:

A right is inherent and inalienable, something for which no action is required of anyone else for you to retain, but much action is required of you for you to protect.

Under this definition, is the "right to bear arms" actually a right? First, anything that is perceived as a "right", whether actually fitting the definition or not, will be dubbed inherent and inalienable. And if it is something you believe in, it’ll be a point of view you’ll expend effort to protect.

But the key question is this: is any action required of anyone else for you to retain or exercise this right? No.

Even if firearms didn’t exist, you could simply clench your fist, or you could fashion your own weapon by brandishing a fallen branch as a club or even a large rock.

A person’s right to self-defense is inherent, and the right to bear arms is an extension of this. The right to bear arms means simply that you can brandish a weapon in an effort to defend yourself, your family, or someone else.

But the government does not have a right to tell you which weapons you cannot use, at least not without good reason. For example, while firearms can kill people, bombs can kill a lot of people and bring down buildings, so there is ample reason for the government to deny you the ability to obtain and possess them.

Firearms however hold a special meaning under the Second Amendment for one simple reason: they are the most effective personal assault weapons when it comes to fending off an attack from other individuals, foreign invaders or, in the worst case scenario, our own government.

They are also the reason the United States won her freedom from England. Never forget that.

But firearms are necessary in many places for personal defense for another simple reason: those who may intend to harm you might be carrying one themselves, and its never a good idea, to borrow the cliché, to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Plus someone intent on turning you into a crime victim will likely back down upon realizing you’re carrying a firearm.

  1. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), which addressed a claim that a woman with a restraining order is entitled to protection by the police by virtue of having the court order. []
  2. Other cases listed here, courtesy of "End Times Report" []
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Have you heard of Kent Schaible?

Anyone who has conversed with me in detail knows how I feel about parents substituting prayer or homeopathy for actual medicine in treating their children. In early 2008, the case of Madeline Neumann received international attention and once again brought the case of faith-based treatments to the forefront of international scrutiny.

On January 24, 2009, at approximately 9:30pm EST, 2 year-old Kent Shaible passed away from complications due to bacterial pneumonia at his family home.1 His parents — Herbert and Catherine Schaible, 41 and 40, respectively — were over him praying for him to get better.

Kent would’ve been turning 4 years-old on July 17.2

Bacterial pneumonia is very treatable. A regimen of antibiotics along with plenty of rest and fluids is all it takes.3 Instead of being dead in two weeks from onset, Kent would’ve been a living and healthy, happy toddler.

There was very little on this case in the news — I never heard about it until recently and I tend to read the news every day. Most of the news of this case didn’t surface until the trial for the parents was set, which occurred in October 2009. I’ve yet to find a news story about this case from January 2009 or shortly thereafter. Much of the discussion of this case happened instead in the blogosphere and opinion pages. So unless you read various religion-based blogs, which I don’t, you probably haven’t heard of this case.

When Madeline Neumann died in March 23, 2008, the press was all over it. Like I said, it received international attention. And Madeline’s case overshadowed the case of 15-month old Ava Worthington (d. March 2, 2008), but even Ava’s case was in the news shortly after her death.

But I still cannot help but ask the question whether Ava’s case would’ve slipped quietly beneath the waves if Madeline’s case hadn’t brought the issue to the forefront?

One of the big issues is that, with these cases becoming more frequent, the parents have yet to receive any kind of worthy sentence. Madeline’s parents received ten years probation each and were ordered to serve 30-days in jail each year for the next six years.4

And one of the things that allows these parents to walk out of the courtroom with little more than a slap on the wrist is the fact that many States have laws exempting parents from responsibility when they substitute prayer over medical attention.

Now I am a libertarian, meaning that I will fully defend someone’s right to practice their religion. However as I’ve said previously, you do not have the right to compromise the health or life of your child by refusing to seek medical attention.

When will these parents learn that prayer alone will not do the job? After all, why should God do for you what you can already do for yourself?

  1. Dean, Mensah M. (2009, October 8). "Faith-healing parents charged in death of infant son". Philadelphia Daily News. []
  2. Search for Kent Schaible through the Social Security Death Index []
  3. WebMD.com. "Bacterial Pneumonia: Symptoms, Causes, Tests, and Treatment". []
  4. Riordan, Kathy. (2009, October 6). "Judge Shows Leniency to Parents in Wisconsin Prayer Death". Open Salon. []
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"There should be a law"

"That should be illegal."

Typically when someone says something like this, it means one thing: they’ve heard or seen something which has no direct impact upon them, but because they don’t like it for some reason, they feel it should be outlawed.

Recently introduced in the Massachusetts legislature is a proposal that would make circumcising a male child a criminal offense punishable by fine or up to 14 years in jail. Could you imagine jailing a rabbi for doing something that is part of their religious tenets?

Now there is a growing movement against male circumcision, with many calling it unnecessary and even detrimental — though there’s nothing detrimental about the fact that circumcision reduces a male’s susceptibility to STDs (still a good idea to use condoms) along with reducing the chances of penile issues such as fungal and skin infections because of that foreskin.1

So what’s the point of the legislation, besides the obvious violation of the rights of Jews to practice their religious tenets? There isn’t one. There is no point to or any benefit derived from outlawing circumcision.

But a lack of point or benefit hasn’t stopped legislatures from pointlessly outlawing other things over the years. Arguably the most famous example is Prohibition. It started in 1920 as part of a growing movement to do away with alcoholic beverages in society, and was simply an implementation of one idea: some people get drunk, fewer still cause problems when drunk, so no one should be able to drink alcohol at all.

For thirteen years this experiment lasted in the United States, spawned after the ratification of Eighteenth Amendment. (Trivia question: Is the Eighteenth Amendment still a part of the Constitution? Answer later.)

So what was the result?

Increased crime and increased alcohol consumption because it was illegal. Plus enforcing prohibition drained government coffers because there was now no longer any tax revenue coming in from excise taxes on alcohol. On the plus side, it was great for the economy, especially the California grape market, and not to mention the underground black markets that were distributing bootleg booze.

Prohibition was finally brought to its end in 1933 following the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment which, while repealing the Prohibition amendment, also gave Congress the unilateral authority to control the interstate sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages. Those laws are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Prohibition taught the United States one lesson it has since forgotten: legislation will, nine times out of ten, not work. I posted this to my Facebook page earlier:

It doesn’t work for drugs, extramarital affairs (yes some States have laws making it a crime to cheat on your spouse), sex between unmarried yet consenting adults, even adults of the same sex, and even with the exchange of money involved (i.e. prostitution). It didn’t work for abortion, and it certainly didn’t work during prohibition.

Currently Nevada is the only State in the United States where prostitution is legal and regulated. Laws against prostitution are costly to enforce, and it leads to a lot of other problems. Currently there are candidates for governorships who are campaigning on the idea of legalizing prostitution along with marijuana.

Which brings me to the "war on drugs". I’ll just say this: it’s time to surrender. The laws aren’t working. They are also costly to enforce, they’ve led to a thriving black market for contraband substances, and have in the end led to more problems than they’ve solved.

If we want to get rid of drugs in our society, we need to better teach our children to stay away from them. Hey if I could learn to stay away from drugs, so can others.

Legislation is not the answer. As I said, it is not working for prostitution and drugs, it didn’t work for prohibition and abortion, and it won’t work for many of the other things for which someone has said "there should be a law".

It half surprised me when I learned that some states2 have laws on the books criminalizing adultery, though in the wake of the landmark case Lawrence et al. v. Texas, 539 US 558 (2003), these laws are not really enforceable any longer, as are laws criminalizing fornication3.

And then there are laws banning pornography and other "obscene" materials. Oh dear God. Oh wait, it’s typically in his name that stuff that is considered "obscene" should be banned. That’s why the novel Fanny Hill was "banned" in the United States until 1960 (it was originally published in 1749). To quote Larry Flynt, "If the human body is obscene, complain to the manufacturer".

If I, as an adult, wish to seek out "obscene" material, what place has the government to tell me that I cannot do that? The answer is simple: absolutely none.

And "blue laws", which are laws prohibiting certain acts on Sundays, have got to be some of the dumbest laws ever conceived, let alone enacted. If I want to work on a Sunday (which I have, many times over), that is between me and God, not between me and the government.

Laws that do nothing for society, and actually infringe on the rights of others, have no place being enacted. Repeal the laws that do not work, and stop passing stupid laws that will not work and will only create a tingling sensation between someone’s legs whenever they say "at least it’s illegal".

Give me a break.

* * * * *

Trivia: Is the Eighteenth Amendment still part of the Constitution of the United States? Yes.

The amendment process established under Article V of the Constitution does not call for the text of the Constitution to be modified directly. Instead all Amendments that are ratified are called "codicil", meaning they are merely attached to the Constitution but override some part therein.

The fact that the Twenty-First Amendment repeals the Eighteenth does not mean the Eighteenth Amendment is removed from the Constitution. It means only that the Twenty-First Amendment invalidates or nullifies it, but we still leave it in place. This is important in preserving the revision history of the Constitution through time.

In interpreting the Constitution, where an Amendment and the main body of the Constitution conflict, the Amendment controls. However where two Amendments conflict, the newer Amendment controls.

This is also quite different from the standard legislative process in which acts of Congress do call for direct modifications to the US code along with additions and removals (repeals).

  1. WebMD.com. "Sexual Health: Circumcision". []
  2. Code of Virginia § 18.2-365 []
  3. Code of Virginia § 18.2-344, Utah Code 76-7-104 []
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Contract from America and conservatives

As of late, there has been a growing movement in the United States calling for a "Contract from America", a play on the 1994 Republican "Contract with America" in which the Republican party laid out several promises they would attempt to enact should they be elected. The contract lays out three specific promises, those of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

However in addition to these three promises, I’ve seen many conservatives calling for additional promises, two in particular being an end to abortion and an end to gay marriage. The reason these additional "promises" are sought is because many conservatives are looking at the tea party movement as a way to vault them back into power. But what they don’t realize is that these additional promises are contrary to the actual purpose of the tea party movement.

How so?

The idea of the tea party movement is to seize back power from the Federal government that they do not legitimately have. Basically what this means is that no government at the Federal, State, or local level has the authority to tell any person what they can or cannot, must or must not do.

Instead the government is established for the purpose of protecting the rights of the people, among other purposes. A criminal or civil law is considered legitimate when its purpose is to prevent one person from violating the rights of another.

For example the Constitution says, by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, that only the State has the authority to take a person’s life but only after proper due process has been taken:

…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…1

Now the legitimacy of capital punishment has been debated for centuries, and I’m not going to go into it here, but I think we can all agree that one person taking the life of another is not a legitimate action as it violates the rights of the person whose life was taken.

The only time that the taking of a person’s life is considered legitimate is when it is to prevent that person from taking someone else’s life — i.e. lethal force is considered legitimate when your life or someone else’s life is in danger.

So let’s look at the issues of gay marriage and abortion and see whether they would live or fall under the idea that government is to protect rights.

Would allowing two homosexual men or women to marry violate the rights of any other person in the city or state where the marriage occurred? Absolutely not, and I challenge any person who feels differently to explain how their rights are violated or infringed by two gay men or gay women getting married, along with what rights are violated.

The legal prohibition, however, of two individuals of the same gender from entering into the civil union of marriage is an infringement upon the rights of the two individuals seeking to become married. As such, any law preventing two gay men or two gay women from becoming legally married is not a legitimate law, and any such constitutional ban, whether at the state or federal level, is not a legitimate passage of the constitution.

Now what of the issue with regard to abortion?

One thing upon which I believe everyone across the spectrum of abortion opinions can agree is this: with regard to the end of seeing abortions come to an end in the United States, legislation and government is not the means to accomplishing this end.

As Harry Browne (b. 1933, d. 2006) wrote in an article published in 1998:

To one side we say: we will not let the government impose its way upon you. To the other side we say: if you want to reduce abortions, there are much better ways than by depending on the government — because it will only disappoint you.2

Libertarian Murray Rothbard wrote in his book For a New Liberty that "no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body"3.

Really the libertarian approach to abortion is about being hands off. The group Pro-Choice Libertarians claims on their web site they are for people "who want to make sure the Libertarian Party stays defacto ‘pro-choice’ — or anti-prohibition — on the abortion issue." They clarify this position, "we do not want [the government] prohibiting (or mandating) abortion".

Other libertarians take decidedly "pro-choice" positions on the libertarian stance of ownership of one’s body and control over the decisions related to their body. Ayn Rand, author of the best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged, said

An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

Capitalism Magazine runs a web site called "Abortion is Pro-Life". In their Frequently Asked Questions page, they define abortion as

the termination of pregnancy by the induced removal of an embryo or fetus (that is incapable of survival outside the body of the woman) which results in the death of the embryo/fetus.

and further state that

A fetus does not have a right to be in the womb of any woman, but is there by her permission. This permission may be revoked by the woman at any time, because her womb is part of her body…

What applies to a fetus, also applies to a physically dependent adult. If an adult…must survive by being connected to someone else, they may only do so by the voluntary permission of the person they must be connected to. There is no such thing as the right to live by the efforts of someone else, i.e., there is no such thing as the right to enslave.

They further clarify the difference between children and the unborn by way of physiological dependency. A child is physiologically independent of the mother, and the child’s survival is dependent upon the same factors determining the mother’s survival. If the child’s mother were to not survive, the child may still have a chance at survival: the child’s life is not dependent in whole, only in part, upon the mother.

However, an unborn’s survival is dependent in whole upon the mother. As such, it does not have any physiological independence, and as such, the dependency necessary for the unborn’s survival exists only so long as the the mother allows it to exist. Any law forcing this dependency to continue against the mother’s will violates her rights.

Now of course I personally believe that as a matter of common sense a woman should not have "conception to birth" access to abortions.

And common sense is another matter that also needs to be reintroduced into society. For example, the Constitution says that a KKK member has the right to appear at a rally for the NAACP and protest in opposition. Common sense, however, says that it would not be a good idea.

And while it is legitimately a woman’s right, in line with what was discussed above, to at any point terminate the dependency the unborn places upon her, common sense calls for a a line to be drawn at some point based on the potential for the unborn to survive independently of the mother, and the laws of most states have already drawn this line for us.

  1. Amendment XIV, Constitution of the United States of America []
  2. Browne, Harry. (1998, December 21). "The Libertarian stand on abortion." []
  3. Rothbard, Murray. "Personal Liberty". For a New Liberty. pp. 107–108. []
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