Friday, April 25, 2003

Today's Santorum comment

... is a bit of a stretch, but it's peripherally related to a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Wednesday involving a dispute over tax collection methods between California and Nevada.

Computer whiz Gilbert Hyatt owned several valuable patents. He moved from California to Nevada (where there's no state income tax) in September 1991. California revenuers claimed Hyatt didn't really relocate until 1992, and that he fled owing millions in state taxes. They went to extraordinary lengths to collect that money, including -- Hyatt alleged -- rummaging through his mail and disclosing proprietary secrets to his competitors.

Hyatt sued California under a Nevada law which lets residents charge state officials with "intentional misconduct." California claimed Hyatt had no standing since it was merely enforcing its tax laws and the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution gives the Golden State carte blanche to pursue Hyatt in any other state.

The Nevada Supreme Court disagreed, saying Nevada had a right to enforce its laws and Hyatt should have his day in court. By a 9-0 vote, the U.S. Supremes sided with Nevada.

As this editorial by me explains, the ruling is a strong defense of the principle that states should be "laboratories of democracy," and it has serious potential to be a check on grass-roots tyranny, since it should protect the rights of refugees from oppressive actions by state governments.

The Santorum link? OK, it's a big reach, but ... If Texas, say, were to aggressively enforce sodomy laws, Texans might decide to move to states that pride themselves on defending individuals' privacy. And, according to the logic of the court's decision, Lone Star cops would be SOL. At some point, it might not be good public policy to continue such by-the-book enforcement of the law, giving lawmakers an incentive to get rid of it.

'After you,' ... 'No, after you'

Geitner Simmons (first item) comments on the idea by some libertarian activists to move an organized cadre of freedom-loving folks to a single state and try to conduct a semi-hostile takeover of its political apparatus.

The AP story gets pretty damn funny when actual elected officials in the potential states are asked for comment. Folks in Idaho say Montana would be just fine ... but Idahoans demur, singing the praises of their northeastern neighbors.

BTW, Nevada didn't make the list of Free State candidates, though it might have a decade ago. Too many people (2.1 million or so) to qualify. Shame, actually, because it would be the only one with a reasonable climate.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Bob Seger, call your office

Ford kills the cool, neo-retro Thunderbird. Mickey Kaus offers a eulogy. Well, damn. Guess Lola will have to settle for a Toyota Solara or a mint-condition Cabrio .. unless I can convince her to buy a Saab 93. (Years from now, of course.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Protect their tender little feelings

Nevada politics are weird in many ways. The state is still small enough that a handful of big-wigs often handpick the candidates for the state's top offices ... otherwise, a cipher such as political neophyte Kenny Guinn could have never been elected governor in 1998. The "good government" and "clean campaign" types also have an annoying amount of clout in the state, as repeated attempts to stifle criticism of public employees, elected officials and other government functionaries gain a surprising amount of traction here -- notwithstanding their short lifespans once they're subjected to the scrutiny of the courts.

Case in point: The passage April 21 of Senate Bill 342, a bill which would make it a misdemeanor to "knowingly" file a "false or fraudulent written complaint or allegation of misconduct" against anyone who works for state or county government, including elected officials. If this seems difficult to square with the First Amendment, well, you're right. A similar bill enacted in 1999 protecting law enforcement officers from such "false" complaints was struck down in federal court two years ago, after the law was used to jail a Reno resident who wrote a letter to the mayor complaining about the local cops.

Police here have been pissed ever since. So they prevailed upon lawmakers to pass the current proposal, which applies to all public employees. This editorial by me discusses the bill. Of course, the state will end up in court, spend thousands of dollars defending the law, and will lose. Will they ever learn?

Full Santorum interview

Read it here.

Andrew Sullivan also points out that in the oft-quoted passage (cited below), Santorum argues there's no right for anyone to engage in any sexual contact that's not intended to make babies. This is far from a mere interpretation of a case before the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

"Santorum is on the losing side of a long battle."

So says blogger Jack Balkin about Sen. Rick Santorum's inane comments about anti-sodomy laws in Texas and the Supreme Court's pending decision. Here's what Santorum said in an interview with The Associated Press:

If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. ... All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family. And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.

Santorum's not exactly the brightest bulb in the pack, of course, being incapable of making a distinction between sodomy, incest, adultery and polygamy (which the Mormons used to think was OK ... right, Mr. Reid?). I recommend Balkin's entire post. But IMHO Santorum's remarks underscore the need to get the government out of the business of regulating sexual relations between consenting adults. Period. Once reasonable age-of-consent thresholds have been met, contract law should be sufficient to deal with the rest. (Balkin post via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh says coherent constitutional principles can be divined from Santorum's remarks. I fear the estimable Prof. Volokh may be giving Santorum too much credit.