Quote Of The Day

>> Monday, February 08, 2010

Anyway, in the long and storied history of utterly retarded legislation in South Carolina, we may have finally found the legal statute that takes the cake for sheer stupidity, which we think you’ll agree is saying something.

The law in question is the "Subversive Activities Registration Act" which requires all super-powered mutants "subversives" to file a form with South Carolina's Secretary Of State, along with a five-dollar filing fee. And, as Daniel Tencer at The Raw Story points out:

"While the intention of the law is apparently aimed at Islamic terrorists, it's unclear in the law's wording whether it can be applied to right-wing militias, some of whom have reputedly called for the overthrow of the US government. The law states that 'fraternal' and 'patriotic' groups are exempt from the law, but only if they don't "contemplate the overthrow of the government."

Though, frankly, I'm not nearly as sure it's "unclear"--seems to me that any assembly of two or more teabaggers in South Carolina "which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means..." will have to pony up the registration fee. No representation without taxation, you might say.

Mind you, I'm not particularly a fan of (a) laws that suppress free speech and/or the right of assembly or (b) laws that impose civil duties on illegal activities (as Mr. Tencer also points out, the South Carolina registration act is similar to the now popular laws that impose duties on marijuana; since most illegal pot growers and dealers, understandably enough, fail to pay for marijuana stamps, states get a second opportunity to impose liens and other civil penalties on top of any criminal penalties that may result when somebody is caught with untaxed weed). So, you know, here's to the hope that South Carolina's stupid little law gets nipped in the Constitutional bud despite disclaimers that the law isn't meant to violate the First Amendment (the statute may claim it doesn't do so in Section 23-29-30, however I don't see how you enforce this without being a burden on First Amendment rights). On the other hand, I do have to confess to a certain feeling of schadenfreude over the fact that the most conservative state in the nation and historic heart of American secessionism has passed a law that would hit up a number of teabaggers (and maybe Todd Palin) for five bucks. One imagines them queuing up in their little costumes with all their little signs and such, grumbling. (I have to admit, my mental picture bears a slight resemblance to the recruitment scene in Blazing Saddles, albeit in the state capitol instead of the middle of a gulch; perhaps somebody in a tricorner hat and colonial breeches can snarl, "We don't need no steeenking badges!" to complete the tableau.)

It warms my cockles, actually. Because I really think some of these people would actually queue up. They may be the only ones, in fact, unless some jihadist has a more developed sense of humor than any of them actually seem to (perhaps he'll sign his paperwork "Akbar Zeb"). I mean, I really do hate to sound like a college-educated elitist and all that, but have you noticed that a lot of these "Tea Party" people really just don't appear to be that smart. Sure, not filling in their paperwork is probably the more "revolutionary" thing to do (just leaving the intelligence and/or legal-advisability" parts out of it for the moment), but we're not really talking about a bunch of nascent right-wing Ches here (actually, there's a right-wing historical analogue, but, uh, Godwin's Law and stuff; see also); one can imagine asking some of these folks why they're filling out a form that admits they're nascent terrorists and hearing in reply, "Well, I mean, it's the law, isn't it?"

Not, I should add, that I underestimate any of them. All it takes is one crazy jackass with a gun and a clear line-of-sight (see also).

So, you know, any of you dumbasses wanting to take back your country or whatever--get those pencils sharpened and your wallets out. You've got homework.

(H/T to Boing Boing)


Janiece Monday, February 8, 2010 at 5:50:00 PM EST  

Eric, you warm my cockles, because the first thing I thought of when I read the first part of the post was, "Who the hell would be stupid enough to actually, you know, register?"

And then you answered my question!

mahell = the feeling a mother gets when she realizes her child is a teabagger.

Nathan Monday, February 8, 2010 at 5:56:00 PM EST  

I saw that story over the weekend, and, of course, thought it was an utterly retarded law. (Nyah, nyah, Sarah Palin...I was clearly using the word as satire...just like Rush.)

Then, I noticed the penalties clause:

SECTION 23-29-90. Penalties.

Any organization or person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or by both fine and imprisonment.

Is it possible it's not as retarded as it seems? Is it possible that identifying some group as being terrorist in nature and imposing a fine for non-compliance might be easier than pre-emptive arrests for some act that's merely in the planning stage?

The Feds got Al Capone for tax evasion...not for anything else he did.

Eric Monday, February 8, 2010 at 6:04:00 PM EST  

The serious, tongue-out-of-cheek answer, of course, is that you're absolutely right, Janiece--people aren't going to really register. That's what makes these kinds of laws problematic, actually: they're meant to be violated, as an extra "gotcha" on top of other criminal charges.

Eric Monday, February 8, 2010 at 6:12:00 PM EST  

Nathan: you posted while I was writing, but if my response to Janiece didn't cover it--seriously, these laws are both retarded/non-retarded. The idea is, like I said, that they're supposed to be violated automatically by the people engaging in an activity, giving an extra sanction on top of the sanctions for other criminal acts.

Usually these things are civil, which is a lower burden of proof; however, you may be right that it might be easier even using a criminal beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard to prove failure to file a piece of paper than to prove a plan to blow up the State House. That said, even if it's not, the potential to hit suspects with an additional charge is always leverage for the State: situations in which a Defendant has nothing to gain by pleading obviously tend not to result in pleas, so having a "gratuitous" charge to throw out gives the prosecution something to work with if they're inclined to avoid trial (which they have reason to be--trials are expensive, and sometimes you lose).

Leanright,  Monday, February 8, 2010 at 10:41:00 PM EST  

May I just say: The phrase "teabagger" is getting kind of childish. Kind of like kids hearing the word "booby" and giggling. I know liberals get a kick out of "teabagger", but...kinda old and a tad childish.

Eric Monday, February 8, 2010 at 10:53:00 PM EST  

Nope, Dave, it's still funny. It's gonna be a lonnnnnnnnnnng time before that mouthful dips in popularity.

(See what I did there? Didja see? Didja?)

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