Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- March 12-25, 2006

This page includes posts from March 12-25, 2006 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

March 25, 2006
Recommended viewing

John Podhoretz at The Corner suggested folks would enjoy seeing this commercial.

I don't always agree with him on politics, but JPod is dead on the money on this one.

Go see it-and after that, go see this great trailer for Sleepless in Seattle.

March 23, 2006
Going after Fred

Fred Phelps is an alleged Christian with a twisted sense of what it means to proselytize. After years of abusing AIDS victims, lately he and his followers have been picketing soldiers’ funerals, holding up signs such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers." 

Their cruel intervention in what civilized folks recognize should be kept as a respectful ceremony reminds us that you just can’t make a sphincter feel like one.

That hasn’t kept several governments from attempting to do something about it, however, as noted by Charles Hill, John Hinderaker, Eugene Volokh, and other bloggers.

Professor Volokh also went to the trouble of writing a useful essay discussing some of the legalities of these efforts to stop Fred and his gang, appearing in the National Review.

As he notes:

4. The government generally may impose content-neutral limits on noisy picketing, picketing that blocks traffic, and so on, but must do this through regulations of the number or volume level of picketers, and not through bans on picketing. See Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994). A ban on disrupting funerals would fit within this principle only if it defines "disrupt" to mean disrupt through noise or traffic obstruction, rather than through the content of its offensive message.

Likewise, a ban on "violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct" within 500 feet of a funeral would be constitutional if it is read as being limited to violent or unreasonably loud conduct, but not if it is read to cover insulting signs….

7. Finally, to be constitutional, even a limited content-neutral no-picketing zone must be defined with sufficient precision. A Kansas funeral-picketing law, for instance, was struck down in 1995 because it banned picketing "before" and "after" funerals without defining those terms. (It has since been reenacted with more precise terms.)

Yesterday the Delaware General Assembly saw its first legislative effort to deal with this issue, with House Bill No. 371 introduced and sent to an appropriate committee.

At least at first glance, the proposed Delaware version appears to follow the constitutional lines set out in Professor Volokh’s article:

§ 1303.  Disorderly conduct; military funeral or memorial service.

(1)           A person shall not do any of the following within three hundred feet of the building or other location where a military funeral or memorial service is being conducted, or within three hundred feet of a military funeral procession or burial:

(a)           Make loud and raucous noise which causes unreasonable distress to the persons attending the funeral or memorial service, or participating in the funeral procession.

(b)           Direct abusive epithets or make any threatening gesture which the person knows or reasonably should know is likely to provoke a violent reaction by another.

(c)           Disturb or disrupt the funeral, memorial service, funeral procession, or burial by conduct intended to disturb or disrupt the funeral, memorial service, funeral procession or burial.

(2)           This Section applies to conduct within one (1) hour preceding, during and within two (2) hours after a military funeral, memorial service, funeral procession or burial.

(3)           A person who commits a violation of this Section commits:

(a)           A class A misdemeanor for a first offense.

(b)           A class F felony for a second or subsequent offense.

Thus far we haven’t seen any sign of Fred at any Delaware soldiers’ funerals, which may be a bit surprising considering the Dover Air Force Base’s status as the primary military mortuary

If he and his gang never show up around here, however, they certainly won’t be missed.

UPDATE: A local correspondent tells me that Phelps has actually been in Delaware a few times on his misguided mission. His note is confirmed by the ADL website, which says this happened twice in 2005 at anti-gay demonstrations.

And I was so hoping he wouldn't know where Delaware was.

March 23, 2006
Back with a hot Claude winner

I took a short trip south last week, which will be the subject of this week's golf column.

Meanwhile, the American media industry showed that it's ability to garner additional Claude awards for table-poundingly obvious headlines continues unabated.

This week's winner somehow reminded me of the way that the Action News team on Philadelphia's Channel 6 would open the newscasts in the late 60s and early 70s, using the standard "Go local, especially if it bleeds" approach. The classic formula would run like this:

Chinese Communists explode a huge new H-Bomb.
A major new offensive by the North Vietnamese.

But the big story on Action News is a fire in Kensington! Take it away, Jim!

And off they'd go with some locally-produced video of yet another rowhouse fire in a Philadelphia neighborhood.

After a while, you began to wonder what else was left to burn there.

Today's News-Journal continued that tradition, with a story about a huge brush fire not too far from here.

As usual, the piece itself is fine, as far as it goes. It's the headline that bugs me:

Winds Make Fire Difficult to Contain


This one earns three Claudes.

March 13, 2006
Blogging Break

I'm taking a short blogging break. Back in a bit.

Take a look around, in the meantime.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969

Home Page
Table of Essays
Table of Essays 2005
Table of Essays 2004
Table of Essays 2003
Table of Essays 2002
Links to the Weekly Archives

Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.

That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.

© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005