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Items of Interest

The Problems With Legislators & The Never-Ending Election Cycle

I was inspired to write this post after reading an article authored by Gregory Wallace and posted May 11, 2013 on CNN's website entitled, Flash mobs beware!  Legislators address violent incidents. See the article here:

Flash Mob spontaneously gathers at a store front after notification on mobile devices, cellular phones.  A hot legal topic in litigation.
The article discusses bills drafted and sponsored by several Illinois legislators.  The proposed legislation would authorize a judge to "impose an extended term sentence" when new-age “mob action” involves "electronic communication."  In other words, if and when a "flash mob" participant commits an act of violence, the judge can tack on additional years to that person's sentence for whichever criminal act the person is being prosecuted.  This, in my view, is emblematic of the growing problems associated with our legislators and the method by which legislators are elected. 

First and foremost, there is absolutely no reason to enact this silly legislation.  Committing an act of violence, whether or not it involves "mob action" and "electronic communication," is a crime.  Why should the defendant in one of these types of cases be punished more severely  than a defendant who commits an act of violence not falling within the purview of this proposed legislation?  Why should a defendant (whose actions do not fall within the purview of this proposed legislation) receive "an extended term sentence" simply because there was "mob action" that involved "electronic communication?"  Does the presence of these two prerequisites make a criminal defendant more criminally culpable than a person who commits an act of violence without the presence of "mob action" or "electronic communication?"  I do not see how it would/could.

Second, enacting this useless legislation will complicate court proceedings.  If this bill is enacted into law, the court will have to spend precious time and scant resources to: (i) determine if the criminal act committed by a defendant involved "mob action"  (That will spawn considerable, expensive and time consuming satellite litigation.); (ii) determine whether the act involved "electronic communication."  (Again, this determination will be even more time consuming and expensive).  Depending upon whether the law, when enacted, will supply a definition of "electronic communication" and, if so, what that definition will be, what connection between the "mob action" and "electronic communication" will be sufficient so as to expose the defendant to "an extended term sentence?"  In this day and age "electronic communication" is omnipresent.  Imagine the investigation into a person's cell phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, emails etc. that will be required in order to establish that the defendant's action involved "electronic communication."  These considerations will necessarily complicate the court proceedings in every case in which this proposed legislation will apply.  They will further strain a court system that is already overburdened and underfunded   The result will be borne by all citizens and all those involved in court proceedings.  Public defenders will be further burdened and overworked due to this added complication.  Court schedules will become more delayed.  Additional future tax expenditures will be needed to fund these needless proceedings.  If and when this legislation is enacted into law, what will be the benefit to society for engaging in this process?  I assert there will be little, if any, benefit.  The defendant accused of a criminal act of violence,as described above, will, if convicted, be sentenced to a jail term or some alternative thereof.  This would be the case whether or not his acts involved "mob action" and "electronic communication"  The ability of a judge to impose an "extended term sentence" in no way justifies the societal costs that this legislation will spawn.

Third, this proposed legislation in Illinois is merely one example that is emblematic of the many problems caused by the architectural framework of our legislatures and our election process for legislators.  Legislators are generally elected for two year terms.  In this day and age of the 24 hour news cycle and the omnipresence of electronic media, that means that legislators are constantly in election mode.  They "need" to show their constituents that that they deserve to be re-elected.  Rather than patriots temporarily giving up their occupations in order to "serve the greater good" and accomplish something meaningful while serving in the legislature, we now have elected officials who will do nearly anything to justify holding their elected office.  Hence, they feel a need to author or sponsor legislation that their constituents will laud.  Then, once in office, they pass legislation that gives the legislators themselves ridiculous perks and benefits not enjoyed by their constituents or the public at large.  (Did you know that insider trading laws do not apply to members of Congress?)  These perks create a huge incentive for legislators to perpetually run for re-election.  As a result, our elected officials, at most levels of government and certainly at the federal level, have become professional politicians.  This is a far cry and massive departure from the days when patriots sought election to public office in order to better the nation and its citizens.

Finally, the effects of the above are already hurting our nation.  We have a Congress that cannot even attempt to solve the issues the country faces.  Congress members are so entrenched in their opposing positions that "compromise" has become a dirty word. Extreme positions are the norm.  The U.S. Senate was once widely considered the "world's greatest deliberative body" and its members collegial.  Not anymore.  The recent credit rating issue, the "fiscal cliff"debacle and the "sequester" fiasco serve as prime examples.  The commission that established the frame-work for the sequester created a disaster scenario; one that had to be avoided at all costs. They felt that the consequences of failing to reach an agreement would be so severe that Congress would have to reach an agreement (a compromise) in order to avoid the sequester.  We all now know what the result was.  We got the sequester.  Members of Congress made a deliberate decision when they let the sequester commence rather than coming to a compromised solution.  They knew that the sequester would strike a blow to our already faltering economy and they let it happen despite this knowledge.  It is absurd and shameful that the only definitive action that Congress took to assuage some effects of the sequester occurred when members of Congress were directly affected by the furlough of air traffic controllers.  To them, delayed flights were unacceptable so they acted quickly to allow air traffic controllers to avoid being furloughed.  What a disaster it was for them to have delayed flights!  Nevermind the children in the Head Start program who are being directly affected by the sequester.  On time airlines are more important!  The dysfunction of government and its failure, for several years in a row now, to even establish a budget have further injured the nation.  Our credit rating was downgraded.  This hinders the ability of the government to pay its bills and pay off the enormous deficit.  Another harmful result of the above is its effect on foreign government's impressions of the US.  These issues reflect poorly on the US and foreign governments see the US as weak.

Much of the above can be traced to recent Gerrymandering.  Wikipedia defines Gerrymandering as "a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts."  Gerrymandering has created Congressional districts whose constituents are largely comprised of people on the left or the right.  As such, they elect members of Congress who hold similar views.  As a further result thereof, once elected, a member of Congress is expected to vote in a particular way.  This situation creates an atmosphere of fear for the member of Congress.  They fear that if they compromise their position, in order to reach a solution for any given issue, they will be punished by their constituents.  They may have to face an opponent from the same political party in their primary or they may lose financial support from campaign contributors.  This fear is heightened by the above-described constant election cycle and the 24 hour news cycle.  Any compromise will be instantly reported and exposed.  This, the member of Congress cannot accept.  In turn, they stick to their extreme position, watch the money roll in from lobbyists and PACs (political action committees), accomplish little, if anything, and do whatever they can to secure re-election to a highly paid position of comfort, privilege and excess.  (At least until they become entangled in the next sex scandal).  This situation has created rancor between the members of Congress and destroyed any semblance of collegiality.  This is evidenced by voluntary departures, or decision not to seek re-election, of several members of Congress; members that did accomplish things by reaching across the aisle and compromising.  

The proposed legislation in Illinois concerning a judge's ability to "impose an extended term sentence" when “mob action” involves "electronic communication," is silly and will accomplish little, if any good.  In and of itself, whether the bill becomes a law or not is a trivial matter in the grand scheme of things.  It is, however, emblematic of the failed framework we have established and that has resulted in our flawed system.  We must take decisive, serious and selfless action in order to forestall or eliminate the consequences that have resulted from this framework.  Failure to do so will critically affect our position as the world's only superpower.  Are there any patriots left who will "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country?"  The survival of our nation may depend on this person.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any ideas to fix these problems?  Please leave any questions, comments or proposed solutions in the comment section below. 


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