April 16, 2008

By the incompetent, for the competent

I got this comment from the ubiquitous "anonymous" in alleged response to my post here the other day:
"Rather than accept the will of the people you now want to deprive the people of their right to vote."
Where did I say I didn't accept the "will of the people"? Of course I accept the "will of the people." That's the whole problem.

One of the provisions of the Wisconsin constitution reads, "Laws may be enacted excluding from the right of suffrage persons adjudged by a court to be incompetent or partially incompetent."

All we need to do is adjust the definition of incompetence somewhat. And even then, we don't have to adjust it all that much, because such persons would be excluded from voting based on a showing of mere partial incompetence.

It needs only be adjusted enough to exclude, for example, persons who actually believe that Charlie Sykes is telling the truth. Because if you don't have the wherewithall to make that simple determination, then you're practically within the purview of the legal definition of competence as it stands, which refers to the ability to tell right from wrong.

Determinations of incompetence, in the legal sense, seek to adduce some degree of mental infirmity or incapacity. Years ago I helped a friend of mine coach a hockey team of so-called incompetents. They were a bunch of young men with Down Syndrome and other forms of what we used to call mental retardation. Incompetent? I think not. For one thing, they were about the sunniest, most carefree gang of human beings you ever met. Until they got on the ice, when they became as like one of those multi-elbowed subcontinental deities but with the head of Gordie Howe.

I can't say whether they knew the difference between right and wrong, according to the legal sense of competence, but they knew the difference between hockey and not-hockey. And for Canadians at least, that's far more important.

For plenty of Wisconsinites, too. The laws of statistics dictate that of the 100% of attendees at Milwaukee Admirals or Wisconsin Badgers games, only 19% of them voted on April 1. Less if they drove up from Illinois, where they're forced to endure the Chicago Blackhawks.

Besides, you want incompetent? Check out this column by another of Milwaukee's medium wave chuckleheads:
Butler, a former public defender, is such an extremist on the rights of criminals that he has been dubbed "Loophole Louie" in reference to his willingness to overturn convictions.
Mark Belling should be excluded from suffrage on the strength of that slice of rampantly fallacious idiocy alone. And anybody who reads that while nodding blithely in agreement clearly doesn't know the difference between right and wrong either. That's incompetence.

What's that you say? The legal definition of competence embodying the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is a reference to morality and not the competence to make factual determinations? Well, sorry about your luck, but you're probably the same people who criticized a Butler teevee ad depicting Justice Butler as "doing what's right," so you can't have it both ways. Furthermore, the objections to that ad were misplaced as a matter of the philosophy of law, but that's a subject for another day and another post.

Moreover, how does one get to portray as an indication of the "will of the people" only 19% of them bothering to exercise their right to suffrage? It seems to me that the "will of the people" is better expressed by the 81% who didn't vote because they didn't care, or didn't even know there was an election on April 1. If 81% of registered voters don't care enough to vote in the first place, then how could they possibly object to an effort to ensure only the best and smartest judges sit on the State's highest court of appeals?

Chances are good they wouldn't care about that either anyway.

Anonymous goes on, quoting the Gettysburg Address of all things, which was uttered by a U.S. president who represents near-anathema to proponents of so-called "States' rights," to jabber some nonsense about "liberals." Even as things stand, elections to the Wisconsin Supreme Court are supposed to be non-partisan. Last I checked, the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules are part and parcel of the Wisconsin statutes, which are themselves a direct expression of the "will of the people," enacted as they are by the popularly elected legislature.

I regret to say that even anonymous her-/him-/itself would be swept within my proposed adjusted definition of competence, if not the existing one. This is the reason I moderate comments here, to generously protect persons adjudged to be embarrassing themselves publicly. But occasionally I slip up and let one through.


Terrence Berres said...

"Last I checked, the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules are part and parcel of the Wisconsin statutes..."

Aren't the SCRs analogous to administrative rules? Rules of pleading and practice, per sec. 751.12, are literally incorporated in the statutes. The SCRs follow the Appendix in the statute books.

Anonymous said...

"This is the reason I moderate comments here, to generously protect persons adjudged to be embarrassing themselves publicly."

Now, this is dedication -

capper said...

joe c.-

iT only modifies comments in case I mention spiral notebooks.