Monday, July 22, 2002

If God wanted you to have a tattoo...

I find I haven’t previously mentioned Bush’s nominee to the 5th Circuit, Priscilla Owen. She can probably best be destroyed by tarring her with Enron. When she ran for the Texas Supreme Court, she took a few thousand of their money, and then ruled for them in a tax case worth $225,000 for them. The White House defends this behaviour by noting that 7 of the 9 justices took Enron money and that she had to raise millions to run for the court. So it’s the system that’s corrupt, not her. I know I feel better. But the real reason to destroy her is her fierce anti-abortionism. In a case on judicial bypass of parental notification, she wanted pregnant girls to show an awareness of the physiology of what would happen to the fetus, that they would suffer psychologically and that there were religious objections to abortion. The last, of course, is why she is not fit to serve on any bench. But it’s still the piddling Enron thing that could actually get her, so I say go for it.

Israel looks like backing off deporting the families of suicide bombers. Was this because the militant groups threatened to go after the families of Israeli officials? Was it because they finally realized how bad it made them look, like last week’s apartheid plan, like 2000's attempt to pass a law legalizing the taking of hostages by the government? Is it worse that they actually consider these things to be reasonable steps, or that they’re so out of step with the rest of the world that they don’t even realize how morally repulsive these ideas are to, you know, sane people?

A line from a Daily Telegraph story, which I think it would be more fun to present without explanation: A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: “This is not something we’ve come across before. It’s not a good idea to put parts of your body into a computer scanner, but then kids will be kids.”

From the Times, news that there are some things people do with their bodies that Ken Starr does consider sacred and private:

July 23, 2002
Starr switches from Monica to body art
From Tim Reid in Washington
KENNETH STARR, the Republican lawyer who hounded President
Clinton with his exhaustive investigation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, has a new case that this time goes to the heart of the Constitution: the right to get a tattoo.

Mr Starr, a solicitor-general when President Bush Sr was in the White House and a man known for his conservative bent, has taken up the fight of Ronald White, a body artist and punk rocker, who has fallen foul of South Carolina’s anti-tattoo law.

Mr White, 33, is taking his crusade to the US Supreme Court, claiming that needling skin with his designs of dragons, gargoyles and angels should be entitled to the same First Amendment free expression rights as other artists enjoy. In 1999, frustrated by the failure of South Carolina’s politicians to repeal their 1966 law - Oklahoma is the only other state to retain a ban - Mr White tattooed a man on television. The South Carolina authorities took a dim view. He was arrested, fined $2,500 (£1,620) and put on five years’ probation. For that time Mr White cannot carry pistols or rifles, get a drink in a bar or leave the state without informing his probation officer. He appealed to the state’s highest court, citing his constitutional rights, but lost.

Now, with the help of Mr Starr, who views his case as a serious First Amendment issue, he is asking the highest court in the land to decide the vexed issue of tattoos. “It’s our personal right as Americans to choose how we will express ourselves - on our bodies especially - and that is of the upmost importance to me,” Mr White said.

Mr Starr told the court, which is deciding whether to hear the case in full, that it was wrong to outlaw Mr White’s art “in a society that protects liquor advertising and pornography”. He told reporters, however, that he does not himself wear a tattoo, and has no intention of getting one.

Mr White’s nemesis thus far has been J. M. “Jake” Knotts, a South Carolina congressman and a former policeman and Vietnam veteran, who reached the House in 1994 on an anti- tattoo ticket, claiming that they are unclean, ungodly and bad for his state’s image.

“If God wanted you to have a tattoo, he’d have put your name on you,” Mr Knotts, known in the tattoo world as “Thou Shalt Knotts”, declares. [Personally, I feel the same thing about pants, but the police don’t agree with me.]

The tattoo ban dates from the 1960s, when a parlour in New York was blamed for a hepatitis outbreak. Most states banned the practice, but have since relented.

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