3 Deaf Mice: Obama, the Court of Appeals & Local Law Enforcement

yes we scan

In the wake of the Court of Appeals decision which ruled that surveillance on wireless service such as a cell phones and other mobile devices required a warrant, specifically in cases where law enforcement agencies were tracking cell tower pings, there now seems to be even more to the story.

The Obama administration is advising local law enforcement agencies to keep everything on the hush hush regarding their surveillance equipment. Specifically, the administration has asked that details surrounding the functionality of the equipment remain “unknown” to the public. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the new technology is fairly unknown and with that unknown comes the uncertainty of whether or not it violates some Constitutional rights. (You know, that pesky 4th amendment.)

“These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement to the Associated Press. “If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them.” The ACLU is currently fighting for the release of such documents and has spearheaded efforts to put pressure on Congress to rein in unconstitutional surveillance practices.

What many may find even more disturbing is the idea that the producers of such surveillance equipment designed this technology with secrecy clauses in regards to the FEC and have required local agencies to operate the equipment in cooperation with the FBI.

Is your tin foil hat buzzing just a little at this point?!

The FBI states that information cannot be shared because if it were, ‘they’ would no longer be able to “protect” us from terrorism. Yes. They really said that. Some states, such as Florida, have tried to trump the federal silencing through loose open-records laws, however, the U.S. Marshal’s Service confiscated the obtained documents.

So, to sum up…not only do we not know why or where such devices are being used, we don’t even know how the equipment that has been designed secretly and specifically to infringe upon our rights operates. We don’t know how much this equipment costs, we don’t know who all has them nor do we know with whom they are sharing information. And now we have an administration instructing local law enforcement agencies to “keep it that way”.

Are you worried yet?

Grace.

You wouldn’t have to read many articles on this blog or spend much time with me in person to learn I’ve got a feisty, snarky stubbornness in the way I communicate politically. I have my own way of doing things, to say the least. You probably think you know what to expect on this blog a day after an election…but I may surprise you.

The majority of news outlets today will say that it “didn’t go our way”, but I just can’t see it that way. Since the inception of this campaign, it was never leaning “our way”. It was always “not enough time”, “too big of a district”, “too small a staff” (thanks, y’all) and “not enough money”. Too tall a hill, if you will. But the fight was never about that. The fight was about the unique non-political message of our candidate and the ever-turning wheels of the vehicle in which this grand movement is traveling. The messenger of this movement will say otherwise but there is no better example, no better mentor, no better delivery than what we’ve seen through this culture shift. If you followed the campaign even a little, or the legislature for the last 4 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A lot of you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, though, because it’s a quiet, yet effective push to make a difference and do what is right. It’s grace.

I moved to South Georgia on a whim and a prayer just 77 days ago to work in a capacity I didn’t understand, in a town I didn’t know for a cause that is still much larger than myself or anything I will ever be. I put fear, doubt, and everything known to me aside and trusted in the Lord’s plan for my life. It’s the most freeing feeling I’ve ever felt.

I woke up this post-election morning and panicked because it was 7:28am and I feared I would miss my morning 7:30a.m conference call with our team or still have my “morning voice” when I called in. But like the morning after a break-up, it was empty. When it’s abrupt and there’s no closure, we often want to place blame or find a “well, we should have…”,. I can’t find that in my heart. Only Grace.

I still rushed to get to the office because I wanted to be there–Our tiny nook just off what South Georgia calls a “highway”. Even in breaking down the office, I want it to reflect the same heart as the entire campaign. Only Grace.

I’ve never been prouder of a campaign, of a candidate or my own work.
I have nothing negative to say about the entire process, or “The Other Guys”, and I know that that isn’t always a gift we are granted the morning after an election. Only Grace.

The majority of the people in my life will never know the true impact that last 11 weeks have had on my life. I found a quiet confidence in myself, a renewed faith in my neighbors and an appreciation for the simple things. I see everything and everyone differently. My communication skills have been refined and my political ideology, though still unwavering, is more principled. I’ve built relationships with people who have turned my world right-side-up. Only Grace.

The majority of news outlets today will say that it “didn’t go our way”. I cant find one filter to look through that presents the situation in that light. Only Grace.

I can put my campaign shirt back on WITH A SMILE to go pick up 2,250 yard signs across 19 counties.

Only Grace.

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Loitering on Punk’d

Am I on an episode of punk’d? No, seriously. Am I?
Newly elected State Rep. Sam Moore has introduced legislation that would eliminate the crime of loitering in the State of Georgia, remove circumstances in which citizens would need to identify themselves to law enforcement officers, (as it stands now, you must provide identifying information, even if it is only a first-tier encounter) and also amend circumstances for convicted sex offenders.

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The problem, which has just about everyone up in arms, is here:
1033Because loitering would no longer be enforceable, law enforcement would be unable to prohibit convicted sex offenders from “hanging” where minors congregate.

This is because the proper time and care of educating and informing the public on WHY the issue is important to Rep. Moore and his cause, and also what the potential ramifications are, were not given. Instead, this bill drops, Moore comes out swinging in defense of his bill and everyone is screaming he hates children.

As a staunch advocate of Liberty and a person who understands the true brokenness of the criminal justice system, this is a terrible, awful, up-to-no good bill– not necessarily because of the intent, but because of the ramifications and because we have now prohibited civil discourse.

Loitering – if not on private property- probably shouldn’t be a crime. It’s harmless for most and generally applies to bored teens in bagging jeans. But how do you handle the sexual registry aspect that pertains to loitering? We argue that parents have a reasonable expectation that their children will be safe when they send them to school. It’s why we hate gun-free zones. It’s why we support armed teachers in schools. If this is an attack on Republicans and conservatives who don’t necessarily support criminal justice system reforms, this is wrong.  If this is an attempt to make Republican colleagues look less conservative, this is wrong. If our goal is to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, how do you circumvent the issue of protecting those who cannot protect themselves? I don’t say this often, but I do find this to be one of those special times where perhaps an alternative measure should be implemented, but at a minimum, prepared.

Let’s also talk about the national stage. What happens when someone not familiar with the Georgia Liberty movement, like oh say CNN, picks this and blasts headlines about Republicans in Georgia who want to allow convicted sex  offenders to be around children?  Take a look at the headline from the Cherokee Tribune. Unfortunately, now the environment is too volatile and hostile for the community, and fellow legislators, to have the conversation about this legislation.

Paging the Heartless Conservative

Disclaimer: The following blog is not in defense of current law. I fully understand the concept of disobedience to unjust laws. While reading, please keep in mind that good policy stems from laws that are applied equally and across the board. No law, positive or negative, should target a specific group of people.

Today there is a Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Meeting for House Bill 965, the 911 Medical Amnesty Bill. You can read the bill here, but essentially, HB 965 (which is what I like to call a “heart-string bill”…tug tug) would provide protection against arrest for drug or alcohol-related charges for people who call 911 on behalf of those facing a life-threatening overdose and would in turn allow expanded access to medication used to halt overdose reactions. Representative Sharon Cooper is the primary sponsor of this bill.  Currently, 16 other states (and D.C.) have similar laws and 13 other states are considering 911 Medical Amnesty laws.

I’ll be frank: I don’t like the bill. I don’t particularly care for laws that would help (or hurt) a certain group of people. We call these laws unjust. Similar to Haley’s Hope Act (the medical cannabis legislation), which privileges a very specific group of people with access to a different type of healthcare while excluding a plethora of other diseases, HB 965 limits legal ramifications for those who over-consume. Some may argue that this is because of use and/or possession, not the sale of such drugs. Regardless, this legislation specifically limits legal prosecution of some simply because they used too much of a certain illegal substance.

Proponents of the bill claim that people should not have to choose between death and legal repercussions for their loved ones in the chaos of an overdose. This argument can play for both teams. Certainly one would agree that survival is the first priority, but are we really trying to take the road less traveled to tell friends and family that you didn’t call 911 when you encountered someone who overdosed because you were afraid of the legal ramifications? I’ll also note that if, as conservatives, we value life as much as we claim we do, we shouldn’t use fear of legal ramifications as a driving force for decision making.
I could make the same argument for self-defense. “I was scared to shoot the man rummaging through my home, holding a knife, because it’s illegal to kill someone.” There could be legal repercussions from actions taken in those situations, yet, people still make the choice to defend themselves.
Another argument is that anyone who legally takes opioid medication (like Percocet, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Methadone, Lortab, etc) could benefit from this legislation as well. Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. If someone is prescribed a medication, the likelihood of failing to call 911 over legal ramifications is next to zero. In fact, a large portion of overdose cases from these types of medicines come from legal prescriptions and legal dosage levels.
(Also, point of personal privilege: The word “Amnesty” has horrific connotations due to immigration reform. One would think that conservatives could come up with a better word to use in the title of the bill..yes? no? maybe?)

Now, I understand that many times drug overdoses are directly correlated to addiction and disease, but the role of the legislature is not to enact laws that categorize to what groups of people the law is applicable. Addiction is a sickness and painful for everyone involved but we cannot discredit current laws on the books. We don’t need another feel-good, tug-at-your-heart-strings law. If the law is good for one, it should be good for all and should be applied equally and justly.  Sometimes good intentions make bad policy. This is one of those times.

Teaching Kids to Hate

Last night I had dinner with my mom and we spent the majority of the night discussing politics and the generational changes. As the daughter, and only child, of a single mom, I grew up differently than my friends with two parents. I grew up watching a hard-worker never ask for help, never take a handout and never miss a sporting or school event. Over the course of our talk, I tried to articulate the effect her hard work had on my own perspective and how it molded me. I never heard her complain about work. I never saw her shun someone different than us. I saw good so I wanted to do good and be like my mom.

Since high school, I’ve spent a lot of time working in my church pre-school, teaching Sunday school and also as a nanny. I’ve had the opportunity to hear a lot of children speak on their perspectives of the world and I must say, overall, they have a much brighter outlook than us. They are so pure and innocent and it certainly makes me wonder the point at which they change. Is it because of what we tell them to do or what we don’t tell them to do?

Growing up, we went to church, religiously, but my mom never told me why I had to go to church. I attended, listened, but at a young age, realized that no one can dictate what kind of Christian I am. My faith was (and continues to be) mine and my relationship is personal. My mom never told me “This is what we believe and you have to believe it, too.” She never said I had to subscribe to specific denomination. She answered questions, which were plentiful, but allowed me to draw my own conclusions. She also told me that when I was an adult, it was my choice to not attend church. Somehow I always managed to stay on course and here I am…still a Christian.

I recently had a similar conversation with a state representative who was telling me about his daughter questioning homosexuality, which is not accepted in their religion. Instead of telling her what he wanted her to think, he asked what she thought. Amazingly, she subscribed to the faith-based answer.

I think back to age six, visiting with my mom at her hair appointment. Her hair dresser was gay and talked about his boyfriend during their conversation. I asked questions later but my mom just explained that he was good at his job and he was a good person. What he believed or how he lived his life didn’t change those things. I was six years old and I remember that conversation vividly because my mom put the person -as an actual person- first.

Sometimes I think we get in the habit of sharing too much with children. (Please do not mistake this for telling you how to raise your children- I am the strongest advocate for everything stemming from parental choice). But I think we teach our children to divide, judge and dissociate. I won’t discredit the victim mentality in our society, but when you teach your child that they can’t even play with the kid who has two mommies, you’re teaching a malleable child that they should choose principles over humanity when no choice needs to be made. Should you teach your children that those not like you are unacceptable as part of their life?

Children aren’t stupid. They will adhere to the values you show them. If they see you work hard, they will simply come to know that is what is expected of them. If they see you volunteering at church, they will see the value and joy you gain from doing so. They will see values at work instead of hearing values in your command. Isn’t that a better route than telling them they have to help the poor because “it’s what we always do” or “because I said so”.

If you consider the #snowpacalypse that hit Atlanta just a few weeks ago, people opened their hearts and homes to neighbors and strangers. I doubt before helping someone push a car or offering snacks if the helper asked the helpee if they voted for Obama or supported gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana. Yes, these issues are important and one should always remain true to their principles, but we are humans before politicos and we have all have enough flaws (like chewing with your mouth open and interrupting) that can be deterrents in friendships and relationships.

78% of Georgians are Anti-Second Amendment?

It’s a surprise to absolutely no one by now that campus carry is an issue close to my heart. As a Georgia State University graduate, I believe students deserve better and I feel the state is wrong in hindering their right to protect themselves. Because of this, it irritates me greatly when someone tells me “No one really cares about campus carry” or “It’s just not a hot topic right now”. Oh but it is– in Georgia and across the nation– so you can imagine my confusion upon the release of the AJC poll recently stating 78% of Georgia voters oppose legalizing weapon possession on college campuses. Well, I’ll be darned. I thought this was an interesting tidbit of information so much so that several folks did some investigating and this is what we found.

Let’s discuss by playing the circle game:

  • Jay Bookman is the AJC writer here and polling connoisseur.
  • Bookman’s boss at the AJC is Bert Roughton …the Senior Managing Editor.
  • Mr. Roughton’s wife is a lady named Melinda Ennis Roughton.
  • Mrs. Ennis Roughton holds the ever-so-ironic occupation of Co-Head for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Atlanta.
  • She is also Executive Director for Georgia’s WIn List, (the Democrat organization looking to elect liberal women to higher offices in Georgia).
  • Georgia WIN will be having their annual Legislative Breakfast on January 30th and the keynote speaker is Jay Bookman.

Now, I am not discrediting the entire poll (which is available here: AJC POLL January 2014) but I do want to consider EXACTLY who was polled.
We’re talking about respondents of which:

  • 41% believe the Georgia economy is not in good shape,
  • 47% believe we should expand Medicare through the ACA,
  • and only 38% of the respondents had children in schools in Georgia.

Nowhere in the poll was the concept of the campus carry act explained: that it would only apply to legal weapons carry permit holders (those over the age of 21 or honorably discharged military)– meaning, people who likely already conceal carry everywhere else in the state.
People uninformed on the issue hear, “Do you want to give college kids guns to take to take to their beer pong matches?” I take great offense to firing off questions (see what I did there) to an uninformed electorate.

I simply can’t help myself in being suspicious of ulterior motives by the AJC here when the reporter et. al is in the sack with the anti-gun lobby and the questions mislead the public. The issue is a Constitutional one….and this poll leads us to believe that 78% of Georgians don’t stand for the Constitution. Again, I am just shocked to my very core that the AJC would seek to mislead.

Society: To Hell in a Handbasket With Just One App?

The “HuffPo Women” section of the Huffington Post often brings tears to my eyes. Tears from laughing at ridiculous or crying because we’re doomed…it matters not. Supposedly a page to empower women and highlight “equality” between men and women, the page is often littered with topics that distinctly make women…feminine. This week, one of the articles details “The Most Offensive Apps for Women” with the most offensive one being ‘SkinnyCam’ where you can supposedly upload a photo of yourself and “pinch” yourself thinner to see what you would look like if you shed a few pounds here and there.

::sigh::

The whole ‘body images of women are deteriorating on account of societal pressure’ really bugs the heck out of me. Allow me to turn their argument around on them: Essentially feminists are saying that women aren’t strong enough to combat the “pressures” to be thin from society. I could argue that men in magazines and on TV shows have an unreasonable expectation for their looks as well but we don’t see men caving to the pressure and crying in their clothes because they have to go purchase the next size up in jeans. So are women weak?

The reason I haven’t given feminists any credence to date is because they make arguments out of the most ridiculous things. I doubt men sit around uploading photos of women onto SkinnyCam with their buddies drinking beer and acting all manly only to then return home to show their girlfriend, wife, life partner, mate –whatever-term-is-now-politically-acceptable– how much better they would look if they would just tweak the necessary curves according to a smartphone app. (They may do it now that I have suggested it, but I digress.) Can we all agree how ridiculous that sounds?

As a person who had a ever too long period of my life where I was not thin, I can confidently say that the pressures to be fit, thin and lean do not come from men or society or the magazine covers. The pressure is a personal thing. If you take away all the magazines, the TV ads, the Victoria Secret fashion shows and every last man…women will still feel inferior. Women don’t sit on the couch eating M&M’s and white cheddar popcorn and suddenly begin to feel self-conscious when a L’Oreal commercial comes on the screen. The folded arms, keep your purse in front of you while tugging on all your clothes come from standing next to a woman you feel looks better than you. This is because WOMEN COMPARE THEMSELVES TO ONE ANOTHER!
This will never change but ignoring the concept and deflecting does nothing. So I would like to see women acknowledge that they themselves want to look a certain way.

Magazines or no magazines, app or no app, men or no men…Let’s take some [personal] responsibility here.

Constitutional Values? You will rally for these bills…

I’ll keep this short and to the point. The Georgia legislative session has begun and because of the shortened session, the gas pedal is down for legislation. If I were a betting gal, I’d put money on the bad ones getting rammed through while the ones that restore our liberties face a Christie-like traffic jam.

As Constitutional conservatives, bills worth following include the following:

  • HB100 — concerning the Governor’s executive power over firearms and ammunition in a state of emergency. I wrote a full article on this bill, which you can read here. The bill has a substantial number of legislative signers but currently lacks support from the Governor’s office. We’ll keep waiting, but some folks struggle letting go of their own power. If I had to pick *one* piece of legislation to pass this session, it would be this one.
  • HB195 — regarding regionalism. This one is complicated, so if you missed all the articles, catch up here and here.
  • HB25 — a jury nullification bill. If you don’t understand jury nullification, you can read here and see why it’s necessary in a time where our justice system is quite twisted.
  • HB512 — This is a comprehensive gun bill that died on the last day of the 2013 session and included campus carry. In order for this to be considered a “good” bill, two things need to happen: 1) the term “mentally ill” needs to be narrowly defined because as the bill currently stands, those receiving court-mandated counseling and care would not be able to obtain a carry permit (this includes alcohol and drug counseling for people who are convicted of DUI) and 2) the training mandate for students is removed. Don’t mandate me, bro.
    Some are suddenly touting this as a property rights thing. This is only what we’ve been saying for 223 years.
  • HB699 – pertaining to warrantless surveillance by law enforcement and state agencies which also has a complete article detailing the parameters and evils. What I like most about this bill, which I tell you here, is that it actually monetarily charges the people who violate this law.
  • HB 707 — which deals with the Affordable Care Act and essentially nullifies the law in Georgia. There are several arguments that the bill wouldn’t actually do anything other than make a statement to the federal government and could be turned over in court. These are justifiable concerns, but Georgians are waiting for our elected officials to stick up for us and also to show they have courage. This is an opportunity. In addition, it’s an initiative by the People.
  • HB 718 — for raw milk. This is an easy one!! Full article here, but if this doesn’t pass, I will lose all hope for the Georgia legislature. Restoring a simple consumer right should be a quick and painless vote for all Republicans.

Other notable pieces of legislation include:
HB 181 - prohibiting EBT users from using ATMs to obtain cash
HB560 - a drone bill, though I’d rather just see a resolution encouraging dealing with this with other Constitutional rights. Jokes. Sort of.
HB733 – Georgia Religious Liberties Act of 2014 for students in public schools

It’s worth noting that many of these initiatives are not new and are ones many of us have been following for quite some time. If you want to contact your legislators, you can find their contact information here. I also fully support any bill that repeals an existing law. Next week I’ll be posting the bills I would like to see fail…because everyone loves a good hit piece.

Raw Milk Sans Social Unrest

Georgia has a raw milk bill!
Representative Scot Turner (along with co-sponsor Reps Allison, Brockway, Caldwell, and Spencer) filed HB 718 on Monday.
Currently, raw milk is technically not illegal in Georgia but it can only be purchased for animal consumption (pets, livestock, etc) and you can’t sell it. You see what they did there?

If you’ve ever had raw milk, you understand that the consistency is a bit difficult and it smells like cow, but this issue isn’t about flavor. This also isn’t about the gross process of pasteurization and homogenization to get that “safe” gallon you buy ever week. This is about government overstepping it’s bounds and the legislature finally offering a remedy. Currently, we look to an organization that says alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs are “safe” but the possible dangers of raw milk are so horrific, it must be heavily regulated on the state and federal level. So allow me to articulate a few arguments in favor of raw milk:

  • Raw milk is not dangerous for you because you don’t HAVE to drink it. Certainly there is an assumed risk in consuming any type of food/drink, but we cannot fully be “protected” by any government entity. I am allergic to peanuts. They can make me very sick but peanuts are not illegal.
  • On the premise that raw milk should not and will not be illegal, citizens of Georgia should have the freedom to trade, barter, consume, sell and purchase goods and services.
  • If consumers are willing to accept the risk, they should have the freedom to choose what kind of milk they want to drink. Right now, state law forces people to take raw milk to the black market (yes, people, our government over-regulation has taken us to the black market for milk) where the “all or nothing” mentality actually allows more health and safety concerns.
  • The current law criminalizes a behavior that has been legal since the dawn of time. It’s only been in the recent progressive decades of reliance on government to tell us what is and isn’t okay that the raw milk ban has congealed (Again, see what I did there?) People survived for hundreds of years on raw milk.

This issue is about personal responsibility and making your own decisions. If you rally for lower taxes, limited government, and less regulation, raw milk legalization should be on your radar. Don’t be scared. The best thing about raw milk is that if it terrifies you, you can simply get in your vehicle, drive to Publix and purchase the milk of your choice from the grocery. Choices are good. So, we can infer that choosing to support HB718 is an excellent choice if we want more choice and less government interference. :)

Judges, Doctors Trumping Legal Contracts?

I will admit that sometimes I forget to keep up with news. Many days I rely solely on Facebook and Twitter for my ‘headlines’ and then go find out what’s going on. I don’t recommend this plan for information as you will generally miss out on many “non-trending” newsworthy items. So if, like me, you hadn’t been closely following the Jahi McMath case, you likely haven’t mulled over the legal ramifications of what is actually happening in the case.

A quick overview of the Jahi McMath illustrates a truly devastating case of a 13-year old girl put under for basic removal of adenoids and tonsils. After surgery, she began bleeding and went into cardiac arrest. She was later declared “brain-dead” by two physicians and one court-ordered physician (where this court-ordered physician came in, I’m still researching). Her heart and lungs continue to operate but she lacks brain activity. These functions are how cessation of life is determined and are also the cause of the conundrum in this case.

Little Jahi has been living (according to her family) in a ‘dead’ (according to medicine) state for 26 days (as of publishing). During a time when her family is not only grieving the damage to their daughter, they are amidst a legal battle which includes a restraining order [which is actually set to expire today at 5pm] against the Children’s hospital at which Jahi was originally admitted. She has since been transferred to an undisclosed location and is receiving intravenous nutrients as you read this.

I remember the Terry Schiavo case, though I was young for much of it, and I remember the legal battle and the slaughtering of both involved parties in the news for years and years. The problem then and the problem now is a moral one, not a legal one…and we ALL know you cannot legislate morality. Life care, medical decisions, these have personal consequences. And when no formal arrangements are made for their care, these things happen. Of course loved ones are going to hold on for as long as they possibly can. Parents have the right to do this for their minor children. Husbands and wives have the right to make these decisions, too. Any one designated as the ‘medical power of attorney’ has the right to do this. It is essentially a legal contract.

At the present time, the McMath family is not costing the California any money, either. Because Jahi was declared ‘dead’, insurance will not cover medical costs, however, pro-life and Catholic organizations as well as the Terry Schiavo Foundation have all funneled money to help cover costs.

My final concern doesn’t really warrant too long of an explanation but it is one of the most important questions we must ask: If the practiced religion of the McMath’s prohibit the removal of life support measures, should a Judge have the discretion and power to override that?

And what about the right to privacy?

It makes sense that this is one of the reasons the Affordable Care Act is so frightening. Any type of government intervention –on any level, for any reason– is a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line? Court ordered out-patient counseling? Judicial supervision and mandates for in-patient rehabilitation? Sterilization? Refusal of care against familial wishes that ultimately determine life or death?

I don’t know about you but I struggle with the desire for a legal responsibility and legal contract to be upheld and the complete insensitivity on behalf of the courts to demand people ‘pull the plug’. You cannot ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation because every case has different circumstances, emotions and religious beliefs that come into play. The question here is simple, but not simply defined: How much State is too much State?