Thursday, July 3, 2008

Don't Touch That Sparkler

It seems that each year in Costa Mesa, we face the perennial fireworks controversy. Opponents of fireworks sales cite safety hazards and effects on infants and pets. Proponents cite revenue generated and the American tradition.

The city does have rules regarding sales and discharge of fireworks, enforced with variable success. Under Costa Mesa Municipal Codes Section 12-20 fireworks may not be discharged in any park. Under Section 9-190, fireworks may not be sold to anyone under the age of eighteen or discharged by anyone under eighteen; fireworks may not be thrown and may be discharged only between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on the 4th of July. It is illegal to discharge fireworks on any other day or any other time in Costa Mesa.

Those who don’t like fireworks are asked to tolerate them for the limited period that discharge is permitted. Maybe it is reasonable, even patriotic, to celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks, but sometimes I wonder if some of the biggest fireworks aficionados may see the 4th as nothing more than a chance to take off work, drink beer, and blow stuff up.

To allow those truly observing this important day in our nation’s history to celebrate with fireworks if they so desire, I propose the following quiz. To purchase or discharge fireworks, one would have to score at least 8 points on the following quiz. To sell fireworks, one would need a score of at least 10.

Test yourself

1. What do we celebrate on July 4?

a. Right to vote
b. Freeing the slaves
c. United States independence
d. Right to form labor unions
e. End of Prohibition

Answer: c. The 4th of July is officially called “Independence Day”. It marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Score one point if correct. Minus 10 points for any other answer.

2. From whom did we become independent?

a. Great Britain
d.Multi-national corporations

Answer: a. Great Britain/England.

Score one point if correct.

3. Who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence?

a. Benjamin Franklin
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. George Washington
d. John Hancock

Answer: b. Thomas Jefferson.

Score one point if correct.

4. Who was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence?

a. Benjamin Franklin
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. George Washington
d. John Hancock

Answer: d. John Hancock

Score one point if correct.

5. The Constitution gives us the right to “life, liberty, and happiness”. True or false.

False on several counts. The correct expression is “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” and the Constitution never uses this phrase, which is from the Declaration of Independence.

Score one point if correct. Score an extra half point if you knew the source of the phrase.

6. From where do we get our inalienable rights?

a. Constitution
b. Declaration of Independence
c. Congress
d. President
e. Our Creator

Answer: e. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

Score one point if correct. Deduct a point if you answered c or d.

7. Why do we create governments?

a. Keep us safe from enemies foreign and domestic
b. Provide roads, schools and other necessary infrastructure
c. Preserve our rights
d. Entertain us

Answer: c. Preserve our rights. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. That last bit still gives me a thrill. Remember it next time any elected official gets arrogant.

Score one point if correct.

8. Which of the following was/were not included in the Declaration of Independence among the “injuries and usurpations” committed by the King of Great Britain:

a. Dissolving elected legislative bodies
b. Failure to approve appropriate immigration laws
c. Appointing too many bureaucrats
d. Giving the military authority over civil authorities
e. Taxation without representation
f. Interference with international trade
g. Deprivation of trial by jury
h. Overseas trials
i. Working with others to allow foreign jurisdiction to supersede American laws.

None of the above.

a. “He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly… He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected… suspending our own Legislatures”
b. “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…”
c. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
d. “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.”
e. “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”.
f. “cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world”
g. “depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury”
h. “transporting us beyond Seas to be tried”
i. “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation”

Score one point if correct. Deduct a point if you said e.

9. Which of the following is/are not protected from government interference under the Bill of Rights?

a. Freedom of religion
b. Right to tell stupid jokes
c. Right to an education
d. Right to a jury trial
e. Right to invite whoever I want to a party
f. Right not to be offended by hate speech
g. Right to a writ of habeas corpus

Answer: c, f, and g. Habeas corpus(g), which prohibits holding you in jail or prison without charges, is so important it is included in the main body of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 9), so that is a bit of a trick question. The writ of habeas corpus forces those holding you to identify the charges against you.

Freedom of religion (a) is protected under the First Amendment, as is freedom of speech (b) and freedom of assembly (e), just so you keep it peaceful—no right to LOUD parties. Right to trial by jury is protected under the Sixth Amendment.

Score one point if you said c and f, or c,f, and g. Score a half a point if you said c or f. Score an extra point if you knew that the right to a writ of habeas corpus was included in the Constitution elsewhere. Deduct a half point each if you said a, b, d, or e.

10. Under the Constitution, what powers does the President have?

a. Set tax rates
b. Borrow money/increase national debt
c. Adopt laws
d. Run the military
e. Declare war
f. Negotiate treaties
g. Set immigration policy

Answer: d and f. The President runs the military, though only Congress can actually declare war; and negotiates treaties, though treaties must still be approved by the Senate. All of the rest are duties of Congress. The President has does have veto power, but vetoes can be overridden by a two thirds vote of the Congress. The Constitution was carefully designed not too place too much power in the hands of any one individual.

Score one point for a correct answer. Score a half point if d or f were selected alone, none if combined with any other answer.

Bonus round

1. Did you vote in the June 2008 statewide election?

a. Yes
b. Yes, and I campaigned for a candidate/ballot issue
c. Yes, and I worked at the polls
d. No
e. I am not registered to vote
f. Was there an election?

Score one point for a, two points for b or c. Deduct one point for e or f.

2. Did you serve in the United States military?

Score four points for yes, unless dishonorably discharged. Score two points if you have a child or spouse currently serving in the military.

3. Did you serve in the U.S. military in a combat area? (applies to anyone from infantrymen and fighter pilots to medics and translators to cooks and mechanics. If there were bullets or bombs flying around you, it counts in my book.)

Score ten points for yes. Thank you, and enjoy your 4th of July!