Sunday, January 25, 2004

I've set my home page to http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html. Many of the photos there are simply spectacular.

(Thanks to Bill for the tip.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Fred Reed does it again. You need to read this column. I guess that link will only work until he posts a new message there, so I'll post the whole thing below.

Aside from a couple of textual glitches and yet another mislabeling of the U.S. as a democracy (I'm pretty sure Fred knows better; maybe he's playing to the crowd?), this is right on the money. Here is an illusion-free assessment of our current status.

Take it away, Fred Fred Bo Bed Banana-fana Fo Fed Fee Fie Mo Med.

----------------------------------------

Faking It

A Brief Textbook Of American Democracy
Monday, January 19, 2004

While the United States is freer and more democratic than many
countries, it
is not, I think, either as free or as democratic as we are expected to
believe, and becomes rapidly less so. Indeed we seem to be specialists
in
maintaining the appearance without having the substance. Regarding the
techniques of which, a few thoughts:

(1) Free speech does not exist in America. We all know what we can’t say
and
about whom we can’t say it.

(2) A democracy run by two barely distinguishable parties is not in fact
a
democracy.

A parliamentary democracy allows expression of a range of points of
view: A
ecological candidate may be elected, along with a communist, a
racial-separatist, and a libertarian. These will make sure their ideas
are
at least heard. By contrast, the two-party system prevents expression of
any
ideas the two parties agree to suppress. How much open discussion do you
hear during presidential elections of, for example, race, immigration,
abortion, gun control, and the continuing abolition of Christianity?
These
are the issues most important to most people, yet are quashed.

The elections do however allow do allow the public a sense of
participation
while having the political importance of the Superbowl.

(3) Large jurisdictions discourage autonomy. If, say, educational policy
were set in small jurisdictions, such as towns or counties, you could
buttonhole the mayor and have a reasonable prospect of influencing your
children’s schools. If policy is set at the level of the state, then to
change it you have to quit your job, marshal a vast campaign costing a
fortune, and organize committees in dozens of towns. It isn’t practical.
In
America, local jurisdictions set taxes on real estate and determine
parking
policy. Everything of importance is decided remotely.

(4) Huge unresponsive bureaucracies somewhere else serve as political
flywheels, insulating elected officials from the whims of the populace.
Try
calling the Department of Education from Wyoming. Its employees are
anonymous, salaried, unaccountable, can’t be fired, and don’t care about
you. Many more of them than you might believe are affirmative-action
hires
and probably can’t spell Wyoming. You cannot influence them in the
slightest. Yet they influence you.

(5) For our increasingly centralized and arbitrary government, the
elimination of potentially competitive centers of power has been, and
is,
crucial. This is one reason for the aforementioned defanging of the
churches: The faithful recognize a power above that of the state, which
they
might choose to obey instead of Washington. The Catholic Church in
particular, with its inherent organization, was once powerful. It has
been
brought to heel.

Similarly the elimination of states’ rights, now practically complete,
put
paid to another potential source of opposition. Industry, in the days of
J.
P. Morgan politically potent, has been tamed by regulation and federal
contracts. The military in the United States has never been politically
active. The government becomes the only game available.

(6) Paradoxically, increasing the power of groups who cannot threaten
the
government strengthens the government: They serve as counterbalances to
those who might challenge the central authority. For example, the white
and
male-dominated culture of the United States, while not embodied in an
identifiable organization, for some time remained strong. The
encouragement
of dissension by empowerment of blacks, feminists, and homosexuals, and
the
importing of inassimilable minorities, weakens what was once the
cultural
mainstream.

(7) The apparent government isn’t the real government. The real power in
America resides in what George Will once called the “permanent political
class,” of which the formal government is a subset. It consists of the
professoriate, journalists, politicians, revolving appointees,
high-level
bureaucrats and so on who slosh in and out of formal power. Most are
unelected, believe the same things, and share a lack of respect for
views
other than their own.

It is they, to continue the example of education, who write the
textbooks
your children use, determine how history will be rewritten, and set
academic
standards—all without the least regard for you. You can do nothing about
it.

(8) The US government consists of five branches which are, in rough
order of
importance, the Supreme Court, the media, the presidency, the
bureaucracy,
and Congress.

The function of the Supreme Court, which is both unanswerable and
unaccountable, is to impose things that the congress fears to touch.
That
is, it establishes programs desired by the ruling political class which
could not possibly be democratically enacted. While formally a judicial
organ, the Court is in reality our Ministry of Culture and Morals. It
determines policy regarding racial integration, abortion, pornography,
immigration, the practice of religion, which groups receive special
privilege, and what forms of speech shall be punished.

(9) The media have two governmental purposes. The first is to prevent
discussion and, to the extent possible, knowledge of taboo subjects. The
second is to inculcate by endless indirection the values and beliefs of
the
permanent political class. Thus for example racial atrocities committed
by
whites against blacks are widely reported, while those committed by
blacks
against whites are concealed. Most people know this at least dimly. Few
know
the degree of management of information.

(10) Control of television conveys control of the society. It is magic.
This
is such a truism that we do not always see how true it is. The box is
ubiquitous and inescapable. It babbles at us in bars and restaurants, in
living rooms and on long flights. It is the national babysitter. For
hours a
day most Americans watch it.

Perhaps the key to cultural control is that people can’t not watch a
screen.
It is probably true that stupid people would not watch intelligent
television, but it is certainly true that intelligent people will watch
stupid television. Any television, it seems, is preferable to no
television.
As people read less, the lobotomy box acquires semi-exclusive rights to
their minds.

Television doesn’t tell people what to do. It shows them. People can
resist
admonition. But if they see something happening over and over, month
after
month, if they see the same values approvingly portrayed, they will
adopt
both behavior and values. It takes years, but it works. To be sure it
works,
we put our children in front of the screen from infancy.

(11) Finally, people do not want freedom. They want comfort, two hundred
channels on the cable, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, an easy job and an
SUV. No
country with really elaborate home-theater has ever risen in revolt. An
awful lot of people secretly like being told what to do. We would
probably
be happier with a king.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Irwin Schiff recently stymied the tax pros on Fox News. (Note: this is a video and audio clip; it will take some time to download.)

I'm not sure when this segment aired; by the reference to the raid, I'd say sometime in 2003. In any case, it's GREAT STUFF. My favorite bit is when the high-roller tax attorney answers Irwin's $50k challenge by setting the US Code aside and saying "I personally feel that he should be in trouble." I personally feel that that lawyer should get a new career (which he actually may get to do pretty soon, by what Larken Rose is saying).

Fox alllllllmost got it right: they said either Schiff is right and we can all fill out zero returns from now on, or he's wrong and they should toss him in the clink. At the risk of seemingly splitting hairs, I'd say the action they should take if he's wrong is not to incarcerate him, it's to SHOW US THE LAW!!! (And THEN toss him in the clink.) So I give Fox 3/4 stars here; they did a good job of taking Irwin's point seriously without assuming he is or is not correct, and did a decent job of boiling down a lot of legal arguments for a short news segment without mangling them _too_ badly. Their undercover trip to H&R Block was perfect! That's the best ad for the Tax Honesty Movement that we could probably come up with! If the pros can't show you the law, why should you believe it exists? Just because some lawyer FEELS like it does -- or should? LOL!!!

If I walked into his office and said "I personally feel that I shouldn't get in trouble for not paying income taxes" how seriously would that hot-shot lawyer take me?

FYI, I don't agree with Irwin about all his points (see www.schiffiswrong.info for one contrary viewpoint, not all of which I agree with either) but he is asking some of the exact right questions, and this news segment SHOWS YOU that the gov't. and the tax pros do NOT have the answers! (Actually, some of them know that we are essentially right about the law, but don't want to admit it, and some who do admit it won't act on that knowledge. There have been a lot of resignations of IRS officials lately, and some people speculate that being asked questions like the ones you'll see in this segment is contributing to their lack of enthusiasm for the job. I think that's very reasonable.)

Don't miss this video! 5 minutes 29 seconds of your life well spent.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

An Iraqi Muslim woman has a blog going. Here's a taste:

During the sanctions and all the instability, we used to hear fantastic stories about certain Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, to name a few. We heard about their luxurious lifestyles- the high monthly wages, the elegant cars, sprawling homes and malls… and while I always wanted to visit, I never once remember yearning to live there or even feeling envy. When I analyzed my feelings, it always led back to the fact that I cherished the rights I had as an Iraqi Muslim woman. During the hard times, it was always a comfort that I could drive, learn, work for equal pay, dress the way I wanted and practice Islam according to my values and beliefs, without worrying whether I was too devout or not devout enough.

I usually ignore the emails I receive telling me to 'embrace' my new-found freedom and be happy that the circumstances of all Iraqi women are going to 'improve drastically' from what we had before. They quote Bush (which in itself speaks volumes) saying things about how repressed the Iraqi women were and how, now, they are going to be able to live free lives.

The people who write those emails often lob Iraq together with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan and I shake my head at their ignorance but think to myself, "Well, they really need to believe their country has the best of intentions- I won't burst their bubble." But I'm telling everyone now- if I get any more emails about how free and liberated the Iraqi women are *now* thanks to America, they can expect a very nasty answer.

Friday, January 16, 2004

The UPI reports that 2 members of the 9/11 investigative commission have also entered the investigation in the role of witnesses. This has provoked increased use of the word "whitewash" in discussing the commission.

"Bush's supporters, for their part, say Clinton's failure to capture or kill bin Laden after his network destroyed two U.S. embassies in east Africa emboldened the extremists to attack America on Sept. 11."

What seems odd about that complaint to me is that the CIA knew where bin Laden was in summer of 2001; two of their agents met with him in a Paris hospital where bin Laden was being treated. Maybe the mood wasn't right to arrest him at that time?? Since there's no comment about that in this story, I don't know what their explanation for that apparent discrepancy is or would be. Feel free to hold your breath waiting for the press to "press" the administration for one, but I'm not.

For documentation, click here and scroll down to July 4-14.
[As hard as this is to believe, Al Gore (or whoever wrote this speech for him) actually, pretty much, got one right for once. Other than a few lapses into absurdly unearned high-horse lecturing, plus the usual labeling of our country a "democracy", there's not much here that doesn't withstand scrutiny -- which is sad, considering what that says about the direction we've been going the past few years. Also, he does correctly note, later on, that this is a republic, so partial credit for that.

Where was all this Constitutional statesmanship between 1993 and 2001, Al?

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:39-40)

I guess, with almost all the Republicans giving "W" a pass, it's time for the trees to speak up. ;-)]

FREEDOM AND SECURITY

Thank you, Lisa, for that warm and generous introduction. Thank you Zack, and thank you all for coming here today

I want to thank the American Constitution Society for co-sponsoring today’s event, and for their hard work and dedication in defending our most basic public values.

And I am especially grateful to Moveon.org, not only for co-sponsoring this event, but also for using 21st Century techniques to breathe new life into our democracy.

For my part, I’m just a “recovering politician” – but I truly believe that some of the issues most important to America’s future are ones that all of us should be dealing with.

And perhaps the most important of these issues is the one I want to talk about today: the true relationship between Freedom and Security.

So it seems to me that the logical place to start the discussion is with an accounting of exactly what has happened to civil liberties and security since the vicious attacks against America of September 11, 2001 – and it’s important to note at the outset that the Administration and the Congress have brought about many beneficial and needed improvements to make law enforcement and intelligence community efforts more effective against potential terrorists.

But a lot of other changes have taken place that a lot of people don’t know about and that come as unwelcome surprises. For example, for the first time in our history, American citizens have been seized by the executive branch of government and put in prison without being charged with a crime, without having the right to a trial, without being able to see a lawyer, and without even being able to contact their families.

President Bush is claiming the unilateral right to do that to any American citizen he believes is an “enemy combatant.” Those are the magic words. If the President alone decides that those two words accurately describe someone, then that person can be immediately locked up and held incommunicado for as long as the President wants, with no court having the right to determine whether the facts actually justify his imprisonment.

Now if the President makes a mistake, or is given faulty information by somebody working for him, and locks up the wrong person, then it’s almost impossible for that person to prove his innocence – because he can’t talk to a lawyer or his family or anyone else and he doesn’t even have the right to know what specific crime he is accused of committing. So a constitutional right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we used to think of in an old- fashioned way as “inalienable” can now be instantly stripped from any American by the President with no meaningful review by any other branch of government.

How do we feel about that? Is that OK?

Here’s another recent change in our civil liberties: Now, if it wants to, the federal government has the right to monitor every website you go to on the internet, keep a list of everyone you send email to or receive email from and everyone who you call on the telephone or who calls you – and they don’t even have to show probable cause that you’ve done anything wrong. Nor do they ever have to report to any court on what they’re doing with the information. Moreover, there are precious few safeguards to keep them from reading the content of all your email.

Everybody fine with that?

If so, what about this next change?

For America’s first 212 years, it used to be that if the police wanted to search your house, they had to be able to convince an independent judge to give them a search warrant and then (with rare exceptions) they had to go bang on your door and yell, “Open up!” Then, if you didn’t quickly open up, they could knock the door down. Also, if they seized anything, they had to leave a list explaining what they had taken. That way, if it was all a terrible mistake (as it sometimes is) you could go and get your stuff back.

But that’s all changed now. Starting two years ago, federal agents were given broad new statutory authority by the Patriot Act to “sneak and peak” in non- terrorism cases. They can secretly enter your home with no warning – whether you are there or not – and they can wait for months before telling you they were there. And it doesn’t have to have any relationship to terrorism whatsoever. It applies to any garden-variety crime. And the new law makes it very easy to get around the need for a traditional warrant – simply by saying that searching your house might have some connection (even a remote one) to the investigation of some agent of a foreign power. Then they can go to another court, a secret court, that more or less has to give them a warrant whenever they ask.

Three weeks ago, in a speech at FBI Headquarters, President Bush went even further and formally proposed that the Attorney General be allowed to authorize subpoenas by administrative order, without the need for a warrant from any court.

What about the right to consult a lawyer if you’re arrested? Is that important?

Attorney General Ashcroft has issued regulations authorizing the secret monitoring of attorney-client conversations on his say-so alone; bypassing procedures for obtaining prior judicial review for such monitoring in the rare instances when it was permitted in the past. Now, whoever is in custody has to assume that the government is always listening to consultations between them and their lawyers.

Does it matter if the government listens in on everything you say to your lawyer? Is that Ok?

Or, to take another change – and thanks to the librarians, more people know about this one – the FBI now has the right to go into any library and ask for the records of everybody who has used the library and get a list of who is reading what. Similarly, the FBI can demand all the records of banks, colleges, hotels, hospitals, credit-card companies, and many more kinds of companies. And these changes are only the beginning. Just last week, Attorney General Ashcroft issued brand new guidelines permitting FBI agents to run credit checks and background checks and gather other information about anyone who is “of investigatory interest,” - meaning anyone the agent thinks is suspicious - without any evidence of criminal behavior.

So, is that fine with everyone?

Listen to the way Israel’s highest court dealt with a similar question when, in 1999, it was asked to balance due process rights against dire threats to the security of its people:

“This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its strength.”

I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy.

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America.

In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy and deception in order to avoid accountability to the Congress, the Courts, the press and the people.

Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head. A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people – while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion.

But instead, this Administration is seeking to conduct its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered access to personal information about American citizens. Under the rubric of protecting national security, they have obtained new powers to gather information from citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they themselves refuse to disclose information that is highly relevant to the war against terrorism.

They are even arrogantly refusing to provide information about 9/11 that is in their possession to the 9/11 Commission – the lawful investigative body charged with examining not only the performance of the Bush Administration, but also the actions of the prior Administration in which I served. The whole point is to learn all we can about preventing future terrorist attacks,

Two days ago, the Commission was forced to issue a subpoena to the Pentagon, which has – disgracefully – put Secretary Rumsfeld’s desire to avoid embarrassment ahead of the nation’s need to learn how we can best avoid future terrorist attacks. The Commission also served notice that it will issue a subpoena to the White House if the President continues to withhold information essential to the investigation.

And the White House is also refusing to respond to repeated bipartisan Congressional requests for information about 9/11 – even though the Congress is simply exercising its Constitutional oversight authority. In the words of Senator Main, “Excessive administration secrecy on issues related to the September 11 attacks feeds conspiracy theories and reduces the public’s confidence in government.”

In a revealing move, just three days ago, the White House asked the Republican leadership of the Senate to shut down the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of 9/11 based on a trivial political dispute. Apparently the President is anxious to keep the Congress from seeing what are said to have been clear, strong and explicit warnings directly to him a few weeks before 9/11 that terrorists were planning to hijack commercial airliners and use them to attack us.

Astonishingly, the Republican Senate leadership quickly complied with the President’s request. Such obedience and complicity in what looks like a cover- up from the majority party in a separate and supposedly co-equal branch of government makes it seem like a very long time ago when a Republican Attorney General and his deputy resigned rather than comply with an order to fire the special prosecutor investigating Richard Nixon.

In an even more brazen move, more than two years after they rounded up over 1,200 individuals of Arab descent, they still refuse to release the names of the individuals they detained, even though virtually every one of those arrested has been "cleared" by the FBI of any connection to terrorism and there is absolutely no national security justification for keeping the names secret. Yet at the same time, White House officials themselves leaked the name of a CIA operative serving the country, in clear violation of the law, in an effort to get at her husband, who had angered them by disclosing that the President had relied on forged evidence in his state of the union address as part of his effort to convince the country that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of building nuclear weapons.

And even as they claim the right to see the private bank records of every American, they are adopting a new policy on the Freedom of Information Act that actively encourages federal agencies to fully consider all potential reasons for non-disclosure regardless of whether the disclosure would be harmful. In other words, the federal government will now actively resist complying with ANY request for information.

Moreover, they have established a new exemption that enables them to refuse the release to the press and the public of important health, safety and environmental information submitted to the government by businesses – merely by calling it “critical infrastructure.”


By closely guarding information about their own behavior, they are dismantling a fundamental element of our system of checks and balances. Because so long as the government’s actions are secret, they cannot be held accountable. A government for the people and by the people must be transparent to the people.

The administration is justifying the collection of all this information by saying in effect that it will make us safer to have it. But it is not the kind of information that would have been of much help in preventing 9/11. However, there was in fact a great deal of specific information that WAS available prior to 9/11 that probably could have been used to prevent the tragedy. A recent analysis by the Merkle foundation, (working with data from a software company that received venture capital from a CIA-sponsored firm) demonstrates this point in a startling way:

“In late August 2001, Nawaq Alhamzi and Khalid Al-Midhar bought tickets to fly on American Airlines Flight 77 (which was flown into the Pentagon). They bought the tickets using their real names. Both names were then on a State Department/INS watch list called TIPOFF. Both men were sought by the FBI and CIA as suspected terrorists, in part because they had been observed at a terrorist meeting in Malaysia. These two passenger names would have been exact matches when checked against the TIPOFF list. But that would only have been the first step. Further data checks could then have begun. Checking for common addresses (address information is widely available, including on the internet), analysts would have discovered that Salem Al-Hazmi (who also bought a seat on American 77) used the same address as Nawaq Alhazmi. More importantly, they could have discovered that Mohamed Atta (American 11, North Tower of the World Trade Center) and Marwan Al-Shehhi (United 175, South Tower of the World Trade Center) used the same address as Khalid Al-Midhar. Checking for identical frequent flier numbers, analysts would have discovered that Majed Moqed (American 77) used the same number as Al-Midhar. With Mohamed Atta now also identified as a possible associate of the wanted terrorist, Al-Midhar, analysts could have added Atta’s phone numbers (also publicly available information) to their checklist. By doing so they would have identified five other hijackers (Fayez Ahmed, Mohand Alshehri, Wail Alsheri, and Abdulaziz Alomari). Closer to September 11, a further check of passenger lists against a more innocuous INS watch list (for expired visas) would have identified Ahmed Alghandi. Through him, the same sort of relatively simple correlations could have led to identifying the remaining hijackers, who boarded United 93 (which crashed in Pennsylvania).” In addition, Al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhamzi, the two who were on the terrorist watch list, rented an apartment in San Diego under their own names and were listed, again under their own names, in the San Diego phone book while the FBI was searching for them.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what is needed is better and more timely analysis. Simply piling up more raw data that is almost entirely irrelevant is not only not going to help. It may actually hurt the cause. As one FBI agent said privately of Ashcroft: “We’re looking for a needle in a haystack here and he (Ashcroft) is just piling on more hay.”

In other words, the mass collecting of personal data on hundreds of millions of people actually makes it more difficult to protect the nation against terrorists, so they ought to cut most of it out.

And meanwhile, the real story is that while the administration

manages to convey the impression that it is doing everything possible to protect America, in reality it has seriously neglected most of the measures that it could have taken to really make our country safer.

For example, there is still no serious strategy for domestic security that protects critical infrastructure such as electric power lines, gas pipelines, nuclear facilities, ports, chemical plants and the like.

They’re still not checking incoming cargo carriers for radiation. They’re still skimping on protection of certain nuclear weapons storage facilities. They’re still not hardening critical facilities that must never be soft targets for terrorists. They’re still not investing in the translators and analysts we need to counter the growing terror threat.

The administration is still not investing in local government training and infrastructures where they could make the biggest difference. The first responder community is still being shortchanged. In many cases, fire and police still don’t have the communications equipment to talk to each other. The CDC and local hospitals are still nowhere close to being ready for a biological weapons attack.

The administration has still failed to address the fundamental disorganization and rivalries of our law enforcement, intelligence and investigative agencies. In particular, the critical FBI-CIA coordination, while finally improved at the top, still remains dysfunctional in the trenches.

The constant violations of civil liberties promote the false impression that these violations are necessary in order to take every precaution against another terrorist attack. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of the violations have not benefited our security at all; to the contrary, they hurt our security.

And the treatment of immigrants was probably the worst example. This mass mistreatment actually hurt our security in a number of important ways.

But first, let’s be clear about what happened: this was little more than a cheap and cruel political stunt by John Ashcroft. More than 99% of the mostly Arab-background men who were rounded up had merely overstayed their visas or committed some other minor offense as they tried to pursue the American dream just like most immigrants. But they were used as extras in the Administration’s effort to give the impression that they had caught a large number of bad guys. And many of them were treated horribly and abusively.

Consider this example reported in depth by Anthony Lewis:

“Anser Mehmood, a Pakistani who had overstayed his visa, was arrested in New York on October 3, 2001. The next day he was briefly questioned by FBI agents, who said they had no further interest in him. Then he was shackled in handcuffs, leg irons, and a belly chain and taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Guards there put two more sets of handcuffs on him and another set of leg irons. One threw Mehmood against a wall. The guards forced him to run down a long ramp, the irons cutting into his wrists and ankles. The physical abuse was mixed with verbal taunts.

“After two weeks Mehmood was allowed to make a telephone call to his wife. She was not at home and Mehmood was told that he would have to wait six weeks to try again. He first saw her, on a visit, three months after his arrest. All that time he was kept in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement, with two overhead fluorescent lights on all the time. In the end he was charged with using an invalid Social Security card. He was deported in May 2002, nearly eight months after his arrest.

The faith tradition I share with Ashcroft includes this teaching from Jesus: “whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

And make no mistake: the disgraceful treatment suffered by many of these vulnerable immigrants at the hands of the administration has created deep resentments and hurt the cooperation desperately needed from immigrant communities in the U.S.and from the Security Services of other countries.

Second, these gross violations of their rights have seriously damaged U.S. moral authority and goodwill around the world, and delegitimized U.S.efforts to continue promoting Human Rights around the world. As one analyst put it, “We used to set the standard; now we have lowered the bar.” And our moral authority is, after all, our greatest source of enduring strength in the world.

And the handling of prisoners at Guantanomo has been particularly harmful to America’s image. Even England and Australia have criticized our departure from international law and the Geneva Convention. Sec. Rumsfeld’s handling of the captives there has been about as thoughtful as his “postwar” plan for Iraq.

So the mass violations of civil liberties have hurt rather than helped. But there is yet another reason for urgency in stopping what this administration is doing. Where Civil Liberties are concerned, they have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, “Big Brother”-style government – toward the dangers prophesized by George Orwell in his book “1984” – than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.

And they have done it primarily by heightening and exploiting public anxieties and apprehensions. Rather than leading with a call to courage, this Administration has chosen to lead us by inciting fear.

Almost eighty years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. . . . They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.” Those who won our independence, Brandeis asserted, understood that “courage [is] the secret of liberty” and "fear [only] breeds repression."

Rather than defending our freedoms, this Administration has sought to abandon them. Rather than accepting our traditions of openness and accountability, this Administration has opted to rule by secrecy and unquestioned authority. Instead, its assaults on our core democratic principles have only left us less free and less secure.

Throughout American history, what we now call Civil Liberties have often been abused and limited during times of war and perceived threats to security. The best known instances include the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798-1800, the brief suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the extreme abuses during World War I and the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids immediately after the war, the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the excesses of the FBI and CIA during the Vietnam War and social turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But in each of these cases, the nation has recovered its equilibrium when the war ended and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that what we are experiencing may no longer be the first half of a recurring cycle but rather, the beginning of something new. For one thing, this war is predicted by the administration to “last for the rest of our lives.” Others have expressed the view that over time it will begin to resemble the “war” against drugs – that is, that it will become a more or less permanent struggle that occupies a significant part of our law enforcement and security agenda from now on. If that is the case, then when – if ever – does this encroachment on our freedoms die a natural death?

It is important to remember that throughout history, the loss of civil liberties by individuals and the aggregation of too much unchecked power in the executive go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin.

A second reason to worry that what we are witnessing is a discontinuity and not another turn of the recurring cycle is that the new technologies of surveillance – long anticipated by novelists like Orwell and other prophets of the “Police State” – are now more widespread than they have ever been.

And they do have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Moreover, these technologies are being widely used not only by the government but also by corporations and other private entities. And that is relevant to an assessment of the new requirements in the Patriot Act for so many corporations – especially in the finance industries – to prepare millions of reports annually for the government on suspicious activities by their customers. It is also relevant to the new flexibility corporations have been given to share information with one another about their customers.

The third reason for concern is that the threat of more terror strikes is all too real. And the potential use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups does create a new practical imperative for the speedy exercise of discretionary power by the executive branch – just as the emergence of nuclear weapons and ICBMs created a new practical imperative in the Cold War that altered the balance of war-making responsibility between Congress and the President.

But President Bush has stretched this new practical imperative beyond what is healthy for our democracy. Indeed, one of the ways he has tried to maximize his power within the American system has been by constantly emphasizing his role as Commander-in-Chief, far more than any previous President – assuming it as often and as visibly as he can, and bringing it into the domestic arena and conflating it with his other roles: as head of government and head of state – and especially with his political role as head of the Republican Party.

Indeed, the most worrisome new factor, in my view, is the aggressive ideological approach of the current administration, which seems determined to use fear as a political tool to consolidate its power and to escape any accountability for its use. Just as unilateralism and dominance are the guiding principles of their disastrous approach to international relations, they are also the guiding impulses of the administration’s approach to domestic politics. They are impatient with any constraints on the exercise of power overseas – whether from our allies, the UN, or international law. And in the same way, they are impatient with any obstacles to their use of power at home – whether from Congress, the Courts, the press, or the rule of law.

Ashcroft has also authorized FBI agents to attend church meetings, rallies, political meetings and any other citizen activity open to the public simply on the agents’ own initiative, reversing a decades old policy that required justification to supervisors that such infiltrations has a provable connection to a legitimate investigation;

They have even taken steps that seem to be clearly aimed at stifling dissent. The Bush Justice Department has recently begun a highly disturbing criminal prosecution of the environmental group Greenpeace because of a non-violent direct action protest against what Greenpeace claimed was the illegal importation of endangered mahogany from the Amazon. Independent legal experts and historians have said that the prosecution – under an obscure and bizarre 1872 law against “sailor-mongering” – appears to be aimed at inhibiting Greenpeace’s First Amendment activities.

And at the same time they are breaking new ground by prosecuting Greenpeace, the Bush Administration announced just a few days ago that it is dropping the investigations of 50 power plants for violating the Clean Air Act – a move that Sen. Chuck Schumer said, “basically announced to the power industry that it can now pollute with impunity.”

The politicization of law enforcement in this administration is part of their larger agenda to roll back the changes in government policy brought about by the New Deal and the Progressive Movement. Toward that end, they are cutting back on Civil Rights enforcement, Women’s Rights, progressive taxation, the estate tax, access to the courts, Medicare, and much more. And they approach every issue as a partisan fight to the finish, even in the areas of national security and terror.

Instead of trying to make the “War on Terrorism” a bipartisan cause, the Bush White House has consistently tried to exploit it for partisan advantage. The President goes to war verbally against terrorists in virtually every campaign speech and fundraising dinner for his political party. It is his main political theme. Democratic candidates like Max Cleland in Georgiawere labeled unpatriotic for voting differently from the White House on obscure amendments to the Homeland Security Bill.

When the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, was embroiled in an effort to pick up more congressional seats in Texas by forcing a highly unusual redistricting vote in the state senate, he was able to track down Democratic legislators who fled the state to prevent a quorum (and thus prevent the vote) by enlisting the help of President Bush’s new Department of Homeland Security, as many as 13 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration who conducted an eight-hour search, and at least one FBI agent (though several other agents who were asked to help refused to do so.)

By locating the Democrats quickly with the technology put in place for tracking terrorists, the Republicans were able to succeed in focusing public pressure on the weakest of the Senators and forced passage of their new political redistricting plan. Now, thanks in part to the efforts of three different federal agencies, Bush and DeLay are celebrating the gain of up to seven new Republican congressional seats in the next Congress.

The White House timing for its big push for a vote in Congress on going to war with Iraqalso happened to coincide exactly with the start of the fall election campaign in September a year ago. The President’s chief of staff said the timing was chosen because “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

White House political advisor Karl Rove advised Republican candidates that their best political strategy was to “run on the war”. And as soon as the troops began to mobilize, the Republican National Committee distributed yard signs throughout Americasaying, “I support President Bush and the troops” – as if they were one and the same.

This persistent effort to politicize the war in Iraqand the war against terrorism for partisan advantage is obviously harmful to the prospects for bipartisan support of the nation’s security policies. By sharp contrast, consider the different approach that was taken by Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the terrible days of October 1943 when in the midst of World War II, he faced a controversy with the potential to divide his bipartisan coalition. He said, “What holds us together is the prosecution of the war. No… man has been asked to give up his convictions. That would be indecent and improper. We are held together by something outside, which rivets our attention. The principle that we work on is, ‘Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide for the war.’ That is our position. We must also be careful that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side wind.”

Yet that is exactly what the Bush Administration is attempting to do – to use the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and to introduce far reaching controversial changes in social policy by a “side wind,” in an effort to consolidate its political power.

It is an approach that is deeply antithetical to the American spirit. Respect for our President is important. But so is respect for our people. Our founders knew – and our history has proven – that freedom is best guaranteed by a separation of powers into co-equal branches of government within a system of checks and balances – to prevent the unhealthy concentration of too much power in the hands of any one person or group.

Our framers were also keenly aware that the history of the world proves that Republics are fragile. The very hour of America’s birth in Philadelphia, when Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have we got? A Republic or a Monarchy?” he cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

And even in the midst of our greatest testing, Lincoln knew that our fate was tied to the larger question of whether ANY nation so conceived could long endure.

This Administration simply does not seem to agree that the challenge of preserving democratic freedom cannot be met by surrendering core American values. Incredibly, this Administration has attempted to compromise the most precious rights that Americahas stood for all over the world for more than 200 years: due process, equal treatment under the law, the dignity of the individual, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from promiscuous government surveillance. And in the name of security, this Administration has attempted to relegate the Congress and the Courts to the sidelines and replace our democratic system of checks and balances with an unaccountable Executive. And all the while, it has constantly angled for new ways to exploit the sense of crisis for partisan gain and political dominance. How dare they!


Years ago, during World War II, one of our most eloquent Supreme Court Justices, Robert Jackson, wrote that the President should be given the “widest latitude” in wartime, but he warned against the “loose and irresponsible invocation of war as an excuse for discharging the Executive Branch from the rules of law that govern our Republic in times of peace. No penance would ever expiate the sin against free government,” Jackson said, “of holding that a President can escape control of executive powers by law through assuming his military role. Our government has ample authority under the Constitution to take those steps which are genuinely necessary for our security. At the same time, our system demands that government act only on the basis of measures that have been the subject of open and thoughtful debate in Congress and among the American people, and that invasions of the liberty or equal dignity of any individual are subject to review by courts which are open to those affected and independent of the government which is curtailing their freedom.”

So what should be done? Well, to begin with, our country ought to find a way to immediately stop its policy of indefinitely detaining American citizens without charges and without a judicial determination that their detention is proper.

Such a course of conduct is incompatible with American traditions and values, with sacred principles of due process of law and separation of powers.

It is no accident that our Constitution requires in criminal prosecutions a “speedy and public trial.” The principles of liberty and the accountability of government, at the heart of what makes Americaunique, require no less. The Bush Administration’s treatment of American citizens it calls “enemy combatants” is nothing short of un-American.

Second, foreign citizens held in Guantanamo should be given hearings to determine their status provided for under Article V of the Geneva Convention, a hearing that the United Stateshas given those captured in every war until this one, including Vietnamand the Gulf War.

If we don’t provide this, how can we expect American soldiers captured overseas to be treated with equal respect? We owe this to our sons and daughters who fight to defend freedom in Iraq, in Afghanistanand elsewhere in the world.

Third, the President should seek congressional authorization for the military commissions he says he intends to use instead of civilian courts to try some of those who are charged with violating the laws of war. Military commissions are exceptional in American law and they present unique dangers. The prosecutor and the judge both work for the same man, the President of the United States. Such commissions may be appropriate in time of war, but they must be authorized by Congress, as they were in World War II, and Congress must delineate the scope of their authority. Review of their decisions must be available in a civilian court, at least the Supreme Court, as it was in World War II.

Next, our nation’s greatness is measured by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable. Noncitizens who the government seeks to detain should be entitled to some basic rights. The administration must stop abusing the material witness statute. That statute was designed to hold witnesses briefly before they are called to testify before a grand jury. It has been misused by this administration as a pretext for indefinite detention without charge. That is simply not right.

Finally, I have studied the Patriot Act and have found that along with its many excesses, it contains a few needed changes in the law. And it is certainly true that many of the worst abuses of due process and civil liberties that are now occurring are taking place under the color of laws and executive orders other than the Patriot Act.

Nevertheless, I believe the Patriot Act has turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake, and that it became a kind of Tonkin Gulf Resolution conferring Congress’ blessing for this President’s assault on civil liberties. Therefore, I believe strongly that the few good features of this law should be passed again in a new, smaller law – but that the Patriot Act must be repealed.

As John Adams wrote in 1780, ours is a government of laws and not of men. What is at stake today is that defining principle of our nation, and thus the very nature of America. As the Supreme Court has written, “Our Constitution is a covenant running from the first generation of Americans to us and then to future genera­tions.” The Constitution includes no wartime exception, though its Framers knew well the reality of war. And, as Justice Holmes reminded us shortly after World War I, the Constitution’s principles only have value if we apply them in the difficult times as well as those where it matters less.

The question before us could be of no greater moment: will we continue to live as a people under the rule of law as embodied in our Constitution? Or will we fail future generations, by leaving them a Constitution far diminished from the charter of liberty we have inherited from our forebears? Our choice is clear.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Someone even smarter than George Orwell offers us some further perspective on the Simkanin problem:

"Ye shall know them by their fruits. ... Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:16-20)

Lest the application go astray, I ask you what sort of judicial tree it is which brings forth this kind of fruit:

- prevents an innocent defendant from presenting exculpatory evidence to a grand jury (after two prior grand juries had refused to indict when he did make such a presentation)
- declares a mistrial when the jury votes 11-1 to acquit, then orders a retrial on the same charges
- ignores his petitions (denies them without reading them)
- prevents him from presenting exculpatory evidence -- including the law itself -- to his petit jury
- lies to that jury to force them to convict him without ever having seen the law he allegedly violated and in spite of his entire (suppressed) defense being that he had not ever seen the allegedly-violated requirement in the law despite an extensive search for it?

The answer seems clear to me.

"By their fruits ye shall know them."
George Orwell provides some perspective on the Simkanin problem:

"You are a slow learner, Winston," said O'Brien gently.

"How can I help it?" he blubbered. "How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."

"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane."
Charlotte Iserbyt says: "Our loss of hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing and intellectual jobs to foreign countries and creation of high unemployment in the United States equals redistribution of wealth called for by Karl Marx."

I must offer an amendment. Rather than wealth redistribution, I think we are seeing wealth _evaporation_. The U.S. economy is a creation of staggering complexity and value. Destroying it does not mean there will be a corresponding increase in complexity and value in other economies. It is possible to simply destroy an economy and replace it with nothing, just like you can destroy anything else and replace it with nothing. (Yes, purists, the matter and energy will still exist; I'm only talking in terms of useful -- ordered -- stuff here, not laws of thermodynamics.) So my wording would be that these losses are akin to killing the goose which laid the golden eggs. The U.S. economy can lay some mighty fine golden eggs, if it's allowed to. If collectivist meddlers get ahold of it, though, it can be reduced to a less-advanced stage. That will impair us, but it won't help anyone else. In fact, it will hurt others, since they all benefit from the advances of our creativity. Their future standard of living takes a dive when ours does, unless they do manage to evolve their economy to a level similar to where ours has been. That is likely, eventually, but I don't see what mechanism would cause such a spontaneous evolution. Do you?
The nation's oldest paper has something to say about cover-ups. Those in the Free State Project, take note: here's your potential future local news source. Drop them a note and let them know you appreciate intelligent analysis like this (presuming, of course, that you do).

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Aldous Huxley, in the preface to "Brave New World Revisited" (1958), opens with a paragraph well worth noticing:

The soul of wit may become the very body of untruth. However elegant and memorable, brevity can never, in the nature of things, do justice to all the facts of a complex situation. On such a theme one can be brief only by omission and simplification. Omission and simplification help us to understand -- but help us, in many cases, to understand the wrong thing; for our comprehension may be only of the abbreviator's neatly formulated notions, not of the vast, ramifying reality from which these notions have been so arbitrarily abstracted.

Thanks Aldous. Wise words, indeed.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Amazing paint job here.

I feel sort of like poop even mentioning that the Jefferson quote is somewhat at variance with the Kennedy and Bush quotes, and that all the wars in the past century appear to have been founded on deception of the American people by their government. However, for me to pretend otherwise is to do a different sort of disservice to the same veterans honored here, and I certainly share the artist's respect for them, despite my skepticism about the government.
I just read that the Dave Lieber piece was an opinion piece. LOL! I guess that explains why it sounded like one. :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2004

My dad asks: Isn't it amazing how snotty a reporter can get without knowing anything about the law?

This article is sufficiently noteworthy that I made some notes. It's not particularly unusual qualitatively, but that's what makes it noteworthy: it's got a lot of good examples of how media twists things to try to create the impression that you are being well and truly informed, all the while creating false impressions -- in addition to that one, I mean -- about the situation being reported.

My comments in [square brackets]. (The reporter's email address is too but it was like that when I got it.)

***

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/7669656.htm

Posted on Fri, Jan. 09, 2004

Bedford anti-tax advocate is movement's new hero
Dave Lieber - In My Opinion

Star-Telegram -- Dave Lieber [dlieber(at)star-telegram.com]


I spent part of this week in a bizarre world. [at least he actually came] U.S. District Judge John McBryde, the no-nonsense judge once accused by a fellow federal judge of "bizarre and bullying conduct," [he was convicted, too, if memory serves] locked me along with dozens of other spectators in his courtroom. McBryde really did order his bailiffs to lock the door.

And who was I locked in there with? An all-star team of federal income-tax haters, some of whom don't recognize the authority of the United States government, and showed this by refusing to stand whenever the judge and jury entered the courtroom. [was that really their reason?]

It was the trial of Bedford businessman Richard Simkanin, who was convicted Wednesday of 29 counts of violating U.S. tax laws. McBryde locked the door because he said he didn't want people running in and out. But courthouse security was tight and protesters outside held signs demanding McBryde's impeachment. [all true]

I would bet you money, tax-free of course, that hardly anybody in that courtroom pays federal income taxes. Most were proud of it, and who wouldn't be if they could get away with something like that? [like what? obeying the law? oooo, those crazy rebels!] Even a reporter for a "patriotic" Web site sitting next to me said she didn't pay federal income taxes. "But don't put my name in the paper," she said. [hearsay]

Simkanin has been locked in a federal cell for months after he supposedly had a meeting at his Bedford office and, an informant alleged, said that killing a few judges might attract attention to the cause. His supporters, including a Round Rock talk radio host who told me that he attended the meeting in question, said Simkanin never said any such thing. But McBryde wasn't taking chances. [a dubious, but defensible, action]

The tax haters in the courtroom hated McBryde as much as they hate income taxes. They acted surprised when he didn't let the trial become a circus testing the validity of federal income tax laws. [bulls***; they weren't surprised, but it sure makes them sound naive to say they were, doesn't it?] No, McBryde figured his job was to help a jury determine whether Simkanin broke laws when he stopped filing personal tax returns and ceased withholdingfederal taxes from his Bedford employees' paychecks. [replace "whether" with "that" and you've got the trial in a nutshell]

Simkanin may be the ultimate Bedford character in a city of great characters. After research in his library, which he called "one of the largest tax-book private libraries in Texas," he testified that he concluded taxes [which taxes?] were, in his words, "alleged taxes."

At one point, he became so angry about the federal tax system that he announced on his Web site that he was expatriating himself from the United States, which he said was a government "in rebellion against the Republic of Texas." [understandable, but probably not a wise move]

He began telling his employees that those who pay federal taxes "become tax slaves." And although we all know that's true, he took it much further. [only "know" the truth; never act on it]

Once he received a letter from the Department of the Treasury, but he challenged it, testifying that for all he knew, it could have been from the Department of the Treasury of Puerto Rico. [maybe it was]

He surrendered his Texas driver's license and replaced it with his own ID cards, including one from the "International Governmental Affairs Agency." He admitted he made that up because, he testified, "it just sounded good." [now that was unwise; points to the prosecution for using this, since it makes him look dishonest, when I suspect the truth is that he was simply desperate]

He named his sister-in-law, who joined the company as a file clerk, his replacement as president. He asked her to pay him in cash and take his name off official papers so he could drop off the government's radar. His accountants told him he was making huge mistakes, and when he wouldn't listen, they resigned. [all true AFAIK]

But for someone who wanted off the radar, he sure flew back on. With others, he took out a full-page ad in USA Today explaining why he had serious reservations about the federal income tax system. [true, but not really the same "radar" exactly] And he surrounded himself with that all-star team of anti-taxpayers who are household names in households that don't pay taxes. [again, which taxes?] These buddies served as a crazy cast of character witnesses at his trial. [not all of them are crazy, but this is a collective impression and an idiom so okay]

There was Joseph Banister, a former IRS special agent who was recently hauled into a San Francisco federal court by prosecutors [true] who demanded that he stop telling people income taxes were illegal [possibly false; if true, the action was superfluous, as Banister has never said that]. At first, the feds considered having eBanister's hearing last month on an isolated federal island [true] to keep out the kind of crowd with whom I shared the locked courtroom [how has this motive been determined?]. But later they relented and yanked him into a regular courtroom. [true - thanks to our outrage]

There was Eduardo Rivera, a pony-tailed lawyer from California who took the stand to say that he didn't believe that everyone had to pay income taxes. But under cross-examination by federal prosecutors, he acknowledged that a permanent injunction had been placed against him in a California federal court that prevented him from saying just those things. [Rivera wasn't a witness I probably would have invoked, but this is all true AFAIK]

There was Bob Shulz, the founder of We the People for Constitutional Education [true], who complained on the witness stand that this whole anti-tax argument stems from the fact that the 16th Amendment enacting a federal income tax was improperly ratified in 1913 [doubtful]. Somebody should get on that. [hey, we're trying... feel like helping, Mr. Smartypants??]

And there was Larken Rose, an Internet anti-tax rebel who called income tax a "fraud without rival in history" and said the IRS was an "extortion racket." On a Web site, I found a letter by him titled "Please Prosecute Me" that begins, "I, Larken Rose, have not filed a federal income tax return for 1997 or any subsequent year." [true]

But Rose has not been prosecuted [true], probably because he doesn't make enough money selling videotapes off his Web site for the government to spend money chasing him. [okay that's just plain stupid; if he isn't worth bothering with, why did they send a team of armed men to his home and steal a bunch of his videos? damn, boy, have you ever even heard of "logic"? or do you just stop researching when you get tired of thinking?] It is Simkanin, now Bedford's own convicted tax martyr, who is the newest hero of the movement. [true]

In closing arguments, his lawyer asked the jury, "Does he look like a criminal to you?" [out of context]

These jury members, who see an April 15 tax deadline coming their way, are no suckers. Hey, if they pay, why shouldn't the guy with the funny driver's license pay, too? [non sequitur: if they acquitted him, maybe they would be free of their sense of obligation soon as well, so this is evidence that they were -- or at least may have been -- suckers, not that they weren't] So in answer to the question about whether he looked like a criminal, they unanimously answered that he did. [I suppose they did at that -- with a little "help" from the judge]

Dave Lieber's Column Appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. [judging by this example, that's 3 days more than it's worth]

And now, I have some additional comments to make.

Notice that there isn't even one complete sentence from Dick Simkanin in the above. He's quoted 5 times (6 if you include the name of the made-up governmental agency) without ever being allowed to finish a sentence. Go look! Check it for yourself. Now, why the slice and dice? Simkanin is plenty literate; why not let him talk? Why does Dave feel like he has to paraphrase everything for us except these micro-peeks at Dick's actual words? Just curious. He gave the same short shrift to others as well; this piece is almost totally devoid of substantive quotes. It's all snippets glued together by his comments. It's almost basically an opinion piece, more than a reporter-style "report".

I'm curious, too, about what Lieber would have said about the jury if they had acquitted. By the accounts I've heard, they deliberated quite a bit and asked some challenging and pertinent questions of the judge, including one about finding liability in the law for withholding, which he answered by steering them away from the law and simply declaring that he had already determined the law required Simkanin to withhold. By the sound of that, it wasn't a slam dunk the way you'd think from Dave's account of it here. They reached no verdict at all on the first 2 counts, BTW, so at least some of the accusations didn't fully impress them.

Oh well. Newspapers are a dying breed as we learn to bypass them. Now that we can report things to one another directly, why bother with these silly people? Let them adapt or vanish. The future is ours.

Friday, January 09, 2004

No comment needed, I think.

Prov 14:5 (NIV) A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

Prov 12:1 (NIV) Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Prov 10:17 (NIV) He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Prov 15:12 (NIV) A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.

Prov 15:32 (NIV) He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

(Thanks to Tom H. for the compilation)
Ignoring lies is most unwise;
It teaches you to rationalize.
A specious guise is no high prize
But all you get from compromise.
Now your eyes avoid surprise;
You don't confront, you philosophize.
Recognize what hiding buys:
A soul denied which dims and dies.

(Inspired by contemplation of the -- thankfully aborted -- appointment of Henry Kissinger to the 9/11 investigative commission.)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

OK, Judge McBryde and AUSA Jarvis got their wish: the jury was gagged, bound, tied, shackled and shoved and -- whaddya know! -- found Dick Simkanin guilty. I'm oh so proud to be an American.

Actually, I am still proud to be an American, but the America I love is almost gone. The Hamilton/Lincoln/Wilson/CFR/FDR/Rockefeller/UN transition should be complete pretty soon now. Are you excited? Do you want to live as a "human resource" of a totally unaccountable absolute government? You'll be able to do that soon. You are required to do one thing, though: continue "pardoning their dust" as they finish the adjustments.

A few suggestions:

- Don't read this blog. Well, read the rest of this entry, but then stop. (Gosh, I hope you didn't stop on a dime there! Good stuff ahead.)

- Pay no attention to Dick Simkanin, Joe Banister, Ron Branson, Bob Schulz, Geoff Metcalf, John Kotmair, ICE, Dave Champion, Henry Lamb, Joan Veon, Devvy Kidd, Bev Eakman, Charlotte Iserbyt, Alex Jones, David Martin, or any of the other whiny anti-government malcontents out there. They're a dying breed; just pity them and move on. There's plenty to do without wasting your time on irrelevant patriot nonsense.

- Watch the news on TV and read your newspaper. Rely on them; they may "spin" things according to their bias, but they'll basically tell you whatever is important.

- Pay your taxes. Harangue anyone who doesn't pay theirs (damn freeloaders!).

- Vote! Be sure to vote for whoever promises to do the most for you. Government exists to (a) provide you services, (b) meet your needs, and (c) make difficult choices for you; be sure your candidate understands that.

- If you find a gun, go get an adult. If you are an adult, go get a police officer and have them confiscate the gun. If the gun is yours, take it to the police and turn it in. Do this ASAP; every minute you delay is one more opportunity for that gun to be used in a violent crime!

- Shop at Safeway. Provide your real personal information so they can track your purchases and load your database entry with pertinent information (this may be helpful to the authorities if you are ever suspected of a crime, or if it is ever desirable that you come to be suspected of one).

- Use credit cards or checks; never pay cash (see above).

- Enroll your children in a government school (a.k.a. "public school). When -- uh, sorry, I mean of course "If" -- they lag behind others in private schools or home schooling, demand additional funding for your school district. Seek to enact strict government regulation over home schooling (only the government understands how to properly educate a child, so their control over maverick parents is crucial).

- Listen to the authorities and avoid whatever behavior they consider undesirable, regardless of what the law says. Failure to comply may cause you trouble.

- When in a courthouse, pay no mind to the little voice inside that tells you something seems wrong with how lavish it is and how puny and powerless it makes you feel. In fact, ignore that little voice pretty much all the time. It will probably just cause you trouble, too.

- Don't suspect your neighbor. Report him!

- Don't worry. Be happy.

- If two paths diverge in a wood, take the one more traveled. It's probably safer (and there's more likely to be a McDonald's that way too).

That should get you off to a good start. Oh, and if you have any further questions, consult an attorney. The Bar Association is competent, honest, omniscient, and benevolent. Good luck, and don't forget to smile and wave at me when they take me away. (In case we don't get the chance to speak directly at that point, You're Welcome in advance.)
Should you happen to stumble across a magic wand, consider fixing these complaints. That guy could use a break -- or maybe Ritalin.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It doesn't get much curiouser than this.

Monday, January 05, 2004

2 questions for you.

1: Do public servants have lawful authority to control where we direct our eyes? These seem to believe they do.

2: Why is Dick Simkanin in jail?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Sometimes I see discussions of the causes of poverty, but that's a mistake. Poverty has no causes. Wealth has causes! If you want wealth, you have to do something in order to create it. Want to be poor? Do nothing. It works every time.