Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I've started a new blog where I post quickie news link roundups. I call it "Goings-on At A Glance", or GAAG for short. This seems approximately apt given the sort of things which tend to happen these days. Anyway, check it out. (I don't do hyperlinks because it would take too darn long to create them all, so you'll have to copy and paste the ones you want.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

After sending a copy of my open letter to John McBryde to Dick Simkanin, I got a letter from Dick and have transcribed what he wrote, as follows (emphasis in original).

Dear Jamie,

Thank you so much for composing the open letter to Judge McBryde. Your style of writing is very eloquent and descriptive in every manner. Also let me say, your Summary was indeed right on point. If a person cannot be shown the actual Law that was violated yet convicted by a jury, then we now have proof our Republican form of Gov't has been destroyed and replaced with the suspected fascist Democracy. Law is of little or no effect and the majority determine the fate of the minority. Well, that was my addition to your Summary. But I agree that until the Court, or somebody shows me the law I supposedly violated, then I will always believe I committed NO CRIME.

God bless you my friend.
NUM 6:24-26
Phil 1:18-20

Richard Simkanin
Political Prisoner
Christian Soldier

On the back of the page he wrote this:

Keep up the good fight !

Teach others the Truth !

Love & Serve Jesus Christ !

Defend America's Freedom !

Right is Right

Truth is Truth



Please write again if you get time.

Here are the verses he referenced.

Numbers 6:24-26: The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Philippians 1:18-20: What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

As I mentioned here, on the outside of the envelope containing Dick's copy of the McBryde letter, I wrote "Malachi 3:5".

Malachi 3:5: And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

Verses cited from KJV. Emphasis in Malachi 3:5 mine.

Monday, February 23, 2004

You need to read this interview of Pentagon insider Karen Kwiatkowski.

Thursday, February 19, 2004



Buchanan Squashes the NeoCons


From every page of this book there oozes a sense of urgency that borders on the desperate for action this day: "We can feel the will to win ebbing in Washington, we sense the reversion to the bad old habits of complacency and denial."

When I was young(er), I went out looking for a job. One place I looked into, not knowing any better at that point, was an outfit whose name escapes me but whose business was sending out trained -- or at least eager -- salespeople driving refrigerated trucks every day all over the city in order to cajole unsuspecting locals into making ad hoc frozen meat purchases by telling them -- falsely -- that the meat was an unexpected surplus and had to be moved pronto. Truly, a less suitable candidate than I for such a position would be challenging to locate. Still, I knew no better, so in I went to find out what this job was about (the ad was neither as vivid nor as candid as my description above). An unusually high number of impressions of my single day there remain with me despite over a decade having passed since. One of the strongest, and perhaps the one which will outlast all the others, is what I saw when I happened to look up at a largish sign hung on the wall above an interior door. There was a list of directives on it, and I can't recall any but the first line. Its zeal struck me as curious, and it said simply:

1. Create a sense of urgency.

I never received any material compensation for my brief time with these folks, but the lesson learned from having that "prime directive" stuck in my head as I rode along in the field for an afternoon with an experienced frozen meat pimp watching him work his wonders in spontaneous "crisis" creation is one upon which I can put no price, because, having seen that, these neocons are as transparent to me as a poorly-faked Nigerian yellowcake receipt. Sure, their prices are higher, and international war is a quicker -- and more exciting! -- killer than clogged arteries, but the tactic is unmistakeable.

No more warmongering neocon PNAC chickenhawks. No more Bush-Cheney to put them in power (and then try to scapegoat them?). NO MORE LIARS.

Read this tremendous essay. Then, help me throw these evil people out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Nothing pisses me off like reading wise words from a very smart philosopher whose entire career is spent saying terribly clever things about nothing much. Such is not the case here. Aldous Huxley, in these closing strains of "Over-organization" (a.k.a. chapter III of "Brave New World Revisited") knows why he's writing: because he can't stand to silently watch his fellow man run the ship of society aground on the miserable, arrogant shoals of totalitarian folly! (What better purpose could there be for being a brilliant writer than to set out to save the world -- or, failing that, to document, in case posterity might someday inquire, that someone at least saw the need?)

One sign of earnest writing is that a point is belabored long enough to establish it clearly, and then the writer moves to the next one. This shows intensity of intellectual purpose. Huxley neither oversimplifies nor oversophisticates his writing here, which permits only one conclusion: he was sincere.

Personally, I think he was right, at least at the time. Certainly there was much social engineering in the second half of the last century. Have we avoided the 21st-century fate he foresaw in 1958? Is this a Brave New World, or are we somewhere else now?

The current Social Ethic, it is obvious, is merely a justification after the fact of the less desirable consequences of over-organization. It represents a pathetic attempt to make a virtue of necessity, to extract a positive value from an unpleasant datum. It is a very unrealistic, and therefore very dangerous, system of morality. The social whole, whose value is assumed to be greater than that of its component parts, is not an organism in the sense that a hive or a termitary may be thought of as an organism. It is merely an organization, a piece of social machinery. There can be no value except in relation to life and awareness. An organization is neither conscious nor alive. Its value is instrumental and derivative. It is not good in itself; it is good only to the extent that it promotes the good of the individuals who are the parts of the collective whole. To give organizations precedence over persons is to subordinate ends to means. What happens when ends are subordinated to means was clearly demonstrated by Hitler and Stalin. Under their hideous rule personal ends were subordinated to organizational means by a mixture of violence and propaganda, systematic terror and the systematic manipulation of minds. In the more efficient dictatorships of tomorrow there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin. The future dictator's subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers. "The challenge of social engineering in our time," writes an enthusiastic advocate of this new science, "is like the challenge of technical engineering fifty years ago. If the first half of the twentieth century was the era of the technical engineers, the second half may well be the era of the social engineers"--and the twenty-first century, I suppose, will be the era of World Controllers, the scientific caste system and Brave New World. To the question quis cusodiet custodes?--Who will mount guard over our guardians, who will engineer the engineers?--the answer is a bland denial that they need any supervision. There seems to be a touching belief among certain Ph.D.'s in sociology that Ph.D.'s in sociology will never be corrupted by power. Like Sir Galahad's, their strength is as the strength of ten because their heart is pure--and their heart is pure because they are scientists and have taken six thousand hours of social studies.

Alas, higher education is not necessarily a guarantee of higher virtue, or higher political wisdom. And to these misgivings on ethical and psychological grounds must be added misgivings of a purely scientific character. Can we accept the theories on which the social engineers base their practice, and in terms of which they justify their manipulations of human beings? For example, Professor Elton Mayo tells us categorically that "man's desire to be continuously associated in work with his fellows is a strong, if not the strongest human characteristic." This, I would say, is manifestly untrue. Some people have the kind of desire described by Mayo; others do not. It is a matter of temperament and inherited constitution. Any social organization based upon the assumption that "man" (whoever "man" may be) desires to be continuously associated with his fellows would be, for many individual men and women, a bed of Procrustes. Only by being amputated or stretched upon the rack could they be adjusted to it.

Again, how romantically misleading are the lyrical accounts of the Middle Ages with which many contemporary theorists of social relations adorn their works! "Membership in a guild, manorial estate or village protected medieval man throughout his life and gave him peace and serenity." Protected him from what, we may ask. Certainly not from remorseless bullying at the hands of his superiors. And along with all that "peace and serenity" there was, throughout the Middle Ages, an enormous amount of chronic frustration, acute unhappiness and a passionate resentment against the rigid, hierarchical system that permitted no vertical movement up the social ladder and, for those who were bound to the land, very little horizontal movement in space. The impersonal forces of over-population and over-organization, and the social engineers who are trying to direct these forces, are pushing us in the direction of a new medieval system. This revival will be made more acceptable than the original by such Brave-New-Worldian amenities as infant conditioning, sleep-teaching and drug-induced euphoria; but, for the majority of men and women, it will still be a kind of servitude.
I mostly disagree and mostly disagree. (You'll understand shortly.)

Freedom Without Responsibility

By Arnold Kling Published 02/17/2004

"The serious and interesting issue is how do we explain the surplus of liberals in academia...it seems to me that the only viable hypothesis left is something like the following: There is a statistical association between the qualities that make for good academics and those that lead to left-leaning political views...stated this way the hypothesis still remains incredibly vague. What qualities, what traits are we talking about? What causal relations underlie these statistical associations? These questions are worth exploring, but I think the hypothesis is right headed."
-- Robert Brandon

I am going to delve more into the issues raised by Dr. Brandon, the chairman of Duke University's philosophy department, who wrote the essay quoted above in an effort to clarify what he had said in a previous and much discussed article. In that piece, he had said in effect that academics tend to be to the left of the country because conservatives are stupid.

First, I want to go a bit beyond the liberal-vs.-conservative dichotomy. I believe that it helps to separate social issues from economic issues. With that in mind, here is a simple (simplistic?) two-question quiz designed to tease out your political beliefs.

For each statement below, indicate whether you mostly agree, mostly disagree, or are uncertain.

1. I wish that the government in Washington would take more aggressive steps to provide health care and education to all.

2. I wish that the government in Washington would take more aggressive steps to punish pornography and recreational drug use.

I would answer "mostly disagree" to both questions. That also happens to be the libertarian answer.

Most of my liberal friends would answer "mostly agree" to more government provision of health care and education and "mostly disagree" to a war on pornography and recreational drug use. Conversely, the traditional conservative position is to "mostly agree" with a war on porn and drug use and to "mostly disagree" with government provision of health care and education.

My sense is that politicians of the two major parties tend to pander to the "mostly agree" side of both issues. For example, the Bush Administration tries to appeal to conservatives on social issues while expanding Federal education and health care spending in what I have called FlexDollar Welfare State.

Freedom vs. Responsibility

Another way of describing political alignment is in terms of freedom and responsibility. How much freedom should people have to pursue their own interests and desires? How much responsibility should they have for their own well-being?

The conservative ideology favors individual responsibility. However, conservatives see a need to protect the culture from behavior that runs counter to conventional morals. In that sense, conservatives are willing to restrict freedom.

The left takes the opposite point of view. Modern liberals see no reason to restrict individual freedom. However, they view people with inadequate health care or education as victims who should not be held responsible for their condition. Instead, support for health care and education should come from those whom the left regards as villains, referred to as "the rich," or "corporate America," or "straight white males."

Self-Selection

People with certain traits tend to choose particular occupations. Someone who is afraid of heights is unlikely to become a firefighter. Someone who is repelled by the sight of blood is unlikely to become a doctor. Someone who is impatient with details is unlikely to become a bookkeeper.

A fancy term for this is "self-selection." We say that people select activities and occupations that are suited to their temperaments.

If your temperament favors freedom without responsibility, then there are certain occupations that are a good fit. Academic life is one of them, as I pointed out in Real World 101. A professor has very little of what most of us would consider responsibility. Teaching, which is the most responsible activity that a professor must perform, is considered a minor part of the academic's life. Almost all professors seek to lower these modest responsibilities even further by seeking reduced teaching loads.

The trick to having freedom without responsibility is to get paid without having to worry about where the money comes from. Most professors do not worry about fundraising or attracting tuition-paying students.

In general, wherever creative individuals receive incomes without having to worry about the "business aspect" of their organizations, you have freedom without responsibility. In print journalism, reporting is kept separate from advertising or circulation. In the arts, commercial success is so difficult to predict that few writers, composers, or actors want to deal with the business aspect of their endeavors.

In software development, there is also tension between the creative side and the business side. Many programmers resent the "suits" (business executives) who impose inelegant requirements or harsh schedules on projects. Programmers who want maximum freedom with minimum responsibility self-select into open source software, where you get to work on the aspects of a project that you find important or interesting, without having to be accountable to a business executive or a novice user.

When we see leftist ideology statistically predominant among college professors, news reporters, or open-source software advocates, what we are seeing is self selection. What Richard Florida dubbed The Creative Class is a self-selected group that seeks freedom without responsibility in their professional lives. Thus, we should not be surprised that their ideological bent is toward modern liberalism, which translates this personal preference into a political platform.

The Libertarian Critique

The libertarian critique of Freedom Without Responsibility is that taking away responsibility leads to taking away freedom. The only way to provide collective benefits is by taxing those who work, save, and innovate. The more you try to alter market outcomes, the more you have to take away people's freedom. Friedrich Hayek warned that this was The Road to Serfdom. What he saw was that under both Communist Socialism in Russia and National Socialism in Germany, the loss of individual responsibility was accompanied by the eradication of freedom. This dark side of socialism was also the concern of novelist George Orwell.

Freedom Without Responsibility does not scale up to the level of society. As government takes over more responsibility from the individual, rewards start to accrue to the most ruthless and effective political operators. Work and production are crowded out by confiscation and bribery.

As government tries to second-guess market processes, it makes matters worse instead of better. A remote central government is not suited to playing the role of what George Lakoff calls a nurturant parent. The attempt to do so leads instead to an impersonal, maddening, stultifying bureaucracy.

Who is Stupid?

Professor Brandon is correct that the academic temperament is suited to the liberal ideology of Freedom Without Responsibility. However, it does not follow that Freedom Without Responsibility should be the model for an entire political and economic system.

The professors, artists, and others in the creative class of high-freedom, low-responsibility occupations are dependent for their survival and well-being on people who exercise much more responsibility with somewhat less freedom. Moreover, their ability to enjoy material comfort without having to engage in unpleasant labor depends on a system of free markets that the leftist ideology would destroy.

Freedom Without Responsibility may feel like a natural ideology for a cloistered academic. That does not make it an intelligent approach for public policy. Academics should correct for their natural biases by broadening their understanding of alternative points of view and by understanding the larger economic system. Adherence to any ideology, including liberalism, without question or re-examination, is what is really stupid.

Arnold Kling is a TCS contributing editor. He last wrote for TCS about George W. Bush and making decisions under uncertainty.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Ever wondered what "political pressure" looked like, exactly? Here's an example.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Wow. I live for things like this. Maybe I should send them a thank-you card.

Be sure to go to ABC NewsWND.comABC News and save a copy of this article! You're going to want it as proof. You'll see why!

My comments inline in blue.


http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/TheNote/TheNote.html (Note: I viewed this at the ABC News link, at the first link above. By the time I was done writing this commentary, though, they'd changed it. WND.com's story is permanent, and I linked to that, but then someone tipped me off to the archived page on ABC News so that's where to get it now. Thanks to Brent for the archive URL.)

[snip]

NEWS SUMMARY

The first version published of yesterday's Note included what was intended as a SATIRICAL report of a fictional ABC News/Washington Post poll. No such poll was conducted. The questions and results listed were not from a real poll.

But on this day when John Kerry has a chance for wins in Tennessee and/or Virginia that just might get the Southern monkey off of his back -- and take an opponent out of the race -- and after two full news cycles in which Kerry's transient upper hand over President Bush doesn't seem to have been removed by the "Meet" appearance -- on this day, let us tell you again what we tried to say yesterday.

Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.

They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."

VERY important! Some of you will know all this already but youngsters or political newbies may learn something:

This is why you almost never hear them say "liberal". Being "liberal" is "normal", and being "conservative" isn't (to them). As with conspiracy theorists vs. coincidence theorists, the "normal", or "default" position -- that's coincidence theorists, for most people, in that set -- is usually never labeled, and the existence of the label on the "non-default" position has a subtle but strong negative psychological effect on the audience, increasing with repetition. Over time, the audience attains a Pavlovial response to the "non-default" position, regarding it as somehow "wrong" even though they may be unable to articulate why, and are unaware that their own position also has a label, since they've simply never heard it before (at least, not enough for it to offset the effects of repeatedly hearing the label applied to the "non-default" position). Many other examples could be provided of this same effect, including similar treatment applied to virtually every one of the issues and items in this article! And they STILL don't have our guns!! HAHAHAHA! There must be more of us than they would like to believe. Actually, I think they know we outnumber them; I think, when they say they have a "shared sense" that these liberal positions are the default, they are not being entirely honest. I think they are trying to make those positions the default, in part by using the psychology I just described and hoping it will brainwash the masses.


They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.

I didn't write any of that. They did.

More systematically, the press believes that fluid narratives in coverage are better than static storylines; that new things are more interesting than old things; that close races are preferable to loose ones; and that incumbents are destined for dethroning, somehow.

Change is the only constant. Ask Hegel. And put down those old books; nobody reads that old stuff any more, silly!

The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush's justifications for the Iraq war -- in any of its WMD, imminent threat, or evil-doer formulations. It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies.

They were on a roll for one sentence here, then committed intellectual suicide in the second. They need to visit getusout.org and wake UP! "Multilateral institutions" are pretty much all U.N. subentities, and anyone not scared of that is NOT PAYING ATTENTION (or hoping to be one of the corrupt oppressors in charge of, or profiting from, the emerging -- unless it falls off the tracks first -- world system)!

It does not accept the proposition that the Bush tax cuts helped the economy by stimulating summer spending.

Duh... we ar thu medea. We ar rill gud at eekanamics. We wint to Yale n stuff, n ar parfesser sed Karl Marx is da MAN -- n he's rill smart cuz he watches thu news allot.

Hunh? Circaler reasining? Whu....


It remains fixated on the unemployment rate.

It believes President Bush is "walking a fine line" with regards to the gay marriage issue, choosing between "tolerance" and his "right-wing base."

Indeed. Now get ready, folks, here comes the hammer...

It still has a hard time understanding how, despite the drumbeat of conservative grass-top complaints about overspending and deficits, President Bush's base remains extremely and loyally devoted to him -- and it looks for every opportunity to find cracks in that base.

Ouch. Despite how wrong their beliefs are, they DO know Bush is not a conservative, and they are laughing at faithful Repubs who still "stand by their man" even WITH many conservative leaders trying to alert them.

Of course, the swirling Joe Wilson and National Guard stories play right to the press's scandal bias -- not to mention the bias towards process stories (grand juries produce ENDLESS process!).

No comment. ;-)

The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race.

Folks, I SWEAR to you I'm not writing this myself. That really is direct from ABC News. I'll only add that you just might want to consider the above even beyond the presidential race.

That means the President's communications advisers have a choice:

Try to change the storyline and the press' attitude, or try to win this election without changing them.

So we ask again: What's it going to be, Ken, Karen, Mary, Terry, Nicole, and Dan?

Maybe I'd know those names if I watched TV. Bush communication advisers, I presume?

That's quite a headline in the Los Angeles Times: "Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas."

And the Washington Post story filled with quotes from Republican-leaning business people who have politically soured on the President is quite striking.

More laughing at you, faithful Repubs.

As is the Wall Street Journal piece despoiling the Medicare reform law before it event [sic] takes effect.

Hate it when that happens.

On the strength of all the negative coverage of the President and all his own positive coverage, Sen. Kerry heads into today's twin primaries on a roll.

Yep. Big media, when given the choice, will gravitate toward Dems pretty much every time. Still, that is NOT a sufficient reason to choose a NWO globalist Insider in a presidential primary. NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT!!

[snip]

Well, there you have it. Like I said, save a copy of that bad boy for later, and bust your commie friends' chops with it when they try to deny the media has a leftist bias!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Stanley Hilton, who drove Bush partisans off-the-charts nuts with his appearance on Hannity & Colmes, is a very smart guy with a ton of insightful observations on a wide range of subjects. He's also suing the President, inter alia, for $7*10^9 over alleged complicity in 9/11 (hence the insanity among Bush partisans). He's wrong about a few things (hoplophobia, abortion, McCarthy, and Saddam being dead, for 4 examples -- assuming Saddam's capture wasn't faked, of course ;-) but you will learn quite a lot from the first and second hours of his December 11, 2003 interview on "radio alchymy".
The Pope has called for a "new world order". He thinks the United Nations is good and needs to be strengthened. Some of us disagree.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Today I received confirmation from the US Postal Service that my letter to Judge John McBryde, a petition in the style of earlier days of our republic, was signed for by Linda Runnels, who is listed as his Judicial Assistant. Until now, in addition to McBryde's office, it has only been seen by two other people (other than myself). Since it was intended as an open letter, I believe now is the appropriate time to share it with the rest of you.

Please read and consider. If you have any reaction to it, I'd love to hear from you.



Open Letter to Judge John McBryde re: Dick Simkanin



"Reason is the life of the law. Nay, the common law itself is nothing but reason."
--reported to be inscribed in your courthouse

Dear Sir,

The light of reason invites me to know the law, as you must, and I should, if you might see fit to open the door for me. Seeing that many sincere petitions toward this end -- to quite many "experts in the law" -- have been rebuked (when they are answered at all) with hot condescension as though the petitioners were but hapless simpletons (or worse), I have labored to fashion a worthy enough instrument that you might not despise my woeful lack of understanding, even though it be a self-chosen muckament (if that is what it is).

You have doubtless received plentiful attention over the Dick Simkanin case, with no end in sight, judging by the state of things so far since the verdict. I can only guess at the style of that attention within the ranks of those who share your view of "the nature of the tax situation", but, as one who does not, I am vividly aware of the conflagration of disgust toward you which has inflamed "my side" of the issue. Indeed I will admit to my share of it, but hope that you will nonetheless consider my message, which is sent in good faith with absence of malice, not as a judge, but in the simple mode of one man consulting with another. There is much to discuss.

We have never met, and I have not undertaken to research your career or anything else about you, so I can't say that I know you in any meaningful sense. However, scuttlebutt abounds. You have a reputation as "the IRS' man" in your area, I'm told. You reportedly are quite vigorous in your efforts to convict those who challenge the government over taxation issues. Some have said that you should have recused yourself from the Simkanin trial due to this reputation! If that is so, then apparently you must be considered quite the zealot in this area of law, and, in view of the accounts of the Simkanin trial, there seems little room for doubt.

If I might speculate toward you a bit from my ignorance, I would expect you view your efforts to eradicate the "erroneous" beliefs of Simkanin, et al, as something of a crusade to erase a blight from the land; that they are a disruptive influence on society and that it would be best if everyone would simply abandon them -- preferably voluntarily, but under duress if necessary. That, further, those who refuse to abandon them are working ill on the body politic, and deserve scorn and punishment, increasing in vigor until the errors are relinquished and the malady subsides. (Is not the best remedy for error simply the truth, illuminated? Doesn't the persistent failure of truth to eradicate an error suggest that perhaps neither actually is? But I may be too intrepid, and beg your pardon.)

In considering you thusly, I can't help but recall the story of Saul who became Paul. The implications of the comparison should be obvious in context so I won't insult you by enumerating them. Though I harbor no illusion that the mere mention of this will alter your perception, the parallels are plain, and I commend them to your contemplation, while begging your indulgence on a few more words to make my case.

Sir, though entirely beyond our designs or desires, a storm is building, conceived in ambition, cloaked in secrecy, born in arrogance, sustained by ignorance, sheltered by apathy, and now fed by such things as this very trial. Although I would not suppose you intended to, you have stoked its fury, and your actions cannot have had any other effect. While I anticipate that many will tell you so, I hope to clarify why it is so, in hopes that you may come to see the roots of its inevitability and the folly of ignoring them, as well as the gravity of the circumstances, which -- if you will again pardon me, for saying so -- I don't think you can have sufficiently realized. In the process, I have some questions, and I pray you to give them sober attention, so as to disencumber us both of any burden of mistake.

We are obviously awash with both truth and error, yet cannot seem to forge any agreement between our camps about which is which. Since the law is objective, standing mute above us all, its silent witness may be had by any, and surely the hope of pacification of the present tensions without clarification of the law holds no charm for the sober now. The fate of our legions is written in the law, both man's and God's; our own natures, and our respective circumstances as well, forbid our retreat from the conflict which must come, if we continue to stand at odds. Good men can hardly tolerate such a condition, and are naturally compelled to seek its rectification.

To it, then. What I would like from you, if you should find time to reply, is to know, originally and clearly, what Dick Simkanin's error was, so that its trap might be exposed before more fall prey to it. Indeed, I find myself examining the same issues which led him to you, and so it clearly behooves me to discover the precise nature of his transgression in order to avoid a similar fate ("there but for the grace of God go I," and may yet). Obedience to the civil law, so long as it is not in contravention of God's, is certainly the hallmark of a good citizen, but I find its pursuit frustrated by a conundrum; to wit:

It is certainly no crime to study the law; indeed, I would suppose the truth is nearly the opposite, and that you would agree. I further posit that it can be no crime to ask one's government for explanations or citations of law to establish a particular contended point, and that you would agree there too. So, while you are of course free to answer however seems right to you, I'll assume that I may proceed immediately farther.

If a citizen studies the law and finds that it appears -- to him -- to make no requirement of him to do a thing, but he is frivolously advised that the law does indeed require him to do it, what is he to do? Is it not proper to ask Where the law makes such a requirement? If he cannot find it, nor anyone to show it to him, how can he ascertain that the law actually makes that requirement? Is he to believe blindly that the requirement must exist in some unspecified place, simply because he is advised that it exists? If so, on what basis is his belief to be founded? That he has already seen it, but is merely too dull to comprehend the law in front of him? (But, even if that were granted, intelligent searchers have equally failed. Some, in fact, were in your courtroom for this trial!) That he has been granted the communion of angels, whose very words are beyond question? (This, I trust, needs no refutation.) I hazard that there is no possible foundation upon which to erect such a belief. Further, when such citizen encounters many other unsuccessful searchers who report that they, too, have all been frivolously assured that the requirement exists, what then is he to believe? When, in fact, he can find not one person anywhere who has ever found or been shown the requirement, despite hundreds or even thousands of requests for it, but does find many specious attempts having been made to establish the requirement by appealing to laws whose appearance of a requirement melt away upon careful examination, what exactly would you have occur in his mind? How is he to proceed from these discoveries to a confidence that the requirement exists, if not by being shown where it is? Can it be willed upon him by force of (others') desire? Beaten into him by blows, or created within him by derision? Can he be drawn to it by dispossession of property? Will he absorb it if it is written by implication on the walls of a prison, if he is allowed to steep long enough in it? Is there in fact any power remaining in the world capable of instilling that confidence in him, if it is not a discovery of the law in controversy? Sir, with respect, there plainly can be none. Knowledge of law comes only from reading it; all else is hearsay.

Having failed to locate any proof of requirement, what is our citizen to do next? He is arrived at the unenviable dilemma of choosing between two sorrowful options: he may either cravenly do as he is instructed by the (as yet frivolous!) orders of those supposed to be in power above him, or he may behave as a free man by striking his own course without regard to the (legally non-binding, according to his best understanding!) preferences of others -- but, in so doing, set himself up in the eyes of the multitude as in rebellion to that same power (though in reality he is in rebellion to nothing; rather, he is obeying the teaching of God that man should be free). Stinging disadvantages lurk on either path. Down the latter, he sacrifices the respect of public officials, the press, and likely some of his own associates and even family, immersing himself inexorably in a perpetual battle for even such common and elemental legal dignities as the presumption of innocence and the right to equal justice under, and due process of, the law; down the former he cannot but shed his very self-esteem, and with it, inevitably, the respect of all the others -- besides which, his rights in this case are given up at the outset. What terrible choice is that, and how can it be satisfactorily made, that demands from a man his very dignity regardless of the path chosen? Where there is, ultimately, no safe haven for him, and this due only to the actions others have taken regarding him without his consent, and deriving from no wrong committed by him? Where, if he surrenders, he forfeits his property, and if he fights, it is taken from him nonetheless, and perhaps more, with, apparently, the unmerciful approbation of society itself? Where the road of peace passes supinely under the boot of an arbitrary master in no wise superior to him, and the road of conflict into an existence where every shred of normalcy and security must be constantly defended from the inescapable reap-scythe of sudden illicit -- but privileged -- revocation? I say to you, sir, though you resist the truth of it, we are confronted here by a specter formerly thought long exorcised from our house, for it is the choice of a slave.

The mundanity of life continues apace, but be not deceived: this ugliness is immovable short of a direct confrontation of the inconvenient facts (I say inconvenient, and I mean to everyone, for we are fellow countrymen and the plight of one is the plight of all, though the extent of the problem still escapes most). Where a deficiency exists, it must be remedied, or it will rot out everything around it until the decay takes more from us than would have been required to fill the original cavity. This deficiency, as I believe it to be (and welcome you to prove me wrong!), and as it certainly is at least within many minds, has eaten away gradually at long-contended and hard-won prizes we would never relinquish instantly: our confidence in the governments and their officers and agencies, the protection of our rights to due process of law (inter alia), the tranquility of regulation among the people in their intercourses with government, the general amity to which neighbors are accustomed to feeling entitled by default. All these have fallen, or rather, been sacrificed under the duress of that formidable fear jealously guarding a terrifying admission: that we have, all of us, been utterly deceived by certain of our antecedents. Guard or no, that admission challenges you to approach, and have you just cause to remain withdrawn? If you have, sir, I implore you to share it; the need is exceedingly great, as our numbers grow daily, and we already, I think, shall not all fit at once inside your prison with Simkanin. If you have not, then by what subtle trail can you arrive at a view that the explorations of the bold ought rightly to be subjugated to the jeers of cowards? The fool may entertain delusions of superiority, but these afford him no shelter from the stern correcting-rod of experience, from which, if he persists in his errant ways, he must slink away into still less coherent fancies -- and in the matter at hand, sir, one or the other of us will surely be found a fool; the facts allow no other construction. This determination rests, not with force, but with facts. One of us is on the side of the facts, and one is not. Having no crystal ball, I can offer only the prediction that there will be no peace on this front while the truth and the lie remain confused, and that you, Mr. Justice sir, have an uncommon advantage over most of us in dispelling that confusion, should you take up the cause (the cause you may suppose yourself to already be pressing, but, if that were true, the issue would be clearer now, when all that has been made clear by this trial is that the present arrangement is untenable, unacceptable and patently repugnant to our cherished traditions). I can also say that, in the end, the truth always prevails, and that, however bitter the pill of repentance in the face of the status quo may taste, that of regret to those who resist the truth to the last will invariably prove the worse.

Naturally I presume you are already familiar, and quite likely overly so, with the story of Simkanin's various choices, and, while there are some which might prove worthy of investigation, I will leave it to you to summon them if you choose, so I will end there and await whatever reply you may offer.

I will add, on the matter of the trial, only that I find it amazing that you -- if I have not been misinformed -- told the jury, in response to an inquiry from them, that you had personally made the determination that Simkanin was required by law to withhold from his employees' pay. If you have, indeed, made that determination by law, I strongly believe you have a moral obligation, if not a legal one, to tell me and the rest of us dim-wits out here shivering in the chill fog of ignorance exactly how you made it! The ramifications of the alternate possibility are as self-evident as they are outrageous -- and, as I suspect you are already being told, they are also, by many, the increasingly preferred explanation (which is all the more reason why, if the rumor is true, you should, or even must, explain the lawful basis for your determination, and perhaps, in doing so, stave off the burgeoning tempest and restore the blessings of peace to us all).

In summary:

We have an old saying that "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." I submit to you that, absent being shown the law violated, Dick Simkanin can never be convinced that he violated the law; that his admission of guilt lies in wait not behind a bulkhead of willful ignorance, nor one of malintent, nor even one of obstinance, but one of integrity; that it mayhap be elicited by force (if your will exceeds his), but can never be accompanied by contrition, absent a revelation of the law. Only Simkanin can say if that's true of him, but, most assuredly, it is true of me. In matters of mala prohibita, my heart cannot regret what my mind cannot perceive to be forbidden. If absent a law, it isn't a crime, then if nobody can find the law, how can it be concluded forbidden? No amount of trials or verdicts can ever manufacture a law; only legislatures have that power. Public sentiment is not law; nobody is required to do what "everyone else" wants them to do simply because "everyone else" wants them to do it. Even "all the king's horses and all the king's men" are unable to add anything to the law; they may only provide the enforcement. A law, enacted by the people's congress, must declare it criminal, or it's not. These are well-established fundaments of our constitutional republican liberty, and, again, I trust you will affirm each one. Where, then, is the crime? What was Dick Simkanin's criminal error?


Sincerely, Earnestly, and Bewilderedly yours,

(signed)

Jamie W. Jackson

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I've been busy lately digesting a lot of this web site; in particular the sections regarding 9/11 and the "war on terror", as well as many of the URLs linked therefrom. While I do not agree fully with every opinion of the author, in general it is well worth reading and considering carefully.

Oh yeah, I'm now 35, too. Go me.