Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Tuesday night on NBC's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, babe-a-licious detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) committed a federal crime by leaking information about missing weapons-grade anthrax to a reporter after a Homeland Security agent prohibited our heroes from warning anyone about the danger because, "Well, you can't." This has gotten her boss, Capt. Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) in a heap of trouble because it's obvious one of his detectives leaked the story.

The reporter went to jail at the end of the episode after refusing to rat out Olivia as the source. Art imitates life, as the feds waste valuable resources on finding out who warned the public about the missing weapons-grade anthrax that they could be spending to find out who stole the missing weapons-grade anthrax.

It's an example of an ever-more-obvious trend with a long artistic tradition, as writers use their craft to dramatize what they see in real life and what they think could happen next. Another example: In "Battlestar Gallactica" and "Commander in Chief," we see women becoming president and challenging the old-boys network, while in real life Hillary Clinton vs. Condi Rice in 2008 doesn't seem so far-fetched.

And now Matt Drudge reports (and Claire W. picks up) the next apparent trend in TV prognostication: The End of America.

"ABC alone has at least two would-be shows set in post-apocalyptic America (Resistance and Red & Blue) while Gavin Polone and Bruce Wagner are teaming for the comfy-sounding plague drama Four Horsemen at CBS (which also is developing Jericho, about life in a small town after America is destroyed)."

Are TV writers finally picking up on the old saw that George W. Bush and friends see themselves as fighting the antichrist in the end times and aiming America toward that final battle between good and evil? Are they noticing the Free State Project and Vermont's secession movement and foreseeing a more conventional dissolution of the Union? Hard to say.

Skeptic that I am, I suspect the best we can expect is that these series are driven by folks who are justly alarmed by the actions of the Bush administration but will lose their interest in lost liberties once a Democrat is safely ensconced in the Oval Office. But it is nice to see the frightening trends displayed up there in lights in a popular TV series. Maybe a few heads will be turned ... and I'm not referring to the above photograph.

Terrorizing the innocent

Among many memorable scenes and bits of dialogue in the film Serenity is a moment where The Operative tells Malcolm Reynolds, "You can't beat us," and our stalwart captain replies, "I got no need to beat you. I just want to go my way." I believe that's how many of us feel about our imperial government.

But Miami police are making it awfully hard for innocent people to go their way. The Associated Press reported Monday night:

"Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

"Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats."

Claire Wolfe's friend Elk noticed that late Tuesday afternoon, the reference to citizens having to show their papers was specifically denied in a revised story by the same AP reporter, who seems to have been contacted by a police spokesman in between versions:

"As an example, uniformed and plainclothes officers might surround a bank building unannounced, contact the manager about ways to be vigilant against terrorists and hand out leaflets in three languages to customers and people passing by, said police spokesman Angel Calzadilla. He said there would be no random checks of identification."

This announcement is wrong on so many levels that you have to wonder what alternative universe someone is operating in. The supposedly-discarded (we wish!) random ID check is another way to fill our jails and prisons with innocent new criminals. Terrorizing little old ladies and mild-mannered writers who are trying to do their banking doesn't send a message to terrorists; it sends a message to the ladies and writers: The police may disrupt your day and perhaps your life anytime they choose. It sends another message to the banks targeted by these rogue police: Your business, already at risk of armed robbers and terrorists, is now more likely to be subject to a random show of police force.

I had no real desire to visit Miami, but now I have a real desire to avoid that city at all costs. I just want to go my way unimpeded by flagrant violations of the Fourth Amendment. First airports, then New York City with its random subway searches, and now Miami. My world is getting smaller as our freedom slips away.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hooray for Claire

I thought I'd let it sink in for a couple of weeks before I said anything out loud about Claire Wolfe's announcement that her "YULE GIFT TO MYSELF this year is going to be Silence. Sometime around December 21, I'm getting rid of both my Internet connection and my land-line telephone."

Part of my daily routine has been checking in on Wolfesblog a time or three to see if there's any new news and comment to think about. And there damn well usually is. From the Hardyville Film Festival to her great book about escaping the job culture, Claire has been an invaluable source for this budding rebel.

My first reaction was surprise and disappointment; having only recently found this nifty writer and entertaining source of important information - but then I saw the sense in it and applauded jealously.

She had actually given us a bit of a warning two days earlier with a short entry that began with these wise words:

UNINTERRUPTED TIME TO THINK, REFLECT, AND CREATE is not a luxury -- though we have allowed it to become one. In setting up contitions of ceaseless, artificial hustle-bustle, do-it-now, interrupt this to do that, we've removed something crucial from being human.

I found myself yearning for uninterrupted time to think, reflect and create, and two days later I found myself cheering for someone who cries out loud, "I'm taking this time and you can't stop me, thank you very much."

Good for you, Claire. I look forward to your return and the fruits of your time away, but don't hurry back on our account. I'll very likely be trying to find a way to follow your example.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Another nail in liberty's coffin

"Taking back a right the public has had for 21 years, a state appeals court ruled yesterday the New Jersey Constitution does not protect citizens who videotape open government meetings.

"The three-judge court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit by a Camden County man who claimed he was wrongfully arrested for attempting to videotape two borough council meetings in September 2000 ...

"Robert Wayne Tarus said yesterday he was aware of that ruling when he brought his video camera to a meeting of the Pine Hill Borough Council. He said he had seen council members change their stories and wanted an accurate record of their comments. ...

"Dismissing that lawsuit yesterday, Appellate Division Judge Anthony Parrillo ruled the state constitution protects the right of the public to attend public meetings, not to videotape the proceedings."

"'Thus, the right to videotape public proceedings is subject to reasonable governmental restrictions,' Parrillo wrote."

... thus protecting the right of the Pine Hill Borough Council members to change their stories. Today, Robert Wayne Tarus; tomorrow, some blogger; the day after that, Channel 6; and finally CNN; and then our right to have an accurate record of what the scoundrels are doing will be gone.

This link should be up through Dec. 7 before going into the Star-Ledger's archives.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Conspiracy Theory

This is Thanksgiving morning, and we should be spending the day being thankful for our blessings, not searching for demons in the corners. But ...

While listening to a talk radio discussion of the X-Box 360 phenomenon yesterday, I got to thinking ...

The discussion revolved around whether the game systems sold out within hours because Microsoft manipulated the supply or if they merely released as many copies of the game system as they were able to manufacture before Nov. 22, the goal being to have it out on the market , debugged and thriving before the release of the rival Sony PlayStation 3.

"Sony!?!?," I asked.

The Sony that is currently being berated, abused, boycotted and prosecuted for sneaking spyware into its CDs?

Wow, it sure would be to Microsoft's advantage for people to be mad at Sony and boycotting its products when PS3 comes out, wouldn't it? And, being a cynic, I find it hard to believe that Sony's sin is the first of its kind. And, if a rival company snuck spyware into its products, the geeks at Microsoft would be among the first to spot it.

Who was the source of the stories about Sony's indiscretions, I wonder?

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your tryptophan-induced dreams.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Liberty on screen: Is it too good to be true?

All of a sudden it's fashionable to be showing the fight for liberty on the silver screen. "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith" memorably shows the disintegration of a republican form of government into a tyrannical empire. "Serenity" shows a small group of people trying to fly under the radar of a nasty government and then making a stand when they can't any longer. Based on the source material the upcoming films "Aeon Flux" and "V for Vendetta" will have similar themes.

What's up?

Best-case scenario: The film makers have a true love of freedom and are willing to pursue these themes in the face of an ever-increasing hostility toward liberty by The Powers That Be. My greatest fear: The decisions to greenlight these films are being made by partisans who dislike the Bush administration not because of its anti-freedom mind set but because it is a Republican administration, partisans who were willing to overlook the anti-freedom bent of the Clinton administration because they consider Democrats to be righteous.

If that's the case, they will consider the battle won once we have a Democratic Congress or a Democrat in the White House, and these important themes will fade away.

The framework of the totalitarian Department of Homeland Security was developed by a commission appointed by Clinton and co-chaired by Warren Rudman, a Republican, and Gary Hart, a Democrat. The differences between Democrats and Republicans are purely cosmetic; the bottom line is both major parties are friends of centralized government and enemies of freedom.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

We're All Gonna Die

My eye was caught at the antique store the other day by a thick, well-worn book titled "Modern Medical Counselor." By its condition it was clear the book was anything but modern, and the price ($2) was right, so, figuring it would be an interesting excursion into the past, I brought it home.

What actually caught my attention was the section that I casually opened to, even before I brought the book home: "Survival in Atomic Bombing." The copyright date of the book is 1951, so browsing through this book will be a traipse through an era where communism and nuclear death were our greatest fears.

With the knowledge of what was to happen in the next 54 years, we know the fears were largely unfounded. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still the only cities ever destroyed by atomic bombs, and while the great communist bogeyman reared his ugly head many times over the years, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell apart under the weight of its totalitarian follies and China has decided to try burying us the good old American way, by establishing government-subsidized monopolies.

In other words, the fear that was used as an excuse to impose on our liberties never came true. Communism and nuclear catastrophe did not destroy us.

Today, the fear is of small groups of terrorists (and "rogue nations") with
nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The fear is that an influenza virus that kills birds will find a way to migrate into humans and cause a pandemic. The fear is that standing too close to a person smoking a cigarette will give you cancer. We can let those fears control us, we can let others use those fears to justify locking us into cages, or we can refuse to be afraid and live our lives as free men and women.

Here is the fear that lurks behind all of these fears: We are afraid to die. We are especially afraid to die before we experience a ripe old age.

Here is the truth: We all will die, some of us "before our time." The real choice we all have: We can live and die as slaves, or we can live and die as free men and women.

Most of our lives we exist in the gray area between freedom and slavery, convincing ourselves that we are making our choices freely: When we hand the chains to our government and our bosses and our creditors, we rationalize that we are making a free decision to enslave ourselves. And it usually is a freely made choice - in the beginning.

Like Jacob Marley's ghost, we accumulate shackles as we progress through life, usually out of fear - fear of poverty, fear of going hungry, fear of not having a reliable car. And the biggest fear of them all is the fear of death.

Accepting that you will die is the beginning of freedom. I've never heard the song "Live Like You're Dying," but its title is the message.

These thoughts could be misconstrued as advocating violent resistance against the slavemasters. Nothing could be further from the truth. The revolution I advocate is an internal one.

Refuse to be afraid. Resist the impulse to yield to the fear and let someone strip your liberty in the name of security and protection. Live like you were dying - because you are, someday, so better to live free than in chains.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

New appreciation for Summer Glau the actress

I'm still a bit blown away about how thoroughly I have become entranced by the defunct TV series "Firefly" and its miraculous sequel, the movie "Serenity."

In my younger days it was not unusual for me to go watch a film 5-6-7 times; some movies are like roller coasters - it's fun to go back for another ride. Between the advent of VCRs and getting interested in other pursuits, I had not seen a movie on the big screen more than twice for 17 years. I've now seen "Serenity" four times, and I was positively gleeful last night when I saw that the local budget cinema is now showing Joss Whedon's Big Damn Movie. At $2.75 a pop, I should be able to break my personal record of seeing a film in the theater eight times, depending on how long this theater hangs onto it.

Why Firefly/Serenity? It's not the first series with a great ensemble cast, sharp writing, memorable characters, terrific music, compelling imagery, important themes, etc., etc. But somehow all of those elements come together in such an incredible entertaining way. And it probably came along at the right time in my life, as I've come to consider as heroes those who eke out a decent living while trying to avoid the regulatory tentacles of our intrusive and increasingly totalitarian keepers. The story of Malcolm Reynolds and the motley crew of the Serenity is the harmonic convergence of all of these elements.

The latest of my many epiphanies about the series is about the job done by Summer Glau, the 24-year-old actress who plays River Tam, the troubled subject of monstrous experiments by scientists of the Alliance. I have previously written that "Firefly" poses the greatest question since "Ginger or Mary Ann?" - that being, of course, "Inara or Kaylee or Zoe?" My epiphany was that it's a tribute to Summer Glau's acting ability that it never occurred to me to add "or River?" into that equation.

And yet, here at, is plenty of evidence that this is a woman as lovely as co-stars Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. And what acting chops - after all, the progression of River from crazy helpless waif into a mostly-rational fighting machine cannot be an easy one to portray, but she makes it believable all the way through.

The movie has not been the blockbuster hit that I personally expected it to be, even though it's one of the best movies I've ever seen (perhaps because the connection to the characters depends so much on familiarity with the 15 hours of the TV series), so it's entirely possible that the story ends here. I hope not, because it would be interesting and no doubt entertaining to see how River Tam evolves after the events of "Serenity" in the hands of Whedon and the (who knew?) glamorous Ms. Glau.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Someone noticed ...

At least the New York Times has started to pay attention ... although calling USAPATRIOT an "antiterror law" in the headline buys into the mythology.

Senators Threaten to Block Renewal of Antiterror Law

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 - A bipartisan group of senators threatened to derail the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act today, only hours after Congressional negotiators had seemed on the verge of an agreement to extend and keep largely intact its sweeping antiterrorism powers.

"If further changes are not made, we will work to stop this bill from becoming law," three Republicans and three Democrats said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

The six senators expressed "deep concern" that, as it now stands, the bill does not incorporate changes they believe necessary to prevent excessive government intrusion in personal matters. The six said it is essential that the law "continues to provide law enforcement with the tools to investigate possible terrorist activity while making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessasry and intrusive government surveillance." ...

The supposed agreement that came under renewed fire today from the six senators would ensure the extension of all 16 provisions of the law that were set to expire in six weeks. Fourteen would be extended permanently, and the remaining two - dealing with the government's demands for business and library records and its use of roving wiretaps - would be extended for seven years. There would also be a seven-year extension of a separate provision on investigating "lone wolf" terrorists.

That represents a compromise between the versions of the bill passed earlier this year by the House and the Senate. The House had voted to extend the provisions by 10 years, but the Senate moved to extend the powers by four years.

The terms reached by negotiators do include some new restrictions on the government's powers, including greater public reporting and oversight of how often the government is demanding records and using various investigative tools.

Critics at the American Civil Liberties Union and elsewhere called the changes "window dressing" and said that the legislation left out what they considered more meaningful reform in preventing civil rights abuses in terror investigations.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

While we were sleeping ...

While the circus was spinning and we were hearing about bird flu, and rootkits in CDs, and IBM's global identity system, and generally having an apoplectic fit over the Orwellian wonder of it all ... Congress has been busy, quietly preparing the final nail in the coffin of liberty and getting ready to reauthorize the USAPATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act, an abomination that has neither united nor strengthened America.

Proving once again B.W.'s Theorem No. 1: When all hell breaks loose and we're all distracted, check to see what Congress is doing, because it won't be good.

Senator Feingold, no friend of the First Amendment, is at least keeping us informed about the lack of progress toward disarming USAPATRIOT's arsenal against liberty:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today released the following statement on the Patriot Act conference report, scheduled to come to the Senate floor as early as this week.

“Reports out of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization conference committee are extremely troubling. In July, members on both sides of the aisle in the Senate unanimously agreed that changes needed to be made to the PATRIOT Act and passed a bill that took important steps to protect Americans’ rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, it appears that the conference committee is likely to reject that bipartisan consensus.

"In 2001, I was alone in the Senate in opposing the Patriot Act. But for the past several years, a bipartisan coalition has been working together to seek modifications. I agreed to support the Senate version of the reauthorization bill even though it did not go nearly as far as the SAFE Act. I cannot stand by while the conference committee undermines the modest protections for our rights and freedoms contained in the Senate bill. The American people deserve better.

"Working with my colleagues, I will consider all procedural options at my disposal to fight a final reauthorization bill that doesn’t fix the Patriot Act.”

In a fact sheet he released in late October, Feingold listed four reasons why the Senate version of the reauthorization is an improvement over the House version:

Reason 1 – The Senate version protects against overly intrusive searches of library, bookstore, medical and other personal records.

The Senate version of the bill requires that the government demonstrate to a court that the library, bookstore, medical or other personal records it seeks under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act are connected to a suspected terrorist or spy, and it provides the right to challenge a Section 215 order in court.

"Despite repeated assurances from the Administration that Section 215 has not been used to obtain library records, we know from an American Library Association study that federal, state and local investigators have obtained library records nearly 200 times since 2001," Feingold said. "Meaningful judicial oversight of Section 215 is imperative to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans."

Reason 2 – The Senate version helps protect the privacy of Americans subject to secret searches.

The Senate version of the bill requires the government in most circumstances to notify targets of secret "sneak and peek" search warrants within seven days of government agents searching their homes or offices. The House version would allow the government to wait six months.

"The Bill of Rights guarantees every American the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures," Feingold said. "Notification of a search is a crucial part of the constitutional guarantee because it allows the reasonableness of and authority for the search to be challenged. Nearly permanent secrecy should always be the exception, not the rule."

Reason 3 – The Senate version requires the Justice Department to provide more information to Congress on its use of the PATRIOT Act.

The Senate version of the bill requires that the Justice Department report to Congress, including the Senate Judiciary Committee, on its use of a variety of controversial PATRIOT Act surveillance powers, including its reliance on Section 215 orders specifically to obtain library, bookstore, firearm sales, medical or tax records, and the government's use of secret "roving" intelligence wiretaps.

"The Administration's continued attempts to dodge congressional oversight are a disservice to our constitutional system of checks and balance," Feingold said. "The extraordinary surveillance powers of the Patriot Act must always be subject to strict congressional scrutiny so that the American people can be confident that the government is not going too far."

Reason 4 – The Senate version includes a four-year sunset for some of the Act’s most controversial domestic surveillance powers.

The Senate version of the bill mandates that Congress revisit in four years the PATRIOT Act's most controversial sections, including Section 215, the so-called "library records" provision. The House version would not sunset any provisions until 2015.

"While the Senate version of the PATRIOT Act's reauthorization isn't perfect, it recognizes the continued potential danger of some of the most controversial provisions," Feingold said. "Congress should impose another four-year sunset on those provisions to guarantee an earlier opportunity to re-evaluate the government's need for and use of these

The damned law needs to be repealed, but in our growing totalitarian environment, the Senate's timid scratchings at the edges of USAPATRIOT are better than nothing. While it seems ironic that the co-author of the McCain-Feingold First Amendment Repeal Act would defend the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and other amendments, at least someone is trying to raise the alarm .

The fact is while we all chase after the Oz-like nuttiness of Sony, IBM and miscellaneous fruitcake politicians, the Men Behind The Curtain are quietly working to etch their Bill of Rights Repeal into stone. Someday soon the mainstream media will wake up and let us know the terrorists have won and USAPATRIOT is revitalized.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Building freedom

I have this one bookmarked!

The blogging blahs

I guess even bloggers go through creative slumps and writer's block. I thought I'd better check in on Day Five of this one. Nothing serious going on around here, just haven't had the "spark" that says, "I need to rant about this" or "I have to share this good stuff with the world." It's more like, "What's the use?" When the overwhelming sentiment of the folks you meet is quiet acquiescence to a system that confiscates half of our income and rewards us with micromanagement of our lives, it's easy to get discouraged.

Maybe I'm moping and jealous because Phoenix is too far from home. That Freedom Summit sounded pretty cool, and I'm looking forward to reports from Arizona.

The good news is the "Firefly" soundtrack CD finally arrived in the mail yesterday, and it'll be the background music on my commute to the salt mine today. That should help stoke the fire a bit. Uncle Sam and the governor may take half of my blood, sweat and tears, but they can't take the sky from me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

James Leroy Wilson's on a roll

Lately the best thing I can tell you is to head over to Independent Country and see what Wilson's saying today. His reflective turn has been discussed in several places, including the Wally Conger and Claire Wolfe blogs, so anything I say would be redundant.

Wise words on serenity (with a small "s") are mingled with ever-sharp observations on our police state. I like what this guy has to say!

Gasoline prices are still high, friend

I was relieved that the price of gas had trickled down to $2.37 a gallon, from a high of $3.39 in our neck of the woods, until I realized last night it still costs more than $30 to fill the tank.

I went back into my records and found that in January of this year, I filled the tank for $1.76 a gallon, or around 20 bucks.

Why is the movie industry suffering from a prolonged slump? You need to drive to most theaters and spend $10-20 minimum once you get there. When it costs $10-20 more just to fill the gas tank ...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The oligarchy grows

Well, no matter which scenario greeted us this morning, it would have been another reason why not voting is starting to make sense.

"Two really wealthy men ran against each other and the wealthier man won," said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. "What this election showed is that you have to be rich to run and even richer to win."

Read about the latest rich guy who feels our pain buying himself a fiefdom here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Skipping 2006 and heading straight for the summer of '07

Movies Online has the first publicity still from Spider-Man 3, this shot of Thomas Haden Church as the Sandman.

Since the first two Spidey movies have been the best comic-book movies ever made (although this summer's Batman Begins comes pretty darn close) and Sam Raimi continues as director of the third one, the anticipation is pretty high for this one, although I have to admit being alarmed to hear they're planning to feature three (!) supervillains.

The first two flicks were blockbusters because they were about Peter Parker, a human being who happens to become a superhero. If they shift the focus to Spider-Man, a superhero who happens to be Peter Parker on the side, Spider-Man 3 could become one of the biggest el-stinko disappointments since Superman 4.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The presumption of liberty

I've just started slowly moving through a scholarly book by Randy E. Barnett, a Boston University prof and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, called "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty." By the time I got four pages through the first chapter, the musings on the Ninth Amendment that I posted yesterday were crystalized. The bad news is Barnett says the Ninth is treated with derision and scorn by the average legal mind, "as in, 'what are you going to argue, the Ninth Amendment?'"

But as if to drive home the point, Bill St. Clair the other day found an interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano about his book "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws." The key point and headline of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article: "The default position is freedom" in constitutional matters.

The bad news, of course: The message of Napolitano's book is "That rights are not guaranteed, even though the Constitution says they are. That government will labor mightily to make holes in the Constitution to avoid and evade it. And that a government that breaks its own laws in the act of prosecuting people is not your friend. It doesn't have a happy ending, this book. It's filled with horror stories!"

The good news is "our rights come from our humanity - they don't come from government - and our humanity comes from God. So we have the right to speak freely, to think freely, to travel and to associate - whether or not it's written down and whether or not the government chooses to protect it, because those are natural rights that no government in a popular democracy can take away."

Napolitano came by his beliefs through practical experience: "After about a year and a half on the bench of trying criminal cases, I began to see that the Constitution does not mean what it says to the government. And that every single government lawyer who came before me, whether it was jaywalking or murder and everything in between, seemed to be spending all their time justifying ways around the Constitution, trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and claim that the things that the police did that were so obviously and patently illegal and unconstitutional were in fact condoned by higher courts."

I'm not sure what to do as a solitary soul against a massive force intent on throttling our inalienable rights. The easiest and most practical course is to ignore it, fly under the radar as best as you can, and hope to be left alone. As the fictional Malcolm Reynolds put it so eloquently to The Operative sent by the massive force in his world, "I got no need to beat you, I just want to go my way."

Perhaps it is enough to coax people into reading the words and conjuring what kind of state we'd have if we insisted that the Constitution means what it says. I realize that for now I'm preaching to the converted with these musings and my "Constitution in Plain English" theme; the handful of readers who visit here regularly are long familiar with these arguments. But laying these thoughts out there like this is planting seeds; hopefully some of these seeds will take root in fertile minds as they surf past here on their way somewhere else. And we'll see where it grows from there.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Constitution in Plain English - Part 6

I'm going to deviate from the pattern of writing about the First Amendment in Part 1, the Second in Part 2, the Third in Part 3, etc. Who says I have to write about the Amendments in order anyway? I have a right to make my point as I see fit - even if such a right is not enumerated in the Constitution per se.

The more I write about how judges and legislators and presidents have trampled on the rights enumerated in the Constitution, the more my thoughts wander to the Ninth and Tenth amendments - and if those two amendments mean what they say, the extent to which those judges, legislators and presidents have betrayed the meaning of the Constitution becomes breathtaking.

Amendment 9. The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Decisions such as Roe v. Wade are often derided because they assert rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution. I used to do this myself. "There is no constitutional right to privacy," I would say. "The Constitution is silent on that 'right.'"

But I've come to realize that by its silence and the Ninth Amendment, the
Constitution speaks loudly and clearly. "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage" the right to privacy. In the Ninth Amendment, the founders made a point of saying people have many rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution. In the Ninth and Tenth amendments, the founders specifically say that the purpose of the Constitution is to set limits on how government may affect people's rights - not to set limits on those rights.

Amendment 10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

And here the betrayal of the Constitution's purpose becomes achingly clear. The Tenth Amendment, combined with the Ninth, clarify that the first eight amendments set a number of limits on the federal government's power - not on the rights of the people. If certain rights are not mentioned in the Constitution, that doesn't mean the federal government is free to restrict those liberties - to the contrary, it means the federal government has no power whatsoever beyond what's plainly stated in that document, although the states can fiddle in a number of areas denied to the feds if they so choose.

These two amendments draw the line of power: Individual citizens empower the states, which have delegated a specific set of powers to the federal government. The federal powers that are not enumerated in the Constitution belong to the states and/or individual citizens. Departments of education and arts and human services and environmental protection may be created by states, but they are simply none of the federal government's business.

Judges and legislators and presidents generally ignore the Ninth and Tenth amendments, because if those clauses mean what they say in Plain English, then judges and legislators and presidents have been acting unconstitutionally since, well, since almost the beginning. All three branches of government have generated for themselves a vested interest in the myth that the Constitution doesn't mean what it says, that it needs to be "interpreted" to be understood, and these judges and legislators and presidents will happily "interpret" what your rights are for you. Forgive the vernacular: Bullshit.

The spirit of the 1776 Revolution, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, held that people "are endowed by their creator (not by some Constitution) with certain inalienable rights." The Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, spells it out: A government of men may not take away what the creator has given. Judges and legislators and presidents have spent the past 229 years betraying that spirit.

We need to understand that the Constitution was written in Plain English so that we don't need judges and legislators and presidents to interpret its meaning: We can figure it out for ourselves. And when we do, I suspect we will be very, very angry at those judges and legislators and presidents.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fritzi Ritz is a hottie

Being a normal male with the usual allotment of male hormones, visiting the "Nancy" comic strip online has become one of my guilty pleasures. Guy and Brad Gilchrist have breathed new life into Ernie Bushmiller's silly tales of Nancy and Sluggo since taking over the strip 10 (!) years ago, and my, what they have done with Aunt Fritzi.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Enough paranoia and discouraging words

There's only one thing I really wanted to know this morning anyway.

And there's other news, too. Thanks to Wally C for drawing my attention to both of these links.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Call me paranoid

What the hell were they talking about for two hours?

"Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue."

Republican leaders acted like they were blindsided and angry, but a majority vote could have ended the private session anytime.

Instead, "The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed." For two hours!

What the hell were they talking about?

Officially, "Democrats sought assurances that Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas would complete the second phase of an investigation of the administration's prewar intelligence. After about two hours, senators returned to open session having appointed a six-member task force - three members from each party - to review the committee's progress and report back to their respective leaders by Nov. 14."

But a conference committee has been working on the final version of the "new improved" USAPATRIOT Act, President Bush is asking for $7 billion to fight the so-far nonexistent avian flu pandemic, and there is no substantive difference between the Big Government Democrat Party and the Big Government Republican Party.

So what the hell were they really talking about that they didn't want the American people to hear?

I hate when this happens

Man, I hate this. Midway through a perfectly fine extended rant ("The Constitution in Plain English"), a friend has to point me to a wakeup call that suggests I've been barking up a good tree, but not quite the right one.

In "You Can Write It Down," Thomas Knapp suggests that the Constitution is not The Sacred Document that establishes our free society and sets down the rules by which a limited government operates; it is, in fact, the document that enables the strong central government and repeals the actual Sacred Document, the Articles of Confederation.

"In fact, the Constitution was 'originally intended' to seduce American liberty back under the yoke of the state; it was 'strictly constructed' as a charter of authority versus freedom; and any notions to the contrary were driven 'into exile' from the very beginning. The suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion and the Alien and Sedition Acts soon followed. The Supreme Court's usurpation, in Marbury v. Madison, of the power to interpret an allegedly plain charter were nothing more than ribbons and bows affixed to the gift of power for the political class. Final delivery of that gift took awhile – the knock on the door was probably the War Between the States – but delivered it was."

Hoo boy. What's the point of pointing out the dozens of violations of the Constitution when, in point of fact, the Constitution itself may be a betrayal of the spirit enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? I'd dismiss the thought as tin-foil hat wackiness, except it makes too much sense. We're taught that the articles proved unworkable and so a constitutional convention was necessary, but of course we'd be taught that: History is written by the victors in any ideological battle or actual war.

This warrants a bit of study. I will probably finish the rant - it's handy to have a list available for when a well-meaning friend labors under the illusion that the Bill of Rights protects us. And I'll definitely be writing down what Mr. Knapp tells us to write down. I'd write it down here, but I'd hate to give away the big finish.