Thursday, February 27, 2003

OK, here's a good one for freedom loving Americans and libertarians everywhere. Have you heard of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act? It's also been referred to as the Patriot Act II, or the Son of Patriot Act.

Basically, it's a bill drafted by the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft (prior to being named AG, he lost the Missouri governor's election to Mel Carnahan, despite the fact that Mr. Carnahan was dead at the time of the election). He's also the man behind the Secret Court (authorized by the Patriot Act, also called the FISA Court), ignoring habeus corpus, and holding people indefinitely without charges or legal counsel, which characterize our current implementation of the War on Terrorism.

If you're not familiar with the Patriot Act, you might want to read it here or in PDF form here. Basically, it says that in order to fight terrorism and preserve the rights and freedoms of Americans, we need to be able to violate, ignore, and abuse the rights and freedoms of those citizens. In my view, it's McCarthyism with teeth, the worst piece of government tyranny forced onto the American people since the tyrant Lincoln's crimes during the War Between the States.

Anyway, this new bill (not currently published - the link above is an early draft; you can get the PDF version here) expands on the abuses introduced and passed by a weak Congress by:

  • Wire-tap any phone whether or not Congress declares a war. Also, expands the time limits set for those, which already supercede anything specified by the Fourth Amendment.

  • Allow surveillance, searches, and seizures without court approval - even the Secret Court.

  • Expands the powers of the Secret Court to throw people in jail when they decide not to abuse other people's liberies by not complying with Secret Court orders (such as to install wire-taps or surveillance equipment).

  • Allows electronic searches without prior presentation of a warrant - they can provide you with one later.

  • Allows electronic searches and seizures of "whatever". If you've got a multi-function device, they'll intercept everything that it has, which flies in the face of what a search warrant is supposed to be about (specific places, specific things, specific methods). This also includes stuff that's on the device, whether or not it has anything to do with what they're looking for.

  • Expands what "terrorist activity" is when it comes to warrants - not just life-threatening attacks, but also funding terrorist organizations. I wonder if they'll be confiscating my gas card bill and recent 1040 forms? (sorry for the editorializing - I couldn't help myself)

  • Give government the same fast access to your credit reports as credit reporting firms have - no more nasty procedures, court subpoenas, or valid warrants. And here's an interesting twist - it would be illegal for a credit reporting agency to reveal that the government has gotten access to your credit report.

  • Allows the DOJ rather than a Federal Court to subpoena you for testimony. And you can't tell anyone you've been subpoenaed, except a lawyer (no word on whether the lawyer has to be government certified).

  • Keep hidden information that you can now get through the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Sets up a DNA database - any DNA from any crime is now part of a federal database, to be used for whatever purposes John Ashcroft thinks.

  • Expand the crimes that can carry the death penalty.

  • Some really silly items, like revoking tax-exempt status and denying federal benefits to terrorist organizations. Are we to believe that Islamic Jihad is shaking cans outside of department stores to raise money?

  • Expanding civil asset forfeiture laws (I hate these laws in general).

  • Most disturbing, you can be expatriated if the government says you're a member of a terrorist organization. And since you're no longer a citizen, you're out from under what little protection the Constitution still provides.

This draft and it's analysis is disturbing - I urge you to read the original Patriot Act, then read the draft of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, and make up your own mind. Then go to the ACLU's Action Alert site and send a free fax to your Congressmen, and tell them to stop this. Now.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

AN article in Sunday's Seattle Times piqued my interest - here we have a major newspaper running a story about a libertarian plan I've heard about in other places, and not being too demeaning or derogatory.

It's called the Free State Project, and it works like this - get twenty thousand or more libertarians to move to one state, and start running for office. Once in office, start applying the libertarian agenda while in those offices - slash entitlements and taxes, cut regulations and red-tape, and instill the values of freedom and liberty. After a while, the state should prosper, attracting more liberty people to it. In short, make an example of the state.

The state chosen would be a sparsely populated one and already have some libertarian principles operating - states mentioned include New Hampshire (no sales or income tax), Maine (has a coastline), Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana (all three are sparsely populated). The people are volunteers - currently there are around twenty-six hundred already signed up. Once they hit the five thousand mark, they pick the state. Once they hit the twenty thousand mark, everyone moves and the experiment is on.

Why do I call it an experiment? Because for the first time since the American Revolution, a truly libertarian politcal body will be in process of birth. The closest the world has been to that ideal in the modern world is Hong Kong.

My one problem with the story is the use of the word "nuttiness" to describe the project's founder, Jason Sorens, even if it was meant to be a compliment. That type of editorializing in a serious reporting story is yellow - the reporter, one Marego Athans with the Baltimore Sun should be ashamed, as should her editor.

I support this movement - my wife have discussed signing up for it. It will be a few years before they're ready to move - the article reports that the Free State Project expects to hit the twenty thousand mark by 2005. Hopefully, my wife and I will be ready when they are.

Read the article, peruse the Free State Project's website (read the FAQ - it's worth it), and make up your own mind.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Some background on me before we get too far.

I consider myself a rabid libertarian. I believe that government is best that governs least. I was a member of the Libertarian Party, but I became very disillusioned with the party when I saw they were actually no different that the Republicans or Democrats. I believe Thomas Jefferson was right - a little revolution every now and then is a good thing.

Anyway, I live in Seattle, work for a major software company (yeah, that one), and am married with a daughter in college.

Seattle is a bit of a stretch for me - my wife and I call it Soviet Seattle. There are more socialists per capita here than anywhere else I've lived. They don't call themselves socialists - they're progressive liberals, or something to that effect, but no matter what the face you put on it, it's socialism. For a definition, socialism believes that the good of the whole outweighs the good of the one. Most Seattlites would agree that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a valid way of running government. The quote is a standard socialist rallying cry. For the record, I think it's crap - more on that later.

Anyway, the socialism goes further than the population - the media here is fairly saturated with it as well. One of the local news casts (KIRO-TV) has an investigative reporting team - basically two reporters who do the public good by going where government can't. Anyway, they had two big stories this week. The first was people who use red fuel, or specially dyed diesel fuel, in their road vehicles. Red fuel is untaxed diesel, and is regulated to be used only in equipment that never uses roads - backhoes, generators, heavy construction equipment, etc. Apparently, there are some people who work for these companies who fill their trucks and cars with the fuel and then drive them on our roads. The problem? The fuel is untaxed and the vehicles illegally using this fuel use the roads - in other words, they're not paying their fair share, and it tweaks the socialists.

The second big report they had was on people using handicapped parking permits illegally. There's a black market in forged handicapped permits, and some people buy them just to get the good parking spots or avoid paying parking meters (apparently handicapped permits let you avoid paying the meter). Again, these are people abusing a system meant for the common good, not paying their fair share, and that causes socialist investigators ears a'twitchin'.

My problem?

  • Why aren't these reporters asking our federal government why we're using an unconstitutional army to wage unconstitutional wars against countries for no well-defined reason?

  • Why aren't they asking our state government why they're ignoring voter approved initiatives to lower taxes?

  • Why aren't they asking our local government why work is continuing on the third runway at Seatac despite investigations into alleged collusion between the builders and local authorities?

The problem is that the media is not acting a check against intrusive government, but as a fourth branch of government by investigating people who have found a way around government limitations. I'm all for freedom of the press (remember the Constitution?), but when the press self-censors, it's time for a change.

Unfortunately, I seem to be one of a very small group of people who feel that way. More tomorrow....

Thursday, February 20, 2003

The first of what I hope to be many posts on the death and rebirth of liberty in America.

Here I'll discuss (and hopefully discourse) on liberty, libertarianism (the theory, not the political party), self-government, and personal responsiblity. All in hopes of doing something, anything, to make my fellow Americans turn away from the the fascist and socialistic tendancies they seem to be so fond of following.

Stay tuned for more.