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Qui Tacet Consentire Videtur

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I wanted to share with you a quote from an article by Harry Goslin that exemplifies American's passive acceptance of inferior governance as well as state-sponsored total surveillance. The title of Mr. Goslin's piece is Incompetence and Poor Results OK When Government Delivers the Goods.
If a department store put cameras in the dressing rooms to protect itself and its customers against the costs associated with shoplifting, Americans would be outraged.  Would management get a free pass if it just said, "Well, if you're not a shoplifter, don't worry about it.  Go about your business and shut your face!  After all, we watch all customers to protect you from the dishonest ones"?  Whenever this happens, it always makes national news because most sane Americans would find this practice not only objectionable, but also criminal.  Regardless of the seemingly endless apologies for a bad management decision and promises to right the wrong, many loyal customers would vote with their feet and go somewhere else.   
When the government does essentially the same thing with the phone calls of millions of Americans, it's no big deal.  After all, the world has changed since 9/11.  And President Bush assured us that the government would not listen in on the phone conversations of the "innocent."  Government said it's for your own good and Americans, evidently more confident of a guarantee coming from government than one coming from a good or service provider in the private sector, agreed.  Evidently Bush has some character traits or way about him that Bill Gates and Dave Thomas do not.

I suspect that the problem lies not with some magical character traits possessed by Bush, but in something which the American people can do without even lifting a finger. Specifically, Qui Tacet Consentire Videtur -- He who is silent seems to agree. It is far easier for Americans to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by their government so long as it doesn't directly effect them. Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." So, I'll ask, "Where is your voice? Are you really content to stand idly by while your government destroys all our sacred freedoms and liberties?"

[Dis]Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In light of recent events, I wanted to take a closer look at the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of America. To begin, lets refresh our memories as to it's language:

Bill of Rights

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

On Memorial Day of this year, President George Bush signed into law the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act. This act, among other things, is designed to "prevent protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison." (Quoting from this article.)
Again from the cited article, "This [act] was largely in response to the activities of a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country, claiming the deaths symbolized God's anger at U.S. tolerance of homosexuals." I've seen this group mentioned before in the news. As I understand it, they tend to show up at the funerals of fallen soldiers holding signs and making spectacles of themselves. They are expressing their belief that God has forsaken America because we, as a country, have embraced homosexuals and their lifestyles. (I may have their position wrong, so don't quote me on that.)
Now it seems that Congress has decided that it wants to honor the dead by making it unlawful to conduct an unauthorized demonstration at a funeral of a fallen soldier. While I think their cause is noble, they really have no authority to pass such laws. Referring back to the First Amendment, let us compare this language: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech [or abridging] the right of the people peaceably to assemble." with this language:
--No person may carry out--
    (1) a demonstration on the property of a cemetery under the control of the National Cemetery Administration or on the property of Arlington National Cemetery unless the demonstration has been approved by the cemetery superintendent or the director of the property on which the cemetery is located.
    (2) with respect to such a cemetery, a demonstration during the period beginning 60 minutes before and ending 60 minutes after a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony is held, any part of which demonstration--
    (A)(ii) includes, as part of such demonstration, any individual willfully making or assisting in the making of any noise or diversion that disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of the funeral, memorial service, or ceremony. (Source)
Now, I'll ask you: Does not the latter law directly conflict with the former Amendment? When the several states decided on the language of "no law," as used in the First Amendment, I believe they meant "no law." If they intended exceptions, they surely would have enumerated them. As it stands, 38USC2413(a) is a law passed by Congress which abridges both your freedom of speech [38USC2413(a)(2)(A)(ii)] and your freedom to assemble [38USC2413(a)(1)] and, therefore, is unconstitutional. What was really sickening about this was the comment made by the very person whom this legislation targeted: Rev. Fred Phelps. From the cited article, Phelps charged that,
Congress was "blatantly violating" his First Amendment rights. He said that if [this] became law, he would continue to demonstrate but would abide by the law's restrictions.
If we acquiesce to unconstitutional laws, what's the point in having the Constitution? It exists to protect us from this sort of arbitrary rule. We do a great injustice to our fallen soldiers by allowing laws like this to rule our conduct. These soldiers gave their lives to protect and defend the Constitution and the freedoms and liberties we once enjoyed in this country. I think they would be horrified to learn that they died in vain. As Mark pointed out in yesterday's post to South Puget Sound Libertarian, the soldiers alone are not the only fallen heroes--we should also memorialize the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, too.

Malum In Se v. Malum Prohibitum

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dave Champion, of the American Radio Show program, discussed two types of criminal offenses on Saturday night's show (Hour 1: RealAudio or MP3, Hour 2: RealAudio or MP3). They are: malum in se and malum prohibitum. To explain these two offenses, let's see what the courts have said. In State of Washington v. Thaddius X. Anderson, we read:
Criminal offenses can be broken down into two general categories - malum in se and malum prohibitum.  The distinction between malum in se and malum prohibitum offenses is best characterized as follows:  a malum in se offense is "naturally evil as adjudged by the sense of a civilized community," whereas a malum prohibitum offense is wrong only because a statute makes it so.  State v. Horton, 139 N.C. 588, 51 S.E. 945, 946 (1905).
On the one hand, we have malum in se crimes--or natural crimes--such as rape, murder, or theft. On the other, we have malum prohibitum crimes--or codified crimes--such as burning trash in a barrel, building a fence over six feet high without a permit, or not having a handicap ramp in front of your store. Another way to look at these two sets of crimes is one most assuredly has a victim, while the other claims to be offenses against the public welfare. Below is a portion of a table found at the wikipedia website that helps to both explain and draw a clearer distinction between these two terms:

Latin Phrase



malum in se "wrong in itself" A legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong (cf. malum prohibitum).
malum prohibitum "wrong due to being prohibited" A legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law.
This leads us to the "Click it or ticket" campaign that has been running during the month of May. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has compiled fatal vehicle accident data (.pdf) that leads them to believe that by wearing a seatbelt, vehicle operators and/or passengers can increase their chances of survival in a vehicle crash. The NHTSA concluded that after comparing data sets from states that have malum prohibitum seatbelt laws (Primary Safety Belt Use Law States--see table below) and those that don't (All Other States--see table below), states that don't enforce the use of seatbelts have a higher unrestrained fatality rate. I've looked at the same data and can see where they have arrived at that conclusion. But I think that they may have lost sight of the goal of enforcing seatbelt use--to save lives. Allow me to reproduce the tables from which they drew their data so that I can show where their error is.
Table 1
Passenger Vehicle Occupant Fatalities by Age and Restraint Use In States with Primary Safety Belt Use Laws and All Other States, 2000-2004

Occupant Age

Restraint Used
Restrained Unrestrained Total
Number % Number %
Primary Safety Belt Use Law States
5-15 1,320 44 1,685 56 3,005
16-20 5,288 45 6,527 55 11,815
21+ 27,693 50 27,362 50 55,055
Total 34,301 49 35,574 51 69,875
All Other States
5-15 1,047 34 2,066 66 3,113
16-20 3,307 27 8,985 73 12,292
21+ 21,211 36 37,121 64 58,332
Total 25,565 35 48,172 65 73,737
From the above table, we can see that the number of fatal accidents between Primary Safety Belt Use Law States and All Other States is only about 4,000 individuals. All this data shows is that in states where compliance with seatbelt laws is mandatory, a more equal number of individuals died wearing their seatbelts. Other than that, they both seemed to have almost the same number of fatal accidents. To me, all this data indicates is that wearing a seatbelt will neither make you a better driver nor will give you a better chance of surviving a fatal vehicle accident. In other words, the NHTSA really should be looking at four variables when determining whether the use of seatbelts is effective in saving lives. Specifically, comparing Primary Safety Belt Use Law States with All Other States and Fatal While Restrained and Non-Fatal While Restrained vehicle crashes. I really don't see the point in comparing deadly crashes in states imposing a certain type of law with deadly crashes in states that don't when the original goal was to keep people alive.
If anything, one could argue, by focusing on just the data from Primary Safety Belt Use Law States, adults over the age of 20 only really have about a 50 percent chance of surviving a car crash if they buckle up. Surely, this can't be the conclusion we are to take away from their data table. But the numbers don't lie, either. Once again, the numbers would hold more significance if compared to vehicle accidents where people survived. May be they did, but the results didn't prove to be helpful to continuing mala prohibita type seatbelt laws so they ignored them. Besides, there's money to be made by harassing the public for noncompliance.
Do I think you should wear your seatbelt while riding in a vehicle? You bet. But it really is your choice, in my humble opinion, whether you "click it" or not. I'll never impose my will upon you. Instead, I'll present you with the facts and let you decide your own fate. After all, that's what being a responsible adult is all about. So, the next time you see or hear one of those "Click It or Ticket" commercials, remember the two main reasons they exist are because we have all decided that government's beaurocracy knows better than the individual in how to keep us safe and that the individual cannot be financially responsible for himself in the event that he does get hurt.
So, the next time you see or hear one of those "Click It or Ticket" commercials, remember the two main reasons these commercials exist are because we have all decided that your personal safety is better protected by government's beaurocracy (.pdf) over individual choice (a.k.a. liberty); and the individual cannot be trusted to cover the incurred costs (a.k.a. responsibility) in the event that he does get hurt.

S. 2453 and S. 2455

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I received a response from Senator Maria Cantwell, yesterday, which she sent to address my concerns about the latest revelations of NSA's continued spying on U.S. persons. As a quick reminder, the latest was the USA Today article which revealed the NSA compiling a massive database of phone records of Verizon, Bellsouth, and AT&T. Towards the end of her letter, Sen. Cantwell wanted to assure me that legislation has been brought to help remedy me of my rights protect my rights. She said:
"It may also interest you to learn that two separate bills have been introduced in the Senate to address concerns over the NSA programs. The National Security Surveillance Act (S. 2453), introduced by Senator Specter, would require the NSA to get approval from the Foreign Intelligence Court for any warrantless surveillance programs. The Terrorist Surveillance Act (S. 2455), introduced by Senator Mike DeWine, would require greater congressional oversight and provide the Administration the option for getting approval from the Foreign Intelligence Court . Currently, both S. 2453 and S. 2455 are being reviewed by the Judiciary Committee."
I must admit that I haven't read S. 2453, yet. But, S. 2455 is the bill proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine. His bill is a disgusting piece of legislation that is written so broadly and vaguely that it allows surveillance to be conduct on just about anyone sans probable cause. The Attorney General just needs to give a nod of his head to continue surveillance. If this bill passes, the entire FISA might as well be repealed because there won't be a need for it, anymore.
While searching for a copy of S. 2453, I came across the testimony of Mr. Morton Halperin, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, which was presented before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee for NSA III: Wartime Executive Power and the FISA Court. Mr. Halperin goes into good detail on why both bills (S. 2453 and S. 2455) are bad for America. I recommend you read the whole of his testimony, but I did want to highlight one particular passage that expresses my feelings on this entire spying issue:
"...American citizens are entitled to know the rules under which they may be subject to surveillance by their government in the name of national security. This is so for several reasons. First, it is necessary to avoid paranoia and to secure the necessary support of the American people for the appropriate steps needed to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. I cannot tell you how many times I have assured innocent Americans that they could not be the subject of electronic surveillance because the Justice Department would never seek a warrant, the FISA court would never conclude that there was the necessary probable cause, and warrantless surveillance were prohibited. In addition, the public is entitled to know what the rules are so that, if they believe the law requires reconsideration, they can seek change by lobbying the President and the Congress and by exercising their right to vote.
Because of these policy concerns, as well as the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, I urge the Congress to reaffirm, through oversight and, if necessary through legislation, the core principle of the FISA system that surveillance of Americans and all persons within the United States requires warrants based on particularized probable cause that the target of the surveillance meets criteria specified in the legislation." (Emphasis mine.)
...well said, Mr.Halperin! At least someone in Washington remembered to read the language of the Fourth Amendment before trying to pass further legislation.

Hayden Confirmation

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fox guarding the henhouse?This just flashed across the wire:
How bad a person does one have to be before the Senate  will decline your nomination? I'm starting to think that with the long history of thugs holding office, our elected representatives can no longer distinguish "good" character traits from "bad" character traits.
Here's an interesting tidbit from this article:
During Thursday night's debate, Sen. Ron Wyden (news, bio, voting record), D-Ore., said the warrentless wiretapping program raised "serious questions about whether the general is the right person to lead the CIA, serious questions about whether the general will continue to be an administration cheerleader, serious questions about his credibility."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., countered that Hayden "is eminently qualified" to lead the agency and that "he is the right choice to lead the CIA."
Sen. Ron Wyden may be acknowledging the "serious questions" about warrentless wiretapping, but he sure the hell ain't asking 'em. Heck, since Sen. Pat Roberts vouches for him, let's rubberstamp Hayden's approval and send him on his way. What's the point of having a confirmation hearing if the Senate is going to let even the most questionable character through? Folks, the system is broken.
I've got the same gut feeling about Michael Hayden as I did about Alberto Gonzales being nominated for Attorney General. I don't like this at all.

Bloodsucking Government

While reading the Declaration of Independence, I came across the following quote:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Immediately, I envisioned a bloodsucking tick. Normally, they're a nuisance and a pest; but easily dealt with. Unfortunately, the bloodsucking government we have today has again gotten so big that it resembles the Officers described in the Declaration of Independence.
(And, yes, I know this animation is kinda gross. Sorry about that!)

Why We Don't Have an Income Tax in Washington State

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Have you ever wondered why we don't have an income tax in Washington State? I pondered that question, too. It turns out that the reason we don't have one is because our State Constitution expressly prohibits the kind of income tax that is so appealing to socialists--the graduated income tax. We could have an income tax, but it would have to be levied at a specific rate on all property in a class. This is why attempts to institute a graduated income tax have failed. Specifically, the greedy buggers want to tax the rich at a much higher rate than the poor. The Washington State Constitution says that the rate of taxation must be uniform. Let's review what is stated in the constitution:


     SECTION 1 TAXATION. The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away. All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. The word "property" as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership. All real estate shall constitute one class: Provided, That the legislature may tax mines and mineral resources and lands devoted to reforestation by either a yield tax or an ad valorem tax at such rate as it may fix, or by both. Such property as the legislature may by general laws provide shall be exempt from taxation. Property of the United States and of the state, counties, school districts and other municipal corporations, and credits secured by property actually taxed in this state, not exceeding in value the value of such property, shall be exempt from taxation. The legislature shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to exempt personal property to the amount of three thousand ($3,000.00) dollars for each head of a family liable to assessment and taxation under the provisions of the laws of this state of which the individual is the actual bona fide owner. [AMENDMENT 81, 1988 House Joint Resolution No. 4222, p 1551. Approved November 8, 1988.]
I'm not sure why these specific words were chosen, but because they were strung together in this particular way they have effectively kept our incomes safe from taxation--at least at the state level. While trying to defend the various state income tax acts in the courts, challenges were mounted against the specific language of the 14th Amendment which states, "The word 'property' as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership." Fortunately, it was decided (repeatedly) that "income" was to be considered "property" and would,therefore, be subject to the uniformity clause of the 14th Amendment. Here's a quote from Culliton v. Chase:
It would certainly defy the ingenuity of the most profound lexicographer to formulate a more comprehensive definition of "property." It is "everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership." Income is either property under our fourteenth amendment, or no one owns it. If that is true, any one can use our incomes who has the power to seize or obtain them by foul means. There being no other classifications in our constitution but real and personal property and intangible property, incomes necessarily fall within the category of intangible property. No more positive, precise and compelling language could have been used than was used in those words of our fourteenth amendment. It needs no technical construction to tell what those words mean. The overwhelming weight of judicial authority is that "income" is property and a tax upon income is a tax upon property.
For further reading (aka homework) I'll refer you to the following cases on this subject matter:
In closing, I want to pose the following question: If the states created the federal government through a grant of power, the people created the states through a similar grant of power, and the people of this state chose not to grant the power to tax a certain class of property in a specific way, how could it be, then, that the federal government suddenly claims to have that power? Wouldn't this be a usurpation of power? Let me put it another way: Let's say that I, being a citizen and having the authority to possess both nickels and dimes, gave Bob, who's representing a state, the power to possess nickels but not dimes. Bob, having the power to possess just nickels, then gives John, who's representing the federal government, the power to possess nickels, too. But because Bob does not possess the original power to possess dimes he cannot transfer that power to someone else. Therefore, would it not seem suspicious if John came to collect dimes from me? Where did his assumed power come from? I'll be looking at this question closer in a future post...

Taxing of Income

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

While at work yesterday, one of my co-workers came into the store and asked if I had heard anything about Washington State entertaining the idea of a State Income Tax. I hadn't, but remarked that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they were pushing for it. After all, it is the government's longstanding belief that we all exist to serve them--that what we have is do in part because they allow us to exist.
So, I figured I'd look into it when I got home to see if there was anything to this. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything in the local rags, but I did stumble on something that I thought was rather interesting. It's a quote carried on a Tax Policy website that seems to endorse a state income tax over a state sales tax. They claim that a sales tax is disproportionately levied on the poor because the poor have less disposable income to start with. The rich, however, with their truckloads of greenbacks, are ripe for the picking. And since they have so much disposable income, they should have to pay more.
While this sounds good on paper, we must remember a couple of rules that we all play by:
  • The number one rule is that all taxation is theft--pure and simple. Anytime someone is deprived of their property, whether by crook or the state, it's theft.
  • The second rule is that taxes will always be one tick below what will start a popular revolution. So, if you're one of the "poor" looking to get out from under oppressive excise taxes (sales taxes) by subjecting another class of citizens to a graduated tax system (income tax), you're sorely mistaken. In the end, both classes will end up taxed to the fullest extent palatable by the State. Not only will the "poor" lose this battle, but they'll find themselves under new and improved shackles of taxation.
  • The third rule is that a sales tax is blind to income. In Washington State, sales tax is levied on "non-essential" commodities that you can live without. That's why there is no tax on food stuffs, but there is on pop. You can--and probably should--live without pop. Income tax, on the other hand, is taken before you ever have a chance to spend your money. Even before the check lands in your hands, it's been levied with a tax on every dollar earned. You get no choice on how to spend all your money, you only get what's left after the State gets its share.
  • The fourth rule states that, while trying to make a "more equal" tax system when applied to the poor and the rich, in the end both will be worse off. Think of it this way: If you go to an amusement park, does the ticket office determine how much to charge you for admittance based on your income? Absolutely not. All parties who wish to utilize their facilities have to pay the same amount. Does the rich get greater use or enjoyment from the rides once inside? No they don't. All visitors are treated equally. So, why should the rich have to pay more for admittance? Why would the poor pay less. They both derive the same amount of pleasure from the rides. Likewise, why should the rich pay more for government services? Does the fire department work less hard to put out a poor man's house fire than a rich man's?
The argument being made on this website is that they wish to equalize how much tax is paid by the rich and the poor. This is nothing more than an excuse to rob both the rich and the poor of their property. To further explain this principle, let's look at a particular quote from this web page:
To illustrate, a Washington family in the lowest 20% income bracket pays 17% of their income towards state and local taxes while Washington families in the top 1% income bracket pay only 3.6% of their incomes towards state and local taxes.  A state income tax can help to alleviate this bias, particularly if implemented with a graduated rate structure.
So, we have Family A who earns $20,000 a year and Family B who earns $200,000 a year. Both families need certain things to live, so they go into their communities and buy goods with their incomes. What the author wants us to believe is that Family B is somehow managing to spend less in taxes than Family A when they both purchase a $4.99 bottle of shampoo. This is just simply not the case--and I'll prove it.
Assuming the sales tax is levied at 8.5% per dollar, both families will have to pay an additional 42 cents for the shampoo. Where the author attempts to trick the reader is by misdirecting attention away from the amount paid in taxes to the taxpayers personal income. The value of 42 cents is the same for both, but the percentage taken out of their respective incomes is vastly different. Unfortunately, this amount is way too small to bother with, so let's say that both families pay $1,000 in taxes at year's end. Family A would have paid 5% of their income in taxes while Family B would have paid 0.5% of their income. In the end, while Family A did pay more in tax when compared to his income than Family B, both paid the exact same amount in taxes. This comparison has nothing to do with taxation and should never have been raised as an argument for--or against--it. Much like the analogy of the amusement park, why should any one person be forced to pay more or less based on their personal income than the next person in line?
In closing, I wanted to post an interesting quote that was found under the heading, "Constitutional Issues." It looks at what obstacles have been met in the past when an income tax was proposed in this State. I found it interesting that the Washington Supreme Court deemed income to be property. As such, it must be taxed uniformly across the whole State. This is consistent with the language used in the U.S. Constitution regarding a federal direct tax on property:

In 1932, following passage of the only income tax initiative to be approved by state voters, the Washington Supreme Court declared that for purposes of taxation, income is defined as a class of propertyArticle IV of the Washington Constitution states that all taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property.  Therefore, any income tax proposal either would have to be consistent with the Constitution’s uniformity restrictions, or would likely require a constitutional amendment in order to be implemented.


The characterization of “income as property” might not hold up in court today.  Several other state Supreme Courts have ruled since 1932 that income is not “property” until it is converted into an asset.  If Washington’s Supreme Court accepted this position, the legislature or a citizen’s initiative could implement a graduated income tax or an income tax with a high exemption without a constitutional amendment.  However, any legislation not consistent with the 1932 ruling would face a near certain legal challenge and the risk of being overturned by the court.


Assuming the Washington courts continue to characterize income as a class of property, a flat income tax levied on gross income would meet the Constitution’s strict uniformity requirements, but a graduated tax would not.  The Constitution also limits taxes on personal and real property to 1% of market value, and allows no more than a $3,000 exemption on personal property.

Isn't it funny how the Supreme Court can just arbitrarily decide what income is. The one thing that makes or breaks a man... and we've decided to let government decide whether they'll leave us alone or rob us blind. We surely must be either a nation of trusting individuals or fools. I leave you with this quote: A fool and his money are soon parted.

A Political Time-Out

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If you need a time-out from all the insanity may I recommend Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index -- THE NSA IS LISTENING. There's a ton of great comics poking fun at the Bush administration and the NSA.
What are you waiting for? Go have a look!

School Drug Testing

It seems that my old high school has turned into a drug user's playground. At least that's what I'm supposed to believe reading my local newspaper. Drug use is up and parents apparently don't care, according to surveys. Quoting from the article: "...surveys indicated LSHS students felt adults in the community were apathetic to drug and alcohol abuse." Either the parents don't care about this issue or the parents don't perceive drug use as a serious problem. Did anyone bother to ask them WHY they don't care? May be there really is no serious problem and the school district is making mountains out of mole hills. Or, may be there is a problem, and the parents really don't care. I think this also needs to be looked at. After all, what good will it do to test kids for drugs if the kid's parents won't back the schools in enforcing a drug-free environment?

But, this is not what brings me to the keyboard. My concern is that the motivation behind this high school drug testing program is money. You see, there's federal grant money to be had if the school district will just follow a certain set of steps (.pdf). And all it will cost you is the privacy of your child. But, hey, that's ok. According to one high school student who wrote a letter to his local paper giving his support for a drug testing program...

As a member of a new generation who embraces accountability rather than the gross indulgences of personal freedoms that previous generations have embraced, I would urge you as a reader of this paper to lend your support for a safer and stronger school community by becoming a vocal advocate for random drug testing.

Entire Report in PDF format (522 kb)In other words, he's saying that the needs of the many always outweighs the needs of the few--or the one. Your individual right to privacy be damned! It's more important to give the whole of society a superficial sense of security regardless of what you, as an individual, want. But, it's not all bad news. This program has an opt out feature. That's good news for those of you who can't stomach giving up your right to privacy. Quoting from the What You Need To Know About Starting A Student Drug-Testing Program pamphlet provided by The Office of the National Drug Control Policy: student will be forced to submit to a drug test. Although children whose parents refuse to give their consent may lose the privilege of taking part in extracurricular activities, parents must always have the ability to opt out of the drugtesting program.

You can choose to opt out, but you'll risk ostracizing your child from the rest of the student body because they won't be allowed by the school district to participate in any program deemed to be an "extracurricular activity." This program is designed to force your compliance through the threat of public humiliation. Why don't they just force non-participants to wear a something similar to scarlet letter or the Star of David?

In closing, I suppose the best solution would be to send your children to a private school where they can be shielded from government's constant meddling. One aspect of this program that I find repulsive is that it will get children used to intrusive and unwarranted searches into their private affairs by their government. Once our children accept this as common practice, our freedoms will fall quickly.

Almost Election Time Again

Monday, May 22, 2006

What do the following names have in common?
They're all either under investigation or have been charged with crimes. May I remind you that these are the same people that were voted into office to do the people's business. It seems that hardly a week goes by that you don't hear about some government official getting in trouble with the law. Just yesterday I read that Congressman William Jefferson was caught on tape taking a $100,000 bribe. Amazing!
With that happy news, I wanted to remind the folks in Washington State that we are coming into election season. With all the blatant and rampant corruption that has infested Washington (the other) I thought it would be fitting to put up our incumbents headshots. But, to make it more interesting, I wanted to portray them to look like police mugshots as if they were criminals. Who knows, some just may be...

There Ought to be a Law!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"There ought to be a law!" you hear the person yell as they watch a fellow citizen do something that does not meet with their approval. What is this person really saying, though? You could substitute into their statement, the formal definition of law for clarity: "There ought to be a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority." The latter better expresses this persons goal to try and get another citizen to conform to their own personal belief of what is good and proper behavior in a civilized society.
I'm not saying that all laws are bad. We have to have laws to protect our persons and property from harm and injury. A set of written rules that anyone and everyone can consult for what the society on the whole expects from them. Laws like: don't murder, don't steal, don't trespass... laws like that. What about laws that go much farther in dictating how you live your life. How about laws that require you to wear a seatbelt in an automobile or require you to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle? Are these laws necessary? Do they protect you and your property from other people? Or do these laws simply compel you to act in a certain way?
The Law's StrangleholdIs it any wonder why we constantly feel like our government has a stranglehold on us? We now have so many laws that tell us how to live our lives, how to conduct our affairs, that there is no possible way that a person could ever hope to carry on his private business without running afoul of the law. When we've come to this point--of having so many laws that total compliance is simply not possible--we can only hope to live in government's good graces. Furthermore, if we ever do raise their ire, we're forced to throw ourselves on their mercy; because we most certainly will be found to have broken at least one of the many laws they've enacted. At this point, the law--which was created to serve and protect mankind--becomes the tool by which those who are charged with administering justice become our masters. 


Friday, May 19, 2006

While following the various stories about the NSA and their assorted spy programs, I've read that part of their authority comes from Executive Order 12333. Being ever curious, I went looking for this EO and found it on the CIA's website. Click here to visit their page (if you dare... [Insert evil laugh here]). After reading through a bit of it, I thought I would post EO12333's Table of Contents here for those who may be interested in learning more about where some of their more favorite intelligence agencies derive their authority.

Executive Order 12333--United States intelligence activities

Source: The provisions of Executive Order 12333 of Dec. 4, 1981, appear at 46 FR 59941, 3 CFR, 1981 Comp., p. 200, unless otherwise noted.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Goals, Direction, Duties, and Responsibilities With Respect to the National Intelligence Effort
1.1 Goals
1.2 The National Security Council
1.3 National Foreign Intelligence Advisory Groups
1.4 The Intelligence Community
1.5 Director of Central Intelligence
1.6 Duties and Responsibilities of the Heads of Executive Branch Departments and Agencies
1.7 Senior Officials of the Intelligence Community
1.8 The Central Intelligence Agency
1.9 The Department of State
1.10 The Department of the Treasury
1.11 The Department of Defense
1.12 Intelligence Components Utilized by the Secretary of Defense
1.13 The Department of Energy
1.14 The Federal Bureau of Investigation
Part 2. Conduct of Intelligence Activities
2.1 Need
2.2 Purpose
2.3 Collection of Information
2.4 Collection Techniques
2.5 Attorney General Approval
2.6 Assistance to Law Enforcement Authorities
2.7 Contracting
2.8 Consistency With Other Laws
2.9 Undisclosed Participation in Organizations Within the United States
2.10 Human Experimentation
2.11 Prohibition on Assassination
2.12 Indirect Participation
Part 3. General Provisions
3.1 Congressional Oversight
3.2 Implementation
3.3 Procedures
3.4 Definitions
3.5 Purpose and Effect
3.6 Revocation
My favorite section has to be 2.1--Need. I'll reprint below for you to read:
2.1 Need. Accurate and timely information about the capabilities, intentions and activities of foreign powers, organizations, or persons and their agents is essential to informed decisionmaking in the areas of national defense and foreign relations. Collection of such information is a priority objective and will be pursued in a vigorous, innovative and responsible manner that is consistent with the Constitution and applicable law and respectful of the principles upon which the United States was founded.
Umm... Does this sound like paying lip service to you, too?

BushCo's Waterboy? You Decide

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I've noticed that Cliff Kincaid's recent articles (at least to my recollection) have been very apologetic for the Bush administration and their actions. His latest article, "A Smelly NSA "Scoop" at USA Today", attempts to discredit the USA Today article which tells of the NSA gathering up phone records of all Americans into a massive database. The basic idea behind the NSA program is to create an association of individual's calling records to look for suspect patterns. Of course, many Americans--me being one of them--are outraged by this because we feel that the government has infringed on our privacy.
So, let's quickly look at what Mr. Kincaid puts forward to disprove the USA Today article. His first attempt is to repeat a portion of a Verizon press brief. From it, Mr. Kincaid gleaned the following:
Verizon has released a statement noting that “One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.”
At face value, this does look bad for USA Today. But, after checking the actual text of Verizon's press release, we quickly realize that this quote implies something other than what was intended. Here's what Verizon actually released for public consumption:

As the President has made clear, the NSA program he acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaeda is highly-classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it.  (Emphasis mine)

And in their very next breath... Verizon comments on it:

That said, media reports made claims about Verizon that are simply false.

One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.

How are we to believe their denial when they just told us they "cannot comment" and "cannot confirm or deny" their relationship to it. Their subsequent statements about the program means nothing to us. Mr. Kincaid should have seen this for what it is. Verizon is playing three card monte with the truth and he fell for it. Heck, if we're going to misrepresent quotations like Mr. Kincaid, we could say that Verizon has admitted to working with the NSA. They even say so:

Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.

Of course, that's not what they meant, but they did say these exact words. Again, while the quotation would be accurate, the context in which it was presented would be inaccurate.

I'm not going to parse out the rest of Mr. Kincaid's article. That's not my intention. I wanted to pose the following question, though: Does Cliff Kincaid appear to be carrying water for this administration, or am I being way too hard on him? On the one hand, you have media agencies foaming at the mouth over the NSA programs while on the other you have Mr. Kincaid defending their programs. It just seems odd to me.

To be totally fare to Mr. Kincaid, I did just get through reading this excellent article by Ray McGovern titled, "Bowing To The Police State" before I read his. Maybe I was all keyed up and just didn't take too kindly to his version of reality. But, then again, mabey not.

Oh, and what about BellSouth's press release regarding their role in the NSA program? I found it for you here. The following is the pertinent part:

As a result of media reports that BellSouth provided massive amounts of customer calling information under a contract with the NSA, the Company conducted an internal review to determine the facts. Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA.

Um... ok? There are two ways to interpret their statement. If BellSouth is being genuine, they've conducted a very thorough and exhaustive review and their conclusion stands. However, if they are being disingenuous, then they've started the review process, but then tossed the file onto someone's "to-do" pile (where it is still sitting--"to date"). Either way, their statement is accurate.

One last tidbit... I saw a headline at that read, "Judge gives go ahead in wiretapping suit." From the article we read that "the judge hearing a case challenging the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program said Wednesday that the plaintiffs may keep documents AT&T says contain proprietary information for use in preparing their case, but the documents must remain under seal." Of course, the Government still has their June 23 hearing where they will argue that the case be dismissed on grounds of protecting National Security. I've already covered this tactic by government here.

The Letter of State's Preservation

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Isn't it funny how two seemingly unconnected articles will come into view just at the right moment in time, one making the other more clear? I was reading this article ("ABC Claims Government Traced Its Reporters' Calls") at The New York Sun. The article explains how the government is tracing the phone calls of reporters in a way that seems to be outside the legal "norm." The article then explains what this longstanding norm is:
Under longstanding Justice Department regulations, prosecutors who subpoena a journalist's phone records are required to notify the reporter involved within 90 days of obtaining the records. The regulations state that, in most cases, subpoenas should not be issued until after an attempt is made to negotiate access with the reporter.
This seems pretty reasonable to me. But apparently it's not quite good enough for our government in this new age of operating under super-duper-super-secrecy. The article goes on to tell how the government has been getting around the law by using those controversial national security letters (see Patriot Act, circa 2001). It's nice to see the anti-terrorism bill being used in a way in which it was created for. That's right: to chill political dissent. How do I know this? Let's look at the second article.
Article number two isn't so much an article as it is an excerpt from an essay by Murray N. Rothbard titled The Anatomy of the State. This essay is itself part of a larger work titled, "Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays." In reading this excerpt, we come to a section that explains how the state preserves itself through a variety of means. One method that stood out was the joining of the state with "intellectuals." In this day, I read this to include the main stream media.
So, we have one article explaining how the government doesn't like the media's attack, and a second that explains the methods that government employs to subjugate the "intellectuals" under their control. This paints a pretty clear picture to me. National security letters are nothing more than instruments of control. They enable the government to subvert restrictions put in place by the citizenry to protect themselves from tyrannical government. The government, in an effort to preserve itself, has come up with these national security letters to skirt those restrictions.
But, hey, don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself:
How the State Preserves Itself
Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or "caste" is how to maintain their rule.[7] While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long-run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a "democratic" government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature. But support in the sense of acceptance of some sort it must be; else the minority of State rulers would eventually be outweighed by the active resistance of the majority of the public. Since predation must be supported out of the surplus of production, it is necessarily true that the class constituting the State -- the full-time bureaucracy (and nobility) -- must be a rather small minority in the land, although it may, of course, purchase allies among important groups in the population. Therefore, the chief task of the rulers is always to secure the active or resigned acceptance of the majority of the citizens.[8] [9]
Of course, one method of securing support is through the creation of vested economic interests. Therefore, the King alone cannot rule; he must have a sizable group of followers who enjoy the prerequisites of rule, for example, the members of the State apparatus, such as the full-time bureaucracy or the established nobility.[10] But this still secures only a minority of eager supporters, and even the essential purchasing of support by subsidies and other grants of privilege still does not obtain the consent of the majority. For this essential acceptance, the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other conceivable alternatives. Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the "intellectuals." For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the "opinion-molders" in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.
The "intellectuals" must be controlled lest the State lose it's grip over the masses. To this end, the State will use any means necessary to maintain this perverted alliance. The State's actions, referring back to the first article, sends a clear message to others that any dissent will not be tolerated.

Side Tracked

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I was planning on posting something else this morning, but a couple of pieces caught my eye that I wanted to share with you.
The first is an opinion piece in The Boston Globe by Laurence H. Tribe titled "Bush stomps on Fourth Amendment." He goes into detail in this piece about the legal background of collecting an individual's phone records. He sites a couple of arguments put forward by the courts which both support and disagree with this practice. I was thinking that when the courts made these arguments, they could not have imagined that we would ever be able to keep track of every phone record ever made. An individual phone record by itself is really not a problem. Its when you compile thousands of them over a long period of time that they begin to tell their own story about you and your lifestyle. That's where the Forth Amendment infringement argument lies. Anyway, its a good read. I did want to highlight his closing comments for you, as I thought it was well put:

Privacy apart, this president's defiance of statutes by the dozens is constitutionally alarming. But the matter goes deeper still. Even if Congress were to repeal the laws securing telephone privacy, or if phone companies found loopholes to slip through when pressured by government, the Constitution's Fourth Amendment shield for ''the right of the people to be secure" from ''unreasonable searches" is a shield for all seasons, one that a lawless president, a spineless Congress, and a complacent majority of citizens -- who are conditioned to a government operating under a shroud of secrecy while individuals live out their lives in fishbowls -- cannot be permitted to destroy, for the rest of us and our children.

I couldn't agree more!

Another article that I thought was noteworthy was this, titled "The Spies Who Shag Us." The article explains how government intelligence agencies have gotten around many of the prohibitions the Congress and the American people have imposed on them with regards to keeping an eye on you. The article states, in part, that:

...the snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government.  You can call it the privatization of the FBI -- though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB.

The article continues:

They are paid to keep an eye on you  -- because the FBI can't.  For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime.  (The law in question is the Constitution.)  But ChoicePoint can collect if for "commercial" purchases -- and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act -- our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint."

The article continues by explaining that ChoicePoint is not the most reputable company when it comes to accuracy. You may recognize their name from recent headlines, too. They're the company that disclosed thousands of individual's private financial records to criminals posing as legitimate companies. Oops! So, government does exactly what we told them not to do; they just do it by proxy instead. In other words, they're still collecting the intel, but now they do it through private firms. Sneaky little so-and-so's, no?. For more on these folks at ChoicePoint, you can visit this page at

Method of Oppression

Monday, May 15, 2006

An observation on government's new method of oppression:
1. The National Security Agency comes up with a program for collecting intelligence that is legally shaky at best. After the 9/11 event, the NSA decides that the rules permitting them to conduct their business as usual weren't good enough. They wanted more.

September 11th didn't change [the question: How do we balance the legitimate need for foreign intelligence with our responsibility to protect individual privacy rights?]. But it did change some things. This ability to intercept communication -- we commonly refer to it as Signals Intelligence or SIGINT. SIGINT is a complex business, with operational and technological and legal imperatives often intersecting and overlapping. There's routinely some freedom of action -- within the law -- to adjust operations. After the attacks, I exercised some options I've always had that collectively better prepared us to defend the homeland.

Look, let me talk for a minute about this, okay? Because a big gap in the current understanding, a big gap in the current debate is what's standard? What is it that NSA does routinely? Where we set the threshold, for example, for what constitutes inherent foreign intelligence value? That's what we're directed to collect. That's what we're required to limit ourselves to -- inherent foreign intelligence value. Where we set that threshold, for example, in reports involving a U.S. person shapes how we do our job, shapes how we collect, shapes how we report. The American SIGINT system, in the normal course of foreign intelligence activities, inevitably captures this kind of information, information to, from or about what we call a U.S. person. And by the way, "U.S. person" routinely includes anyone in the United States, citizen or not.  

2. The NSA folks take their program over to the Department of Justice lawyers for them to look at. The DOJ lawyers sign off on the program because they're also part of the Bush administration.

But we all have personal responsibility, and in the end, NSA would have to implement this, and every operational decision the agency makes is made with the full involvement of its legal office. NSA professional career lawyers -- and the agency has a bunch of them -- have a well-deserved reputation. They're good, they know the law, and they don't let the agency take many close pitches.

And so even though I knew the program had been reviewed by the White House and by DOJ, by the Department of Justice, I asked the three most senior and experienced lawyers in NSA: Our enemy in the global war on terrorism doesn't divide the United States from the rest of the world, the global telecommunications system doesn't make that distinction either, our laws do and should; how did these activities square with these facts?

They reported back to me. They supported the lawfulness of this program. Supported, not acquiesced. This was very important to me. A veteran NSA lawyer, one of the three I asked, told me that a correspondent had suggested to him recently that all of the lawyers connected with this program have been very careful from the outset because they knew there would be a day of reckoning. The NSA lawyer replied to him that that had not been the case. NSA had been so careful, he said -- and I'm using his words now here -- NSA had been so careful because in this very focused, limited program, NSA had to ensure that it dealt with privacy interests in an appropriate manner.

3. Once the DOJ signed off on their program, the NSA implemented it.
In early October 2001, I gathered key members of the NSA workforce in our conference room and I introduced our new operational authority to them. With the historic culture of NSA being what it was and is, I had to do this personally. I told them what we were going to do and why. I also told them that we were going to carry out this program and not go one step further. NSA's legal and operational leadership then went into the details of this new task.
4. Remember, all of this has been done without the knowledge of the American people. Once the American people begin to learn of this program, they try to stop the NSA. In one case, EFF files suit against AT&T for illegally aiding the government in its collection scheme.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

In the largest "fishing expedition" ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be "linked" to "suspicious activities," suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.

But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.

5. The government, being all-powerful, decided from on high that we mere mortals were not allowed to pass judgement on their actions. To make their point perfectly clear, government officials have threatened to "assert the military and state secrets privilege." Doing so would effectively remove the case from public scrutiny and shield the government from any wrongdoing.

DOJ Will Assert Military and State Secrets Privilege and Request Dismissal of Lawsuit

San Francisco - The United States government filed a "Statement of Interest" Friday in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&T, announcing that the government would "assert the military and state secrets privilege" and "intervene to seek dismissal" of the case.

EFF's lawsuit accuses AT&T of collaborating with the National Security Agency in its massive surveillance program. EFF's evidence regarding AT&T's dragnet surveillance of its networks, currently filed under seal, includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, and several internal AT&T documents. This evidence was bolstered and explained by the expert opinion of J. Scott Marcus, who served as Senior Advisor for Internet Technology to the Federal Communications Commission from July 2001 until July 2005

Much of the evidence in the case is currently under seal, as AT&T claims public release of the documents would expose trade secrets. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 17th.

So, there you have it: a roadmap to tyranny. All you have to do is get some hack lawyers at DOJ to sign off on your program. When the American public becomes suspicious of your actions, throw the cloak of secrecy over it. Accountability? Are you kidding?!? We're an empire now, Baby!

Oh, and one last thing... In case you missed Hayden's comment about the hijackers and how the law applied to them before the 9/11 event, here it is:

"So, for example, because they were in the United States -- and we did not know anything more -- Mohamed Atta and his fellow 18 hijackers would have been presumed to have been protected persons, U.S. persons, by NSA prior to 9/11."

What Hayden is saying is that the hijackers would have had a right to privacy just like everyone else in the United States. Obviously this wasn't going to work for them if they were going to catch terrorists with their new surveillance schemes. So, instead of working within the law as it is written, they decided to have their lawyers reinterpret the law in such a way that it lowered the standard of privacy and allowed for ever-increasing intrusions by government. Instead of fixing the perceived defects in the law, they stripped all Americans of their rights. It's just much easier that way.

Newspaper headlines in 2035

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world, Mexifornia (formerly known as California).
White minorities still trying to have English recognized as Mexifornia's third language.
Spotted Owl plague threatens northwestern United States crops & livestock.
Last remaining Fundamentalist Muslim dies in the American Territory of the Middle East (formerly known as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lebanon.)
Iran still closed off; physicists estimate it will take at least ten more years before radioactivity decreases to safe levels.
Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.
Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail  delivery to Wednesday only.
35 year study: diet and exercise is the key to weight loss.
Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.
Average height of NBA players now nine feet, seven inches.
New federal law requires that all nail clippers, screwdrivers, fly swatters, and rolled up newspapers must be registered by January 2036.
Congress authorizes direct deposit of illegal political contributions to campaign accounts.
IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75%
Average price of a single family home in Southern California is $2,500,000.  and a three bedroom apartment now rents for $8,000 a month.
Celebrating Christmas now officially a felony as it offends too many people.

Casualties of War

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Here's an interesting quote from an old article carried by Network World. The article is titled "Lawmakers Promise Action Against Phone Record Sales" by Grant Gross (IDG News Service, 02/01/06)
Lawmakers, spurred on by recent media reports on phone log sales, raised concerns about stalkers buying phone records of their victims or criminals buying call logs of an undercover police officer.
"Our e-mail is clogged with spam," said committe [sic] chairman Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "Our computers are covertly monitored with spyware. Our personal information is bought and sold by information brokers. And now we learn that a phone number and one hundred dollars can buy you a month's worth of call information for just about anyone.
"These are very personal and private records of who we call, when we call and how long we spend on the telephone call," Barton added. "This is an invasion into our personal privacy and, if I have anything to do with it, will not be allowed to continue for very much longer."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called the unauthorized sale of telephone records "privacy theft," and Steve Largent, president and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), said such sales give the telecom industry a "black eye."
"An invasion into our personal privacy," "privacy theft," and "such sales give the telecom industry a 'black eye.'"--all are remarks indicating that lawmakers, law enforcement agents, and telecom industry execs view unauthorized access to personal call logs as an infringement of our privacy rights. But now we're being told by government officials that government agents are doing this exact same thing to us. It's ok, though, because this time it's done in the name of national security. Let me point out that an infringement of our right to privacy is made no less abusive if its perpetrated by members of our government. If anything, their actions should be viewed as an even greater infringement.
Why? Look at it this way. If a company purchases your call records, you can be reasonably sure that it wants this information to better position itself to bring you a product or service. They're trying to get a better idea of the marketplace in which they operate. Is their tactics devious or underhanded? Some would say so. I tend to agree, too. Further, if individuals purchase your call records to see who you've been talking to, you have certain avenues to prevent or otherwise stop them from continuing. Private individuals or companies don't have the ability to compel you to comply with their demands. You are free to walk away if you want.
Here's the major difference between the above examples and government entities: Governments provide their services at gunpoint. If you choose not to cooperate with them, they have the option to use force to make you comply. The amount of force they choose to use is entirely up to them. They can even depriving you of all your freedoms by locking you up. Do you now see the difference? Do you now understand why it is so important that we stand on our rights and principles? We need to tell government to back off. We need to tell government to respect our rights and liberties. Why should we be made casualties of this war on terror by our defenders?

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