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Lamenting Lamont

Monday, July 31, 2006

Lamont and LiebermanNed Lamont was tonight's guest on The Colbert Report. I wanted to make a super-simple observation of what Lamont sees as the major difference between he and U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). Lamont claims that Lieberman wants to spend more money in Iraq while he wants to "invest" in America through programs like universal health care, education, and other social programs. In a nutshell, the difference between these two candidates is the hole they intend to throw YOUR money down.
It's like getting to choose what your mugger spends the money he steals from you on--drugs or booze. Either way, you'll still end up being robbed.

Freedom in Chains - a Book Review

Freedom in ChainsI decided to hold off on my normal routine of blogging and reading of articles over the weekend so that I could finish James Bovard's Freedom in Chains. This was an excellent book that I definitely recommend. If anyone was wondering about their freedoms, their liberties, and the role government plays in securing both, then this book is for you.

In his book, Mr. Bovard leads us through the maze that government has used to gather ever increasing amounts of power to itself over the years. In the end, he explains that government is synonymous with coercion. While reading his book, I found myself enraged at the many examples he gives of unaccountable and abusive government. Events such as what happened at
Waco, Texas, with the Branch Davidians or the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge in Idaho. In both cases, innocent people were killed by government officials; in both cases, government officials were not held accountable for their actions. Both were blatant massacres perpetrated by our government and both served as a show of government force to subdue the American public from becoming too rebellious.

This book was published in 2000. With the events of September 11th still to come, Freedom in Chains turned out to be more prophetic than I think even Mr. Bovard could have realized. In the aftermath, we see our government engaged in blatant usurpation of powers from illegal wiretapping to spying on Americans. The post-9/11 America we see today is exactly what Freedom in Chains was written to warn us of.

If you can find a copy, read this book. You'll thank me for it.

Neil Katyal on The Colbert Report

Friday, July 28, 2006

In case you missed Stephen Colbert's interview with Neil Katyal, here are two links to watch it:
Neil Katyal defended Guantanamo Bay detainees before the Supreme Court. What was especially hilarious about this interview was the "props" Neil Katyal had in the second segment. He raised some excellent points on why we are a nation governed by laws and why the rule of law is so important in protecting the innocent from being convicted of crimes merely for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Check it out.

The Socialists Are Coming! The Socialists Are Coming!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Well to be honest, I think they're already here. But it sounds more dramatic that way.

Massachusetts... What are we going to do with you? I see that the Department of Health and Human Services has signed off on a waiver for you to receive $385 million in taxpayer funds to cover your state's poor health care. Wait, that doesn't sound right. It should be "poor who can't afford health care." That's better.

Good ol' Republican Governor Mitt Romney. What's the expression? RINO--Republican In Name Only. That about sums you up. If Goldwater were alive to see this, he'd have probably bitch-slapped you for this one. Could you possibly be any more traitorous to the Republican Platform? Since when is state/national health care one of the Republican's goals? Oh wait! I know: it occurred when the Repub.'s and the Dem.'s decided to collude against the American people to always maintain control of the government. (Frickin'

You know you've wandered too far left when you see
this quote by Sen. Ed Kennedy, D-Mass., praising a Republican's accomplishments:

"Instead of facing health care cuts, we're well on our way to achieving our longstanding goal of health care for all." (Emphasis mine)

But it's worse yet. While reading related articles, I found this:

The [Massachusetts health plan] is now hailed as a model for other U.S. states. (Emphasis mine)

Put this together with Kennedy's statement and you know where we're headed in the not to distant future. Socialized medicine will be forced on us in the exact same way Social Security was. After enough states get in the game, the Fed will step in to bring "unity" to all the state programs. They'll claim some compelling interest garbage to justify their overreach, I'm sure.

If they get their "goal" of socialized medicine, I'll guarantee you that ours will be added to the ever-growing pile of failed socialist states. Unlike the government, we just can't keep pulling money out of our asses to cover the costs. People have got to remember that someone has to pay for this mess.

Two Op-Eds of Interest

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In the cruising of my usual haunts for news and information, I ran across two very good op-eds that I wanted to highlight for you. The first is by David McNaughton writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His article is titled Bush shouldn't have carte blanche on wiretaps. I agree. Here's an excerpt from this piece:

[Sen. Arlen] Specter has proposed a bill that would permit the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to determine if Bush's warrantless domestic spying is constitutional. Federal law requires that court's approval for such eavesdropping; the president insists he can overlook the requirement because he is conducting a war against terrorism.

A definitive court decision is needed to resolve the conflict between the rights of individuals to their privacy and the president's power as commander in chief. But Specter's bill would not require the White House to submit to a court ruling. Nor would it ensure that if a ruling were made, the decision would become public.

That's not a compromise, as Specter describes it. That's a surrender.

The next op-ed was found at The Salt Lake Tribune and was unsigned. This piece is titled A law unto itself: Administration assumes all power. The article explains how the Bush administration has been gathering more and more unchecked power while impeding attempts by Congress and the courts to restrain it. From the article:

This is an administration that brooks no dissent and admits no possibility of error. The checks and balances so carefully designed by the founders are seen as 18th century barnacles on the modern ship of state. Independent reviews by career Justice Department ethics experts, elected members of Congress or the federal courts are actively disdained as impediments to the administration's primary goal.

That goal, it is increasingly apparent, is not to protect the American people from terrorism. It is to acquire as much unreviewed power unto itself as it possibly can, in the name of protecting the American people from terrorism.

Its nice to see that it's not just libertarians who see through the smokescreen of national security that's being used by the Bush administration to trash our Bill of Rights and our Constitution. People from all over are finally starting to realize that if they do nothing and say nothing about this encroachment of power, they'll end up with nothing--no freedoms, no privacy, and most definitely no security.

Monopoly Discards Money

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On the way to work I heard on a news station that Monopoly was going cashless. The game will be available with a debit card pay system instead of the traditional colored money we've all used for over half a century. I couldn't help but think that this was somehow a reflection of our society in that we've all grown used to not using paper money in our purchases.
When I got home, I found the article at USA Today (here) that explained:
"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a U.K.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."
So they decided to make the Monopoly Here and Now version cashless as well as some other changes to reflect today's culture.
This got me thinking about money and how it has been slowly disappearing from our wallets. I've worked in retail/wholesale since 1991 and have noticed that the biggest changes in forms of pay over the years would be:
  1. a lot less checks,
  2. a lot less cash, and
  3. a whole lot more credit/debit card slips.
Back in 1991, it was typical to have two or three credit cards slips, 20 to 30 checks, and about 50 percent of the total sales done in cash. Today, I'd say 30 percent would be cash sales, 65 percent would be credit card sales, and only 5 percent would be checks. Why the change in people's behavior? I think it's a combination of factors. Merchants would rather have cash than credit cards, but they would rather have credit cards over checks. But, I think there's something else driving the change, too.
I read somewhere that the reason credit cards/debit cards were pushed heavily into use was because there simply wasn't enough cash in the country for all Americans. Can you imagine what would happen if all Americans went to the bank on Friday and cashed their paychecks instead of depositing them? Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you used cash for a purchase over $100? Do you get paid with a check or does your employer deposit your pay directly? I've gone weeks on end without even looking at my pay-stubs. It was over a month before I realized I was given a pay raise. Cash? What's that?
But, what does this mean to the government and the bankers? Why is the system the system we have (for it is surely by design and not by accident)? Our employer pays us by direct deposit which means the bank simply subtracts a couple hundred ticks from their pile and adds that amount to our pile. No money, no cash, no wealth. Just credit. We show up and work our 40, 50, or 60 hour work weeks. At the end, a pile of credits gets dumped into our accounts so we can get what we need to survive for another week on this planet. Week in; week out. Over and over again. I wonder how this system differs from that of communist China or the old USSR?
I got off track there. The point was that there just simply wasn't enough money for all of us to have some at the same time so the bankers and the government devised a way for payments to be made without having to transfer all that cash around. Credit was the answer. Electronic money... the ultimate in fiat currency! What caused this was inflation. What in the beginning took a dollar to pay may now take 20 dollars or more. Eventually, the value of the dollar was driven down so far that there wasn't enough cash in circulation for everyone to use. To make matters worse, a large chunk of our currency was being held overseas by other countries as reserve currency. With the increased use of credit cards, debit cards, and checks, very little of the money we use actually exists in the form of cash. Their house of cards stands a little while longer.
This is something for you to think about the next time you get your direct deposit slip from your employer. For fun, you could go to your bank and ask them to show you your money you have on deposit with them. I'm betting they won't. They may even ask you to leave.

Do They Care?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Have you noticed that "things" are getting worse--not better? Have you noticed that oppression is gaining speed exponentially, when it should be almost non-existent? Have you noticed that laws are written at a pace that is faster than one can actually read them? Have you noticed that when you talk to the average person on the street, they only possess a cursory understanding of how their government works? Why do you suppose that is? What do you think will happen to our remaining freedoms when so many are ignorant of them?
I've been banging away at this keyboard trying to shed some light on current events and questioning the motivations of those involved. When I share what I have found with those I meet in public, I get the standard responses: "That's interesting," or "It doesn't affect me, so I don't pay much attention to it," or "I don't have the time to really understand all the issues." I can appreciate that. We're all so extremely busy these days. But, what do you suppose happens when 9 out of 10 people are ignoring events that are indicative of the practices of an abusive government?
"It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny."
~James F. Cooper
Public opinion is a double-edged sword. It can bring about great change, but it can lead to great oppression, too. If people on the whole don't care about the reach of government into their personal lives, government will surely encroach as much as possible. Look around you for the proof of this statement. There's hardly an activity one can engage in that hasn't been touched by government. As a matter of fact, people have been so ingrained with government's supervision of their lives when there's a perceived problem, the people's first instinct is to call for government regulation to protect them. Why is that? People need to learn that if they hand over control of their lives to government, government may not want to relinquish it when the people change their minds.
Let me leave you with another quote by James Cooper. He understood that the check on government's power was the people's consent to be governed. Once government loses that consent, their legitimacy ends. Therefore, public opinion can be measured by government to gauge just how much abuse people are willing to put up with.
In America, it is indispensable that every well wisher of true liberty should understand that acts of tyranny can only proceed from the public. The public, then, is to be watched, in this country, as, in other countries kings and aristocrats are to be watched.
~James F. Cooper
Our freedom and our liberty face an even greater threat than from the tyranny of our government. This threat can be found in the uneducated, uninformed, and unconcerned neighbor. Think about what it means to have so many people around you who either don't know or don't care about what their government is doing. If your neighbor doesn't care about his own freedom and liberty, what makes you think he gives a damn about yours?

A Quick Note On EFF's Case

Friday, July 21, 2006

If you've not been following Electronic Frontier Foundation's case against AT&T, then this will be news to you. Here's a brief history to bring you up to speed: "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." Last night, I received an email stating:
Today, a federal court denied the government's and AT&T's motions to dismiss the case, allowing EFF's suit to proceed.

This is a huge step toward stopping illegal surveillance and holding AT&T accountable for these privacy violations.
This is good news, especially for those of us that can see through the frivolous "if you're doing nothing wrong, it shouldn't matter" argument. To read more on EFF's case, visit their information page here.

A [Confusing] Look at Vehicle Taxes

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Imagine, if you will, you're flipping through the want-ads when you happen upon an advertisement for a car. The price seems right and its a model you've heard good things about. You call the listed phone number and arrange a meeting with the owner of said vehicle. After a careful inspection and a little haggling, you decide that you'll go ahead and purchase the car. Between the two of you, a price is arrived at that seems reasonable and fare. You hand him $500; he hands you a receipt, a signed and dated title, and a set of car keys. Done deal? Not by a long shot.

You take the title, the receipt, and your checkbook down to the local licensing agency to transfer the title into your name. The agent behind the counter taps on the keyboard then announces that you owe the state $320 in taxes and fees. Your knees start to buckle as the amount slowly sinks in. You ask yourself, "I owe over half of what I paid for the car in taxes? This can't be right!"

You regain your composure and assure the nice lady that you only paid $500 for the car and that her calculation must be wrong. She looks back at you and explains that while you may have only paid the seller $500, the fare market value of your particular vehicle is actually $3400. Therefore, the state has decided that this is the amount it will use to levy your tax.

"But, I only paid $500 for the damned car!" you exclaim.

The lady then explains that you have a couple of options to have your tax burden reduced. Suffice it to say, they all have to do with you having your particular vehicle revalued by a third party and I believe it involves getting affidavits notarized, too. Your receipt from the seller stating the selling price is essentially worthless in this whole process, save the language of it being sold "as is," or some other warranty, expressed or implied. (blah, blah, blah.)

Welcome to title transfer hell in Washington State!

Something similar happened to a fellow that I sold a vehicle to recently. Having just gone through this with a car I purchased, I warned him that he was headed for certain doom. It was my way of giving him both a pre and fare warning before he dropped into the lion's den. He came into the store where I work yesterday. He told me of his adventures with the state and his attempt to transfer the title. Needless to say, the state has made another happy customer.

So, I thought I would take a look at what it is that we're all being taxed for. Let me start by saying that this was no easy task. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that if you buy a used car from a private party, this should fall under the "use tax" section of the Revised Code of Washington. It's not a sale made under the privilege of selling at retail under RCW 82.04.050. From what I can figure, this only applies on the original sale of a vehicle when that vehicle is brand-new. (If someone knows differently and can point to the section of code, leave a comment below.)

From here on, we'll only concern ourselves with the use tax portion of the code. Hmmm... Where to start? Why not start where the state puts its hand on your shoulder and says, "Hey, Buddy, pay up." That would be RCW 82.12.020:

Use Tax Imposed

(1) There is hereby levied and there shall be collected from every person in this state a tax or excise for the privilege of using within this state as a consumer: (a) Any article of tangible personal property purchased at retail, or acquired by lease, gift, repossession, or bailment, or extracted or produced or manufactured by the person so using the same, or otherwise furnished to a person engaged in any business taxable under RCW 82.04.280 (2) or (7); (b) any prewritten computer software, regardless of the method of delivery, but excluding prewritten computer software that is either provided free of charge or is provided for temporary use in viewing information, or both; or (c) any extended warranty.

(5) The tax shall be levied and collected in an amount equal to the value of the article used, value of the extended warranty used, or value of the service used by the taxpayer multiplied by the rates in effect for the retail sales tax under RCW 82.08.020, except in the case of a seller required to collect use tax from the purchaser, the tax shall be collected in an amount equal to the purchase price multiplied by the rate in effect for the retail sales tax under RCW 82.08.020.

(Emphasis mine)

The words and phrases I've marked in blue are significant because they are defined in code to mean something different than what Webster's dictionary says. For example, "value of the article used" actually means (RCW 82.12.010):

For the purposes of this chapter:

(2)(a) "Value of the article used" shall be the purchase price for the article of tangible personal property, the use of which is taxable under this chapter. The term also includes, in addition to the purchase price, the amount of any tariff or duty paid with respect to the importation of the article used. In case the article used is acquired by lease or by gift or is extracted, produced, or manufactured by the person using the same or is sold under conditions wherein the purchase price does not represent the true value thereof, the value of the article used shall be determined as nearly as possible according to the retail selling price at place of use of similar products of like quality and character under such rules as the department may prescribe.

(Again, emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? The last bit about if an article is "sold under conditions wherein the purchase price does not represent the true value thereof, the value of the article used shall be determined as nearly as possible according to the retail selling price at place of use of similar products of like quality and character under such rules as the department may prescribe." That's where the state gets to revalue your vehicle. Notice it says to see the rules prescribed. Here they are (RCW 82.04.450):

Value of products, how determined.

(1) The value of products, including byproducts, extracted or manufactured shall be determined by the gross proceeds derived from the sale thereof whether such sale is at wholesale or at retail, to which shall be added all subsidies and bonuses received from the purchaser or from any other person with respect to the extraction, manufacture, or sale of such products or byproducts by the seller, except:

(a) Where such products, including byproducts, are extracted or manufactured for commercial or industrial use;

(b) Where such products, including byproducts, are shipped, transported or transferred out of the state, or to another person, without prior sale or are sold under circumstances such that the gross proceeds from the sale are not indicative of the true value of the subject matter of the sale.

(2) In the above cases the value shall correspond as nearly as possible to the gross proceeds from sales in this state of similar products of like quality and character, and in similar quantities by other taxpayers, plus the amount of subsidies or bonuses ordinarily payable by the purchaser or by any third person with respect to the extraction, manufacture, or sale of such products: PROVIDED, That the value of a product manufactured or produced for purposes of serving as a prototype for the development of a new or improved product shall correspond: (a) To the retail selling price of such new or improved product when first offered for sale; or (b) to the value of materials incorporated into the prototype in cases in which the new or improved product is not offered for sale. The department of revenue shall prescribe uniform and equitable rules for the purpose of ascertaining such values.

But the real question is this? Are you actually engaged in an act that is taxable when you, acting as a private party, sell your vehicle to another private party? The answer is kind of ambiguous in that RCW 82.04.190 defines "consumer" (referring back to RCW 82.12.020 which levies a tax on "the privilege of using within this state as a consumer [real property]") as:

(1) Any person who purchases, acquires, owns, holds, or uses any article of tangible personal property irrespective of the nature of the person's business... (the code goes on to list a variety of occupations.)

Notice that the above definition assumes that you're already engaged in some sort of business, as defined in RCW 82.04.140, that is taxable. Are you? Do you pay over to the state B&O taxes? That is what RCW 82.04 pertains to--Business and Occupation taxes. So, if you're not engaged in an activity where you're required to pay taxes under RCW 82.04, should you then be considered a "person who purchases, acquires, owns, holds, or uses any article of tangible personal property irrespective of the nature of the person's business"? At this point, I'm not totally sure. Unfortunately, my time has expired and I must go to work.

Don't worry. We'll look at this subject again.
UPDATE: I found more information at the County Auditor's site that I'll review for an unpcoming post.

Say No To Drug [Czars]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I recently joined the mailing list of a group known as They're working both for a smaller and more accountable government. Today, I received an email alert from them that I wanted to share with you. I'll reproduce it here for you and I also encourage you to participate in letting your voice be heard on this issue (see the link at the bottom)...

Quick. You need help. Desperately. Get out the yellow pages, or do a web search. Look under "people to tell you what to think."

Don't find it? Maybe it's in the government pages?

Oops. Sorry for the bother. You've already hired someone to tell you what to think. He's called the Drug Czar. His job, paid for with your tax dollars, is to tell you what to think about national drug policy.

That's it. That's all. That's what the Drug Czar does. He tells you what to think.

Aren't you relieved?

As you go about your labors today put a smile on your face. You're working, in part, to pay for that guy you hired to tell you what to think about our nation's narcotics laws. Isn't it comforting? Just think how confused you'd be without that Drug Czar guy to do the heavy mental lifting for you.

What's that you say? You didn't know you hired someone to do that? You don't need it? You don't like the name "Czar?" You won't have a smile on your face as you labor to pay his salary?

Well, perhaps you just need more information. Don't you know that this guy lobbies state legislatures to keep them from passing drug laws the federal government doesn't like? And don't you know that this guy works hard to defeat medical marijuana initiatives, and keep voters from voting the wrong way? Isn't that worth something to you?


Well, then perhaps you'll want to know that there are some in Congress who want to fire the guy and close his office. In fact, his job is up for renewal right now, and there's legislation that would send the Czar packing. You might want to let your representatives know that you don't need no stinking Drug Czar. If you feel so moved, you can send your message here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Perry Willis
Communications Director, Inc.

Constitutional Power, Unlimited

Monday, July 17, 2006

Every day I receive via email the Founder's Quote Daily which contains historical quotations from the likes of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, etc. They're usually one or two sentences long and pertain to our government and society. Today's was no exception.
Today's quote was taken from "The Federalist Papers No. 23" which was written by Alexander Hamilton using the nom de plume of Publius. For an explanation of this paper, let's turn to Wikipedia:
In the first 22 Federalist Papers, Publius argued for the importance of the Union and that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient to preserve the Union. Federalist No. 23 begins a series of fourteen articles arguing the basic thesis that an energetic federal government was necessary. Too-powerful governments were a major worry in America, which had declared independence from Britain partly due to a belief that the government in London inappropriately dominated the local governments in the colonies. Hamilton tried to allay popular fears that the new federal government would be no less abusive than the British government so recently rejected.
While large, intrusive, and all-to-powerful government is common today, it was a big worry to American's of 1787. They had just thrown off one government that was too oppressive. In replacing it, they instituted the Continental Congress, which many think went too far the other direction, i.e. not powerful enough. In an effort to fix it's shortcomings, each state sent representatives the Philadelphia with instructions to give as little power as possible to central government; no power would be best.
Failing to follow the State's simple instructions to fix the Articles of Confederation, the delegates emerged from Independence Hall with an entirely new constitution. One of the proponents for a large central government was Alexander Hamilton. In an effort to sell the newly-minted constitution to the states, he began to publish papers in newspapers debating the merits of the new constitution. This is, of course, where The Federalist Papers comes from. When you here arguments claiming "original intent," they are usually referencing this collection of papers.
Fast-forward to today. Recent events have raised the question of, "How much power does the Executive have?" This administration has worked tirelessly to gather to itself ever more power by claiming powers under the unitary executive theory. Again, let's turn to Wikipedia:
The theory relies on the Vesting Clause of Article II which states "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." Proponents of the unitary executive use this language along with the Take Care Clause ("[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...") to argue that the Constitution creates a "hierarchical, unified executive department under the direct control of the President."
The theory goes on to state that only the President has control over his subordinates. They argue that Congress essentially exceeds it's constitutional authority by attempting to limit or control executive agencies or officers from Presidential control. There's more, but I think you get the basic premise that the Executive claims absolute and total authority of it's subordinates and anything less would be a usurpation of power.
So, imagine my surprise when I read today's Founder's Quote Daily:
"The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed."

~ Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 23, 17 December 1787)
My first thought was, "Oh boy, we're in trouble now." The language seems pretty clear. No constitutional restraint of power can be imposed on those charged with defending this country. My next thought: "Was the President correct when he declared that he was within his constitutional authority to order surveillance on Americans?" Looking at Hamilton's quote, I'd have to conclude that he probably was. How can this be?
Then a voice inside said, "Check the context!"
I cannot count the times I've discovered that when a reporter says so-and-so said this-and-such that, in fact, the reporter actually took the quote out of it's original context, totally changing it's meaning. So, let's look at what Hamilton was actually driving at when he wrote that sentence:
The authorities essential to the care of the common defense are these--to raise armies--to build and equip fleets--to prescribe rules for the government of both--to direct their operations--to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation: Because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be co-extensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils, which are appointed to preside over the common defense. (Emphasis in original.)
What is Hamilton talking about? Let's look at the subjects of "unshackled" restraint:
To raise armies,
To build and equip fleets,
To prescribe rules for the government of both
To direct their operations,
To provide for their support.
These are all powers assigned to Congress under Article 1, Section 8. Therefore, the quote claiming that "no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power" was pointed at the Legislative and not the Executive branch. In my opinion, this knocks a big whole in the unitary executive theory.
What's the lesson learned? Original intent... Always check it.
(Note: There's more to this, but my time has expired. I may pick this up again at a later date... We'll see.)

The Continuing Mid-East Crisis

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Item 1: As the story continues to unfold in the middle east, it seems that all the talking heads on the boob-tube want to constantly remind us that Israel has every right to use whatever force they deem necessary to defend themselves. I totally agree that Israelis have a right to defend themselves, but they don't have a right to use excessive force against the Palestinian and Lebanese people. It is a recognized crime to deliberately target civilian resources and infrastructure and that's exactly what Israel has done. In my opinion, Israel needs to take their case to the United Nations and seek assistance in resolving these issues.

Item 2: I've lost count of how many times during the discussion in articles and news stories Iran and Syria have been accused of giving financial aid, orchestrating attacks, having soldiers in Lebanon, providing missiles as well as launching them--the accusations go on and on ad infinitum. What is missing from the discussion is actual proof. While watching FOXNews, they had on the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations. I don't remember who it was interviewing him (I think it was Greta Van Susteren) but he was asked about Iranian and Syrian involvement in this conflict, and he responded that Israel was certain of it. Asked how sure, he replied that he was 100 percent sure. He was asked for proof and he basically said that they had absolute proof.

I don't know about you, but I require more proof than the "trust me" assurances they're giving now. The last person who said that lead us into a war in Iraq that proved the assurances given were less than accurate. No, my friend, I'm not going to settle for "trust me". Not when there's so much at stake. They're going to have to prove it to me and every other person they want to make a party to their problem. Let's see their evidence so that all of us who are going to get stuck with paying the bill with our lives and treasures can make the same assessments they've made. For example, this AP article states:

Israel warned of massive retaliation after the Haifa attack, and accused Iran and Syria of providing the weaponry used in it. Israeli military officials said four of the missiles were the Iranian-made Fajr-3, with a 22-mile range and 200-pound payload, and far more advanced than the Katyusha rockets the guerrillas rained on northern Israel in previous attacks.

Show us the "Made in Iran" tags on the missile pieces they've picked up or the evidence they have showing weapons moving through Syria into Hezbollah's hands. Show us how they think Hezbollah is being funded by Iran and re-supplied by Syria. Let's see the evidence.

Item 3:
I wanted to make the following point on the subject of weapons that are being used in Lebanon by Hezbollah against Israel. Just because Hezbollah has weapons does not mean Iran gave them freely. Weapons are bought and sold all the time everyday all across this planet. If the situation were reversed, Hezbollah would probably be purchasing their munitions from the U.S. The single fact that Hezbollah or Hamas have munitions purchased from Iran doesn't make a strong enough case to start World War IV. This argument makes as much sense as me raising the concern that Israel is using F-16's and Apache helicopters against Lebanon. You can't fight a war without weapons, so don't be surprised if your enemy doesn't shop at the same supplier as you. If anything, I would be more alarmed if they both showed up with the same weaponry.

Sen. Specter's S.3001

Senator Arlen Specter has introduced a bill in the Senate, S.3001, that would help the Bush administration in its pursuit of terrorists. The President has made the case that either the Foreign Intelligence Act is too restrictive or that it doesn't apply to the type of surveillance they're doing. Their explanation for not following the law changes, so I'm not sure which to believe. Anyway, it really is irrelevant to this post.
The reason I put finger to keyboard is because of what I found in Mr. Specter's bill. It's a good read if you like legal speak, but I'll spare you: The majority of the bill can be summed up by saying that the bill would expand the time period between initiating a surveillance order and getting a warrant from 72 hours to 168 hours--that's 3 days to 7 days for those of you who are calculator-challenged. In addition, the bill would expand who would be allowed to authorize surveillance and most importantly, it allows the underlying bureaucracy to greatly expand. More people to aid in surveillance in all departments... Yay! More judges, more clerks, more agents. More! More! More! And we all get to pay for it.
<Sarcasm off!>
(Sorry about that.)
What I wanted to highlight can be found on page 20 of S.3001 (.pdf). Here's an image of it so you don't have to load up the whole document:
Very sneaky, Mr. Specter. I'll explain why: A few months back while reviewing the whole spying subject, I discovered that FISA (see Section 1811) only allowed warrantless surveillance of "United States persons" for 15 calendar days after a "declaration of war" had been made by Congress. I made the point that technically--and legally, I might add--Congress never declared war. The only thing they did was authorize the President to use force against terrorists and then again with regards to Iraq. Neither is a declaration of war and therefore falls outside of FISA's warrantless provision. To use FISA for warrantless electronic surveillance would be criminal.
With Specter's carefully worded amendment to FISA, this proves beyond any doubt that my conclusions were correct. Why else would he amend FISA to now encompass these two new classifications for using force? (For more on this, see Title 50, Section 1541 and this post.)
My conclusion? S.3001 expands government's size and reach over Americans. It does little or nothing in aiding the Executive in their pursuit of terrorists. How can I say this? He already has all the tools he needs right now under FISA. This bill doesn't give him anything he doesn't already have; it only expands his reach.
On a side note, I encourage you to read the "Findings" section of H.R.5371. I couldn't agree more with the findings of Congress (which is really a reiteration of existing laws). How the Executive can claim authority to continue their various warrantless spying programs in light of these findings is beyond me. I would either have to conclude that their complete idiots or they just don't care about the rule of law, and I'm pretty sure they're not idiots.

Path to Iran War Begins in Israel

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The path to war with Iran very well may begin in Israel. At this point, only time will tell if we've already begun this journey or not. I still think it may be a little too early to call it, though. Reading some other blogs, I found that there are those who can't wait for us to be on our way. Why are people in such a great hurry to go to war?
Watching and reading the various news stories coming in from the middle east, its interesting to see how the official story evolves with each new news headline. Take for instance the initial reporting of an unmanned drone striking an Israeli navy ship. For some reason, this story didn't have a very long shelf life. Here's what I found interesting about this, though. It was initially reported by that an "explosives laden drone" smashed into the Israeli ship, setting it on fire. When I first tried to find this story, I ran into dead-end after dead-end. It was as if the internet was wiped clean of all versions of this story.
What was happening, I realized, was that the story was being rewritten. Instead of claiming that an "explosives laden drone" hit the ship, the articles were now reporting that the "Israeli army announced that a missile fired by Hezbollah, not an unmanned drone laden with explosives, had damaged an Israeli warship..." But why the sudden change in munitions? Well, as far as I can tell, this is the point that Iran's name got brought up--loudly. Up to this point, the news agencies were unable to tie Iran to the events occurring on Israel and Lebanon. But if it were an Iranian missile, the Iranian association could be made and the drumbeat for war could begin in earnest. And that's exactly what happened.
The United States cannot legally attack Iran outright. The American public won't stand for it, not to mention the international community. The Bush administration knows this, but it won't stop them from trying. I predicted that Israel would be instrumental in getting the party started between the U.S. and Iran, but it seems my "how" was slightly off base. The endgame of regime change, however, would still be achieved. This also might explain why the United States decided to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called on Israel to immediately end its two-week military incursion in Gaza. How can you have a war if its stopped before it even really gets going?
Anyway... stay tuned. It'll be interesting to see how this story unfolds in the coming weeks.

Fox News Redraws Middle East Map

If you watched the first segment of FOXNews's Beltway Boys, you'd have concluded that Iran had directly attacked Israel. There could not have been a more clear call by Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes for the U.S. to attack Iran. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching the news. But, was I? Or was I watching a Washington DC think tank policy being hammered out while masquerading as a news channel show? Anyway, here's the new map that I've come up with after watching their show:

ID's and Databases

Friday, July 14, 2006

Henry Porter gives us a glimpse into our own future here in the United States with respect to national identification cards and their associated databases. He has an article at The Guardian titled "Beware of Card Tricks" that shines a bright light on the problems associated with National ID's generally and the growing police state specifically. As a teaser, here's an excerpt from the article:
Every time you get a library card, make a hire-purchase agreement, apply for a fishing or gun license, buy a piece of property, withdraw a fairly small amount of your money from your bank, take a prescription to your chemist, apply for a resident's parking permit, buy a plane ticket, or pay for your car to be unclamped you will be required to swipe your card and the database will silently record the transaction. There will be almost no part of your life that the state will not be able to inspect. And it will be able to use the database to draw very precise conclusions about the sort of person you are - your spending habits, your ethnicity, your religion, your political leanings, your health and even perhaps your sexual preferences. Little wonder that MI5 desired - and was granted - free access to the database. Little wonder that the police, customs and tax authorities welcome the database as a magnificent aid to investigation.
Here in the United States, we're saddled with the Real ID Act. While our version appears to be no where near as intrusive as the UK's, I believe this was by design. You see, on the road to tyranny the UK is a few stoplights ahead of us. U.S. lawmakers knew that they would have to ease Americans into a total surveillance state or they would become unruly... and they wouldn't want that. (Insert analogy of how to boil a frog here.)
Wikipedia has a pretty decent bit of information on the Real ID Act here, or--if you're like me--you can read the text of the bill here. The issue I have with our version is the same issue Henry Porter raises in his article. The ID cards will all be linked to a central database that will be accessible by anyone in any level of government.
My prediction: It won't be long before we'll see mission creep with respect to what information the government says needs to be stored in their databases. They'll justify this by claiming that it will keep us secure from terrorism.

Know a District?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

So, there I was watching Stephen Colbert's The Colbert Report last night (Wednesday) when the "Know a District" segment came on. Low and behold, there was Rep. Rick Larsen (D)of Washington's 2nd district--my district (...well, not mine but where I live). In traditional Colbert fashion, Stephen delivers a brilliant bitch-slapping due to any public servant. You really must check this out:

And No, I won't be voting for Mr. Larsen come November. Why would I? After seeing this video, why would any one?

Arbitrary Power

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The following excerpt is about arbitrary power taken from James Bovard's 1999 book, Freedom in Chains:
   Arbitrary power is a moral issue that goes to the heart of the relation of the citizen to the State. Benjamin Constant beautifully expressed the danger of arbitrary power in his 1815 book, Principles of Politics:
Arbitrary power destroys morality, for there can be no morality without security.... Arbitrariness is incompatible with the existence of any government considered as a set of institutions. For political institutions are simply contracts; and it is in the nature of contracts to establish fixed limits. Hence arbitrariness, being precisely opposed to what constitutes a contract, undermines the foundation of all political institutions.
The more arbitrary power bureaucrats acquire, the less likely fairness will result. The essence of arbitrary power is government's refusal to issue clear rules limiting its prerogative to punish private citizens. Because the affirmative action police, the housing police, and the trade police seek maximum discretion, rules are left vague, if not hopelessly confusing or impossible to comply with.
   Big Government almost automatically destroys the moral foundation necessary for its credibility. Every arbitrary government action sends out shock waves that undermine government legitimacy. People learn to despise the State at the same time that the State is most adamant about imposing its moral judgment on its citizenry. The more fair that politicians claim to forcibly make society, the more unfair the average citizen perceives everyday life. According to a 1996 Washington Post poll, "Today, nearly two in three Americans believe that most people can't be trusted; three decades ago a majority of Americans believed that most people could be trusted." This collapse in faith is, in part, the result of the growing chasm between common, everyday conceptions of fairness and the bureaucratic-political conceptions of fairness increasingly imposed on people's lives.

Wiretapping and the Courts

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

An argument was made before a federal judge Monday charging President Bush with overstepping his authority when he authorized the use of warrantless wiretaps on Americans. The argument stated that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act demands that the executive branch obtain a warrant before engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans. FISA even allows for a 72 hour grace period between initializing surveillance of Americans and obtaining a warrant before that surveillance becomes illegal.
The Department of Justice argued (quoting from this AFP article) that:
"The United States submits that the actions authorized by the President are essential to meeting a continuing and grave foreign terrorist threat and are well within lawful bounds."
It argued that to demonstrate this "would require evidence that must be excluded from consideration under the military and states secrets privilege" and as a result the judge should throw out the case in order to avoid "grave harm to the national security of the United States."
This is where the state's argument falls apart. The government repeatedly asserts its responsibility to protect the nation (i.e. the citizens-for what is a nation without citizens?) but it totally ignores the other fundamental purpose of any government: To protect the Rights of it's citizens. How can a government trample on your rights and claim to be protecting your rights at the same time? It can't. Therefore, the state's argument is flawed.
Let's back up a couple of steps. When the Declaration of Independence was created, it was expressed in that document that the only legitimate purpose of any governing body was the securing of our Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It was further stated that the most effective government was one that best protected the safety and happiness of it's people. Safety was defined as protection from harm perpetrated by others while Happiness was guaranteed through the protection of all our various rights. To further cement the importance of government's responsibility to protect our rights, we demanded the Bill of Rights be added to our Constitution. The sole purpose of this document was to further restrict government from abusing or misconstruing its powers.
One of the clearly stated restraints we placed on government was the Fourth Amendment which states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no  Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Put simply, the Fourth Amendment clearly stated that there must be evidence of a crime which has been documented in a warrant before the court in order to allow the state permission to violate an individual's right to privacy and property. Without a warrant, the state is no different than a thief or a kidnapper and should be treated as such.
In the 1970's when it was discovered that the state decided to ignore the Fourth Amendment and instigated electronic eavesdropping, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed to codify what was acceptable practices in the arena of electronic surveillance. The intent of Congress in passing the act was to make the new technology and techniques used by the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. conform to the Fourth Amendment's protection of requiring a warrant to violate your inalienable right to privacy and property. For the most part, they accomplished this.
Then 9/11 came and the Bush administration declared that we live under a new set of rules. They then commenced to obliterate over two hundred years of protections in the waging of a war against a tactic--terrorism. This puts us smack-dab right in the middle of this court case. On one side is the people who created this monster we call government arguing with it that we have a right to be left alone unless the government can demonstrate that we have done something illegal, while on the other is the government arguing that some ambiguous states secrets clause exempts them from the rule of law.
If there's any hope left for this country, the judge should not hesitate for a moment to tell the state to shut the hell up about states secrets and prove it's argument where it claims it needs to spy on Americans without first acquiring a warrant or cease and desist. Further, the Congress should open an investigation into this matter and prosecute all parties who had a hand in these matters. The Fourth Amendment is clear on this subject as well as the FISA... and so is the punishment for tyranny by government!

A Few Headlines of Interest

Monday, July 10, 2006

A few headlines I've observed and some comments on them...
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
Sat Jul 8, 11:25 PM ET
BOSTON - Every month seems to bring another episode of sensitive personal information escaping into the wild because a corporate or government laptop computer is lost or stolen. A common response is a lot of hand-wringing over how the data should have been encrypted.
Have you ever thought that we'd be far better off without their help? How many times do we need to be subjected to their blatant incompetence before we tell them enough? At some point, we may even be led to think they're doing it intentionally so we'll demand those spy-chip things to protect us from our government's constant mishandling of our personal information. (Tin-foil-hat time!)
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Sun Jul 9, 10:46 AM ET
WASHINGTON - The White House possibly broke the law by keeping intelligence activities a secret from the lawmakers responsible for overseeing them, the House Intelligence Committee chairman said Sunday.
The chairman may question it, but that's as far as it will go. Americans need to wake up to the fact that the Congress has been castrated by party loyalties. The rule of law and accountability have been relegated to the dustbin. Every once in awhile, a congressman may spout off about the corruption, but other party-goers are quick to re-sedate him into submission. People, the system is broken.

By Donna Smith
Sun Jul 9, 10:22 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers returning from a weeklong break on Monday will take up a long list of unfinished -- and possibly insurmountable -- tasks that could help decide whether voters will re-elect them in November.
Of the stated list of tasks, it would be nice of lawmakers would actually stick to tasks that are within their constitutional responsibilities. Unfortunately for taxpayers, this is simply impossible for congress-critters to do--especially in an election year.
By John Crawley
Sun Jul 9, 10:55 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bankrupt U.S. carriers Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines have stepped up pressure on Congress to finish pension legislation that would give them more time to fund plans that are billions of dollars in the red and in danger of termination.
Don't be surprised if the airlines ask the government to relieve them of their pension responsibilities. In other words, the U.S. taxpayer will be forced to cover the retirement obligations of the airlines to it's retirees. Why not add this sum to the social security obligations we now face--and can't pay for? Hell, we're so far in debt, what's another few billion dollars?
Oh, in case you're keeping score, if our elected officials would just follow the rules set down in the Constitution, none of these headlines would be necessary...
But where's the fun in that?

A Look at Indian Treaties

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I've been reading a few court cases that helped define fishing in the Pacific Northwest waters. In my reading, I soon discovered that most of the controversy over who has claim to how many fish revolves around the language of the Treaty of Olympia. The language of the treaty that acknowledges the fishing rights of the Indians is as follows:
"The right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations, is further secured to said Indians, in common with all citizens of the Territory, and of erecting temporary houses for the purpose of curing, together with the privilege of hunting, gathering roots and berries, and pasturing their horses on open and unclaimed lands: Provided, however, That they shall not take shell fish from any beds staked or cultivated by citizens."
Most people, me being in this group, read this to simply state that Indians will have the same (or equal) right to fish as citizens of the then Washington Territory. This interpretation held true until it was challenged in the late 1970's. After a thorough examination by the various court cases, a new definition was extrapolated that said that Indians had an unrestricted right to take fish and had a right to an equal share of the yearly fish harvest. The court reasoned that at the time of the treaty's signing, there existed so many fish that it was unforeseeable that fish stocks would eventually become almost exhausted. Therefore, the treaty was signed with presumption that the Indians would always be able to take as many fish as they required for their subsistence.
The court further reasoned that each party to the treaty had an equal claim to the fish. To define whom a party to the treaty was, they classified all Indian nations as one party and all others as the other party. Further, they explained that if there existed but two fish, every Indian nation would have claim to one of these two while every other non-Indian would have claim to the other.
After careful reading, I must admit that I tend to agree with the court's latter conclusion as to what was intended when the Indian nations made their marks on the various treaties with the United States government.
Here are a couple of links you may find interesting:
In closing, I think that the frustration the sport-fisherman feels is real. The reason I looked into the history of fishing rights for the Puget Sound area was because of this frustration. In my opinion, the sport-fisherman needs to forget about trying to quash the Indian's claim to fishing, and needs to concentrate his efforts on regaining a more equitable reservation of fish from non-Indian commercial fishing. This statement is made with the understanding that tax money is being used to keep the fish populations from disappearing. Without the tax-subsidized intervention, if a sport-fisherman wants a better chance of taking fish, buy a bigger boat so you can catch more fish--or become a commercial fisherman.

The Talking Heads

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Last Sunday, I was flipping channels on the television when I came upon The McLaughlin Group. I've only occasionally watched this program because the contestants (aka hosts) tend to resort to yelling at each other when the conversation becomes heated. They were discussing the recent Supreme Court ruling about Hamdan's detention at Gitmo so I decided to watch for a bit. I almost fell out of my chair when I heard the following exchange between McLaughlin and O'Donnell:
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit Q On a blessing-in-disguise scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero blessing and 10 meaning papal blessing, Benedict XVI, what's the blessing in disguise of the Supreme Court ruling for President Bush?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it'll give more legitimacy to everything that he does if he works with the Congress. I think that is absolutely essential to going forward and doing what he has to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fear trumps civil liberties.

MS. CLIFT: It will give a lot of Republicans nervous about losing the election in November an excuse to talk about how tough they want to be on terrorists and how we really shouldn't abide by the Geneva Conventions.


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's not really in disguise, but the good news or the blessing for the president is that the Supreme Court has upheld all of the conditions at Gitmo that all of his opponents have been criticizing him for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you say it's a blessing in disguise of a 10.

MR. BLANKLEY: On that issue. It's not in disguise, but for those who --

MR. O'DONNELL: But the court said very specifically you can't torture. They're saying very specifically you can't do some of the things that we have heard may be occurring at Gitmo. And so they have limited what can go on during the incarceration.

But what they absolutely continue to allow is we can hold any one of these people, not accuse them of anything, simply say they are a military combatant, and we can hold them for as long as we say the war on terror continues, which could be 50 years.
None of the other guests even objected to O'Donnell's assertion that the Gitmo detainees could be imprisoned indefinitely. Not one even batted an eye.
"What's the problem?" you ask. We must remember that when the U.S. was moving across Afghanistan, they put out a bounty on all suspected al Qaeda members. Afghanis soon discovered that a decent amount of money could be made by kidnapping fellow Afghanis and turning them in for the reward. Am I saying that all those at Gitmo are innocent? Absolutely not. But this is where the justice system is suppose to kick in. It is suppose to weed out those who were swept up by accident and spit them out of the system. Those who administer our brand of justice via a barrel of a gun have managed to short-circuit the system. Now, we see indefinite incarcerations for individuals whom may not be guilty of anything more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And don't think for a moment that this can't happen, because this sort of thing does happen all the time. It's happened all throughout human history. In an effort to combat this type of infringement on our liberties, we demanded that, "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." (Article One, section Nine). Notice that this rule doesn't make the distinction between citizen and non-citizen. It is a rule that prohibits Congress from acting in a certain way. Again, it makes no distinction of what class of person can utilize writs of habeas corpus.
I find it alarming that the talking heads on the boob-tube are so ignorant of our basic rights. They find it completely acceptable to sit idly by while one of their own bloviates about how great it is for Leviathan to trample upon the liberties of individuals who themselves stand no chance of receiving any justice. These are the same people who wonder out loud why the rest of the world hates us.
Gee... I think I may know why!

Events That Led To Independence

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th, 1776--230 years ago today--is the day Americans generally recognize as the day the American colonists signed their names to a parchment declaring once and for all their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. They wanted the world to know that the American colonies were done being abused by oppressive and tyrannical government. This one act would be viewed by the British Crown as an act of treason and, if captured, the signers would most certainly be hanged.
I thought it would be important to not only celebrate our Declaration of Independence, but to recall some of the events that led the American colonists to declare their independence. With the help of Wikipedia, I've compiled a short list of some of the more notable events. Additionally, if one takes the time to read the entire Declaration of Independence--not just the first two most popular paragraphs--one can really understand where their enumerated grievances sprang from. The abuses they suffered were real and the colonists tried time and time again to resolve these issues peacefully with the British Crown before resorting to such extreme measures.
Without further ado, here's the list (in no particular order):
"No taxation without representation" was a rallying cry of the American Revolutionary War. During the years prior to and during the Revolution, advocates of American independence decried the fact that the American colonies were required to pay taxes to London, yet they had no representatives in Parliament. Therefore, the Americans felt that they were being forced to fund a government into which they had no input.
The phrase was originally coined by Rev. Jonathan Mayhew in a sermon at Old West Church in Boston. A slightly different version, "Taxation without representation is tyranny," is attributed to James Otis.
In reality, the colonists had been offered representation under British rule, but the offer was turned down for the following reasons: (1) colonial representatives would have no way of finding out the will of their constituents, as the fastest message that could be sent home would take two to three months each way; and (2) colonial representatives would remain a minority in Parliament, and would generally have no way of decisively changing the vote.
The British government, as well as Loyalists in the colonies, would have argued that the colonists had virtual representation in their interests. Colonists were unimpressed by this point, and British Prime Minister William Pitt agreed. In an appearance before Parliament on January 14, 1766, Pitt stated, "The idea of a virtual representation of America in this House is the most contemptible that ever entered into the head of man. It does not deserve a serious refutation."
"No taxation without representation!" continued to be a rallying cry of the period.
The Intolerable Acts, called by the British the Coercive Acts or Punitive Acts, were a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 in response to the growing unrest in thirteen American colonies, particularly in Boston, Massachusetts after incidents such as the Boston Tea Party. Enforcement of the Acts played a major role in the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War and the establishment of the First Continental Congress.
The Coercive Acts included:
The Quebec Act was also passed in 1774, but it was a piece of legislation unrelated to the Coercive Acts. American Whigs, however, were alarmed by the Quebec Act as much as the Coercive Acts, and they labeled it one of the "Intolerable Acts". Their main complaints over the Quebec Act were the protections granted to the Indian territories and to the Catholic settlers in Ohio. These were viewed as attempts to halt expansion into the west and to strengthen a church that many opposed and resented.
The acts had several different effects. They unintentionally promoted sympathy for the revolutionaries in Massachusetts, and encouraged revolutionaries from the otherwise diverse colonies to band together. However, the Quebec Act had the opposite effect among French Catholics in the Province of Quebec, encouraging many of them to either pragmatic inaction or support for the Crown.
The Stamp Act 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was the fourth Stamp Act to be passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. The Act was enacted in order to defray the cost of maintaining the military presence protecting the colonies. The Act passed unanimously on March 22, 1765, and went into effect later that year on November 1, 1765. It met with great resistance in the colonies and was never effectively enforced. Colonists threatened tax collectors with tarring and feathering, and few collectors were willing to risk their well-being to uphold the tax. The Act was finally repealed on March 18, 1766. This incident increased the colonists' concerns about the intent of the British Parliament and added fuel to the growing separatist movement that later resulted in the American Revolution.
The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767 angered colonists regarding British decisions on taxing the colonies with no representation in the Westminster Parliament ("no taxation without representation"). One of the protesters was John Hancock. In 1768, John Hancock's ship Liberty was seized by customs officials and he was charged with smuggling. He was defended by John Adams and the charges were eventually dropped. However, Hancock later faced several hundred more indictments.
Hancock organized a boycott of tea from China sold by the British East India Company, whose sales in the colonies then fell from 320,000lb to 520lb. By 1773, the company had large debts, huge stocks of tea in its warehouses and no prospect of selling it because smugglers such as Hancock were importing tea without paying taxes (import tax). The British government passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea to the colonies directly, thereby allowing them to sell for lower prices than those offered by the colonial merchants and smugglers.
On Thursday, December 16, 1773, the evening before the tea was supposed to be landed, the Sons of Liberty, three groups of 50 Boston residents each organized by Samuel Adams, burst from the Old South Meeting House and headed toward Griffin's Wharf, dressed as Mohawks. Three ships — the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver — were loaded with hundreds of crates of tea. The men boarded the ships and began destroying the cargo. By 9pm they had opened 342 crates of tea in all three ships and had thrown them into Boston Harbor. They took off their shoes, swept the decks, and made each ship's first mate agree to say that the Sons of Liberty had destroyed only the tea. The whole event was remarkably quiet and peaceful. The next day, they sent someone around to fix the one padlock they had broken.
The Boston Massacre is the name commonly given to the killing of five civilians by British troops on March 5, 1770, which became a cause celebre among pro-independence groups and helped eventually to spark the American Revolutionary War. Colonists were already resentful of the Townshend Acts. Tensions caused by the heavy military presence in Boston led to brawls between soldiers and civilians, and eventually to troops shooting their muskets into a riotous crowd.
The incident began on King Street when a young wigmaker's apprentice named Edward Garrick called out to a British officer, Captain John Goldfinch, that he was late paying his barber's bill. Goldfinch had in fact settled his account that day, but did not reply to the boy. When Garrick remained quite vocal in his complaints an hour later, the British sentry outside the customs house, Private Hugh White, called the boy over and clubbed him on the head. Garrick's companions yelled at the sentry, and a British sergeant chased them away. The apprentices returned with more locals, shouting insults at the sentry and throwing snowballs and litter.
White sent a messenger to the Main Guard for reinforcements. The Officer of the Day, Captain Thomas Preston, dispatched a corporal and six privates, all grenadiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot, and followed soon after. The mob grew in size and continued throwing stones, sticks, and chunks of ice. A group of sailors and dockworkers came carrying large sticks of firewood and pushed to the front of the crowd, directly confronting the soldiers.
In the midst of the commotion, Private Hugh Montgomery was struck down onto the ground by a thrown club. He fired his musket into the air and -- as he later admitted to one of his defense attorneys -- yelled "Fire!" All but one of the other soldiers shot their weapons into the crowd. Three Americans -- ropemaker Samuel Gray, mariner James Caldwell, and a mulatto sailor, Crispus Attucks -- died instantly. Seventeen-year-old Samuel Maverick, struck by a ricocheting musket ball at the back of the crowd, died the next day. Thirty-year-old Irish immigrant Patrick Carr died two weeks later. Six more men were injured. To keep the peace, the next day royal authorities agreed to remove all troops from the center of town to a fort on a harbor island.
Enjoy you Independence, and always remember why we celebrate it.

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