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Archive for the ‘Consent of the Governed’ Category

For a while now, some conservative pundits and individuals have portrayed our current political predicament as being akin to the “zombie apocalypse”.  It is an easy comparison to make, and it isn’t even a new one, as demonstrated by our friend, Packy East, in this clip:

But ask I drove to work this morning, listing to a discussion about the ridiculous and costly nature of public sector unions, and how government, led by the EPA, was standing in the way of what should be a very simple infrastructure improvement that would allow American businesses to remain competitive moving forward into the 21st Century, and this story about the Bureau of Land Management harassing a rancher in southern Nevada, I realized that the zombie analogy wasn’t entirely accurate.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the zombies are still out there, shuffling along, and multiplying quickly, but I realized this morning that there is a better analogy of the relationship between our government and its citizens:

facehugger

I trust no further explanation is necessary.

Those who are paying attention will get it.

Those accustomed to stupid government tricks will get it.

The zombies will engage in ad hominems to prevent others from getting it.

The grievance pimps will take to their fainting couches with wicked, crippling cases of the vapors.

And it will still be true.

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With a government based on the rule of law becoming increasingly lawless with every passing day, I find the subject of rebellion on my mind more and more.  I don’t mean rebellion in the sense of the contumacious response that many of our forebears reserved for those who disregarded the notions of individual rights and liberty in favor of a distant sovereign.  I mean a deliberate and conscious effort to hinder the designs of those who “rule” without understanding, and who turn the notion of consent of the governed around so that the governed must seek the consent of the government.  Indeed, when we are burdened with a President who has voiced criticism of the Constitution that characterizes it as a “charter of Negative Liberties”, and laments the fact that it has in the past prevented government from working a top down, fundamental change, including redistribution of wealth, as a means to work “social justice” upon the country, and without a trace of understanding that this has been a feature and not a bug, reasonable men and women will observe that these are not normal times.

It is hard to maintain a fealty and respect for the offices of government when its scrutiny and muscle render so little of it those it was intended to serve.  And as the single biggest usurpation of power ever devised by man, the cruelly and ironically titled “Affordable Care Act” continues to harm Americans in greater numbers than it “helps”, despite the Administration’s near constant extra-Constitutional efforts to delay implementation of some of its more onerous provisions, I suspect that I am not the only one considering rebellion, in a myriad degrees.

I fear the disruption and chaos that would come with an open insurrection.  But with a government that disregards any semblance of limitation upon its power, or any regard for ours, I find it difficult to believe that things will improve of their own accord.  As corruption becomes the norm, and as government wears less tolerant of competitors and critics, I suspect that acts of rebellion, large and small, will become commonplace.  Lawlessness begets lawlessness.  Selective enforcement is no different from arbitrary and capricious fiat, save for the window dressing of legitimacy conferred by the fact that what is being selectively enforce having actually once been enacted by a legislature.  Without a common moral compass to act as a moderating influence, I have little faith that once contempt for the rule of law is shared equally by those charged with enforcing it, and those meant to live under it, that bloody retribution will not be a fatiguing fixture of daily life.  And still, it comes, along with the day when each person will have to decide how far is too far, what trespasses are too offensive, and what intrusions are intolerable.  As that decision is arrived at, the legitimacy of government will evaporate like morning fog on a summer lake, because once those charged with maintaining the peace have abrogated the birthright of our citizens, the social compact will be swept away, leaving those with no understanding of the philosophy and history of our legal tradition to make the laws.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25

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I saw a post today on Facebook talking about how wrong it is that the Presstitute Corpse was all over the story about a top Chris Christie aid and a childhood friend of his colluding to snarl up traffic for the city of Fort Lee, New Jersey getting on the George Washington Bridge. [Apparently, they decided to "punish" the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, for refusing to endorse Christie in his campaign for governor, so multiple lanes leading to the bridge were shut down for a "traffic study".]  Basically, this post took the position that the same media that was fairly disinterested in the IRS being used to target the Administration’s critics, and really cannot be persuaded to dig very hard into Benghazi shouldn’t be making a big deal about this abuse of power, because it shows that Christie can be a badass.

It’s right and it’s wrong.

First, the attitude of the Presstitute Corpse with regard to the abuses of power and scandals of the Obama Administration is contemptible, and the logic is laid bare in this exchange between DNC Chair Debbie Wassermann-Schultz and CNN’s Don Lemon.  The sad truth is that both deserve a great deal of scrutiny and criticism.

I don’t want a Presidential Candidate (I wouldn’t have chosen Christie anyway) who establishes his “badass” creds by abusing power, or allowing those close to him to do so without his knowledge *winkwink*.  And it isn’t ok when one of “ours” does it, simply because it has become second nature to the Executive Branch in Washington DC.

Abuse of power is the worst abuse of the public trust because it takes something that exists for the benefit of citizens, and turns it against them.  And when it is used to specifically punish or deter the exercise of freedom of speech and freedom of association, it becomes particularly repugnant.  While we have an undercurrent in society today that finds retaliation against the exercise of these rights acceptable, especially if the retaliator was “offended”, this concept is anti-American, and belies a weakness in those finding such “offense”.  If your ideals are so delicate that you cannot adequately defend them, and instead must “punish” those who believe differently, you’re the one with a problem.  If you cannot convince those who believe differently than you to see it your way, and you believe that the appropriate response is to “punish” them, you’re the one with a problem.   And if you are so “offended” by a differing opinion that you must squelch it, you’re the one with a problem.

You want a candidate who is a badass?  Find one who isn’t afraid to be unapologetically conservative.  Find one who isn’t afraid to go to those places where conservatives “dare not walk”, and plainly and patiently explain why conservative principles, especially smaller government, create opportunity and an economic climate in which the limitations on people’s accomplishments and standard of living are up to them, and not simply reduced to what government let’s them have.  Find one who will not retreat, and will not compromise freedom…but most of all, find one who is a good enough leader that he or she will not be “surprised” by a close aid or staffer who believes it ok to use the offices of government to punish people who disagree with them.

If Christie knew about this, he isn’t worthy of the nation’s trust in Federal office.  If he didn’t know, then he isn’t ready to be trusted with this kind of authority.  But if the Presstitute Corpse believes that it is appropriate to turn this into the biggest scandal since Watergate when it couldn’t be bothered to turn the same scrutiny on the IRS, on Benghazi, on Solyndra and other “green energy” graft, they are committing malpractice, and need to be held to account, too.

 

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I had an interesting conversation this week with another businessman who has had enough.

The topic came up when he learned that I am business attorney, and he started to talk to me about the never-ending stream of regulations and taxes, and how he wondered if government didn’t do some of it just to find out how much we would let it get away with.  I smiled, I nodded, and then I told him about my recent odyssey with the Census Bureau.  We both got a laugh out of that, especially when we talked about how long the survey was, and how they just presumed that I would be willing to surrender that time to the government without a peep.  This lead to a discussion about how it doesn’t take very many agencies, bureaus, and offices making “insignificant” demands on you time, and on your earnings before it really starts to add up.  And of course, none of them ever take into consideration that their “insignificant” demands are coming along with all the other “insignificant” demands…not that it would matter, of course, since their demands are important, and must be responded to.

Then he said “I’ll go you one better.  A few years back, I got one of those forms where they wanted me to pretty much inventory EVERY item in my business, then compute the tax and send it to them.”

“Ok…” I said.

“Yeah.  I thought about it for a minute, realized how many HOURS that would take to do, hours that I wouldn’t be using to earn money, and so I looked at the form, and saw that it was a $40.00 fine to not fill out the form and send it back.  I wrote on it “I’m not going to take the HOURS necessary to do this.  Bill me for your fine.”  And I never heard anything more.  They send a new form every couple of years, I answer the same way.  And I’ve never been contacted by anyone looking for their fine.”

We both laughed.  And for a few minutes, I was glad.  It makes me happy to see even small acts of defiance against an out of control government.

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I was introduced to a new song last night.  And it made me very, very happy to know that there are people willing to be the nail that stands up, at a time when so many allow themselves to be intimidated by a tyranny of political correctness, and small-minded thugs who keep finding new ways to take what doesn’t belong to them.

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A friend of mine let loose today with a good rant on Facebook today on the chronic misuse of the word “tolerance” and how the ones who use it most clearly don’t understand it based on their intolerance of those they disagree with.  I’m proud to count her, and others like her, as friends.

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As our President continues to hamfistedly attempt to gaslight the nation about his blatant lies, and as he sets the tone from the top down of a government culture that pays lip service to accountability, yet remains blissfully consequence-free in light of its mendacity and failure, there is a rising anger that will eventually remind our public “servants” that service and employment both come with accountability, and that we will not let those who serve us continue to enjoy good fortune at our expense, and a cushy sinecure that none of us could ever hope to dream of.  The fact that they continue to let this attitude build, while flaunting their disrespect and lack of self-awareness in our faces demonstrates the kind of bad judgement that converts dismay due to lack of respect to a desire to instill fear.  I don’t think it will be pretty, but I do think it will be instructive, and occasionally, “pour l’encourage les autres” has its place.

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A friend of mine posted a link to an article this morning he prefaced with the question “Is sacrificing your religious liberty the price of market participation?”  The article, by Benjamin Wiker, entitled “The Religious-Liberty Quagmire to Come” discusses a recent Slate article sympathetic with the current HHS mandate overreach in which government attempts to abrogate the rights of people to exercise their religious liberty with their property, specifically duly chartered legal business entities.

The article’s author opposes the viewpoints expressed in the Slate article, by author Dalia Lithwick.  I oppose them also, but on grounds originating not just in my studies, but also by practical experience and logic.

The first point raised is this:

Lithwick argues, first of all, that corporations are distinct entities from individuals.

This is true in a literal sense.  Corporations have a legal identity that are separate from their owners in the same way that I have a legal identity that is separate from my oldest son.  You’ll note that I did not use my wife in that example.  It was not an accident.  While she is indeed an entity that is distinct from myself, we happen to live in a community property state, so we “enjoy” the dual status of having distinct legal identities, while legally being considered as having the same legal identity for legal, and more to the point, commercial, purposes.  This reality is imposed upon us by the state, which applies this status based upon an action we took based on a shared religious conviction, and retain based upon that same shared religious conviction.  We are each “owners” of that resultant fictional legal entity known as a “marital community”, which, at least in our case, exists and acts in both personal and commercial transactions in ways that express or are the result of our individual religious beliefs.

While individuals can have religious beliefs, corporations can’t. Once you establish a corporation, it is automatically a secular corporation.

This is what we called in law school a “false starting premise”.  The reason is simple.  The state’s blessing to act as a corporate entity does not automatically confer a “secular” (like the author of the piece, I also object to the common use of the word “secular”, and for the same reasons, however, for the purpose of this essay, I will use it in the context of the incorrectly presumed “neutrality” in which it is often used) status on the resulting entity.  The reason for this is simple.  State enabling statutes almost always permit corporations and limited liability companies to be established “for any lawful purpose”, which by its nature would include the conducting of any lawful business in a manner consistent with the religious faith of the owners of the entity in question.  In fact, thanks to the First Amendment, and its extension to the individual states, the states would be legally prohibited from restricting individuals from forming entities for such purposes.

The other obvious weakness in this rather remarkable assertion from Ms. Lithwick would be the fact that churches often incorporate as non-profit corporations in order to apply for Section 501(c)(3) status so that donations, gifts, and tithes maybe tax deductible to the donor. (Contrary to popular opinion, churches do not have to apply for this status to be tax-free.  They are already tax-free, as they should be, as a result of the First Amendment.)

Wiker states that Lithwick’s assertion is rooted in the decision in the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. decision.  The corporation is owned by a Mennonite Family which employs 950 people.  The family opposes the HHS mandates regarding abortion on religious grounds.  The Federal Judge hearing the case concluded:

“We simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation — apart from its owners — can exercise religion,” circuit Judge Robert Cowen wrote. “A holding to the contrary … would eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

Aside from the naked and unsupported (and unsupportable) conclusion that a corporation is secular, there are a few other weaknesses.  State law would rightfully permit me to draft and file for a client Articles of Incorporation or a Certificate of Formation establishing that the entity is “being formed for the express purpose of selling ice cream, and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and any other lawful purpose,”, and there is nothing that the state or the Federal government could Constitutionally do to prevent me from doing so. Being a distinct legal entity doesn’t mean that a corporation cannot express or conduct itself based upon a specific political or religious viewpoint.  And while there are instances in which government may lawfully restrict what an owner does with its private property in certain balancing of the equities situations, at this time, I can think of none which directly conflict with the right of conscience.

The assertion of an automatic secular nature of corporations based on a theory of complete segregation between a legal entity and those that own them faces other philosophical and logical difficulties aside from being an assumption of a fact not in evidence.  First among them is the fact that one of the pillars the good Judge rests his opinion on is the notion that that an individual can exercise religious freedom, but a corporation cannot.  This point ignores the fact that corporations ARE allowed to exercise other First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, and Freedom of Association, which is the main principle underlying the freedom to enter into contracts with people of your choosing, or the freedom to hire people who you think make a good fit with your corporation, and will make a good employee.  Recognizing this, there is no logical or legal basis to presume that these freedoms can be exercised by a corporation or an LLC, but that those same entities can or should be barred from exercising religious freedom to act in a manner consistent with the religious beliefs of its owner.

The second weakness with this assertion is the fact that the income from many of these “separate, distinct legal entities” is reported not on a separate tax form for that entity, but on the personal tax forms for those who own those entities, which would hardly make sense if these were indeed separate and distinct from their owners.

The third weakness of this viewpoint is that our economy would be in much worse shape without corporations and LLCs because they make it possible for more people to provide goods and services at prices and in quantities that the risk that they would necessarily have to bear individually would either make prohibitively expensive, or practically impossible to provide.  While the very word “corporation” often evokes the image of boardrooms filled with grey suits making decisions that impact the livelihood of hundreds or thousands, or more, the fact is that the majority of corporations are closely-held businesses, where the ownership consists of a individuals, or small numbers of people, often members of the same family, or of one or two families. And in some instances, this is also true of those large corporations that I previously spoke of.  Ford is one example that comes to mind.  However, even if it wasn’t for the fact that a majority of these entities are small, closely held corporations or LLCs that permit individuals to offer products or services because of the risk management that the law permits through the use of these entities, there is also the fact that the law DOES allow certain individuals who offer goods and services through corporations and LLCs to refuse to offer those goods and services based on the individual owner’s right of conscience and/or religious beliefs, among other factors.  Doctors, who can refuse to perform abortions, and attorneys, who can refuse representation based on any factor at all, are two that come to mind.  While competence or having the requisite skill are among the reasons for these rights of refusal, they are not the ONLY ones.  And while it might be tempting to say that the personal nature of services rendered by these professions support such an exemption, the fact is that for nearly all closely-held business entities, the nature of what those individuals do is personal.  For such individuals, their business is at the forefront of their thinking.  It is the first thing they think of in the morning, it is what they contemplate as they drift off to sleep at night.  Their businesses ARE an expression of who they are, and  that “separate legal entity” invariably becomes associated with the individuals who own them.  The manner in which they conduct their business often expresses an opinion or a philosophy held dear to the owner of that business.  It is not reasonable or logical to suggest or expect that these individuals segregate their religious and spiritual identity and activity from the profession or career that they otherwise breathe and eat; to do so would be a denial of the very essence of the person that the law and society would find morally objectionable and repugnant if any other belief or activity was being discussed instead of the free exercise of religion. This is no less true for a baker of wedding cakes, or a photographer than it is for a doctor or a lawyer who has incorporated so they can ply their trade without risking the loss of everything they own and have worked for to one lawsuit.

Another logical weakness in this assertion is that many of these entities often are operated day-to-day in accordance with various codes of ethics voluntarily committed to by the owners and employees of the corporations and LLCs.  For an entity to be, even indirectly, conducted according to such a code of ethics, but presumably not capable of exercising a religious point of view is facially absurd.

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I’d like to think that things will get better, but the current prevailing prejudice against religion in some of the most litigious groups in our society leads me to believe that we’re in for a lengthy fight to preserve our first liberties.  Especially if examples such as the New Mexico photographer, and the pink swastika philosophy that seeks to punish those who do not wish to participate in their activities, regardless of whether not it makes any logical sense to compel those who object with their beliefs to provide a personal service or product is any indication.  But then, with a federal government that is engaging in similar unconstitutional behavior as a guide, there really is no reason to be surprised at the bold entitlement demonstrated in this strategy, which is why legal interest groups such as the ADF are going to become increasingly important and need our help in the coming years.

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Apparently, the sequester hasn’t affected the Census Bureau, because they CONTINUE to call my home.

Last night, to their bad fortune, they did so when I was actually here.
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I got another call from the Census Bureau last night.

It didn’t even register with the flunky attempting to intimidate me into giving them a host of information that is none of their business that telling me “Congress passed a law giving us the authority to collect data for them.” wouldn’t even be the slightest bit convincing to an attorney who has read the relevant sections of 13 USC and can’t find ANY authority for the scope of the questions they were asking, and she got very upset when I told her that they need to quit calling my home, as it is starting to border on harrassment.

Fed Flunky: Sir, if you do not answer the questions, I’ll have to make you as a “refusal”.

Me: You can mark me as a refusal, but that would not be true. The law says I can be fined if I willfully refuse to fill out any portion of the survey. I filled out the first page, and then wrote “None of your damn business” on the remaning 35 pages. Therefore I didn’t fail to fill out any portion of the survey, only the parts that are none of your business. Besides, I’d be seventeen different kinds of idiot to give you that information considering the federal government’s recent treack record with confidential data.

Fed Flunky: Sir, THAT’S not what the law means.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware I was speaking to another attorney. It must suck having to work a Friday evening for minimum wage.

Fed Flunky: If you have a law degree, you can defend yourself at the hearing.

Me: Is that supposed to scare me?

*click*

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If we can pay for this kind of idiotic pursuit of American citizens, and NOT enforce current immigration law, and not allow the government to perform the functions that it is SUPPOSED to be doing, like training for military units, then this government’s legitimacy should be loudly and frequently questioned.  Daily.

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What a great week.

We get a Supreme Court ruling on DOMA that WILL be used to attack the exercise of the First Amendment in a “historic” and “unprecedented” way, thanks to a remarkably intemperate ruling written by Justice Kennedy, who decided in his ruling in the DOMA case (United States v. Windsor) that the only purpose in opposing same-sex marriage MUST be malicious, which will be used against churches and religious organizations by a cabal of Christian Derangement Syndrome sufferers and the pink swastika wearing rainbow warriors of “tolerance”. Not content with this decision, the court also issued a ruling on the Prop 8 case (Hollingsworth v. Perry), in which the court came to the rather curious conclusion that you can have standing to be sued, but not have standing to defend against a suit. Such legal alchemy is no longer shocking to me, but the bigger implication of this suit is far more stunning. The net effect of this ruling is that the people of a state can use the initiative process to make laws that their elected officials WON’T, and if their governor and their attorney general refuse to defend against legal challenges, then the proponents of the initiative don’t have standing to defend against those same legal challenges. The silence from the usual defenders of “democracy” is disappointing, but predictable.

After the ruling was released, I was sure I heard the sound of hands rubbing together in Olympia, as the Governor and the Democrats in Olympia are making plans for the next session when the Senate can’t stop them, and they can tax to their grubby little hearts’ content, and then fail to defend a trumped-up lawsuit against an initiative telling them “No.” It will be even less trouble than having the courts do them a solid on overturning our $30.00 license tabs…again, and again, and again.

Then we have the “Tale of Two Apologies”. The first is Paula Deen, a southern cook, with a show on the Food Network and various franchises and a pending cookbook, who admitted in a deposition to having used a racist slur 30 years ago, driving the grievance pimp and race hustling industry into overdrive. Within a week, she lost her show, every business relationship she had, and her publisher dumped her on the cusp of publishing her latest cookbook, despite having given an unnecessary apology for the sin of saying a word frequently used and glorified by members of the supposedly aggrieved class. Incidents like this, and the now infamous Imus incident are proof that Eric Holder was right about us being unable to have an honest conversation about race in this country. When words are only off-limits to one class of persons, and the ones who aren’t restricted are allowed to destroy the careers of those restricted class if they admit to uttering “Voldemort” in the distant past, no honest conversation about race is possible. But at least Jesse Jackson got a few extra moments in the limelight when he offered to help Deen with her “rehabilitation”, so at least his lucrative franchise preserving this perverse status quo will be maintained.

On the other hand, we have Noted Thoughtless Pig, Alec Baldwin, once again launching himself on a gay-slur (I refuse to say “homophobic”, as it would indicate fear, and given what he said, I don’t think he fears gays, I think he holds them in contempt) laden Twitter tirade against a Guardian reporter who made some unflattering allegations about Baldwin’s wife’s behavior at James Gandolfini’s funeral. This isn’t the first time that Baldwin’s Tweeting thumbs have caused him trouble, as he’s tweeted racist slurs before. However, unlike Deen, who said “Voldemort” 30 years ago, when I last checked, Baldwin still had a cushy gig with Capital One, and hasn’t been fired by any of his other employers. While Anderson Cooper and Andrew Sullivan noted the apparent lack of outrage for Baldwin’s rhetorical diarrhea, he seems largely to have gotten a pass, despite the apology which makes claims that are incongruous with his tweets.

I’m not in favor of people having their lives and careers ruined over things they say. That doesn’t mean I’m adverse to speaking out when I think what they say is wrong, dangerous, stupid, etc. I do think that DEMANDING that people being cut off from their means of making a living because they said something that offended someone smacks just a little too much of thought policing for me to be comfortable with. It’s one thing to have no truck with people who offend you (or those who employ them), but it’s quite another to have the expectation that others must share your outrage, and participate in a particularly brutal (and arbitrary) form of collective punishment, which is to be arbitrarily and selectively applied by those who set themselves up as the judge and jury of such socially criminal acts. My contempt is reserved for the deciders who pretend to be guided by such principles as “civility” and a cockeyed notion of “fairness” that only they can mystically discern, according to a subjective standard that we mere mortals are terminally incapable of recognizing, let alone grokking. This contempt is also reserved for the mindless numbers who surrender their own discernment with nary a taxed brain cell to these morally bankrupt clods who have usurped an authority that they prove themselves too hypocritical to objectively wield when they allow such a disparity of outcome in two such similar public faux pas. I could be crass, and suggest that the lesson here is the same one more artfully demonstrated by George Orwell so many years ago in the classic “Animal Farm”, when he observed that “Some animals are more equal than others.”, a concept that seems to have escaped (I hate myself for even using this terminology) “the gay community”, which has struggled so long to enact a dubious and dishonest notion of “equality”, and was given a major victory in this campaign this week by the courts. Instead, I will say that an apology IS owed to someone, and in the great progressive tradition of claiming authority not conferred upon me, I will speak for America when I say:

“I am sorry, Paula Deen. I’m sorry that you believed in the notion of a “post-racial America”, uttered by a President that you voted for, when what he, and many in his party meant was a “Reverse-racial America”, where only white people can be racist, and any excuse to render such a verdict and execute sentence will be pursued by our “betters” in the media, and where your celebrity won’t be enough to protect you, since you failed to write checks to the “right” interest groups. Welcome to Bizzaro World.”

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So I have some friends who are screaming about Snowden being a traitor. I have friends who are saying he’s a hero.

To my friends saying he’s a traitor: We’ve had an out-of-control, lawless federal government for the last 5 years, that has been allowed to do so without any real consequence. Sooner or later, it was bound to spill over from the top on to the cogs.

To my friends saying he’s a hero: MAYBE letting the cat out of the bag before the election might have made him a “hero”. He didn’t do that. He admitted to holding back because he thought Obama would be better with this stuff than Romney. So the knowledge of the citizenry of it was still subject to someone’s political considerations…his.

But the questions I want to hear asked and answered are:

1. Who, specifically, decided to use the 4th Amendment as toilet paper on this particular subject?

2. Are our intelligence agencies STILL wiping their butts with our privacy rights?

3. Why are we supposed to think that there were “other avenues” for spilling the beans that would actually be effective when Representative Issa has being “gathering” data on Fast and Furious for how many years?

4. How long before the various organs of government shift from tacitly acting on what it they are learning to openly acting on the knowledge?

5. Is NOTHING sacred? Is NOTHING to be retained by the citizens to themselves, but for the thoughts that they do not speak or write, or does the “terrible burden of governing” come with the expectation that the governors must know all in order to “keep us safe”? And if the answer to the last question is “Yes”, then how long before we the people are relieved of the terrible burden of having to make any choices?

I’d like to see some outrage from the likes of John Boener on the intrusion on our liberties, but I guess that was too much to ask.

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First, from the snoops who have announced themselves and expect me to help them:

I got a call from an employee of the Department of Commerce this evening, who was calling regarding their intrusive survey that they generously provided a shotgun invitation to.  She confirmed the phone number and address, and wanted to speak to the man or lady of the home.  I advised her that she was speaking to the man of the home, but that I had NO intention of answering their survey.  She asked me why that was.

I informed her that it was because their intrusive questions include ones that a prospective employer could not ask me, that some of them would be in violation of HIPPA laws if my doctor revealed the answers, and because some of them asked sensitive information that could be used to my detriment by identity thieves.  She started to say something, and I cut her off, saying, “Don’t try to tell me about how the information is “confidential” and would never be misused.  The revelations coming out of Washington D.C. over the last couple weeks are enough to dissuade me from ever believing that.

She said that she understood that some of the questions could be construed as personal, and that I could always decline to answer specific questions on that basis.  I responded by telling her that it wasn’t just about the questions being intrusive, but that they had clearly exceeded the statutory grant of authority which they felt empowered them to ask the questions in the first place.  Her response was that she understood, but it was Congress that gave them that authority so it could get the answers to those questions.  I told her that I didn’t doubt that they wanted the answers; no doubt they could be used to buy a lot of votes with taxpayer money.  She responded again that it was Congress who wrote the law.  I responded by telling her she just didn’t get it.  “I’m an attorney.  I’ve read the law that your agency relies on as its authority to ask me these questions.  The scope and the nature of these questions clearly exceed that.  It isn’t even a question.  You can’t blame that on Congress, they aren’t the ones sending the surveys and threatening me if I don’t play along.”  She assured me that it was not her agency’s intention to make anyone feel threatened.  I looked at the envelope with its bold-lined box on the front stating in bold all capital letters “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW”, and mentally uttered thanks that she had cleared that up.  I again repeated that the questions exceeded their authority. 

She responded, “I can certainly see your point.  But the fact is that Congress is who decided that they wanted the answers to these questions before the next decennial census, and that’s why they wrote the law.” For a second, I mulled over asking her how it is that Congress could decide that they could require a census more often than the decennial measure set forth in Article I, Section 2* of the Constitution without an AMENDMENT permitting them to do so, and then decided against it, since she clearly wasn’t equipped to have that discussion. 

She then suggested that I do the online survey, and simply refuse to answer the questions I felt were too personal.  I asked her who was going to pay me to do it.  She laughed.  I said “I’m serious.  I bill out at $200.00 an hour, and I don’t appreciate my government thinking that it has the right to essentially directly stick me with an unfunded mandate requiring me to give it an hour of my time I’ll never get back for something no reasonable person who believes in limited government would have any intention of participating with in the first place.”  She was almost at the point of pleading me to just fill out the survey, even if I only answered one question, and again invited me to do it online.  I told her that I would think about it, but if I do, I’m filling out the paper survey, and sending a letter that they won’t like very much with it.  She laughed and told me that they always welcome opinions.  I advised her that I’ll fix that, and she just laughed again before saying good night and hanging up.

…which brings me to the snoops who don’t announce themselves, and apparently have the ability to read every word I type online…

I kicked myself after hanging up for not saying that the survey was redundant, given the revelations today about PRISM.  I mean, why bother asking me when the NSA can (and probably does) monitor everything I do online.  I know, they want me to believe that the information would never be misused or illegally shared with other parties, but let’s be honest:

What’s stopping them from misusing or abusing the data that they never should have had in the first place?   

We all know the answer to that question. 

Nothing. 

 Which is why the data will flow to whoever finds it politically useful.  It isn’t like this Administration has any interest in actually going after real terrorists…the ones who actually kill people, and hate America, not the average Americans alarmed and enraged by the excesses, lawlessness, and tyrannies enjoyed by the Federal government, who it pretends are the terrorists.  After all, its ok if a few flunkies are sacrificed to quench the rage of the taxpayers.  It’s a very small price to pay for keeping the right people in power, and those who oppose them struggling to get a government boot off of their necks.  It provides the illusion of accountability without ever putting any of our self-appointed betters in any real jeopardy of having to answer to us.

From the Slate story on PRISM:

The Washington Post disclosed Thursday that it had obtained classified PowerPoint slides detailing the program, codenamed PRISM, from a career intelligence officer who felt “horror” over its privacy-invading capabilities. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the source told the newspaper.

Participating in the PRISM program, according to a selection of the leaked slides, are Internet titans including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. It was established in 2007 and is used by NSA analysts to spy on Internet communications as part of the agency’s foreign intelligence-gathering work. The analysts use PRISM by keying in search terms supposedly designed to “produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s ‘foreignness’.” However, the Post notes, training materials for the program instruct new analysts to submit “accidentally collected” U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

According to the Post, the system enables NSA spies to monitor Google’s Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), photo libraries, and live surveillance of searches. If agents believe a target is engaged in “terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation,” they can use the spy system to exploit Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities.  And PRISM can monitor Skype, the Post notes, “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat, and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.” In order to receive immunity from lawsuits, the participating companies are obliged to accept a directive from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to “open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA.”

Sure, sure.  That sounds like something that would never, ever, ever be abused by the federal government.  Especially under this Administration.  Just ask James Rosen or his parents.  Or the Tea Party groups whose First Amendment rights were treated by the IRS with all the care and concern one might give to a used kleenex.
Had Enough Yet?

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Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

[The underlined portion was modified by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment; the rest has never been altered by Amendment.]

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Economics and Statistics Administration
U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
1201 East 10th Street
Jeffersonville IN 47132-0001

Re: American Community Survey

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to thank you for your gracious requests that I take part in your American Community Survey…the requests that also prominently contained the admonition that “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”   However, despite your shotgun “invitations” to take the survey, I’m afraid I must respectfully decline.

You see, while the Census is mentioned in the Constitution, it exists for the purpose figuring out the population of the country, and where people live, so that Congressional delegation size and apportionment may be determined for the states. As a citizen, I am happy to truthfully and accurately report to you how many people reside in my home. Unfortunately, that is as much of an intrusion into my privacy and my time as I am willing to tolerate from your agency, as I already informed you when I received the “long form” in the last census.

I appreciate your efforts to be as appealing as possible, however, the disclosure that filling out the paper questionnaire, that you sent to me unsolicited, should only take me about 40 minutes really doesn’t move me to comply with your attempts at information gathering. I am a busy attorney and a full-time parent. Spending the better part of an hour revealing not just information you have absolutely no business asking me to give you, but information that is of a sensitive nature, and could be abused to my detriment, and then expecting me to simply do it for free is truly unacceptable. If you were serious, you should be offering to pay me for an hour of my time, which I bill out at $200.00 an hour, by the way. You still wouldn’t be likely to get my cooperation, but at least I wouldn’t get the distinct impression that you all sit around laughing at what rubes the people you send these coercive “requests” to must be.

I’m going to be frank with you. I’m not going to give you the names, ages, birthdate, race, and relationships to each other of everyone who lives under my roof. As I’m sure you are aware, such information would be very useful to identity thieves, and while I might voluntarily share at least some of that information with other entities, such as banks or credit card companies, I would do so with the expectation of an exchange of value.

Likewise, I am not going to tell you what kind of home I reside in, when it was built, and when each of us came to live here. Nor am I interested in telling you the acreage. Much of that information can be gleaned online from county records, and I have no interest in doing that work for you. It is also none of your business whether or not I operate a business out of any part of the property, or how much was earned in the last 12 months from the agricultural sales on the property. You could learn the answer to either of those questions from the IRS, and regardless of unequivocal rules prohibiting them from sharing taxpayer information outside of the agency, recent events have proven them all too willing to do so.

It is none of the federal government’s business if I have hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, a bathtub or a shower, a sink with a faucet, a stove or a range, a refrigerator, or a computer, let alone what kind of computer or the number of computers. You don’t need to know if I have internet access, or what kind of access I have.

I’m not telling you how many automobiles are owned by members of this household, how we heat our home, the amount of our monthly electric bill, our monthly gas bill, our sewer and water bill, or the cost of fuels used in our home.

I’m not going to tell you if we have used SNAP benefits in the last 12 months, if we have a condo fee, or if we rent. I’m not going to tell you what I think my residence is worth, what my annual property taxes cost, or the cost of fire, hazard, and flood insurance for our home. I’m not going to tell you if I have a Deed of Trust on the property, or whether my property taxes, or homeowners insurance are included in my house payment. I’m not going to tell you if I have a second mortgage on the property, or how much I pay altogether for both if I do. All of this information is already known to other governmental entities, and again, I have no interest in becoming an unpaid data collector.

I absolutely will not tell you the education level for every person in my home. It is also none of your business what kind of health insurance we may or may not have. You don’t need to know if any of us has trouble hearing or seeing, if we have trouble remembering or making decisions, if we have trouble walking or climbing the stairs, or difficulty bathing or dressing ourselves. I’m not going to tell you if any of us have trouble with daily errands because of some infirmity.

Our marital status is none of your business. Nor is whether or not any of us has ever been divorced, how many times we’ve been married, or if anyone has given birth in the last 12 months. If any of us was currently in the armed forces, or had previously served, the federal government would already know, as it would also know if anyone here was receiving disability, and for what degree.

You don’t need to know if anyone here worked for pay last week, where we worked, including address, how we got to work, whether or not we shared a ride, how long it took any of us to get to work or to get home. You don’t need to know what kind of work I do, who I work for, the industry I work in, what kind of work I do, or what my duties are. You don’t need to know my income, or the sources of my income.

While I’m sure that knowing all of this information would undoubtedly be useful to Congress in their never-ending shopping trip to buy votes with the public fisc, the fact of the matter is that the federal government continues to expand far outside of the spheres of influence that it was intended to occupy, and as I pointed out, much of this information is known already to state and local authorities, who can at least claim with a shred of honesty and a straight face that they need to know as part of the exercise of their lawful authority. Conversely, the federal government has serious trouble delivering the mail, securing the borders, maintaining the interstate highway system, and running the military, let alone responsibly budgeting the taxpayers’ money…and those are all things that it actually has the lawful authority to do. When you start requesting data that state and local governments need to have, I can only conclude that it is a precursor to yet another usurpation of power or authority that was not specifically delegated to the federal government. While this information is desirable for these purposes, as well as other more innocuous purposes which I’m sure you would be quick to cite if we were discussing this face-to-face, the fact is I can glean the “real” purpose, and I don’t trust you with the information. Yes, I know that you included a nice pamphlet assuring me that all information that I give you won’t be shared, and that it will be kept strictly confidential. Given the recent goings on at the Internal Revenue Service, you really will have to forgive me for not relying on these assurances.  And yes, I took note of the stick you made sure I could see you dangling.  I understand that 13 U.S.C 193 states that ” the Secretary may make surveys and collect such preliminary and supplementary statistics related to the main topic of the census as are necessary to the initiation, taking, or completion thereof.”  However, the information you are attempting to gather is either (a) readily available by other means; (b) information that no other individual or entity would have a right to ask me, and I could sue if they did; and (c) I’m not persuaded that the requested data is preliminary OR supplementary statistics related to the main topic of the census, the purpose of which is clearly delineated in both the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3, and 13 U.S.C. 141.  I’ve read 13 U.S.C. 221, by which the federal government means to compel its citizens to participate in this invasion of privacy.  The fine is not overly large, and I have no intention of paying such a fine when you are requesting information that is none of your business, and cannot be reasonably said to comport with the parameters which are imposed on the scope of your data collection to begin with.

In closing, I would like to remind you of a salient fact that you, and your sister agencies in the federal government seem to have lost sight of:  Americans do not like a bully

As an attorney, I have become accustomed to the federal government finding new ways to waste time with various forms, demands, and entire redundant bureaucracies which delight in making citizens, the people for which it ostensibly answers to, dance like trained monkeys, and act under the mistaken belief that they have to simply accept this treatment from an entity which is out of control, and increasingly imposing burdens on the productivity and creativity of a nation while this same government insults, undermines, and lavishly lives off of these very same citizens.  Because I am used to this, I almost let it slide by me without comment, but the passive-aggressive nature of your correspondence regarding this survey was really just too much, especially in light of recent developments showing that the IRS and the Justice Department are out of control.  I hope by publishing this letter, other Americans will also resist your intrusion and presumption, at least that is my hope. 

Sincerely,
An American Citizen Fed Up With Federal Overreach, Presumption, and Arrogance.

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