Thursday, June 28, 2007

At least there are berries

I haven't had much to say lately. But the first crop of our golden and red raspberries are ripe. Yum.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It is about the war, and about an oath

Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution:
"The Congress shall have power . . .
To declare war, . . . ."

Article VI, third clause, US Constitution:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution;. . . ."

On October 3, 2002, a congressional hearing was held on a resolution to grant the President discretion in deciding whether to engage Iraq in a war. That day, Representative Ron Paul of Texas introduced a motion to declare war on Iraq. He said he would not support his own motion, but demanded that his colleagues follow their Constitutional duties. If they wanted war, Congress would have to declare it.

Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois, responded as follows:

"There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society. Why declare war if you don't have to? We are saying to the President, use your judgment. So, to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death. You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn't done anymore."

Congressman Hyde publicly swore the required oath of office to support the Constitution. He also publicly called a Constitutional requirement "inappropriate" and "anachronistic." In other words, he is a public liar. 77 Senators and 295 Representatives followed the same path.

Rep. Hyde did not understand the reason for placing the declaration powers in the hands of Congress. It was to provide for deliberation over the grave issue of going to war. It was wisdom to prevent the Executive from having the discretion, or "exercising his judgment" on matters of committing the country to war. Such power was too devastating to place in the hands of one man, even by delegation. Four and a half years later, we see the fruits of delegating that "judgment".

We have been sleeping too long. Have we come to agree with Henry Hyde that the Constitution is anachronistic and inappropriate? If so, let us be done with pretence and come to grips with what has replaced it: assignment of authority from the pork peddlers to the whim of the power mongers. If that is what "we the people" want, then we should at least be honest about it. People have managed before under corrupt and oppressive governments. Life goes on. But to believe as Rep. Hyde does is to acknowledge that the moral authority of our country has been lost. When people break their covenant, they lose their way and are ensnared by all sorts of troubles. (See the entire book of Judges for example).

This presidential election really is all about the war. So many other things are intertwined, but the fundamental issue is this: shall we follow the rule of law as set out in our own national covenant, the Constitution, or shall we accept a democratically acclaimed dictator? (Under Hyde's view, whoever is elected will essentially be a dictator, even if we have agreed to give him--or her-- the power). When boiled down to that question, there is only one candidate that even understands the issue:

Ron Paul. Elect him for President.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fender benders and stealing cars, the DEA does it all.

The War on Drugs gets even weirder. DEA agents now have authority to stop a suspected vehicle by pretending to be drunk and colliding into it with another vehicle. They then may pretend to steal the car and drive it to an unknown location to allow for an "administrative search" to look for drugs. The tactic is a novel method of getting around the 4th amendment--the amendment which used to mean that the government could not conduct unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. I know the facts sound bizzare, so I quote directly from the the recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. It was filed June 8, 2007.

"We consider the Fourth Amendment’s limits on the use of trickery and force in conducting seizures.

Facts: Ascension Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend drove up to a traffic light. As the light turned green, the car in front of them lurched forward, then stalled. Alverez-Tejeda managed to stop in time, but the truck behind him tapped his bumper. As Alverez-Tejeda got out to inspect the damage, two officers pulled up in a police cruiser and arrested the truck driver for drunk driving. The officers got Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend to drive to a nearby parking lot, leave the keys in the car and get into the cruiser for processing. Just then, out of nowhere, someone snuck into their car and drove off with it. As the couple stood by in shock, the police jumped into their cruiser and chased after the car thief with sirens blaring. The police then returned to the parking lot, told the couple that the thief had gotten away and dropped them off at a local hotel.

The whole incident was staged. DEA agents learned that one of the leaders of a drug conspiracy was dealing drugs out of his car and deduced from several intercepted calls and direct surveillance that Alverez-Tejeda, one of the conspiracy’s subordinates, was using the leader’s car to transport illicit drugs. The agents decided to stage an accident/theft/chase in order to seize the drugs without tipping off the conspirators. Every character in the incident, other than Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend, was either a DEA agent or a cooperating police officer." (emphasis added)

The lower court found that the seizure was unconstitutional. It ordered the evidence obtained by the seizure to be suppressed. Although it acknowledged that the car, which had been used in previous documented drug selling activity, was subject to immediate seizure under forfeiture laws, even such seizures have Constitutional protection from "unreasonable" seizures. The lower court decided that the staging of an accident and car theft was not reasonable:

"The seizure in this case needs to be contrasted against the principles discussed above. Unlike a normal seizure by law enforcement, this seizure appeared to be a car theft. Any person seeking information on the theft would reach a dead end. Local authorities were told to deny knowledge of the event if asked. Even during the pendency of the case before this Court, defense attorneys were told that there was no record of such an event in the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office records. No inventory was filed. No judicial determination was made of the need for a covert search. No judicial determination was made of the period of time needed to delay notification. No judicial review of the inventory was made. All of the decisions normally made by the judiciary were made by the officers involved. It is difficult to conclude that the authors of the Fourth Amendment contemplated such discretion be afforded to the Executive branch."

But the 9th Circuit reversed. In a rather cavalier decision, it essentially reasoned as follows:

1.The government had the right to seize the car (even if not the right to seize the property of the occupants).
2.Nobody got hurt.
3.It was reasonable because the government's interest in preventing drugs from entering the market, and its interest in avoiding tipping off the driver that the car was seized outweighed the relatively minor inconvenience of the driver. (The second point is important because the government could not arrest the driver at the time of the seizure because they did not have probable cause to know if drugs were in the car).

Of course, what is left unsaid in the 9th Circuit's analysis is what happens if the government's information is wrong, or if it identified the wrong car, etc. It has essentially given the green light for government agents to stage pretend crimes, carjackings, and other phony scenarios in order to buy time to search a car and obtain an arrest warrant for the driver.

There was never a question that the officers could have obtained a warrant prior to the seizure. Indeed, under today's drug forfeiture laws they could have seized the car at any time (because they had probable cause to believe that it had been involved in a prior drug crime). Despite these powerful tools, US government has decided to step up the tactics another notch. The so-called liberal 9th Circuit has given its blessing. We can only wonder what other creative methods our government will come up with to prosecute this endless "war."

One minor moral of the story is to never leave your keys in the car when asked by a police officer to leave it. They just might steal it.

Copy of the 9th Circuit opinion here:$file/0630289.pdf?openelement

The US District Court ruling here:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Madness and Blindness

Helicopters hovered, hundreds of news cameramen gathered, breaking headlines worldwide, on the internet and, apparently, on televisions across the country. Yes, Paris is going back to jail.

Meanwhile, hardly noticed at the June 5 New Hampshire Republican Presidential debate, all of the candidates except one agreed on one thing: it is morally proper to unilaterally drop nuclear bombs upon a country that is utterly incapable of attacking the United States.

Of course, the one candidate who thought this was insane was Neo-Con public enemy No. 1: the principled Ron Paul.

When I was young, which in the scheme of things was not really that long ago, we practiced "duck and cover." We were instructed to dive under our desks if we heard the air raid sirens go off. We were convinced that the Russians were as likely as not to drop nuclear missiles upon us and were told that hiding under our desks might help. It was madness and everyone knew it. The Russians were incalculably evil for pointing their nukes at us and it was only fair that we pointed ours at them.

Now we are nonchalantly talking about nuking Iran, which doesn't have any missiles remotely capable of pointing at us. Our putative leaders think that a unilateral nuclear strike on a Muslim country will make things fine in the world. The term blow-back (as in over a billion people suddenly taking a personal interest in our destruction) is too complex of a thought for these blowhards.

Long ago, people were warned what could happen if they turned from the Word of God:

The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:
And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.

Deuteronomy 28: 28-29.

May God deliver us from this incredible madness. May He grant our country repentance.