March 2004 Archives

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the case of a man who was arrested and fined $250 for failing to provide his name to a police officer. The reason Mr. Hiibel was expected to identify himself was that the officer was “investigating an investigation.” Maybe the officer was absent from the police academy on the day they discussed probable cause. [Disclaimer: I’ve had the unpleasant experience of being unjustly handcuffed. Thankfully, judges tend to be better versed in the law than rent-a-cops.]

Wired news has two brief articles on this case (here and here); both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have filed amicus briefs.

The National Archives has an excellent site on the Declaration, the Constitution, and - especially important here - the Bill of Rights. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect the relevant rights in this case: the freedom from unreasonable searches, the requirement of probable cause before a search, and the prohibition against being compelled to be a witness against oneself.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the USSR was justifiably pilloried by the demand-couched-as-a-request "Papers, please" as a recognition that personal freedom and public anonymity were nonexistent under their totalitarian government. Is our freedom of travel now subject to demands to produce our ID? Are we now presumed guilty rather than innocent? Is the darkness [see below] of police-state tactics we once mockingly disdained now closing in upon us? [The phrase "police state," by the way, is not meant derogatorily toward any individual law enforcement officers, but rather toward the totalitarian mentality that fosters these Ashcroftian abuses of power.]

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of darkness."

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (addressing the Young Lawyers Section of the Washington State Bar Association, 10 September 1976)

Occasionally, someone will send me a link to something that I'm simply compelled to pass along. Since this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Gulf War II, I wanted to share the online archive of Tony Blankley (Newt's former press secretary and the current op-ed editor for the Washington Times). Blankley certainly has a talent for soundbites, but I find his relentless cheerleading for war nauseating.

Blankley's comment in "George W. Bush: Grand Strategist" that Bush "boldly rejected the constraints of an outmoded international system" is a spectacularly sycophantic assertion. Violating the UN Charter (which, as a treaty to which the US is a signatory, is "the Supreme Law of the Land" according to Article 6 Section 2 of the Constitution) by pre-emptively invading a sovereign nation that posed no imminent threat (even Kuwait didn't favor the invasion, and they should know...) wasn't a noble dissent against a recalcitrant majority, it was merely might-makes-right disguised as patriotic duty. (The false patriotism of this administration's chickenhawks during the past few years is more than enough to last for the remainder of my life, and you already know what I think of Congress's abdication of their Constitutional responsibility to declare war by granting Bush unwarranted war powers.) Bush's bellicose flouting of international law isn't "bold," it's reprehensible.

"Elections in the Age of Terror" was no better, although his repetition of phrases such as "maximum danger," "supreme danger," and "doomsday horror" certainly achieve their intended purpose. After years of this sort of fear-mongering, America is now so frightened of a two-bit demagogue cowering in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan that we've succumbed to a police-state mentality and ignored the far more dangerous rapaciousness now unleashed in Washington. Going after the terrorists and their weapons is certainly the right goal, but going after their money never seems to have crossed anyone's mind. (Maybe because the administration's oilmen wouldn't want to implicate their former business partners?) Vast WMD stockpiles weren't being made in caves, tents, or tractor trailers; the necessary large, sophisticated, and expensive manufacturing facilities are as illusory as their "program activities." Freeing the Afghan and Iraqi peoples is one thing...but why is there no comparable concern for the Saudi citizenry living under the repressive monarchy that is responsible for the bin Laden fortune? Why the year-long detour (with continuing casualites and no end in sight) in Iraq while bin Laden still hasn't been found? Why is there so much misdirection in Washington, and so few straight answers?

Blankley is right about one thing: "[t]he national media is burdened with a heavy responsibility to direct the election debate," but their responsibility is not to parrot the status quo and support the current administration, right or wrong. Their charge is to shine a light in all the dark places and show we the people what is being done in our name.


Quote of the Day:

"Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she does not go abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. [...] She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. [...] She might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit!"

(John Quincy Adams, 1821 Fourth of July Address)

I received this email:

I found an article at National Review Online that I thought you'd like to see: "The Impossible Reform: The Social Security Fix."

You may or may not hold President Reagan in the same high regard that I do, but since the problems affecting Social Security affect both of us, I thought you might find this interesting.

That's an interesting article, but Buckley's "obvious solution" of raising the retirement age shouldn't be the first option considered. The truly obvious solutions - obvious to everyone without a vested interest in regressive taxation, anyway - are to eliminate the income ceiling on SSA contributions, and eliminate the exemption for unearned income.

A 1996 book, Take the Rich Off Welfare, had this to say:

"The extra money doesn't just sit in the trust fund; the government borrows it to pay for other things, like military waste and corporate welfare - making Social Security tax, in effect, just another form of income tax. Over a trillion dollars, plus interest, will have to be repaid in order for Social Security, and other trust funds like Medicare, to meet their obligations in the next century. Can you guess who's going to repay it?"

I'm appalled at the thought of tomorrow's children paying for today's governmental follies because today's elected officials can't keep their hands out of the cookie jar.

William Greider writes about Social Security in "Greenspan's Con Job"

"...the trust fund, despite what right-wingers like to claim, is not an accounting gimmick. The government is legally obligated to pay back the money (as surely as it is obliged to repay Treasury bonds). The borrowed trillions, in fiduciary terms, belong to the "beneficial owners"--every worker who has paid higher payroll taxes for the past twenty years. Greenspan is familiar with the accounting because he was chairman of the bipartisan commission that supposedly "fixed" the Social Security problem back in 1983 by imposing a huge increase in FICA payroll taxes--extra revenue that produced the still-growing surpluses. This historic tax shift (I think of it as the "crime of '83") was most convenient to the Reagan Administration because Reaganomics had just created huge budget deficits by cutting income taxes for the monied interests and pumping up the military budget. The burgeoning surpluses from the Social Security payroll tax would help offset the economic impact of the deficits. Hardly anyone noticed at the time, since Democrats cooperated in the "solution." Now Bush Jr. has done the same thing. And Greenspan is proposing another "fix": Double-cross the workers who paid the extra trillions; don't disturb the new monster tax cuts delivered to the rich. Any con artist would appreciate the bait-and-switch as a nifty piece of work."

By the way, when we started planning our retirement, I had our planner run the numbers as if SSA will no longer exist. (I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist in bad times...)

As far as Reagan goes, I have about as much regard for him as you do for Bill Clinton.

I received this email yesterday:

Bush Lied??

If you really believe the Liberal Left's rhetoric that President Bush lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and he took us to war solely for his oil buddies, then read this. If you are a fair minded person and want to help set the record straight, Please Pass This On To Your Entire E-Mail List.

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

"Iraq is a long way from USA but, what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S.Constitution and Laws, to take necessary actions, (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs"
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

"Hussein has .. chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999

"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue a pace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, December 5, 2001

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."
Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
Sen John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do"
Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.
He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime . He presents a particularly griev
ous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real ..."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan.23.2003


Since I would like to "help set the record straight," I have a response:

Were the Democrats correct in their remarks? The simple answer is "No," and their errors can be (simplistically and incorrectly) viewed as equivalent to Bush's lies. The situation is, however, more complex. Many of the quotes are shorn of any relevant context, such as opposition to Bush's preferred brand of unilateral - and unprovoked - military action.

Democrats' primary failure in these instances was being too trusting, and simply repeating the tales that the administration and its lackeys were spinning. One would hope that Bush's track record of deceit will dissuade them from doing so again. The possibility that some Democrats were knowingly complicit in Bush's deceptions in no way absolves Bush for initiating those deceptions.

Snopes, as usual, examines the quotations in "WMD Quotes" and provides some much-needed context.

An interesting contrast to the "Bush Lied?" email is a series of quotations in Edward Herman's "Some Choice Morsels, Past and Present" from the March 2004 issue of Z Magazine. It is quite evident that, before the Bush party line was finalized, many conservatives saw Iraq in a very different light.

My favorites follow:

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq" (Paul Wolfowitz, 2003--Note: These words have inspired the Iraqi resistance in their efforts to oust the "coalition." Wolfowitz of course assumes that the coalition members are not foreigners, as they are U.S. citizens and folks approved by us, therefore possessing a Godfather's right to be at home anywhere within his domains).

"He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors" (Colin Powell, February 2001, before the propaganda line was firm).

"We are able to keep his arms from him [Saddam Hussein]. His military forces have not been rebuilt" (Condoleeza Rice in April 2001, also before the party line hardened).

"No one can now doubt the word of America" (George Bush, Jan. 20, 2004--meaning that his team may lie without restraint, and violate our "word" and legal obligation to adhere to international law, but the world does not doubt that the Bushies will carry out threats to commit violence against defenseless targets).

"No cause can justify the loss of innocent lives" (Colin Powell in August 2003, commenting on innocent lives lost after an Al Qaeda attack; he would no doubt qualify this to take account of "tragic errors").

Despite of the potential for endless recriminations involved in politicians' changing assessments of the situation, it is beyond doubt that BUSH DID LIE ABOUT IRAQI WMDs, AND HE DID TAKE OUR NATION TO WAR UNDER FALSE PRETENSES. Those are the facts, not "the Liberal Left's rhetoric." It is irrelevant who agreed with Bush, and to what extent they went along with his lies.

UPDATE: "Let's Play a Game of 'Who Said This?'" from Another Perspective puts several of the quotes into quiz format. It's rather amusing, in a mordant way.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my local newspaper to the op-ed page yesterday morning to find an entire editorial (from the Washington Post) by photographer Ken Light discussing the tale of the falsified image of John Kerry and Jane Fonda that had been cut from my letter the day before. (An explanatory article - with before and after images - is online at, a website that specializes in debunking urban myths.)

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

“So what do I do now about the conspiratorial Web site that's trying to convince its readers that my original picture was the hoax -- that Fonda really was at that podium with Kerry, and somebody edited "Hanoi Jane" out? All I can do is pull Roll 68 out of the file cabinet again. It's my visual record, my unretouched truth.”

Ken Light

My local newspaper has published another of my letters to the editor. I was compelled to respond to a previous letter that read as follows:

John Kerry reminds me of the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and couldn't blow the house down.

Democrats want a day-by-day report on President Bush's time in the National Guard and imply he avoided the Vietnam war. To balance things, we should have the same report on John Kerry, plus a report on the total of two days he spent in the hospital for his three Purple Hearts.

Kerry's slander of GIs he left behind in Vietnam is not yet well-known. He told a Senate committee in 1971 that soldiers raped, cut off ears and heads, shot at civilians and poisoned food stock. He is also shown in pictures taken by the FBI demonstrating with Jane Fonda, our No. 1 traitor.

We need fair and balanced reporting.

[name and address redacted]

The edited version of my response is also online, and my original version is below:

Because the current administration’s two top members didn’t serve overseas during Vietnam, they are desperate to attack Democratic front-runner John Kerry, who did serve and who did so honorably. Cheney’s “other priorities” and the Bush family’s machinations that snagged a coveted stateside National Guard position are facts, not mere implications. Bush’s fair-weather patriotism, with its suspicious months-long gaps, pales in comparison to Kerry’s Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. There is a substantial difference between Kerry – as demonstrated by servicemembers who thank him for saving their lives – and Bush, who can’t find anyone from Alabama who even remembers him showing up for duty.

The mud-slingers who now accuse Kerry of “slandering Vietnam veterans” need to take off their Fox News Channel “fair and balanced” blinders and learn a few facts. First, Kerry’s remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about atrocities in Vietnam began with the words “They told the stories,” clearly indicating that he was not making accusations but rather revealing what other GIs had told him. Other contemporaneous statements clearly show that Kerry’s anger was directed toward “the men who ordered us,” and not toward his fellow veterans. Second, the “demonstrating with Jane Fonda” story is also a mirage that vanishes upon closer inspection. In the photograph from Valley Forge, Kerry is sitting three rows behind Fonda; he is so far away from her that he’s not even in focus. (There is a faked image circulating on the Internet that combines two separate photos, doctored to make it appear as if Fonda and Kerry are on the same podium. Maybe the previous letter-writer was taken in by the hoax, and is trying to use hysterical hatred of “Hanoi Jane” to slander Kerry.)

Dissent against injustice – not compliance with it – is true patriotism. Kerry’s protests against our invasion and occupation of Vietnam show far more love of country than Bush’s skipping out of National Guard duty to work on a political campaign and then “working out” an early departure to attend business school.

Not that I’m a huge Kerry fan, but I’d prefer an honest public debate to the soundbite-laden sludge that’s often served to us as “news.” Bush’s cozy relationship to the press gave him a huge edge during the 2000 (s)election season; any bets on whether or not he’ll get away with it this time, too?

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

“In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time...”

(John Stuart Mill, On Liberty)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2004 is the previous archive.

April 2004 is the next archive.

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