Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Sabbath from the Slowdown?

Di wondered aloud the other day whether the recession might force stores and restaurants to cut back on their hours of business ... and if so, whether they might consider simply going back to that quaint old tradition of yesteryear: closing on the Lord's day.

(When Di was looking for work last year, it was bad enough that all the retail stores required their employees be available Sundays — no exceptions for sabbatarians. But she was particularly dismayed that every Christian book store required the same. Reasons given included, "It's our biggest sales day each week," and, "We consider our work here to be a ministry ... " Uh, yeah. Then maybe you should be giving your stuff away on Sundays? Just sayin' ...)

So at any rate, do you think it's possible that God might use the recession to (among other things) call us to rethink our 24/7 lifestyles and return the wisdom and validity of the Fourth Commandment?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An open letter to the Nanny State

26 November 2008

Spokane County District Court
P.O. Box 2352
Spokane, WA 99210-2352

Dear Spokane County District Court,

Enclosed please find our personal check for $124 in payment of a fine levied against my wife for driving — however briefly or unwittingly — without her seat belt.

Be advised, we are paying this fine under duress. It has been levied under color of law, and we do not recognize the state of Washington’s authority to punish people who have endangered only themselves, and thus have not committed a true crime.

But we are unable to mount a fight. The state of Washington simply holds all the cards: legislators, administrators and judges, all backed up by men with guns and badges. And all financed with a vast supply of tax dollars. As I have been unemployed since moving to Washington three months ago, we must focus on things like feeding and educating our kids, not spending hundreds of dollars to fight an unjust $124 fine.

So, okay, you win. But not without hearing our remonstrance against the Nanny State’s revenue enhancement scheme disguised as public safety policy.

On 11 November, my wife inadvertently pulled out of a parking lot with her seat belt unfastened. A few moments later, while stopped at a traffic signal, she realized her error and fastened her seat belt. And she did so out of concern for her own safety, not out of fear of being fined.

But it was too late. She’d already been marked for fleecing ... I mean “punishment” ... by an ever-vigilant WSP trooper. Regardless of the fact that she was both safer and in compliance with the law when she pulled away from the signal, the trooper still stopped and cited her. That she realized and corrected the unsafe situation was irrelevant. All that mattered was a violator needed to be punished — and revenue needed to be generated.

We are not some kind of anti-government anarchists. We are Christians who believe what the Bible teaches about civil rulers — namely, that they are ordained by God to bear the sword against evildoers (Romans 13:4). We praise God when criminals — those who actually prey upon and endanger others — are apprehended, tried and punished, because justice has been served. And we truly appreciate those in government — legislators and administrators, judges and hired men with guns and badges — who do their part in serving justice.

But people who jeopardize their own safety by not wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets are not criminals. They don’t harm or endanger others. The reckless driver is a greater threat to public safety than one who doesn’t buckle up. But curiously, the Nanny State considers it just to punish the latter, who puts nobody but himself at risk, as well as the former.

When a cop is on the lookout for criminals and reckless drivers, he is acting as a genuine “peace officer.” He is keeping the peace of his community by citing or apprehending people who threaten or harm others. But when states enact “Click It Or Ticket” campaigns (for fear of losing federal highway funds), cops become little more than armed thugs, shaking down innocent citizens who have harmed or threatened no one.

The psalmist rhetorically asks God, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Psalm 94:20, 21). Fining people who haven’t harmed or threatened others amounts to little more than exacting tribute — devising evil by law. And God Almighty has ordained government — that is, you — to punish evil, not perpetrate it.

It has been said, “For the law to be respected, it must first be respectable.” For the order and peace of our community, it is vital that citizens hold their government in proper esteem. But it becomes increasingly difficult for decent, law-abiding taxpayers to esteem rulers who make criminals of drivers who don’t buckle up.

We long for the day in America when government bears the sword against real criminals, earning once again the respect of those whom it exists to serve and protect.

Frank [lastname]

cc: Washington State Patrol, Olympia
Washington 4th District legislators: Sen. Bob McCaslin; Rep. Larry Crouse; Rep. Lynn Schindler

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What would that make Arizona?

Yeah, it's been a long time since I last posted. Oh well, other priorities, nothing urgent to blog about ... you know ...

Anyhow, we just moved from Phoenix, AZ to Spokane Valley, WA 3 weeks ago. When we put the plates on the cars, I noted that Washington calls itself "The Evergreen State":

To which Di asked, "That must make Arizona the everbrown state?"

Bada-boomp ...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Don't talk to the police!

(... at least, not without your lawyer present.)

If you’re like me, the vast majority of your exposure to the American legal system comes from TV and movies.

So, who is it that we usually see “pleading the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination”?

That’s right, the evil mafia don ... the guy who we in the audience know is guilty as sin.

I don’t know about you, but that experience has always left me with sort of a funny taste in my mouth about the necessity, the legitimacy — the justice — of the Fifth Amendment.

Well, no more.

In the brief video presentation Don’t Talk to the Police — In praise of the Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against yourself, Law professor James Duane (27 mins.) and police investigator George Bruch (21 mins.) explain why you and I should always “take the 5th”:

[A]ny lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.
~ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in
Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49, 59 (1949 - Justice
Jackson concurring in part and dissenting in part)

This constitutional protection must not be interpreted in a hostile or niggardly spirit. Too many, even those who should be better advised, view this privilege as a shelter for wrongdoers. They too readily assume that those who invoke it are either guilty of crime or commit perjury in claiming the privilege.
~ Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422 (1956)

One of the Fifth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. Truthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker’s own mouth.
~ Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17 (2001 - internal
punctuation and citations omittted)
Prof. Duane is very easy to listen to — quick, personable and funny (if a bit toungue-tied at times). Bruch is a bit more reserved, but he gives you the same advice from the cop’s perspective.

Watch it, then pass it along to everyone you know.

The time to be aware of your legal rights is now … not when you find yourself in “a situation.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Unbelief and the Deification of the Civil Magistrate:

In the 2002 film Insomnia, Al Pacino is Will Dormer, a veteran Los Angeles homicide detective who isn’t above tampering with evidence — only “when necessary,” of course. (I.e., only to ensure the conviction of suspects that everybody knows are guilty.) He and his younger partner, Hap Eckhart, have been sent to Nightmute, Alaska to help the police chief, an old LAPD buddy, investigate the beating death of 17-year-old Kay Connell — and to get them away from a widening Internal Affairs investigation into the dubious ethics of certain detectives.

After arriving and getting settled in, Hap tells Dormer he’s decided to make a deal with IA so that things will go better for him in the long run. Dormer warns Hap that IA only wants to use him to get to Dormer — the “big fish” that will get IA the headlines they want.

Hap protests, “You’re not going to be involved. You’re a G-- d--- hero. With your reputation he can’t touch you. ... You’re clean, Will. ... They’ve got nothing on you because there’s nothing to get.”

“What about [the] Dobbs [case]?” asks Dormer.

“That’s different,” Hap replies. “Even [IA] doesn't want [feces] like Dobbs back on the street.” Everybody knows Dobbs is guilty, you see.

But Dormer also understands that all his prior cases will be jeopardized if Hap cooperates, and he expresses in no uncertain terms his disgust with his partner for deciding to do so.

The next day, Dormer, Hap and several Nightmute cops are in hot pursuit of Kay’s murderer along a rocky, fog-shrouded shoreline. Dormer accidentally shoots Hap, who dies in his arms — convinced that his own partner shot him in retaliation for his decision to cut a deal with IA. Of course, Dormer easily convinces his Nightmute colleagues that Hap was shot by the fleeing killer.

But the killer, Walter Finch (Robin Williams), witnessed the shooting and knows it was accidental. He also knows that Dormer will try to pin it on him. So he calls Dormer to express his sympathies — and to assure Dormer that his secret will be safe with him, so long as he works to convince the Nightmute cops that Kay — and now Hap — were both killed by Kay's high school boyfriend, not by Finch.

Now the race is on between Finch — the creepy, pathetic perv who seems to genuinely believe that Kay’s death was every bit as accidental as Hap’s — and Dormer, the renowned, “honorable” LA homicide detective who must manipulate the evidence to support his “innocence” in Hap’s death — everyone knows he’s innocent, you see — and implicate Finch instead.

Insomnia is an extremely well-crafted psychological crime drama that defends the vital importance of personal integrity. This is probably one of my favorite films — I can’t recommend it highly enough.

But after seeing Insomnia back when it first came out, I also began to consider how our society’s unbelief — our refusal to accept God’s word in faith — might cause us to excuse doing injustice in the name of justice, and thus, to deify the State. Maybe we would prefer to see a possibly innocent man punished in this life — even if a Detective Dormer has to “strengthen the case” against him to assure a conviction — rather than to allow a possibly guilty man to go free in the full confidence that, even if he escapes judgment in this life, he will face God’s judgment at the Last Day.

• Next post: “Unbelief and the Deification of the Civil Magistrate: Woodard v. Wade”

Friday, February 8, 2008

Gold – A political metal

Political rulers throughout recorded history have asserted a monopoly over money. They have argued that the State possesses legitimate authority over the creation and distribution of money. Because gold and silver have been widely used as money metals, the State has asserted control over the monetary uses of these two metals.

This is the origin of the war against gold. Gold is widely recognized and desired as an investment. It is a highly marketable commodity. This was far more true in 1913 than it is today. Prior to the de-monetization of gold, which began in 1914, a person could take a gold coin anywhere where international trade was common and buy just about anything. It did not matter which ruler’s image was on the coin. The coin was valuable because of its gold content. The image may have helped to convey information about the coin -- so much gold of a certain fineness -- but the face on the coin had merely a brand-name recognition effect. ...

Gold’s value is not independent of governments. This is because governments buy and sell gold. This activity affects its price. Gold’s value is also affected by laws against the circulation of gold coins. The Soviet Union had such laws. So did the United States, 1933-1974. But gold’s value as a money metal can exist independently of a government’s actions to subsidize or stigmatize gold’s use as money. Gold circulates as money precisely because it has a value independent of government policies. Or it did. It no longer does. Gold has been de-monetized by governments and their acolytes, the economists.

As with any scarce resource, gold moves to those holders who bid highest. The more widespread gold’s use as money becomes, the more likely that trade will accompany gold. Gold reduces risk by reducing the likelihood of default or fraud on the part of the State or its licensed agents, fractional reserve banks. A government can go bankrupt, but its gold coins will still circulate at gold’s market value. The same is true of any coin-issuing agency. The gold may be marginally more or less valuable in a particular form because of the degree of recognition of the producer, but a government that accurately certifies its gold coins will find that its coins circulate at full value even if the government itself faces bankruptcy or extinction.

Gold’s independence from the fate of governments points to a political truth that governments despise: governments are not the source of the value of gold. To the extent that gold is money, gold testifies against the sovereignty of the State in the realm of money. It testifies to the sovereignty of consumers in a free market. The free market, not the State, is the primary source of gold’s exchange value [emphasis added].

~ Gary North, The Gold Wars (free pdf book), pp. 44-45

Monday, February 4, 2008

The only good politician ...

Most of the world’s currencies and coins today have images of politicians, either dead or alive. By law, American coins and bills may not have the image of anyone living. (In this instance, I am strongly in favor this law. If I must daily look at pictures of politicians, I prefer the dead ones.)

~ Gary North, The Gold Wars (free pdf book), p. 18