Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Didn't Speak Up

On March 7th, I sent the following questions to Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.
I didn't really expect a response since specific questions can not easily be answered by form letters, and these two poltroons were born without spines or had them surgically removed.

"He has also been a tireless advocate for improving the quality of life for troops and their families." - Saxby Chambliss


1. In view of the above claim from your profile, what are you doing to end the torture of Bradley Manning?
2. Do you approve of forced nudity, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and exercise deprivation?
3. Do you support the prosecution of the perpetrators of these acts?
4. Do you support an investigation of Manning's treatment?
5. Do you think that Barack Obama should be held accountable as Commander in chief of the Armed Forces?
6. Do you think that persons charged, but not tried or convicted should be maltreated?

What brought this to mind was the story of the troops in Afghanistan killing civilians and cutting off their ears and being so stupid and reckless as to photograph themselves committing the crimes. Several of those charged have admitted guilt, but I have heard no stories about any of them being deprived of sleep, forced to sleep nude, held for long periods in solitary confinement, deprived of exercise etc.

Bradley Manning performed a public service by informing the populace of the secret actions and policies of the government - that is, assuming he leaked the information to WikiLeaks. The Pentagon has admitted that no harm has come to any U.S. troops because of the public release of the secret information.

What the renegade death squad boys have done in Afghanistan is a crime under any moral code and shows a high degree of depravity. All Manning is alleged to have done is to make manifest what shouldn't have been concealed from the public to begin with. Why the disparity in treatment? Manning hasn't even been convicted and they're treating him like he's Carlos the Jackal or Osama bin Ladin.

I'm not going to hold my breath until Chambliss and Isakson call for Manning to be treated humanely. These two guys are such milquetoasts that they would make Vidkun Quisling look like evil's implacable foe.

Politicians love to hear from people who are having trouble with the V.A. or Social Security or some other agency that they can have a staffer call and solve the problem. They have a vote from then on. They usually don't mind letters about legislation because if it's popular they can say they support it and might even be a co-sponsor, but if it's unpopular or risky, they can drone on about what's in the bill (which you already know) and assure you that they're going to consider your views at the time of the vote.

I think it would be helpful if people started asking questions in their letters to politicians that have to be answered individually. It puts them on the spot. It is said somewhere that an honest man can speak for himself when the fool and the knave cannot. I think that's why I have received no response to my query.
As if to confirm what I wrote about politicians prattling on with irrelevancies, I received this response from Saxby Chambliss after posting the above.  Notice than none of my questions are answered and note also that I did not mention WikiLeaks in my questions.

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the WikiLeaks incident. It is good to hear from you.

As you may know, on July 25th 2010, WikiLeaks released more than 91,000 classified military documents regarding the war in Afghanistan.  The documents are largely field-level military reports and do not have the sophistication of national-level finished intelligence. Nonetheless, the leaked documents do include information including times, dates, unit designations, geographic identifiers, and the names of some Afghan personnel working with the U.S. Military which could put those personnel at risk of retaliation.  

Again, in November 2010, the website began publishing a reported 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables, largely from the last three years. Several news organizations have subsequently reported on the cables and their contents.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said that these documents describe sensitive information that could potentially endanger the lives of those who are operating in Afghanistan.

Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, 23, is the chief suspect in leaking the military documents to the Wikileaks website.  PFC Manning, a former intelligence analyst, was arrested in Iraq at the end of May 2010 on suspicion of passing classified information.  Originally, he was charged with communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source.  In March 2011 an additional 22 charges were preferred, including "aiding the enemy," a capital offense.  PFC Manning is currently being held in solitary confinement awaiting court martial for these offenses at the United States Marine Corps base in Quantico, VA.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I believe that our military units should operate with the best intelligence available, and we need to ensure that classified information is handled and secured appropriately.  Effective diplomacy requires candid conversations with America's friends and adversaries alike.  It is essential that any communications within our own government about such conversations take place within a confidential and often-classified setting.  Leaks of this magnitude undermine the trust and confidentiality that are critical to diplomatic efforts, and should command the highest form of punishment. I will work to ensure persons guilty of leaking classified information are held accountable. 

If you would like to receive timely email alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my web site at:  Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.

Friday, March 11, 2011

No More Laws

Is there an infinite need for legislation? Will there ever come a time when it can be said that we have enough "laws" and congress can cease meeting except to perhaps vote on the budget?

Laws impinge on man's free will, so with the passage of every so-called law - whether it compels or forbids - freedom of action is diminished. A fraction of the population - fairly large, I think - seems to think that "progress" is not being made unless the government is constantly churning out new laws. Every time a crime is committed, somebody will propose drafting a law specifically tailored to that situation or propose a remedy for the act even though the act is unlikely to recur.

Several years ago, a man held up traffic on I 75 by threatening to jump off a bridge onto the expressway below. Instead of lamenting the inconvenience, the state (or city) spent millions of dollars erecting fences along all the overpasses to prevent a similar incident. The remedy is totally ineffective since anybody wishing to jump from the bridge can either climb the fence or bring a pair of wire cutters with them and cut the wire.

The shooting in Arizona is likely to produce idiotic reactions from "lawmakers" - otherwise known as politicians or legislators - even though we already have laws against assault, murder, threats, discharging firearms in the city and so on. If superfluous laws must be passed, I would propose that no law can be named after anybody.

Little Johnny Doe is robbed of his allowance, abducted, tortured and murdered by his Uncle Sam. His uncle is found to be the perpetrator. Congressman Richard Roe proposes "Johnny's Law" that states that no relative shall rob, abduct, torture and/or murder his nephew. No politician is going to vote against Johnny's Law unless he wants to be pilloried in the press and denounced as someone who "doesn't care" about his constituents. Congressman Roe can then run for reelection and claim that he's tough on crime and is the author of Johnny's Law even though everything done to Johnny was already illegal.

God revealed to Moses only ten laws to regulate moral behavior: eight negative and two positive. There are corollaries to these laws, but so far the number has not been increased. How is it that the entire moral code can be summed up so succinctly, but something like a "free trade agreement" takes thousands of pages?
If government were drafting commandments you can be assured there would be many more than ten.

As long as I'm violating my own thesis, I would propose that only those laws that are based on the natural or moral law, such as laws against stealing, murder assault. etc, shall be permanent; all others expire automatically in three years or five years or so. All legislation not based on the moral law would have to be re- passed as though it were a new proposal. It is almost impossible to repeal even a bad law, but this would put the burden on politicians to vote for them over and over again and would have the added benefit of lessening the amount of new legislation. This would be a sort of anti-legislation.

Many people think that laws don't concern them if they don't directly restrict their freedom. I can't count the times that some ostrich has said something like, "This is the freest country in the world, blah, blah , blah."
This is sort of like a person who owns 100 acres, and every year the government seizes 5 acres, but it doesn't matter because they've got plenty of land. After 10 years they start complaining, but the neighbors tell them that they still have more land than anybody in the neighborhood. In 10 more years they have nothing.

Since laws diminish freedom they should be passed very sparingly if at all. There are already laws against all the real crimes that can be committed. There is an apocryphal story that says the head of the patent office wanted to shut it down because everything that could be invented already was. The capacity for invention is limitless, the need for legislation is very small. Perhaps we should shut down congress and sell the building or give it to the Indians.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Josephus & The Robbers

In his autobiography, The Life of Flavius Josephus, Josephus provides a concrete example of the criminality of the state. St. Augustine's comment in The City of God regarding states without justice being great robber bands might have been prompted by reading Josephus.

Josephus describes an incident where he was trying to disarm a band of robbers that were too powerful to be disarmed, so he devised an expedient that sounds quite a bit like a government or protection racket:
"... and when I had sent for the most hardy among the robbers, I saw that it was not in my power to take their arms from them; but I persuaded the multitude to allow them money as pay, and told them it was better for them to give them a little willingly rather than to [be forced to] overlook them when they plundered their goods from them. And when I had obliged them to take an oath not to come into that country, unless they were invited to come, or else when they had not their pay given them, I dismissed them, and charged them neither to make an expedition against the Romans, nor against their neighbors that lay round about them; for my first care was to keep Galilee in peace....Accordingly, I made them my friends and companions as I journeyed, and set them to judge causes; and with their approbation it was that I gave my sentences, while I endeavored not to mistake what justice required, and to keep my hands clear of all bribery in those determinations."

This sounds a lot like an early example of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" or at least make it appear that you have forced them to join you. It doesn't look like he had many or any options, but it also illustrates how the difference between extortion and government is in the name.

It isn't clear why the oath of a robber would be of much value, but oaths are used in government all the time without any effect. Politicians swear an oath to uphold the constitution when most of them have probably never read it and have no intention of allowing words to interfere with their reelection. Perjury is the American way among public officials. The group called Oath Keepers is viewed with alarm among many - the Southern Poverty Law Center, for example - because they actually place a higher value on their oaths than orders from their superiors. The conclusion to be drawn here would be that integrity is an obstacle to good government.

Albert Jay Nock believed that when society was ruled by a strictly negative entity - one that prevented injustice - you had "government", but when the entity engaged in wealth transfer and coercion, you had the "State." The history of the world seems to be The State if Nock's definition is accurate.