SpinTech: December 12, 1999

How Can You Tell When a Politician Is Lying?
Part III
by Leon Felkins

The awful Criminal Justice system

Since most of us are law abiding citizens and have managed to avoid a confrontation with the "justice system", we have no idea how it works. Let us hope that you never do trip their wires for if you do, you will find it is a chamber of horrors and the word "justice" is just a joke. I will just hit the high spots.

    Cheating the Constitution: Plea Bargaining, Paid Informants, and Presumption of Guilt

    The "Bill of Rights" of the Constitution guarantees us a trial by jury, due process, a speedy trial, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. We don't have any of that anymore -- way too expensive. Instead we have a procedure which allows rapid and efficient justice. It typically goes something like this:

    The prosecuting attorney offers you "2 to 5 years" depending how the judge may feel on the day of the sentencing. If you insist on going to trial, he says you will get 15 years. Evidence indicates that he is most likely right (the prosecution wins 80% or more of the cases). You say you are not guilty. This has hardly anything to do with what sentence you will receive. The prosecutor says he has a paid informant that has nailed you (or possibly the guy next door, we can never be sure). No, you will not be allowed to confront this accuser -- you will not even be told who he is.

    The choice is yours. As for as guilt is concerned, that was established when you were arrested. The rest is just procedure.

    Choosing to have a trial has other costs. Due to the heavy backlog of consensual crimes, that is drugs, prostitution, etc., it may be three years before your trial comes to be. Unless you can make what may be a substantial bail, you may be cooling your feelings about injustice sitting in the local jail.

    And if you're broke, the Constitution guarantees counsel. But it didn't say how much or of what quality. You may get 10 minutes in which he or she will advise you to accept the plea bargain. Don't argue. They don't have time for it. Hundreds more are waiting in line for this "free" counsel.

    For further reading on this subject, I strongly recommend Law and Disorder: Criminal Justice in America, by Bruce Jackson (University of Illinois Press, 1984).

    Federal Duplication of State functions

    Article 10 of the Bill of Rights says:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Then why, when we recently had an old auto repair garage burn down here in the small town I live in, were BATF agents all over the place the next day? Why was there reportedly 54 different enforcement agencies at the Atlanta bombing of a couple of years back? Why didn't the local sheriff handle the problems at Waco and Ruby Ridge?

    Well, it seems there is an interpretation of the Constitution -- the "Commerce Clause" -- that says it is the Federal government's business if the activity involved interstate commerce. So what exactly is "interstate commerce"?

    To give you an idea of what the government means by it, I will quote from the DOJ document, "Federal Money Laundering Cases", January, 1999:

    "Use of a bank implicates interstate commerce.."
    ".. real estate business implicates interstate commerce because of the nature of real estate markets"
    "buying a house implicates interstate commerce"
    "purchase a car from a dealer . . ."
    "payment . . . with cash affects interstate commerce because the money would be expected to enter the flow of commerce after it was received"

    Hopefully this makes clear what the government considers to be interstate commerce and why the 10th Amendment is no longer functional.

In summary, the stuff you were taught in school about justice and the guarantees of the Constitution should be put on the shelf along with the Easter bunny and Santa Clause. You're too old for such childish myths.

The Military: Looking for work

We all know that the military was drastically cut after the Cold War was terminated, right?(due to lack of interest?). You have been told, by mostly our conservative politicians and media spokespersons, how our country is in great danger now due to the emaciated military, what with all the military might that our potential enemies have (no, I can't name them, but I'm told they are out there somewhere). They wouldn't lie to us would they? Well, maybe we better check.

One of the difficulties of determining the truth about military spending is that the accounting by our government is always extremely fuzzy. For example, what exactly is "military spending"? Does it include spending by NASA? (Why not, much of their research benefits the military). Does it include the billions in grants/studies to educational institutions and think tanks?. Does it include the interest on the military part of our debt? Does it include our foreign aid? Well, an attempt has been made to determine a more accurate picture of the total military spending, documented at the Center for Defence Information. They say the real costs are approximately double what is actually reported. I suspect that they have underestimated it!

How does U.S. spending compare to the rest of the world? According to the report, "Post-Cold War US Military Expenditure in the Context of World Spending Trends", the U.S. spending as a percentage of total world spending has increased from 28% in 1986 to 34% in 1994 while the spending of the "Potential Threat States", has declined from 42% in 1986 to 20% in 1994. Something funny is going on here! (Specific spending for every country of the world is provided at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) site. Also, there are some graphs showing trends.)

Nevertheless, you say, the trend is downward in U.S. spending and the charts show that our spending has dropped a whopping 21% since 1986. But we're comparing to the peak of the famous Reagan military build up, the greatest peace time spending spree the country has ever known! A more honest comparison would be to compare to the years prior to Reagan.

Civil Confrontations (Ruby Ridge, etc.)

Nothing inspires the government to lie more than it does when it has a major confrontation with its citizens. We would never know the truth about these incidents were it not for the doggedness of a few members of the press (sadly, most of the press just goes along with the government's scams). Let us look at a couple of the more famous incidents.

    Waco, Branch Davidians

    Finally, after six years, this horrible incident is getting some attention. It is incredible that at the time of the destruction of the religious compound and the killing of the Branch Dividian sect members, there was hardly any interest by the press. The government successfully kept the press at arms length throughout the siege (which should have caused a huge outrage, but didn't) and then quickly destroyed or hid most of the potential evidence -- without a whimper from the press. Current news of the investigation is online at http://www.waco93.com/press.htm.

    Ruby Ridge

    Much the same happened with the Ruby Ridge disaster. We had hearings and the evidence was overwhelming that the federal government had committed some horrible abuses. The hearings were broadcast every day on television for all the world to see. Nothing happened. Apparently congress felt it did not have the authority to take any action.

Regulatory Agencies

While much of the public has the naive idea that Regulatory Agencies exist to protect the public, those who have actually investigated them, know better. History tells us that the agencies' interests seem to be more in protecting certain key economic interests rather than the public.

Several excellent sources of information on regulation are on the web. Take a look at Policy.com, the Cato Institute, the Independent Institute, and especially the Institute for Justice. I am particularly impressed by the Institute for Justice because it actually brings law suits against government regulatory agencies that are stifling free enterprise.

In Closing

What I have tried to show in this essay is that in dealing with the politicians and the government, your are advised to be skeptical of anything they claim or say. While not covering nearly all the aspects of duplicity dished out by them, I have covered a wide range that is representative of the problem.

What can be done about it? Well, the first thing is to be wary, as I just suggested. As far as somehow bringing the politicians and government employees to salvation and convincing them that they really out to be honest with us -- don't hold your breath. They have time and money -- far more than the rest of us -- and they will use those resources to fight every effort to make them be honest. It would be of tremendous help if the public could somehow pull itself out of its apathy.

But I must make a clarification in case I have mislead you into thinking that these people are somehow more disingenuous and devious than the rest. Maybe some are, but for the most part, I doubt it. It is the system that makes them so. I would encourage you to learn more about why this is by studying the theory of "Public Choice". Basically, Public Choice can explain the motivation of politicians and "public servants" in just two words: self interest. In view of that, I suspect that many of us would act the same way if we were in their shoes.

But the best advice for dealing with this problem is summed up in the simple quote, author unknown:

"Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason."

Part I of this series (October 1999)
Part II of this series (November 1999)

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Leon Felkins is a retired engineer, Army officer and former teacher of computer systems. He now maintains a web page on political philosophy, "A Rational Life", and a "Political Almanac."

Copyright 1999 Leon Felkins. All rights reserved.