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Another view of the Patriot Act

To the Telegraph readers:

After reading your article entitled “Keeping Big Brother Out of Durango,” in which the Southwest Colorado Peace and Justice Coalition is outlining a resolution to make La Plata County a “Patriot Act” free zone, I feel compelled to write in the hopes of clarifying the true purpose of the Act and to possibly shed some light on some misconceptions.

First, any resolution determining whether the Patriot Act is appropriate or excessive is premature since the effects of the act depend on how the executive branch of government exercises its broadened authorities. Instead of labeling the act “good” or “bad” based on its potential for misuse, a more poised approach looks at how the act balances the need for a more powerful executive to fight terrorism with congressional and judicial oversight to protect individual rights.

Second, the SWCPJC assertion that the act was pushed through without enough political and public debate is, at least in some respects, flawed. During the passage of the legislation many of the act’s detractors voiced concern for abuse of the act. Thus, many of the act’s most sweeping provisions include a sunset clause, which calls for continued congressional oversight at the end of five years. Furthermore there is separate judicial oversight of the executive’s use of the new act. Also contained within the act is recourse through civil proceedings via private tort law.

It seems that the SWCPJC is assured that the current administration is bound to abuse the new power, and furthermore it is currently happening in Durango. This seems to be based on an uninformed notion of fear. There is no reason to “assume” that it is currently taking place, and minus any evidence to the contrary, why can we not take the administration at its word that the act is used for battling terrorist cells bent on destroying the very civil liberties touted so highly by the SWCPJC?

Ultimately the debate over the Patriot Act is just as much about the delegation of executive authority as it is about civil liberties. There is no reason to assume (as the SWCPJC does) that the administration will not exercise its new authorities with respect for civil liberties. This is tempered with appropriate congressional and judicial oversight, which, given time, will show that the Patriot Act is a timely and wise piece of legislation in a time of national crisis.

For the SWCPJC to assume the nation will degrade into “McCarthyism” and “Japanese internment” is premature and irrational, based in a rather illogical view of the current administration.

– Scott Mason, former Durango

resident and law student, San Diego

Plundering freedom

Dear Editors:

When government seizes your belongings, called forfeiture, your property, not you, is charged with the crime. The burden of proof rests on the property owner instead of the government. The courts frequently rule that even where the owner wasn’t aware the property was being used for illegal activities is no bar to forfeiture. In forfeiture procedure there is no jury, you do not have the right to a court appointed attorney, and the outcome lies with the whim of that presiding judge.

Even if a person is acquitted in a criminal court, he or she usually doesn’t get his or her property back. In 80 percent of the federal cases where people have property forfeited they are never even charged with a crime, much less convicted. To date, there has been $5 billion forfeited in this country. Money that is forfeited goes to the law enforcement agency making the seizure. It’s an off-budget source of cash. Credible studies show that forfeiture is corrupting law enforcement agencies by encouraging legalized extortion and that drug busts are now being made on the basis of how much property and money can be seized. Informants can remain anonymous and get up to 25 percent of the seizure that’s not reported to the IRS, which means taxes are lost. Perhaps the motto of some law enforcement agencies should be changed to “To Seize and Plunder.”

Abuse is rampant. Innocent people are losing property, and the media has failed to report this. Forfeiture is especially dangerous to speech and religious freedom. Politically correct speech laws are inching closer and closer to reality, and the courts have ruled that RICO statutes can be applied widely. Once “speech” laws and property forfeiture link up together, it will be a huge loss to freedom.

– Kim Rogalin


Remembering Bro

Dear Editors:

The death of a pet is an everyday occurrence across the heartland, a happening to teach a child the notion of tragedy before the open-casket funeral of a grandparent. But Bro the cat was no mere pet. He was a roommate, and therefore a eulogy is called for.

Durango is a town of roommates. In the 10 years that I have called Durango my home, I have lived in eight different houses with easily 30 different roommates. I have made best friends; I have committed sin; I’ve fought, laughed and sang; I’ve experienced, from suicide attempts to marriage, nearly every event imaginable in a roommate situation, which leads me to Bro.

Bro was not found in a newspaper ad or freed from the death row of the Humane Society. He moved in like all roommates do. One day as the household sat together on a Sixth Avenue concrete porch, a cat strolled up the strip of sidewalk between manicured lawns and joined us. “Hey Bro,” was simply stated as a greeting. And as his escalating visits continued, like a mooching stoner who always seems to know when you just bought a bag, the name stuck.

Like all good, mixed-blood Americans, I believe Bro was part bobcat, lion and lynx. When we first moved into a house on 19th Street, Bro was out exploring the newfound wonders when he came around the corner of an alley shed where our new neighbor was coming around the other side. Without exaggeration, the neighbor turned quickly and walked at a fast pace back into the safety of his home, thinking the entire frightful way that a bobcat had come down form the hills and was searching for a meal in his back yard. Bro had a personality that you had to stick up for, like a friend that gets a little too drunk a little too often. He was loud, his breath could knock you down, and he was tough. I once witnessed him pounce onto the back of a fully grown wolf-dog – claws extended, fangs bared – sending the mix-breed howling out the door never to enter the house again. He never did like dogs. There’s an old saying (I think it’s from a movie or maybe the Civil War) that says, “He ain’t heavy; he’s my Brother.” When you have a Brother, whether it is through blood, friendship or, as luck would have it, a massive beast of a cat named Brother, you carry each other.

There was only one instance that I had to protect Bro. He was going to be skinned, his fur to be worn for warmth on winter nights and his meat to be eaten as a meal when none other could be found. This was no joke, this was deadly serious. Ol’ Homeless Dave was staying with us for awhile as he contemplated whiskey, bluegrass and death. Dave isn’t your typical couch-surfing, trust-funded “homeless” fella. He’s been stabbed by loss, his tears are real and he lives in Horse Gulch with only a tent and a bottle for lonely comfort. He loved Bro and Bro loved him. It was one pretty picture in a hobo’s album of torn, burnt and neglected images. But when living among the elements, certain necessities must be made. And one drunken evening, with the look of a primal hunter in his eyes, Dave got the notion not only to eat Bro but also to sell the cat’s thick, healthy hide to his “Indian friends” for what he assured me would be a hefty price.

Mayhem ensued. A crazed, drunken man with a beard that would impress Robert E. Lee tore through my house. I stood steadfast; defending Bro with a banjo, the weight alone could have easily taken out that man’s fragile teeth. Dave ended up leaving that evening without his fresh Bro stew or hide to trade at the rendezvous.

Bro and I were roommates for around five years. It was a roommate situation that blossomed into a friendship. And like all good friendships, there are too many toasts to be made, too many stories to tell. In his last few months I would not say Bro looked sick or old, he just matured. He had the look of a respectable old man at a family reunion, quiet and observing, but with a wise tale to tell to any who would sit and listen. The vet told us he had total kidney failure, I couldn’t imagine him failing at anything. The vet told us he was 13, but no one really knows.

– David Smith,


Putting politics aside

To the Editors,

No matter how YOU feel about war in Iraq, the fact is that whatever the outcome, we do and will have troops overseas. We need to put politics aside for a moment and send some positive energy to our men and women in uniform. They are there, and it looks like they will be for a while, war or not. We can’t turn our backs on these people. We have to let them know that we care about them regardless of our views as to the wisdom of our leaders. Anything you can think of to show your support would be welcomed and appreciated by our military personnel.

A small group of people gathered in Aspen Springs near Pagosa last Sunday, and we came up with an idea that will be a small step in this direction. We’re planning a fund-raising event which will include live music, food and an auction of donated items with all proceeds to be used to purchase prepaid phone cards to be randomly distributed to our troops overseas. This is admittedly a small step, but it is something. So far we have one band signed up and a venue (Paul’s Place in Aspen Springs). No date has been set yet, but watch for fliers and an announcement in this paper.

Last weekend, another group of people set up a stand in a mall in Albuquerque where people could purchase Girl Scout Cookies to be sent to the Gulf. This is all good, and we need to do more 85 what’s your idea? We would like to challenge everyone in the Four Corners area (or the whole country) to come up with more ideas to show our troops that they’re not forgotten.

We feel it’s our duty to send something positive into this negative situation.

– The Finn Family

and W.C. at Paul’s Place





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