Since I write on-line articles that, to put it gently, tend to run against the common grain of popular thinking, I have been asked to appear on radio talk shows from time to time. For the most part, these are rather pleasant affairs as the hosts have tried to ask intelligent questions, and the tone of the programs has been positive, even when there has been disagreement.
Last week, Candice E. Jackson and I wrote a piece on LRC in which we explained why the recent conviction of Logan Young in a Tennessee federal court was illegitimate and (if one holds to Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) illegal. The Young conviction was one of the biggest news stories in Alabama (Young was a well-known booster of the athletic department of the University of Alabama) and was a major national sports story as well. (Readers who want to know the details of the conviction and Young’s alleged transgressions can read the article, as I will not repeat the story here.)
One of Young’s biggest defenders has been Alabama radio personality and newspaper columnist Paul Finebaum, and his show is popular across the state as well as the rest of the Southeast. Thus, I was surprised when someone from his talk show emailed me Friday morning to ask if I would be a guest that afternoon. Given that I was criticizing the verdict against an Alabama booster, I figured it would be a somewhat supportive session. Certainly, I did not expect the donnybrook that was ahead. (Lew Rockwell had emailed the show and suggested they have me as a guest. He was of the mistaken belief that the show was on the up-and-up and did not do “ambush” interviews, and both of us soon would find out the truth.)
Before the show, Pat Smith, who was hosting the show in the absence of Finebaum (who took the day off) called me and told me that the other guest would be John Falkenberry, a local attorney. I did what I could to prepare, then waited for the call.
When the show began, Falkenberry began to ask me a number of questions. It was clear from the start that he and I were in disagreement (and he also did nothing to hide his contempt for my writing on the law, given I am not a trained lawyer), but the conversation was positive. After all, I did not expect him to agree with my criticisms of federal criminal policies.
A few minutes into the discussion, however, someone else piped in, Neal Vickers, the news director for the radio station WERC, from which the show originated.
While I could tell Vickers did not like my point of view, I figured it didn’t matter, given that most people do not like my perspective on things, and especially the law. We took a break for an advertisement, and when we came back, Vickers turned up the heat, asking me: "Are you a follower of Lyndon LaRouche?"
Although I am not very familiar with LaRouche, I did know from what I had heard in the past that he is a somewhat unsavory character, and that there is very little from his views that I would agree. Yet, Vickers’ question was more basic; he really was asking, "Are you a Neo-Nazi racist?" (In fact, he later told me that I must be one of those haters of the federal government. I replied that I simply wanted a federal government that acted within the boundaries set for it in the U.S. Constitution. In Vickers’ world, however, holding to a Constitutional view is akin to hanging a swastika from my front porch.)
I must admit that I was taken aback by the question, and proceeded verbally to cut a new orifice into his body, something that is not easy to do over the telephone. He then asked me, "Are you a libertarian?" to which I replied I was, adding that John Sophocleus, a former Libertarian candidate for governor of Alabama, was one of my best friends. Vickers then tried to make the claim that LaRouche was a libertarian, something with which I strongly disagreed. (I include this link on LaRouche’s views and will allow the reader to decide whether or not this man is a libertarian.)
Falkenberry and Smith finally were able to steer the discussion back to the original theme in the last minute, but it was clear that things had come apart. It clearly was the worst experience I ever have had on a radio show, and that includes the time I debated a former U.S. attorney (and I despise U.S. attorneys) about the Martha Stewart case, and specifically the bogus "securities fraud" charges that James Comey and his minions laid on her. (The federal judge later threw out the fraudulent "fraud" charge, but she did not go all the way and clear the courtroom of all of the frauds present in the court who were on the payroll of the U.S. Department of Justice.)
Yet, during the brief and unpleasant discussion, I realized that the vast majority of Americans really do think that the vast expansion of the federal criminal code is a good thing. Furthermore, it was clear to me that the typical attorney sees law simply as a bunch of rules that government hands down to us, telling us what we can and cannot do, period. I doubt that many law schools teach about William Blackstone and the "Rights of Englishmen," and if they do, it is only to paint him as an "obstructionist" to the good society.
Instead, we have federal courts in which the rights guaranteed in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh amendments of the U.S. Constitution — the core of the Bill of Rights — simply are nonexistent. The job of attorneys practicing at the federal criminal bar is to plead out their clients — after having effectively "ratted them out," as the federal courts also have eviscerated the traditional attorney-client privilege.
I pointed out that Young never had been convicted of the state charge of bribery, and that a federal jury was not legally entitled to rule on that charge, at least if the Constitution means anything. Falkenberry dismissed my arguments with a tone and choice of words that clearly demonstrated that he believed that such a state of affairs was perfectly legitimate. After all, in his view, law is what the government tells us that it is.
What is disheartening to me is that anyone in the United States who has any Jeffersonian views at all is considered to be a present danger to society. We may build monuments to Thomas Jefferson, but apparently we can do without his silly Declaration of Independence (which is illegal because it refers to God) and the archaic Constitution.
Furthermore, anyone who demands that real legal principles be upheld is seen as a reactionary mossback trying to stop "progress." Yet, I will add that if we have no principles, we have no law. Perhaps we already are there, if the tone of my interrogators on the Finebaum show is typical of this country. But whether or not we have reached that point does not matter to me; someone must argue that the rights we inherited from England cannot be allowed to die quietly. If that means that my beliefs in law and liberty are anathema to the present zeitgeist, then so be it.
February 7, 2005