PT Shamrock's April 2020 Newsletter

PT Shamrock's April 2020 Newsletter

"Arguing that you don't care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than you saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say."
- Edward Snowden

In this issue:

* Welcome To Freedumbville USSA!
* Bend Over!
* Food for thought
* The District of Criminals
* Police State
* Red Hot Product!
* Advisory
* How to Retire in Vietnam: Costs, Visas and More
* Shamrock's Missive
* Letters To The Editor
* Quote of the month!

*** Welcome To Freedumbville USSA!

I am an American constitutional lawyer – and I see our government using Covid-19 to take away our fundamental rights
- Robert Barnes

Do we really think "it can't happen here" in America? Could we quarantine the constitution? Are we doing it already?

Panics from pandemics unleash unchecked governmental power. The very premise of popular films like V for Vendetta reveal this: a group uses a virus to seize power and create a totalitarian society. Anyone could witness this from far-off lands, watching the news about China locking people up in their own homes and then removing them screaming from those homes whenever the state wanted. World War I and the Great Depression birthed virulent forms of governments with leaders like Hitler, Mao, Mussolini and Stalin.

Lockdowns, curfews. Troops on the streets. Governments handing out free cash. This utter madness was entirely avoidable.

Governments across America already used the pandemic, and the media-stoked panic around the pandemic particularly, to limit, restrict or remove First Amendment freedoms of speech and free association, with officials complaining about the potential restraints the freedom of religion imposed upon them. Others denied or declared the right to deny Second Amendment rights of gun purchase for personal safety (at a time governments are issuing no-arrest and no-detention orders for a wide range of crimes in their community while publicly freeing inmates from jails and prisons). They want to coordinate with tech companies to surveil and spy on your everyday movements and activities, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and potentially waive, unilaterally, your medical right to privacy in multiple contexts. Stay-at-home orders deprive you of your profession, occupation, business and property, without any due process of law at all beyond an executive fiat in violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process. Governments request the authority to involuntarily imprison any American on mere fear of infection without any probable cause of crime or clear and present danger of harm by that person's volitional conduct, deny access to personal counsel in an unsupervised, un-surveilled manner in violation of the Sixth Amendment, and act as judge, jury and executioner in violation of the Seventh Amendment right to a trial by jury, as jury trials themselves get suspended around the country in the nation's quieted courts and fear-muted public.

The real pandemic threat is here. It's the panic that will quarantine our Constitution.

First Amendment Quarantined?
Already, governments in America suspended the First Amendment freedom of millions of citizens with shutdown, stay-at-home, curfew orders that prohibit obtaining a petition for a public protest, or even being physically present for a public protest. Indeed, even meetings in "more than ten" are prohibited by various governing jurisdictions within the United States. Surprising places like Missouri did so. Towns like Hartford did so. Maryland soon followed suit. The effect of the stay-at-home orders of New York, California, Nevada, Illinois and Pennsylvania effectively achieve the same outcome. Other governing officials recognized the dubious lawlessness of these orders, but remain outliers. Remember the Hong Kong protests? Gone. Remember the Yellow Vest protests? Soon to be gone. Seen any protests on American streets today? A pandemic is here. Protests gone. Constitution quarantined.

Second Amendment Quarantined?
But that is not all. Under the guise of "unnecessary businesses," "emergency powers," or simply by furloughing or reducing staff in the background checks department, governments show the willingness to limit Second Amendment rights as well as First Amendment protections. Mayors declare the right to ban gun sales, governments declare no background-check personnel to process a background check, delaying gun sales indefinitely, and other governments simply shut down all gun sales businesses entirely. Most worrisome, this happens while governments release inmates into the streets, and discussreleasing even more, and, at the same time, issue no-arrest and no-detention orders from Philadelphia to Fort Worth for a wide range of criminals. Want to defend yourself, give yourself a deep sense of personal protection that comes with gun ownership for many, as the Second Amendment safeguards? Well, no luck, according to too many of our governing overlords. A pandemic is here. Self-protection sacrificed. Constitution quarantined.

Fourth Amendment Quarantined?
Few protections are more American than the right to privacy against coerced, compelled, secretive, subversive invasion. The government operates like a virus in a case of a pandemic panic, infecting our minds and bodies, monitoring speech, association and movement, with tools of surveillance unthought-of to the founders. Coordinating with private companies (unrestrained by the Fourth Amendment; why do you think NSA uses them to gather all your emails, conversations, texts, and internet searches, at the first stage?), governments used the panic about the pandemic, a panic the government itself stoked with aid of a compliant, complicit press, to waive your medical privacy and invade your personal privacy, looking for tools to monitor your every movement, associations, activities, and behavior. The watching eye in the sky can now be the Alexa in your home, the camera on your computer, and the phone in your hand. A pandemic is here. Privacy ended. Constitution quarantined.

Fifth Amendment Quarantined?
The protection for our right to make a living arises from the Fifth Amendment right to property without deprivation by due process of law, and the obligation for the government to compensate any such takings. Yet, governments across America did just that to millions of businesses, workers, and property owners, stripping them of their ability to make a living, or even to engage in a free market of commerce, by shutdown orders, curfews, and stay-at-home orders. The political and professional class ensconced in its work-from-home environs fails to appreciate the hardship this imposes on working people. No compensation. No substitution. No wages. No revenues. No opportunity. Labor lost that can never be recovered, ever, while it leaves our economy teetering on the edge of a worst-ever depression. The foundation of government is to protect the pursuit of happiness. Now all we get to pursue is Netflix-and-chill and hope miracles happen to pay next week's bills, and pray the market doesn't crash like in 1929. A pandemic is here. Opportunity & property gone. Constitution quarantined.

Conclusion
Our founders were intimately familiar with pandemics, viruses and plagues, yet they did not allow any to suspend our Constitutional liberties. Not one word in the Constitution about plagues or pandemics to exempt the government from any of our Bill of Rights. Why do our current courts allow it? Because the public is asleep at the wheel. Think the pandemic threatens to kills us all? A review of the data shows the pandemic is more panic than plague.

Time to wake up. Maybe it is time in the motto of V for Vendetta, to "Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot." As that film's lead character well said: "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." Only when an awake public asserts their human liberties to protest the loss of their liberties will, then, governments quit using public health crises to seize power that does not belong to them. The answer to 1984 is still 1776.
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*** Bend Over!

The Times of London is reporting that Russian agents are in Ireland probing transatlantic communications cables.

Ireland is the landing point for undersea cables which carry internet traffic between America, Britain and Europe. The cables enable millions of people to communicate and allow financial transactions to take place seamlessly.

Garda and military sources believe the agents were sent by the GRU, the military intelligence branch of the Russian armed forces which was blamed for the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer.

This is nothing new. The NSA and GCHQ have been doing this for decades.
- Boing Boing
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Food for thought

Whenever you visit a website -- even if it's HTTPS enabled -- the DNS query that converts the web address into an IP address that computers can read is usually unencrypted. DNS-over-HTTPS, or DoH, encrypts the request so that it can't be intercepted or hijacked in order to send a user to a malicious site.

But the move is not without controversy. Last year, an internet industry group branded Mozilla an "internet villain" for pressing ahead the security feature. The trade group claimed it would make it harder to spot terrorist materials and child abuse imagery. But even some in the security community are split, amid warnings that it could make incident response and malware detection more difficult.

The move to enable DoH by default will no doubt face resistance, but browser makers have argued it's not a technology that browser makers have shied away from. Firefox became the first browser to implement DoH -- with others, like Chrome, Edge, and Opera -- quickly following suit.

I think DoH is a great idea, and long overdue.
- Slashdot thread
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*** The District of Criminals

More on Crypto AG
- Crypto-Gram

One follow-on to the story of Crypto AG being owned by the CIA: this interview - https://www.npr.org/2020/03/05/812499752/uncovering-the-cias-audacious-operation-that-gave-them-access-to-state-secrets - with a Washington Post reporter. The whole thing is worth reading or listening to, but I was struck by these two quotes at the end:

...in South America, for instance, many of the governments that were using Crypto machines were engaged in assassination campaigns. Thousands of people were being disappeared, killed. And I mean, they're using Crypto machines, which suggests that the United States intelligence had a lot of insight into what was happening. And it's hard to look back at that history now and see a lot of evidence of the United States going to any real effort to stop it or at least or even expose it.

To me, the history of the Crypto operation helps to explain how U.S. spy agencies became accustomed to, if not addicted to, global surveillance. This program went on for more than 50 years, monitoring the communications of more than 100 countries. I mean, the United States came to expect that kind of penetration, that kind of global surveillance capability. And as Crypto became less able to deliver it, the United States turned to other ways to replace that. And the Snowden documents tell us a lot about how they did that.
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*** Police State

Coronavirus Opens The Door For The NWO

Pandemic crisis presents unique opportunity for globalist power grab
- Jon Bowne

In the wake of the Coronavirus hysteria, total suspension of individual freedom hangs in the balance for an unsuspecting town near you.

The Communist model is spreading just as aggressively as the Coronavirus. For example, Israel is already paving the way. As Zero Hedge reports, "After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last Saturday that authorities will tap the country's 'counter-terror' technology and systems to combat the 'invisible enemy' of Covid-19, Israeli media is now reporting the government is actually considering the 'total suspension of individual freedom.'"

Israel's public health services chief is now urging just that: Sigal Sadetsky told the Knesset Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services this week that "A lockdown and personal monitoring of people, and a total halt to personal freedoms is urgently necessary."

In the United States, the Continuity of Government directives that had been quietly strengthened after they failed miserably during 9/11 are beginning their nefarious introduction to the public by the mainstream media. As Newsweek reports, "According to new documents and interviews with military experts, the various plans – codenamed Octagon, Freejack and Zodiac – are the underground laws to ensure government continuity. They are so secret that under these extraordinary plans, 'devolution' could circumvent the normal Constitutional provisions for government succession, and military commanders could be placed in control around America."

Meanwhile, the DOJ is asking Congress for totalitarian power. As Politico reports, "In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings 'whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.'"

Strap yourself in America, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
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Red Hot Product!

Non Annual Filing - Tax Free Offshore Company plus a Hong Kong bank account with NO personal visit to the bank required, offering a virtual account number with a major international bank in Hong Kong, plus a Multi-currency account, debit card and internet banking. No min. deposit.

Email for full particulars by placing " HK No Appearance," in your subject heading.
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*** Advisory

Income Tax Havens: These Seven Countries Have No Income Tax
- The Indian Express

Income tax is levied by most countries today and is paid at varied rates depending on a country's tax laws. Income tax is essentially a tax charged on the net income of an individual or a business. This tax has to be filed annually by the taxpayer and it acts as a source of revenue for governments.

In 2019 the highest income tax was collected in Sweden where individuals with highest incomes paid more than 50 per cent of their taxable income. Countries situated in Northern Europe and North Atlantic generally have greater income taxes.

On the other hand there are some countries with minimal and virtually no income tax at all. Such countries are either tax havens or they are countries whose economies are highly dependent on natural resources like oil. The revenues obtained from these oil rich countries stabilize their economies to a degree that they can do without collecting income tax from their residents.

Countries with zero income tax rates are generally situated in the oil rich Gulf region and the Caribbean islands. These countries known around the world for being popular destinations for foreign investors and expatriates.

Here is a list of some countries without income tax:

1. United Arab Emirates

This Arab country is highly rich in natural resources like oil and its free trade zones that are open to foreign ownership and zero taxes make this country a popular destination for global investments.

UAE has zero income taxes for individuals granting them the privilege of tax-free salaries. Corporate tax is levied only on foreign banks and oil companies leaving other industries tax free. Excise duty is levied on a handful of goods and services whereas Value Added Tax (VAT) is imposed on a majority of goods from 2018.

UAE also grants the avoidance of Double Taxation on overseas investment to all public and private companies and other companies operating in the country under the Double Taxation Agreements (DTA).

2. The Bahamas

This Caribbean country has tax friendly laws which makes it an attractive destination for business investments and foreign financial institutions. This 'tax haven' does not collect taxes on personal or corporate income. Corporate taxes are levied on international companies operating in the Bahamas only if the revenue is derived locally. Other areas that are tax-free include wealth, inheritance and capital gains. The tax-free income benefits can be enjoyed by the residents of the country irrespective of getting a citizenship.

3. Qatar

This Arab nation grants tax-free personal income to individuals. However, commercial activity is subjected to company taxation that entails 10 per cent of the company's total state income and has to be paid annually. A 10 per cent fixed tax rate is exacted from rental income too.

Its tax-free environment and sophisticated infrastructure attract a number of expatriates to this country. However, expatriates from specific countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland and South Africa are subject to taxes according to the tax laws of their respective governments.

4. Kuwait

Anyone residing in Kuwait, irrespective of their nationality, is granted the privilege of tax-free personal incomes. This essentially means that the Kuwait's tax law does not define the concept of resident and non-resident. However, a corporate tax is levied on foreign corporates in the country. These foreign companies have to pay 15 per cent of their income to the Kuwaiti government.

5. Monaco

Monaco's personal and business laws related to taxes makes it a well-known tax-haven. It does not collect taxes from personal incomes of its residents. A person residing in Monaco for six months or more becomes a resident and is thereafter exempted from paying income tax.

This city state also does not collect taxes on capital gains and net wealth. Residents can enjoy tax-free property ownership in Monaco, however 1 per cent tax is collected from rented properties annually.

Monaco also does not have a general corporate tax. Only certain types of companies whose profits are 25 per cent or more on their operations existing outside the country gets subject to taxation.

These tax laws along with a high regard for financial secrecy and data privacy makes this country a highly appealing destination for expatriates and foreign investors.

6. Oman

This Gulf nation has lenient and business friendly tax laws. It does not collect taxes on personal incomes of residents or non-residents. Wealth, capital gains along with property all come under the ambit of these tax-free laws.

Business and companies are subjected to 15 per cent tax collection on their taxable income. However companies involved in petroleum operations have to pay a 55 per cent tax. An income tax can be imposed on expatriates.

7. Panama

Panama is considered a pure 'tax haven' country with flexible legal structure and tax friendly laws. It does not impose income taxes on individuals as well as offshore companies. Offshore companies that engage in business outside the country are granted zero income and corporate tax. However, offshore companies engaged in business locally will be subject to minimal local taxes.

Publishers note: Want a tax free company and bank account in a TAX free jurisidiction? Email the leprechaun and simply place "Tax Free" in your subject heading.
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*** How to Retire in Vietnam: Costs, Visas and More
- SmartAsset

As one of the most welcoming and mysterious countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has a lot to offer retirees. With over 2,000 miles of coastline, small fishing villages, and ancient Buddhist temples, Vietnam is a popular retirement destination for those seeking tranquility on a budget. But, before you take the leap and retire in Vietnam, it's important to understand what the move entails so you can properly plan an overseas retirement.

Cost of Living in Vietnam

Before you sell your home and buy a one-way ticket to Vietnam, you should compare the cost of living. As many financial advisors would tell you, you'll want to assess the total cost of living in another country versus the cost of living in the United States. According to Numbeo, a website that collects pricing data from citizens, the average cost of living in Vietnam is 46% lower than in the United States, not including rent.

In Vietnam, rent is on average 70% cheaper than in the United States. The U.S. national average cost for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,306, whereas a the average costs of a one-bedroom in Vietnam is $394 on average.

While your cost of living and rent will depend on your lifestyle as well as the city you live in, your dollar will go much further in Vietnam than in most U.S. cities. A three-course dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant is about $20. Gasoline runs approximately $3.40 cents per gallon, and a bottle of medium quality wine will set you back some $11.

Visas in Vietnam

While Vietnam does not have a retirement visa, there are several options for individuals who want to retire in Vietnam. Americans can apply for a visa to Vietnam through any Vietnamese embassy and will be approved for either six months or one year but can only stay in the country for three months at a time.

If you plan to live in Vietnam, you then have two options: make "visa runs" every three months or get an extension on your visas. Getting a visa extension incurs high costs, so most people make a visa run. This means that they leave the country for periods of a few hours to a few days. Then, they can return to Vietnam and their three-month "visit" can begin again.

Taxes in Vietnam

If you become a resident of Vietnam, you will be subject to taxes on any income you earn regardless if it was earned in Vietnam or not. These tax rates do not exceed 5% unless it comes from an inheritance or gift, which is taxed at 10%. Non-residents are taxed on income earned inside Vietnam at a rate of 20%. They are not taxed on income earned outside the country.

Keep in mind, that even if you live outside the U.S., you'll still need to file a U.S. tax return as an expatriate. You'll also have to file even if you don't end up having to pay any U.S. taxes. If you'd like to forecast your tax burden more specifically, you may want to consult with a tax expert who is familiar with both U.S. and Vietnam tax laws.

Healthcare in Vietnam

Healthcare in Vietnam does not enjoy a great reputation. The World Health Organization ranks the nation's healthcare system as 160th out of 189 countries. Vietnam has a universal healthcare system that combines Eastern and Western medicine. Everyone in Vietnam has access to basic medical care, and the cost and access to healthcare can range quite a bit between rural areas and cities. In urban areas, both public and private hospitals exist. Expats tend to favor the private hospitals because they more closely match the standards of care that they are used to in their home countries.

Most expats will get private health coverage while living in Vietnam. Most experts will advise that you get a plan that will reimburse you for any costs while in Vietnam so that when you pay for coverage, you can get your money back. Health insurance typically costs about $60 per month in Vietnam. Public hospitals typically only charge a few dollars for services, but private institutions do not charge much more. A consultation at a private hospital typically starts at about $30.

Housing

Many retirees choose to live in beach towns such as Nha Trang or Da Nang. It's important to note that whether you choose to live in one of these cities, or a larger city like Hanoi, your cost of living and housing costs will vary.

The average home cost in Nha Trang is about $482 per square foot in the city center. This is in comparison to New York City, where homes cost on average $1,372 per square foot. Overall, the cost of housing in Vietnam is significantly lower than in the United States.

Home Buying Process in Vietnam

In Vietnam, only Vietnamese people can purchase a property. This is because Vietnam is a communist country and the land is all owned by the state. However, foreign residents can purchase homes, they just can't own the land that it sits on.

A foreigner can buy a 50-year lease on an apartment or home. With this lease, the buyer gets all rights to the apartment and can renew after 50 years. If the building that the apartment is in has to be sold, the buyer will get a portion of the proceeds. It's important to note that foreigners can not sublet these homes.

Safety in Vietnam

While the United States government does not have any restrictions to visiting Vietnam, there are a few things that you may want to consider before moving there. These include:

The large cities in Vietnam such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh often have smog advisories that can be irritating to some people's health.

The driving is very different from at home, so most people struggle to learn the customary driving skills.

The crime rate is very low in Vietnam, but the access to Western healthcare is limited, so personal safety may also be of issue to some foreigners.

The Bottom Line

Vietnam has dreamy landscapes, friendly locals, a low crime rate and inexpensive living. However, it also has no retirement visa scheme. And access to healthcare, while improving, is still not up to Western standards.

Tips for Retiring Overseas

Consider talking to a financial advisor about making a plan for retiring overseas. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
An essential part of saving for retirement is making sure the money you save remains untouched. Dipping into your savings may seem tempting if you're low on cash, but you'll pay for it down the line. Consider creating an emergency fund so you can deal with life's little challenges without raiding your nest egg.
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Shamrock's Missive:

We trust those reading these words are safe, happy and healthy. Like us, recently, you must have been bombarded by the news of Coronavirus that slammed the whole world. At this very moment, we would like to express our sincere wish for the well-being of you and your family.

The EARN-IT Act

Prepare for another attack on encryption in the U.S. The EARN-IT Act purports to be about protecting children from predation, but it's really about forcing the tech companies to break their encryption schemes:

The EARN IT Act would create a "National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention" tasked with developing "best practices" for owners of Internet platforms to "prevent, reduce, and respond" to child exploitation. But far from mere recommendations, those "best practices" would be approved by Congress as legal requirements: if a platform failed to adhere to them, it would lose essential legal protections for free speech.

It's easy to predict how Attorney General William Barr would use that power: to break encryption. He's said over and over that he thinks the "best practice" is to force encrypted messaging systems to give law enforcement access to our private conversations. The Graham-Blumenthal bill would finally give Barr the power to demand that tech companies obey him or face serious repercussions, including both civil and criminal liability. Such a demand would put encryption providers like WhatsApp and Signal in an awful conundrum: either face the possibility of losing everything in a single lawsuit or knowingly undermine their users' security, making all of us more vulnerable to online criminals.

Matthew Green has a long explanation of the bill and its effects - https://blog.cryptographyengineering.com/2020/03/06/earn-it-is-an-attack-on-encryption/ -
The new bill, out of Lindsey Graham's Judiciary committee, is designed to force providers to either solve the encryption-while-scanning problem, or stop using encryption entirely. And given that we don't yet know how to solve the problem -- and the techniques to do it are basically at the research stage of R&D -- it's likely that "stop using encryption" is really the preferred goal.

EARN IT works by revoking a type of liability called Section 230 that makes it possible for providers to operate on the Internet, by preventing the provider for being held responsible for what their customers do on a platform like Facebook. The new bill would make it financially impossible for providers like WhatsApp and Apple to operate services unless they conduct "best practices" for scanning their systems for CSAM.

Since there are no "best practices" in existence, and the techniques for doing this while preserving privacy are completely unknown, the bill creates a government-appointed committee that will tell technology providers what technology they have to use. The specific nature of the committee is byzantine and described within the bill itself. Needless to say, the makeup of the committee, which can include as few as zero data security experts, ensures that end-to-end encryption will almost certainly not be considered a best practice.

So in short: this bill is a backdoor way to allow the government to ban encryption on commercial services. And even more beautifully: it doesn't come out and actually ban the use of encryption, it just makes encryption commercially infeasible for major providers to deploy, ensuring that they'll go bankrupt if they try to disobey this committee's recommendations.
It's the kind of bill you'd come up with if you knew the thing you wanted to do was unconstitutional and highly unpopular, and you basically didn't care.

The above comments are courtesy of Bruce Schneier.

See you next issue

Shamrock

"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion."
- Edmund Burke, 1784
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*** Letters to the Editor:

Keep them postcards and letters coming' folks, 'cause we
done mailed the rosebushes!

Dear Shamrock,

I require either a UK or European bank account without having to appear in person at the bank. Can you help?

Thanks in advance.

R.P.

Dear R.P.,

Indeed we can. please find attached full details regarding our UK and European bank account withno personal appearance being required.

Hope this helps.

PT Shamrock

Publishers note: If you require a UK or European company or personal bank account without having to personally appear at the bank, just email our leprechaun and place "UK-EUR NO Appear" in your subject heading and we'll email you full particulars.
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Quote of the month!

"The law is like a spider web where the little flies get caught and the big flies fall through."
- Aristarchus, Greek Philologist
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Dear Friend:

If you like our newsletter please tell your friends and associates about us. They can subscribe *FREE* by sending an e-mail to: ptshamrock@ptshamrock.com

Our pledge!

We never spam our subscribers, never rent or give our subscribers list to anyone, and unlike other newsletters do not accept paid advertisements; And of course, our PT Buzz Newsletter is absolutely free, just packed full of interesting privacy news and information with a tad of humor thrown in for good measure.

We're probably the oldest privacy newsletter on the Internet!

Thank you for your patronage and help in spreading the word.

Shamrock

"The right to privacy is a part of our basic freedoms. Privacy is fundamental to close family ties, competitive free enterprise, the ownership of property, and the exchange of ideas."

PT Shamrock - issue one; 1994
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Don't forget to check out our Special Offers at

See you next issue!

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Sorry Alex


Go to church, go to jail

RICHMOND, Virginia, March 25, 2020 (CNS News) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order on Monday that is aimed at stopping the new coronavirus — and, in the process, makes it a criminal offense to hold a church service attended by more than 10 people.

Yes, his order makes it a crime for more than 10 people to gather in a church.

There are two passages in the text of the governor's order that are relevant to this.

Paragraph 1 says: "Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article V, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, by § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia and in furtherance of Executive Order 51, I order the following: 1. Effective 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, 2020 until 11:59 p.m., Thursday, April 23, 2020, all public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited."

The second relevant section of the order says: "Violation of paragraphs 1, 3, 4, and 6 of this Order shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia."

Indeed, the actual text of § 44-146.17 says: "Executive orders, to include those declaring a state of emergency and directing evacuation, shall have the force and effect of law and the violation thereof shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor in every case where the executive order declares that its violation shall have such force and effect."

Northam, in his executive order, declared, "Violations of paragraph 1" — which states that "all public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited" — are Class 1 misdemeanors. Thus, under Virginia law, they are Class 1 misdemeanors.

What can the government do to you for committing one of these Class 1 misdemeanors?

The Code of Virginia spells out the punishment in § 18.2-11. It says: "The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are: (a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both."

Now, attending a typical church service — like, say, a Catholic Mass on Sunday — would seem to fall within the scope of "public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals."

Northam's executive order does not use any terminology that specifically indicates it applies to churches or other places of worship. Nor does it include language listing churches and other places of worship among those "essential" locations that are not subject to the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people.

But a "Frequently Asked Questions" sheet that his office published about the executive order does address the issue.

The fifth question it answers is: "What about religious services? Can I still go to my church, synagogue, or mosque?"

The answer: "Virginians are strongly encouraged to seek alternative means of attending religious services, such as virtually or via 'drive-through' worship. Places of worship that do conduct in-person services must limit gatherings to 10 people, to comply with the statewide 10-person ban."

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This is a screen capture of the question-and-answer in the "Frequently Asked Questions" sheet published by Gov. Ralph Northam's office that says places of worship "must limit gatherings to 10 people, to comply with the statewide 10-person ban."

To make certain that this meant that the law making it a misdemeanor criminal offense to have gatherings of more than 10 people applied to churches, I addressed a question to Northam's press secretary, Alena Yarmosky.

I asked her via email: "How about a simple yes or no: Are church attendees and churches exempted from the misdemeanor penalty that applies to other individuals and organizations that violate the governor's Executive Order and have gatherings that bring together more than 10 people?"

She responded by email: "The Governor's EO 53 bans assemblies of more than 10 people, statewide. That includes gatherings at private schools, private clubs, parties, as well as any other social get-together, and religious services."

Conclusion: The governor has issued an executive order that "bans" religious services that bring together more than 10 people. His executive order expressly states that any "violations" of the paragraph in the order that bans "gatherings of 10 or more persons ... shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor." Virginia law says that when a governor's executive order states that violating that order is a Class 1 misdemeanor, those violations are indeed Class 1 misdemeanors.

Virginians now live in a state where holding a church service attended by 11 people has been unilaterally declared a crime by the governor.

The same executive order that creates this church-attending crime also declares that Virginia's state-owned liquor stores are "essential retail businesses" that "may remain open during their normal business hours."

How can a person walk into a liquor store, exchange a glass bottle of whiskey and money with a clerk and keep his social distance? Could 11 people in a church — praying the rosary together — stay further apart physically than the buyers and sellers at a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control store?

The Catholic dioceses of Arlington and Richmond had already voluntarily determined to close their Masses to the public to limit the spread of the coronavirus — before the government ordered them to limit their gatherings to 10 people. They gave witness to the virtue of prudence. But prudence also counsels against the sort of edict Northam redundantly issued this week ordering churches to close under penalty of law.

What would St. Thomas More think of a government that made it a crime to gather and pray in church?

What would the framers of the First Amendment think?

What future "emergencies" will inspire future governors to act on Northam's precedent?