Just down the road from me, in Plainfield, NH, we have our own "Ruby Ridge" going on. This anti-government whackjob got caught playing games with taxes and other financial reporting laws, and got his ass indicted. He decided to play the classic 2-year-old's defense tactic of "I don't see you, I don't believe in you, so you can't do anything to me" and said he didn't recognize the government's authority, then barricaded himself in his home. His wife was arrested, released after promising not to rejoin her husband in his little play-fort, and promptly ran right back to him.
Well, they've been tried and convicted in absentia, and it looks like they'll get sentenced the same way today.
Ed Brown says that the government is out to get him, and that the woods are surrounded by snipers and other government enforcers just looking to take his freedom away from him. (There might also be black helicopters involved.)
The US marshal begs to differ. He says they're keeping a casual eye on the Brown home, and will arrest the couple if they get the chance, but they're in no great rush to lock 'em up.
To me, this is a perfect chance to test Molly Ivins' proposed solution to the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas. Ivins proposed simply building a big fence around the compound and declaring it a federal prison.
That strikes the perfect balance in the situation. The government can't just ignore those who flout the law, but on the other hand the Bill Clinton/Janet Reno solution is -- if you'll pardon the grotesque phrase -- "overkill."
The most important thing here is to not let them become martyrs. Don't dismiss them, but don't take them too seriously either.
In fact, here's a thought: under the Ivins plan, the Brown home would become a federal prison. To convey the proper attitude, the prison should have some insulting, derogatory, and humorous official name. "The Ed Brown Penal Institute" comes to mind, especially if properly abbreviated into "Brown-I."
Readers are invited to contribute their own nominations for the name. Should the government come to its senses and follow the Ivins plan, I will cheerfully forward them to the Bureau of Prisons.