Category Archives: Civil Liberty

Private Critic

One of the central tenants of leftist-progressive ideology is that private concentrations of power are to be feared whereas similar public concentrations (the state) is of relatively minor concern. This indifference is the result of the mistaken belief that “we” can control the state because democracy. But, private actors might do something we don’t like, and without a formal (legal) framework to force them to bend to our will there’s no limit to their potential diabolic deeds. The obvious leftist solution to this quandary then is to unleash the power of that entity we believe we control (the state) so that it may exert its monopoly on the use of violence in order to achieve those ends we find desirable. Just because one can train a lion, tiger, or shark to do their bidding does not mean one is in control of the beast; like the state, they will tolerate you as long as you are useful, and when you are not, well, it’s dinnertime.

Those of us adhering to the tenants of individual freedom and free markets, however, believe the opposite. We fear the state exerting control precisely because we recognize its monolithic power. We can control the state as much as we can push back a tidal wave. Private “power” is not a concern, as private entities can’t use violence to force you to buy their services. If they do something people don’t, like then the market will correct the situation – given enough time (and a lack of state imposed barriers preventing such corrections).

So what is the point of this prologue? Well in the past few weeks we’ve seen the narrative flip somewhat. There has been a widespread move to “deplatform” a variety of right leaning (comedian Gavin McGinnes, The Proud Boys, Stefan Molyneux, etc) and other malcontents (Alex Jones/InfoWars) among the social media giants (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc). So what is this? This is private actors using their power to silence voices. This is private actors refusing to serve certain customers. This is private actors discriminating on the basis of thoughts and words.

This is perfectly fine from a rights perspective.

Those (the left) who are normally up in arms over private actors “abusing” their power (e.g. cake bakers) are conspicuously silent. Apparently refusing service to those you disagree with (e.g. Sarah Huckabee Sanders) adheres to the core leftist belief of it should only be legal if I agree with it.

It is now instead the free market libertarians having the loud and vocal conversation about private actors engaging in socially undesirable (censorship) behavior. Yes, these are private companies and they can include or exclude anyone from their platform. No one (libertarians anyway) is calling for some kind of regulation to force them to include everyone. But, just because some one or some group has the right to do something (that is, they should not be thrown in a cage for doing so) doesn’t mean someone who respects that right has to agree with how that right is exercised. One may still rightly criticize how or why some action was taken. Criticizing actions and saying there should be a law against such actions are a universe apart. Criticism is that murmur that can start an avalanche of (non-coerced, voluntary) change.

Domestic Enemies

It is with not without an enormous amount of irony that mere days after this country celebrated Memorial Day – the day upon which we honor the fallen soldiers who selflessly gave their lives to protect our freedom – that we learn of yet another way their sacrifice was for nothing. The enemies of freedom are no longer foreign – they are domestic. To wit, a Georgia couple recently lost custody of their son after it was discovered they had been giving him marijuana to treat his seizures. Stated differently: armed men forced their way into someone’s home and kidnapped a child because a roomful of (mostly) men hundreds of miles away think it is bad to inhale smoke from a burning plant. The marijuana had kept him seizure free for 71 days, but since having been “saved” by the state his daily seizures (up to 10 a day) have returned. But hey, what’s the suffering of a child when compared to the public good of knowing someone somewhere is not inhaling microscopic particulate matter. But it gets even better. Not only was their son kidnapped by the state, but they are also now facing criminal charges (reckless conduct), for you guessed it, a victimless crime. Indeed the state action has created victims where there were none previously. The arresting officer in Twiggs County defended his actions, saying, “It is my duty to enforce state law.” Yes – “I was just following orders” – music to the ears of every totalitarian regime that craves an army of mindless automatons that can’t figure out right and wrong for themselves.

 

The arresting officer in Twiggs County defended his actions, saying, “It is my duty to enforce state law.” Yes – “I was just following orders” – music to the ears of every totalitarian regime that craves an army of mindless automatons that can’t figure out right and wrong for themselves.

 

The sad reality here is that the parents would not have had to obtain “illegal” marijuana if the state of Georgia allowed them access to the legal THC oil they needed. It is actually legal in Georgia to possess and use low THC oil – but only if you have a state-issued medical card…which has a six-year waiting list (naturally). But even if you somehow manage to get one of these Willy Wonka golden ticket of a medical card, there is nowhere to obtain said oil in the state of Georgia. Its sale is illegal. Its importation is illegal. But if the stork magically drops it from the sky onto your front porch then you’re golden.This is what snarky good ol’boy lawmakers do when they think they’re being oh so clever – they can satisfy two sets of constituents simultaneously. They can claim to be looking out for those in pain who need help while simultaneously claiming to be “tough on drugs”. As the parent of a child who suffered through a period of epileptic seizures when young all I can say is these folks did what any decent parent would do – whatever it takes to alleviate the suffering of their child. They should be commended, not vilified. To the lawmakers in this state who continue to obstruct access to ANY substance that will alleviate suffering, all I can say is that you are vile and despicable monsters. Anyone who would consign their fellow man to unyielding pain in order that their own peculiar notion of propriety is satiated is a callous barbarian unworthy of being permitted any engagement in civil society let alone the respect they so openly crave.

Anyone who would consign their fellow man to unyielding pain in order that their own peculiar notion of propriety is satiated is a callous barbarian unworthy of being permitted any engagement in civil society let alone the respect they so openly crave.

In a country that purports to be the shining city of freedom on a hill there sure is a colossal lack of freedom here. How does the state despoil freedom? Let me count the ways: civil asset forfeiture, criminalization of all manner of victimless “crimes”, conversion of liberties into licenses necessitating bureaucratic permission to regain what was stolen, formerly forced disassociations, now forced associations, forced labor (jury duty), theft of income and assets (taxation) at levels vastly above that which would be paid to fund basic services in a voluntary model, a quagmire of rules that citizens must follow to simply reenter their own country, the 100 mile “liberty free zone” around the US border where not even citizens are immune to the potential 4thamendment abusing CPB agents.Events like this should open all of our eyes to the reality that we are not free. Constraining your actions to fall within the scope of rules established by those with no authority to establish them does not make you free. Even slaves are “free” by that standard. Rules are only legitimate when there is consent. Voting is not consent. Just because the mafia lets me vote for the new mob boss doesn’t mean I consent to their purported authority over me. If slaves got to vote for the nice slave master or the mean slave master it does not somehow legitimize their condition of servitude. If the exercise of a freedom impacts another then as long as there is consent there can be no legitimate boundaries.

Tyranny of the Do-Gooders

In 2012 Jeffrey Dallas Gay, Jr. (age 22) died of an overdose of prescription drugs. There is little more tragic than death resulting from something so easily preventable. As a parent the instinct is strong to stamp from the face of this earth that which our child became entangled in. But just as setting a national 5 mph speed limit would be a counterproductive response to death by automobile accident, so too are the knee-jerk reaction of legislators when faced with these sorts of drug related tragedies. Senate Bill 81 was recently introduced into the Georgia General Assembly with the stated goal of trying to eliminate opioid overdoses. As with all such intrusions by the state into the lives of individuals, it leaves in its wake the collateral damage of individual lives sacrificed on the altar of the greater good.

The bill preamble first cites a scary-sounding decontextualized statistics (that roughly 30,000 die annually from opioid overdose – context: 0.008% of the US population) it then moves headlong into the “solution.” Now, if 30,000 people a year were dying because some enemy was lobbing bombs at US cities, then yes, the government should do something about that. But we aren’t dealing with an external foe, rather an internal one, ourselves. Laws on gambling, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, compulsory health insurance, etc. all share in common the well-intentioned desire to protect us from ourselves. But such laws undermine the very idea of a free nation built on individual rights. Do you sell your soul to save your life?

SB 81 purports to solve, or at least mitigate, the opioid “epidemic” by limiting first time opioid prescriptions in the state of Georgia to no more than a 5 day supply. Additionally every pharmacist is required to log all such prescriptions into a statewide database (cough, Big Brother, cough) so usage can be tracked to prevent someone buying “too much” (whatever that may be). Just as someone today can hit a wall if they try to buy “too much” Sudafed so too will the unintended consequence be that some must suffer in agonizing pain because their prescription is “too much” under the eyes of “the law.” But hey, who cares about individual suffering if we think our policy might help someone. What’s next, tracking our grocery purchases to be sure we aren’t “abusing” our bodies by buying the food that makes us less healthy and leading to higher health care costs? The greater good of “public health” would surely allow for such reasoning. Yes, laugh now, but it’s coming one day.

Of course these legislators want their cake and eat it too. The paragraph stipulating no more than a 5-day supply is quickly followed by a paragraph supporting the right of a physician to prescribe whatever they deem medically necessary. So once again politicians get to bask in the limelight of “doing something” while not actually doing anything other than adding yet another layer of bureaucracy for doctors who are already over-burdened with a mountain of regulatory paperwork they have to comply with from the local, state, and federal level.

The sad fact that no one wants to face is there no way to solve the opioid overdose problem other than getting people to follow the prescription on the bottle. And that’s not going to happen because people are people and some people just can’t follow directions. People “abuse” antibiotics as well by doing the reverse, not taking enough. This promotes antibiotic resistance. Indeed, nearly as many people (23,000) die each year due to antibiotic resistance. Why no bills designed to solve that “crisis”? Perhaps because no one is getting high off antibiotics? The desire to stamp out any possibility of artificially induced pleasure seems to be the driving force behind drug policy in this country. Anyone who needs a medication should not be made to suffer the hardship of additional hurdles just to get what they need because a handful of people can’t act responsibly. If you want to make a meaningful inroad toward ameliorating this problem, lobby the FDA to remove rules on side effect disclosures that require events with a 0.00001% chance of happening being listed. This leads to information overload and people just tune out everything. If the warning listed only actual hazards – like death from overdose – people would pay attention. Thus unintended consequence of government meddling leads to “solutions” like SB 81 which will invariably lead to more unintended consequences which can only be solved by yet more rules and legislation. The state cannot remake man through the pen. It must stop trying to do so.

Eyes Wide Shut

Trump’s most recent executive order (EO) regarding entry to the US of aliens and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries has sparked a level of public outrage we have not seen since, well, a week ago during the “Women’s March”. At least this time the protestors have a legitimate reason to complain. This heavy-handed approach to preventing terrorist attacks in the US by barring entry of potential terrorists rests on the ill-advised principle that it is better that a thousand innocents be punished lest one guilty party go free. Some have argued that the choice of countries barred is illogical since there have been no known terrorists attacks in the US from citizens of those countries while citizens of Saudi Arabia who were involved in 9/11 are not on the list. But I would go one further: it doesn’t matter which country you put on the list, this process will be wholly ineffective. Actual terrorists trying to get in would not take the lengthy 2-year route of refugee status or try to travel commercial air where they would be quickly identified. They would find any number of other clandestine means to enter. The radicalized, but as of yet inactive, terrorist will easily pass. Lying is quite effective since we have no way to read minds or predict future events. Indeed, this EO would have not prevented the three most recent terrorist attacks in this country (Boston, Orlando, San Bernardino).

Now for the part people don’t want to hear. This action of Trump is what the state does every day: harms innocent people. For every supposed “beneficial” state action that you can point to as being “good” there are a multitude of unseen victims, sometimes unintended, sometimes intended. In that regard I’m glad Trump implemented this EO. It has finally awakened my friends on the left from their 8-year slumber. They are once again outraged when the state victimizes the individual on the altar of the nation or society. But, this reawakening will only have lasting effects if they can see and admit to themselves that what Trump is doing is a difference in degree, not kind, when compared to the actions of Obama in this arena. The US has always had policies that restricted travel of certain individuals. Sometimes when those policies were enforced innocent people were unfairly barred from entry. And sometimes those policies would arbitrarily change on a dime. Indeed just a week before he left office Obama ended a long-standing policy that would have permitted Cuban refugee (and many more just like him) Alexander Gutierrez Garcia entry into the US. Many were literally mere steps away from crossing the US-Mexico border when the order came down, crushing their dreams of freedom. So you see, a Democrat can also unfairly impose arbitrary rules that harm innocent individuals with hopes of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. To my liberal friends, please try to remember that in 4-8 years when “your guy” (or gal) is back in office. I’ll be waiting.

Civil Wrongs

A few weeks ago house Democrats staged a “sit in” (with catered food no less – such sacrifice) in a transparent ploy to bolster their goals with civil rights movement era imagery. But like so many failed movie sequels, this one too falls flat on its face due to a poorly written narrative. These Democrat lawmakers would have had us believe that they were the underdogs, fighting the good fight against those evil Republicans who are part of the entrenched status quo. Nothing could be further from the truth. Civil rights protesters lacked political power; that’s why they were protesting, they had no other options. These members of Congress, however, are they very epitome of political power! They are the ones who are responsible for making the very changes they seek. They were in fact protesting their own incompetence, but with enough misdirected blame to make it look like someone else’s fault. Let us not forget it was the Democrats who controlled both the House and the Senate for the first 2 years of Obama’s presidency and yet they did nothing on gun control. It would seem procrastination is the better part of valor.

The civil rights movement stood primarily for the ideal that the government, whether local, state, or federal, should be in the business of guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens. Government should not be in the business of qualifying rights based on arbitrary criteria. So it is with rich irony that these “legislators” – including an actual participant in the original sit-ins (John Lewis (D-Ga.)) – were fighting to undo those very rights so dearly fought for in the 1960’s. Rights limitations based on race is really just rights limitations based on thought. Person A thinks X about Person B and so X becomes the reason to restrict rights. Thought X can be driven by anything: racism, sexism, fear, anxiety, or suspicion. But now they have the gall to suggest civil rights violations are only bad if “X” is driven by racism, but perfectly fine if driven by fear or suspicion.

Of what do I speak? That odiously Orwellian abomination known as the “No Fly” list. There is no greater threat to civil rights today. And yet they propose to make it more powerful by turning it into a “No Fly, No Buy” list, meaning those on the list can’t buy firearms. At face value this might make sense. Surely people on the list are just the sorts we don’t want flying or buying guns. Unfortunately the reality is that inclusion on this list has little to do with actual evidence of wrongdoing. Mere hunches based on nothing more than prejudices, similar sounding names, or Kevin-Bacon-game levels of guilt by association, are sufficient for inclusion. There is no process to be removed because naturally doing so would jeopardize “national security. The deprivation of rights without due process is an unambiguous violation of the 5th amendment. But those who peddle fear have no shame if they believe destruction of rights will keep them in office.

The gravest danger in adding gun rights to “The List” is the precedent it sets. How much easier will it now be to justify proscribing the right to drive, hold a job, have a bank account, or rent a home? In short, inclusion on the list could soon mean exclusion from society. If this happened to even one person in error, that would be one too many. How can I justify that sentiment? Easy, imagine you are the error.

Thought Police?

The dynamic between liberals and conservatives is more like sibling rivalry than anything remotely resembling adult discourse. It seems they are simply not happy unless they are fighting over some new outrage du jour. And as with most childhood spats it’s never really clear who started it. Such is the case with the whole brouhaha over these “bathroom laws”. It is unclear if the Charlotte, NC ordinance permitting transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender for which they “identify” was in response to some specific case or was merely part of the liberal agenda of memorializing into “law” a panoply of perceived “rights”. The liberal worldview: anyone who disagrees with us is a bigot and should be thrown in a cage for not sharing our enlightened views. Of course conservatives are no better; they are well known to adopt new “laws” to prevent things they find distasteful even if they have never happened. The rich irony, or perhaps it is hypocrisy, is that the normal narrative is that we of course need a strong central authority to ensure small little enclaves of people won’t do bad things. Of course the states must submit to the Feds, we’re one country after all! But when the only way to push a progressive goal is from the bottom up at the small local (city) level, such as these pro-transgender statutes, suddenly they will triumphantly tout the important role of decentralized authority. And now what a crime it is if the central authority overrides the smaller group. But if the small group were doing something “bad” then we of course need the large group to overrule them. So basically the approach to governance is that we should rely on the wisdom of whichever authority happens to be doing the thing I agree with. Here’s a novel idea – why don’t people just be allowed to live their lives as they see fit without some outside “authority” forcing them to conform to some standard.

Now, on the subject of this whole notion of transgender rights: it is all utter nonsense – in the same way that gay, women’s, worker’s and every other adjectival “rights” are nonsense. There is only one set of rights: human rights. And those rights do not necessitate the initiation of violence or the threat of violence to be upheld. If you want to “identify” as something other than what your chromosomes say you are, more power to you, I really couldn’t care less how you or anybody else lives their lives. That’s what freedom means, living your life as you see fit and leaving me to do the same. And leaving me to do the same means you do not have the right to make me “accept” you as whatever gender you think you are, you do not have the right to make me call you “zie” or “zim” or whatever silly neologism that was concocted to satisfy tender sensibilities. The possibility that someone somewhere might experience hurt feelings is insufficient cause to initiate violence in order to prevent such hurt feelings. If a business wants to permit non-gendered bathroom access that is their right and no one should force them to not permit it. And if another business wants to maintain more “traditional” bathrooms that is their right as well. If you don’t like either, then go somewhere else otherwise comply with their rules. That’s what private property means; your house, your rules and my house, my rules. Just because a business has a so-called “public” face does not change the nature of private property. “Public” is merely that adjective government apples to an activity in order that they may justify their intrusion into said activity, nothing more.

This whole trans-gender rights thing is not vey well thought out though. It is quite unlike “traditional” anti-discrimination laws which related to objective outward appearance. Transgenderism is a function of thought, not biology. So if gender exists only in one’s mind, how is one to distinguish between authentic transgenderism vs someone merely pretending in order to gain some advantage they wouldn’t normally have, like in sports perhaps? If you set the precedent that one’s gender is defined by thought then upon what basis will you keep men off of women’s’ teams or vice versa? So if Bruce Jenner decided he’s really a women I guess he could compete against other women runners, right? Oh, wait a minute…

In the end both sides will “win” as these pro or con laws will be about as effective as “Gun free zone” signs.

Fighting against 1984

The State is getting nervous. Technology has a way of disrupting institutional power. The Guttenberg printing press liberated the flow of knowledge from the former stranglehold of the Church and its scribes. Today the digital realm of the Internet is effecting a similar change with self-publishing upon the old-world monopoly of the print-publishing house. Travel agents are virtually a thing of the past. Bitcoin is beginning to threaten the monopoly the banks and the government have over the flow of money. Encryption of our digital lives (personal electronic devices) is now threatening the power and relevance of the State. Encryption means we can manage our own security; we don’t need some nebulous State apparatus to keep us safe and secure. Nearly everything that is important to us (photos, messages, financials, medical info, etc.) is locked away securely in our digital treasure chest.

But the State will have none of that. They demand the key to that treasure chest. Both New York and California legislatures have introduced bills banning the sale of smartphones that do not offer some sort of encryption “back door”. How dare these companies make a product that is impervious to the prying eyes of the State! This is a direct threat to their unlimited power to intrude into our lives.

Not to be outdone, the Federal government is getting in on the back-door game. A federal judge recently ordered Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple is openly defying this order. The primary problem is that were Apple to comply with the order there is nothing to prevent the technique used from falling into the hands of truly “bad guys” who could then threaten the privacy and security of every iPhone user. It’s like the government asking scientists to build the atomic bomb “just this once, to stop the bad guys”. Once knowledge is out there it cannot be contained.

But even worse, the government’s use of an act from 1789 (the All Writ Act) to compel Apple to help them sets a dangerous precedent. It is not the case that Apple has in its possession information that it is being asked to hand over (which it has always done in the past when presented with a warrant). Instead Apple is being forced to help the FBI, drafted as it were, unlock this device. Insert picture of government agent holding loaded gun to Tim Cook’s head and saying “help us, please” and you’ll get the picture.

Yes, but you say the FBI is trying to stop future terror events, so anything to prevent a loss of life is worth it. Ok, well that cuts both ways. If Apple helps the FBI on what grounds could it refuse to help the government of China, Russia or perhaps even a threatening mob boss? After all, they know that since Apple helped the FBI then it is indeed possible to unlock these things. Is the standard of behavior to be: Apple helps any “legitimate” state actor, except when they are bad, because of course everyone knows who the goods guys and bad guys are.

To be clear, this is not Apple’s property. They are a third party being asked to do the government’s bidding. If they complied it would set the awful precedent that the companies we do business with can be secretly dragooned into the employ of the State in order to spy on and monitor us without our knowledge. Don’t think that can happen? Well, the government already has a terrible track record of abusing its surveillance power. It took Edward Snowden blowing the whistle to show us how the NSA was spying on everyone in contravention of the Patriot Act. In fact Samsung just recently warned its customers that its voice recognition could be used by third party vendors to listen to conversations so they advised caution about what you say in front of it. Now imagine Samsung receives a request from the FBI to “help” them monitor everyone so they can ensure “our safety”. Nah… I’m sure that would never happen. Thank you Apple for fighting for us. Your actions today may well ensure that our future “won’t be like 1984.”

Called to serve?

Top military leaders this past week called for expanding the Selective Service System (the registration wing of the currently idle, but easily re-activated, draft) to include women. Their narrative is that it is simply a matter of fairness. Women currently serve in all branches of the military just as capably as men, so at face value there really is no practical reason to continue excluding them from registration. The fact that this is being brought up now may be entirely innocuous; it was bound to happen sooner or later. Or, it could be an omen that signals this country is setting down a path of expanding, not contracting, its role of interfering in the affairs of foreign nations. An expanding global empire after all requires an expanding police force to maintain order. After more than ten long years of endless warfare our currently all volunteer armed forces is thinning out as they are stretched like an ever expanding net around a globe that refuses to be tamed by American hegemony.

The principled position regarding the SSS and the draft for which it stands is that it is an abhorrent violation of the rights of the individual. It treats our sons and (soon) daughters as mere chattel to be deployed by the state for whatever capricious whim those in power decide will benefit them and their cronies – all the while cloaking such moves under the flag of “patriotism”. Some try to claim it is one’s “civic duty” to serve if called upon by their country but that is but a smokescreen; all civic duties are forms of slavery, differing only in degree but not kind from the more familiar chattel slavery (lack of consent is at the heart of the evilness of slavery). Attempts to legitimizing slavery by calling it something noble is a ploy worthy of the Devil but not honest men. We may recoil in horror at stories of armed guerrillas in some far off country kidnapping young men and boys in order to dragoon them into service for their cause – but, in substance, it is no different than a draft into the armed forces of a modern state. A young person, against their will, is forced to take up arms and murder other human beings (or assist in that murder), and if they do not then they are put to death or imprisoned for decades by their own supposed “countrymen.”

Currently the draft is “inactive”, however the law is still on the books and it can be re-activated at a moment’s notice. For those without children between the ages of 18-26 this may not register on your political radar, but believe me, for those of us with children in this age group (like myself) it is cold comfort that it is inactive when we see that our next President will likely be one of the warmongers Trump, Cruz, or Clinton.

Some have argued it is actually beneficial to have an active draft in place, as it makes politicians more cautious about sending the sons (or daughters) of their constituents off to die. However I think Vietnam put the lie to that argument. President Johnson was all to happy to send 58,000 young men to their death in an utterly pointless conflict that had zero bearing on US security. Now consider that conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq also have had zero relevance to US security and we see that politicians will never tire of wasting American lives and treasure in fruitless endeavors. All the more reason to completely end the draft and the SSS once and for all. Women should not welcome this kind of equality.

If the US mainland were actually threatened or attacked the problem would not be getting recruits, it would be organizing the overwhelming number trying to join the fight. By and large most feel the instinct to defend what is theirs; after 9/11 recruitment levels sored. Declining numbers in the volunteer armed forces is not an indication of declining patriotism. Rather it is voting by deed, and this vote loudly proclaims the American population does not view with much seriousness the shrill warnings from the ruling class that danger threatens us on every front. Particularly when those fronts are 8,000 miles away.

No-Rights List

“There are several steps that Congress should take right away. To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.”– President Barack Obama

 

If I may Mr. President, Mr. Constitutional Scholar, I’ll take that one. The answer is “Due Process” as in the Fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, in part, “[N]or shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”. In other words, the use of this list to deprive the individual of his or her rights is a blatant 100% violation of the constitution, no ifs, ands, or buts – but hey, go right on believing that a piece of paper can protect us from the machinations of the state. This list has put the lie to that fantasy. Those in power can do whatever they wish as long as they have mastered the art of fear manipulation.

There is nothing wrong with compiling such a list (e.g. passive monitoring until suspicion is either allayed or heightened), but it is its preemptive deployment that is problematic. Depriving one of their rights is the equivalent to an arrest insofar as arrestees too lose a number of rights. Therefore, a “listee” and an “arrestee” are legally equivalent and so both must be afforded the same opportunity to respond to their accusers. In other words, if there is to be such a list, its content must be subject to due process, that is, a trial. Even though this should be obvious it bears repeating: due process is not some artificial speed-bump on the road to getting the “bad guys” – it ensures that the innocent, you and me, are not erroneously treated as criminals. To believe such a process is not necessary is to believe in the infallibility of man (a most hubristic and dubious proposition). Government is merely a collection of imperfect, fallible human beings. Due process protects us from those failings.

As it stands today, if you are on this list (often people merely with names similar to those of suspected terrorist sympathizers, including small children, active military personnel and even Senator Ted Kennedy!) there is no procedure whatsoever to challenge the inclusion in order to have your name removed. The rationale for inclusion is not divulged due to reasons of “national security”, attempts to demonstrate ones innocence are not allowed due to reasons of “national security”. Do you see a dark pattern here? The government may target anyone for any reason at any time citing the circular tautology of “national security” as justification.

With Obama’s attempt to re-purposes this list into the “one list to rule them all” of unlimited state power a most sinister precedent is being set. One right, two rights, three rights – oh my, soon we are no longer free! There is nothing to stop them from adding a whole litany of rights that one could plausibly argue help terrorists achieve their goals: obtain credit, hold a job, own a business, rent a home, buy or rent a car, open a bank account and so on. Now imagine you have been erroneously placed on this list (like thousands of others) and the nightmare your life instantly transforms into as all your rights are instantly stripped away because of either a clerical error or someone’s hunch. But of course you don’t know it is a clerical error or someone’s hunch, because no one will even tell you why you are on the list..

Once the precedent of rights denial for the “listed” is in place, then the really dangerous component can be activated: arbitrary inclusion. Superficially only “terrorists” are to be included, but here’s the rub: what is the definition of “terrorist”? Most assume it means ISIS types, but as far as the state is concerned it encompasses anyone that it deems a potential challenge to its authority. In other words, whoever is in power will deem whomever is out of power as a threat. This is not hyperbole, it has already happened. Various federal and state agencies have issued reports where they expressed the opinion that anyone expressing “right wing” views such as support for the constitution, opposing the federal reserve or taxation, or showing support for Ron Paul could be potential terrorists. Masterful! Political challengers getting you down? Why simply classify them as “terrorists” and wipe away all their rights – that will shut them up pretty quick!

If private airlines want to compile their own list and bar entry aboard their planes, that is perfectly within their rights to do so. It is their property and they may do with it as they see fit. You are free to fly another airline. In a private system the number of false positives would be nearly non-existent (e.g. no kids would be on the list) since the airlines have an incentive to sell tickets and not bar perfectly safe passengers from handing them money. Various other free-market based systems that can’t legally exist in the current public system would ensure even those few false positives were rectified. The compilers of a public list bear no consequences to any mistakes they make, the compilers of a private list do and thus act accordingly. The lack of accountability in a public system necessitates due process, i.e. a method by which accountability can occur. Interaction with private entities is voluntary whereas interaction with public entities is not. This more than anything necessitates a different set of rules for public entities to ensure that absolute power is not abused.

Low Hanging Fruit

With the recent shooting in San Bernardino national attention has again returned to that eternal yin-yang conflict between the gun banners and the gun lovers. Or should I say those who promote “sensible gun laws” and those that do not believe their rights should be curtailed because of the actions of others. Truth be told the former believes “sensible” = “total ban”– because, obviously, making things illegal always eliminates the problem (cough, drug war, cough, prohibition). Banning all guns because of the senseless acts of a few crazed lunatics makes about as much sense as castrating all men because some have raped. The ban-wishers realize that a total ban is not feasible, so they couch their rhetoric in innocuous sounding terms like “sensible” and “common sense” when referring to proposed legislation. The only problem with these proposed laws (if you can actually manage to get any of them to divulge exactly what they might entail) is that not a single one of them would have stopped any of the mass shooting rampages in recent memory. Not. A. Single. One. Calls for background checks to include the presence of psychological issues don’t help if one has never done anything crazy before. Barring felons from obtaining a weapon don’t help if one has never been convicted of a crime. Waiting periods don’t help if one has owned a weapon for years and then commits an atrocity or simply “borrows” it from a family member. In short it is a human problem, not a gun problem. Humans can do anything at any time and as much as we might all wish it to be true (oh, please let there be a Santa Claus!) it is metaphysically impossible to predict the behavior of any one person so as to shut them down pre-crime style.

Now some may object at this point and point to a number of “peer” countries with draconian gun laws who have lower homicide rates than the US. What this simpleminded analysis leaves out is manifold. First of all the use of the arbitrary distinction “peer” is simply a ploy to omit countries with lower gun ownership than the US but with much higher gun deaths. One prominent example is Mexico.  “Oh but that is left out because of the violence stemming from the drug war,” they will say. Oh really? That is interesting, because the US is currently involved in a massive drug war as well, so I suppose to be fair we should subtract those numbers out in the same way they deem it valid to leave Mexico out of the comparison. When you make that adjustment the estimates are that the US homicide rate drops precipitously from 4 per 100,000 down to as low as 1 per 100,000  – the same as all these other “peer” nations with their draconian laws. The other part of the analysis left out is a lot of these “peer” nations are extremely small, culturally homogeneous groups (e.g. Japan or Norway). If one were slice up the US the same way and break it down by state or city rather than as whole you find even without drug war adjustments the regional numbers are on par or lower than those very same “peer” nations. In other words 1% of US cities are responsible for the overwhelming majority of gun violence.

If those that want to “do something” about gun violence are serious then they would be well advised to examine what factors are driving the violence in these cities. They are the low hanging fruit as it were since most gun deaths occur within their borders. Since most (Chicago, Detroit, etc) already have strict gun control laws, that is obviously not going to be a solution. To solve the problem one must understand the source of the problem. That source is overwhelmingly the drug war. It is not simply mere shoots out between gangs that factor in here but all the other social and economic factors that drive one toward violence when a prohibition is placed on some arbitrary article of commerce. Like a cancer the prohibition infects the community and destroys it from within. But it all starts with the prohibition. Remove the drain stopper that is prohibition and all the other violence inducing factors will drain away as well. Will this solve all instances of gun violence? No, but wouldn’t solving 75% or more be a glorious first step?

The constitution says we have a right to keep and bear arms. Changing that fact would be incredibly difficult if not impossible. The constitution does not say drugs are illegal. Its implementation was unconstitutional, thus its termination would likewise be constitutional. We can end the drug war tomorrow with the stroke of a pen. Why not take that easier path and achieve the greatest good? Or is it more about ideology than about actually saving human lives? Prohibition never solved anything.