April 30, 2016

Trump Protesters, Free Speech and Property Rights

Protestors rally outside the Plaza Hotel on December 11, 2015 in New York, where Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump was speaking at a fund-raising luncheon for the Pennsylvania Republican Party. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump had another big night on Tuesday, winning at least three states, including winner-take-all Florida and its 99 delegates. This despite protesters disrupting Trump rallies in Ohio and Kansas and shutting Trump down in Chicago.

The protests have both pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions invoking the First Amendment. Pro-Trumpers say the protesters are violating Trump’s and their own right to free speech. Anti-Trumpers say they are exercising their own. The media are all over the road. The worst assertion is that some sort of “balance” or “compromise” between the two groups’ rights is necessary. It isn’t.

First, let’s get the First Amendment out of the way. There is no way any private citizen can violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t govern the citizens. It governs the government. It begins, “Congress shall make no law…”

Originally, this restriction applied only to the federal government. Since a 1947 Supreme Court decision, the courts have considered the First Amendment applicable to state governments as well. But in no case does it apply to private citizens. So, let’s please dispense with statements that include “violating their First Amendment rights,” in relation to Trump, his supporters or their opponents.

The right of free speech doesn’t come from the First Amendment. The right preexists the government. The First Amendment merely guarantees the government won’t violate it, in keeping with the purpose of government itself, according to the Declaration of Independence: to secure these (natural, preexistent) rights.” The First Amendment recognizes the right preexists government explicitly when it says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

We don’t talk enough about natural, inalienable rights. “Inalienable” means they can’t be taken away, not even by majority vote. So how do we know where one person’s rights end and another person’s begin? The answer can be summed up in two words: property rights.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The encryption court order to Apple is conscription

Tim_Cook_WWDC_2012Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have weighed in on the controversy over a government court order requiring Apple, Inc. to develop software enabling the FBI to hack into an iPhone recovered in the home of the San Bernardino shooters. The iPhone’s security system is encrypted and automatically erases data after a certain number of unsuccessful attempts to enter a correct password to unlock the phone’s home screen.

CEO Tim Cook has issued an open letter explaining why he is resisting the order.

Cruz said the government “had the better argument” and its request was “consistent with the Fourth Amendment” because the phone was obtained pursuant to a legitimate search warrant that was specific to the place to be searched and the items to be seized.

Trump based his support of the government on the same foundation he based most of his positions: nothing.

No one is disputing the government has a right to the phone. But that doesn’t mean it has the power to force Apple to create a new product to help them.

Cook’s letter and much of the commentary by civil liberties defenders have concentrated on the potential security risk to the millions of other iPhone users, both from government intelligence agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). While these concerns are serious and relevant, they seem to concede the answer to several previous questions:

Can the government issue a writ compelling a private company to commit significant time, labor and other company resources to assist in a criminal investigation? Why does this not violate the 13th Amendment? If the government can compel Apple to work for it when it is unable to do its job alone, who is immune from being conscripted in the name of national security?

The government claims access to the phone is crucial to gather evidence, including the possible involvement of others, including overseas terrorists, who may have directed or otherwise been involved in the attack. But given what the government already knows about this crime and its perpetrators, that seems unlikely.

It’s more likely this is just the excuse the government has been looking for to pick a legal fight over encryption in general. That there is any information anywhere that is beyond its reach is intolerable to the intelligence and law enforcement communities. They prefer the populace figuratively and (sometimes) literally naked before them.

Contrary to the mantra you’ll hear repeated ad nauseum over the course of this battle, there is no question of “balancing liberty and security” here. The government has a perfect record of failure in never preventing a single terrorist attack it hadn’t fabricated itself to entrap would-be terrorists, despite access to metadata on every phone call and e-mail made to or from anyone in this country. Allowing them even greater access into the personal information of millions of innocent people isn’t going to help them improve.

The government isn’t supposed to be trying to prevent anything. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments assume the government can only act after a crime has been committed. This does not leave the citizenry exposed like sitting ducks. The Second Amendment assumes individuals can and will defend themselves.

It’s time to stop attacking the Bill of Rights to double down on what doesn’t work. We’ll all be safer and freer if we make the government more strictly obey all ten of those amendments.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

McConnell and Obama Both Wrong on Scalia Replacement

220px-Obama_and_Mitch_McConnellOne of the dumber debates in recent history has broken out in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that President Obama shouldn’t nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia because Obama is in the last year of his final term.

Opponents, including the president himself, have responded that the Senate has a constitutional duty to bring Obama’s appointments to a vote and to confirm one, if qualified.

Both sides are completely wrong. The President has the legitimate authority to nominate a successor on every day of his presidency, up to and including the very last day. That precedent was set by no less than the second president of the United States. As Elizabeth Warren astutely observed,

Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says “…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President.

But neither can be found the words “shall bring to an up or down vote” or anything to the effect that the Senate is required to take action on the President’s nominees. The Constitution was deliberately constructed so that inaction would be the starting point in all matters. The reason for the separation of powers was to ensure that things didn’t get done efficiently within the federal government, because efficient government is a threat to liberty.

Read the rest on The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

No Hillary, Donald et al, The President’s First Job is Not to Keep Americans Safe

n-CONSTITUTION-large570The Democratic debate on Saturday proved one thing: powerful interests that transcend the political parties have an agenda. That’s the only explanation for the talking point mindlessly repeated by virtually all of the presidential candidates in both parties: “It is the first job of the president to keep Americans safe.”

Maybe it’s a slogan that’s been thrown around in Council on Foreign Relations meetings or some other gathering of the wonderful people who make all the decisions for us rubes. But wherever it came from, it was certainly no coincidence Americans heard it from virtually every candidate, Democrat or Republican, during the past two debates. It would have been only slightly spookier if they heaped effusive praise on Raymond Shaw.

More important than it being creepy and patronizing is that it’s completely wrong. The first job of the president is not to keep Americans safe. It is to defend their liberty.

 

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Edward Snowden Is Still a Hero, Regardless of ISIS, San Bernardino and Paris

APTOPIX France SnowdenIt’s official. The terrorists are winning. They have achieved the one and only goal of terrorism itself: to achieve a political outcome based on the “terror” caused by highly publicized attacks on civilians.

Just days after Dagen McDowell of Fox Business blamed the San Bernardino shooting on Edward Snowden and the USA Freedom Act, Joe Scarborough called for “post-Edward Snowden legislation that stops this person-to-person encrypted messaging” on Morning Joe. He also said, “We’re going to have to give the CIA powers to interrogate these terrorists to see where the next attack’s going to come from.”

As the CIA has always had the power to interrogate anyone it wishes to, this can only be code for “torture.” Lest this be written off as the ravings of MSNBC’s token Republican, his Democratic guest agreed wholeheartedly. Scarborough had either the audacity or the cluelessness (it’s always hard to tell) to end the segment by riffing on a Bush/Cheney mantra, saying: “The world changed after Paris.”

Anything both Fox and MSNBC are trumpeting in unison can reasonably be assumed to be completely wrong.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

We Need to Really Gut the Military

cracked-american-flag-jpgU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday that Americans will be grappling with violent extremism for generations to come. If that feels like déjà vu, you’re not imagining things. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schisslersaid the same thing – in 2006.

Schissler was expressing concern at the time over wavering public support for a war that had already lasted longer than WWII. His concern was warranted. The Republican Party had just suffered a shellacking in the mid-term elections, largely due to public dissatisfaction with “neoconservative” foreign policy. They would lose the White House two years later for largely the same reasons.

American voters may have believed they “threw the bums out,” as Carroll Quigley might put it, but the foreign policy never changed. The Obama administration may have used different tactics, but it’s been even more interventionist than Bush’s. It’s certainly intervened in more countries.

Bush and the 2000s Republicans were called neoconservatives, but they weren’t. Their way of seeing the world is classic conservatism, straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes not only saw all individuals, but all nations, in a de facto state of war with each other, in the absence of some overwhelming external force “keeping them in awe.”

This was the inspiration for the British Empire, which sought to “civilize” the world by force of arms. It eventually bled itself dry, its biggest failures occurring on precisely the same ground the United States is bleeding on now.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Thought for the day: Why can’t the U.S. imitate Switzerland?

shutterstock_181475261-643x419Thought for the day: Here’s a compromise I’d be willing to make with the left on the USA imitating a European welfare state: We’d imitate Switzerland. That means:

  1. An extremely limited central government with very low central government taxation (about 11% of GDP)
  2. Each canton/state decides how generous its welfare benefits will be and taxes its citizens accordingly. There is no national health care or centrally-mandated benefits.
  3. Firearms are not only considered a right, but a responsibility (although we wouldn’t mandate militia service – we have plenty who would volunteer)
  4. Nonintervention in foreign affairs in the proud Swiss tradition that even WWII was unnecessary (which it was)

I think that’s fair. How about it, lefties?

*Photo by Orbex

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

A Practical Solution: Run Police Departments Like Fire Departments

n-COP-GUN-large570Do you lie awake at night in constant fear a fire will break out and nothing will be done to put it out?

For the 99% of the population not suffering from pyrophobia or a similar neurosis, the answer to that question is “no,” even though firefighters aren’t patrolling the streets in their big red trucks. They still manage to arrive at the scene of a fire within minutes of an emergency call.

Why can’t police departments be run the same way?

If they were, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland would be alive today. All three encountered police doing what would be considered outlandish for any other institution charged with public safety: roaming the streets, looking for trouble.

No one had called 911 asking for protection from Scott, Gray or Bland. No judges had issued warrants for their arrests. All three were, at least at the time of their arrests, just walking or driving down the street, minding their own business. They were detained in what are generally considered “routine” but are in reality wholly unnecessary encounters with police.

There has been a lot of digital ink and warm air expended on whether these victims of tragedy were treated differently because of their race. There are compelling arguments on both sides of that question, but no practical solutions offered by anyone. At the end of these discussions there is invariably some vague reference to “more training” or bland platitudes. Everyone knows nothing will change.

I’m going to suggest a solution that will sound radical, even in a country that styles itself “the land of free.” Let’s get cops off the streets, unless responding to a 911 call or serving a warrant issued by a judge. Everyone would be freer and safer, including the police officers themselves.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

Sandra Bland’s Arrest Wasn’t Racism; It Was Something Even Worse

n-POLICE-CAR-large570It’s easy to assume racism when watching the video footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest. Admittedly, the first question that entered this writer’s mind when watching it was, “Would a white woman have been treated this way during a routine traffic stop?”

I believe the answer is “yes,” if the white woman committed the cardinal sin Sandra Bland committed. It wasn’t her being black that started the tragic chain of events. It was refusing to follow a police officer’s orders.

At some point between ratification of the Fourth Amendment and the death of Sandra Bland, the entire principle underpinning that constitutional protection has been lost. The Fourth Amendment assumes armed agents of the state can’t be trusted to issue their own orders. That’s why we have warrants in the first place. They are permitted only to enforce the orders of an impartial judge, who authorizes them to apprehend suspects upon the judge’s determination of probable cause.

That’s not to say many or most officers aren’t well-intentioned or trustworthy. But their job is to use force. That role must be separated from the issuance of orders.

Read the rest at the Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Dear Queen Elizabeth: Can we come back?

Dear Queen ElizabethDear Queen Elizabeth,

It’s been 239 years and we’re finally ready to admit we made a mistake. Just as your predecessor warned us, taxes are much higher, the government more oppressive, and liberty more non-existent than they ever were under the British monarchy.

We’re willing to bury the hatchet and rejoin the British Empire with that sweet tax deal you had for us in 1775. Don’t worry about representation. We tried it. Taxes skyrocketed.

Everything else we complained about got worse, too. Representative government issues more general warrants than the king’s officers ever did. In most cases, it doesn’t even bother with warrants. It just vacuums up our electronic data and peruses it at its pleasure.

It calls controlling everything from the food we eat to the amount of water in our toilets “regulating trade,” when all King George meant by that was levying a few tariffs. Our Federal Register is over 80,000 pages long. It’s insane.

In short, we were wrong. Let’s just pretend the whole, silly misunderstanding didn’t happen. I know it’s asking a lot, but you seem even nicer than George III was.

We’ll pay next year’s taxes at 1775 rates in advance. What say you?

Sincerely,

Your Prodigal Colonists

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.