TAMPA, December 20, 2013 – Immediately after A&E put Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson “on hiatus,” the blogosphere exploded with reactions. Liberals decry Robertson’s alleged bigotry. Conservatives defended his right to free speech and freedom of religion.
99% of the commentary is wrong, of course. First, Robertson’s comments were not bigoted. Robertson merely quotes the Bible on homosexuality. He then says that it is not for humans to judge anyone. That is reserved for God.
You can’t be prejudiced if you don’t judge. He believes homosexuality is a sin, but nowhere does he indicate that anyone should be treated differently, either by the law or by individuals, because they are homosexual.
This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or religion, either. Those principles relate to government suppression of speech and religion. The government hasn’t threatened Robertson.
In fact, A&E’s response was the textbook libertarian answer to this kind of dispute. A&E’s management, representing the stockholders, exercised their own right to freedom of association. They have a right to terminate their business relationship with Robertson for any reason, provided it does not violate the contract they signed with him.
The other cast members have now released a statement implying they won’t do the show without Phil. The statement indicates that they are negotiating with A&E on what the future of the show may be.
It’s possible that the show will be canceled. Or, A&E might back down. Most likely, a compromise will be reached where the show goes on, Phil Robertson makes a public statement expressing regret for offending anyone, but standing by his Christian faith, and A&E welcomes him back on condition he doesn’t make public statements on this subject in the future.
Does anyone notice anything missing from these scenarios?
If you said “the government,” you’re correct. If this little media drama has proven anything so far, it is how unnecessary government is in resolving issues of racism or bigotry. The market does just fine.
It would do better if Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act were repealed.
Most of the Act prohibited discrimination based upon race, color, religion or national origin in either state or federal governments. There are legitimate constitutional concerns about giving the federal government these powers over the states, but even most libertarians aren’t losing much sleep. If ever there was a place to compromise strict constitutional principles, prohibiting bigotry in government is it.
Titles II and VII of the Act are another story. In those, the federal government is given power over the personal choices of the individual. Title II prohibited private business owners from discriminating in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and “all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.” Title VII prohibited employers from so discriminating.
This redefined the very idea of private property. No longer could individuals “dispose of their persons or possessions as they saw fit,” as Locke would put it. In effect, the government made itself part owner of all private property.
One does not have to be a racist or a bigot to be concerned. The response at the time was that American culture was so deeply ingrained with prejudice, especially towards blacks, that only the government’s heavy hand could solve the problem.
There are certainly cracks in that theory. For example, if there weren’t private business owners in the south who wanted to serve blacks, then why did they have to make it illegal to do so?
Questions only libertarians think to ask.
In any case, this is 2013, not 1964. The power given to the federal government isn’t necessary now, if it ever was. The Duck Dynasty incident proves that. Voluntary contracts will resolve that dispute and consumers will reward or punish that resolution with their decisions to watch or boycott.
Like all government solutions, the Civil Rights Act has largely achieved results opposite of its intentions. Affirmative Action spawns resentment against blacks when they get jobs because of their race over more qualified applicants. There is also resentment when the black is more qualified, because the white applicant quite reasonably suspects that race was a factor, even when it wasn’t.
Check black unemployment statistics during the fifty years before and after the Act was passed. The government has defeated black unemployment about as well as it’s made health care more affordable.
The market, if left free, would be an efficient dispatcher of racism. Employers who routinely hired less qualified employees based upon their race would soon find themselves outperformed by firms that hired purely based upon ability. In business terms, racism would be rendered extinct.
The same would hold for hotels, restaurants and other private firms that serve the public, in terms of their decisions of which customers to serve.
Not convinced? Here is a wager. Repeal Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act and allow individuals to make personal decisions based upon whatever values they hold. In the unlikely event that someone puts up a “Whites Only” sign on a restaurant, this writer – likely the worst restaurateur on the planet – will open for business across the street the very next week. My sign will say “Everybody Welcome.”
We’ll see who is still in business a month after that.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
TAMPA, December 11, 2013 — For twelve years, the Bush and Obama Administrations have promoted a narrative about the War on Terror. It has changed slightly in superficial ways, as when President Obama gave it a new name, but the crux of the narrative has not changed. The United States is fighting a war against a worldwide terrorist organization called al-Qaeda, formerly headed by über-terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Americans are led to believe that this organization has a single mission against the United States and is directed by a hierarchy of terrorist leaders, all reporting up to a senior command located somewhere in Afghanistan. Many of the lawmakers and cabinet personnel who promote this narrative likely believe it themselves, at least to some degree.
Washington sees al-Qaeda the way it sees itself, a centralized, top-down hierarchy with a chain of command reporting up from every corner of the earth. It makes for a good story, but it’s not even remotely true. Virtually every incident involving this fictional organization refutes the narrative.
Veteran reporter Eric Margolis never did. He’s been reporting on the true nature of the Islamic militant groups from the very beginning. He should know what he’s talking about. He was embedded in Afghanistan in the 1980’s when bin Laden and what is now Al Qaeda and the Taliban were U.S. allies, fighting the Soviet Union.
For what it’s worth, bin Laden and other Islamic militants apparently regarded Margolis’ reporting as accurate. He was named as one of a small group of reporters who “fairly and accurately reported on the region” in alleged Al Qaeda letters released last year. Commenting on that release in “Osama’s Almost Letter to Me,” Margolis wrote,
“Al-Qaida was not founded by Osama bin Laden, as many wrongly believe, but in the mid-1980’s in Peshawar, Pakistan, by a revolutionary scholar, Sheik Abdullah Azzam.
I know this because I interviewed Azzam numerous times at al-Qaida HQ in Peshawar while covering the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Azzam set up al-Qaida, which means “the base” in Arabic, to help CIA and Saudi-financed Arab volunteers going to fight in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. In those days, the west hailed them as “freedom fighters.”
Margolis goes on to report that neither Al Qaeda in Afghanistan nor the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11. Their raison d’etre is fighting foreign troops within their borders. When the invaders were Soviet, they fought the Soviets, using similar but updated tactics to those previously used against the British. When the invaders were American, they fought the Americans. That’s what they do. Thus Afghanistan’s ominous nickname, “Graveyard of Empires.”
According to this alternate narrative, the “extremists” in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 nor any tangible connection to the group that perpetrated the attacks. Those were mostly Saudi Arabian nationals who planned the attack in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid. The only thing the attackers had in common with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was hatred of the United States. But they hated the United States for different reasons.
The 9/11 attackers, being Saudi, most likely hated America for precisely the reason Osama bin Laden stated: U.S. bases in the Muslim holy land and (secondarily) its support for Israel. Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan hated America because the United States invaded, ignoring the Taliban’s quite reasonable request for the U.S. to produce evidence of bin Laden’s guilt before demanding his extradition.
What Washington is calling “Al Qaeda in Syria” is also a completely different group. They exist to overthrow the Assad regime. Since that regime is a longtime ally of Russia’s, the U.S. has actually supported these rebels, amidst heavy criticism from within Washington’s ranks that the Obama administration is supporting Al Qaeda. This was apparently confirmed when Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri.
However, the pledge of allegiance actually supports the alternative narrative, not Washington’s. It is apparent from the reports on the pledge that the Syrian group had no previous connection to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It came immediately following an announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq that al Nusra was part of its network.
The ISI is one of many militant groups that filled the vacuum left after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and which had no active presence before Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. ISI similarly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004 while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.
According to The Telegraph’s April 10, 2013 report, Syria’s al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda,” al-Joulani (al Jawlani) was quick to clarify the relationship with ISI:
“We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement [the announcement by ISI]. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,” Jawlani said…We reassure our brothers in Syria that al-Nusra Front’s behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way,” he added.”
In other words, the Syrian rebel group al Nusra was a group organized around toppling the Assad regime in Syria. It pledged allegiance to what Washington calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” but which is really the ISI. The ISI in turn was a group organized to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, with the long term goal of establishing an Islamic state there after U.S. forces withdrew.
None of these groups were part of a worldwide, centralized organization to fight the “Great Satan.” Instead, they are all disparate groups which formed for different, localized reasons and discovered after the fact that they all had a common enemy, the United States. The one exception to this is the group in Syria, whose western, industrialized enemy is Russia. That is why “al Qaeda in Syria” has sought to work with the United States instead of fight against it. The United States is useful in its goal of toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.
All of this leads to one, inescapable conclusion. The United States has accomplished nothing in twelve years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq War actually expanded the presence of Islamic militant groups and led to a fundamentalist Islamic state there, with strong ties to Iran.
Rather than waging a war against a centralized, top-down organization with divisions in several Middle Eastern countries and agents embedded all over the world, Washington is actually playing a deadly game of “whack a mole,” with new moles popping up out of new holes every time Washington swings its mallet.
That means that triumphant announcements about killing “the number three man in Al Qaeda” mean absolutely nothing. That Al Qaeda hierarchy doesn’t exist. Instead, independent groups all over the world discover a kinship with each other all centered around one phenomenon: U.S. intervention in their nations. Intervention could be military, covert or merely aid to a local dictator.
Iranian militants hate America because the CIA helped overthrow their democratically-elected government in 1953 and then maintained the hated Shah as dictator there for almost three decades afterwards.
Militant groups in Saudi Arabia hate America for maintaining the Kingdom of Saud and for the additional insult of previously garrisoning troops in their holy land.
Militant groups in Iraq hate America for first supporting Saddam Hussein over the wishes of the Shiite majority and then destroying their country when Hussein became troublesome for the United States.
Militant groups in Afghanistan hate America merely because they are the latest western empire to invade their homeland. It will soon be apparent that they have expelled the United States the same way they did the Soviet and British empires.
The Tsarnaev brothers took direction from no one overseas. They just dreamed up their horrible crime and executed it. Their stated reason? U.S. military interventions in the Middle East.
That doesn’t mean the terrorists are justified. If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, no reasonable person would conclude that she “hated her husband for his freedom.” Acknowledging that cheating on her was the reason she shot him is not the same as condoning the murder. If she confesses to the murder and states her motive, nobody questions it.
Given the complete failure to accomplish anything in twelve years of war, the true, decentralized nature of the various Islamist groups and the likelihood that new ones will emerge wherever Washington intervenes, nonintervention seems to be the only effective way for Washington to reduce the risk of terrorism in the United States.
Washington should have learned this from the Cold War. Wherever nations succeeded in establishing communism, including in Viet Nam after the U.S. withdrawal, communism eventually died of natural causes. The only places it still exists is Cuba and North Korea, both still under siege by the U.S. military. The U.S. military presence in and sanctions on both countries have kept communist regimes in power long after their shelf life, solely because the people rally around their leaders in the face of a foreign threat.
History is repeating itself. Islamic fundamentalism is the new communism. The difference is that the U.S. is no longer capable of squandering its resources for decades whacking moles. It’s time to start playing the game smart, before America loses it for good.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
TAMPA, September 6, 2013 – Public opinion polls are virtually unanimous. The American people oppose military intervention in Syria, despite poll questions worded in a way that assumes the Syrian government perpetrated chemical weapons attacks against its own people. The Washington Post/ABC News poll asked:
The United States says it has determined that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the civil war there. Given this, do you support or oppose the United States launching missile strikes against the Syrian government?”
Who could imagine the question being put in words more likely to elicit a favorable response? Nevertheless, Americans were resoundingly against military intervention. 59% said they opposed missile strikes. 36% said they favored them. 5% were undecided.
Results like that in a poll so obviously constructed to achieve the opposite begs the question:
Does anyone really believe the Assad government launched chemical weapons attacks against rebels and civilians?
That virtually every politician and pundit talks about the attacks as if it were proven they occurred and that Assad’s government perpetrated them is beyond surreal. U.N. weapons inspectors say that they won’t even be able to confirm that chemical weapons were used for two more weeks. Yet, the Obama administration says it is not only certain the attack occurred, but that Assad’s government launched it.
This despite strong suspicion that it was the rebels, not the Assad government that launched the chemical weapons attack earlier this year. As reported by Shaun Waterman in the Washington Times on May 6,
“Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.”
The rebels stood to gain far more from last month’s chemical weapons attack than Assad. The government had the upper hand in the two-year-old revolution. The attack would increase the chances that an outside force like the U.S. would join the struggle on the rebels’ side. Judge Andrew Napolitano is skeptical that the attack occurred at all and, if it did, that Assad perpetrated it. Writing in the Washington Times, he says,
“Never mind that the photos shown by Mr. Obama’s folks of aid workers ministering to the supposed victims of government gassing show the workers without gas masks or gloves, and never mind that the Assad regime has permitted United Nations weapons inspectors unfettered access to its materiel, and never mind that the president wants to invade Syria before the weapons inspectors issue their report. The president wants us to think that the Assad regime intentionally gassed 1,000 Syrian innocents who were of no military value to the rebels or threat to the regime…”
That’s not the only circumstantial evidence questioning the official story. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Ron Paul Monday on the Ron Paul Channel that the U.S. government has been waiting for an excuse to intervene in Syria since 2011.
“Stratfor is a U.S. intelligence contractor based in Texas and we got hold of five million of their e-mails. They do consulting work for many different government organizations and private organizations. And one of those e-mails from late 2011, December 2011, is a report back from one of their agents meeting with the U.S. Air Force, members of the French military and British military, speaking about what the hopes and game plan was under various circumstances, essentially by the West, by the U.S. and NATO, if you like. And that they really felt that what they needed was for there to be some humanitarian outrage in Syria and that once they had that, that would legitimize going in with a big airstrike,” said Assange.
With no known evidence against the Assad government and strong circumstantial evidence against the rebels, the Obama administration still insists that they have conclusive proof against Assad, but cannot share the evidence. According to the Washington Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s replied,
“Claims that proof exists but is classified and cannot be shown are beneath criticism. “ He added, “If the U.S. says that the al-Assad regime is responsible for that attack and that they have proof, then let them submit it to the U.N. Security Council.”
The Obama administration hasn’t given the American public any more reason to believe it than Putin does. It’s been caught in one lie after another about its domestic spying programs, according to Forbes magazine. It’s also fighting the specter of a war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.
The truth of what happened in Damascus last month will be known eventually. Until then, the Obama administration is trying to sell a dog that just won’t hunt to an American public that’s weary of war and has little reason to believe its government about anything.
If experience is any teacher, Americans would be wise to remain incredulous.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
TAMPA, August 25, 2013 – It is 2154. A small, wealthy elite live on Elysium, a floating paradise orbiting the earth with stately mansions, majestic landscapes, clean air and perpetual sunshine. The rest of humanity lives on overpopulated, diseased and polluted earth.
The wealthy enjoy 22nd century medicine that can instantly cure any disease or injury, no matter how severe. The earth dwellers have overcrowded hospitals where care is backwards and rationed.
The film doubles as allegory on the illegal immigration issue, with the earth dwellers representing Mexicans and Elysium the United States. Most people on earth appear to be bilingual in English and Spanish, while the elitists in Elysium speak English and French.
It sounds like a typical, leftist Hollywood narrative and in some ways it is. However, it also contains some of what used to be good about the left. Elysium is generally good on criticizing the police state and bad on economic freedom.
The plot revolves around Max, a former petty criminal who has gone straight. Early in the film, Max is harassed and assaulted on his way to work by robot police officers who ask him what is in his bag. Max must then discuss the encounter with his robot parole officer, who extends Max’s parole based upon the incident.
The central conflict is created when Max is ordered by his boss to enter a compartment where a mechanical door has jammed. When Max frees the door, it slams shut on him and the compartment floods with radiation, delivering a lethal dose to Max. His only hope to save his life is to get to Elysium.
When Max learns that his childhood friend has a daughter with terminal leukemia, his quest becomes one to save not only himself but the sick girl. In order to do so, he must make a deal with an outlaw revolutionary to obtain access codes that will open the door to Elysium to whomever possesses them.
The film succeeds in painting a dreary picture of a society that has allowed unchecked government police power to combine with technology. Max’s entire criminal history along with data gleaned from ubiquitous surveillance is instantly available to robot cops and parole officers, who use that data against him despite his being innocent of the current charge. The film also succeeds in conveying the hopelessness that accompanies a society where upward mobility is actively suppressed by an entrenched elite.
The film fails from both an artistic and freedom perspective for several reasons. First, it leaves too many questions unanswered. How did those who build Elysium acquire their wealth? Was it through production and trade or some form of plunder? How do they maintain it? If the earth dwellers are uniformly poor, who does Elysium trade with? Why are the earth dwellers unable to build their own wealth? Why are they unable to develop the same miraculous healthcare technology? The viewer is left to speculate.
Based on the film’s conclusion, one can interpret the film as an indictment of private property itself. The earth dwellers cannot improve their condition because the elite own all of the natural resources and means of production. Their property rights are enforced by the brutal police state, which also suppresses any attempt by “undocumented” earth dwellers to enter Elysium. This leaves them no alternative but to toil away as “wage slaves” for the corporations.
Typical of Hollywood, the film makes no distinction between those who have acquired their wealth in exchange for enormous benefits bestowed on others and those who have acquired it through tax-funded government contracts or privileges. The only private company we are told anything about is Max’s employer, which ironically manufactures the robot policeman who assault Max at the beginning of the film.
That’s a government contract, funded by taxes, which are collected by force. But all government contracts ultimately rely on someone, somewhere creating real wealth, i.e. goods and services that actually improve the lives of consumers enough that they will voluntarily exchange their money for them. Where are these private companies? Where is the justice for them at the conclusion? The film is silent on these questions.
The healthcare issue is treated in an overly simplistic manner that even critics of private, for-profit medicine would be disappointed in. In short, the film removes all economics whatsoever from healthcare. The treatment machines used in Elysium are so miraculous that there is no discernible cost to curing people, outside of manufacturing the machines themselves. It cheapens the healthcare question by characterizing it as cartoonish elitists who simply refuse to allow the rest of society to access care out of contempt for their inferiority.
This allows the film to avoid confronting the real barriers to healthcare access. It doesn’t ask why the price of healthcare constantly rises while the prices of computers and cell phones fall. Perhaps the answers wouldn’t conform with the film’s narrative.
The idea of scarcity in general seems to be lost on the producers. They do not acknowledge that either healthcare or the other riches of Elysium are scarce or confront the way in which wealth is created and exchanged. The conclusion of the film suggests that if all of humanity were simply allowed to divide up society’s products equally among themselves, everyone would live happily ever after.
The immigration motif is equally unrealistic. Depicting Elysium as the United States and the earth as Mexico doesn’t work, because the Elysium and earth of the film together represent the real United States. That seems to be the whole point of the rest of the film. Simply opening the borders wouldn’t change anything. The immigrants would simply find themselves joining the lower class or forming a new, even lower one.
Ultimately, the film fails to face several realities. One is that all property is eventually private property. An apple cannot be owned “collectively” unless no one ever eats it. Once someone does, he has excluded every other human being from eating it. This is true of all goods and services. Even in Soviet Russia property was privately owned. What was different was how it was acquired. How would property be acquired more justly in Elysium? The film is again silent.
The film assumes that private property ownership is a purely artificial concept invented by “exploiters,” which persists only through violent oppression of the exploited. The police state is mischaracterized as an enforcer of property rights instead of a violator of them.
No consideration is given to whether producers have any right to keep the wealth they have produced or whether those who wish to acquire it from them have any obligation to obtain their consent. There is no explanation of why the “have nots” have any more legitimate claim to Elysium’s wealth than the “haves.”
On a more practical level, the film also ignores the question begged by resolution. After the wealth of society is divided up equally among everyone, who will produce what is needed tomorrow to sustain even bare subsistence? What will motivate them to produce it?
The Soviet Union and 20th century China couldn’t answer those questions. Elysium doesn’t even try.
Elysium gets one freedom thumbs up for its ominous depiction of the police state. It gets one freedom thumbs down for its attack on private property and an additional freedom thumbs down for its oversimplification of complex economic problems, even by leftist standards.
TAMPA, July 16, 2013 – For over a year, we’ve heard that the George Zimmerman case is significant as a barometer of equal protection under the law for blacks. Some argued that the delay in charging George Zimmerman with murder was due to racial bias in the justice system. A “white man” is less likely to be prosecuted for killing a black man than if the races of the killer or victim were different.
The problem is that there is zero proof in this case of any of that. Prosecutors initially decided not to press charges because they didn’t have a case. The only account of the confrontation that led to Trayvon Martin’s death is Zimmerman’s. There are no witnesses to refute it. The call to the non-emergency police dispatcher does not provide any proof that Zimmerman “pursued or confronted” Martin after being told by the dispatcher “we don’t need you to do that,” despite widespread media misinformation to that effect.
This case does not represent racial bias in the system. The real danger inherent in this case is the danger to all of us, of all races, if due process protections in the Bill of Rights are eroded further.
The War on Terror has already gutted the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments. The requirements that the government have probable cause before searching us or our communications, that its warrants are specific to the places to be searched and items to be seized, that no one be imprisoned unless indicted by a Grand Jury are part of what defines the United States as “a free country.”
However well-intentioned, the Patriot Act, 2012 NDAA, and the NSA surveillance programs have virtually nullified those basic protections of individual freedom.
Now, good intentions on ensuring equal protection under the law for all races could lead to further attacks on the right to trial by jury, the prohibition on double jeopardy and the presumption of innocence, the first two explicit and the last implicit in the Bill of Rights.
Zimmerman might be lying through his teeth, but there is no proof to refute his claim that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Juries don’t find people innocent. They find an absence of proof of guilt. If media reactions to this case are any indication, popular understanding of that principle is nil. Reporting on the verdict, the USA Today said,
“The not guilty verdict means the jury of six women, after deliberating for more than 15 hours over two days, found that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force. They determined that he reasonably believed that such force was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to himself — Florida’s definition of self-defense.”
No, the verdict doesn’t mean that. It means that the jury found an absence of proof that Zimmerman did not justifiably use deadly force or reasonably believe that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.
That’s a crucial distinction that we forget at our peril. If defendants are required to prove their innocence, this nation’s unprecedented prison population of 2.4 million could double or triple.
Already, it has become routine for multiple jurisdictions to prosecute an individual for the same crime. The US DOJ says that it is investigating Zimmerman for a possible hate crime or civil rights violation case. CNN reports,
“Even if the federal charges were identical to the state charges, it would not be double jeopardy for Zimmerman because the federal government is a separate and sovereign entity.”
Really? Where in the 5th Amendment does it say “except by a separate legal entity?” Since it is long established (correctly or not) that the 14th Amendment means the Bill of Rights applies to the states and the federal government, why is this case an exception?
Certainly, the intention of the double jeopardy protection is to prevent governments with virtually unlimited resources from repeatedly prosecuting someone for the same crime until they get lucky with a jury or the defendant runs out of money. But that’s just what the government is doing when they charge a defendant with murder and then charge him with a civil rights violation for the same incident after an acquittal.
It is even conceivable that the right to trial by jury could come under attack. While we haven’t heard calls yet for replacing jury trials with something else, it’s not hard to imagine support for the idea after an unpopular verdict. Trial by jury is the most fundamental protection in the entire Bill of Rights. It means that only the people can authorize the government to punish someone. A jury can nullify any law without consequences, despite misleading instructions by judges.
The only thing that makes the United States a “free country” is its Constitution. It’s not requiring congressman to be 25 years old that makes us free. It is the restrictions on government power over us, especially in the Bill of Rights. When those restrictions are gone, we’re no longer free, regardless of how many songs we sing or speeches we make.
We’ve already dangerously eroded those protections. Don’t let outrage over the Zimmerman verdict make it worse.
TAMPA, June 6, 2013 – You can’t say the mainstream media went to sleep. Today, the front page of every major national news website is featuring reactions to Glenn Greenwald’s explosive report on the FISA court order that “requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”
That means that the government is collecting information on every call made on Verizon’s service, regardless of probable cause or any suspicion that the parties have committed a crime. The Fourth Amendment was written specifically to prohibit this activity by the government. But they’re doing it, unapologetically.
The question is, what will this disturbingly subservient group called “We the People’ do about it?
It’s really time to stop making excuses. This has been duly reported by the media and it’s not like the people are powerless to do anything. When Congress first attempted to pass the infamous Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (a.k.a. the “Wall Street bailout”), angry calls from voters caused the bill to be defeated in Congress. For one, brief, shining moment, there was real fear of the people on the faces of our so-called “representatives.”
After President Bush emerged from weeks of virtual silence to deliver his “support this bailout or the world will end” speech, the tone of the calls moderated and Congress felt sufficiently comfortable to pass the bill the second time around (bluffed by George W. Bush – now that’s embarrassing).
Regardless, the episode clearly demonstrated that if even a significant minority of the population cares enough to at least make a call to their representatives, they can affect the behavior of the beast on the Potomac.
Unfortunately, they usually don’t. In fact, anyone concerned about the size, power or cost of the federal government who thinks that it is somehow acting “unconstitutionally” really needs a reality check.
True, most of what the federal government does today isn’t authorized by the powers delegated to it in the yellow piece of parchment. In theory, that means that the people never consented to the government exercising the power and therefore it is illegitimate, even illegal. But that’s not really what “constitutional” has meant for most of human history or even what it has meant in practice for most of U.S. history.
Aristotle wrote about “constitutional government” long before any written constitution was attempted. Thomas Paine began his famous treatise with “Concise Remarks on the English Constitution.” He was not referring to a written document that specifically delegated which powers the English government could exercise (Magna Carta did not do this). There was no written English constitution.
So what did these writers mean by “constitution?” They meant the general understanding of most people in those countries about what powers the government had and how they were allocated between the various branches.
That is what “constitution” and “constitutional” has meant for most of human history and it is really the only practical definition. The attempt to codify limits on the government’s power in a written document has been a complete failure. The government simply interprets the words however outlandishly necessary to do what they want and get their high priests in black robes to pronounce their scheme “constitutional.”
And it is constitutional if no one objects. That’s reality.
Using this definition, the historical growth of the $4 trillion federal monster has been completely constitutional. Not only has there been little objection by the people, but they have for the most part overwhelmingly supported each new usurpation. The Federal Reserve was passed with overwhelming public support, as was the Income Tax. FDR was elected four times, three after his technically unconstitutional “New Deal” was clearly promulgated and understood by the people.
Just watch your fellow Americans laugh and joke with TSA agents while having their persons and property searched without a warrant or probable cause, even while the government puts its hands on their children. That makes it “constitutional” in the true sense of the word, the Fourth Amendment notwithstanding.
Even the Patriot Act enjoyed popular support, for the most part. Yes, there was some noise about it from liberals, but for the most part only because a Republican Congress and president passed it. Want proof? Count the number of liberals besides Greenwald presently objecting to Obama doing the very same thing they wanted Bush impeached for. You can keep one hand in your pocket.
Those few libertarians, Old Right conservatives and civil libertarian progressives who are still concerned about freedom here in the “land of the free” have to face the reality of what we’re up against. It is not a government acting against the wishes of the people. It is the people themselves, who have traded liberty for security, whether personal or economic, at every opportunity.
As James Madison said, “Democracy is the most vile form of government.”
TAMPA, May 27, 2013 ― Today is the tenth day since Armed Forces Day. Ten straight days of “thanking the troops,” supposedly for the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifices they’ve made.
Something needs to be said. It probably won’t be popular, but I have a sinking feeling there are more than a few people who have entertained the same heretical thought that I have:
I’m sick and tired of being invited to “thank the troops,” especially for my “freedom.”
There is no disrespect intended towards the families of anyone who has died in one of the government’s wars. The loss of a child, husband, father or mother is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances.
Moreover, it is hard not to respect the kind of courage it takes to actually go into combat, regardless of the reasons one may have enlisted.
But thanks is quite another matter. Thanks assumes that we have enjoyed some benefit as a result. We’re told that “freedom isn’t free” and the benefit we enjoy is our liberty. That begs an obvious question.
What is the cause and effect relationship between any war the U.S. government has prosecuted, at least since WWII, and whatever relative freedom Americans have left? Are we freer because our government invaded Iraq? Viet Nam? Afghanistan? How?
Asking those same questions in reverse reveals the absurdity of the whole mantra. Obviously, we would not be less free if the government didn’t invade Korea. There is no chain of events that would have followed resulting in you and I being less free to express our opinions or practice our religion. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
In every war the U.S. has fought, Americans have become less free, especially while the war was going on. Every war president has persecuted war protesters, from John Adams to George W. Bush. Wars have brought taxes, rationing and conscription. Worst of all, American society has become permanently more militarized and socialist (but I repeat myself) with each new war.
Some argue that the U.S. government has fought wars for justice, liberating people in other countries or protecting them from evildoers. That may or may not be true, but it begs another set of obvious questions:
How did the American taxpayer become financially responsible for the liberty and security of every soul on the planet? When will this responsibility end?
The answer to the first question is a mystery this writer has been unable to solve. The answer to the second is obvious: When all resources are exhausted and all productive capability has been eliminated. That is the end of all military empires.
The American people have truly forgotten what a free country looks like. Worst of all are “small government” Tea Partiers who literally worship the military. Despite all of their talk about the Constitution, one has to wonder if they have ever actually read what they said. James Madison said,
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Free people do not worship the military establishment. They are suspicious of it. At one time the average American would not tolerate the existence of a standing army in peacetime. At the conclusion of Shay’s rebellion, John Adams and the U.S. Congress tripped over each other trying to take credit for disbanding the army.
How times have changed.
This is not a utopian vision. We live in a world of nation states, many of which could pose a threat to our liberty and security. There is a need for the means to defend ourselves if another nation besides the United States actually did show aggression. However, the present military establishment is orders of magnitude larger than any free country could possibly need or should tolerate.
The U.S. military employs approximately 1.4 million people. There is a reasonable argument to be made that all ground troops could be eliminated, given our air, naval, missile and nuclear capabilities. But let’s say for argument that 10% should be kept to train others if war broke out.
The rest are just on another government program that gives them free college, free housing, a guaranteed job and a guaranteed pension.
Meanwhile, the Forgotten Man (or woman), the one who pays for all of this, is reviled. He is never thanked. He is only ever told that he does not pay enough. Yet, it is he who actually makes us free, not by paying taxes, but by producing the wealth from which taxes are confiscated. He makes us free by allowing us to pursue our happiness, thanks to the goods and services he provides that we would otherwise have to produce ourselves. It is he who makes “society in every state a blessing.”
When is Taxpayer Day?
Does excessive noise help cause big government?TAMPA, February 24, 2013 ― “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s all the noise, noise, noise, noise!”
There’s not much to like about The Grinch before his sentimental conversion at the top of Mount Crumpet. But it’s hard not to sympathize with him just a little when he utters those words. If quiet was in short supply in 1966 Whoville, it’s completely nonexistent in 2013 America.
I walked into a Jimmy John’s sub shop last week for the first time in two years. They recently began offering all of their subs as lettuce wraps, making them permissible as an occasional treat for primals. I knew I had missed the delicious #9. What I hadn’t missed was the music. At 12:30 in the afternoon, Jimmy John’s plays it at nightclub volume. Ordering and waiting the 1-2 minutes it takes to get your food is bad enough. Eating there is out of the question.
There is scarcely a restaurant anywhere that doesn’t pipe music throughout its dining room and onto its patio. Gas stations now blare music at customers while they pump their gas. Supermarkets, retail stores at the mall, and even public parks have all followed suit.
If it’s not music, then it’s television. Doctor’s office waiting rooms now bombard the ears and the psyche with vapid programming clattering off every uncarpeted surface. So do most auto repair shops.
There is virtually no spot accessible to the public that does not fill the soundscape with music or television. Even libraries are following the trend.
I know I sound like an old guy in baggy gray pants and a Humphrey Bogart hat, but I’m not. I love music. I love loud music. I played in bands for over twenty years and still like to crank up my Marshall amp and let some AC/DC rip on my vintage guitar.
I have nothing against music or television and certainly respect private property owners’ right to play either as loud as they wish to.
I just wonder when and where 21st century Americans ever experience quiet, outside of their jobs. When do they have the kinds of stimulating conversations with friends that are impossible when shouting over a restaurant sound system? When do they just sit and think, reflect or daydream?
It’s possible that the answer is “never.”
The term “noise pollution” is generally associated with the left and its never ending quest to impede commerce and industry. The war on noise fits nicely into the leftist worldview that when humans are left free to pursue their happiness, they naturally destroy the environment, including the sound environment, causing harm to themselves, each other and (gasp!) their furry co-inhabitants.
But does noise pollution also help cause big government?
TAMPA, February 7, 2013 ― First, the good news. The five-year-old boy kidnapped by a deranged man in Alabama has been rescued unharmed. He is with his family and reportedly “seems to be acting normally.”
The bad news is that some media seem to be using this incident to justify the ongoing militarization of domestic police forces.
“Military tactics, equipment helped authorities end Alabama hostage standoff,” reads today’s Fox News headline. The article describes how law enforcement responded to the hostage situation with what has become the new normal in the former land of the free. They mobilized paramilitary forces to deal with the situation just as an occupying army would deal with “counterinsurgency.”
According to the article, “In many ways, the scene resembled more of a wartime situation than a domestic crime scene as civilian law enforcement relied heavily on military tactics and equipment to end the six-day ordeal.”
Yes, every response by law enforcement seems to resemble a wartime situation these days, something one would think that Americans would be concerned about. Yet, for a nation that was born with a suspicion of standing armies and that wouldn’t tolerate the existence of one during peacetime, virtually no one objects to the increasingly aggressive tactics of local, state and federal police, often acting jointly to address routine local crimes.
One can already imagine the response by apologists for the all-powerful state. “If that’s what it takes to keep our children safe, then it’s worth it.”
It’s hard not to assume that the author of the article intends for the reader to draw that preposterous inference. It supposes a cause and effect relationship between the militarization of domestic police and the rescue of the child that does not exist.