Category Archives: Constitution

Quote of the Day: Honest Debate Edition

popehatOver at Popehat, Ken White makes the point that gun control advocates should have the balls to say that all firearms should be banned instead of using purposely vague or misleading language (as people on the Left tend to do). Using vague, sometimes Orwellian terms tend to creep into other areas of our private lives

I want [gun control] advocates to learn the difference [between ‘automatic’ and ‘semi-automatic’ firearms for example] so I can have some level of confidence that I know what kind of proposed government power we’re debating […]

[…]

Gun control advocates may argue that it’s pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. […] But it’s not a logical or moral excuse for not trying. Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It’s a bad habit and it’s dangerous and irresponsible to promote it.

[…]

We live in a country where the government uses the power we’ve already given it as a rationale for giving it more: “how can we not ban x when we’ve already banned y?”

Your Ox Will Eventually Be Gored (Re-post)

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It seems logical that every American, regardless of political affiliation/philosophy, race, religion or creed, would be concerned about the revelations concerning domestic spying on the part of the NSA. If the Obama administration can spy on and mistreat the Tea Party and other right wing causes, the next Republican administration could spy on and mistreat Occupy Wall Street and other left wing causes.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case. According to an article by David A. Love, the black community has largely greeted this news with a shrug and a yawn.

Is this lack of concern because many blacks do not want to be critical of the first black* president? This might account for some of this shrugging but Love suspects that there is something much deeper at work here:

The black community has decades of experience being monitored, so this type of surveillance is nothing new. Given the long history of being spied upon, many blacks already assume they are being monitored by the government […]
[…]
African-Americans are no strangers to surveillance, as their activities were highly regulated through the slave codes, laws which controlled both slaves and free blacks.

The mistreatment of blacks did not end when slavery was abolished, of course. Love goes on to describe several other atrocities such as the Tuskegee experiment, J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal spying on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others.

Tragic chapters such as Tuskegee have been cited as a reason why African-Americans distrust the medical establishment and are hesitant to participate in clinical research. One study found that 67 percent of black parents distrusted the medical profession, compared to half of white parents.

As I read this, I wondered why there isn’t a similar distrust of the government as the medical establishment by blacks in general. The Tuskegee experiments were done at the behest of the U.S. Public Health Service, after all!

After finishing the article, I decided to read through the comments section (this is a blog that is dedicated primarily with concerns of the black community; the comments can sometimes be very illuminating). The very first comment by a user with the handle “Blackheywood Heywood” did not disappoint:

The US government began spying on Black folks before this government was created, yet it was no outrage.Give me a break, it seems slowly mainstream America is discovering how it feels to be thought of as suspicious or guilty before being accused, never mind arrested. Welcome to the world of the American Black male.

Heywood has a valid point. The answer to the question why the lack of outrage by the black community concerning the NSA and IRS scandals could just as easily turned against what Heywood called “mainstream America.” Indeed, where was the right (for lack of a better term) on these outrages? Where has the Tea Party been on the question of “stop and frisk,” in New York in which minorities are especially targeted to be searched, supposedly at random? Is this simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind?”

I believe there’s also another phenomenon at work: the memory hole. Near the close of the article, Love mentioned an event that took place in Philadelphia in 1985 I was completely unaware of:

On May 13, 1985, following a standoff, a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped a bomb on the house on Osage Avenue occupied by the black “radical” group known as MOVE. Police reportedly fired on MOVE members as they escaped the burning home […]
[…]
The 1985 bombing—which killed 11 people, including 5 children and destroyed an entire neighborhood of 61 row homes in West Philadelphia—marked the first such attack on U.S. citizens by government authorities. The survivors and victims’ families received $5.5 million in compensation from the city of Philadelphia.

I try my best to be informed about historical events as well as current events. How is it that this is the first I had ever heard about the Philadelphia Police dropping a freaking bomb on a neighborhood in an American city?** I must have been sick that day in American History class (I also didn’t learn about the Tuskegee experiments until well into my twenties; maybe I was sick on that day as well).

Maybe MOVE was a radical organization maybe it wasn’t*** but nothing could justify the police dropping a bomb on a neighborhood. Perhaps this atrocity is well known by people in the black community, both young and old but not so much outside the black community (or maybe I’m one of the few Americans who never heard about this but I doubt it).

MOVE probably wasn’t the first group the government described as “extreme” to a point where government officials ordered and used military force against its members; it certainly wasn’t the last. How many people out of a hundred know about what happened at Ruby Ridge? The Weaver family, why they were “extremists” after all and therefore, why should anyone care about their rights? How many people out of a hundred know about the conflicting accounts of what really happened at assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas? (Here’s a hint: a great deal more than what the MSM reported at the time). I suppose because these people were part of some sort of cult, their rights didn’t matter either!

This is where the real problem of indifference lies. I’ve heard far too many people with the attitude “it’s not my problem” or “it doesn’t affect me”. Even more disturbing is the attitude some people have that they are happy when someone of an opposing view has his or her rights of life, liberty, and/or property trampled on (i.e. “Screw them, they are ‘extremists’”). Far too often, concerns about civil liberties depend on whose ox is being gored at that particular time.

I would like to humbly suggest that if you are not as upset when its someone else’s ox, even if it’s the ox of your opponent’s, one day it will be your ox that will be gored. Perhaps Martin Niemoller said it best in his very short work “First they Came” describing how the Nazis took freedom away from the whole population, one group at a time. By the time the Nazis got around to taking freedom from what remained of the population, Niemoller concluded “there was no one left to speak for me.”

To be clear, I am not comparing the U.S. government to the Nazis. Such hyperbolic comparisons are not constructive and minimize the very crimes against humanity the Nazis committed. I am making a comparison about how populations respond to encroachments on liberty, however. As demonstrated in Love’s article, there are plenty of examples of injustice from American history.

Here are just a handful more:

  • The Indian Removal Act
  • Slavery
  • The internment of Japanese Americans
  • Jim Crow
  • McCarthyism

And many, many more.

Each of these policies were permitted to happen because the majority apparently felt that curtailing freedoms of these minorities would somehow not affect their own freedoms. We should acknowledge that these injustices occurred and try to learn the right lessons (rather than pretend the U.S. government or the American people have committed no wrongs ever) and move on.

Every injustice and every violation of rights of life, liberty, and property must be answered by all of us as if it’s our own liberty that is at stake.

*Yes, I’m aware that Obama is actually half black. However, if a man of his description was accused of committing a crime and at large, he would be described as a black man.

**In light of this, Rand Paul’s questions about government using drones to attack Americans on American soil no longer seem so far fetched, unfortunately.

***All I know is what I read in the cited article.

The Bi-Partisan Assault On Liberty Since Orlando

Words cannot adequately describe the horrific shooting at an Orlando nightclub on Sunday the 12th that killed 49 and wounded 53. Such unthinkable acts deserve to draw strict scrutiny. When things like this happen, it’s important to bear in mind that we are America, and that we were founded on the bedrock principles of freedom. Further, as Ben Franklin was quoted as saying, those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.

It’s a lesson we did not learn after 9/11, passing the Patriot Act and creating the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. These three things, in addition to others, did nothing to adequately address the threat of terrorist actors while severely curtailing the liberty, and therefore the quality of life, of the average American, subjecting them to excessive lines at airports, the security theatre of removing their shoes and “joke-free” zones, and the 100 mile “Constitution free zone” that encompasses the entire land mass of at least six states. Arguably, these laws, regulations and standing orders made Americans less secure, due to the illusion of safety and the increased reliance on government.

The days since the Pulse shooting are shaping up to be along those lines, as we continually learn the exact wrong lessons from an act of terror by an individual who was clearly unhinged. In an effort to do something, government is overreaching – never let a good tragedy go to waste, after all – and a complicit public is allowing it on a bipartisan level. Even if their goals are different, the end result is the same. » Read more

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Katie Couric and Her New Documentary “Under the Gun”

katie couric under the gun

Katie Couric is taking heat for a misleadingly edited scene in her new gun control documentary called Under the Gun, which is currently airing on the cable channel EPIX. In the scene, Couric asks a group of gun rights supporters how we can prevent “felons or terrorists” from purchasing guns if we fail to perform background checks.

In response, her interviewees are seemingly stumped by the question, relegated to awkward silence. For nine seconds, they twitch and shift and flutter their eyes. One looks off into the distance, searching for an answer.

It is laughable to anyone who has not reduced gun rights supporters to caricatures.

To be sure, the question is a confusingly worded one. What is the set of circumstances in which someone walking around free, buying guns, would be revealed by background check as a “felon” or “terrorist?” If Couric meant convicted felons and terrorists, then presumably they are in prison, not out buying guns. If she meant convicted felons and terrorists who have served their time and been permitted back into society, then there is a legitimate question as to whether their Constitutional rights should be restored. In any event, we already have laws precluding convicted felons from owning guns and requiring background checks to ensure they do not.

However the question is meant to be interpreted, it is not exactly groundbreaking. This is not new terrain. This is not something gun rights advocates have never considered. The vast majority of gun rights supporters have already extensively considered this issue and come to a reasoned opinion.

Thus, to anyone in the gun rights community, Couric’s footage is an easily identifiable fraud. Unsurprisingly, audio footage obtained by the Washington Free Beacon has confirmed it to be precisely that. What actually occurred, as would be expected, was that the interviewees gave immediate, polite responses to the question.

In fact, with varying degrees of clarity and eloquence, they tried to articulate the points I raised above. Their responses may not have been the best way to cover those points in the film. If the director had wanted to play Couric asking the question and then explore responsive concepts in some other manner, I doubt anyone would have faulted the creative decision. But manufacturing nine seconds of awkward, twitchy silence suggests the director had another goal in mind.

Called out on the manipulative editing, director Stephanie Soechtig explained that her intention was to “provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question” and that she “never intended to make anyone look bad.” Shortly thereafter, Couric said she supported Soechtig’s statement and was “very proud of the film.”

There are a couple different ways to interpret all of this.

One is that Soechtig and/or Couric are being dishonest about their motivation for altering the footage. The real reason was to perpetuate a narrative in which gun rights supporters are portrayed as reckless and ignorant, red state dullards without the most basic concerns for public safety. Showing the interviewees answering the question—or cutting away without playing the nine manufactured seconds of silence—would detract from that narrative and leave an unfortunate impression that gun rights supporters actually have reasons for their positions.

Alternatively, Soechtig/Couric are telling the truth. It is not gun supporters they perceive as simple, but rather their own audience. The viewers needed those nine extra seconds of silence to confront such a groundbreaking question, to wrap their neophyte minds around its unprecedented implications.

Or perhaps there is simply a strange sort of narcissism at play. In this interpretation, it is Soechtig/Couric who are the simpletons. In their minds, no one had ever confronted this mind-blowing question until Katie Couric so amazingly thought of it. Playing the actual footage would have interfered with viewers’ appreciation of Couric’s prowess in asking this life-altering question. So instead the filmmakers faked some footage to leave a more suitable impression.

It is certainly possible to be both a journalist and an activist. While I do not always agree with his positions, I acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald does both so well that each component is made more powerful by the other. It works because he is honest and transparent about the activism, while approaching the journalism part ethically and with humility.

In contrast, altering footage to show something that flat out did not happen is neither journalism nor a particularly competent form of activism. It is storytelling for naïve audiences. It is fundamentally dishonest and narcissistic. And it will not promote dialogue about gun safety.

Update: Couric has provided further response to the accusations.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

It’s Time To Double Tap The Republican Party And Build Its Replacement

dead-elephant2

The Republican Party primary voters did it. They nominated Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

I predicted as far back as August 2015 that Donald Trump would destroy the Republican Party and it appears he has. Trump is the choice of it seems Republican voters. His numerous racist and xenophobic statements and positions and his hostility to the Constitutional limits of his power weren’t a problem in the end.

There is no home in a Republican Party ruled by Donald Trump for those who hold classical liberal views and/or traditional conservative values. Those libertarians, conservatives, conservatarians, Constitutionalists, classical liberals, and the rest who believe in the principles of the American founding are now politically homeless. The day after Trump knocked Ted Cruz out of the race, I left the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is a dead political party. It’s a zombie just shuffling forward in search of human flesh. The #NeverTrump movement should double tap the Republican Party. It is little more than a Grand Zombie Party now and start building its replacement.

The #NeverTrump movement is beginning to realize that the Republican Party is beyond saving. A couple of Iowans, Joel Kurtinitis at The Blaze and Steve Deace at Conservative Review, want the movement to think bigger than just defeating Donald Trump. They’re both on board the “we need a new party train.” I completely agree with both men.

We need a party that argues in favor of the classical liberal principles of America’s founding. We need a party that recognizes that populism is just another form of statism.

Why Not The Libertarian Party?

The Libertarian Party is America’s third largest political party. It will likely have ballot access in alll 50 states plus the District of Columbia this year. It is running some pretty good candidates for president. I hope they get the 5% of the vote necessary to receive Federal campaign matching funds. This would be good for American politics.

However, as a long-term solution, the LP is not what I’m looking for. The Libertarian Party’s primary purpose is an educational tool for libertarian ideas and that’s great. But a new home is needed for the broad classical liberal spectrum for winning and governing.

What Should This New Party Look Like?

Some thoughtful pieces have come out recently about the direction this new party would take. The first one is a two-part series run on The Federalist by Paul D. Miller about bringing back The Federalist Party. The second part outlined a platform suggestion.

Decentralizing power is the best way—perhaps the only way—for an increasingly pluralistic people to govern themselves: a pluralistic people calls for plural governments. Americans are increasingly divided not merely by race, class, and gender—which has always been true—but by differing sets of values, by religious and sectarian identities, by basic understandings of justice and democracy that have drifted apart in recent generations.

The progressive left and quasi-fascist right believe the increasing fragmentation of American life is a malady which must be cured by the strong hand of government. In fact, those very movements are both cause and consequence of the fragmentation of American society, and their agendas can never create the imagined unity of the romantic past or utopian future.

The Federalist accepts the pluralism of American life as a reality to be accommodated, not a disease to be cured. The way to safeguard human dignity and self-government in a culturally pluralistic nation is to revive the institutions of plural government; that is, to devolve power to the several governments closer to the people they govern.

A more decentralized Federal government must be a major part of the platform. After all, we are a nation of 50 different states, each with their unique values and cultures. A “one-size fits all” approach to government fails. But decentralization alone is not enough. The Federal government has some roles.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom had some thoughts of his own on a possible new party platform. I recommend reading the entire piece but I wanted to highlight his 6 main planks.

1) Individual liberty
2) Federalism and representative republicanism
3) Constitutionalism
4) Judicial originalism
5) National sovereignty
6) Free-market capitalism

These are a good start. The only minor quibble I would have is I’m more of a Randy Barnett “judicial engagement” type than a judicial originalist. I can get on board with the rest easily though.

I think we need to add a few planks though and call the whole thing “Nine For Freedom” or something. Here are my suggestions:

7) Growth and opportunity: The old economy is dead. The idea of having a job right out of college and staying with the same company until you retire doesn’t happen anymore. We’re shifting towards a “gig economy” where many people are freelancers. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Fiverr, Ebay, and many other innovations make it easy for almost anyone to be in business for themselves. The economy itself has an anemic growth rate that shows signs of getting worse. We need to unleash the American people by getting government out of the way. We need to lower the world’s highest corporate tax rate, reduce regulations, and attack crony capitalism that delivers privileges to a well connected few. We need to reform our outdated Industrial Era education system, promote school choice, and fix higher education so that you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree to wait tables. Finally, we need to have a free market approach to fix or replace Obamacare.

8) Welfare and Entitlement Reform: We have a major problem with our welfare state. It still traps people in dependence and discourages work. Social Security Disability fraud is bleeding the system dry. We can’t have this as a nation. At the same time, we shouldn’t hold people who do need a temporary hand up in disdain. Most people don’t make welfare a lifestyle. You can hit this many ways. The guys over at the Foundation for Government Accountability have great ideas to reform welfare. If we want to go bolder, we may want to consider scrapping the alphabet soup of welfare programs and replace it with some kind of basic income program. If you want to undermine the sources of support for the Trumpist right and the progressive left, you have to attack the welfare state.

9) A Strong, Secure, And Free America: We will aggressively confront the enemies of this country. We will stand for liberty and freedom allaround the world. We will have a military and intelligence capability that is second to none. However, we will not engage in military crusades for democracy, seek dragons to slay, and engage in dubious neocon nation building schemes. We believe in the power of diplomacy and we believe in free trade. America will be involved in the world but we will not police the world alone. We will ask our allies to do more to protect themselves not because they’re not important but because we cannot and will not do it alone. Finally, while we will be vigilant about detectingthreats from abroad, we will not listen to your phone calls, read your emails, track your online browsing, or otherwise spy on you without a warrant. America should not throw away its founding principles even in wartime.

We have an opportunity to reshape the political landscape. The Republican Party is little more than a home for racists, kooks, reactionary populists, demagogues, con artists, and political opportunists. It no longer serves the purposes of liberty.

Let’s build something that does.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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