Category Archives: Privacy

The Best Defense Against Terrorism

Terrorism

The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.

Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?

Since 9/11, Americans have surrendered liberty for the appearance of security. The USA PATRIOT Act and the Department of Homeland Security have been in place for more than a decade. The former has given government agents the ability to write their own search warrants (i.e. National Security Letters), the ability to monitor bank accounts and library records of unsuspecting individuals among other privacy invasions. The latter created the TSA which gave airline passengers the choice between a thorough groping or a virtual strip search among other indignities. There was also the “no fly list” which contained the names of individuals who could not fly under any circumstances. President Bush launched two undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (two battlefronts in the “war on terror” we were told) projected to cost somewhere between $4-6 trillion when all is said and done.

President Obama, far from being “weak” on terrorism as many of his critics suggest, broke his promise of closing Guantanamo Bay, renewed the Patriot Act, expanded the use of drones with a “kill list” which includes American citizens, and signed the NDAA which gives government agents the ability to kidnap American citizens and take them to Guantanamo Bay and detain them indefinitely. Osama bin Laden was also killed on Obama’s watch.

Yet with all of these policies being used to wage war on a common noun, somehow, two individuals managed to plant a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon which killed three people and injured many more. What other liberties are we, the people supposed to surrender to make sure this “never happens again.”?

The truth of the matter is we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that any government policy can deliver such a promise no matter how many of our liberties we surrender. The government could take away all the guns, place all of our names in a database, implant RFID chips into our foreheads, track our every movement, go to war with three more countries, and certain individuals would still find a way to defeat these measures and commit acts of terrorism.

As discouraging as this may seem, there is one thing each and every one of us can do to defend ourselves against terrorism without sacrificing any liberty whatsoever (actually, re-claiming more of our lost liberties is part of the solution). But before this one thing can be revealed, we must first have a clear understanding of why some people resort to terrorism and how terrorism is supposed to work.

The “why” is simply that some people use the tactic in hopes of achieving (usually) a political end. These are usually people who do not believe they can accomplish their political aims peacefully through the normal political processes. The “how” is by engendering fear in carrying out attacks on unsuspecting people. The terrorists main goal is not necessarily to kill as many people as possible as it is to create so much fear that their enemies react emotionally as opposed to rationally.

Because the terrorist’s main goal is for each of us to live in fear that any moment we might be next, the answer is simply to not be afraid, stop acting out of fear, and stop allowing our leaders to legislate out of fear. This is the strategy Downsize D.C. has adopted and once I properly understood their reasoning, I have adopted this approach:

Here’s what it means to not be afraid, here’s what it means to fight a real war on terror, and here’s what it means to win that war, instantly . . .

  • It means that you do not participate in the public hysteria when terrorists attack, but instead react proportionally, placing the terrorist act in its proper place in the vast scheme of crimes, accidents, disease, natural disaster, and generic tragedy that is man’s lot on earth.

  • It means that you do not permit the politicians to feel terror on your behalf. It means that you discourage them from fomenting and exploiting hysteria to expand their own power at the expense of traditional American principles.

  • It means that you view terrorism as a matter for international police work, under the rule of law, and not a justification for bloated government programs, reckless wars, or the shredding of the Bill of Rights.

  • It means that you recruit others to adopt your war winning strategy of not being afraid.

Downsize D.C. also encourages Americans to write their legislators and include the following statement:

“I am not afraid of terrorism, and I want you to stop being afraid on my behalf. Please start scaling back the official government war on terror. Please replace it with a smaller, more focused anti-terrorist police effort in keeping with the rule of law. Please stop overreacting. I understand that it will not be possible to stop all terrorist acts. I accept that. I am not afraid.”

I think I would also add that we should stop treating these terrorists as if they are some larger than life super villain (Was it really necessary to shut down the entire town of Watertown, cancel sporting events, and stop trains from running for one person?). If and when the perpetrator is captured, he shouldn’t be treated any different than any other person accused of murder. If our government does anything well it’s putting people in cages.

For those who read this and are still afraid of being a victim of terrorism, let me offer a little bit of perspective. You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease and 12,571 times more likely to die of cancer than a terrorist attack (so rather than worry about terrorism, pay attention to your health). You are also 1,048 times more likely to die in an auto accident than a terrorist attack (so pay attention to your driving and hang up that cell phone!). You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop or be electrocuted than be killed in a terrorist attack (so don’t fly your kite near power lines near a police station).

When was the last time you heard a politician point these things out?

The reason you haven’t is because politicians also benefit from fear. Think about it: what chance would the Patriot Act, NDAA, FISA, CISPA, gun control legislation, war, and laws named after dead children have of passing without the ability to scare the bejesus out of the general public? Fear is truly the health of the state.

Maybe the fact that most Americans have become “complacent” is a good thing!

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

(Re-post: originally posted November 23, 2008)

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and “gays” have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

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“Common Sense” Legislation to Curb Gun Violence?

Like most people who value individual liberty, I listened to President Obama’s speech about reducing gun violence with a great deal of trepidation. He presented several ideas such as limiting the size of magazines to 10 rounds, banning “military-style assault weapons” (i.e. any gun that looks scary to progressives who know almost nothing about firearms), and “universal” background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun just to name a few “common sense” reforms. In so many words he basically said that anyone who doesn’t favor these proposals is getting in the way of preventing future gun violence (Why even St. Ronald Reagan was even in favor of some of these proposals!)

One point of particular irritation for me is this notion being promoted by the Left that AK-47’s and other “weapons of war” should not be made available to “civilians.” President Obama rightly pointed out that these weapons with these magazines “ha[ve] one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible, to do as much damage using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.”

Well if we civilians do not “need” these weapons, why should the police have them? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the local police also considered “civilian”? (i.e. civilian law enforcement). Why do the police “need” these awful “weapons of war” which “inflict maximum damage” to serve a warrant for a late night drug bust?* If everyone else should be limited to certain weapons with magazines containing 10 rounds or less, they too should be limited to what weapons are permissible (or at the very least, what situations these weapons should be used). To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that the police are “at war” with the “civilians” since war is all these weapons are good for.

As some who are critical of the president’s approach have correctly pointed out, these reforms would not have prevented the killing at Sandy Hook Elementary. Obama and his allies like to say “if these proposals save only one life…” but they fail to recognize that these reforms might save one life in one situation but might cost a life in another situation (such as a home invasion; the homeowner runs out of rounds due to smaller magazine capacity etc.). Most, if not all of these reforms are meaningless measures to prevent guns from falling into “the wrong hands” (at best) so that the president can say he’s “doing something” to prevent mass shootings.

Some of these proposals do seem reasonable based only on the broad outlines (as always, the devil is in the details). I don’t have a problem with person-to-person background checks** in the abstract. Why shouldn’t an individual be subjected to the same background check as when buying from a gun dealer when s/he is buying from someone who posted his firearm on Craig’s List? I would think that the seller would want to have the peace of mind and/or limit any exposure to liability for any misuse of the firearm.

There are many proposals that are being floated that need to be thought through rather than rushed through to score cheap political points. These proposals go well beyond the 2nd Amendment into areas such as free speech (i.e. censorship), doctor/client privilege (privacy), state’s rights, and more. I do think that we supporters of the right to bear arms need to try to offer up some “common sense” solutions of our own to reduce illegitimate force that either enhance liberty or at the very least, do not tread on the liberties of others.***

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“That’s a Violation of My Privacy!”


In Little Canada, MN the police are trying to argue that Andrew Henderson violated HIPPA (federal healthcare privacy law) when he recorded a police interaction with a third party which required an ambulance. His camera was confiscated, the file was deleted (according to Henderson), and is being charged with “disorderly conduct” and “obstruction of the legal process.” How filming the police from 30 feet away qualifies for either charge is beyond me.

Hat Tips: The Agitator (for the comic strip) and The Drudge Report (for the Little Canda story).

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 3 of 3)

Part 2

Did Voters Reject Capitalism?
Some on the Right have said that the 2012 election was a rejection of Capitalism. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Yes, there seems to be a large percentage of the electorate who want money to be taken away from the top 1 or 2% and redistributed to the remaining 99 or 98%. Yes, more people are reliant on some sort of government check than ever before. Is it possible that there was some other reason voters rejected the alternative Barack Obama in this election?

The answer to this question, I think, has more to do with where conservatives come down on certain divisive social issues. The rhetoric on issues like abortion and gay marriage for example have alienated certain people who agree with Republicans on taxes and spending may have otherwise voted for the Republican candidate. For voters who decide these issues are at least as important as economic issues, they either support Obama, support Gary Johnson,* or don’t vote at all.

Anti-choice Extremism of Suck
To be fair, abortion is an issue that even divides libertarians. Sadly, this is not an issue that is likely to disappear anytime soon.** But the way Republicans present the issue needs to change unless they want to continue to chase away the female vote. I don’t think it’s even necessarily about abortion per se but more the cavalier attitude some Republican politicians seem to have about anything concerning women’s reproductive cycles.

While it’s reasonable to say that the government should not force insurance companies to pay for contraception, when someone like Rush Limbaugh calls someone like Sandra Fluke a slut or a prostitute, for advocating the opposite view, this distracts from the argument. There has always been a double standard in our society concerning sex. Men are studs for putting notches on their bedposts while women are sluts for doing the same. Comments like these remind women of this double standard and make it seem that Republicans have not moved beyond this double standard.

They refer to the “morning after pill” (marketed as Plan B) as an “abortion pill” when in fact it is not. In fact, according to this article on WebMD the morning after pill doesn’t work for women who are already pregnant (that’s a different pill). The article further explains that the pill does one of two things depending on where a woman happens to be in her cycle when the pill is taken: 1. prevents or delays ovulation or 2. keeps the egg from being fertilized. Some may also recall that Ron Paul, who was arguably the most anti-abortion candidate in the race and someone who was an obstetrician by trade (i.e. he knows what he’s talking about) said as much in one of the debates when the morning after pill was brought up. Anyone who says the morning after pill is an abortion pill is either uninformed or lying.

You have Republican men like Todd Aiken talking about “legitimate rape,” basically saying to women who are real victims that if her body didn’t “shut that whole thing down,” they weren’t really raped to begin with, therefore; there shouldn’t be a legal exception for rape to allow for an abortion. Another senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, said that a pregnancy that is the result of rape is “a gift from God.” Seriously.

Whether they realize it or not, Republicans are basically saying that pregnant women are second class citizens. For nine months, her rights are second to the concern of the unborn child regardless of the circumstances of how the child was conceived and regardless of legitimate health concerns of the mother. It should come to no surprise that some women might object to these attitudes and vote accordingly.

The issues concerning reproductive rights are delicate but often not treated as such among Republicans. Maybe just maybe, the GOP should allow the women to be the spokespersons on these issues, even if they are staunchly anti-choice. Instead of a blanket one size fits all federal policy outlawing abortion; the GOP should say the issue should be decided state-by-state.

Anti-Gay Attitudes of Suck
Face it Republicans, gays are serving in the military and they will eventually have the ability to get married in all 50 states. The train has left the station a long, long time ago. You can concede that you have lost on this issue or you can continue to take a beating at the polls, and deservedly so.

So what’s a socially conservative person to do?

No one says you have to like the gay lifestyle. Go ahead and preach from your tax exempt pulpit about the immorality of homosexuality. Go ahead and write blogs or write on your Face Book wall about how much you disapprove. Whatever. It’s your right to be as intolerant as you want to be.

The problem for libertarians at least is when you want to use force via the government to get your way. Libertarians would also say that churches should not be forced by the government to marry gay couples (or any couple for any reason for that matter). Let the churches discriminate but also allow gay couples to have the same legal contract*** rights as heterosexual couples. And if a gay couple can find a church that will marry them, that should be the end of it. Who are you to infringe on their religious liberty?

Conclusion: Slaying the Suck
The days of appealing only to white Christian men over 50 are coming to an end as white Christian men over 50 are quickly becoming a minority. The Republican Party must learn to reach out to minorities, to women, and to younger voters.

Sure, Republicans had minorities speaking at their convention and I’m not accusing the GOP of tokenism (though I’m sure others, particularly on the Left will make that charge). But it simply is not enough to have Condoleezza Rice, Susannah Martinez, and Marco Rubio in the party to say that you are “inclusive.” Minorities need to be included in the conversation, heard as opposed to talked at. How are your policies better for them than the Democrats’?

Ask yourself: “If I were female, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Muslim, atheist, or gay, would I feel welcome in the Republican Party?” If the answer is “no,” the Republicans have some serious work to do if they want to win in the future. While none of these minorities in of themselves cost Romney the election, together they make up a significant voting bloc that would be foolish to ignore.

Some of the issues I have mentioned in this series are popular within the GOP but don’t necessarily play all that well outside the GOP (i.e. independent voters). This doesn’t mean surrendering their principles necessarily but it does mean re-thinking some of them, presenting their ideas better, and deciding which issues are worth fighting for and which (if any) need to be jettisoned.

While some people may have liked Mitt Romney’s economic proposals, they may have also disliked his social proposals. The problem with supporting a candidate for office is that the person you are voting for is a package deal. Some of us are simply unwilling to choose between economic liberties and civil liberties (and when the Republicans are only marginally better on economic liberty than the Democrats AND when Democrats are only marginally better than Republicans on civil liberties, some of us prefer the real deal and vote Libertarian).

In closing, I think Rep. Ron Paul had some very good thoughts in his farewell speech from the House that would serve as a guide on how the Republican Party can slay the special kind of suck that gave a terrible president a second term:

The problem we have faced over the years has been that economic interventionists are swayed by envy, whereas social interventionists are swayed by intolerance of habits and lifestyles. The misunderstanding that tolerance is an endorsement of certain activities, motivates many to legislate moral standards which should only be set by individuals making their own choices. Both sides use force to deal with these misplaced emotions. Both are authoritarians. Neither endorses voluntarism. Both views ought to be rejected.

Yes, these views ought to be rejected and the GOP should return to the strategy they used to win in 2010: economic issues front and center and social issues on the back burner.

*I am proud to say I was one of the 1% or roughly 1 million who supported Gary Johnson for president. Though in terms of the election is a small number but set a new record for the Libertarian Party.

**Call me cynical but I think both Republicans and Democrats want abortion to always be an issue for fundraising reasons. This is an issue that animates the bases of both parties.

***Don’t waste my time with the slippery slope arguments “that if gays can marry what’s next, people marrying their dogs?” or “marry children” or “marry their cars.” The key here is contract rights. Dogs, children, and cars all have one thing in common: none have the legal ability to enter into a contract.

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