Category Archives: The Surveillance State

NSA Spied on US Journalists — And You!

Here’s a chilling interview of former NSA analyst Russell Tice conducted by Keith Olbermann. While I’m not the biggest Olbermann fan in the world, he asked some important questions about how far the NSA went during the Bush administration. It’s a chilling interview. Hopefully restraining the NSA to 4th Amendment boundaries will be a priority for the Obama administration.

And while we are talking about privacy, we also need to keep the government out of the panties of our 13-year-old daughters and our private health records, too.

Another Permanent State of Emergency

Many people have expressed a hope that Barack Obama will be an improvement over George Bush and that he will roll back some of George Bush’s excesses.  They see in Obama a man who understands nuanced argument, who at least acknowledges that those who oppose his policies can have good reasons and arguments for doing so.  However, those who are so hopeful are doomed to have their hopes dashed.  Barack Obama may give of good vibes, but a review of his policy papers show nothing more than a few crumbs of freedom thrown to the people.  Make no mistake, under Barack Obama’s leadership, the federal government will seize more wealth, violate more liberties and wreck the economy more thoroughly than George Bush did.  The Obama administration will permit, nay encourage, the looting of the treasury by their cronies to a degree that not even the Bush administration dared to.  Reading his policy aims, I see that he offers us no quarter, no accommodation.  He demands that the American people hand over more of the wealth they create, and threatens them with more pervasive monitoring and violence in order to ensure their compliance with his edicts.  He wishes to rework society – to impose his vision of how society ‘ought’ to be organized – using the state security apparatus to impose his dreams.

In every policy proposal, one sees the same theme, the expansion of government, in size, in scope and power.  Typical is his proposal as to how the government will begin respecting civil liberties:  rather than ordering the justice department to respect civil liberties in the court system by voluntarily complying with historical precedents governing government power, rather than announcing his intention to rip out the listening rooms used by the NSA to eavesdrop on the communications of the citizenry, he announces his intention to create a ‘civil liberties board’, with subpoena powers.  If the attorney general of the United States lacks the power to enforce respect for civil liberties, or even worse, is disinclined to respect them, how will the addition of this board alter the calculus?  No, this board will provide sinecures to political allies and something to point to when questioned about his respect for civil liberties while allowing the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security to continue the business as usual, that of exercising their powers lawlessly and without limit, in furtherance of the public and private aims of the officials staffing them.

Nowhere in his policies does he announce his intention to relinquish control of anything that the government currently controls.  That which the Federal Government controls today, the government will continue to control under the new administration.  Much of which is currently out of its control today they will seek to bring under its control.

According to the Obama administration, the current economic crisis warrants expanding government spending well beyond George Bush’s record-breaking levels.  Only in passing does he acknowledge the need to raise money for this spending, which will have to be either through increased taxation, borrowing or via the printing of new money.   The U.S. economy will not provide enough in taxes or in loans to pay for this spending.  It is incapable of it.  Thus, we will see the Federal Government borrowing from anyone who will loan it money, and when those sources of funding dry up, from the Federal Reserve, which pays for the bonds it purchases with newly printed money.  The ‘inflation rate’, so called, already near 10% according to the calculation method in use in the 1970’s will rise to much higher levels.  In the meantime the standard of living will stagnate, and in all likelihood decline.  Nor is there any plan to end this spending once the economy exits the crisis.  This, like the Global War on Terror, is yet one more open-ended emergency.

And when these policies fail to have their intended effects, as unemployment continues to soar and prices continue to rise, it is inevitable that the Obama administration will blame people who it sees as standing in the way of their policies.  The Obama administration will be tempted to go after bankers, intellectual opponents, industrialists, and corporate offices in exactly the same manner as when FDR excorciated bankers and industrialists.  And, like Wilson, FDR, Nixon, Clinton, and many others, the Obama administration will be tempted to use the state security apparatus against these enemies, citing the economic state of emergency to justify it. So now the U.S. will not only be under a permanent state of emergency against external enemies, it will be in a state of emergency.  This time the enemy won’t be people living a continent away…  It will be us.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Che, Mao, and Pop Culture

One thing that disturbs me to no end is the way despotic Communist serial killers like Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Mao Zedong are iconic figures in American pop culture. When I see someone wearing Che’s ugly mug on his/her chest, I want to ask him/her: “Do you really have any idea who this man was or what he did?” I suspect that if I were to ask, I’d get a blank stare.

This short video below from reason.tv features interviews with two individuals who lived under the thumbs of Che and Mao. Neither are what you would call fans of these pop culture icons.

ABC Shows Us Just How Little Anti-Terrorism The Homeland Security Apparatus Does

Reality TV junkie? Also a State-worshipper? Then you’re in luck!

Every day the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security patrol more than 100,000 miles of America’s borders. This territory includes airports, seaports, land borders, international mail centers, the open seas, mountains, deserts and even cyberspace. Now viewers will get an unprecedented look at the work of these men and women while they use the newest technology to safeguard our country and enforce our laws, in “Homeland Security USA,” which debuts with the episode “This is Your Car on Drugs,”

How much of this “epic” TV show will actually have to do with terrorism? Will this finally belie the claim that the Department of Homeland Security was created with purely “keeping us safe from evildoers” as it’s mandate, or will it be another dose of soma “reality television” for the unquestioning masses. Bear in mind, that’s a rhetorical question, we all know the answer is the latter.

A Letter to Senator Kerry

Dear Senator Kerry,

I was aghast to read your response to my email on the subject of requiring people to get Federal government approval to work.  It is the sort of totalitarian policy I would expect from some right wing fascist dictatorship. I am especially stunned see a former nominee of the Democrat party send out a letter under his name defending such illiberal policies.

Let us ignore the obvious peril of permitting someone like a Bush appointee telling employers whom they may or may not hire.  Let us pretend that people will never be victimized by enemies withing the government.  Instead, let us pretend that this law will not be abused.

First, let us examine what you call an ‘illegal worker’.  I assume that you are not implying that people are somehow illegal.  That notion hopefully died with the victory of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  I am sure that what you meant was that rather some people are working illegally, i.e. without your permission.

So let us examine what workers do.

Workers produce things.  When they work for pay, selling their labor services to some customer who needs help getting something done, both the workers and the customer benefit.  The worker of course gets the wage that he values more than his time.  The customer gets the wealth created by the labor which they value more than the money they expend in paying for it.

In effect, two people (or one person and a company, or two companies) decide to engage in trade.  You have declared that some of these relationships are illegal.  I assume that you believe that these transactions should be illegal because someone was harmed (the alternative is too depraved to consider).  Obviously, the people engaged in the practice you want to make illegal are not harmed;  they wouldn’t enter into these arrangements if they didn’t feel that the trade was better than not trading at all.  Obviously the person who is harmed is someone else – someone not involved in the trade.

It is clear that you want the customer to be forced to deal only with a subset of labor sellers.  Much like the segregationists in Virginia who sought to prevent black people from marrying whomever they wished and limit them to only marrying other black people, you want to force employers only to employ people you approve of.  Of course this is ridiculous.  Am I harmed because your wife decided to marry you and not me?  Is Sacks 5th Avenue harmed because Target makes me a better offer?  The very notion is absurd.  Like the segregationists in the old south, you are taking your emotional disapproval of how other people interact each other and are threatening them with violence.  Of course, you don’t want to dirty your hands; the clubs that beat lawbreakers will be wielded by the police, allowing you to sleep comfortably in bed with no inconvenient memories threatening your delusion that you are somehow a moral person.

Much like the Mr and Mrs Loving who decided to ignore the racists in the Virginia legislature who declared their love ‘illegal’, people are deciding to do business despite your attempts to stop them.  You call it an ‘underground’ economy in an attempt to discredit it.  What I see are people heroically asserting their right to choose whom they do business with.  Of course they hide it from you!  If my wife and I had lived in the 60’s in Alabama, we’d hide our marriage from the Ku Klux Klan.  The fact that people are hiding from you does not discredit them – rather it discredits you.  Think about it!  People are hiding from you.  They are scared of you. Are you proud of this?  Do you consider this an accomplishment?  If your son came home from school proudly announcing that he’d bullied someone, would you tell him how proud your were of him?

I am told you are a religious man: when you face your creator on judgement day, I don’t think you will earn many brownie points by  telling your maker that your big accomplishment was threatening people who wished to peacefully do business with each other.

In these difficult times it is shameful that an influential senator like yourself is throwing rocks at your countrymen’s efforts to earn a living and improve their lives.  I hope you will come to your senses and stop threatening us and let us go about rebuilding our lives.

The letter that triggered my ire below the fold » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Another Whimper In The Continuing Death Of Liberty

And this time, I doubt that anyone will even notice:

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

This comes despite the fact that the Posse Comitatus Act, passed all the way back in 1878 clearly and emphatically prohibits the use of American military forces in the United States as “law and order” forces in areas not already considered to be the property of the Federal Government.

The dangers of using military forces in areas that, by law and tradition, are the jurisdiction of domestic law enforcement should be manifest and, as Radley Balko predicts, it seems fairly clear that their role would, inevitably and inexorably, expand:

I predict that while now couched in terms of the necessity for a ready response to a cataclysmic terrorist attack, within five years there will be calls to use these forces for less urgent matters, such as crowd control at political conventions, natural disaster response, border control, and, inevitably, some components of the drug war (looking for marijuana in the national parks, for example).

Slowly but surely, the distinction between local, state, and federal law enforcement — all of which operate within limitations prescribed by the Constitution — and the military would be blurred.

From early days of the Republic, one of the greatest fears that the Founding Fathers had involved the creation of a standing army that would operate domestically in a manner that threatened the liberty of the people. Prior to the Civil War, that wasn’t a real concern because the standing army didn’t amount to very much. The passage of the Posse Comitatus Act sought to ensure that a larger Army would not become a threat to freedom.

Now, we’re on the verge of reversing 200 years of history.

There’s no real possibility that this new power won’t be abused.

One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism […] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

-Ronald Reagan (1975)

For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.

As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan’s “conservative coalition,” I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.

President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?

I know what the modern meanings of the terms “liberal” and “progressive” mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term “conservative” means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:

The Republicans lost the election because

a. The Republican Party is too conservative

b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough

I find this question to be impossible to answer!

If by “conservative” one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be “a.”

If by “conservative” one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be “b.”

I do not believe the ambiguity of the term “conservative” is by accident. “Conservative” is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. “hope” and “change”). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a “conservative” or even a “Reagan conservative” at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?

Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.

I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs – small government conservatives and social conservatives?

This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force.

Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:

(From the Preamble)

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the “new face” of the Republican Party such as Mitt “Romney Care” Romney, Sarah “I can see Russia from my house” Palin, and “Tax Hike Mike” Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.

This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.

Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government.

» Read more

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Don’t Forget to Study Before the Final!

I just received my mail-in ballot a week or so ago. The ballot, with multiple choices with arrows to be filled out next to each choice, reminds me of taking standardized tests back in the day. Some tests were easier than others but I knew that if I did not study, one of two things could happen: (1) I could get lucky and answer enough of the questions correctly to pass or (2) I could possibly fail.

In a way, the general election is a final exam. Whether one “passes” the exam or not depends on whether s/he votes according to his or her principles. In order to increase your chances of voting according to your principles, you must study.

I am disgusted with the Republican and Democrat parties. When going over my ballot, my first instinct was to vote Libertarian in every race with a Libertarian candidate. I had studied all of the ballot measures and was satisfied that I could make intelligent choices there, but I hadn’t researched the candidates below the presidential level*. In the U.S. House race, I found three choices: the incumbent Diana DeGette (D), George Lilly (R), and Martin Buchanan (L). I knew that DeGette supported the bailout so she was never an option. Buchanan is a Libertarian and his positions he posted on his website are indeed Libertarian.

So why not just support the Libertarian you ask?

Regardless of how much I despise the Republican and Democrat parties, I make an effort to learn about the individual candidates and their positions before making a choice. Much to my delight and surprise, I found the Republican, George Lilly to be a “Ron Paul Republican.” I knew that there were such individuals running in this election but I never thought I would have had an opportunity to vote for one!

Now, I know that an endorsement from Ron Paul is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be but take a look at Lilly’s positions posted on his website:

Please join me in RESTORING the Constitution, and together, let’s:

1. RESTORE the economy — free up business from onerous outdated regulations.

2. RESTORE proper use of the military (136 nations have U.S. military presence.)

3. RESTORE integrity to the treaty process to protect America’s interests first.

4. RESTORE individual privacy and say “no” to the Real I.D. Act.

5. RESTORE high quality medical care at affordable prices.

6. RESTORE checks & balances — the executive branch has gotten too powerful.

7. RESTORE integrity in the campaign financing process.

8. RESTORE integrity to the dollar — re-institute the gold standard. Watch this YouTube video!

9. RESTORE integrity to the tax system — rein in the I.R.S.

10. RESTORE and retain rights to unregulated health supplements & the Internet.

The following will be my top priorities in Congress:

1. Create a level playing field for Americans who receive the benefit of Workmen’s Compensation, mandatory health insurance, retirement benefits, taxes, OSHA, EPA etc. and calculate that into the cost of the products manufactured so that any foreign country not providing the same benefits to their employees would have to pay a tariff on their imported products to equal that amount.

2. Support a bill that calls for a single subject on all spending bills.

3. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the form of corporate subsidies.

4. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the area of education so that “No (every) Child Left Behind” is abolished.

5. Hold the Federal Reserve to account for their corruption of the dollar which has driven up the price of everything way beyond what any normal person can even consider affording!

While I have some concern about his #1 priority being a little on the protectionist side, I certainly applaud his willingness to stand up for the Constitution and against big government**. He’s not purely libertarian but in my estimation, he’s at least as libertarian as Ron Paul.

Having learned about George Lilly’s positions, most of which I agree with, I am very glad I had taken the time to make an informed choice. Now my choice was between the Ron Paul Republican and the Libertarian. Who should I choose?

Most things being equal, I decided to support Lilly. As a practical matter, the Republican Lilly would have a much better chance of unseating DeGette than the Libertarian Buchanan. I have not seen any polls regarding the District 1 race, but I suspect that in a district which seems to worship the ground Barack Obama walks on, DeGette will be difficult if not impossible to beat. If most of the libertarian vote goes to Buchanan, we’ll almost certainly re-elect a tax and spend Democrat to another term.

This is why I urge everyone to study each race before casting a vote***. Put emotions aside and “think the vote.” Though the electorate as a whole may fail the exam, we should each make the effort to pass individually.
» Read more

Security Theater

This one has been making the libertarian rounds for a day or two now, and with good reason. A story about Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer who has taken security expert Bruce Schneier’s proclamations about ineffectiveness of security measures at airports and gone and proven them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to devote to this, as I’m currently sitting in an airport bar on a layover. But given my current location and my position as the contributor to The Liberty Papers with the heaviest travel schedule* (I’ll be flying 6 of the next 9 days), I thought it apropos that I pass this along.

As the below excerpt so perfectly points out, the constant hassle I have to get through security has not led to me feeling much safer:

On another occasion, at LaGuardia, in New York, the transportation-security officer in charge of my secondary screening emptied my carry-on bag of nearly everything it contained, including a yellow, three-foot-by-four-foot Hezbollah flag, purchased at a Hezbollah gift shop in south Lebanon. The flag features, as its charming main image, an upraised fist clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle. Atop the rifle is a line of Arabic writing that reads Then surely the party of God are they who will be triumphant. The officer took the flag and spread it out on the inspection table. She finished her inspection, gave me back my flag, and told me I could go. I said, “That’s a Hezbollah flag.” She said, “Uh-huh.” Not “Uh-huh, I’ve been trained to recognize the symbols of anti-American terror groups, but after careful inspection of your physical person, your behavior, and your last name, I’ve come to the conclusion that you are not a Bekaa Valley–trained threat to the United States commercial aviation system,” but “Uh-huh, I’m going on break, why are you talking to me?”

On 9/12/2001, I said that there will never be another 9/11 in this country, and Flight 93 proved why. Further in the article Schneier is quoted as saying the two biggest reasons to believe security is improved is the reinforced cockpit doors and the fact that a plane full of people no longer believes they should not resist a hijacker. All the rest, from the TSA “you can’t professionalize unless you federalize” restrictions on liquids to the requirement that 80-year-old grandmothers remove their shoes, are just theater.

As they say, read the whole thing. You won’t feel safer afterwards, but I’d argue that if you feel safe now, you need a reality check.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

A Review of ‘Little Brother’ by Cory Doctorow

The always thought provoking Cory Doctorow has a new book out, Little Brother.  I highly recommend it, even though I think he is very wrong on numerous points.  You can download it for free at the link above.

It is very difficult to write a political novel.  I should know, I’ve started 3 or 4 of them, and they all turned out badly.  When the author is convinced that he is right, the protagonists tend to preach at each other, and the antagonists tend to sound like evil simpletons.  In Little Brother, Mr Doctorow has managed to avoid the former pitfall, while falling deeply into the latter.    While the central theme of the book is interesting, there are several improbable plot twists, a deficiency of analysis, and a deus ex machina ending.  Thus, while I think everyone should read this book, and will actually enjoy it, it will not be the classic that, say 1984 would be.  I will, however, be giving it to my children when they are old enough to understand it.

What follows is chock full of spoilers.  Please stop reading here if you wish to keep the ending a surprise. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Ron Paul’s Speech at the “Rally for the Republic”

Ron Paul spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 10,000 at the “Rally for the Republic” (AKA the “Ron Paul Convention”) across the river from the Republican National Convention.

Below are the first 3 parts of his speech, the full text of the speech can be read here.

Other speakers on the last day of the rally included Tucker Carlson, Lew Rockwell, Gov. Jesse Ventura (who hinted that he might make a presidential run in 2012), and Barry Goldwater Jr.

Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr was also in attendance at Ron Paul’s big show but Barr said he was not disappointed that Paul did not make an official endorsement of his campaign:

Barr, a former GOP congressman, told ABC News he respects Paul’s intent not to make an endorsement in the general election, and is “here today because there are thousands of people who believe we need to shrink the power, the size, the scope of the federal government.

“These are liberty-loving Americans, and those are my kind of people,” Barr exclaimed.

[…]

“We’re all in this together — we believe in the same things,” Barr said.

“Ron has chosen to work within the Republican Party, I’ve chosen to work through the Libertarian Party through the electoral route, but we all want the same thing,” he added.

http://www.campaignforliberty.com/

http://www.bobbarr2008.com/

Forgot Your ID? Welcome To The Watch List

Back in June, the TSA decided that you were no longer allowed to fly without ID, even if you submit to a more strenuous search process. At the time, though, there was a loophole. Assuming you had lost or forgotten your ID, and were “cooperative” in assisting screeners to assess your identity, you would still be allowed to fly.

Many of us thought this was a gaping loophole, because it wouldn’t be very hard to tell the screener that you’d forgotten your ID, show him a Blockbuster Video rental card, and be on your merry way.

I guess not, though. They went even farther than the old program:

Fliers without ID placed on TSA list

The Transportation Security Administration has collected records on thousands of passengers who went to airport checkpoints without identification, adding them to a database of people who violated security laws or were questioned for suspicious behavior.

The TSA began storing the information in late June, tracking many people who said they had forgotten their driver’s license or passport at home. The database has 16,500 records of such people and is open to law enforcement agencies, according to the TSA.

Asked about the program, TSA chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday that the information helps track potential terrorists who may be “probing the system” by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.

The article goes on to say that the TSA has apparently reconsidered, and will be expunging those who “simply” have forgotten their ID from the list. Those who are acting “suspiciously”— ominously undefined— will remain on the list, of course, so if you’ve forgotten your ID, you’d better hope that you find a screener who isn’t having a bad day.

One wonders how a list, such as the terrorist watch list, can reach a million names. When they can add 16,500 merely forgetful people over the course of a month and a half, though, it ceases to be a mystery. You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Kip, you idiot

Somehow, I just feel like this is appropriate right now

“Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master.

You now have freedom—if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.

Move slowly, be hesitant, puzzle out the consequences of every word. I would not be unhappy if this convention sat for ten years before reporting—but I would be frightened if you took less than a year.

Distrust the obvious, suspect the traditional . . . for in the past mankind has not done well when saddling itself with governments.

For example, I note in one draft report a proposal for setting up a commission to divide Luna into congressional districts and to reapportion them from time to time according to population.

This is the traditional way; therefore it should be suspect, considered guilty until proved innocent.

Perhaps you feel that this is the only way. May I suggest others?

Surely where a man lives is the least important thing about him. Constituencies might be formed by dividing people by occupation . . . or by age . . . or even alphabetically. Or they might not be divided, every member elected at large—and do not object that this would make it impossible for any man not widely known throughout Luna to be elected; that might be the best possible thing for Luna.

You might even consider installing the candidates who receive the least number of votes; unpopular men may be just the sort to save you from a new tyranny. Don’t reject the idea merely because it seems preposterous—think about it! In past history popularly elected governments have been no better and sometimes far worse than overt tyrannies.

But if representative government turns out to be your intention there still may be ways to achieve it better than the territorial district. For example you each represent about ten thousand human beings, perhaps seven thousand of voting age—and some of you were elected by slim majorities. Suppose instead of election a man were qualified for office by petition signed by four thousand citizens. He would then represent those four thousand affirmatively, with no disgruntled minority, for what would have been a minority in a territorial constituency would all be free to start other petitions or join in them. All would then be represented by men of their choice. Or a man with eight thousand supporters might have two votes in this body.

Difficulties, objections, practical points to be worked out—many of them! But you could work them out . . . and thereby avoid the chronic sickness of representative government, the disgruntled minority which feels—correctly!—that it has been disenfranchised.

But, whatever you do, do not let the past be a straitjacket!

I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent—the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority . . . while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

But in writing your constitution let me invite attention the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies . . . no interference however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation . . . no involuntary taxation.

Comrades, if you were to spend five years in a study of history while thinking of more and more things that your governinen should promise never to do and then let your constitution be nothing but those negatives, I would not fear the outcome.

What I fear most are affirmative actions of sober and well-intentioned men, granting to government powers to do something that appears to need doing. Please remember always that the Lunar Authority was created for the noblest of purposes by just such sober and well-intentioned men, all popularly elected. And with that thought I leave you to your labors. Thank you.”

— Robert Heinlein, “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Anyone Else Object to Being Called a “Human Resource”

Ahhh work, that most marvelous of pursuits that keeps food on the table.

Today was my first official day of work as a full time employee of Gigantomegabankcorp North America, where I have been a contractor for 26 months.

Going from Contractor to FTE means bennies, paid time off (25 days a year actually. Woo hoo), and job security (at least to the degree that it exists anywhere today).

I am officially classified as an “authorized homeworker or telecommuter”, for which I get to work at home; and the bank gets a tax credit, since I’m not out there every day clogging up the roads, and burning up the gas.

Nice deal all around eh?

However, for things such as receiving and filling out and submitting the 400 pages of HR paperwork, you kind of have to be in a physical office location.

…That’s not a joke or an exaggeration by the way. Between the general employment paperwork, Homeland Security paperwork, federal tax paperwork, Arizona tax paperwork, medical insurance, dental insurance, optical insurance, life insurance, AD&D, long term care coverage, healthcare savings account, 401k, employee stock purchase plan, employee credit card, employee checking, savings, and money market accounts, direct deposit, security forms, badge forms, non disclosure form, health and safety forms, electronic and information security forms, building safety forms, employee handbook acknowledgment, sexual harassment policy acknowledgment, terms of use acknowledgment, disciplinary procedures acknowledgment, environmental disclosures, and the checklists to keep track of them all; I had to deal with over 100 form pages requiring filling in, and approximately 300 pages of reference materials.

How is it we make money again?

Of course to fill all of this in, I had to get to the office at 8:30, meet an admin assistant so she could let me in to do my badge paperwork (my old contractor badge is officially no good; I had to get a visitor badge until they could issue me a new “team member” badge) so I could get my badge, and my two large “packets” (I use the term loosely as together they weigh about 5 lbs and are 3 inches thick) of reference materials and forms to fill out.

Amazingly enough, this is after a HUGE paperwork REDUCTION, and moving “most” of the HR, tax, wage, and benefit forms online.

Seriously.

Why exactly I had to go to the office to do this, when all I ended up doing was filling it all in while borrowing someone else’s cubicle, then dropping it into interoffice mail, and faxing copies of my homeland security form…

Oh wait….

..Riiiiiight

I have to do it in the office, so they can get a photocopy of my drivers license and social security card, witnessed by another employee for the homeland security form (Oh and the fax is insufficient, they have to have the hardcopy, but it has to be on file within three days, and it may be delayed so we had to fax it).

Remind me again how we make money… and why it is that we have a “homeland security” department, checking up on my work status?

…Riiiiiiight

Ahhh the joys of working for Gigantomegabankcorp North America in America today.

We ARE in America…

Aren’t we?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Freedom To Travel: Such A Pre-9/11 Concept

Ah, the good old TSA. When faced with a minute* number of citizens asserting their rights, they simply take those rights away.

And what’s worse? They don’t even take the rights away from everyone, only the loudmouths like us cantankerous civil libertarians:

Passengers who refuse to show ID, citing a constitutional right to fly without ID will be refused passage beyond the checkpoints. Passengers who say they have left their ID at home, will be searched, and then permitted to board their flights.

While TSA’s announcement stated that the goal of the change was to “increase safety,” this blogger disagrees. The change of rules seems to be a pretty obvious case of security theater. Real terrorists do not refuse to show ID. They claim to have lost their ID, or they use a fake.

TSA’s new rules only protect us from a non-existent breed of terrorists who are unable to lie.

Don’t you feel safer?
» Read more

Cuba — Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

About a month ago, I blasted an article by a tongue-in-cheek reporter who wanted to use Raul Castro’s easing of restrictions on cell phone ownership as an excuse to criticize cell phones (suggesting– implicitly– that oppression and no phones is better than freedom and phones).

I stand by that post, but I stepped over the line in another regard. I suggested that while I didn’t expect much of Raul Castro, that he should be applauded for easing some of these restrictions. Instead, I’ve now heard reports that he may be using this freedom as a honey pot to catch those with “illicit” monies:

A Cuban dissident I met in Havana last year sent me today an article he wrote about the real motive behind relaxing these bans. It has been reported in the state-controlled media that people purchasing these goods are later being investigated by the authorities who want to know the real sources of their income. As it’s widely known, the average Cuban salary is less than $20 a month, while the cost of most of these goods ranges in the hundreds of dollars. Many Cubans get their extra money from relatives in the United States, but many others run independent (and illicit) small businesses.

My friend tells the story of the first person to purchase an electric bicycle, which cost the equivalent of $1,070. This man had a small butter factory that apparently was very profitable, since he was selling the butter at a lower price than the government. After buying his electric bicycle, the authorities investigated him and discovered his factory. They proceeded to confiscate everything they found in his home, including the bike.

It’s still possible that these reforms may be a bit too addictive for the Cuban people, and actually may help them to break the stranglehold that the regime has on the island. In particular, personal computers and cell phones open doors of communication that will not be easily shut.

But I must apologize. I too quickly defended Raul Castro, assuming that perhaps he was doing this merely as a PR move to soften the image of his regime to the world. I didn’t catch the implications above. It appears that very little has changed down there.

Bob Barr’s Missed Opportunity

When I learned that Bob Barr was going to be a guest on Hannity and Comes, I was excited to see a rare opportunity for a Libertarian candidate to explain the Libertarian philosophy to an audience which is largely unfamiliar with what the Libertarian Party is all about: personal liberty. To my dismay, Barr instead promoted federalism rather than individual liberty (federalism is important but is not the same thing as individual liberty). Both Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes raised some very good questions which Bob Barr failed to answer (it seemed to me that Alan Colmes, a loyal Democrat, had a better understanding of the Libertarian Party’s positions than Bob Barr did).

The area where Barr disappointed me more than anywhere else was his response to Hannity’s questions regarding the war on (some) drugs. Rather than answer the question directly, Barr chose to dance around the issue and ultimately answered that the drug issue should be left to the states. While surrendering the war on (some) drugs at the federal level would be a vast improvement over the current failed policy, simply surrendering on the federal level does not go nearly far enough (a great first step would be to release the P.O.W.’s – the non-violent drug offenders).

The following is the response I would have liked to hear from Congressman Barr to Hannity’s question: “What would your vote be? Would you vote to legalize heroin and crack?”

Sean, I think you misunderstand the Libertarian position on the war on drugs just as I did for most of my life. The underlying principle of the Libertarian Party is that the government, whether local, state, or federal, has no right to tell a person what to do with his life, liberty, or property provided that he does not violate the rights of life, liberty, or property of a non-consenting other person. It’s none of my business if my neighbor uses heroin or crack in the privacy of his own home so long as he does so without violating my rights or anyone else’s.

Furthermore, Sean, I would like to point out the three most important reasons why Libertarians are opposed to drug prohibition: it’s ineffective, it puts an unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system, and is dangerous because it breeds violent crime. It’s for these reasons that I would declare an end to the war on drugs as my first act as president by pardoning all non-violent drug offenders; all prisons would be free of non-violent drug offenders for the duration of my presidency.

I know that this format will not allow me to go into any detail on any of these reasons why the war on drugs is harmful to society at large, but I would encourage you and your viewers to visit the Libertarian Party website, the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website, and Cato.org to get a more comprehensive understanding of these arguments [Liberty Papers readers can follow this link for a comprehensive explanation of these arguments].

This is the kind of answer I would expect from any person seeking the Libertarian Party nomination (up to and including the faux Libertarian Mike Gravel). Rather than clarifying the Libertarian position on the war on (some) drugs, Bob Barr unnecessarily made the issue more confusing to potential Libertarians and others unfamiliar with the Libertarian philosophy. Libertarians (both “small l” and “large L”) are also left to wonder: Where does Bob Barr really stand on the war on drugs?

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