Archive for the ‘#governmentoverreach’ Tag

World Didn’t End – Go Figure   Leave a comment

It’s been a year since the Internet as we knew it was destroyed.

What? You haven’t noticed?

This month marks one year since the FCC repealed the controversial net neutrality rules. Don’t you remember the warnings of the net neutrality proponents? It was the apocalypse. Let’s take a closer look at what has actually happened in the year since the rules have been abolished.. I think we’ll find the hysterical rhetoric was unnecessary and that the Internet has actually improved since regulations were relaxed.

Let’s look at history first. The Internet has been a household commodity available for public use since August 6, 1991. For early adopters, it might come as a surprise that, according to net neutrality’s most fervent supporters, the Internet didn’t truly take off until February 2015, when the FCC passed and adopted the new rules.

In both the lead up to the vote on net neutrality and its subsequent repeal, mass hysteria ensued in which many people were honestly convinced that without government intervention, all the online services we enjoyed would cease to exist. In an article called “How the FCC’s Killing of Net Neutrality Will Ruin the Internet Forever,” the magazine GQ even went so far as to say:

Think of everything that you’ve ever loved about the Internet. That website that gave you all of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City cheat codes. YouTube videos of animals being friends. The illegal music you downloaded on Napster or Kazaa. The legal music you’ve streamed on Spotify. …The movies and TV shows you’ve binged on Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. The dating site that helped you find the person you’re now married to. All of these things are thanks to net neutrality.

I know. It’s kind of weird that this sentiment was so widely accepted as truth because every single listed examples existed prior to net neutrality. The only reason the Internet was able to become such an integral part of our lives was that it was left virtually untouched by regulatory forces for two decades. Spontaneous order was allowed to occur and Internet users were blessed with unbridled innovation that brought forth a robust variety of services, which GQ prefers to attribute to government action that wasn’t taken until nearly 24 years after Internet use became the norm.

That reality was ignored by much of the public, and the panic continued. The ACLU joined the frenzy, telling readers that without net neutrality we “are at risk of falling victim to the profit-seeking whims of powerful telecommunications giants.”

We now realize that none of these dire warnings actually happened, reminding us just how absurd the push for net neutrality rules was in the first place.

I think a lot of people don’t know what net neutrality was and maybe that’s part of the problem.

Net neutrality sought to define the Internet as a public utility, putting it in the same category as water, electric, and telephone services. That change made it open to regulatory oversight, specifically when it came to connection speeds and the price providers were allowed to charge consumers for its use.

The new rules mandated that each Internet service provider was henceforth forced to provide equal connection speeds to all websites, regardless of content. Prior to its passage, providers had the freedom to offer different connection speeds to users, including the option to pay more for faster speeds on certain websites.

Examples?

If Comcast noticed that a majority of its users were streaming content on Netflix, it might offer packages that charge extra for the promise of being able to connect to the site at quicker speeds. That’s the market responding to consumer demand. Not everyone saw it this way. Others saw it as an abuse of power by “greedy” internet service providers.

Then-President Obama praised net neutrality, saying:

For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information—whether a phone call, or a packet of data.

Unfortunately for those who think net neutrality rules are a good idea, the railroad industry serves as a perfect example of just how hazardous declaring consumer goods “public utilities” can truly be.

Railroads changed the world by connecting us with people, ideas, and goods to which we did not previously have access. In 1887, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was created specifically to regulate railroads in order to “protect” consumers from falling prey to the “profit-seeking whims” of the railroad industry. Much like today, the concern was that powerful railroad companies would arbitrarily increase rates or partner with other companies in a way that harmed consumers, just like the aforementioned Comcast/Netflix example. And as a result, the ICC made the railroads public utilities. But the ICC ended up doing more harm than good.

As Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post writes:

The railroads needed ICC approval for almost everything: rates, mergers, abandonments of little-used branch lines. Shippers opposed changes that might increase costs. Railroads struggled to meet new competition from trucks and barges. In 1970, the massive Penn Central railroad — serving the Northeast — went bankrupt and was ultimately taken over by the government. Others could have followed.

Without the freedom to innovate and provide the best possible service to consumers without having to first jump through a series of regulatory hoops, the railroad industry’s hands were tied, and progress was stagnant.

In 1980, the negative impacts became too much for even the government to ignore, and the ICC was abolished. Shortly thereafter, the industry recovered. Not only did freight rates and overall costs decrease, but railroads were also finally able to make a profit again—something that became a struggle in the wake of the ICC’s creation. In other words, the repeal of regulatory oversight resulted in a win-win situation for all parties involved. And it appears the same is true of the repeal of net neutrality.

So, net neutrality went away last year and the sky ought to be falling by now. The Internet should have become obsolete or exorbitantly expensive from the lack of oversight. None of that has happened. Costs aren’t skyrocketing and connection speeds slowing down. Things have actually gotten much better.

According to RecodeInternet speeds actually increased nearly 40 percent since net neutrality was abolished. Uninhibited by government regulations, service providers have been free to expand their fiber optic networks, allowing for greater speed. You’d think there’d be a slew of “oops, we were wrong” articles written by those who worked so diligently to spread fear in the lead-up to the repeal. Not so much.

Wired, which published many articles in favor of net neutrality, did publish an article called “A Year without Net Neutrality: No Big Changes (Yet),” where it admits that none of the scary predictions actually came true, but the reporter is certain that an Internet free from regulation is not truly free.

Whether the naysayers are willing to admit it or not, less government regulation results in better outcomes for both companies and consumers. So the next time we are told that a lack of regulation is going to be the end of life as we know it, we might want to remember what really happened when the government freed the Internet from its grasp.

Posted December 27, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Anarchy

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What is the Greatest Threat to Freedom of Conscience?   Leave a comment

My friend Josh Bennett over at Patriot’s Lament knocked one out of the park with this article, so I am blatantly borrowing it. I get my anarchy fix on Saturday mornings on KFAR-660 AM, which you can access through streaming if you’re not in the broadcast area of Fairbanks, Alaska. You can also check out PL’s You-Tube channel, Radio Free Fairbanks, where they repost the 3-hour programs to be listened to whenever you like. The show’s been going for seven years now, so there’s lots of liberty talk from an anarcho-capitalist point of view to refresh your mind with. Lela

The State Will Gladly Protect You from Freedom of Conscience

Josh Bennett

For hundreds of years, western cultures have been refining what is known as Freedom of Conscience.
One of the outcomes of this refinement is Freedom of Speech, a Liberty that is relatively new to the human political experience.
Not long ago, being critical of a government, for instance, could get you killed by that government. Merely speaking out of turn or having critical thought towards the State religion meant torture or death.

But, we have advanced through time to understand that free thought and critical speech is something that a free people must protect and encourage. Thomas Jefferson went as far as to say that repressing Freedom of Conscience was a “Sin against God”.

 

Suppressing Freedom of Conscience though, was and is seen by the State as self-preservation.

 

Today, we have access to information that only 20 years ago was other-worldly. Anyone with a cell phone can post a rant or share information to literally the whole world. Because of this information access, people take the information they get from the State influenced mainstream media with a grain of salt, or immediately disbelieve it, and usually, rightfully so.

 

This is dangerous for the State’s propaganda machine, but the State realizes what is even more dangerous to it, would be for the State to appear to suppress it. Whether on the Left or the Right of the political spectrum, people tend to cherish what we now call, “Free Speech”, and rightfully so.

 

So what is the State to do? What States always do. Make the people fear their Liberty more than Itself.

 

Instead of immediately passing laws suppressing and/or silencing free speech, the State is manipulating the political fears people have to make them feel threatened by what they may think is opposing speech to their beliefs. And the fear the State has spread between opposing political speech has resulted in what not long ago would have been mocked as fairytale superstition.

 

“Words can hurt you. People who disagree with you want to hurt you. You need your feelings protected against all invasion. Dissenting speech or thought is violence towards you.”
Instead of using dissenting views from our own to refine our beliefs and convictions, and to encourage discussion for the betterment of overall society, we are not only growing to fear Opposition of Thought, we want to be protected from it.

Image result for image of nazi railcar

Enter the State.

From legislating pronouns to aggressive threats of imprisonment for incorrect thinking, the State has moved in against Freedom of Conscience to suppress nonconformists. And some cheer this behavior by the State, seen to protect them from all harm. Others see it as a shield to advance their own political agenda opposition-free.
But, as Bastiat explained, while all wish to live at the expense of the State, the State lives at the expense of all.

 

No one’s political or personal thoughts or actions are safe from this aggression by the State. While the State will pick winners and losers in the short run, it’s only a matter of time before the State silences everyone.

 

Before you cheer the State for destroying your opposition’s Freedom of Conscience, remember when your opposition is gone, you will be alone, and no one will be there when the State marches you into the railcar that you have built.

Grab the Guns & Then Worry About Due Process! Seriously?   1 comment

I made no secret of the fact that I thought Barack Obama was a wannabe dictator. I believe he thought the presidency gave him unlimited powers to do whatever he wanted and he entered office thinking that is exactly what he would do. I think he got real-world woke-up by incidents like Fast and Furious (otherwise known as the Gunwalker case) and he adjusted his tyranny accordingly, realizing that he needed at least to pretend to pay lip service to the Constitution.

President Donald Trump (courtesy foxnews.com)I haven’t gone after President Trump for his many forays into unconstitutional rule because he’d had plenty of detractors and I prefer to focus on the underlying principles of liberty rather than the politics of a particular policy.

Until today.

Apparently, in an Oval Office meeting with Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the Dictator in Chief announced that, for the good of everybody, he believes we should “go after the guns first and worry about due process later.”

Wow! I surely hope his base supporters are stunned and gathering rocks to begin the stoning. This has much further-reaching implications than just gun control. He’s proposing to violate the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. Private property rights and due process are the backbones of American liberty and what sets us apart from many other countries. Lose those rights and … well, you haven’t got any rights left at that point.

So, folks, Trump supporters, wake up and smell the coffee burning. This guy that you elected hasn’t got a clue what rights mean. He’ll reach into your lives and take your means to defend yourselves — to defend your right to freedom of speech, religion, conscience, association and he’ll do it without ever going to court. Oh, yeah, he’s paying lip service to court at some point after he’s violated your rights … after your means to resist has been taken away.

The logical process here is evident. It’ll start with people who are actually dangerous, but it won’t stay there. President Obama wrote an executive order that said that anyone who received any sort of guidance in managing their disability benefits could not own a gun. It didn’t matter why and there are a whole lot of conditions where perfectly sane and safe people need help managing their disability benefits. He at least allowed for some form of due process, but you were disallowed from owning a gun until you’d been through the process. Trump rolled that back in the early days of his administration, but not because he cared about natural rights but because he had advisers who were pushing him to do it as an indication to his voter base that he actually cared about their lives.

So the die was already cast. First it starts with legitimately dangerous people. Their private property will be seized from them and they’ll have to fight through the courts to prove they should get their personal property back. Unlike a very difficult system where you wait to prove you can exercise your rights before you are allowed to, your property has been stolen and your rights suppressed and good luck getting either your property or your rights back. Anyone who has studied civil asset forfeiture knows that’s a fool’s errand.

But governmental mission creep never stays where it starts, so the administrative state will then start defining the meaning of dangerous downward. We saw that with Obama. If you need help with your benefits, you shouldn’t own a gun. Really? You have no right to the means to protect yourself against violent assault by criminals? Wow, way to make yet another disenfranchised victim group. Thank the Constitution he’s not our president anymore, but unfortunately his anti-rights stances still taint the Executive Branch. Under his administration, if you were a combat veteran, you were considered a potential terrorist. Ditto if you were a member of an evangelical church or someone who had espoused libertarian beliefs. And, trust me, the administrative state agrees with that assessment because it serves their purposes. It is a whole lot easier to control a disarmed country than a personally armed one.

But more than that – it starts with guns being taken without due process (and due process after the fact NEVER works out well for the poor person caught in the system) and then it grows from there. Houses, cars, children — we already have that going on at the state level, but this has the potential for rendering the Constitution null and void.

Come on, folks, remember why you voted for Trump in the first place? You didn’t want Hillary to continue the Obama era oppression and she was promising that she would. I suggested at the time that Trump was play-acting being a conservative and that we would regret that you voted him in.

We’re there now.

So don’t allow President Trump to get away with this. Call him on it! Demand that he protect our natural right to self-defense or promise him he’ll be out on his ear come 2020. He is under the mistaken impression that the voters will reward him for gun control and also violating our 4th, 5th and 6th amendment rights. Don’t let him get away with it.

Remember, there will be third parties running in 2020. You’re not stuck with two bad choices. Think out of the box and you might be pleasantly surprised at the benefits your rebellion fosters.

Can We Use Our Reason, Please?   Leave a comment

My heart went out when I heard about the egregious case of alleged child abuse by a California family charged with starving and torturing their children in a so-called “private school”.

In the aftermath, I’m not surprised to hear some commentators call for greater regulation of all homeschooling families. In an Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Coleman suggested “abuse in homeschool settings is all too common,” and she recommended strict homeschool regulation. She stated:

Force contact with mandatory reporters. States could require annual assessments by a certified teacher and annual doctor’s visits…

AA006063Of course, this ignores the fact that data shows that homeschoolers excel in academics and in adulthood.

To use this outrageous example of abuse to attack homeschooling families and suggest that they need more oversight is reactionary and inappropriate.

The vast majority of the more than two million homeschoolers in the United States live in nurturing homes with caring parents who are overly attentive to their education and well-being. Most children thrive in a homeschooled environment that allows for flexible instruction, tailored curriculum, community immersion, and interest-based learning and public and larger private schools, by their vary nature, struggle to provide those benefits.

Data shows that homeschoolers excel in academics and in adulthood. U.S. News & World Report reports that a majority of homeschoolers “who go on to college will outperform their peers.”

Child abuse of any kind should bother us, but we shouldn’t target an entire population of families because we are worried about a few bad apples. Crimes against children by public schoolteachers are appallingly common throughout the United States; yet, we don’t stereotype all teachers as potential predators. In 2014 alone, there were 781 reported sex crimes by teachers and other employees. That is an average of 15 students per week who were sexually victimized by school personnel.

An article in the Des Moines Register calls for an end to the private homeschooling option, stating: “Licensed educators are mandatory reporters of child abuse, are held to high standards for preparation and professional conduct, must be fingerprinted, and undergo background checks. Yet Iowa allows anyone to ‘teach’ their own and up to four unrelated children.”

In March 2017, the Des Moines Register reported on a case of a long-time Iowa public high school teacher charged with a sex crime against a student. In September, the 61-year-old teacher was sentenced to prison for repeated sexual assault. He had been a licensed Iowa school teacher since 1978. What good did not high standards of preparation and professional conduct, fingerprinting and background checks do his victims? Should we outlaw public schools based on this one case?

Children are vulnerable and should be protected. For most children, parents are their best protectors and the ones most able to ensure their well-being. We must do our best to try to protect children while also not infringing on the privacy and freedom of law-abiding citizens. What is needed is public policy based on reason — on what is best for a broad range of children and their families, rather than on a singular examples (both in homeschooling and public schools) that should both enrage us all.

A Lot of Smoke for “Nothing”   Leave a comment

So is the “memo” released on February 2 by the Republican majority a big deal or not?

Partisans tend to read, watch and listen only, or mostly, to information and opinions that reinforce their beliefs. If information surfaces that counters those beliefs, it is usually disparaged, excused or ignored. Human nature on display.

Image result for image of carter pageThe four-page memo on the House Intelligence Committee alleges the the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election and its aftermath.

Is that true? We don’t know. If it is, that is real collusion that goes above and beyond idle chitchat at a cocktail party, an exchange of emails that ultimately led nowhere or agreeing to take a meeting that you later decided again.

Republican partisans are rejoicing. You can hear their “I told you so” crows even in Alaska. Partisans on the left are reading coverage and editorials in The New York Times and the Washington Post, getting the warm glow that comes from thinking this memo means nothing. Before it’s release, they were insisting it would undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s “collusion” with Russia to influence the election. They were deeply considered and tried to stop its release, saying it would harm national security interests. I’ve read it. It doesn’t. It suggests a few higher-ups in the FBI and Department of Justice used their power and influence to attempt to keep Donald Trump from becoming president and then attempted to undermine his presidency once he took office. That isn’t really evidence of wrongdoing, which puts the “memo” in the same group with the allegations of Trump collusion – there hasn’t been a shred of credible evidence produced on this point, but that doesn’t mean some might not be found or manufactured in the future.

Politicizing a powerful federal agency is nothing new. Richard Nixon and AG John Mitchell politicized the IRS and Justice Department in an attempt to punish political enemies. Lois Lerner politicized the IRS to thwart tax exemptions for conservative and religious organizations, as well as a few progressives. Given that history, arguments that such allegations will undermine national security or the morale of FBI agents is just silly.

The most damning part of the memo is the assertion that the FBI and Justice Department used a “dossier” authored by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to smear Donald Trump. It was this dossier that the government agencies used to convince a FISA judge to issue a warrant allowing Trump campaign official Carter Page and possibly others to be spied on. The memo asserts those seeking the warrant did not tell the judge about the involvement of the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign with the dossier.

Is that true? We don’t know, but if it is, it’s worse than oversight. It’s criminal behavior, though given how high government officials seem to be immune from prosecution, it might not come to anything.  Because some of the officials alleged to be involved are in key positions in the FBI and Justice Department, it is possible the Mueller investigation might be affected. There is a legal principle called “fruit of a poisonous tree” that could render all subsequently gathered evidence void.

In an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News Friday, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes suggested there is more to come, including release of a memo from the Democratic minority and possibly the full transcript of testimony by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe before a closed meeting of the Intelligence Committee. McCabe signed one of the FISA applications and then-FBI Director James Comey signed three. Nunes contends the subsequent warrants issued by the FISA judge were based on flawed and incomplete information and thus would likely not have been issued had the judge been in possession of additional facts.

The Republican memo is just the beginning of an attempt to expose behind-the-scenes maneuvering by liberals to keep Donald Trump out of the White House and put Hillary Clinton in it.

I didn’t support either one of them, so I personally don’t care what the outcome is, but I do believe the public has a right to know all the facts in this case. Let’s see where they lead.

Posted February 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz   Leave a comment

By Bill Wirtz

The European liberty movement may be small, but it’s having extraordinary growth and grassroots success in a place you might least expect it: Switzerland.

Source: Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz

 

Image result for image switzerland tvSwitzerland, like many European nations, has certain television and radio channels that are run by the government. The state-run channels in Switzerland date back to World War I when the government had completely monopolized both TV and radio “for security reasons,” and paid for it with a fee called the “Billag.” After the war period, Switzerland opened the market to private media companies, but it kept the “Billag” fee in order to pay for the state channels which still absolutely dominate the market to this day.

The fee even has its own website, http://www.billag.ch, on which the mandatory contribution is explained as follows:

In Switzerland, you are legally obligated to pay the radio and television fees. By paying the fees you enable radio and television programmes in every part of Switzerland.”

Which almost sounds like you couldn’t have any TV or radio stations if it wasn’t for governmental control. For Frédéric Jollien, who is a Senior Local Coordinator for European Students for Liberty and founder of Swiss Students for Liberty, this description is dishonest:

The assumption that the media landscape would crumble if we were to abolish this annual fee is ridiculous. The opponents of our campaign claim that without the “Billag,” nobody would pay for state channels, yet they simultaneously also argue that people are very fond of the content. Which one is it now?”

Together with other classical liberals in Switzerland, Frédéric Jollien is fighting against the royalties imposed by the government for media consumption. 450 Swiss Francs, the equivalent of €382 or $456, is the annual fee that consumers are required to pay, regardless if they want state-run TV and radio channels or not.

“We are not trying to abolish anything. We merely want consumers to choose for themselves which channels they want to watch,” says Frédéric, who works in the campaign of “NoBillag,” the citizens’ initiative that intends to overturn the fee via referendum.

The “NoBillag” campaign has been working on the issue of media royalties for three years now, and effectively managed to get their citizens’ initiative approved. This means that a public vote on the repeal of the “Billag” will take place on March 4, 2018. Until then, the campaign is tirelessly working to promote its ideas. Frédéric Jollien explains that this one of the very few referenda which were organized by people who believe in the concepts of free markets and free people.

However, running such a campaign demands considerable efforts.

The government has extended the “Billag” to include private companies as well. Despite them only receiving less than 10 percent of the revenue generated by the fee, they now also have vested interests in keeping it in place and steadily negotiating a larger chunk of it. It’s us against the whole media landscape.”

The print media is equally unimpressed by the “NoBillag” campaign, as owners also seek to convince the government to initiate large subsidies for the papers, the same way it is practiced in countries like France. Furthermore, after petitioning for months to get the necessary signatures to organize a referendum, the campaign was left with only 30,000 CHF (€25,600), which is clearly too little to run a three-language campaign in the mountainous country in Central Europe.

Frédéric Jollien is very optimistic regardless.

“We started a crowdfunding campaign and raised over 100,000 Francs in only ten days, bringing us closer to our 160,000 CHF objective. But not only that: several polls have indicated that we might very well be able to win the public vote!”

The success of the idea of letting consumers choose which TV and radio programs they watch is apparent. Journalists (who, by the way, are exempt from paying this fee) are releasing heavy verbal fire on the campaigners. They claim it would cause massive unemployment in the media sector, that it is anti-democratic, and that it would enable big foreign companies to take over the Swiss market.

“It’s actually quite peculiar. The Swiss conservatives, who are usually the ones spreading fear of foreigners, support us because they believe that state media is being biased against them, while the Left opposes us because they believe the evil foreign media channels from Germany, Italy, and France will eat us up. This shows how strange the idea of a free market can sound to people,” says Frédéric.

Until the vote in March, he is busily writing op-eds and participating in radio and TV debates. If the campaign would be successful, then this would definitely be one of the most extraordinary free-market grassroots-led initiatives in Europe to date.

Frédéric and the campaign hope to raise more money for their efforts. You can support them through their crowdfunding campaign here: www.wemakeitbetter.ch

Adapted from an article originally appearing on the Freedom Today Network

Posted January 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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All Lives Matter   Leave a comment

Image result for image of police brutalityBrad has been making me watch these videos on 1st Amendment audits. Search for them on Youtube. Some of them are annoying and some of them are very informative. I’m sort of fed up with Brad’s latest obsession, but I am grateful to know about the topic.

Basically, law enforcement in the United States has gone full-on tyrannical. Again, this is associated with the growth of the state. We thought it was a good idea to give government agents the authority to order people around and abuse them regardless if they are causing harm to anyone. We’re reaping the logical results of that concept. Brad wants to see it change right now, but I recognize that’s a sea-change requiring an evolution in consciousness.

The current relationship of law enforcement officers to the public is flatout wrong, but the fix will take a long time to establish. In the meantime, there are some obvious fixes that would make things a lot better right now – and it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting.

Image result for image of police brutalityLaw enforcers should be required to know the law – and be fired when they are caught making up law  …

Law enforcers have guns. You knew that. Citizens who carry guns operate under extremely strict rules and are warned that they had better not operate outside the law, even by a little bit. Repercussions for doing so are severe. Statistics show they comply and rarely rarely operate outside the law.

Is is legal to film cops in their interactions with you?

Shouldn’t the same standard apply to armed police officers? Shouldn’t they be expected to at least know what the law is? Shouldn’t they be sanctioned just as severely as an ordinary citizen if they step outside the bounds of the law?

Keep in mind that everything cop – no matter how “friendly” he may seem – is backed up by a gun. You know it and he knows it. This makes every encounter between a citizen and a police officer inherently threatening to the citizen, who is usually unarmed.

Which is why it so important that law enforcers restrict their enforcement to the actual law … and nothing beyond the law. No citizen should ever have to worry about law enforcement unless he has violated a law or, to borrow from legalese, given law enforcement some specific reason to suspect he has or may be about to violate the law.

Is it legal to film public buildings from public spaces?

And yet, citizens are routinely accosted by armed law enforcement ignorant (or contemptuous) of the law. Examples are many but include belligerently confronting citizens legally taking pictures or video in public, where there is no expectation of privacy and the courts have repeatedly stated that no permit or permission is needed to photograph or video record anything that is plainly visible from a sidewalk or other public right-of-way. That includes  law enforcement offices, courts, jail facilities and so on.

Image result for image of police brutalityLaw enforcers often regard such photography/video-taking as an affront to their authority, but it is not illegal. If they do not know this and accost citizens, they are derelict in their duty. If they do know this and accost citizens, they are simply thugs. Either should be cause for immediate dismissal and, in several of the cases I’ve viewed, criminal prosecution. If mere citizen accosted someone lawfully going about his business in such a manner, we would be arrested and probably tried and convicted for assault.

Any illegal act performed by a person given life or death power over others ought to be treated at least as seriously as the same action would be treated if performed by an ordinary citizen, who usually lack life or death power over others.

Law enforcement is “trained” in all kinds of things peripheral to knowledge of the law: e.g., how to suss out arbitrarily illegal drugs or perform a “visual estimate” of vehicle speed, admissible as evidence in court. Why not require that law enforcers demonstrate competent working knowledge of the law – and weed out those who demonstrate that they do not possess it?

The right to defend oneself against an abusive law enforcer

If someone enters your home illegally, attempts to take something of yours or threatens you with physical violence, you have a legal (as well as moral) right to defend yourself. If you get the better of your assailant – or simply get away from him – you won’t be charged with a crime, but they will be.

 

Few question the rightness of this.

Image result for image of police brutalityWhy shouldn’t the same standard apply when a citizen is abused by law enforcement? Why should a government-issued costume grant what amounts to a license to abuse people by making such abuse, in effect, a legally protected act – since the citizen isn’t permitted to defend himself against such?

Shouldn’t a citizen be free to ignore a palpably unlawful command and walk away without legal repercussions? And, if legally justified, defend himself physically against an abusive law enforcer?

As it stands, not only does a citizen face repercussions for ignoring unlawful orders or defending himself against abuse of authority, the abusive law enforcer is treated far more gently for his abusive actions than the citizen is for defending his legal rights.

Personal liability for wrong-doing

Most of us are held personally responsible, civilly as well as criminally, for any reckless or criminal conduct we commit that results in harm to others or damage to their property. Ordinary citizens cannot foist the bill for the damage they cause in the course of their work onto the backs of taxpayers, as law enforcement routinely does.

We all want to believe that cops have our best interests at heart, but many of us have had encounters that have convinced us that most of them don’t. Many people live in jurisdictions where cops have killed and assaulted law-abiding citizens without any repercussions. When police step over the line, they should face judgment just as when citizens step over the line. Yes, losing their jobs should be on the table, but when they physically harm someone or cause property damage, they should also face criminal penalty and civil liability … just like ordinary citizens. Furthermore, they should not be allowed to fall back on the excuse that the citizen they were pummeling was “resisting arrest” when the person was just trying to protect themselves from an assault.

Posted December 26, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Government

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Culture of Denial   Leave a comment

To address a problem requires the admission of a problem. That’s an AA maxim that has broad application in the world. Rick, my cousin who is a doctor, says you can’t really treat an illness until you’ve diagnosed it.

A second AA maxim is that if you keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, you’re making yourself crazy.

Image result for image of the regulatory stateStarting about 100 years ago – a little longer in Europe – western democracies bought into the idea that the private sector was bad. Left to its own devices, it would pillage the population – creating a privileged few who could set prices and wages for everyone else. The liberal order – whereby elected officials ran the government with the assistance of workers who left office when they did – made this all the more probable. What was needed, they insisted, was a professional bureaucracy of experts in various fields who were sheltered from political upheaval and would remain in place from one administration to the next. These enlightened nonpartisans could assure the health, safety, economic prosperity and general order of society and leave the private individual free to do whatever they could conceive … so long as what they conceived didn’t interfere with the functioning of the government bureaucracy, of course.

And, for a while, that worked. It took 50 years or so for budgets and work forces to grow to the place where they began to eat the private sector and leave us all frustrated with the size, scope and generally ineffectualness of the government.

Now, populists on both side of the political divide have grown frustrated with the political, economic and cultural status quo, frustrated with the policy choices that have made their lives less prosperous and less secure. The establishment keeps insisting that these people are wrong … just look at all the great government benefits you can apply for. Don’t worry that there are no jobs. You don’t need to even get out of bed in the morning.

And, the establishment wonders why people don’t want to listen to them? Really?

While that might sound like a great life style to a few people raised in a life of leisure, for most people that sounds like torture. There is nothing quite so undignified as an adult whose bills are being paid by someone else and we instinctively know that, which is why the most self-sufficient of us — rural dwellers — rail so loudly against welfare even when they qualify for it … because they don’t want to have their dignity stripped from them. They’d rather work hard for less money than sit on their butts waiting for their government check.

Plus, it turns out that being hard working actually improves our life expectancy.

The populists on both sides of the political divide are demanding change, but after a century of being educated to believe the private sector is bad and the public sector can fix that, they suffer from cognitive dissonance. They want to upend the elitist structure that doesn’t listen to them (noble goal), but then they demand programs that assure that government will continue growing and failing as it grows.

Under the progressive elite, the democratic countries asked too much of government while crowding out civil society and constraining market forces. Now we find ourselves in the inevitable doldrums inherent in a centrally planned society and we demand government “fix” that which it caused.

Unfortunately, while the populists have the right diagnosis, they believe the public school rhetoric that the private sector is bad and must be controlled by the public sector. So, upon finding they have been poisoned, they ask for more poison to counteract its effects.

The solution?

There are no easy answers for uprooting a Siberian pea hedge and, make no mistake, the US government is well-entrenched. To some degree, this can be addressed by us all engaging in rigorous comparative institutional analysis with a willingness to make substantive changes. The world won’t end if we go from 15 bureaucracies to oversee the “environment” that are all Congressionally-created non-Executive branch agencies that receive almost zero oversight to a single agency answerable to the President and cabinet. Yeah, some people will lose their jobs and budgets might be reduced … why is that a problem? I fail to see a downside for ordinary Americans.

Maybe we can look at the labyrinthine mess that is medical-care regulation and see if reducing some of the burden on providers might result in lower prices in the marketplace. No, people probably won’t die if they can buy insurance from Connecticut that is useable in Alaska … kind of like we do with car insurance now. I have better coverage now than I did 30 years ago for slightly less than my premium was in 1981 when Alaska had only two authorized car insurance dealers.

If someone with more time than I have was willing to go through the regulatory state and demand that each and every agency justify its existence and the efficacy of every one of its regulations, we might find that we could shrink government considerably with absolutely no loss of life quality.

So what are we afraid of? Oh, yeah — ourselves and the idea that we are the solutions we’ve been seeking.

 

Whatever Happened to the 4th Amendment?   Leave a comment

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

The Fourth Amendment supposedly protects us from unreasonable searches of our homes, businesses and persons and seizures of our possessions and papers. It’s become no more than a paper barrier assaulted by a water pistol under a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, shoot, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for any reason.

Image result for image of the 4th amendmentIf you follow the link above, you’ll find a detailed description of forced cavity searches, blood draws, breath-alcohol tests, and DNA extractions. In the course of conducting our every day lives, we are coerced into submitting to forced eye scans and inclusion in biometric databases. And that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg. Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Worse, on a daily basis, Americans are being made to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States. We are constantly reminded that we are now guilty until proven innocent.

Americans are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance. Homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext. Property is seized on the slightest hint of suspicious activity. Roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Utah nurse Alex Wubbels after a police detective demanded to take blood from a badly injured, unconscious patient without a warrant. Wubbels refused, citing hospital policy that requires police to either have a warrant or permission from the patient in order to draw blood. The detective had neither. Irate, the detective threatened to have Wubbels arrested if she didn’t comply. Backed up by her supervisors, Wubbels respectfully stood her ground only to be roughly grabbed, handcuffed, dragged out of the hospital and forced into an unmarked car while hospital police stood by, unable to intervene without risking arrest themselves. Here’s the police body camera footage, which has gone viral. You can see what happened for yourselves.

Michael Chorosky didn’t have an advocate like Wubbels to stand guard over his Fourth Amendment rights. Chorosky was surrounded by police, strapped to a gurney and then had his blood forcibly drawn after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. “What country is this? What country is this?” cried Chorosky during the forced blood draw.

Image result for image of the 4th amendmentYeah … I don’t know either. Is this still the United States of America? It kind of looks like the former Soviet Union or communist China.

Unfortunately, forced blood draws are minor compared to some of the indignities and abuses being heaped on Americans in the so-called name of “national security.” Think about forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies and forced roadside strip searches. These are becoming commonplace in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the bodily integrity of mere people who may not have done anything wrong.

Charnesia Corley, 21, was pulled over by Texas police in 2015 for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. No drugs were found in the car. You’d think they would then take off the handcuffs and apologize profusely for being overzealous … but, no … that’s not the country we live in now.

The Houston Chronicle reported:

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then…Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe. No drugs were found on Corley’s person

The cavity search lasted 11 minutes. The street slang for this practice is “rape by cop.” Is anyone surprised that it is common enough to have developed street slang?

Corley was charged with resisting arrest and with possession of 0.2 grams of marijuana, those charges were subsequently dropped. The full dash-cam video was released to the Houston Chronicle and can be viewed here.  Two of the officers who conducted the search, William Strong and Ronaldine Pierre, were indicted in June 2016 by a Harris County grand jury on charges of official oppression, but those charges were dropped, apparently because we think this is behavior cops ought to engage in on a more regular basis..

David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Walmart parking lot. Walmart parking lot … isn’t that private property? Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” So, this guy had good posture. That’s a crime now? No drugs were found.

During a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. No contraband or anything illegal was found.

Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, the trooper proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

Gerald Dickson, 69, was handcuffed and taken into custody (not arrested or charged with any crime) after giving a ride to a neighbor’s son, whom police suspected of being a drug dealer. Despite Dickson’s insistence that the bulge under his shirt was the result of a botched hernia surgery, police ordered Dickson to “strip off his clothes, bend over and expose all of his private parts.” No drugs or contraband were found.

Four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

A North Carolina public school allegedly strip-searched a 10-year-old boy in search of a $20 bill lost by another student, despite the fact that the boy, J.C., twice told school officials he did not have the missing money. The assistant principal reportedly ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear. The missing money was later found in the school cafeteria.

Suspecting that Georgia Tech alum Mary Clayton might be attempting to smuggle a Chick-Fil-A sandwich into the football stadium, a Georgia Tech police officer allegedly subjected the season ticket-holder to a strip search that included a close examination of her underwear and bra. No contraband chicken was found.

Forced searches span a broad spectrum of methods and scenarios, but the common denominator is complete disregard for the rights of the citizenry.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlison, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (minor traffic offense, for example), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include:

  • individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler
  • driving with an inoperable headlight
  • failing to use a turn signal
  • riding a bicycle without an audible bell
  • making an improper left turn
  • engaging in an antiwar demonstration

Police have also carried out strip searches for:

  • passing a bad check
  • dog leash violations
  • filing a false police report
  • failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn
  • having outstanding parking tickets
  • public intoxication
  • failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search

As technology advances, these searches are becoming more invasive on a cellular level, as well.

For instance, close to 600 motorists leaving Penn State University one Friday night were stopped by police and, without their knowledge or consent, subjected to a breathalyzer test using flashlights that can detect the presence of alcohol on a person’s breath. These passive alcohol sensors are being hailed as a new weapon in the fight against DUIs.

Those who refuse to knowingly submit to a breathalyzer test are being subjected to forced blood draws. Thirty states presently allow police to do forced blood draws on drivers as part of a nationwide “No Refusal” initiative funded by the federal government. Not even court rulings declaring such practices to be unconstitutional in the absence of a warrant have slowed down the process. Now police simply keep a magistrate on call to rubber stamp the procedure over the phone.)

The National Highway Safety Administration, which funds the “No Refusal” DUI checkpoints and forcible blood draws, is also funding nationwide roadblocks aimed at getting drivers to “voluntarily” provide police with DNA derived from saliva and blood samples, reportedly to study inebriation patterns. In at least 28 states, including Alaska, there’s nothing voluntary about having one’s DNA collected by police in instances where you’ve been arrested. At least in Alaska, you have to be have been convicted of a crime. All of this DNA data is being fed to the federal government.

Airline passengers, already subjected to invasive pat downs and virtual strip searches, are now being scrutinized even more closely, with the Customs and Border Protection agency tasking airport officials with monitoring the bowel movements of passengers suspected of ingesting drugs. They even have a special hi-tech toilet designed to filter through a person’s fecal waste.

Iris scans, an essential part of the U.S. military’s boots-on-the-ground approach to keeping track of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, are becoming a de facto method of building the government’s already mammoth biometrics database. Funded by the Dept. of Justice, along with other federal agencies, the iris scan technology is being incorporated into police precincts, jails, immigration checkpoints, airports and even schools. School officials—from elementary to college—have begun using iris scans in place of traditional ID cards. In some parts of the country, parents wanting to pick their kids up from school have to first submit to an iris scan.

As for those endless pictures everyone so cheerfully uploads to Facebook (which has the largest facial recognition database in the world) or anywhere else on the internet, they’re all being accessed by the police, filtered with facial recognition software, uploaded into the government’s mammoth biometrics database and cross-checked against its criminal files. With good reason, civil libertarians fear these databases could “someday be used for monitoring political rallies, sporting events or even busy downtown areas.”

Our Founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we need protection agains widespread government breeches of our privacy down to the cellular level, yet they had the good sense to create the 4th Amendment to prevent government officials from searching an individual’s person or property without a proper warrant and probably cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity is going on). We desperately need to return to the bedrock of this Constitutional protection because the indignities we all undergo from agents of America’s police state are just a taste of what will come in the future if we continue to allow the government to undermine our rights.

 

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to accept a society in which we have little real control over our bodies or our lives and to come to believe that is normal.

Posted October 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Tyranny

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Could Food Assistance Cause Obesity?   Leave a comment

Did you know that the US is one of the most obese nations in the world? It’s the only G-8 nation to crack the top 20 of the most overweight countries worldwide. A 2015 report commission by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the US “has the fattest kids by a wide margin and is tops in poor health for teenagers.”

Image result for image of snap programFor almost the entirety of human history, mankind has struggled to get enough to food to eat to meet a sufficient daily caloric intake. Today, low-income people are taking in too many calories and are much more likely to be overweight than people in the middle and upper classes.

 

We’re not supposed to talk about that. It’s considered impolite and impolitic. Bringing it up has trashed a few political careers. A few years ago British PM Anna Soubry, who served in the UK Department of Health, came under fire for observing that government policy and “an abundance of bad food” were causing an epidemic of fat children and low-income people in the UK.

“A third of our children leave primary school overweight or obese … When I go to my constituency, in fact when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight. Obviously, not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds but that’s where the propensity lies.”

Image result for image of snap program and obesityYeah, you can imagine the harangues she received. The US has a significantly higher percentage of its population who classify as obese than the UK, yet we seem even more reticent to acknowledge our obesity epidemic. When the problem is acknowledged, we’re often told that the way to alleviate the epidemic is through additional public spending, “such as raising the minimum wage or increasing earned-income tax credits.”

If the problem is that Americans are taking in too many calories, I fail to see how increasing the minimum wage or earned-income tax credits will address the problem. In fact, I wonder if public spending is partially fueling the US obesity epidemic.

The federal government oversees the nation’s $74 billion food stamp (or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise called SNAP). The program (under the Food Stamp Program name) was launched in 1964 after a three-year pilot program, but it went nationwide in 1974, at which point participation reached almost 14 million.

Interestingly, government data reveals this is almost precisely the same year America’s obesity levels began to increase, as the Bloomberg chart below illustrates.

Yes, we could be looking at a case of post hoc ergo proctor hoc, but it also could be that the government’s own policies are fueling the increase?

Government data show the typical American family on food stamps receives about $500 per month to spend on food, and as much as $771. That’s significantly more than my family of five spends on groceries per month.

I am a prudent shopper, but we live in Alaska, which has a 22 percent higher cost of living than the Lower 48 and food prices are higher by about 30 percent. We pay about $400 for groceries every month, and that includes more than just food. That’s including the dog’s food, laundry detergent and all those other household items you pick up at the supermarket, but that wouldn’t be covered by SNAP. (I can’t be bothered today to sit down and separate those items out).

So, $400 in a high-cost community, not all of it spent on food, but it’s on our own nickle or $500 a month on the governments dime?

Government data also shows that people on food stamps purchase soda (#1) and bag snacks (#4) at higher rates than non-SNAP households. It certainly seems possible that these unhealthy items are being purchased in larger quantities than they would absent food stamp income.

Now, there is an old argument that suggests that poor people eat unhealthy food because they cannot afford to eat healthy food. Having grown up in a working class family, I’ve always found that argument unpersuasive.

Related imageThe America Farm Bureau Federation says the price of eggs, arguably the healthiest food on the planet, is $1.32 (it’s $1.59 here in Fairbanks) per dozen. Other highly nutritious foods – beans, rice, and bananas, to name a few – are similarly inexpensive, which is why my working class family bought them a lot and why I still buy them for my middle-class family. So, if welfare recipients were trying to stretch food dollars, you would think they’d buy these low cost health foods. It seems more likely that most welfare recipients choose to eat unhealthy food because it’s easy (no prep), tastes good, and they have the resources to buy large quantities of it thanks to their monthly government benefit.

Since the US food assistance program went nationwide in 1974, the number of Americans collecting assistance has more than tripled, to 45 million today. The increase in food stamp assistance has tracked closely with the rise in obesity rates. While it’s unclear if there’s causation behind this correlation, it makes you go “hmmm” and then ask yourself, “Have federal food assistance policies contributed to the surge in obesity in the United States?

This thesis is not particularly original. I’m thinking with the Founding Fathers, actually. In 1766, in his tract On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, Benjamin Franklin noted that public efforts to alleviate poverty often had perverse effects on the people they were intended to help:

“I am for doing good to the poor, but … I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed … that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer.”

I can’t think of many things that would make people “easier in their poverty” than a program like SNAP. If SNAP is contributing to the obesity epidemic, then our government is quite literally killing these people. Shouldn’t we want to study that to see if we can fix that?

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