Archive for the ‘liberty’ Tag

Alaskan Fights for Liberty   Leave a comment

John Sturgeon encountered the typical federal government attitude that Alaska belongs to the federal government … not just the federal lands, but the state lands as well. Like so many of us, it made him angry. He decided to do something about it and now he’s before the Supreme Court. This coincides with our local newspaper finally returning to local ownership resulting in a change in editorial policy. I included the editorial in its entirety, but I also provided a link to an Atlantic article that manages to deal with the issue sanely … as apposed to the rest of the liberal press, like Outside magazine. If you want to understand why Americans have taken over a National Park Service building in Oregon, this is one example. If this case is decided wrongly, Alaskans will no longer be able to use the rivers of the state to get anywhere without federal permission. In a state where 80% of the communities are not connected to a road system, that could be devastating. Lela

 

http://www.newsminer.com/opinion/editorials/alaskans-rights-deserve-protection-u-s-supreme-court-should-side/article_bf9acb88-bf28-11e5-ab1e-637e6b7e3889.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/a-constitutional-right-to-hovercraft/410176/

http://www.outsideonline.com/2041426/who-controls-alaskas-waterways

News-Miner opinion: Today in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will resonate thousands of miles beyond the nation’s capital. The case of John Sturgeon v. National Parks Service and Department of Interior, being argued this week, could have big impacts on state residents’ ability to traverse waterways within Alaska. While the incident in question isn’t particularly notable — a disagreement over use of a hovercraft on a river flowing through a national park — the precedent it sets will be. It will provide a legal answer to the question of who has authority over navigable waters within the parks: the state or the federal government?

It’s a question Mr. Sturgeon and many Alaskans thought was settled. The relevant passage in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act reads as follows:

“Only those lands within the boundaries of any conservation system unit which are public lands (as such term is defined in this Act) shall be deemed to be included as a portion of such unit. No lands which, before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act, are conveyed to the State, to any Native Corporation, or to any private party shall be subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands within such units.”

Mr. Sturgeon, through his attorneys, makes a straightforward case. Based on established law, submerged lands under navigable waterways (in Mr. Sturgeon’s case, the Nation River) belong to the state, so state law is in force for those transiting them. As ANILCA states, state and private lands within the boundaries of the federal areas created by the act are not to be governed by the federal rules applying to the land surrounding them. If federal law were to apply on the waterways, the ability of Alaskans to access much of the land within the state — a land mass greater in size than the state of California — could be greatly curtailed. This is of particular concern for Alaska Native corporations with holdings adjoining such lands. Federal rule changes limiting transportation on waterways could isolate parcels and greatly hinder development, subsistence hunting and fishing or other uses for their land, directly contravening the stated purposes both of ANILCA and ANCSA.

The phrase “federal overreach” has been lobbed by state leaders and Alaska’s congressional delegation so often and loudly it has lost its meaning in some cases. But in the Sturgeon case, there’s no other way to describe what’s happening. In the language of ANILCA, Congress’ intent was clear. The law sought to strike a balance between protecting federal lands that would be governed under national laws and regulations and protecting the rights of Alaskans to use, traverse and transit private holdings and those of the state. By attempting to expand the jurisdiction of federal agencies, the agencies Mr. Sturgeon has sued are significantly endangering Alaskans’ rights in that regard.

Those with an interest in the balance of federal and state power should hope Mr. Sturgeon prevails and the rights of Alaskans to travel on state waterways are protected.

Common Sense on Self-Defense.   Leave a comment

Which would you prefer?

They’ll Be Watching You   15 comments

It happened almost without our realizing it. How did it start? Who authorized it? How do we get rid of it? Should we get rid of it?

I’m talking about the Surveillance State or, as I like to call it, institutional stalking. So are my fellow authors on the Open Book Blog Hop. Check out what Kelli Williams has to say on her blog and while you’re at it, maybe pick up a great book to read.

We’re interested in your opinion as well, so if you want to join us for the blog hop, click the links below.

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So, first, “nanny” spying. It wasn’t an option when my kids were little, so I had to rely on this quaint old-fashioned value called trust. Before I left my kids with someone, I got to know them a bit, so that I came to trust them with these precious humans. I turned down some people I knew pretty well because something in my gut said “No.” If I’d had a camera, maybe I wouldn’t have done that and I don’t think that would necessarily have been a good thing. I’m not sure our world is improved by the lack of trust and, generally, these nanny cams seem to mostly end the owners’ marriages, which makes me wonder who it is the installers are not trusting.

I used to work for a mental health agency that hired a paranoid supervisor who installed cameras in the residences to spy on the workers. They were absolutely no good for catching the client who murdered our coworker because they were all in the office focused on the workers. I was asked once to go through the tapes. What did I find?

Nothing! My coworkers were boring. They did their jobs. I learned that I am not a stalker at nature and that I have no desire to ever waste a day going through surveillance tapes again. Ever! I also solidified a vague feeling that I had that I don’t like this technology.

Ah, but these cameras and other surveillance catch criminals and terrorists! Do they?

Most Americans are deeply suspicious when government tells us that we should trust it with our privacy because “they” know what is best for us. That’s what the Obama administration tries to tell us as deep in the Utah desert, the National Security Agency (NSA) has built a $1.5 billion complex to collect and analyze data from the Internet. This complex quite literally could withstand a nuclear war, so our petty protests mean nothing to it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah — the Patriot Act is no more … but that didn’t stop the stalking. Stalkers don’t stop when you tell them to because they don’t care about you. And all of the changes in law will not affect their behavior.

To a certain extent, some of this is our own fault. We all give up a great deal of privacy whenever we choose to go out on the Net. Google keeps massive amounts of data on all of us and a good many of us have voluntarily allowed Facebook and other social media sites to pretty much track our every movement.

For the record, I might tell you I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, but I have my location blocked because it’s nobody’s business where I am at any given moment. Not Google’s … or Amazon’s … or the NSA’s. I may never fire a shot in a bloody revolution, but I will exercise my liberty to the fullest extent that I can within my capabilities of doing so. Every time Google or Facebook or whatever says “Let us know your location so we can serve you better”, I click the box that says “Block location”. I don’t have a GPS on my car or my cell phone. Nobody needs to know where I am!

Big Brother is watching you and just because it’s the government does not make it any less creepy than any other stalker. Just because Facebook asks permission does not mean you should comply. If a flesh-and-blood stalker asked you for permission to stalk you, would you say “since you asked, oh, sure”? I doubt it. So why do you allow these companies to do it?

Where I believe the surveillance state should exist is exactly where it hasn’t existed. Body cameras on cops and government officials would get my vote. They’re our employees and besides, if they want to watch everything we do, why shouldn’t we return the favor? It might curb their tendency to shoot unarmed civilians and generally tyrannize any citizen they come in contact with. Of course, some government officials may struggle with paying their bills when they can no longer take bribes. And, yes, I would stick body cameras on Senators and Presidents, make them wear them 24/7 and make the footage available to the public online. Fair is fair and they are ALL our government employees. If they want their privacy, they don’t have to take the job. I’m giving them far more choice in the matter than they have given us.

This philosophy undergirds much of my book Life As We Knew It and the series Transformation Project. The surveillance state is all over the book to where my main character even asks “Is there really anything resembling privacy anymore?” He is told that, no, there really isn’t.

And THEN terrorists blow up the world.

OP-DEC: Operation DeceitNo, I don’t believe the surveillance state keeps us safe. There are cameras everywhere in the United States and Europe and it didn’t stop the Boston Bombing or the Paris terrorist attacks. The invasion of privacy hasn’t stopped school shootings or mall mayhem. About all it does do is make it easier for law enforcement to issue speeding tickets. Maybe if the cameras were turned on the officials instead of the people, they would be effective. Otherwise … nope!

But wait! The day of drones is coming and that will just facilitate easier spying on we the people. So … what do we do about it?

No, that’s a question. What do you think we can do about it? Or do you think it’s a good idea to allow the government and Amazon to stalk our every move? Maybe you can convince me I’m wrong. Feel free to share. All opinions are welcome.

Reasonable Bias   Leave a comment

All of us have biases. We want to believe we don’t. “I’m enlightened and I don’t base my decisions on subconscious or unconscious cues!” We say that, yet we do just that every day, all day long.

Discrimination is a survival skill, so it is biologically impossible not to be biased. It’s written into our DNA. I’m personally not a big believer in evolution, but neuroscientists say bias is how we survived as a species. Our ancestors saw something that looked scary and either ran away or killed it. Those who didn’t gradually died off, leaving behind the ones who fled or fought.

Some people would say that we in the 21st century no longer need that fight or flight response, so should overcome those inner demons in order to make “rational” decisions. There’s no reason to distrust our fellow man or protect ourselves from him. All will be well if we just let go of our bias … bigotry … racism … violence … guns … religion … nationalism … etc., etc., etc.

I’m unconvinced. I grew up in Alaska, where the civil rights debate was already long over before the United States got around to discussing it, but a product of being raised during the Civil Rights movement is that I try always to admit to myself that I have biases. As a human, I am flawed, damaged by the Fall. But then so are my fellow humans. I hit pause when my instincts might say to distrust someone of a different race or nationality or religion. I’ve met some lovely people by doing that. Yet ….

I’ve been in situations where my gut reaction was to not trust someone and mostly I’ve been proven right by that person’s behavior. I can’t always explain those hunches. Discernment of spirits is a gift of the Spirit, but it might also sometimes boil down to bias — hundreds of pieces of evidence that alert my gut to not trust this person regardless of skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender or whatever. Sometimes you just know somebody is a risk to you.

So while I stand against bigotry, I don’t stand against bias because I think it’s a useful tool for self-protection. Joyce Brothers suggested that the gut knows what the head hasn’t get processed.

There are some biases that we should set aside though and for good reason. I try never to hide from those whose opinions are different from my own. In fact, I’ll invite an argument with them just to hear what they have to say. Why? Diversity of opinion is a far better methodology for solving complex problems than the utilization of similar-minded folks. Far too many people live in a bubble these days, refusing to even entertain arguments they disagree with.

That, by the way, is a more dangerous discrimination than choosing to live in an all-white (or all-black) neighborhood, because you can commute out of that neighborhood to interact with other races, but when you segregate your information and opinion, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to see realities that you may one day wish you’d seen earlier.

It’s why I’m listening to all the presidential debates. I know that in the end, I’m not going to agree with certain candidates. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both statists intent upon taking away my freedoms to enrich themselves or their own special interests and I opposed dynastic rule on principle, so Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will not be getting my vote. Regardless of that, I will listen and take notes and then read the transcripts later, because for me, it’s important to be fully informed on as many sides of the issue as I can manage. That doesn’t mean I have to agree, but it does mean that at times I might change my mind … if the evidence is strong enough to warrant it.

But know that if you come at me arguing for (example) gun control and you haven’t bothered to look for solutions favored outside of your own bubble, that you’re not going to convince me because I have already looked at your argument and found it to be lacking. Until you take the blinders off and look at the other side (or several angles), you are showing your bias rather than your reason.

Posted October 14, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Testing the Worthiness of Our Cause   Leave a comment

The question is not “Can Christians disobey the governments they find themselves under?” Clearly early Christian did and Jesus told them they would have to. The question is really “How do we say ‘no” in a godly way?”

Returning to our definition of Christian civil disobedience, we need a way of testing the validity of our disobedience. It’s human to want to rebel, as evidenced by Adam and Eve. It’s important for Christians to rebel only when authorized by God to do so. So how do we determine when we’re within God’s will in our desires?

Five Tests for Civil Disobedience

  • The law opposed is immoral, in conflict with a higher claim;
  • Every possible non-disobedient recourse has been exhausted, with the definition of “possible” and “exhausted” being tempered by the situation;
  • the protest is not clandestine;
  • there is a likelihood of success (drawing a distinction between purely personal action taken for conscience sake and the sort of social disobedience which seeks to change society and thus must have its potential bad effects balanced against the good likely to emerge);
  • there is willingness to accept the penalty.

Three Additional Tests for Christian Civil Disobedience

  • The witness must be representative of the church’s clear conviction;
  • the witness of the church must be consistent with her own behavior;
  • the church should speak only when she has something to say, rather than feeling obligated to make a statement.

If we follow these suggestions, there is much more likelihood of civil disobedience being truly holy obedience.

God Uses Government Overreach to Spread the Gospel   2 comments

The New Testament, particularly Acts, makes it clear that that Jesus’ followers did not blindly obey the governments under which they found themselves. Faithfulness to God was primary for them. History records that the 16th-century anabaptists were faithful to God first and the state second. Jesus knew that His followers would be in tension with the authorities. He instructed them (and us):

You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:9b-11 NIV).

These are hardly the instructions of a leader expecting His followers to obey every authority instituted among men. For the sake of the gospel, followers of Jesus will refuse to obey men when the governments of men violate the laws of God. But, also for the Lord’s sake, the followers of Jesus will submit to every authority instituted among men, and by so doing will bear witness to those authorities as Paul did in Rome. For those who don’t know Biblical history, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were both penned by Luke as a defense of Christianity in Paul’s trial before Caesar. Paul was released, perhaps in part because of Luke’s writings, and served several more years as a missionary before he was re-arrested and beheaded at the order of a subsequent, and apparently less reasonable, emperor.

Why did God allow that? John Howard Yoder explained: “We subject ourselves to government because it was in so doing that Jesus revealed and achieved God’s victory.” At least one Caesar and his court heard the gospel and we ended up with two wonderful histories of the early Christian era.

So we desire both to be faithful to God and submit to government. What do Christians do when we believe the government is asking us to behave contrary to God’s will for us? D. Edmond Hiebert offers some initial guidance:

Peter’s condensed instructions [1 Peter 2:13] did not deal with the believer’s response whenever government demands that which is contrary to the Christian faith. In Acts 4:19 and 5:29 we have the example of Peter himself concerning the Christian response under such conditions. For the Christian the state is not the highest authority, and whenever government demands that which is in conflict with the dictates of the conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit and the Word, then the Christian must obey the Word of God and suffer the results. ‘The Church soon learned by bitter experience that there are some things which the state has no right to do, and that therefore the counsel of submission has its limitations: But under ordinary circumstances, believers should actively support civil government in its promotion of law and order.

The key here is “a conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit and the Word”. Since anabaptists and congregationalists also believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through the body of believers another test is revealed. The Word and the Spirit speaking in concert with the body of believers will tell us when the state has overstepped its bounds and when a Christian must say “no” to the state.

Which brings the question – What shape does that holy “no” take?

A History of Contrariness   1 comment

In examining my anabaptist roots, I am struck by how often these advocates for non-violence and separation of church and state used civil disobedience as their means to protect themselves from the encroachment of the government into their faith.

For the purpose of this article, “civil disobedience” is defined as:

Purposeful, nonviolent action, or refusal to act, by a Christian who believes such action or inaction is required of him or her in order to be faithful to God, and which s/he knows will be treated by the governing authorities as a violation of law.

This article further assumes a Christian stance which rejects violence as a means to any end.

Three Scripture passages are generally cited for the proposition that Christians are to obey the government:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish {24} those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Peter 2:13-15 NIV).

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-2 NIV).

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities which exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves (Romans 13:1-2 NIV).

In my prior conversation with Becky Akers, she explained how these Bible verses have been misinterpreted and misrepresented to urge Christians to obey the government in every instance, even when the government infringes upon our right to practice our faith. This contradicts clear Biblical narratives that show that the early Christians did not always obey the government.

The tension in which Christians find themselves is shown in Acts 4 when the Sanhedrin orders Peter and John not to teach or speak in the name of Jesus, and they ask whether it is right to obey God or men. The Sanhedrin believed their authority superceded God’s in this matter. Peter and John took the opposite view.

Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem caused his opponents to incite a riot for which Paul was blamed. The Bible shows that he was quite willing to use the Roman legal system to avoid be flogged for something that was not really his fault. His decision afforded him an opportunity to witness in new ways. Simply being a Christian was a violation of Roman law until Constantine endorsed Christianity. Luther violated the law by arguing with the Roman Catholic Church over matters of Biblical doctrine versus Church dogma. Sixteenth-century Anabaptists violated the law by not baptizing their infants and by baptizing adults previously sprinkled as infants.

We tend to forget that before Jesus began to preach the Jews were certainly in tension with their rulers. Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, tells the story of Jewish resistance to Pilate’s introduction of images of the emperor into Jerusalem. A large number of Jews lay in the courtyard for five days in protest, and when Pilate ordered his soldiers to surround them and threatened slaughter if the Jews did not submit, they instead bared their necks and said slaughter was preferable to the images. Pilate relented, by the way.

Historically, tension between Christians and their governments centered upon either the government’s demand that all citizens subscribe to and follow the practices of a state religion or the government’s prohibition of Christian practices which are central to the faith. Military service became a problem for both reasons. Pre-Constantinian Roman soldiers were required to participate in emperor worship and/or sacrifice to Roman idols. Moreover early Christians understood that killing was contrary to Jesus’ teaching whether done in peace or war. Marcellus the centurion, who was martyred in A.D. 298, objected for both reasons:

I cease from this military service of your emperors, and I scorn to adore your gods of stone and wood, which are deaf and dumb idols. If such is the position of those who render military service that they should be compelled to sacrifice to gods and emperors, then I cast down my vine-staff and belt, I renounce the standards, and I refuse to serve as a soldier . . . I threw down my arms; for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it also by inflicting earthly injuries.

For anabaptists of the 16th century adult baptism and military service were key points of tension with the government. The Martyrs Mirror shows how Christians have responded to demands of the government which directly contradicted their faith. The heroic acts depicted in the Martyrs Mirror may not seem the same as what we call civil disobedience in modern times, but the only real difference is the higher cost to those who defied the government in centuries past. They paid with their lives while we pay with fines and jail time.

Henry David Thoreau developed the modern concept of civil disobedience in the 19th century. In the western world of his era, emperors did not demand worship. The concept of civil disobedience was applied to “social issues” such as slavery, child labor, women’s suffrage, and prohibition of alcohol. Thoreau’s work on civil disobedience influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence.

In reviewing church history, we need to remember that the pre-Constantinian worldview was unfamiliar with the North American understandings of individualism and personal liberty. Marcellus did not throw down his staff and belt to make a statement about who he was as an individual or to strike a blow for individual liberty. Marcellus renounced soldiering as being unfaithful to his true Lord. Anabaptists in the 16th century didn’t have those concepts either. When we talk about Christian civil disobedience we are not talking about Thoreau and his New England Transcendentalism which focused on private conscience as against majority expediency. We are talking about faithfulness to God which transcends all earthly loyalties.

Nevertheless, the scripture passages quoted at the beginning make it clear that we are to be subject to the governing authorities. How is it that one is subject to government, yet refuses to obey it? That would appear to be a contradiction. John Howard Yoder offers an explanation:

It is not by accident that the imperative of [Romans] 13:1 is not literally one of obedience. The Greek language has good words to denote obedience, in the sense of completely bending one’s will and one’s actions to the desires of another. What Paul calls for, however, is subordination. This verb is based on the same root as the ordering of the powers by God. Subordination is significantly different from obedience. The conscientious objector who refuses to do what his government asks him to do, but still remains under the sovereignty of that government and accepts the penalties which it imposes, . . . is being subordinate even though he is not obeying.

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