Category Archives: Police State

This category has to do with the State’s threat to civil liberties and the surveillance state.

Just So We’re Clear…

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…Senate Democrats explicitly want expanded power to disarm law-abiding people. Lots of them. And it’s not hard to see how such power could be used to disarm political dissidents. We are no longer in the territory of “slippery slope” arguments.

What else can we infer from these politicians’ claims that if whatever gun confiscation measure they are currently trying to pass were in effect the Orlando shooting would have been prevented when the FBI had already interviewed the shooter twice and deemed him not to be a threat? Despite my skepticism of the FBI’s ability to perform law enforcement competently, I believe that they are right the vast majority of the time when they consider a suspect not to be a threat. After all, they have to fabricate terrorist plots in order to entrap terror suspects. So how could this legislation proposed by these senators have prevented the Orlando shooter from obtaining a gun (setting aside the issue of the efficacy of legal prohibitions in actually eradicating the availability of the prohibited item)?

The only answer is that it would have to cast a wide net that automatically excludes law-abiding people from owning a gun without any due process, necessarily including a huge number of false positives. How else could such legislation have excluded the Orlando shooter? They would have to define risk factors and make an algorithm to decide who loses their right to carry a firearm that would override decision-making by human beings in the FBI, as this case makes clear.

Furthermore, it does not take much imagination to see how such power could be used to punish/disarm political opponents and dissidents. By designating a “terrorist watch list” and making it so that those on this list are legally unable to own a gun, the federal government can disarm anyone it chooses. Do a web search of the words “Bundy” and “terrorist” and notice how many news outlets accused Cliven Bundy of being a terrorist and that, perhaps more importantly, Senator Harry Reid accused Bundy’s supporters of being terrorists. This stretches the definition of “terrorism” so far as to mean whatever the federal government wants it to mean – that is, anyone showing resistance to the will of the federal government.

Thus, I think it’s unreasonable to discount the fears of those concerned about how far the federal government will reach into people’s gun safes under the ostensible justification of public safety. Ultimately, the politicians have little to lose in terms of their own safety if they are wrong about the effects of civilian disarmament on violence – they are extremely privileged and have armed agents of the state at their beck and call regardless. And, more crucially, the effect of such expanded powers for the federal government is to take away individuals’ ability to protect themselves from the state, as demonstrated in the Bundy case.

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Another Reason You Should Have No Faith in Federal Judges

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Please check out this story by Ben Swann about how U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley rejected the ACLU’s lawsuit accusing the NSA of violating the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. To be honest, I am a bit disappointed; I try to look for the humanity remaining in those who occupy high level government positions. One of those was U.S. Circuit Court Judge Leon, who less than two weeks prior had ruled that the NSA’s Prism program of indiscriminate data collection was unlawful.

Judge William Pauley III

Judge William Pauley III

Hearing this prior ruling was a bit of a relief to me as surely no reasonable person could possibly decide what the NSA is doing is legal. Even if one wanted to argue that this massive spying program is, in fact, keeping Americans safe (or whatever), that is entirely different from it being legal. A federal judge denying the illegality of this program would most certainly signify that there is NOTHING the government can do that won’t receive the approval of the judicial branch.

As Swann states, Pauley gave no legal or Constitutional reason for his decision. He argues on the NSA’s behalf that they will not abuse this information and that 9/11 justifies such spying. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, SCOTUS has ruled that the federal government can force us to buy health insurance because of the taxing power, can steal medical marijuana where it is legal under state law under the interstate commerce clause (even though it is not interstate and not being sold), and that not participating in interstate commerce affects interstate commerce and therefore can be regulated.

The answer for Americans (at least those who aren’t yet ready to expatriate), might just be nullification, and eventually secession.

Just a reminder that Nomad Capitalist is hosting an event in Las Vegas this month where one can learn how to protect their wealth from increasingly despotic western governments. Please come and meet me there!

Reserve your seat at Passport to Freedom

Private Prisons Are Guaranteed Inmates by the State

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When I was studying criminal justice, the concept of the “prison-industrial complex” was brought up in comparison to the military-industrial complex warned about by Dwight Eisenhower. As the military-industrial complex describes the system of a collection of suppliers to the US military, as well as all who financially benefit from the waging of war, the prison-industrial complex are those who financially benefit from the warehousing of people who are convicted of crimes by the state.

This article from StoryLeak describes an effect of the latter. Apparently state and local governments have made contracts with privately run prisons that guarantee a steady supply of inmates, specifying financial penalties for those governments if they fail to supply enough inmates. There is a lot of money to be fleeced from taxpayers in this industry. Indeed, I think this presents an interesting challenge for minarchists, who typically believe that military defense and prison operations are legitimate functions of government: even at its most basic and accepted functions, governments find a way to be wasteful and benefit special interests at the expense of the rest of us. Read the rest of this entry

Senator James Risch on Drugs

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1015_steve-mcqueen-dead-celebs_485x340Perhaps the above title is ambiguous. Today’s post involves an email I received from Senator Risch regarding the Drug War. Personally, I find the War on Drugs to be an extremely bad policy. Drug criminalization, along with “Get Tough on Crime” measures such as mandatory minimum sentencing and three strikes laws, can explain over 90% of the explosive increase in US incarceration rates over the last four decades (please contact me if you are interested in getting a copy of the research paper I wrote on this).

This is very expensive, and I feel comfortable guaranteeing that people would be far more willing to end the Drug War if they knew how much it cost them, or at least reduce it by a dramatic extent. It costs around $20,000 per year to incarcerate a man (a figure provided to me by a criminal justice professor of corrections), and more for women (because there are fewer incarcerated women, economies of scale don’t apply as much). This is in addition to the money spent by the DEA and other law enforcement on actually catching drug users (rather than solving or preventing crimes with identifiable victims), as well as the court costs of prosecuting the huge numbers of drug offenders.

Also important to consider are the extreme costs to our civil liberties. Even though I have never used drugs, I consider myself a victim of the Drug War because of the fact that my car has twice been searched by the police using a drug sniffing dog. (It is my belief that the dog was not faulty, but that these officers lied about the dog alerting; there is no way I can prove that the dog didn’t alert, and there is no penalty to them for finding nothing. Thus, they are able to illegally search any vehicle at will.) Other than the War on Terror, nothing has eroded our civil liberties to the extent that the Drug War has.

And, ultimately, I don’t think it’s any business of the government what adults choose to put in their own bodies. As long as they are not harming anyone else, they should be left alone. There is a lot more one could say about the evils of the War on Drugs, but we’ll get into what James Risch has to say:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding drug legalization.  I really appreciate hearing from you.

I oppose the legalization of illicit drugs.  Legalization could encourage experimentation among those who currently do not use illegal substances and could lead to addiction and criminal activity.

It is ironic that Risch believes legalization could lead to criminal activity, as it is the nature of black markets that encourages criminal activity to surround drugs. We can see this in several ways:

  • It is because they are illegal that the prices of drugs are so high. Without these high prices, drug users would have less of an incentive to engage in criminal activity to support their habits.
  • Generally, businesses in competition with one another will tend to provide lower prices or higher quality of service. Due to the black market in drugs, cartels have a greater incentive to engage in violence to increase market share and less of an ability to resolve disputes peaceably (you can’t take a dealer to court for ripping you off).
  • The threat of imprisonment, all else equal, incentivizes violence against law enforcement where there would otherwise be none.

I generally support a reduction in government authority, but in the case of drug legalization it is important dangerous drugs are prohibited or regulated to ensure their safe use for the intended purposes for which they were developed as well as for general public safety.

Again, it is ironic that Risch would point to prohibition as a measure that would ensure safe use. It is because of alcohol prohibition that we have such unsavory terms such as “rot gut.” Again, if there is no tort system available, the costs of selling unsafe substances decreases because of lower accountability.

Drunken driving is a serious problem in this country.

His fellow senator from Idaho should know!

If more illicit drugs were legalized, the problem of impaired motorists would increase significantly—which can have devastating impacts far beyond just the individual who used the drug.

Of course, this is a bald assertion rather than a rigorously supported claim. But even if this is accurate, how could it possibly be the case that public safety would be decreased on net? It is highly doubtful that drug-related violence (how many have died in Mexico’s civil war?) would be outweighed by any increase in impaired driving.

The economic benefit that could be derived from additional drug-related taxes cannot justify the risks associated with legalizing dangerous substances.

The economic ignorance of James Risch is concerning. If he thinks the only economic benefit of drug legalization is more tax revenue, he is grossly misinformed. As mentioned above, a huge amount of money spent on law enforcement is spent in pursuit of the Drug War. Furthermore, it is quite a statist notion to think of increased tax revenue as being an economic benefit. Indeed, in many situations it would be far better if tax revenues were burned rather than allowed to distort the economy as they do (examples include farm subsidies, student loans, bank bailouts, the military-industrial complex, etc.).

Again, I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.
Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

Website: Risch.senate.gov

My offices:

Boise – 208.342.7985
Coeur d’Alene – 208.667.6130
Idaho Falls – 208.523.5541
Lewiston – 208.743.0792
Pocatello – 208.236.6817
Twin Falls – 208.734.6780
Washington, D.C. – 202.224.2752

Senator Jim Risch Approves of the NSA Spying on You

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Senator Jim RischOnce again, I’m sharing correspondence I received from US Senator Jim Risch. After sending a him a letter asking that he stop the NSA from spying on us, this is what I got back:

Dear Tate:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  I appreciate hearing from you.

I strongly support individual freedoms and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

At the same time, the number one priority of the federal government is to protect the people of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Really? I thought that Risch swore to uphold the Constitution, not “I swear to uphold the Constitution as long as it strikes the proper balance with the other objectives I might have.” And what if it is the case that it is the federal government itself that is the greatest harm to the people of the United States? It is beyond unlikely that Jim Risch will do anything to protect us from it. Read the rest of this entry

The Expression of the Total State: Prison

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Let’s talk about prison

I know this video is a bit long, but I think it’s definitely worth pondering. Jeffrey Tucker interviews Daniel D’Amico, who talks about his academic specialization of jails and prison. I find D’Amico to be a very interesting scholar, having personally taken a class from him on the American Prison State through Mises Academy.

Incarceration, though it is out of sight and out of mind, is something that needs to be discussed. Indeed, it seems amazing that it is so seldom talked about considering what it is. Though a defining characteristic of the state is that it claims the right to enforce its will by deadly force, the very next measure under that is lock up. What effects does this have on a person? Tucker talks about his short stint in jail after running a stop sign, saying what really struck him is that no one in that environment cares at all about you: the warden, the guards, and the inmates all look at you as if you’re a burden and they would rather not have you there. D’Amico speaks of the psychological costs of long term solitary confinement, causing people to lose the ability to speak and write, and essentially making them lose their sanity.

Somebody might respond that inmates deserve to be there anyway. But is that necessarily the case? As libertarians we hold that people who produce, sell, and consume drugs harm no one but themselves (and if they do harm someone else there are already laws against that), and therefore it is unjust to use force against them. It is these very people who make up the majority of the prison population.

But even considering the people who have committed very heinous acts, D’Amico questions the default idea that they should be put in prison. Is this really the best response to this type of human action? This presents an interesting question to anarchist theorists, who spend surprisingly little time on it. There are three general parts to the criminal justice system: the police, the courts, and the penal system. In their envisioning of the market anarchist system, theorists have spent a whole lot of ink dealing with questions of enforcement and adjudication, the first two parts. However, comparatively less has been said about what will happen to those who are found to have committed egregious acts.

Scholars such as Bruce Benson and John Hasnas have pointed to the fact that English Common Law most often had penal practices based on restitution. Robert P. Murphy’s ideas of punishment in market anarchy involve private prisons that compete to house and rehabilitate offenders, having them work to pay off their restitution and “rent,” as well as taking the risk of liability in vouching for them once they have been released. (This speaks of another large problem in the American penal system: recidivism. Almost 2/3 of released felons commit crimes and end up back in the big house.)

Prison is an issue that affects all Americans, either directly by being in one, or through being a major part of many states’ budgets. I believe that if not for the fact that people don’t know how much they are paying to warehouse people, the prison-industrial complex as we know it would not exist. Please join me in discussing this topic.

Another Reason Why Due Process Is Important

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ICEThe ACLU blog (somewhat) recently had a blog post called, “Yes, the U.S. Wrongfully Deports Its Own Citizens.” It tells a short story about an individual named Mark Lyttle, who was deported to Mexico because of his brown skin, despite the fact that he had no Mexican lineage, had never been to Mexico, and didn’t speak any Spanish. Even worse, he had cognitive disabilities and was left at the border on foot with only $3. After spending months wandering through central America, he finally talked to a US consular officer in Guatemala who was able to confirm his US citizenship.

Immigration court does not allow any appointed legal counsel. And while some would argue that such provided counsel would be an additional drain of taxpayer resources by immigrants, consider the fact that “In Lyttle’s case, the government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to detain him, prosecute his removal proceedings and litigate against his federal court case…and ultimately pay him monetary damages.”

After hearing about injustices like this, one might wonder why Lyttle would want to come back to this police-state-of-a-country at all. Are the only reasons family ties and that the competition isn’t much better?

The Best Analysis of Edward Snowden and the Security State I’ve Read

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Photo of Ben O'Neill

Ben O’Neill

Ben O’Neill has published a series of articles on mises.org, seriously analyzing the ethics of the Edward Snowden revelations and NSA spying. What I really like about it is that, unlike what you’ll see in the mainstream media or even many liberty-oriented blogs, it seriously analyzes the issue: did Snowden have the ethical requirement to maintain confidentiality? O’Neill points out the fact that, by definition, whistle blowers have to break non-disclosure agreements that they’ve signed, and thereby break government laws. Thus, all whistle blowers are law breakers.

But in contract law, there are certain situations that make contracts invalid, such as when they are signed under duress. Another example is confidentiality agreements that require the signer to not disclose illegal activities. Clearly, the spying that the NSA has been involved in is not legal – it does not satisfy the requirements of the 4th Amendment. Therefore, any non-disclosure agreement Edward Snowden may have signed is invalid.

But most ordinary Americans who are against what Snowden did aren’t against him because of their desire to uphold the rule of law (except Aaron’s grandma). If they did, they ought to be much more concerned about the disregard for rule of law by the NSA. Rather, their main concern is the security state, and the idea that this spying is necessary to keep Americans safe. But O’Neill destroys this idea as well. NSA documents show that they use their surveillance apparatus for political ends. It certainly seems strange to fear rag-tag bands of terrorists from third world countries more than a multi-billion dollar secret agency that claims it can legitimately spy on your electronic communications without a warrant, and also possesses the ability to kidnap and assassinate people.

People often compare what’s happening in America to the environment in 1984. What I found most interesting about 1984 wasn’t the surveillance of the totalitarian state, so much as the concept of doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at once. It seems that many Americans who consider themselves “patriots” will defend any government action in the name of “security,” even if it contradicts their supposed fidelity to American principles and the Constitution. A member of the Oath Keepers forwarded me this article, for goodness sake! What enables the security state, more than any data center, spying program, or weapon, is the consent of the majority of the governed. By freeing minds, more than by winning elections, we will free ourselves.

Keyword Stuffing for the DHS

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This is an entry to this contest (click to enlarge):

Contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I try to use as many words on DHS target keyword watch list from the “Cyber Terror” category as possible. Here goes:

I went to the bar and didn’t know what to think
But I’ve seen on TV
If you’re pretty like me
Ladies might buy you a drink

So I approach a fair lady who says she’s with DHS
Looking for hackers
And cyberattckers
I said, “That sounds like a mess!”

“Oh yes,” said she, “I’m all about cyber security,
You can get a virus from hoes
Trojan won’t protect you from those
And phreaking worms threaten our cyber purity!”

“Oh dear,” I replied, fearing she had too much liquor
I saw the bartender was too nervous
To give her denial of service
As she talked of China’s confickers

“Spammers and scammers, keyloggers and bloggers, all brute forcing my social media.
I need a MySQL injection
And rootkit protection,
Lest cyber command destroy Botnet and Wikipedia!”

I could see she was off her rocker but couldn’t bring myself to mock her
She was now phishing for compliments
And wanted to search my documents
Cain and Abel could not spare her from cyber terror

She complained about DDOS and I started not to care
She said, “You’ll be sorry! 
2600 is not about Atari!
You’ll soon be infected by malware!”

And isn’t this just what I should have expected from the DHS?
They will huff and puff
Threaten us with all kinds of stuff
I sure wish Janet would just give it a rest

Janet

Cotati PD Employees Enter Home without Warrant & Tase Homeowners

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Note: There are several versions of this video on the web; I selected this one because of the subtitles.

What I want to talk about in this blog post are some comments I saw regarding this footage, such as these (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg9yiBezl6E):

unfortunately, if they have reason to believe someone may be in danger, they can do this. a good majority of homicides are a result of domestics. :-\ in many cases, the female is scared the male will hurt her more so she complies with the abuser. on the other hand, we all fight and bicker and this is above and beyond what the cops did. had they opened the door, gotten the story, witnessed nithing had transpired- these people would have never been in this position.

And

It is sad and unacceptable that the cops resorted to this level of violence, but the part that stands out to me is that this entire situation could have been avoided with some simple cooperation. This is a domestic violence call. I’m not familiar with the procedures and protocol of the local law enforcement there, but being uncooperative with police who are most likely required to investigate this allegation is not really warranted either.

Addressing the first comment, as someone who has a degree in criminal justice (whatever that’s worth), I’d like to say that police must have more than “reason to believe someone may be in danger” to break into a house and tase people who show no signs of resistance. Breaking in itself would require probable cause, meaning that the officer could convince a neutral and detached magistrate that either the person involved has committed a crime or that evidence of a crime is in a particularly described place.

Apparently, what led officers to this residence was a noise complaint by neighbors. This is not sufficient to be probable cause. Indeed, the people involved were arrested for “obstruction,” a crime that cannot occur unless police officers are there to be obstructed. What exactly they were being obstructed from is still a mystery.

How about the idea that “this entire situation could have been avoided with some simple cooperation”? This entirely misses the point. A well-established precedent in Common Law is that a man’s (or woman’s) house is his castle.

“The poorest man may in his cottage,
bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.
It may be frail, its roof may shake;
the wind may blow through it;
the storm may enter; the rain may enter;
but the King of England may not enter;
all his force dares not cross the threshold
of the ruined tenement.”

– William Pitt, (1708-1778) First Earl of Chatham, English statesman and orator, Speech in the House of Lords, in opposition to Excise Bill on perry and cider, 1763

Obviously, the main goal of the person holding the camera wasn’t to not get tased. Why didn’t he open the door? “Because we don’t live in a police state, sir.” I think it should be quite apparent that the goal of the officers was not to prevent violence or ensure safety; their taser use saw to that.

But, ultimately, if someone is beaten for refusing to hand over his wallet, does anyone say, “Well, that beating totally could have been avoided if you had only been more cooperative”? It seems that so many people have become so conditioned to police officers employing violence in any and all situations where people assert their rights that they have become desensitized to the gravity of what’s happening: if you resist unlawful orders, even in a non-violent manner,  police will employ violence.