Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Note to Apologists for (Illegal) State Snooping

Such apologists have many excuses. Some of the most common include…

1. …inane statements like, “If you’re not a terrorist, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” This is not really an argument. Property rights, beginning with ownership of self, are the bedrock of a free society–the basis for all other rights. My property is my property. I choose not to allow the government to snatch all of my correspondence (emails, texts, phone calls, tweets, FB posts, Google searches, etc.). It’s mine. It’s my right to keep it, or destroy it, or give it away. It’s mine. But they take it anyway. This is theft. No, I’m not a terrorist, and yes, I may have nothing to worry about. But this is irrelevant. What I certainly do have is my right to my things, my property. Against my will, they are taking–stealing–my things anyway. Whether or not I have anything to “worry about” is completely beside the point; my things are not theirs to take. They are mine! Yet they steal it all on a daily basis, against my will, and if I resist–if I march into the NSA’s Utah facility and try to get it back, or delete it–I will be shot, or at least put in a cage.

2. …declarations like, “I have no problem with the regime collecting all of my private correspondence because it’s the price we must pay to stay safe.” This is preposterous. This is the price we are paying because the government has created monsters overseas. So the regime’s isolating (i.e. interventionist) foreign policies abroad spawn a monster. It then continues its efforts, with renewed vigor, in order to kill said monster; in doing so, it creates even more monsters. In the process, too, it begins to violate my civil liberties…to keep me safe from the monsters it created in the first place, from the monsters it is creating right this very minute. Rather than fight the monsters by violating my rights, why not change the policies that feed and spawn the monsters? The key to being “safe” has nothing to do with stealing hundreds of millions of Americans’ private correspondence and everything to do with changing a monster-spawning foreign policy.

3. …questions like, “Are we supposed to just take these terrorist attacks lying down?” In return, I ask: what is the ultimate goal here? Revenge? “Winning” a war? Humbling Islam? I should hope the goal is to make the attacks stop. To do so, we must understand why they are happening in the first place. You can hunt down all the alleged terrorists you want, but so far it has only succeeded in doing two very significant things: (1) vastly increasing the power, prestige, and recruiting capabilities of terrorist outfits, and (2) generally making the United States the most hated country on earth. If this doesn’t sound like a safer world for you or your children, that’s because it obviously isn’t one. If the government’s policies aren’t working, then they need to be changed. If a person goes to the doctor because she is sick, and the doctor prescribes Medicine A, and after taking Medicine A the person’s sickness only gets worse, then the doctor is certain to prescribe something else. The doctor is very unlikely to say, “Just take more Medicine A.” But this is precisely how the USG’s current foreign policy works. You want the attacks to stop? Change the policy. It will take time, but this is the only long-term solution. It also happens to be very American. On 4 July 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams could say that the USG had, “in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.  She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.  She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama, the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” In the same speech, the future president of the United States exhorted Britain, “ruler of the waves,” to adopt a foreign policy of peace, not war or conquest. This was the American way.  “Her glory is not dominion,” Adams insisted, “but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield; but the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.”  Adams’ words, echoing those of Washington, Jefferson, and other notable Founders before him, were uttered almost five decades after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They would hold true, at least in terms of policy (if not always in spirit), for most of the nineteenth century.  But this would change in the twentieth and twenty-first, and one result would be an outpouring of anti-Americanism and anti-American terrorism.

4. …such assurances as, “There are a wide variety of checks and security measures in place to ensure no abuses occur.” Actually, the program is abused or violated thousands of times per year (about seven times a day!) according to the NSA’s own audits. Some of these, surely, are inadvertent, but is that really the issue? A violation is a violation. Thousands of violations are thousands of violations. And the extra-legal FISA court system? One thousand eight hundred and fifty-six applications were presented to the court last year (2012), and one thousand eight hundred and fifty six applications were approved. That’s one hundred percent. How is this not a rubber stamp?

5. …assertions like, “Scores of attacks have been prevented since the passage of the Patriot Act and the establishment of the FISA court system and thanks to the NSA’s domestic spying program.” Nope–not scores. In fact, the answer is one, according to NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis himself; start at around 4:10. One, probably. In any case, using this logic one might justify all sorts of rights violations. Surely this is not who we are.

6. …statements like, “Since the men and women working for said agencies are upstanding individuals, there’s nothing to worry about.” I happen to know from personal experience that agencies like the NSA are staffed by many wonderful people. This is beside the point. It only takes one bad apple, now that the keys have been surrendered to the government. Even if everyone working for these agencies and organizations (all tens and hundreds of thousands of them) were angels, who’s to say that this blessed state would continue ad infinitum? Can you guarantee that this will always be so? Such a guarantee would be absurd. Besides, each of these people took an oath on Day One of their “service” to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign or domestic. I know, because I did. And yet they all continue to work for the entity that routinely shreds the Fourth Amendment and due process–and even defend that entity. The existence of a few (or even many) good people is no check on this sort of power.

7. …denunciations like, “Ed Snowden is a traitor, a nobody with an agenda who doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway.” Say what you will about Ed Snowden, but at least he had the courage to say what he said, knowing what the consequences might be. I don’t know if he did it out of an allegiance to the Constitution he’d sworn to protect or for some other reason, but I’m extremely glad he did it. Surely the people deserved to know that their private property, their correspondence, was being snatched and stored without their consent. When Candidate Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promised to protect whistleblowers; yet another lie. The efforts of the government to capture Snowden, including its bullying of allied governments and embarrassingly bold violations of diplomatic protocol, are particularly disturbing (and an abuse that most Americans would simply not tolerate had it been suffered by “us”).

America! Remember the Glorious Cause that started it all!

We have become what we once despised, the very thing that our Founders fought against. Be a true patriot–and protect your country from your government.

 

 

Eric Margolis: “Are we becoming what we once hated?”

Insignia of the KGB.

My favorite journalist writes:

Today, the military trial of document leaker PFC Bradley Manning has echoes of the Soviet era: a show trial in which a lonely individual is slowly crushed by the wheels of so-called military justice, an oxymoron.

The dramatic revelations of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden brings back sharp memories of Soviet-era dissidents, jailed, banished, locked in foul psychiatric hospitals for daring to speak the truth.

In my day, those seeking justice and freedom used to defect from the East Bloc to the United States and Britain. Now, ironically, we see a major defector, Ed Snowden, fleeing to Russia.

While the corporate-owned US news networks sugarcoat or obscure the NSA and Afghanistan War scandals, it’s left to Russian TV (RT) to tell Americans the facts. Who would have thought?

We journalists used to mock Pravda and Trud as party mouthpieces. Today, it’s the party line all the time from the big US networks, online news, and newspapers.

I love this line, too: “Bureaucrats hate embarrassment much more than spying.”

Read the rest here.

Al-Qaida not “on the run,” after all…

Obviously. This is news?

With every “Musilm” state occupied, with every foreign boot on someone’s holy ground, with every drone-dropped bomb, with every clandestine CIA intervention, the Al-Qaida-types (which, without predominantly American interventionism, would be nothing more than the most fringe of fringe groups, led by obscure unknowns) only grow stronger. This sort of military adventurism, these betrayals of the original founding principles of American independence, are merely buckets of gasoline tossed onto an already raging inferno. It’s like trying to treat a disease caused by eating green mushrooms by upping your dose of green mushrooms.

Or maybe there are those (on both sides) who profit from these conflicts? Whose money and/or power depends upon this sort of logic-defying animosity and lethargy-inducing, flag-waving ignorance?

It doesn’t even matter. What does matter is that, as even some of the most die-hard neocon foreign interventionists are coming to realize, this dastardly foreign policy just doesn’t work. In fact, it only creates more “monsters to destroy.”

It’s just gasoline poured into the flames.  Some have warned of this for years, but they are routinely mocked or marginalized both by Washington elites and the big names in TV news and print.

You want Al-Qaida to shrivel and die? Stop feeding the monster. Put away the gasoline buckets. Refrain from consuming green mushrooms! Bring the troops (and the secret agents) home. Let the United States look back to its founding principles and institute the truly American ideal of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” This is the only way to be a beacon of liberty and not squelch the freedom message.

It may take a generation, but surely this is better than letting the disease continue to afflict–and even spread, so that it becomes the problem of my children and grandchildren.

Another Self-Immolation for Tibetan Freedom

This one in Nepal. The article states that around a hundred such suicide protests have occurred in the last couple years both within and without Tibet. The number is probably significantly higher, as the tyrannical Chinese government keeps a tight lid on news coming out of its vanquished Tibetan colony.

These are the acts of a desperate people compelled to protest, to “fight,” to do something, and seem to have few, if any, viable options. After all, you can be caged for five years (or more) for your political views under the rule of the “People’s” “Republic,” regardless of whether or not you’ve ever committed any crime against another person or their property.

The cowardice of the Nepalese government is shameful, though certainly not surprising.

(If you don’t know much about the Tibet crisis, I wrote a book on the subject you may find helpful.)

Do You Agree with the Non-Aggression Axiom?

Well, do you?

The non-aggression axiom basically states that no one is justified in initiating aggression upon another person or their property. That’s it. Don’t harm non-aggressors or their property. Simple.

Does anyone not agree with this? If you do disagree, I’d like to know why.

I’ve explained the axiom to many people. It takes ten seconds, and in my experience virtually everyone nods in approbation. Of course aggression against a non-aggressor is unjustified. Obviously if someone isn’t doing any harm to us, we shouldn’t do harm to them. Clearly using violence against an innocent person (i.e. a non-criminal) is immoral.

This is a principle upon which something like 99% of humanity likely agrees. As Richard Maybury has pointed out, it’s common to every major religion, too.

It would seem apparent, then, that if I don’t possess the right to initiate aggression, then I also don’t have the ability to delegate that (non-existent) right to someone else, even if they possess a shiny badge or a government-issued firearm.

Yet that is precisely what we have done every time we support legislation or policy that falls outside of the Jeffersonian (or Lockean) sphere of “life, liberty, and property” [or “the pursuit of happiness”]. For these three reasons alone are governments instituted among men: the protection of (1) life [or the right of the non-aggressor’s person not to be aggressed upon], (2) liberty [or the right of the non-aggressor not to be compelled to act against his/her will], and (3) property [or the right of the non-aggressor’s property not to be aggressed upon]. Each of these items, then, is simply a manifestation of the non-aggression axiom.

Do you still agree with the non-aggression axiom?

If you do, then you’d also agree that laws against such things as “sodomy,”  drug use, driving eleven miles over an arbitrary speed limit on an empty road, or putting a Christmas tree in your business’s front window, are inherently unjust, as they punish–either by violence (usually extortion, but also a cage or, sometimes, a gun)–a person who has done no harm to another person or their property. The force of government can only come into play if one of the aforementioned actions actually result in harm to another person or their property. But if no harm to person or property has been done, then we are dealing only with non-aggressors.

We are free, of course, to try to persuade them to change their behavior, to argue with them, to preach to them, to shun them, to encourage them, to coax them, to reason with them–but we are not free to initiate aggression against them, whether in the form of a fine (really extortion) or a cage or, in some cases, a billy club, a tazer, or a bullet.

Agreeing with the non-aggression axiom also means that you oppose such measures as preventative (or “preemptive”) war, the dropping of bombs (whether by manned or unmanned aircraft) over “compounds” in Pakistani villages, the income tax, and virtually the entire welfare-warfare-regulatory apparatus. Each of these phenomena involve aggression against non-aggressors.

So…do you still agree with the non-aggression axiom?

If you answered yes, then congratulations; you’ve just demonstrated that you are willing to stand on principle (specifically, the non-aggression principle) rather than convention, tradition, popularity, or politics. When it comes to the latter, too many people don’t realize that, in actual fact, they have no hard and fast principles to guide them. They are blown about by every wind of doctrine, by the wooing politician, by the fashionable philosophy of the day, by sports-like nationalism (really just a form of pernicious collectivism) that pits “us” against “them.” They are caught up in partisanship, in Rs versus Ds, in this ism versus that ism, despite the fact that each side ends up delivering very similar practical results.

You, on the other hand, in still agreeing with the axiom despite its policy implications, have discovered a principle. The non-aggression axiom, as simple as it is, can serve as a reliable anchor in the tempestuous sea of 21st-century politics, a haven in the seemingly ever-present “war of words and tumult of opinions” (to quote a man I admire). I would urge you to use this principle as a measuring stick for any proposed legislation, any government policy, any supposed “solution” to the political and/or social problems that are sure to come your way.

Let us restore this simple, powerful principle of the American founding.

 

People Want to be Free (now if only the USG would get out of the way…)

If Western armies would get out of the way, the liberty message would spread rapidly.

People want to be free. Freedom is popular. And in a day and age of satellite transmissions, 3G phones, and the Internet, very little can stop its rapid spread.  Even in “scary” Pakistan, dubbed “the most dangerous place on earth,” the message is bleeding through.

Only when the perceived source of the message (like, say, “America”–in reality the USG) sends out armies, bombs villages, invades sovereign nations, adds shahs and presidents and kings to its intelligence payroll, manipulates elections, funds violent organizations, and occupies holy places–only then can the ideas it supposedly espouses be stifled. Only then, in the face of a foreign and common enemy, can liberty-trampling ideas gain traction.

Imagine, though, if that perceived source could retain the moral high ground.  Imagine if it really was a beacon of freedom for the world, not just in word but in example, too–the example propagated by men like George Washington. Imagine if USG foreign policy was guided by the Jeffersonian maxim, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none,” if the USG could still, with moral authority, warn Britain against her meddling ways. Imagine the ideas of liberty being allowed to spread freely without the neo-imperialist presence constantly getting in the way, without USG operatives and soldiers and petro-dollars pushing those who might otherwise be drawn to freedom towards fundamentalism instead.

Unfortunately, there are too many neo-conservatives and internationalist liberals for such a condition to be allowed to flourish; that ship sailed years ago. At this point the spoliation of the  liberty source may require one or two full generations of total withdrawal–a serious and consistent course change–to correct itself.

Still, it may not be too late for the Burka Avenger.