Archive for May, 2015
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Secrecy begets tyranny.
–Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
–Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
Not liking or trusting governmental power is how the United States began as a country separate from Great Britain, but as the British Lord Acton’s famous quote demonstrates you don’t need to be American like science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein to distrust State power.
Lord Acton / Robert A. Heinlein
National Review editor, Rich Lowry, recently appeared on the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity show, arguing that National Security Agency collection of metadata on a customer’s telephone messaging did not violate the customer’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure from government snooping because the metadata was not the customer’s private property but belonged to the phone company.
As an NR alumnus writer I emailed Rich pointing out that his Social Security number was issued by the government, therefore also not protectable private property, but nonetheless could be used along with other easily obtainable personal data to access bank accounts, open new lines of credit, and possibly even sell his house like in the 1995 movie The Net. Rich wrote me back with a balanced response inspiring me to write this article.
The specifics of the debate on government casting a wide net to collect information on the citizenry, ever since Edward Snowden revealed the intelligence agencies were lying about not doing it, are beside my point here. I’m not seeking a balance between government doing what the Bill of Rights forbids it to do versus the utility of government employees lawyering themselves out of these prohibitions because they imagine it will enhance national security.
What I am pointing out here is that such massive spying not only uncorks limits on government power established because of numerous examples of past abuse but also destroys trust in law itself — constitutional, legislative, regulatory, judicial, or even arbitral — because what is done in absolute secrecy is by nature exercise of absolute power.
Have you noticed how popular mass-media purveyors of political suspicion are ubiquitous, whether partisan Democrats seeing Republicans as evil incarnate, Republicans seeing Democrats through the same paranoid lens, or maverick social critics issuing jeremiads accusing both right and left as being incurably corrupt?
We are beyond the debate engendered by Edward Snowden’s revelation that government is collecting massive data on the People.
The debate now is given the inevitable corruption caused by absolute power exercised in absolute secrecy, how trustable is that data anyway?
It’s bad enough when a rogue cop can imprison a suspect by planting a gun or a bag of drugs, perhaps even smuggling it into a police station’s evidence room.
But what does it do to a person’s ability to imagine there is actually some honesty and fairness in any system of justice if those in charge of collecting the evidence do so in such secrecy, and on such a massive scale, that the rational response by someone not even an anarchist like me is absolute paranoia?
The Fox News pundits will love this article for once because they’ll think it’s only about attacking Barack Obama.
It can’t be helped.
Yesterday the Iranian Ayatollahs made it clear there’s no middle ground in negotiations between Iran and the United States-led coalition to reach a treaty denying Iran the ability to make an atomic bomb. Considering how impactful economic sanctions have been on Iran, this is on the face of it a curiously obstinate position for the Iranian rulers to take.
In a lot of old Westerns there’s an phrase attributed to chiefs regarding treaties the United States broke with Native tribes: “White man speak with forked tongue.”
Given the recent success of the Islamic State including this week’s taking of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, there’s a renewed debate generated by the left about the wisdom of the United States invading Iraq in 2003 and by the right about withdrawing all remaining U.S. troops in 2011.
A wide spectrum of political opinion ranging from Patrick Buchanan on the right, Brad Linaweaver from libertarian minarchist quarters, and filmmaker Paul Greengrass on the left have criticized not per se the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his rape-room sons from power. Saddam Hussein’s awful record of human-rights violations and economic banditry made him eminently worthy of being overthrown.
The primary criticism was instead not leaving the Ba’athist Party in power so U.S. forces could have withdrawn from a politically stable Iraq May 1, 2003 when President George W. Bush stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” sign on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
A war lasting six weeks would have bled the United States — and the Iraqi people — far less than an occupation lasting eight years.
But that’s not my point here. As Paul Greengrass’s movie Green Zone portrays, the United States was making back-channel promises with the Ba’athist leadership that the U.S. would begin formal diplomatic negotiations with them if they assisted in deposing Saddam Hussein. If anyone deserves being criticized it’s not only President George W. Bush (for attacking a country that hadn’t attacked the U.S. first) but U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz breaking promises to Ba’athist leadership turning what could have been a brief war into a bloody and totally unnecessary eight-year occupation. The rise of the Islamic State is a direct result of that treachery.
Now we get to Iran and Obama.
Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi saw what happened to Saddam Hussein for refusing to reach a deal with the United States, and went the other way. Gaddafi openly allowed inspections so the United States couldn’t invade Libya on the pretext that he, also, was amassing weapons of mass destruction; renounced any ties to terrorist groups and paid reparations for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103; and dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s well enough that the George W. Bush administration took Libya off its list of terrorist states, opened an embassy with full diplomatic hoopla from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and even a phone call from President George W. Bush ending with Bush saying, “God bless you.”
The United States was still expanding its embassy in Tripoli during the first year of the Obama admninistration.
Then the Obama administration conspired with Gaddafi’s enemies allowing him to be deposed, dragged into the streets and killed by a mob on October 20, 2011. Neither Condoleezza Rice nor George W. Bush uttered a word of protest.
The lesson to any other foreign leader was clear: Cooperating with the United States would ultimately not make any difference. Whether you were a defiant Saddam Hussein or a compliant Muammar al-Gaddafi, you were still a dead man.
The United States speaks with a forked tongue.
Now is it any wonder that Iran doesn’t think it can negotiate a treaty with the United States and feels its only safety is in getting its own arsenal of atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles?
upon the world
I tell my tales
though spoken for
In hellish scenes
through heaven’s spore
I wish the best
But fear the worst
Can dreams survive
This manic burst?
I get the get
I got the got
It’s not the nought.
Hello old friends
Good bye to foes
God only knows.
Music by Chris McGraw
Lyrics by J. Neil Schulman
Performed by Sleep Rebellion
Video by J. Neil Schulman
Music and Videos Copyright © 2015 by J. Neil Schulman and Chris McGraw
All rights reserved.
The title of this article reads like a Zen Kōan, the best-known being “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
I don’t mean my title as a mystery or a riddle. I mean it exactly.
You don’t need to focus on police killings of black men such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or Freddie Gray to conclude that there’s an underclass vulnerable to homicide under color of law. If we look no wider it’s facile to adopt a narrative that the Civil Rights movement failed to move the United States past institutionalized white supremacy, paradoxically at a time when Freddie Gray’s Baltimore has a black mayor and police chief and both the two-term current President of the United States and both the current and previous Attorney General of the United States are black.
The evidence alone demands we look further.
Spending a few minutes looking at the CopBlock project website tells us it’s not just black men who are on the business end of thuggish police. There is no race, gender, or age that is not regularly the subject of harassment and brutal tactics at the hands of law-enforcement officers — local, state, and federal. I’m not talking about bad apples generally unrepresentative of their departments, sadists failed to be weeded out. I’m talking about officers trained in official use-of-force policies that exonerate sworn officers when they use weaponry and tactics justified with the argument that any fear of harm to an officer exonerates lethal or barely sublethal violence for even the most minor offense or generalized suspicion.
This is the sort of official lawlessness under color of law that brings out news trucks, protesters, political hucksters, wannabe nihilist revolutionaries armed with bricks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails, fire fetishists to whom a burning building is orgasmic, and opportunistic looters.
There’s a federal law supposedly addressing this: Title 18 USC Section 242 — which can be found on the Department of Justice website:
DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS UNDER COLOR OF LAW
Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
For the purpose of Section 242, acts under “color of law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official’s lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers, prisons guards and other law enforcement officials, as well as judges, care providers in public health facilities, and others who are acting as public officials. It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin of the victim.
The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.
TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
If this law alone was enforced, we’d be halfway to the restoration of law and order because the assumption of Sovereign Immunity that protects the police — a concept antithetical to the concept of an America freed from monarchy — would no longer shield the shielded from more obvious cases of officious criminality.
Nonetheless that kind of obvious lawlessness is the least of our current abandonment of law.
When in the Course of human events …
- The Fifth Amendment is nullified and any non-cooperation or technically false statement to an official investigator can get one imprisoned — and Martha Stewart was neither black nor poor — there is no law and order anymore;
- Not complying with tax laws or mandated accounting;
- Failure to return library books or failure to pay parking tickets;
- Allowing your child to walk home from a park unaccompanied by an adult;
- Non-compliance with any of hundreds of thousands of obscure and contradictory local, state, and federal regulations and paperwork;
- Possession of substances or objects arbitrarily prohibited
- Civil forfeiture of private property without a conviction of a crime, approved by the Supreme Court;
- Death by drone, detention without charges, official spying without limit;
makes what is claimed as law a chute into court, seizure of one’s property, arrest, extortion into a plea, and imprisonment for even the top one-percent — much less the other 99% who barely scrape by and can’t afford expensive accountants and lawyers, or worse, the grave …
Then the claim we live under reasonable or fair law demanding obedience is a God damned lie.
We live in an age of patchwork customs and legality, some based on legislation, some from bureaucratic rule-making bought and paid for by lobbyists, some from court ruling and precedent forged by a class of professional philosophunculists.
Nobody is “equal under the law.”
Some people have established privilege and protection.
Some people have extra risk and liability.
Sometimes the difference is a yard or two crossing an imaginary territorial line.
Sometimes it’s race/class/gender/shifting popularity.
Sometimes it’s looking at someone powerful the wrong way.
Sometimes it’s just confusing, like whether a Native American has more brownie points than a Transgender or a Veteran.
It’s heaven-made for lawyers, a priestcraft who navigate our way through this established insanity for hundreds of bucks per billable hour.
It’s also confounded by statistics everybody knows which aren’t true and partisan divisions that are moving targets.
There is no law. There is only power and market and what Ayn Rand delightfully called the Aristocracy of Pull.
Equal under the law? There’s law?
You conservatives are just kidding, right — and you liberals are just in denial?
I never thought I’d see the day when Michael Moore, the filmmaker of Bowling for Columbine would agree with me that the reason for the Second Amendment is to arm the public so it can defend themselves. But Moore tweeted on April 30th, four days ago, “Next demand: Disarm the police. We have a 1/4 billion 2nd amendment guns in our homes 4 protection. We’ll survive til the right cops r hired”
When police commit crime under color of law, the law dies and the lawless rule.
Usually councils of business leaders are the most vocal supporters of police and government in general. How long will it take for business leaders to remember that the American Revolution of the 1770′s was supported by business leaders for the obvious reason that sending capricious and bureaucratic “swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance” is bad for business?
And if the costs of complying with evermore government regulation doesn’t wake them up to the cost of official lawlessness, could arson and looting trashing their businesses — following just about every instance of police lawlessness — possibly make the small business a revolutionary vanguard again?
When business relies not on government to provide law, but the rules of business itself to provide a stable market, we might get going a coalition to get our country back from those liars who claim that anarchists like me are the foes of law, when the opposite is true: the most dangerous enemies of law today are those who claim to enforce it.