Giving Up Freedom For Security…

France’s “state of emergency” is trampling whatever civil liberties the French may have actually thought they had.

Which, on the one hand, highlights what a different place the US is – where fundamental human rights are endowed by our creator, not an allowance from a benificent state (although big government has been leaching that away for decades, too).

And on the other, shows how fragile the freedoms are that we take for granted.

It also shows why the most important piece of gun legislation signed by Governor Dayton this past session was the law barring the State from confiscating legal guns during a “state of emergency”.

The Wrong Target

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals want to repeal the Second Amendment to stop gun violence. Seems to me the better solution is to repeal the Fourth Amendment.

If cops can stop-and-frisk anybody at any time for any reason or no reason, then there is no worry about racial profiling so cops can take guns away from the 8% of the population that commits 50% of the murders: young Black men in dangerous neighborhoods.

If cops can kick down any door at any time for any reason, they can disarm drug dealers who use firearms as tools of the trade, to defend their profits and kill poachers on their turf.

And if cops get a report about 20-something losers with a grudge, they can swoop in to take firearms before the next school shooting begins.

Why should anything about you be private from the government?  If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, right?

Joe Doakes

Heather? Jane?  Joan?

Rep. Norton?

I’d love to get their response…

The Improper Wiring That Dare Not Speak It’s Name

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Guy who’s nuts shoots up his own apartment and sets fire to it.

Another guy who can legally own guns because he wasn’t committed.  The judge let him go.

The problem isn’t guns.  The problem is nuts.  The civil commitment laws make it nearly impossible to put away nuts where they’re unable to obtain guns.  If it were easier to obtain civil commitment, there’d be fewer of these incidents and less work for ACLU lawyers . . . a win-win!

Joe doakes


Which is why it’ll never happen.


Community Hygiene

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Never let a crisis go to waste.

Sen. Harry Reid wants expanded background checks:  “Is that asking too much? Couldn’t we at least do this little thing to stop people who are mentally ill . . . from purchasing guns?” Reid said on the Senate floor.

Den. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) specifically mentioned an effort aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people diagnosed with mental illness.

President Obama noted last week that once again, someone got a gun who shouldn’t have had access to it.

The South Carolina church shooter sparked the talk but he wasn’t mentally ill, not according to existing law.  So Democrats are using bait-and-switch tactics to argue for restrictions on people who have Not been diagnosed with mental illness but who act strangely, hold unpopular opinions or have few friends.  After all, we must Do Something, before those lone-wolf weirdos snap and kill people.  Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

One small problem:  it’s unconstitutional.

The Second Amendment was adopted to ensure Congress would not regulate firearms, because the Founders feared an arbitrary and powerful central government like the one they’d just thrown off.  In the Founders’ time, it was universally understood that children, felons and the mentally ill shouldn’t have firearms and those limitations continue, under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008).  But who are “the mentally ill?”

Federal law prohibits ownership by a “mental defective.”  There are court cases discussing whether “mental defective” is different from “mentally ill” for gun control purposes (mental defective might mean “retarded but not dangerous” and thus not be a disqualifying condition).  Leaving aside that hair-splitting, Federal law defines “mentally defective” as having been adjudicated such or committed to a mental institution. 18 USC 922(g)(4).  The Code of Federal Regulations, 22 CFR 478.11, further clarifies that “adjudicated” means a determination made by a court.

Yes, but so what?  Federal law, federal regulations, Congress can simply change them, right?  That’s where it gets tricky.  There are a long line of Supreme Court decisions holding that when the government acts to deprive a person of a fundamental Constitutional right, that person is entitled to Due Process consisting of, at a minimum, notice of the charges and a meaningful opportunity to be heard before a neutral decider.  That means a court must make the decision, after hearing, at which the burden is on the government and the accused has a chance to rebut the state’s case.

You’ve heard it’s nearly impossible to get a person committed these days, no matter how much they need it?  Clayton Cramer’s book “My Brother Ron” is a heartbreakingly frank, scrupulously researched account of how civil liberties lawyers created the case-law that now controls.  And the case-law is not limited to civil commitments: Due Process extends to mental illness for purposes of gun control, which means the government cannot deny guns to people merely because they are weirdos, act strangely, hold unpopular opinions or have few friends.

What the President and Democrat Congressional leaders propose to do is precisely what the Founders explicitly designed the Constitution to prevent.  The plan is unconstitutional on its face.  Of course, that’s never stopped Democrats before.

Joe Doakes

As we saw last week, the left isn’t above writing new law from the bench to suit “community” demands.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The newest racial incident involving police:

I had to laugh early in the tape when I heard a girl with a Black accent yell at a cop “I’m calling my mother on you.”

Honey, if you had a Mother worthy of the title, you wouldn’t be threatening to call her on the cops; you’d be praying to God the cops didn’t call her on YOU.

If I went home and said: “Mom, the cops were mean to me at the race riot,” I’m dead certain her response would NOT be: “Those dirty sons of guns, oppressing your First Amendment Rights, we’ll sue them.”

I’m dead certain her response would be: “You went to a race riot?  What the Hell is wrong with you?  Wait till your Father gets home.”

Of course, I had a Mother who gave a damn and a Father who came home.  I guess I need to check my privilege.

Joe Doakes

The “Texas pool party” incident has been interesting on a couple of levels.

Counting Those Chickens:  The burgeoning “Cops are guilty until proven innocent, because Video!” crowd that is so in vogue on the left and among some Libertarians should get some pause with this case, as it seems – if you believe the pushback from the police union, anyway – that there was a big ugly incident before the video starts, with trespassing and fighting and assaults, which the local, mostly black, residents called in to the police.

I said “Should”.  They won’t, of course.   Dogma means never having to say you’re sorry.

Pathology Verging On A Berg’s Law:  As we’ve learned after every high-profile mass-shooting, as well as after every controversial, racially-tinged event in recent years; the mainstream media will get all the basic facts wrong for the first 2-3 weeks.  Any impression of any ambiguous event will be colored by the fact that the mainstream media – everyone from CNN to MPR – will, without exception, be simultaneously be playing the story for sensationalist ratings, and have coverage that is entirely at the mercy of sources who are in the bag for one side of the story or another (and that side is usually the “progressive” one).

The media won’t give honest coverage to a story like this, or Ferguson, or Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, until it’s not a “sexy” headline-grabber anymore.

Hobby Horses:  Don’t get me wrong.  I have a serious beef with bad cops – and lazy, entitled and incompetent ones, too.  I’ve encountered some of each in my time in Saint Paul – along with good, even excellent, ones who came through when my family and I really needed it.

And I understand why young (and not-so-young) black males and their supporters are concerned about prejudice and the dangers it brings.  I say this while remembering that young black males do commit a disproportionate amount of crime.

And, most interestingly, while the “Cops are guilty until proven innocent” crowd has a thin veneer of urban activists, that veneer is wrapped around a lot of white liberals – and, increasingly, libertarians, who, God bless ’em, are as white as it gets.

More interesting still?  I’ve seen research that shows black inner-city residents support aggressive, strong policing.  Not every aspect of it, and not everything aggressive cops do, of course – but they, the people who live daily with the worst that urban culture provides, tend to want the cops to have a solid, aggressive (and fair, and just, and even-handed) presence in the neighborhood.

As with most such stories? I’m pretty much sick and tired of everyone.

Force Protection

It seems the St. Paul Police Department and/or the Ramsey County Sheriff office (the article is a little unclear on which) has gotten itself involved in a First Amendment case.

Now, to me, the case itself, involving a police dustup with of those “First Amendment activists” who seems to have all the time in the world to prowl the streets with a video camera trolling for the faintest whiff of police misconduct – is less interesting than this quote from an officer of the St. Paul police union (Emphasis added):

“I don’t know of a time in our profession where we as cops have needed to be any more vigilant about our personal safety and the security of our facilities, than the present,” said Mark Ross, treasurer of the St. Paul police union.

Blame it on cable TV; cops aren’t the only ones who think it’s the most dangerous time in history.

It’s not:

Even with the uptick in the past year or two, it’s less dangerous than it was five years ago.  Or ten years ago.  There are are 1/4 fewer cop killings than there were 20 years ago.  And less than half as many as a little over forty years ago; 1973-74 were more dangerous than 9/11.

I added emphasis to this part:

“There are safety considerations too numerous to list as to why a person making videos of police officers and police facilities creates enough reasonable suspicion to stop, detain and identify somebody engaged in that type of activity.”

Too numerous to list?  No, I think it’s worth a little time and discussion.

Go ahead and list the “safety considerations” of people videotaping cops, officer.

Every last one of them.

I get it; the “video activist” involved was one of those pains in the ass who’s constantly sniffing around looking for something to wave around; he’s sort of like an assistant county attorney, if you think about it.

But let’s hear the “safety considerations” that a guy with a camera offers you that every other person out there, no matter what they’re doing, doesn’t also present every police officer, everywhere.

I’m serious.

There But For The Grace Of Christie Go Ye

I’ve written in the past about the case of Shaneen Allen, the Philadelphia mother and Pennsylvania carry permit holder who accidentally strayed across the Delaware River into New Jersey, got pulled over on a routine traffic stop, told the cop that she was carrying her firearm (which was legal mere miles up that very road), and was arrested for what was in Jersey a felony.

Her prosecutor, John McLain, opted to make an example of the black single mother, rejecting her for a diversion program (on his way to legal notoriety for letting NFL star Ray Rice skate on charges of especially brutal domestic abuse).

Yesterday, after nearly two years of back-and-forth, Governor Christie – never known as a friend of the Second Amendment – pardoned Allen:

I, Chris Christie, governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution of the State of New Jersey and the statutes of the state, do hereby grant Shaneen Denise Allen, a full and free pardon for all criminal charges and indictments arising from the arrest occurring October 1, 2013 to include the aforesaid crimes, and this order is applicable solely to said criminal charges and indictments, and to no other.

On the one hand, this is good news.  Christie did the right thing.

On the other, it shows the perilous state that the various states’ paternalistic approach to carry laws leaves the citizen in.  If you’re a Minnesotan with a carry permit, and you forget to stop at a gas station on the Minnesota side of the Wisconsin, Iowa, or either Dakota border, you could have precisely the same problem.

It’s why the Commissioner of Public Safety need to do the job he was charged to do in 2004, and make Minnesota’s carry permits reciprocal with every state that (according to the law) has a permitting process substantially similar to ours (e.g. – a background check, the basic assurance that the applicant knows the laws).

Ron Latz: Big Brother

Last week, Senator Ron “I went to Harvard – I bet you didn’t go to Harvard, did you?” Latz tabled Senator Petersen’s digital privacy bill, likely killing it for the rest of the session.

And yesterday?

For the third consecutive session, lawmakers have sparred over whether LPR “hits” on innocent people should be deleted immediately—what privacy advocates want, or kept for 90 days– what law enforcement wants.

This session, a 90-day retention bill sponsored by Sen Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, over protests from Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, who authored a competing bill arguing for zero retention. While the committee opted not to move forward with Petersen’s bill, Latz’s bill headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

In other words, Sen. Ron “we are all created equal, but some of us are more equal than others” Latz, who also led last sessions push to create a paper trail on all firearms purchases, wants to keep a 90 day record of everywhere everyone has been in a car.

Let’s let that sink in for a little bit; the DFL jammed down legislation that puts the state in charge of all of your personal and health data; they tried their darndest to register the movement of every firearm in the state; they successfully defended one was electronic surveillance; and now, thanks to Sen. Latz, they will have a 90 day record of your travels.

NOD TO POLITICAL REALITY:  It’s entirely possible that Latz has submitted the “90 day retention” bill as  a sop to his police and prosecutor organization benefactors; that he referred it to the Transportation committee to so it gets tabled without Latz’s fingerprints on it; that he’s playing both sides.

I don’t care.

If Senator X submitted a bill calling for the sterilization of black males to fight crime, even at the behest of a big contributor, even knowing that his political maneuvering was going to see that it went nowhere, it’d still be a loathsome bill.

And so is this one.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Technology to track citizens is a Good Thing because cops can find suspects (and also make some nice coin selling license plate data).

Technology to track cops is a Bad Thing because ordinary citizens can find speed traps (and thereby save some nice coin on speeding tickets).

Cops want dash-board cameras to film encounters with citizens, but don’t want citizens to film encounters with cops.

Cops should be allowed to use guns for self-defense, but citizens shouldn’t.

Cops are Government Agents; Government Agents analyze every problem as a power-struggle between Us and Them; and Government Agents always come to the same conclusion: heads they win, tails we lose. That’s one reason the Founders insisted on the right to keep and bear arms – so ordinary citizens could resist the enemies of freedom, foreign AND domestic.

Joe Doakes

And if our founding fathers had known about ubiquitous video and open source cryptography, then put those in the constitution, as well.

A Limit Too Far

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Paul Mirengoff, writing at Powerline, says we need the government to spy on us now, more than ever.

He echoes Speaker of the House John Boehner’s reasoning that people don’t need to be secure in their persons, papers and effects: if they’re innocent, they have nothing to hide.

That whole Fourth Amendment thing was just a big mistake.

You can trust the government to spy on you responsibly.


Joe Doakes

Thats something some conservatives get terribly, terribly wrong.

Open Letter To The New GOP Majorities

To:  New GOP Majorities in the MN House and US Congress
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  Agenda


Want something to show you’re serious about getting the boot of government off of innocent citizens’ necks? 

Reform civil-forfeiture laws.  Now. 

Including, preferably, eradicating laws that allow corrupt pettifoggers to run rackets with the blessing of “the law”. 

Do it now, so we can see who the real enemies are. 

That is all.

“The Most Dictatorial President We’ve Ever Had”

Watch this video starring Ted Nugent, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage, in which President Obama is called…well, exactly that.

UPDATE:  I lied.  It’s not Nugent, Hannity and Savage.  It’s Nat Hentoff, liberal civil libertarian and godfather of the ACLU.  He’s a liberal – but he has been committed enough to actual civil liberty over the decades that he’s even pissed liberals off at him…

Leading By Example

A New Jersey cop responds to a citizen’s allegations about his First and Fourth Amendment rights being violated:

“I’ve made you objections (sic) about what’s going on at the shelter over there,” [an animal rights activist] told the cop. “My 1st and 4th Amendment rights were violated – my civil rights were violated…”
The Helmetta police officer replied, “Obama just decimated the freakin’ Constitution, so I don’t give a damn. If he doesn’t follow the Constitution, we don’t have to.”

Just a crabby cop having a bad day and picking a lame excuse?


But our founding fathers understood better than our generation does that freedom only survives when “the authorities” respect the idea. 

And to too many of them, it’s just not there.  Continue reading


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Naturally, I favor the dissent in the Abramski straw-buyer gun case.  This section caught my eye:

That Abramski’s reading does not render the Act’s requirements “meaningless” is further evidenced by the fact that, for decades, even ATF itself did not read the statute to criminalize conduct like Abramski’s. After Congress passed the Act in 1968, ATF’s initial position was that the Act did not prohibit the sale of a gun to an eligible buyer acting on behalf of a third party (even an ineligible one). See Hearings Before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, 118 (1975).A few years later, ATF modified its position and asserted that the Act did not “prohibit a dealer from making a sale to a person who is actually purchasing the firearm for another person” unless the other person was “prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm,” in which case the dealer could be guilty of “unlawfully aiding the prohibited person’s own violation.” ATF, Industry Circular 79–10(1979), in (Your Guide To) Federal Firearms Regulation1988–89 (1988), p. 78. The agency appears not to have adopted its current position until the early 1990’s. See United States v. Polk, 118 F. 3d 286, 295, n. 7 (CA5 1997).

The majority deems this enforcement history “not relevant” because the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is not entitled to deference. Ante, at 22. But the fact that the agency charged with enforcing the Act read it, over a period of roughly 25 years, not to apply to the type of conduct at issue here is powerful evidence that interpreting the Act in that way is natural and reasonable and does not make its requirements “meaningless.”

“Even if the statute were wrongly thought to be ambigu­ous on this point, the rule of lenity would defeat the Gov­ernment’s construction. It is a “familiar principle” that “‘ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity.’” Skilling v. United States, 561 U. S. 358, 410 (2010). That principle prevents us from giving the words of a criminal statute “a meaning that is different from [their] ordinary, accepted meaning, and that disfavors the defendant.” Burrage v.United States, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 12). And it means that when a criminal statute has two possible readings, we do not “‘choose the harsher alternative’” unless Congress has “‘spoken in language that is clear and definite.’” United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336, 347–349 (1971). For the reasons given above, it cannot be said that the statute unambiguously commands the Government’s current reading. It is especially contrary to sound practice to give this criminal statute a meaning that the Govern­ment itself rejected for years.”

I wasn’t aware the government had reversed its interpretation of the statute and I never heard of a rule of lenity.  But the dissent makes sense to me.

Joe Doakes

Further proof that:

  • We have too many laws
  • The fact that our laws are enforced, not enforced, or overeenforced at the discretion of government according to political priorities is a sign that your government is becoming more lawless, and merely turning into the gang with the coolest guns.

Time to fix both.

For Those Of You…

…who’ve wondered “whatever happened to Landen Beard…”

Well, we don’t have any indication whatsoever that he was the BATF agent who flashed a gun at someone in rush-hour traffic yesterday, shutting down traffic in I94 while cops chased him down…

…and then released him.  Because the law apparently allows “undercover” plainclothes cops to threaten people with lethal force when they’re one cup of coffee short for the morning.

“Police powers” have gone way, way too far.

“…Nothing To Fear”


At our best, we are the party of individual rights, liberty, and limited government.

At our best, we are the party that actually believes in the original intent of the United States Constitution – including all ten amendments of the US Constitution.

At our best.

But the GOP isn’t always at “its best” – or, perhaps more accurately, politicians end up making compromises.

We had both on display this past week at the Capitol.

Senator Branden Peterson, Roger Chamberlain and Sean Nienow – three solid conservatives – co-authored Senate File 2466 with DFLers Bobby Joe Champion and Scott Dibble.  The bill, if passed into law, would require law enforcement to have probable cause and a search warrant to locate and track peoples’ cell phones via GPS. 

This is in line with the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution – which says we have an inalienable right, endowed us by our creators, to safety and security in our homes, papers and possessions, and that the burden is on the government to prove via due process that it has a compelling legal reason to need to do things like track our whereabouts.

And in a rare display of near-unanimity – and a rarer-still case of a useful bit of bipartisanship – the Senate voted for the bill 56-1 (see page 8233) – a vote that put Lyndon Carlson side by side with Roger Chamberlain, and Dave Osmek with Sandy Pappas, politically as well as alphabetically.  The lions laid down with the sheep.

All but one.

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, GOP from Alexandria, was the sole vote against the bill (see page 8232).


He’s been quoted saying “If you’re following the law, you have nothing to fear.”   The quote – assuming it’s accurate and in-context – is an unfortunate one; in all the millions of pages of state and federal laws and regulations that exist, surely everyone is a criminal in one way or another these days.  And even if that’s not the case?  That’s just not the attitude a government that governs a free association of equals should ever view law enforcement.

I emailed Senator Ingebrigtsen for his side of the story.  He responded very promptly, and I’ll carry his response in full:

There were already search warrants in place for this Law Enforcement function. This basically didn’t change much at all. Also this has nothing to do with pbone conversations between anybody. It is technology that aids the cops in locating a person registered to a specific phone. Again, no wireless tapping for voice. It would be used to locate abducted people, known offenders who are stupid enough to keep their cell phones on them after committing a serious crime. In defence of the bill, it does allow emergency personel to use if it’s determined a medical emergency or for lost kids.

So my vote was to not deter the possibility of other LE agency from wanting to obtain this very, what could be life or death, tool.

Again, LE has always dealt with evidence and how it is obtained with the search warrant process. Without this, they don’t have a case

I appreciate the response, and the answer.  He’s right about a couple of points; it doesn’t cover tapping phone conversations (as some assert), and warrants already cover most telecommunications, officially.

I disagree with it, of course; while as Ingebrigtsen notes the law already calls for search warrants to tap phone calls (and their attendant GPS data), there are loopholes; SF2466 closes them.  And as the NSA scandal shows us, the “official” legal stance doesn’t always govern how government actually handles its powers.  That overreach was what this bill was intended to forfend, at the state level. 

As far as finding children goes?   I’m not sure if the law allows parents to consent to searches for their childrens’ phones without need for a warrant – perhaps my lawyer readers can sound off about that – but that would certainly be a statute most could support while still defending our Fourth Amendment rights.   (And I can’t imagine a judge hedging on signing a search warrant for a missing child if a parent or guardian couldn’t be reached in an emergency). 

So I understand and respect Senator Ingebrigtsen’s reasoning – but disagree with it strongly.  And I’m happy that the GOP was able to lead this bipartisan effort that, in a dismal era for civil liberty, struck a tiny blow for the good guys.

That’d be “all of us citizens”.

Your Papers, Please

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The Obama Administration sicced the IRS on TEA Party-related fundraising groups so they couldn’t raise money to get the Conservative message out to voters for the 2012 elections.   It was voter suppression at the front end, by muzzling First Amendment rights.


Wisconsin Democrats are applying the same principle on the local level, harassing and intimidating Conservative groups to suppress their fundraising.  Expect Dog Gone to screech about the Koch Brothers any minute now, under Berg’s Law.


Joe Doakes

Sad to say, I do expect it.

Time was, people on both sides valued a vigorous debate.

That was before the Democrats were taken over by Alinskyites.

Christie Vs. Paul

The left-leaning media – meaning “most of the media” – is tittering and cavorting about the sparks that’ve been flying between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. “GOP CIVIL WAR”, they bellow, as if it’s something new.

It’s not.

There are three different definitions of “Conservative” in American political life:

  • Northeastern Conservatives: Comfortable with big government, socially moderate-to-liberal on social issues (defined broadly; it refers to education, welfare and immigration as much as abortion and gay marriage), assertive on defense, tolerant of massive intrusions in the interest of internal security. Their focus is less on shrinking government than on getting the best value for the tax dollar. Think Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie – or for that matter Norm Coleman. Don’t think Michael Bloomberg; he’s not a conservative in any way, shape or form.
  • Western Conservatives: Favor aggressively limiting government. Generally socially libertarian (at least on a policy level; they may or may not be personally conservative), frequently vague on defense, favor law and order but opposing massive law-enforcement overreach. Favors shrinking government intrusions in the economy and personal life. Think the Tea Party and the pols that are aligned with it, including Rand Paul and, largely, Rick Perry.
  • Southern Conservatives: Comfortable with big government, conservative on social issues, hawkish on defense and law-and-order. There aren’t many major contenders from the Southern school in this campaign.  Huckabee’s a southern-con.  You could make a case Dubya was one, too. 

So the Christie/Paul kerfuffle isn’t just a battle between candidates; it’s a battle between fundamentally different schools of American conservatism.

And after reading both of them, it’s clear; they’re both right.

Christie Was Right – Libertarians, when it comes to national security, frequently are lost in la-la land. I’ve long since lost count of the Ron Paul supporters who sincerely believe that Iran would be a great friend of the US if we just acted nice to them (and left the Israelis to their own devices with no further ado). Not a few libertarians are just as lost in the fog as Vietnam-era anti-war liberals when it comes to one of history’s great facts; societies that practice war eat societies that would eschew it for breakfast.

Sure – the relatively peaceful, relatively liberal democracies of the West did in fact eventually defeat the warmongering totalitarian Nazis, to pick an example – but only at staggering cost and dislocation.

If you accept that war happens, and that sometimes those wars come to us against our national will, and that it’s better to win them than lose them, then some form of effort to gain intelligence about ones’ enemies’ intentions is one of those things that one trades for, among other things, casualties. And don’t kid yourself – intelligence-gathering has been an incredibly intrusive force in Americans’ lives in the pasts; FDR ordered his intelligence and counter-intelligence services to read every single piece of snail-mail, every telegraph, and eavesdrop on every single phone conversation entering and leaving the United States during WWII.

And like winning wars, staying a jump ahead of your enemies is an ugly, messy thing; it’s the sausage you really don’t want to see getting made. Like fighting crime – there’s a trade-off between liberty and effectiveness. A perfect police state might, hypothetically, be crime-free (at the cost of being, in essence, a criminal state itself); a pure libertarian state might be “Crime-free” in that, having no government, it recognizes no crime.

Say what you will about libertarian purism; if you stop short of anarchy, then defending your society from those who’d harm you is the most direct justification to have a government in the first place. It’s one of the few really good reasons to have a government; without defense (and courts to enforce contracts), really, what truly useful purpose do they serve that the private sector doesn’t do better?  If government can’t keep the people safe from foreign aggression, why have it in the first place?  Even libertarians that aren’t anarchists largely agree on this, right?

If you think you prevent airplans from crashing into skyscrapers, or underwear bombers from blowing your kids out of the sky as they come home from London, happens by just squirting good-will at the world, you are completely nuts. 

But Wait – Rand Paul Is Also Right! – But then you’re also nuts if you believe that government doesn’t take a mile for every inch you give it, or that “Defending the Nation” is a static, unchanging thing. 

All of you national-security hawks who say “The FISA Courts, into which was have no visibiliity and into which there is exceptionally limited oversight, are ample protection of due process for Americans” have apparently forgotten the IRS scandal.  Or Fast and Furious.  Or the trampling of the Fourth Amendment, or the growing militarization of the police. 

In short, law and order conservatives who are pollyannaish about government are no less addled than those who are pollyannaish about the role of unilateral good-will in keeping the world at peace. 

“We’re from the government and we’re here to help” is no less a joke coming from the NSA than it is from the Fish and Wildlife Service.   Just as liberals would suspend the Bill of Rights to cut CO2 emissions, some conservatives – especially the ones that are comfortable with “the System”, and there is nobody who can grow more comfortable with “The System” than a federal prosecutor like Christie – are perfectly fine saying “would you trade the Fourth Amendment for getting that drug dealer out of your neighborhood?”

As to defense?  The libertarians are wrong, we need a strong one.  But the definition of “a strong defense” changes, and changes radically, over time.  Is it the right time to engage the American military in an endless counterinsurgency that might be better suited to intelligence and proxies to carry out (uh oh, now the Libertarians and Liberals will get upset) when the Russians and the Chicoms are taking the world in a much more convention direction again?

The point being that re-assessing what the nation’s strategy actually is, and how the military forwards it, and what kind of military we need to do the job isn’t “anti-military”. 

Above all?  Due process needs to be more than just an inconvenient speed bump for the authorities – or what’s the point of pretending to be a “representative Republic” anyway?

Those Cows Left The Barn

I expect conservatives and libertarians to be exercised over the news that the White House is establishing a “Nudge Squad” – a group of behavioral scientists who will work with the government bureaucracy to try to help shape citizen behavior:

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” reads the government document describing the program, which goes on to call for applicants to apply for positions on the team.

The document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more in energy costs.

The document praises subtle policies to change behavior that have already been implemented in England, which already has a “Behavioral Insights Team.” One British policy concerns how to get late tax filers to pay up.

On the one hand, it all sounds very Orwellian.  And it is; using the government to shape peoples’ behavior is a short and utterly undefineable step away from using it to shape peoples’ thought.

On the other hand?  Precisely what has the public education system been since its inception?

That Makes 50

The Illinois Legislature overrode Governor Pat “The Fascist Orc” Quinn’s veto of the bipartisan carry law, bringing the state at long last into compliance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

“This is a historic, significant day for law-abiding gun owners,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a southern Illinois Democrat who, in 10 years in the House, has continued work on concealed carry begun by his uncle, ex-Rep. David Phelps, who began serving in the mid-1980s. “They finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”

The Senate voted 41-17 in favor of the override after a House tally of 77-31, margins that met the three-fifths threshold needed to set aside the amendatory veto. Quinn had used his veto authority to suggest changes, including prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to one firearm at a time.

I have little doubt that the City of Chicago will continue to try to fight against the law-abiding citizens’ right to keep and bear arms; inconveniencing criminals is bad politics in Barack Obama’s hometown. 

But this is a great day for freedom.