Archive for category Liberty

On Civil Disobedience

Today, the Guardian published remarks by Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency, with regard to Edward Snowden’s actions in revealing our government’s immoral actions against its own citizens. Here’s what Hayden said:

If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.

Here’s the problem with the whole “it’s the law and must be obeyed or suffered” paradigm:

The law said slavery was okay and provided for punishment for trying to escape slavery. The law said repressing women’s right to vote was okay, and provided punishment for women who tried to vote. The law said informed, consensual personal choice of sexuality was not okay, and punished people for such choices in the bedroom and elsewhere.

First, none of those things are actually okay. Those laws were (and remain) immoral and wrong; and more to the point, anyone who charged anyone under those laws was immoral and wrong, anyone who advocated punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong, and of course, anyone who applied punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong.

Second, with regard to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which (essentially) says that the moral authority for civil disobedience comes only from being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of an unjust law’s unjust punishment, not only no, but hell no.

The moral authority for civil disobedience comes directly and inevitably from the fact that the law is morally wrong.

There is no moral authority in advocating, creating, obeying or enforcing a law that is wrong, nor in simply declaring “it’s the law.” Only moral failure.

For instance, when you make a law that says (or supports the idea that) involuntary slavery is ok, there is nothing that can make that law moral. There is nothing that can make obeying that law moral. There is nothing that can make disobeying that law immoral. The only moral path available to you is to outright disobey the law. Anything else is immoral.

If you want the law to have moral authority, the only way you can achieve that is to create moral laws.

Our central problem in this regard is that our politicians and a very large number of the people they have appointed are, in fact, immoral individuals acting contrary to the interest of the public at large and every individual they are supposed to be working in service of. Not to mention breakers of the oaths they took that give them the moral right to hold the offices they sit. They don’t deserve to be supported in any such undertaking. They deserve to be kicked in the shin. Hard.

Now, yes, it is true that in fighting immoral government acts, you may indeed suffer at its hands. That is the core nature of immorality; it does others wrong. But that is a far cry from any legitimacy for the conception that says you should so suffer. Thoreau was flat-out wrong. So is Hayden, acting as an echo chamber for Thoreau. And just so we’re perfectly clear on the issue of the day: Snowden was, and remains, right.

If you would like to take away a money quote about law that is moral in its characterization of law, rather than the sophist nonsense Thoreau was (and Hayden is) peddling, I’m delighted to oblige (emphasis within the quote mine):

…in so far as [law] deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.

Thomas Aquinas

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Good Idea, Bad Idea

If the country wants to infringe on the citizen’s right — not just the citizens who have been perfect, but also citizens who have done wrong — to keep and carry arms, then we should amend the constitution. As it stands now, an accurate reading of the second amendment clearly forbids infringement by the government on the citizen’s right to keep and carry. Yes, sophist (and often ridiculous) reasoning has resulted in a wide variety of constitutionally unauthorized legislation along the lines many are suggesting, but again, as these laws are in fact unauthorized, there is no salient reason — outside of fear of unauthorized, coercive violence on the part of the government — for any citizen to respect them, much less obey them.

I am not — repeat, not — in favor of the second amendment as it stands today. But I am even less in favor of allowing or encouraging the government to ignore the constitution under any circumstances. That has led directly to torture; complete inversion of the commerce clause; surveillance, search and seizure without a warrant or even probable cause; repression of speech; direct government support and fostering of religion; ex post facto law; de facto double jeopardy; the taking of land for commercial purposes; and much, much more along the same lines.
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Analyzing the 2nd Amendment Correctly

rippedThe 2nd Amendment is in the news again. As I come across various news stories and blog posts like this one, I repeatedly find attempts to present an explanation of this portion of the constitution. Some of these attempts err because they use modern definitions for terms that meant something else when the amendment was written; some fail because they don’t catch on to the difference between an instruction to government and an explanation to the reader; some are outright propaganda, written to conform to a point of view without regard to any intent to get at an accurate reading.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking at this over the years. Although you may begin to feel as you read this that I am pro-gun, in fact I am not. What I am is pro-constitution. As you’ll see if you read this completely, the constitution provides for change, and the obvious path is, if you want change, you should make that change — properly. Please read this to the end before you decide that I’ve got a foot in the door here, for or against the “rightness” of American citizens being armed.

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The 2012 Election – I Surprise Myself

8142797777_17cc1e55ec_nDeb and I had the pleasure of meeting some of the key democratic candidates for office for, and within our state (Montana) today. Each spoke for a few minutes about their aspirations, and spent some time “working the room”; I bent a couple of ears, as anyone who knows me might expect, and got some fairly good answers, actually.

I don’t normally jump on a soapbox, politically, but this year… here we go.
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The Constitution is not just a piece of paper

rippedObama has (and let’s be fair here — also the congress, and the judiciary, and state officials have) repeatedly demonstrated either a complete disrespect for, or absolute misunderstanding of, the constitution.

From the inversion of the commerce clause, ex post facto laws at both the federal and state levels, sweeping usurpation of article 5 powers via the judiciary, to blatant violations of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 14th amendments, our government is — at best — operating in an unauthorized fashion, wielding powers it was never granted by the people, and ignoring its obligation to protect the rights it was explicitly charged with protecting in return for being allowed to operate at all.
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Nuclear Attacks – Survivable, say Feds

The feds have published a happy little book (available here) that lets us know we can expect to survive small nuclear attacks. The blogosphere has been muttering about it, mostly to the mistaken tune of “OMG, Global Thermonuclear War!”

But this booklet isn’t about a sophisticated attack by missile or bomber; this is about little tiny nukes, up to 10 kiloton, the kind of thing you might expect from an unusually sophisticated basement terrorist manufacturing operation. It is a guide for local officials that detail everything from what to expect in terms of injuries, damage and fallout, to what to do about people’s pets.
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Is a corporation really like a person?

In the US, (IMHO very bad) court decisions have made it so that businesses – corporations – are commonly treated as if they were persons under the law. This leads more or less naturally to weighing the rights of the corporations against the rights of a flesh-and-blood person; and when a corporation contributes more to the public trough than the citizen does, the outcome is often a foregone conclusion.

Lately, it’s been rattling around in my old head that perhaps, instead of treating corporations like persons, we should treat them like useful, but very dangerous, viruses. Comparable to one that generates some useful end product, but would eat your flesh off if you got any on you. Because other than the end products they make, I’m really hard put to think of much good corporations do unless they’re legislated into a corner and forced into it.
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SCOTUS empowers another ex post facto law

rippedThe Supreme Court ruled on May 17th, 2010, that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates after their prison terms are complete. The high court in a 7-2 judgment reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority.

Ex post facto laws are explicitly forbidden to the federal government and the states by two separate and quite specific clauses in the constitution, the government’s authorizing document:

The federal government: “Section 9 – Limits on Congress – No … ex post facto Law shall be passed.”

The states: “Section 10 – Powers prohibited of States – No State shall … pass any … ex post facto Law”

You may be asking, “What is an ex post facto law?” The legal definition is given by Calder v Bull (3 US 386 [1798]), in the opinion of Justice Chase, which defines four ways laws must fail as ex being post facto:
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