Category Archives: Civil Rights

The Right To Leave

Nothing demonstrates the impotence of the United Nations quite so starkly as the long suffering of the North Korean people.  Living in wretched conditions and subjected to ongoing famine, North Koreans are two inches smaller than their South Korean cousins.  One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished.

This has been going on since 1953.  North Koreans living today were born into suffering, and have never known any other life – even though South Korea, across the border, is one of the world’s most affluent nations.

Article 13.2: Everyone has the right to leave any country

A better life for these people is literally within walking distance, but they are imprisoned by their own leaders – a dynasty of brutal dictators who build monuments to themselves while the people starve.  The previous dictator, Kim Jong-Il, died of old age, blissfully untouched by the world’s opprobrium.  If the United Nations had any purpose at all, it would be to end such regimes.

We might as well say the same about Cuba and, in its time, the Soviet Union.  In an international context, the most fundamental right is the right to leave a bad country.  Properly enforced, this would limit the amount of suffering any dictator could impose, and ultimately compel some of the higher order human rights.

The United Nations has a lengthy declaration of human rights, including health care and free education, but it lacks a mechanism to enforce – or even encourage – its principles.  One of these is, in fact, the right to leave.

The U.N Security Council regularly votes against interference in the “internal affairs” of any country.  However much we might criticize China for human rights abuses, this is a gray area.  The Chinese could point back at Guantanamo or race relations.  No one wants the U.N. to be the arbiter of how well a country treats its people – certainly not China, and they’re a permanent member.

Whether the people are free to leave, however, is completely objective.  They’re either free, or they’re not.  The United Nations could, with perfect clarity, make Article 13.2 the acid test for human rights.  Resolutions should follow, with sanctions including military intervention.  The North Koreans are prisoners, and the world has a duty to free them.


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Snowden is on Twitter

Edward Snowden joined Twitter at noon today and garnered 167,000 followers in his first hour. So, maybe there’s hope. Article here, on The Intercept. Souvenir first tweet, below. That one account he’s following is the NSA.


In an earlier post on Snowden, we observed that Germans came out on the street in protest, whereas Americans largely believe the shtick about “privacy versus security.” Since then, the NSA has been proved guilty of illegal surveillance activity.

You may recall White House staffers being fired over this, the Senate investigation, the impeachment. No? That’s because not a damned thing happened. Some starlet got her boobs adjusted and our entire brain dead country forgot the whole thing. Meanwhile, Ed is a fugitive.

Update: People taking action in Germany, while here in America the authorities blithely conduct another illegal search and seizure.

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More Lethal than Plague

Karl-MarxRobert Conquest died last month. The Economist ran a proper tribute, and even the left-leaning New York Times gave him his due. It is fashionable to dismiss Conquest as merely an accountant, the first to calculate how many people Stalin had killed, and obsolete now the Soviet archives are open. This misses the point entirely.

The point is that Western observers were so enamored of communism, in theory, that they were willfully blind to what it was doing in practice. Six to eight million died in the famine. Something like ten million were sent to Siberia. Millions more died in the Gulag. Conquest’s estimate of total deaths is 20 million.

Even after flag-waving supporters of the Soviet Union had dwindled to irrelevance, the conviction that communism was a good idea poorly executed persisted

Lenin thought mass murder was justified because he was building a socialist utopia. Stalin, Mao, Che, and Pol Pot thought the same. This is no coincidence. When a leader believes he is obeying the law of history – Marx’s idea – he can justify unspeakable atrocities.

Here is an idea that killed millions. Millions! People were starved, shot, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured – all over the world. Pol Pot killed two million, and there is no telling how many tens of millions Mao put to death. You really have to believe in your workers’ paradise to sweep that under the rug.

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Divide and Rule

Jeremiah has been calling out police violence for a while now. See here, for example. He should be happy to see people protesting in the streets, but he is not happy. The popular movement, Black Lives Matter, is going in exactly the wrong direction.

If you were working for the FBI and you wanted to weaken the movement, this would be your first move.

Black Lives Matter has been successful in that has galvanized popular opinion around the issue of police violence against blacks. That’s fine. Statistically, police violence against blacks is the biggest piece of the problem. Think about it from a policy standpoint, though. No laws, precedents, or regulations will be made stipulating, “… against blacks.” Also, consider:

  • Not all the victims are black
  • Not all the bad cops are white
  • Not all the cops are bad

This is important, because now the movement has left behind all these other groups that should be joining it in demanding real reforms. Real reforms, briefly, would involve exposing violent cops to criminal and civil procedures, while mitigating the protection they receive from their unions, and insulating the taxpayers from civil liability.

Casting the issue as a racial one needlessly divides the movement. If you were working for the FBI and you wanted to weaken the movement, this would be your first move.

Marching – and disrupting a Bernie Sanders rally – is good fun and calls attention to the issue. Now, think about possible end games. The desired end game is legal reform, as above, and a return to community policing. That’s why we say the movement is going in exactly the wrong direction. What cop wants to walk a beat in Baltimore now?


Here is a more likely end game. Local police forces are pitted against activists in their communities. We have the power to intimidate, and even defund, the local police – but not the state police. The state police are dominated by the FBI.

Now, the phony racial schism kicks in. Blacks are pitted against whites, and fear escalates. Police violence escalates, and so does retaliation. The DOJ steps in and creates – either directly, or by proxy – a federal police force. A militarized federal police force.


Jeremiah is not prone to conspiracy theories, but sometimes it really feels like we are being played.

See also:  Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests

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Name Calling

In our reading on censorship, we came across this epithet, “white privilege, patriarchal, slave trading colonizer” – or words to that effect. We distinctly remember that the European Colonization was inflected like that, to make a personal noun. That’s a lot of historical baggage rolled into one epithet, and we wondered what use it could possibly have in a serious policy debate.

When Jeremiah wants to call names, he has to be content with bourgeois and imperialist running dog. “Colonizer,” though – that’s strong. Someone might be advocating, say, welfare reform, and then you hit him with white privilege colonizer. Bam! Case closed.

Unfortunately, this epithet isn’t historically relevant. The only white privilege colonizers in America were the British, and our ancestors drove them out of the country – inventing modern democracy in the process. Our traditional ancestors, that is. Most Americans today are descended from other places, like Ireland, Italy, and India. Plenty of white privilege colonizers in Canada, though.

America, it bears repeating, was never a colonial power.

The British were the most ambitious colonizers in history (after the Han Chinese). The French colonized Indochina, leading, ultimately, to the Vietnam War. The Dutch colonized much of Africa, giving us apartheid. America, it bears repeating, was never a colonial power.

After the British, the biggest colonizers were the Spanish. They invaded all of Latin America, from Tierra del Fuego to San Francisco – except for Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese. The Spanish enslaved and annihilated not one, not two, but three advanced indigenous civilizations – at least as bad as what “we” did to the plains Indians.

This is great news. It opens up a whole new group of people we can call “white privilege colonizers.” Too bad racial politics doesn’t consider Latins to be white. This is a drawback with epithets that depend on events from the seventeenth century. Are Spaniards white?


The lovely Mediterranean style of architecture in California, it should be noted, comes from the Arab invasion of Spain. The Arabs, you see, were also slave trading colonizers. Maybe our new epithet isn’t so strong. We’re going to stick with running dog. Maybe “patriarchal” running dog. That’ll shut up anyone who’s male, at least, unless he’s gay.

Seriously, though, this epithet business illustrates the logical weakness of Howard Zinn’s approach to history. You can’t just scrape together all the crimes ever committed in America and use them as an argument stopper. Colonialism is only relevant if someone is proposing to bring it back.

Oh, but it’s an ingrained cultural attitude, you say. Really? An American named O’Malley whose people came over during the potato famine – after being subjugated by the British – is now a colonizer? It must be contagious! We should round them up and put them in “cultural quarantine.”

In his freshman logic class, Jeremiah learned that if you are going to tabulate, say, “bad things done by nineteenth century Americans,” you also have to look at “good things done by nineteenth century Americans,” and – for historical context – “bad things done by nineteenth century non-Americans,” plus maybe bad and good things done by Americans and non-Americans in other periods.

The proper guide to policy choices in twenty-first century America is a well-rounded study of our history in its comparative context. Anything less is just name calling.

See also: Pope apologizes for Catholic Church’s crimes against indigenous peoples

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Of Sex and Shackles

Jeremiah was mortified to learn that Facebook offers more than 58 choices of gender identity. Many of them are duplicates! Worse, Facebook has added a freeform text field. This is a missed opportunity for Facebook and for social scientists, because we will not have clear categories to use for marketing and research.

Inventing your own freeform gender identity is part of the fun, but you cannot run, e.g., a dating site this way. Public institutions that need to collect gender information will probably follow Facebook’s lead – and give up. We wondered if it would be possible to categorize modern American gender identities and, if so, how many categories there are.

  • Biological gender – male or female. This may be of decreasing relevance to society, but it is still important for medical research.
  • Sexual preference – gay, straight, or bi. This one is tricky because it relies on the gender identification of your partner. Caitlyn and Candis are both trans female, so they’re lesbians.
  • Elective gender – male, female, or cis. When people say that being trans is different from being gay, what this means is – a different check box.
  • Gender role – masculine, feminine, or non-conforming. Many gay couples adhere to “traditional” gender roles, which is really odd because this is the most obsolescent aspect of gender identity.

Now that our lesbian pals can get hitched, Sue will be the “husband.” Why does a gay couple in the twenty-first century adopt roles from monochrome television? Who knows? Who is John Galt?

That works out to 54 choices, so maybe Facebook had it right after all. As enthusiastic as we are about the proliferation of gender choices, we can’t help but think this is an epic distraction from the ongoing curtailment of civil rights in America.

Everyone is so busy with this narcissistic sense of who they are in terms of sexual orientation or gender, and this intense gender consciousness, woman consciousness at the same time, and meanwhile…

Camille Paglia, herself a lesbian and a feminist, says that preoccupation with gender is a symptom of decadence. It is too easy to focus on things of immediate personal importance, and not notice what’s really going on the country. Chelsea Manning is trans, and she’s in prison.

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Land of the Free

PassportSomewhere along the line, the Constitution became associated with the political right. This was not a good move for the Constitution. Maybe it has something to do with partisan attitudes toward domestic surveillance, as we discussed here.

The right likes old timey language. They see the depredations of the IRS, for example, as “tyranny.” Jeremiah, his political sensitivities formed in the Sixties, sees fascism. The blog has tags for both. Libertarians are for liberty, broadly construed, while the left will settle for “civil rights.”

You would think that protecting our, um, freedom would be a concern for all Americans. Everyone in government takes an oath to defend the Constitution, and President Obama was a professor of Constitutional law.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution are the Bill of Rights, one of history’s most profound statements of human freedom. Other charters are merely aspirational. The UN declaration wants us all to have good jobs, with time off and a health plan.

The Bill of Rights is more pragmatic. Instead of what the government should do for you, it lists what the government may not do to you. Readers will have noticed a theme lately, as we have chronicled the erosion of your personal freedoms.

  • The Fourth Amendment, against unlawful search and seizure, was the first casualty in our Orwellian “war on terror.”
  • The First Amendment, freedom of speech, has been replaced by a censorship regime with potent sanctions.
  • Even the Eighth Amendment, against cruel and unusual punishment, has been shredded by a prison industry that is paid on volume.

Those are (were) the big ones. Ilya Somin has even found a violation of the Third Amendment. Six and Seven are pretty much toast, too. You can play this game at home by following the news, and tracking how many of your Constitutional rights are still standing.

The stated purpose of this blog is to explore solutions for America’s problems. If no one is going to defend the Constitution, though – despite having taken the oath – then it’s not really America anymore. It might be time to go Simon Black, and start working on that second passport.

See also:  Rule of Law

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