Tag Archives: fascism

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?

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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.

Checkmate.

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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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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Freedom of Speech

Way back in 2013, when the IRS was caught intimidating Republicans, one of their targets was groups wanting to defend the Constitution. Jon Stewart quipped, “You can see why they don’t want you to know about the Constitution.” It was not clear, previously, that the Republican party had a monopoly on the Constitution.

The left seems to think they don’t need the First Amendment anymore, because their team is on top right now. As Jeremiah has warned you, this kind of thinking is strictly for morons. Your personal freedom ratcheted down a few clicks under George Bush, and a few more clicks under Barack Obama.

This Vox article about censorship at college reads like something from China’s Cultural Revolution. Ironically, armed with only an anecdote or two, the author resorts to the same self-centered reasoning he complains of in his students. A rebuttal was rapidly posted here. Jeremiah is with the OP, though. Try to count how often you have heard of a debate being cancelled, a speaker disinvited, or a teacher fired.

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An article on Popehat discusses whether obnoxious online comments constitute actionable threats. Apparently some people mouthed off about a judge, anonymously, and now the DOJ is going to hunt them down and prosecute them. No one likes these comments, but – like the IRS scandal – this is a clear case of selective prosecution. The DOJ is not going after all obnoxious comments, just anti-government comments on libertarian sites.

Yes, Virginia, there is censorship. There are certain things you can say on Facebook, or wherever, and certain things that will get you busted. Your words can get you audited, fired, or jailed. The universe of acceptable speech is defined, not objectively, but politically.

Jeremiah recalls that old sketch of Emmett Kelly sweeping up the spotlight. It doesn’t matter which direction it is moving. The point is that this bright spot of public discourse is growing smaller.

See also: Students for Liberty

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Security Blanket

Domestic surveillance is one of those issues that highlight the false dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. Senior officials on both sides favor a surveillance regime which is illegal and unconstitutional. Opposing this bipartisan consensus are the usual suspects – Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Justin Amash, and a surprisingly small cohort of American voters.

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The great state of Kentucky has two senators, both Republican. Of course, Senator Paul is a Republican in name only. He is the leader of that party’s emerging libertarian wing. The other is Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. McConnell supports a straight extension of the Patriot Act, including section 215 – mass collection of everyone’s phone records.

Siding with McConnell is the Obama administration, including newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch – she of the civil asset forfeiture scandal – and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. At least Lynch is consistent. She has no regard for the Fourth Amendment at all. The quickest way to find out if your senator is among the “security hawks,” is to start reading Dan Froomkin at The Intercept.

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.

Among TV pundits, Fox News is mostly in favor of domestic surveillance (as here) except for the occasional libertarian, and CNN – well, CNN is the administration’s lapdog. This chimes with the risible survey finding that Democrats and Republicans only resist surveillance when the other party is in charge.

Your government intends to spy on you, by which we mean Congress, various police agencies, and the Obama administration with its media lackeys. It is easier to count the people resisting, which still includes about half of the judges – until AG Lynch starts replacing them.

Using mass collection of phone records, the police agencies can put together a map of who talks to whom and, by doping out who your friends’ friends are, decide if they should obtain a secret warrant for your arrest, further investigation, put you on the no-fly list, have the IRS audit you, etc. This article from Ars Technica explains how the three hops rule makes everyone a suspect.

Why should you care? You are pretty sure you don’t know anyone who knows someone who knows someone else who might be on a secret list of suspected terrorists. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

Wrong. In the real world, what happens when police agencies have vast power to investigate innocent people is that they end up abusing it. This goes all the way back to FBI harassment of Dr. King, and continues with the IRS selectively auditing political enemies.

… explicit allegations about King’s sex life … the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance

Power corrupts. Surveillance power creates opportunities for blackmail and intimidation of political enemies – as well as vulnerable innocents. It is even conceivable that the NSA might someday blackmail its own masters in Congress. The FBI tried it once, under J. Edgar Hoover, and the CIA is not above hacking Congressional computers. This is a far bigger threat to America than the “war on terror” they claim to be fighting.

Domestic surveillance is a clear and present danger to our personal freedoms and the integrity of the republic. It is astonishing that young Americans – to paraphrase Paul Begala – don’t give a shit.

Activists in Europe hold their politicians to account. They march, they vote, and they ask tough questions. When was the last time you saw an American politician pinned down on this – or any – issue, and forced to give a serious answer?

Here, we are placated with an earnest speech or two – some waffle about “finding a balance,” and a committee to recommend someday making some changes. We’ll change the name of our writ from Patriot Act to Freedom Act, LOL.

Jeremiah blames public education. By negligence or design, we have raised up a generation that is self absorbed and easily led. One generation – that’s all it takes, and you will never get your freedom back.

See also: IRS Doesn’t Need a Warrant to Read Your Email

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America’s Deep State

us-ciajpg-5d21951bc95bc9da_largeThe intriguing thing about the CIA torture report is not so much the content, but the timing and motivation for making it public. For the record, Jeremiah feels the way most people do. America should not torture people anywhere, on any pretext. It’s against our principles, and it’s ineffective.

Hard cases who don’t mind “waterboarding some Arabs if it saves American lives,” seem to be mostly on the right. We refer them to über Republican John McCain, who has been a vocal critic of torture from the outset.

National security policy is forged and carried out by a managerial class that is effectively removed from electoral and constitutional constraints

If you’re a whistleblower, like Dan Ellsberg or Edward Snowden, you must go to the press because there’s no other authority you can appeal to. Dianne Feinstein, however, chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Publishing a report like this declares that she, her committee, and Congress have not been able to control the CIA. It damns not only the spooks, but their elected handlers in Congress and the White House.

The right says Sen. Feinstein has an axe to grind with the CIA, and wants to release the report before losing her chairmanship in the next Congress. Well, yes! The CIA has done everything it could to bury the report, including hacking the Senate’s computers. That’s quite alarming, if you think about it – an intelligence agency attacking the civilian government.

Mr. Obama can and has ordered the assassination by drone of a US citizen without crossing the door of a judge.

Not that the left should gloat, either. President Obama has his own personal drone war, and NSA surveillance has not slowed since the Snowden revelations. The report shows that the same spooks who have been lying to Sen. Feinstein also lied to President Bush – which brings us to the issue of why a high ranking Senator feels the need to take her case public.

Why hasn’t Obama been able to brake the NSA? Why couldn’t Congress check the CIA? We like the FT’s introduction of the term deep state. This would explain the trend we see, in which rotating red and blue figureheads have no impact on our evolving police state. It’s no different from Iran, where you may vote for Rouhani instead of Ahmadinejad – but the Council of Guardians is always in charge.

See also: Extrajudicial Killing

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Highway Robbery

Police-might-shoot-you-during-a-traffic-stopThe last word on civil asset forfeiture is the Post’s four part report, starting here. Be sure to read all four parts. This guy will be getting a Pulitzer. It is six parts, if you count the two follow up stories. If you don’t have time to read it all, a short video is here.

There is not, as you may have heard, an official warning for Canadian tourists, although there was this scathing editorial on CBC news. Since CBC is government funded, you could argue that it’s official. Canadian journos are so erudite. They call the program “Kafkaesque.”

There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments … totaling more than $2.5 billion

And indeed it is. If you refuse a friendly request to search your car, then you’re “suspicious.” In any case, your car gets searched. The police then help themselves to your cash and anything else that seems valuable – er, suspicious. You need never be charged with a crime. The cops just take your stuff. Here are highlights from CBC:

  • The businessman from Georgia who was relieved of $75,000 he’d raised from relatives to buy a restaurant in Louisiana.
  • The church leaders who were carrying nearly $30,000 from their Baltimore parishioners to carry out church activities in North Carolina and El Salvador.
  • The young college grad with no criminal record on his way to a job interview out West who was relieved of $2,500 lent to him by his dad for the trip.

As the editorial says, you might expect this from dirty cops in, say, Tijuana – but America? There is, unbelievably, a legal framework for this, plus training programs and online forums. “Equitable sharing” means the seizures are deemed federal – harder to sue than the local sheriff – and they split the money.

It’s easy to see why the DOJ and local police like the program. Budgets are strained to pay salary, benefits, and retirement for public sector employees. See Detroit, Stockton, Rhode Island, and San Bernardino, to name a few. You can expect this budget challenge to gather pace across the country. Some places have cut police services, like responding to 911 calls.

Civil asset forfeiture allows the police to fund themselves, by robbing passing motorists. Some police forces even plan such takings in their annual budget. Instead of facing up to the budget challenges, we simply empower the police to “live off the land,” or as Deputy Ron Hain put it, “turning our police forces into present day Robin Hoods.”

Turning our police forces into present day Robin Hoods

We have been following Barton Hinkle and Radley Balko on police militarization. Hinkle compares the police to a conquering army, and this completes the paradigm. Sun Tzu (and other generals) said that the army should be able to support itself by pillaging the conquered territory.

See also: The Praetorian Guard

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The Praetorian Guard

In the latter days of empire, Rome was occupied by her legions, no different from the provinces.  Here, we posted Barton Hinkle’s observation that America’s police are now militarized, “like a conquering army.”

We have seen how this looks in Turkey and in Iran.  The illiterate baseej don’t mind beating an educated woman for showing too much ankle.  Plus, there is the occasional looting and other perks.

In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for controversy in Austin  – Police Chief Art Acevedo

We were reminded of the cultural aspect, by this YouTube video of young Amanda Jo Stephen being taken down by the police in Austin.  It looks a lot like that photo from Turkey, doesn’t it?

woman-arrested-on-street-615x345Coarse as it is, Chief Acevedo has a point.  Elsewhere in America, the police rape, rob, and murder with impunity.  We have stopped counting the incidents.  Reason has a good list, and Radley Balko is here.  Jeremiah would prefer not to see parallels between America and these other police states, past or present, falling or fallen.

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