Free Markets, Free People

rights

TSA and America’s attitudes

W have dueling polls concerning the level of anger/distress/rejection of the new TSA procedures being introduced in airports recently.  Zogby International and Gallup have come up with different results of polls they’ve recently taken about how the flying public feels about the “don’t touch my junk” controversy.

Gallup says that the overwhelming number of frequent flyers really don’t have a problem with the new procedures.  Since millions of flyers move through the system and at last count I saw, only about 170,000 had been subjected to the advanced pat down, I have to wonder if that high number is a result of the fact that while they’ve heard about the pat downs, they’ve never experienced one.   And certainly, I assume a good number of them simply have no problem with the possible health care aspects of the back scatter x-ray or with some nameless bureaucrat ogling their “junk”.

TSA2

Anyway, per Gallup, frequent travelers are “largely” ok with full body scanners but not as enthused with the possibility of an advanced pat down.

They put the number at 71% who claim that the loss of personal privacy (through full body scan or pat down) is “worth it”  to prevent acts of terrorism.  27% say it is not worth it.  What’s the old saying?  A liberal is someone who has never been mugged before?  I get the impression that “in theory” they may find it to be “worth it” but I really have to wonder if they’d hold to that if they had to undergo the procedures.

As you get into the poll you find this:

The majority (57%) say they are not bothered by the prospect of undergoing a full-body scan at airport security checkpoints. The same percentage, however, say they are bothered, if not angry, about the prospect of undergoing a full-body pat-down. Still, fewer than one in three frequent air travelers are "angry" about undergoing either procedure.TSA3

Again, note the wording – they’re not bothered “by the prospect” of undergoing a full-body scan.  And it isn’t some “vast majority” like the 71% implies.  It’s 57% of which I’d guess most haven’t undergone either procedure (I believe the scanners are only in 70 or so airports at this time).

Zogby, on the other hand, come up with much different result than did Gallup:

Of the 2,032 likely voters polled between November 19 and November 22, 61 percent said they oppose the use of body scanners and pat downs.

Now that does wander into “vast majority” territory.  It also completely contradicts a CBS News poll that said only 15% were opposed to the full-body scanners.  Of course the poll was conducted November 7-10, before the “don’t touch my junk” controversy had really exploded in the media.TSA4

  The Zogby poll also mentions something that has gotten very little media attention.  The administration came out early saying that all their scientists say the x-ray scanners pose no health threat to the flying public.  But that’s not necessarily true.  I know, I know – you’re shocked, aren’t you?  But it is a matter of statistics that in fact someone will get skin cancer according to Dr. Michael Love of Johns Hopkins:

"They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these x-rays," Dr. Michael Love, who runs an x-ray lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.

When you consider how absurdly far the government sometimes goes in order to minimize risk in other health areas, it seems a bit contradictory to me to see it now claiming safety for something that obviously will statistically cause cancer in those who undergo the procedure.

TSA1

Now as mentioned it may not be a major risk, but it is certainly something people must consider when submitting.  And how about their kids? 

If they opt out because of those concerns, they get the grope treatment instead.  Not exactly what you’d expect in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” in terms of choices which preserve individual liberty and privacy.

Zogby reports, contrary to Gallup’s findings:

The poll also found that men were slightly more opposed than women, with 63 percent of men and 60 percent of women opposing the TSA’s new checkpoint procedures.

In addition, 52 percent of respondents think the new security procedures will not prevent terrorist activity, 48 percent consider it a violation of privacy rights and 32 percent consider it to be sexual harassment.

Zogby looks at the politics of the issue – and guess who manages to find themselves on the wrong side of an individual rights issue?

Republicans and Independents are more opposed to the new body scans and pat downs than Democrats, with 69 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Independents opposing them, compared to only 50 percent of Democrats.

And finally, the business aspect of all of this.  Gallup somehow finds an increase in the number of frequent travelers (flown 2 or more times this year) vs. those who would seek an alternate means of travel.  They note that in January of this year, 27% would seek alternate means of travel while in this recent survey, only 19% would seek an alternative to avoid the “hassles” associated with flying.

Zogby found a much different result among those they polled:

"It is clear the majority of Americans are not happy with TSA and the enhanced security measures recently enacted," said pollster John Zogby. "The airlines should not be happy with 42 percent of frequent flyers seeking a different mode of transportation due to these enhancements."

Below I commented on the climate government creates in which businesses have to operate.  This is an interesting example of the point.  Although not exactly what I was alluding too below, it is indeed an example of government action effecting the financial health of a market sector.  And the moves are unilateral and obviously without consideration of the downside for that sector.  Not to mention all the liberty related problems any American should find with these procedures as well.

~McQ

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TSA absurdities–trading liberty for security and getting neither

This TSA nonsense is getting past absurd very quickly. Yesterday in San Diego (again – that’s where "don’t touch my junk" was first heard) there was another incident. This time the guy in question refused the scanner and, knowing what was coming, and most likely trying to avoid being groped, stripped down to his underwear.

OK perhaps he shouldn’t have done that, but by doing so it became clear there was nothing hiding on his person. That’s where the laugh out loud and shake your head moment came in:

This time the defendant, Sam Wolanyk says he was asked to pass through the 3-D x-ray machine. When Wolanyk refused, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel told him he would have to be patted down before he could pass through and board his airplane.

Wolanyk said he knew what was coming and took off his pants and shirt, leaving him in Calvin Klein bike undergarments.

“It was obvious that my underwear left nothing to the imagination,” he explained. “But that wasn’t enough for the TSA supervisor who was called to the scene and asked me to put my clothes on so I could be properly patted down.”

Yeah, that’s right – don’t believe you lyin’ eyes, only a good grope will satisfy the authorities.

This comes on the heels of another example of the absurdity we’re subjected too.  And no the following isn’t apocryphal, this happened and has been confirmed. These troops had already been cleared by customs in a detailed inspection to include sniffer dogs, the whole 9 yards. They had not been off the plane since. Over two hundred of them were on the plane with their M4 assault rifles and SAWs. The plane stopped in Indiana to drop off some troops and instead of letting the plane take off (it didn’t need to be refueled) to its final destination, TSA insisted the troops all get off for another inspection.  And, of course, TSA was very successful in finding a bunch of hidden weapons with which the plane could have been taken over. This was written by a soldier who witnessed the exchange:

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Meanwhile, back in San Diego – Wolanyk is paraded through 2 other terminals in his underwear, because one assumes, it would have been too much of a hassle to let him get dressed before removing him from the TSA area.  He was obviously in the wrong for disrobing, but what that necessary?

And another less publicized arrest took place there as well.  A woman was arrested for taking “illegally filming the x-ray, and TSA screening process with a video camera.”  Her camera was confiscated, she was issued a citation and released.

The irony of all of this is if anyone wanted to do what the 9/11 killers did, all they have to do is go charter a plane.  So none of this is going to stop a 9/11 type event if the killer in question is reasonably intelligent.  If the killers want to bring down a passenger plane, there are all sorts of other ways to do so that TSA hasn’t even imagined.  But the agency is reactive – not proactive.  It’s looking for repeats of things that have happened, despite the fact that none of the things which have happened have been repeated.

We spend all this money and time to produce an agency which proudly announces that it is in the rights violation business and that your rights are not more important than security.  And when confronted with the fact that the flying public is rebelling against this gross breech of their rights (as one woman said, after a pat down, “in some countries we’d be married right now”) the TSA administrator throws this out there:

“Do I understand the sensitivities of people? Yes,” Pistole said to CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.” “If you’re asking, am I going to change the policies? No.”

Or, "screw you and your concerns about rights and propriety – once you get in my line, I decide what rights you have and what is or isn’t appropriate". Like all but strip-searching 12 year old boys.

A couple of points.  Much of the flying public that refuse to put up with such nonsense are going to be looking at alternatives.  Personally, anything 4 to 5 hours away by car is now automatically a car trip – I don’t even consider flying.  And given what’s going on, I’ll probably extend that to 8 hours away (which would cover 99% of my trips).  I don’t intend to reward a government policy which intrudes on my rights (and health) by subjecting myself to it.

Which makes the point that airlines may begin to see passenger traffic go down as the use of these scanners and and pat downs expand (another in a long line of innovative job/business killing policies by this administration).

I’m not willing to trade liberty for security.  And I’m damn sure not about to meekly submit to their intrusion in person.  I will refuse to use air travel as long as that’s the procedure.  And for the airlines, that’s another potential passenger you’ve lost until this TSA nonsense is stopped.

BTW, airlines –  it is my understanding you do not have to use TSA.  I’d be seriously considering that right now if I were you.  But regardless, you should be sitting in front of Pistole right now as a group pounding on his desk and demanding he change the policies and do so quickly.

Charles Krauthammer summed my thoughts up on this rather nicely last week:

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

The junk man’s revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro’. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don’t touch my junk.

Amen.

~McQ

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TSA symptomatic of government’s growing fascism

You know, for the most part I’m not one to throw around inflammatory words if I can help it.  I think their use normally marginalizes the person using them as most folks tend to immediately turn off whatever that person has to say thinking them to be an extremist.

But frankly, I just don’t know how else to describe what I see going on out there.  Listening to current and former TSA officials say things like “hey, no one likes 4th Amendment violations, but we’re going to have to do it”, just sends a chill down my spine.  Talk about the banality of evil.

That’s not the only example.   Take cell phones for instance.  Your benevolent, freedom loving government is considering requiring technology in future cars that will allow them to disable cell phones.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cellphone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.”

[…]

“I think it will be done,” said LaHood. “I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives.”

Emphasis mine – but it highlights the rationalization used by government drones to restrict your freedoms and violate your rights.  It is the new “for the children”, the latest of excuses used to limit your freedom. 

The TSA and the nonsense spouted by LaHood are only the most visible examples of this growing phenomenon. Government, under the rationalization that it had to save us from financial failure, has intruded upon and taken over vast areas of the economy – health care, car companies, financial institutions.

It’s even trying to further expand its intrusion into the food production industry with a bill now being debated in the Senate (and which has 7 GOP senate cosponsors). The bill would place restrictions on even hobbiest farmers. It would also expand the powers of the FDA and place some power in the hands of Homeland Security.

That’s not the only attack going on in that area.

And the usual suspects are all for this sort of thing.  Oh, of course, you’ll hear them claim publicly about how important our freedoms are and how we should work to preserve them, but when blatant examples of right’s violations surface, they side with security over rights.

They’re also not at all concerned anymore with what they used to decry when it was the opposition holding the presidency.  Remember the outrage on the left about the so-called “imperial executive”, George W. Bush?  Remember the promises of reversing that if Barack Obama won the presidency?

Apparently that’s not that big of a deal anymore:

Former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, now the head of the Center for American Progress, called on President Obama to push forward with his agenda using federal agencies and executive branch power Tuesday, even though Democrats were dealt a blow in the recent midterm elections. Podesta said the American people want the president to move forward with his agenda.

“I think most of the conversation since the election has been about how President Obama adjusts to the new situation on Capitol Hill,” Podesta said. “While that’s an important conversation, it simply ignores the president’s ability to use all levels of his power and authority to move the country forward.”

“Forward” toward what, Mr. Podesta?  Creeping fascism?  Heck, it’s not even creeping anymore.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Ben Franklin

We’re rapidly approaching deserving neither. Freedom means risk. Security, in the hands of government, means oppression in its name. If you can’t see that growing more and more everyday, you’re simply blind. Time to say "stop this madness" and "hands off my freedoms" with a bit of emphasis and mean it.

~McQ

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Is A Man’s Home Still His Castle?

Originally posted at the Washington Examiner on August 28, 2010. Some edits have been made to the original article.

It’s an enduring doctrine in America that one’s home is off limits to prying eyes and ears, and can be defended to the death if necessary. It’s not strictly true, of course, and certain states have eroded the doctrine to a gossamer wisp of the core idea. Yet, we tend to operate on an almost instinctual presumption that, when we are on our own property, we are kings and queens of the castle.

Felicia Gibson clearly adhered to this principle, and it’s landed her in serious legal trouble (via Glenn Reynolds):

The resisting-arrest conviction last week of Felicia Gibson has left a lot of people wondering. Can a person be charged with resisting arrest while observing a traffic stop from his or her own front porch?

Salisbury Police Officer Mark Hunter thought so, and last week District Court Judge Beth Dixon agreed. Because Gibson did not at first comply when the officer told her and others to go inside, the judge found Gibson guilty of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.

Gibson was not the only bystander watching the action on the street. She was the only one holding up a cell-phone video camera. But court testimony never indicated that Hunter told her to stop the camera; he just told her to go inside.

Taking video of police stops is becoming more common with the ubiquity of cell-phone cameras and the like, and so is the backlash from law enforcement as has been amply covered by people like Glenn Reynolds (the famous Instapundit) and Radley Balko (from Reason Magazine). From the account given, it appears this why Ms. Gibson was arrested. What makes her case unique, however, is that she was on her own front porch when the encounter took place, and that she was taken into custody on a charge of “resisting arrest.”

Salisbury Police Chief Rorie Collins explained the North Carolina statute, under which Gibson was charged, as this:

“This crime is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor and involves:

“Any person who shall willfully and unlawfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge a duty of his office.

“Obviously, this charge is rather broad and can encompass many different types of actions that are designed to, or serves to hinder a law enforcement officer as he/she performs their duties.

“This charge is most commonly used in situations where a person who is being arrested refuses to cooperate and either passively or aggressively resists an arrest or tries to run away.

“Another very common situation in which this charge is used involves instances when an officer is conducting an investigation and the individuals with whom he/she is dealing provide a false identity when required to identify themselves.

“As you can imagine, there are also many other circumstances in which this charge would be appropriate.”

Chief Collins wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Gibson’s case, but did allow that, in general one does have the right to observe a police stop from one’s own property. He also seemed to suggest that a charge of resisting arrest may still be appropriate in a situation where bystanders refuse to obey police commands to exit the area for their own safety.

“However, just as with many other scenarios, it is important to remember that every situation is based upon its own merits/circumstances. There are some circumstances in which the police who have stopped the vehicle in front of your house may determine that it is in the interest of safety (the officer’s, yours or the individual stopped) to require that folks move. As with other circumstances, it is best advised that an individual merely obey by the officer’s commands.”

Perhaps on a public street the Chief might have a point, in that a colorable argument could be made that the police are charged with protecting the safety of the public highways and byways, even where the only danger is self-imposed.

But to arrest someone who is unmistakably on their own property, and doing nothing remotely illegal, is an abuse of power pure and simple. Even if it were true that Gibson was endangering herself by witnessing the traffic stop from the confines of her front porch, how could that possibly be construed as “resisting arrest” or “obstructing the police” without eviscerating everything that the concept of private property (not to mention plain old individual rights) stands for? Taking such a risk is not illegal. Doing it while occupying one’s homestead should be recognized as unassailably within one’s rights.

Since it appears that neither the police nor the district attorney’s office can be shamed into refraining from such power abuses, perhaps it will take a fat lawsuit for violations of Gibson’s (et al.) constitutional rights to get their attention.

The castle walls may be crumbling and decayed, but the invaders can be fought back and the walls rebuilt.

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DISCLOSE act defeated … for now

But Chuck Schumer is promising a “flurry of votes” on the bill until it finally passes.  Republicans held solid on this attempt to get around the Supreme Court ruling that found the former campaign finance bill unconstitutional on 1st Amendment grounds.

Senate Democrats were only able to muster their 59 votes, which, of course has Ezra Klein and others calling for an end to the 60 vote Senate rule for cloture.

I say the act is defeated for now for a reason.  And that reason, as usual, is Olympia Snow (R-ME):

Olympia Snowe (Maine), whose vote was closely watched on the issue, said the bill wasn’t in a position yet where she could support it.

Key word is “yet”.  The promise in that word is Democrats can do something that will put her in a position to support it.

But back to Schumer.   He, of course, claims the “health” of our democracy rests on its passage.  Actually the health of our democracy rests on removing Senators like him from office, but here’s his statement:

"It’s the amount of money, not who you are, that is affected. And so we’ve seen a campaign of desperation, of full muscle, to try to do everything they can to stop this bill because they realize, as already in some campaigns we have seen, how this will fundamentally change the balance of American politics," he said. "It will make the average citizen feel more and more remote from his or her government. It will hurt the fabric of our democracy."

I would posit that the average citizen couldn’t feel more remote from the government than they do now, and this bill’s passage or non-passage has absolutely zero to do with that. 

In fact, the average citizen finds the more and more it hears from Senators like Chuck Schumer and sees them in action, the more that citizen realizes that they have little use for the Constitution – except to wrap themselves in it when it is politically expedient to do so – and will take every opportunity to attempt to insert government control where that document promised government wouldn’t be allowed.

It isn’t refusing to limit the 1st Amendment that’s damaging to the “fabric of our democracy”, it’s Senators and other lawmakers who attempt to do it that are the threat.

~McQ

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Trying to justify taxing “caloric sweetened beverages”

Or as you know them, soda’s, energy and sports drinks and fruit juices.

The USDA has gotten in the act – all in the name of science and health, of course – and has offered it’s opinion on the matter.  Linked is the report summary.  Here is what they found:

• A tax-induced 20-percent increase in the price of caloric sweetened beverages could reduce net calorie intake from all beverages by 37 calories per day for the average adult. The effects for children were estimated to be larger—an average reduction of 43 calories per day.

• By assuming that 1 pound of body fat has about 3,500 calories, and assuming all else remains equal, the daily calorie reductions would translate into an average reduction of 3.8 pounds over a year for adults and 4.5 pounds over a year for children.

• The weight loss induced by the tax could reduce the overweight prevalence among adults from 66.9 to 62.4 percent and the prevalence of obesity from 33.4 to 30.4 percent. For children, the at-risk-of-overweight prevalence would decline from 32.2 to 27.0 percent and the overweight prevalence would decline from 16.6 to 13.7 percent.

Let me summarize – a 20% tax would reduce consumption of these beverages enough to take “37 calories a day” out of your diet.  That resulting net loss of 37 calories would average 3.8 pounds for year and take the overweight population from 66.9% to 62.7%.

Really?  37 calories a day – the amount of calories you burn getting off your fat behind and walking to the fridge for another soda?  Overweight people normally ingest more calories a day than they burn.  And that caloric intake is usually well over 2,000 calories a day.  37 calories?  That’s a third of a granola bar, for heaven sake.

This is science?

Oh, wait – a couple of qualifiers:

1. A large group of individuals are overweight or obese by only a few pounds, and a small reduction in calorie intake could change their weight classification; and

2. Many overweight and obese Americans consume large amounts of caloric sweetened beverages. For example, 10.6 percent of overweight adults consumed more than 450 calories per day from caloric sweetened beverages— nearly three times the average amount of 152 calories consumed by adults.

And, of course, it is the job of government to help tax these people into a new weight classification?  Well of course it is – Congress just gave themselves the power to make it their business.

Of course this 37 calorie drop a day assumes that a) overweight people won’t change a thing other than dropping the consumption of “caloric sweetened beverages”, b) won’t attempt to fulfill their desire for sugary food with something else or c) won’t grudgingly pay the tax and continue their consumption habits .   The further assumption, of course, is they’ll lose the weight as a result of the negative incentive provided by a 20% tax.

Not only are these people marginal scientists, they seem to know very little about human nature.  On top of that, they certainly don’t seem to understand the political blowback something like this is likely to have. 

But, just the fact that the USDA is dabbling in studies about taxing sugary drinks should tell you all you need to know about the continued intrusive depths to which government now plans to go to regulate everything in your life. 

Freedom means the freedom to succeed and to fail.  It means as long as  you aren’t violating or intruding on someone else’s rights, you can pretty much do whatever you want – to include get fat on sugary drinks.  What it doesn’t mean is some outside agency deciding what is or isn’t good or healthy for you and deciding to tax you into the behavior it deems proper.

But that’s precisely what this “study” is all about.

Freedom is becoming a rare commodity in this land, and we need to understand that and fight against any and all attempted intrusions no matter how trivial or seemingly well intentioned.  Allowing the incremental encroachment of government in all areas of our lives is the sure way to kill freedom and put us well on the road to serfdom.

~McQ

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SCOTUS – Miranda means you have to say "yes" to silence

The Supreme Court decided yesterday, in a narrow vote, that if you want to remain silent – and stop police from peppering you with questions – you have to say you wish to remain silent (and thereby legally end the police questioning).

Our newest Supreme Court Justice, Sotomeyer, dissented saying this ruling “turns Miranda upside down.”

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”

That’s what happens when the word “right” is thrown around haphazardly as it is in today’s culture. What Sotomeyer is attempting to do (and what the court has done in the past) is imbue a legal privilege with the mantle of “right”. Telling someone they have the option of remaining silent has nothing to do with a right. It is a privilege our legal system has granted to those who’ve been arrested so they won’t incriminate themselves mistakenly.

There’s nothing wrong with requiring an acknowledgement that they wish to invoke the privilege of silence. There is likewise nothing wrong with assuming they aren’t invoking it by their silence. They must speak when they’re asked if they understand the Miranda warning, and they must speak to acknowledge their desire for a lawyer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with speaking to say you are invoking the legal privilege of silence.

It’s an “opt in” situation (just as speaking up for a lawyer). Otherwise, police are free to assume that privilege isn’t being used and can continue to try to question the suspect.

I see no right – in real terms – violated by this ruling. And I assume that the Miranda warning will be modified to say that the person arrested must clearly state they choose to be silent and that will be recorded or attested too. The simplest way is verbally followed up by a standard form invoking the privilege and signed by the defendant. I don’t see a problem there.

BTW, Elaina Kagen, now a SCOTUS nominee, had this to say about the case to the court as solicitor general:

“An unambiguous-invocation requirement for the right to remain silent and terminate questioning strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the suspect’s rights and permitting valuable police investigation.”

I agree.

~McQ

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The “right” to health care

One of the things I most admire about Walter Williams is his ability to succinctly state a point. In this case the point is about the false assertion that health care is a “right”. The primary argument against such a “right”:

True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of non-interference. If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.

This is the argument that the left tries to wave away. They do so on various grounds. “Well, it’s the humane thing to do”. Or, “we’re a better society than one which lets people go uninsured”. Or, ‘we owe it to the less fortunate”. Always the imperial “we” in which they decide to force an obligation on others using the power of government. And it all stems from a basic misunderstanding of “rights”.

No “right” as defined by the Constitution (a statement of law) or Declaration of Independence (a statement of philosophy undergirding our country’s law) impose obligations on others for their exercise. What they do impose is a responsibility of non-interference which allows others to exercise their rights. But, as Williams points out, the “right” to health care does impose an obigation on others for that person to exercise their “right”:

Say a person, let’s call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab’s and Dr. Jones’ services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?

You say, “Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay.” You’re right. Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another? There would be one important strategic difference, that of concealment. Most Americans, I would hope, would be offended by the notion of directly and visibly forcing one person to serve the purposes of another. Congress’ use of the tax system to invisibly accomplish the same end is more palatable to the average American.

Disguising it doesn’t change the fact that an obligation is being forced on others for the exercise the “right” of health care. The point, of course, is calling something a “right” doesn’t make it a “right” simply because one wishes it to be – not if you understand what a right is and what it means. Instead of a “right” it should be called what it is – a coerced obligation imposed by government. Calling it a “right” is simply an artifice used to try to make the coercive use of force more palitable.

~McQ

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Challenging licensing laws

What do doctors and florists have in common in the state of Louisiana?  Both have to be licensed by the state.  That’s right – the person who preforms heart surgery on you and the person who arranges the flowers you get afterward both have to meet licensing requirements set by the state.

A 7-decades-old state law requires florists to pass a test and get a license to arrange and sell flowers, making Louisiana the only state in the USA with such a requirement. Supporters of the law say it ensures florists know what they’re doing and deliver quality products.

“Know what they’re doing and deliver quality products?” I thought the market, i.e. customers, usually rewarded or punished those in that profession who didn’t “know what they’re doing and [don't] deliver quality products”.

So is this licensing requirement a) rational b) necessary and even c) constitutional? What it certainly is, though, is a bar to entry into the market imposed by government.

The arguments about licensing in general fall on two sides. Some see no reason to license anything – the market will sort out the good from the bad. Those that approve of licensing argue than in many cases lives and health are at stake and, in such cases, it is the role of government to step in and ensure those who pursue those professions are competent enough to do so.

Arranging flowers certainly doesn’t seem to fit the category of a risk to either the life or health of their clients.

What it certainly does is limit those who can enter the market. First, it imposes a $2,000 licensing fee. That will obviously keep a certain percentage who might otherwise become florists from attempting it because they don’t have the money. Certainly that might be a small percentage and you can make the argument that anyone who can’t afford the fee probably can’t afford to be a florist, but is that your or the state’s call? Instead it is an artificial barrier to entry in the market arbitrarily imposed by the state.

And, usually, when such a bar to entry is evident, you’ll find businesses who’ve met the bar to be the most ardent of supporters. Why? Because it is an artificial means to limit competition. For instance, this case:

The test to obtain a Louisiana florist license consists of an 80-question written exam and a four-part hands-on section, where aspiring florists are scored on how well they put together funeral wreaths, table bouquets and other arrangements, said Mike Rome, vice president of the Louisiana State Florists’ Association, which supports the law.

On the written exam, candidates are asked questions about floral arranging and flowers in general, including how to prolong the life of flowers, wiring methods and plant identification.

In the design section, the aspiring florists have four hours to arrange four designs: a wedding arrangement, corsage, funeral wreath and table bouquet.

Judges then score the designs using guidelines such as “Has the design the proper focal point?,” “Is the correct gauge wire used on flowers?” and “Is a corsage pin attached to the corsage in a way that will not injure anyone?”

Candidates are judged by a panel of three licensed florists. The average score of the written and floral arrangement sections needs to be 70% or higher to pass. The arrangements are judged more on technical competence than creativity, Rome said.

“The florist license gives the consumer a little more assurance that you get a quality product,” Rome said. “Florists are artists; they’re very opinionated. But sometimes you have to follow industry standards.”

“Industry standards?” What “industry standards”. Louisiana is the only state in the union that licenses florists. So whatever standards are imposed by a rather biased group, who apparently brook very little deviation from whatever arbitrary standards they’ve dreamed up, have control over who or who doesn’t join them in that state’s florist market.

As John Stossel reminds us:

Established businesses have always used government to handcuff competition. Years ago, small grocers tried to ban supermarkets. A&P was going to “destroy Main Street,” the grocers cried. Minnesota legislators responded to their lobbying by passing a law that forbade supermarkets to hold sales. Consumers were hurt.

And that is the result of this legal travesty.

As it turns out, 4 would-be florists have taken the requirement to court:

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here last week is challenging the law’s constitutionality, claiming it infringes on a resident’s right to earn a living. The suit, filed by the Institute of Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm based in Washington, D.C., lists as plaintiffs four local florists who have either failed the test or refuse to take it.

“Who is the state to tell me I’m not an artist?” said Monique Chauvin, 42, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Chauvin, owner of Mitch’s Flowers in New Orleans, failed the test in 2000 and has not retaken it. “It’s time for this archaic law to be off the books,” she said.

Chauvin, who has apparently owned a successful florist business in New Orleans for 10 years is defacto proof that the requirement is unnecessary. She’s obviously been successful enough in the marketplace (i.e. her customers find her floral arrangements satisfactory enough to keep her in business – even in a recession) without licensing to stay open for 10 years.

So, why is Chauvin bringing a lawsuit now? Enforcement:

Chauvin said her legal fight is about keeping her shop open through the economic recession. She now has two options: hire a licensed florist or take the test again. If not, she’ll be forced to close her shop.

The market, not a state panel, should be the final judge of her bouquets, she said.

“If a customer is not happy with what we do, he’s not going to come back to me,” Chauvin said. “That should be the quality control.”

Exactly. So in answer to the three questions above – a) it’s not rational.  It imposes arbitrary requirements as well as artificial bars to entry on a profession which threatens neither life or health. b) it’s not necessary. Consumers don’t need government “protection” from florists. and c) it’s most likely not constitutional since most would agree it interferes with a person’s fundamental right to earn an honest living in profession which doesn’t threaten life or health.

Of course, my use of the words “life or health” imply I find the licensing of those who work in professions that can have a detrimental effect on life or health, such as the medical field, to be ok.  Well, yes and no.  I think, for instance, a market solution is possible for those professions as well.  Think, for instance, if the American Medical Association, instead of being a shill for government health care reform, was a body that set minimal professional standards for the medical profession and anyone seeking membership had to demonstrate competence enough to meet those standards.   If you were seeking out a doctor, most likely your first question would be “is he (or she) a member of the AMA?”  And, in this day and time, you’d most likely be able to access an AMA data base to check doctor’s out before going to them.  And your insurance carrier would certainly require you use such a doctor, wouldn’t it? In fact,  you’d likely be leery of any doctor that wasn’t a member.  Same solution as now exists done on a voluntary basis without government intervention. And certainly there might be other associations that would form which would also lend credibility to a doctor’s abilities than just the one.

Would the AMA have a reason to assure its members met their standards and continued to meet them?  Of course it would.  It’s very existence would depend on it, as would the credibility of every one of it’s members.

Of course that’s all been rendered moot by government deciding it should be the final arbiter in that regard.  But it is food for thought, isn’t it?

~McQ

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History Is A B*tch

Why?  Because history is what it is and resists attempts to rewrite it for political reasons.

A week or so ago, I pointed to an attempt by Ezra Klein to change the history of the Civil Rights bill of 1964 by claiming that the Democratic Senators in the South were a “third party” with which the real Democrats formed a coalition. Of course, as I pointed out, that’s pure nonsense.

Today we see an attempt to whitewash the same period in history. In an article in The Hill, J. Taylor Rushing discusses the latest attempt by the Senate majority (the Republicans talked about it when they were in the majority as well) to do away with the filibuster. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will introduce a bill to take away the minority’s power to filibuster. Of course, it takes 67 votes to change that rule, something highly unlikely to happen.

But within Rushing’s story where the history of the filibuster was being recounted, I noticed this sentence:

In the 20th century, Southern senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a majority of the Senate.

Here, let me fix that so it accurately reflects what happened:

In the 20th century, Southern Democratic senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a bi-partisan majority of the Senate.

Al Gore, Sr. Robert Byrd. Richard Russell. William Fullbright. Etc. All staunch Democrats – never anything else. All filibustered the Civil Rights act of 1964 as Democrats.

There is no chance that the Senate filibuster is going to be ended by Harkin’s bill. And there’s equally no chance that I’m going to let any attempts to whitewash this portion of history escape my attention.  The conventional wisdom about which party is the friend of civil rights is a myth.  And I intend to take every opportunity availed me to point to the actual history of that event, not the contrived one.

~McQ

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