Free Markets, Free People

Freedom and Liberty

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Welcome to the surveillance state

Not that the US hasn’t been one for quite some time, but lifting the veil or if you prefer an Oz reference, peeking behind the curtain, has been difficult, because most of it has been kept a secret.  Today the WSJ gives us a look at another “sliver” of the surveillance that apparently goes on routinely via secret orders:

The National Security Agency is obtaining a complete set of phone records from all Verizon U.S. customers under a secret court order, according to a published account and former officials.

The account provides fresh evidence that NSA’s far-reaching domestic surveillance effort has continued after Congress passed a law five years ago to institutionalize a post-9/11 warrantless surveillance program.

The revelation of the secret order appears to lift the veil on a broad NSA domestic collection program under way, which former government officials say represents just a sliver of the domestic data NSA is taking in and which includes all types of communications data, such as emails and records of Internet browsing. The data collection began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to several former intelligence officials.

NSA is only one of many government agencies conducting this sort of surveillance.  And of course, we now have drones approved for domestic use.

I’ve said this many times, but terrorism has been the excuse for an vast expansion of government intrusion the like of which we’ve never seen before.

While I may fear a terrorist attack, the chances of being involved in one are almost if not completely statistically improbable.  The chance that I’ll be a subject of freedom stealing intrusion from government?  When’s you next plane trip?

~McQ


What would it take to get us off our rear ends in this country?

I assume you’re aware of the riots in Turkey.  The people of Turkey, or at least a unhappy group of them, are making themselves and their feelings known in a very direct way.  According to the WSJ, it began over a park in Istanbul that was going to be replaced by a housing development and shopping center (since the Turkish government controls the media, this “cause” could be as flaky as the anti-Islamic video causing Benghazi).  The natives, or at least some of them, are not happy about that.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not happy about the situation either.  Why, how dare these people question his government and its motives. They’re pure as the driven snow:

“If you can call someone who is a servant of the country a dictator, then it leaves me speechless,” he said in a televised speech. “I have no aim other than serving the nation.”

The siren song of every dictator I’ve ever heard of or read about.  My guess he borrowed the words from Mr. Assad in Syria, who, may have gotten them from Saddam Hussein, who … well you get the picture.  And add a little “Bolivarian revolution” to the statement and the dead but unlamented Hugo Chavez or his mentor Fidel Castro could have said them.

Perhaps the most interesting statement, however, came from someone in the street:

People are angry because the government is interfering in everything, be it the alcohol restriction, building of the third bridge, or the new Taksim Square. Everything has piled up, and that’s why people protest,” said Erdal Bozyayla, a 29-year-old restaurant worker who supported the protesters and condemned the violence.

I’d like to believe that’s the real sentiment behind those riots and protests.  It may not be.  But it got me to thinking what it would take in this country for people to actually take that sort of direct action (and no I’m not condoning or calling for violence … direct action doesn’t have to be violent – witness the civil rights movement).  Oh, sure, we’ve had the “Tea Party” rallies and the like, but what is happening in Turkey is obviously much different than that.  And if they sentiment expressed is the true cause, why is it that a country like Turkey, with only a short history of freedom (now under concentraged attack by the latest “servant of the country”) apparently have the gumption to say “enough”, when we simply roll over each time another of our freedoms is taken or pared down.

Now, I recognize there could be all sorts of other factions, to include extremist Islamist factions who don’t think Erdogan is moving far or fast enough, could now be trying to co-opt the protests and turn them into something else.  But still, was the spark really “the government is interfering in everything” and if so, when, if ever, will that spark be struck here?

~McQ


What is the IRS scandal if not political?

Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:

What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.

And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.

First paragraph … agree, for the most part.  Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government.  There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception.  Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting.  They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government.  They do it out of fear.

As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey.  Total.

The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations.  How does one not politicize it?  It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.

Hello?

And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.

Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.

Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.

Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.

Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.

Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.

BS.

~McQ


Does the government understand how the internet works?

You’ve all read about the first “3D gun” being made?  Well here’s some of the fallout:

Defense Distributed, the Texas-based nonprofit that wants to empower people to 3D print their own guns, has hit a bit of a legal snag. According to founder Cody Wilson, DEFCAD, the open source weapon-printing project powered by Defense Distributed, received a letter (embedded below) from the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Compliance, telling him to remove the blueprints of the Liberator, his 3D printed gun, from the web so that they may be reviewed by the department.

The group’s website currently has a red banner appended to the top that reads, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls.  Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”

“We got an official letter from the Secretary of State, telling me who they were, what their authority was under U.S. law and telling me they want to review these files to see if they’re class one munitions,” Mr. Wilson told Betabeat by phone. “That includes blueprints.”

So anyone want to guess how many times those blueprints were downloaded before this order came along?  I know there are many other aspects of this case to discuss such as this:

In the letter … the State Department says that Defense Distributed may have released data that is controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation without getting prior authorization. This would put the company’s actions in conflict with … the Arms Export Control Act.

“Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export,” reads the letter. It also says that until Defense Distributed has received the legal all-clear, the company “should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately.”

But other than a basis to prosecute, the letter accomplishes nothing. Same with the “law”. Add the internet and, well, whoosh, it’s around the world before the government even knows about it.

A perfect example of why, and you can see rumblings of it happening now here (and, of course, it is a top priority in other countries), government is growing more and more interested in controlling the internet.  Again, the excuse du jour will be what?  “It’s for your own safety and security that we clamp down on these things and take away some of your freedoms”.  It has no choice if it is going to enforce it’s laws does it?

And we all remember what Ben Franklin said about trading freedom for security, don’t we?

Don’t we?

~McQ


$3.4 billion for new DHS headquarters

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is governments at all levels building expensive monuments to itself.  From local city halls and county administration buildings to Washington DC, governments spare no expense in ensuring they have the very best in terms of buildings to house them. And, it appears, the Department of Homeland Security is not to be denied either:

Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.

The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.

Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission — protecting the homeland — in ways big and small.

“It will help us hold meetings,” Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It will help us build that culture of ‘One DHS.’”

“It will help us hold meetings.” That’s the best she can come up with (I mean, with today’s technology, I guess virtual meetings are just too much work)? And when I read about her hope of building a culture of “One DHS”, I saw an image of my freedoms flitting out the window while a band play “Deutschland Uber Alles”.

By the way, the site on which this building will be built is the former site of an insane asylum.

I love irony.

~McQ


The death of “common sense” and the age of dependance

If ever there was an apt description of our general problem in this country, Dr. Milton Wolf nails it in the first paragraph of his discussion of the building disaster we call ObamaCare.

The fatal conceits of Obamacare are the absurd notions that the government can spend your money more wisely than you can and that bureaucrats are more capable than you are to make your own most intimate, personal decisions. The antithesis of government-centered Obamacare is what I simply call “Patientcare.” Patients should be at the center of our health care universe, not President Obama and not the government.

We suffer under a landslide of the same fatal conceit applied to literally hundreds of government programs in this country.  These fatal conceits (or flawed premises if you prefer) have cost us literally trillions of dollars and much of our freedom.  Government has essentially decided that it’s priorities for your money are more important than your priorities for what you earn.  And, it had also decided that in many areas it can make better decisions for you than you can make for yourself.

But, that’s not the problem in full.  In full, the problem is exacerbated (and the notion “validated”) by the number of people who, for whatever reason, have bought into the efficacy of these conceits.  They believe the flawed premises to be true and willingly cede their money and freedom believing government does indeed spend their money more wisely and is more capable than them of making “good” decisions on their behalf.

The problem, of course, is that as long as those people who willingly enslave themselves to government exist in large enough numbers, they’ll succeed in putting the shackles on the rest of us as well.   As long as they look at the federal government as their care giver, they force that on the rest of us as well.

One of the reasons we have the debt and deficit problems we currently suffer is the left has been very successful in selling those flawed premises via emotional appeal to low information (and frankly, ignorant) voters.  They’ve avoided rational discussion with “for the children” campaigns.  They’ve often claimed “market failure” where government created problems through preverse incentives and market intrusion and then push government as the solution.

Years ago we came from a people that knew that nothing was “free”.  They knew that there really wasn’t anything called a “free lunch”, someone had to pay for it.  The knew that you were responsible for your own welfare, self-defense and freedom.  And interestingly, so did most of the politicians of the time.  Oh there were certainly those among them that believed as the left does today, but they were a distinct minority.  Their creed was considered extreme and, frankly, un-American.

Now it is they who are “main stream” and those who call for much less government intrusion in our lives who seem to be considered the extremists.  Common sense, the ability to see through the blarney and nonsense, seems to have died.  In the so-called information age, we seem to have a growth of ignorance.  Part of that I lay at the feet of another government program that has been a woeful failure – public schooling.  Common sense tells you that such an institution would be unlikely to teach anything negative about government and, in fact, might even become a bit of a propaganda arm for it.  That it might involve itself in a bit of indoctrination.  That it might fill fairly benign subjects with information preferred by government and spend less time on information that wasn’t in favor at the time or is contrary to the agenda it prefers.  But that all assumes an ability to teach the core competencies, something most of our school systems seem unable to do with any great success.  So we have the misinformed and the illiterate buying into the government’s flawed premise in droves.

Obviously a great deal of things over the years have led us to this point of dependency on government.  And we know how it ends.   It is the blue state model and the blue state model is failing all over the country and the world.

Yet was still hear it extolled by its zealots and lapped up by the ignorant who refuse to look beyond the promises.  It still amazes me that we’ve managed to get in this mess and can’t seem to find the intestinal fortitude to say “enough” and begin doing the very unpleasant task of reversing it.  But that’s the problem, isn’t it? It would be unpleasant.  And we don’t like unpleasant.  So instead, we continue to believe the fantasy.

The problem, of course, is like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, reality is going to pull back the curtain very soon and expose the fantasy for the fraud it is.  And then we’ll look back at “unpleasant” as something we wish we’d done.

By then, it will be way too late.

~McQ


Irony: Boston bomber lived on “state benefits”

How convoluted has our world become?  How screwed up is this nation?  How Orwellian is everything these days?

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.

In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money.

Nice.

We paid for our own bombing.

~McQ


“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom”

Michael Bloomberg on what you’re going to have to put up with because, you know, freedom comes in second to safety:

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change” to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

Yeah … no.  What you’re seeing there is just a different way of saying what potential tyrants (authoritarians) have said for centuries.  A shorter version is what Bloomberg said before seen in the title.  That’s what he really means.  This? This is just him saying the same thing but trying to dress it up so it sounds semi-acceptable and reasonable.  It is neither.  What has to change is we need to stand up and say “no” finally.

Because, as you know, the Constitution has remained a consistent obstacle to the authoritarians who would rule over us:

“Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms. New Yorkers probably know that as much if not more than anybody else after the terrible tragedy of 9/11,” he said.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to,” he said.

Or, welcome to the surveillance state. You may surrender your privacy rights over there.

Face it – the terrorists have won.

~McQ

PS: Oh, btw, we made The New Yorker yesterday.  Ironic, no?


More gun control “cognitive dissonance”

From The Hill, this paragraph concerning the brothers who perpetrated the Boston bombings:

The news that the suspects were not authorized to own firearms will likely add fuel to calls for tougher gun laws – an issue that was put on the back-burner last week after the Senate blocked the central elements of a gun-control package backed by President Obama.

A) I told you so … I said a few days ago that the defeat of the latest gun control legislation was only a set back and hardly the end of the left’s efforts to further restrict the right to own a firearm.  B) I also told you I feared the aftermath of the bombings.  And here we go.   And finally C) WTF?

It is clear that Massachusetts’ very strict gun control laws has no effect here. None.  Absolutely zero.  How many times and in how many ways must we say that scofflaws don’t obey laws?  How often does the “we ought to pass a law” crowd who think legislation and restriction is the answer to everything have to see that their way is a failure before they quit trying to take our freedoms away?

Gun control laws don’t work.  If they did, there’d be no criminals running around with “illegal” guns, would there?  There’d be no source of those guns if those laws worked.  But, in fact, criminals almost exclusively obtain “illegal” guns and/or completely ignore any gun control legislation.  Look at Chicago for heaven sake.  Some of the most restrictive gun control laws in America and criminals have all but made it a free-fire zone.

When will the left understand that the problem isn’t guns, it’s criminals?  How often does it have to be pointed out to them that criminals, by definition, don’t obey laws?  How will more legislation suddenly stop (or even deter) two determined people, like the Boston bombers, from illegally obtaining guns?  Harsher penalties?  Obviously they were willing to take the risk.  And that seems to be the case with all the other criminals who use guns in the commission of their crimes.

The only people that will be deterred and restricted by new gun control legislation are the law abiding.  And watch out for this – at the end of this road (or slippery slope if you prefer) is the rationalization that the only way to “control gun violence” is to completely outlaw guns.  It is the logical end of the left’s push for more and more restrictive gun legislation.  And, as they often do, they’re willing to spend the time, exploit and politicize tragedies and achieve incremental success in taking guns away.  It’s no different than ObamaCare.  That’s not the end of anything.  It is the first grab.  The end state, if you are a student of the left’s actions at all, is fully government run single-payer health care.  ObamaCare is just the beginning.  Once it fails, because government has, whether on purpose or inadvertently designed it to fail, government will blame “the market” and claim it is the solution.

It’s an old pattern being repeated, in a slightly different way, in the gun control saga.  One only has to harken to the era of prohibition (or not even that far back … how about drug laws?) to know that restrictive legislation doesn’t work, has never worked and will never work.

Violence and criminal behavior are the problems.  Passing all the laws in the world won’t change that.  As usual, government chooses to treat the symptoms and go after a tool rather than the actual problem.

If and when they finally find a way to ban all guns, run gun manufacturers out of the country and put more untold thousands of citizens in jail, they’ll be shocked, shocked I tell you, when gun violence continues and violence in general rises.

See the UK and Australia for case studies.

~McQ


The left’s misfire on gun control legislation

Apparently Barack Obama threw a bit of a hissy fit when the gun control legislation went down in the Senate.   And, as James Taranto points out, Gabby Giffords managed, in a 900 word screed, to employ about every logical fallacy one can employ in here denunciation of the failure of the legislation to pass.

Finally, the NY Time’s Jennifer Steinhauer weighs in claiming that the vote went against the will of the people and that it was the gun lobby’s fault.

Gun lobby?  Oh, we all know about the NRA.  However here’s something I don’t think the left fully comprehends.  The real “gun lobby” is the majority of the American people.  In the US, there are 88.8 guns per 100 people.  The highest in the world.  Yet all the rhetoric about increased gun violence simply doesn’t pan out.  Certainly there have been some high profile sprees and shootings, but on the whole, there hasn’t been an increase in gun violence, and certainly nothing like being claimed.

The left’s problem may be that the people of the US know that.  And they’ve also sniffed out the ulterior motive for this incremental attack on the 2nd Amendment.

So while they throw their hissy fits and put forward their fallacious arguments, they continue to miss why there is so much resistance to gun control legislation.

Because, quite frankly, a large portion of the people simply don’t trust government.  And you can add to that a fundamental understanding that self-defense is a personal responsibility and right.

The left just can’t wrap it’s head around that concept.  If they pass laws and give the responsibility to government then we’ll all be safer, right?

Sarcasm aside, don’t even begin to think this is the end of the struggle.

They’ll be back again soon.

Just hide and watch.

~McQ

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