Showing posts with label Bill of rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill of rights. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2018

DAPL Journalists Still Awaiting Trial


Six of the ten journalists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in late 2016 early 2017 are still awaiting criminal trial in Morton County, North Dakota. Jenni Monet, a journalist who does freelance work for multiple news outlets and is one of the six still awaiting trial was charged with criminal trespass and rioting, but has yet to receive her arrest report. She was arrested while leaving a protester camp, strip searched and held for thirty hours in a chain link cage with 19 protestors. Her cohort, LaFleur-Vetter, who does photography for the Guardian, was arrested on similar charges on October 22, 2016, while filming a prayer march, but has since been acquitted. This brings up two concerns: the sixth amendment guarantee of a speedy trial and most importantly the first amendment guarantee to freedom of the press. Don’t get me wrong. I am not under any delusion that the federal and state governments will actually honor their “social contract” with us. That is an article of faith I no longer believe in. I brought this up because it demonstrates that we are worse off than what we imagined. All of the journalists arrested were freelance journalists who actually covered the protest. The local journalists who stayed behind police lines and stuck to the official government narrative were left alone. Sure they were trespassing on government property, a particular piece of land claimed by the Army Corps, but the federal government claims to own 30% of the continental land mass and state, municipal, and county governments own the rest. Under the federalist regime any unwanted protesters or journalists could be deemed to be trespassing or causing public disorder at the drop of a hat, and the constitution’s bill of rights would be completely worthless in protecting them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Obey Your Masters Without Question

This is a meme I was inspired to create by fellow cop hater @mikebluehair42. I can't remember the exact context, but it was in response to an episode of his podcast Strategic Noncompliance where he talks with other cop watchers and first amendment auditors about their experience filming the police on duty. We tend to take freedom of speech and of the press for granted and give scant attention to the ways in which the 'authorities' undermine it. It's fair to say that unless you actively challenge the 'authorities' and their narrative of the world you never see past the illusion that you have this freedom.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Florida Police Now Confiscating Guns From People With No Due Process

Source: Studio News Network

A 56-year-old Lighthouse Point man in Boward County, Florida had all four of his pistols taken away under Florida’s new red flag law. The man did not commit a crime and he was not involuntarily hospitalized and given a psychological evaluation, as required by the baker act. The authorities simply deemed him psychologically unfit based on a few strange behaviors and subsequently confiscated his weapons. A similar fate befell a man in Seattle, Washington, who had his guns temporarily confiscated for staring out a shop window while open carrying. Both men must now prove that they are ‘psychologically fit’ to get their guns back. These pre-crime red flag laws aren’t any different from civil forfeiture where the police can take your property without providing evidence that you committed a crime and the IRS can wipe your bank account for making frequent deposits slightly below $10,000. Yes, the same pre-crime laws that allow police to rob small business owners who run legal establishments, allows them to disarm innocent people and leave them defenseless. These laws are also reminiscent of a not too distant past when states forcible sterilized certain people under the guidance of eugenics theories on the presumption that they were degenerate: genetically prone to crime and poverty. These laws no less promote deep seeded societal prejudices against the mentally ill, and gives credence to the false notion that they are inherently violent. If the thinking behind these laws were taken to its logical conclusion there would be no reason not to eliminate the presumption of innocence across the board. Why not throw people in prison without a trial based on their supposed ‘risk’ to society? Such thinking would logically lead us to a totalitarian state not much different from Trump’s communist friends across the Pacific. Of course gun control advocates don’t think logically. It is more profitable for them to use cheap appeals to emotion and scare tactics.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Washington School District Steals Couple's Home

Source: K5 News

Everett Public School District intends to forcibly take Bruce Gutschmidt and Christine Messer’s home, through eminent domain, in order to build a second school building. Bruce Gutschmidt and Christine Messer have lived on the 1.8 acre property for the past 14 years, and the property has been in Gutschmidt’s family since 1967. It’s fair to say that the property has both a real and sentimental value to Bruce which the school district has failed to take into account. To rub salt in the wound, they have refused to compensate him for its full appraised value or help him with relocation expenses. Unless the couple has relatives and friends in the area, they could very well end up homeless as a result of the school district’s belligerence. The couple has until March 30th to pack up their belongings and move out.

While this eminent domain seizure is for a public use, it violates the just compensation part of the 5th amendment takings clause. Not only are they offering him less than half of his property’s appraised value, they’re also refusing to compensate him for relocation costs. Regardless of how noble their ends are, forcing someone out of their own home, and especially without fair compensation, is always wrong, but that has become the norm in the USSA, where no one has property rights apart from government agencies. The actions of this school district are really no different than the eviction of pygmy clans from the forests of the Congo. Sure, Bruce Gutschmidt and his girlfriend aren’t repressed minorities in a third world country, but the actions are morally equivalent. In both instances, the government claims to use violence for some noble and lofty goals. In the Congo it’s to create national parks to preserve wildlife or the ‘world’s heritage’ as Europeans like to call it. Similarly here, it’s to educate children. In both instances, the government uses these lofty goals to justify violence, but politicians always have ulterior motives, which are impossible to have any certainty of unless you can read minds. That is why actions should be judged by their means, not their ends. The means doesn’t justify the end.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Michigan Man Finally Gets His Life Back After Civil Forfeiture Case is Dropped

Source: Traverse City Record Eagle

For those unfamiliar with the subject of civil asset forfeiture, I would suggest you read my previous posts on the subject including Police Use Civil Forfeiture To Rob Small Businesses, Civil Asset Forfeiture Is Theft Most of The Time, and my earliest post on the subject from January of last year Civil Asset Forfeiture, Anti-Structuring Laws, and Other Spawns of The War on Drugs. I’ve written at least a dozen articles on the subject, which you can find scattered on my blog page. If you look into the subject long enough you won’t be surprised when you come across cases where people have been found not guilty of the crimes they were charged with, but still lost their property. You see civil forfeiture takes the presumption of innocence and flips it on its head, when it comes to the deprivation of property (see 5th amendment to the Constitution). Unlike convicting someone of a crime, ‘seizing’ their property for suspected involvement in a crime requires a much lower standard of evidence. For a criminal conviction, the defendant's guilt must be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, and he/she is assumed innocent until this is done; the burden of proof squarely falls on the prosecutor. Police use of civil forfeiture only requires the preponderance of evidence, which is primarily used in civil cases (hence the name). Furthermore, the burden of proof is reversed in civil forfeiture cases; the person who is deprived of their property becomes the plaintiff and the state becomes the defendant. It was originally created during the peak of the war on drugs to make it harder for gangs and cartels to operate, but like most ‘well intentioned’ government programs it grew into a multi-billion dollar monstrosity that mostly deprives innocent people of their cash, cars, and homes.

In this case, the victim was an elderly man that operated a few medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Grand Traverse County Michigan. A couple of years ago, his home was raided by the local drug task force and he was charged with multiple felonies and a couple of misdemeanors. All of the felony charges were eventually dropped and the man only ended up spending a day in jail. However, despite lacking the evidence necessary to prosecute him on the trumped up felony charges, they still accused him of purchasing his home with the proceeds of criminal activity and subsequently filed a civil suit too take his home and two bank accounts. Luckily, they didn’t even have enough evidence to say that his home and bank accounts likely resulted from the proceeds of criminal activity. It was mostly guesswork and fabrication, but that didn’t stop the Traverse Narcotics Team from tormenting him for years. They conducted multiple raids on his home, supposedly searching for illicit drugs, but they were really there for the money.

Court records detailed numerous raids from TNT, a multi-jurisdictional task force aimed at curbing drug trafficking in northwest Michigan. Murray contended several encounters were more focused on cashing in on his assets than enforcing the laws against drugs.

When they raided this house at 2 a.m. I must’ve heard it ten times: Where’s all the money? … That’s all they were here for,” Murray said. “That’s all their motivation: Money. It’s always money.

Civil forfeiture itself creates an incentive for this behavior. Why spend the time and money trying to prosecute people when it’s more expedient to just take their property and directly use it to fund your own agency. The purpose of civil forfeiture isn’t really to ‘curb’ drug trafficking so much as it is to generate revenue for police departments. In fact, this is the most common argument for civil forfeiture nowadays. But the root of the problem isn’t the underfunding of police departments or other state agencies. This policing practice is a result of the war on drugs and will continue expand until the federal government ceases its hostilities against our constitutional and natural rights under the pretense of keeping people safe from their own bad choices.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Michigan Uses Forclosure Process To Steal Property Over Small Tax Debts

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

In the state of Michigan, county governments can evict people from their own homes and sell their homes for a profit if the homeowner pays even a little bit under what they ‘owe’ in property taxes. Case in point, Oakland County foreclosed on Uri Rafaeli’s rental property and sold it for $24,500 because he underpaid his property taxes by $8.41, but the county pocketed the entire profit from the sale and left Rafaeli with nothing. In a similar case, Oakland County foreclosed on Andre Ohanessian’s home and sold it for $82,000 because he owed $6,000 in taxes and penalties. In this case too the county kept the entire profit from the sale, again taking more than what the homeowner actually owed them in taxes. Local governments in Michigan use foreclosure laws much like civil forfeiture except the victims of the theft aren’t even accused of a crime. The problem with property taxes aside, no one should be forced to pay more than what they owe for local services. Taking more than what you are owed is theft, even when the government does it. Furthermore, the takings clause of the fifth amendment explicitly prohibits the deprivation of property rights without just compensation. This requires county governments to pay back in full any amount over what is owed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

America's Secret Police Unveiled (part 3)

Source: Texas Observer

Texas National Guard Using Airborne Stingrays for Domestic Surveillance

Last year, the Texas National Guard spent $373,000 in asset forfeiture funds to install stingray devices, called DRT boxes, on two RC-26 surveillance planes. For anyone unfamiliar with the subject, stingrays, also known as cell site simulators, are used to track people’s locations by intercepting their cell phone signals. The higher end ones can even be configured to eavesdrop on people’s phone calls and pickup the content of their text messages. The problem with law enforcement using this technology is that it doesn’t just target ‘the bad guys’ they’re looking for. Stingrays intercept every cellphone within a ⅓ mile radius. It’s a form of dragnet surveillance that treats the perps and innocent bystanders the same. This presents a challenge to two of our fundamental constitutional rights: our 4th amendment right to not be subject to arbitrary/warrantless searches and our 6th amendment right to know the nature of the charges and the evidence used against us. You see, stingray devices don’t just allow police to conduct dragnet and in many instances, warrantless surveillance, it also creates a dilemma for prosecutors who have to use the evidence gathered through these devices in court. As I noted in America’s Secret Police Unveiled (part 1) state and municipal law enforcement agencies get these devices through federal grant programs such as those run by the DOJ and DHS. As a condition of using this technology, state and municipal law enforcement agencies must adhere to non-disclosure agreements, which forbid them from revealing any information concerning the purchase or use of stingray devices to the general public, including during the course of criminal trials. As you can already guess, abiding by these non-disclosure agreements would entail either omitting the evidence entirely or using the evidence in a backhanded manner that keeps the defendant in the dark about the totality of the circumstances used to convict him, which is a violation of his 6th amendment right to know the nature of the charges and evidence used against him.

The problem with the military using this technology against U.S. citizens is even worse. The framers of the constitution knew all too well from history that civilian oversight of the military was crucial to preventing a military junta from taking over. In this case, the DRT boxes were supposedly used for counternarcotics operations in conjunction with the DEA, but the vice chairman of the Texas House committee that oversees the Texas National Guard didn’t even know they had been purchased. What’s more, these DRT boxes are the higher end stingrays I mentioned earlier that can be used to eavesdrop on phone calls and pickup text message content. So we potentially have a situation in Texas where a military force is conducting warrantless surveillance against U.S. citizens, because there are no policy guidelines on how and when they can be used.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hawaii Re-thinking Their Gun Grabbing Scheme?

Not Really

Source: Hawaii News Now

I was first made aware of this issue by fellow content creator @choosefreedom and had planned to comment on it for the past week, but I haven’t had the time to do so until now.

For the past year, the Honolulu police department has sent letters to medical marijuana cardholders demanding that they “voluntarily” surrender any firearms they may own within 30 days. However, HPD is now reviewing this policy after further consideration. Is this a change for the better? Not really. The police department will still deny future gun permits to medical marijuana patients and steal guns from anyone they catch with a prescription. It’s not just Hawaii. The constitutional rights of potheads are at stake in every state that has legalized marijuana in some form or other. The rationale for denying second amendment rights to medical marijuana patients is that they are committing a felony offense at the federal level, and federal law stipulates that drug offenders shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. However grotesque we may think this law is, it is still true that felony drug offenders are prohibited from owning firearms. The question isn’t whether it’s true, but rather whether it’s right? In this sense it would be more appropriate to approach the subject on moral grounds rather than 2nd amendment grounds. After all, the bill of rights is not an exhaustive list of our rights. Rather than asking whether this violates the second amendment we should ask whether people should lose their constitutional rights for consuming certain plants and substances. What is the limitation of this new government power? Conceivably, the same rationale could be used as justification to deny other constitutional rights for consuming cannabis and other prohibited plants (e.g. Kratom in some states). Why not also deny people who consume prohibited plants the right to a criminal trial. The federal government already suspends the due process rights of citizens and noncitizens alike accused of terrorism. What precedent is there to prevent them from using indefinite detention against citizens accused of drug offenses. The federal government, in conjunction with police departments across the country, already deprive citizens of their property on mere suspicion that their property was involved in a crime (i.e. civil forfeiture). What is to prevent them from taking guns from people they merely suspect of using cannabis. Conceivably, medical marijuana cardholders could also have their houses arbitrarily searched for firearms from time to time. Since the government no longer respects our 4th amendment rights, they could use administrative warrants to ‘inspect’ the homes of medical marijuana cardholders. The consequence of such a law would be to deny certain people the equal rights of others for consuming a certain plant. It is basically telling them that they forfeit the same constitutional rights afforded to other Americans because they didn’t get the federal government’s permission to consume a certain plant, an act that in itself does not infringe on the rights of any other person, and given the fact that the act itself does not infringe on the rights of any other person it does not justify the forfeiting of any rights and the corresponding state violence against marijuana users.

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Orleans Crooks Destory Couple's House After They Purchased It From The City

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

In 2015, David and Lourdes Garrett purchased a neglected house from the city of New Orleans with plans to renovate it and turn it into a rental property, but their plans never came to fruition. Four months after the purchase, the city demolished the house without even notifying the Garretts. When the Garretts raised their objection to this absurd violation of their property rights the city responded by sending them an $11,000 bill for the demolition. Perhaps the city reached out to the previous owner, who vacated the property in the 1990s, by mistake. Nonetheless, whether the city destroyed the Garrett's property out of belligerence or incompotence, they violated their 5th amendment rights to a notification, a court hearing, and just compensation for the loss of their house.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

The destruction of their property constitutes depriving them of their property without due process of law. At the very least, the city should have notified them about the impending demolition and allowed them a hearing to contest the decision. By not paying the Garrets back what they paid for the house, and in fact charging them for the destruction of their property, the city took private property without just compensation. The city essentially robbed them.

Friday, November 3, 2017

America's Secret Police Unveiled (part 2)

Source: ACLU

In 2015, Xiaoxing Xi, a Chinese American physics professor at Temple University was falsely arrested by the FBI and indicted for espionage and wire fraud. The FBI alleged that Xi had violated a private non-disclosure agreement with Superconductor Technologies Inc. by sharing information about a pocket heater with some of his colleagues in China. However, his emails with his foreign colleagues didn't mention the pocket heater, but concerned a completely different technology that he himself invented. The charges against Xi were ultimately dropped, but the false criminal allegations still had repercussions on his reputation and career. As a result of the indictment, he was forced to take administrative leave and was suspended as interim chair for his department, which deprived him of his lab and students. The most disturbing part was not that he was punished for a crime he didn't commit, but how the FBI accessed his private exchanges in the first place. The FBI wiretapped his phone and probably subpoenaed his serive provider, using what is called a National Security Letter, to get a hold of his email exchanges, presumably with a gag order to prevent him from learning about the search. Some of these searches were also conduct with a warrant from a secret FISA court, however, EO12333 allowed the FBI to monitor Xi's communications without a warrant. As I explained in January, EO12333 allows federal law enforcement to access the communications of U.S. citizens that are 'inadvertently retieved' during the process of monitoring foreign communications, if they contain evidence of a crime or evidence that a crime will be committed. It's a curious thing that this far reaching measure was never used to stop major terrorist attacks like the one in NYC on Halloween day. That is what it is supposedly for, or does the FBI have a different purpose in mind?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

America's Secret Police Unveiled (part 1)

Federal Programs Fund Secret Stingray Spying

Source: Tenth Amendment Center

For those unfamiliar with this topic, stingray devices or cell site simulators are used to track cellphones. They do this by mimicking cell phone towers prompting phones nearby to connect to them. In practice, they are tools for dragnet surveillance, and some are even configured to pickup communication data from phone calls and text messages. Back in December of last year, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms released a report revealing that state and local police purchase and operate cell site simulator devices, known as stingrays, in secret. The report titled Law Enforcement Use of Cell-Site Simulation Technologies: Privacy Concerns and Recommendations also identifies several federal grant programs that state and local law enforcement use to purchase the devices. The bulk of the funding for stingrays comes from DHS, which allows police to receive grants administered by FEMA. Funding from DHS only totals $1.8 million, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The report indicates that several other grant programs exist specifically for purchasing stingray devices including State Homeland Security Program, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, Citizen Corps Program, and the Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The committee's investigation, which was conducted using a sample of 4 major cities and 2 states, identified two law enforcement agencies that used DHS funding to purchase their sting ray devices, namely the Baltimore PD and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The DOJ was also implicated in providing cell site simulators to state agencies, although they supposedly play a very limited role, and in their own words do not generally fund stingray purchases. But this is indeterminate. The real question is not who provides these stingray devices, but how are they used? The latter cannot be answered since the FBI along with the manufacturers of these devices require law enforcement agencies to sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the TOS. The non-disclosure agreements are strict. They forbid police departments from revealing any information about their purchase or use to the public even in criminal trials.

The Committee’s investigation found that those state and local entities that do purchase a cell-site simulator frequently sign non-disclosure agreements with two entities, the company selling the device, and the FBI. In addition to the publicly available versions of the nondisclosure agreements the Committee also obtained copies of non-disclosure agreements between the FBI and various state and local jurisdictions. As explained more fully below, these non-disclosure agreements actively prohibit the public from learning about the use or role that a cell-site simulator may play in a state or local criminal investigation

One of the manufacturers included in its terms and conditions of a sale language that the purchaser “shall not disclose, distribute, or disseminate any information regarding Customer’s purchaser or use of” the equipment “to the public in any manner, including but not limited to: in press releases, in court documents and/or proceedings, internet or during other public forums or proceedings.

The implications of this policy are far reaching. Police departments across the country could conduct warrantless surveillance within their jurisdiction and the public would be none the wiser. If the police are prohibited from mentioning these devices even in court proceedings and documents, it must be assumed this includes probable cause affidavits and pre-trial court hearings. If that is the case, then police would be more or less obliged to either omit evidence obtained through stingray surveillance or use parallel structuring to account for the evidence they obtained. Usually, they would have the incentive to do the latter. Of course, the ramifications here are two-fold. Even if the data police gather isn't used in court, it will more than likely end up in an FBI or DHS database (since these agencies are behind the non-disclosure agreements in the first place). Regardless of how this turns out, police that operate in secret always put liberty in peril. Transparency and public scrutiny are fundamental to republican government; without them a nation descends into despotism.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jeff Sessions Plans to Increase Government Robbery, Extortion and Overall Belligerence

Back on July 19th, Jeff Sessions reinstated the equitable sharing program, abandoned during the last year of the Obama Admin, and called for an increase in civil forfeiture. The policy change allows police departments and sheriff's offices to circumvent state laws that require a criminal conviction or at least criminal charges filed to seize property from citizens, such as Utah which recently passed civil forfeiture reform. In the past few years, nine states and the District of Columbia have passed civil forfeiture reforms two of which have abolished the practice by requiring a criminal conviction before property can be taken (New Mexico and Nebraska). Civil asset forfeiture is based on two asinine notions: the accused is guilty until proven innocent and their property should be prosecuted separately as if it had agency. In practice, this means a man can be acquitted of a crime and still lose his property if he doesn't have the means to fight the civil case. Civil asset forfeiture is where the expediency philosophy of politicians twists itself into logical absurdities and contradictions. Sessions says he wants to protect innocent property owners, but most of the time it is innocent property owners who fall prey to these sorts of policies. As I reported back in April, most people targeted with civil asset forfeiture obtained their money legally and more often than not they are small business owners that deal in cash. For instance, in 91% of criminal investigations conducted by the IRS where money is taken through civil forfeiture, the businesses or people it is taken from obtained it legally. Civil asset forfeiture has wiped out peoples' savings, put small business owners in jeopardy, and caused tremendous stress for law abiding citizens who are just trying to make a living. We already know how Trump feels about civil asset forfeiture from what he told a Sheriff back in February. It isn't surprising that a man who has no principles and stands for nothing except personal enrichment would fall for such immoral and absurd policies, and it will only get worse.

In addition to increasing government robbery, Trump also promised to make domestic law enforcement look more like the military. Back in late July, during a law enforcement briefing on gang violence, Trump said he would lift restrictions on the transfer of surplus military equipment to local and state police. Ostensibly he is talking about Pentagon program 1033 that gives used military equipment to 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. The Obama Admin slightly scaled it down in 2015, banning certain items such as MRAPS, Tanks, grenade launchers, and guns .50 or higher, though the vast majority of equipment can still be transferred.

You know, when you wanted to take over and you used military equipment -- and they were saying you couldn’t do it -- you know what I said? That was my first day: You can do it. (Laughter.) In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left. (Laughter.) You guys know -- you really knew how to get that. But that's my honor. And I tell you what -- it's being put to good use.

In this same briefing he encouraged officers to beat up suspects before they have their day in court. Of course, it is not surprising that he would use gang violence as a pretense to expand executive power.

Friday, May 5, 2017

CBP Conducts Suspicionless Search Of U.S. Artist's Smart Phone

Source: ACLU

Aaron Gach, a U.S. artist who's work features political themes critical of the government, was greeted with a Custom's interrogation upon returning from an art exhibition in Brussels. When he went through custom's inspection at San Fransisco International Airport, CBP officers pulled Aaron Gach aside to an examination room for and hour and a half. Two CBP officers coerced Aaron into unlocking his smart phone so they could search it, telling him that if he failed to comply they would 'seize' his phone and retain it for an indefinite period of time. Based on the questions they asked him, it's clear they didn't suspect him of carrying contraband and they weren't concerned about his legal status (Aaron had his passport and all required identification). They asked him such questions as what kind of art he creates, where he travels for his art exhibitions, who invited him to the art exhibit in Brussels, what hotel he stayed in, if he does magic (not kidding you), and they demanded the contact information of his business associates? After they forced Aaron Gach to unlock his phone under the threat of confiscating it, they scoured his personal data for ten minutes and refused to allow him to oversee their search in violation of their own policies. The search seems to have been politically motivated based on the type of questions the officer's asked and their behavior towards him. It is highly likely that they also downloaded the information on his phone, as they had promised to do at the outset of the interrogation. CBP policies give customs officers the authority to conduct arbitrary and capricious detentions, searches, and seizures. The fourth amendment was meant to restrain this sort of arbitrary and capricious exercise of power by ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, it was not motivated by personal bias or political dissent, but only the apprehension of crime. The Supreme court has already ruled that officers need a warrant before searching a suspect's cellphone in Riley v. California. If we are to be logically consistent and preserve our constitutional tradition (or what little is left of it) the same rule ought to be applied across the board.

You can read Aaron's full story here

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 32)

Zoning Board Renders Man's Parcel Unusable Without Just Compensation

Should regulatory changes that prevent one from developing their land be considered 'taking property for public use' without just compensation?

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

Elliot Severson purchased a parcel of commercially zoned land in the city of Sammamish, WA that was large enough to build a restaurant or convenience store on, but the city prevented him from developing this parcel by gradually imposing land use restrictions that made development impossible. From the standpoint of moral law it is clear that the city unjustly denied him the opportunity to enjoy the full use of his property, which he had a reasonable expectation to develop, and imposed an unwarranted economic burden on him without compensating him for the opportunity cost of not being able to use his parcel. The city argues that they are not obliged to reimburse Mr. Severson because he was permitted to develop his nearby parcels in the past. But this is akin to arguing that a government can seize a man's house, through eminent domain, without compensating him for fair market value because he owns another house or two nearby. The constitutionality of their actions is unclear since the constitution provides a weaker conception of property rights protections than what is entailed in moral law. Undoubtedly Severson still legally owns the property and changes in a city's zoning ordinance isn't necessarily an example of regulatory taking, since laws that inadvertently lower property values are not considered regulatory taking under Penn Central Transportation v. NYC. If the supreme court hears this case the outcome may ultimately depend on the ruling in Murr v. Wisconsin, a similar case involving the regulatory taking of a parcel of land by combining the plantiff's two adjacent parcels effectively lowering the land value by 90%.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Does Trump Really Support The Right To Bare Arms?

Do you remember Trump's response to the Orlando shooting back in June 12th of last year? He had a lot to say about the incident including that he 'appreciated the congrats for being right on radical islamic terrorism', a comment that received the most media attention. A few days later he made the less conspicuous comment above. For a guy that bills himself as a defender of the 2nd Amendment and the constitution he consistently does neither aside from providing lip service like every other politician. In this instance, he condoned the same gun control policy being pushed by House Democrats and Hillary Clinton, but despite his agreement with Hillary Clinton and House Democrats the 2nd Amendment is not really the issue here. It is the 5th amendment, not the 2nd amendment, that is at stake here.

'No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.'

'No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.' When a person is placed on a watchlist without their knowledge, the chance to contest that decision or any other requirements of 'due process of law' and that watch list is used to prohibit them from purchasing a firearm, that person is deprived of liberty without 'due process of law.'I wouldn't put it past a guy who thinks the constitution has 12 articles to lack concern for the fifth amendment or any other part of the bill of rights. Trump doesn't care about the 2nd amendment anymore than he puts on the appearance that he does to placate his GOP base. Just like a typical politician, Trump is an unprincipled man that uses the constitution when it is convenient to further his own egotistical ends, but otherwise discards it when it becomes an obstacle.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Equal Liberty vs. Equal Outcomes

One of the things that struck me as odd in the ACLU write up about the rigged proceedings used to take Amerindian children away from their parents is that they cited the fact that Amerindian children are placed in foster care more often than white children on average. I did not include this fact in my post because it was irrelevant for reasons I will explain below.

‘In addition, statistics compiled by the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) show that although American Indians comprise less than 9 percent of South Dakota’s population, 52 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system are American Indians. An Indian child is 11 times more likely to be placed in foster care than a white child in South Dakota.’

What if Amerindian children comprised only 49 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system. Would it make the state’s actions any less egregious if they comprised less than half of the children in foster care as opposed to more than half? What if the percent of Amerindian children that comprise children in foster care perfectly corresponded to the percent of Amerindians that comprise the total population in South Dakota? Would the state then be in good standing? Injustice is not a statistical discrepancy. The principle of the matter is that in most of these cases the Amerindian parents’ were not given a fair hearing. The fact that Amerindian children were disproportionately placed in foster care compared to white children does not necessarily make the state’s actions unjust. Non-experimental studies cannot demonstrate causality. In order to demonstrate causality you would first have to determine directionality and rule out a third variable; the ACLU did neither. Even if they had, the fact that Amerindian children were disproportionately placed in foster care compared to white children would still not be the damning fact that makes the state’s actions unjust. It is the action itself, of not giving fair hearings, not the short term effects, that makes this an injustice.

Even though the ACLU is a left wing organization, I agree with them most of the time on issues of constitutional rights (not so much on immigration policy or anti-discrimination laws). But like most leftists, they fall for the same fallacy of equating statistical discrepancies with injustice when it neither proves injustice nor points out the reason why a policy is unjust when they happen to stumble upon the truth. The ACLU relied on the same fallacy, a few years ago, in their argument against ‘stop and frisk’. For this issue also, the fact that it was disproportionately used against blacks and hispanics did not make the policy unjust; the fact that it violated everyone’s fourth amendment protection against searches of person or property without probable cause made it unjust. Whenever the left happens to be correct on any issue, they usually arrive at the truth from the false premise that statistical discrepancies prove that some injustice is occurring. The drug war is another such instance. The left’s claim that the drug war is racist is both dubious and irrelevant. The principle of the matter is that people have an exclusive right to control what they put in their own bodies, not the federal government. The same is true of their opposition to perpetual wars abroad, which they oppose not because it exceeds the proper function of government nor because it has only tended to diminish our freedom and move us closer to absolutism, but because they’d rather spend the funds used to maintain U.S. hegemony abroad on more welfare programs. Every such instance only further demonstrates that you can arrive at a true conclusion from a false premise.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trump Plans to Create New Crimes And Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Trump's most recent executive orders are an ominous warning to Americans of things to come. All three new executive orders deal with law enforcement. The first one directs Jeff Sessions to create a crime reduction task force that will among other things
(iii) identify deficiencies in existing laws that have made them less effective in reducing crime and propose new legislation that could be enacted to improve public safety and reduce crime;
In other words, continue ditching constitutional principles in favor of more expedient measures. Given Trump's recent comments on Civil Asset Forfeiture, his past comments on constitutional rights, and Jeff Sessions stances on mass surveillance, the drug war, and encryption, this is probably the intention of creating this task force. And did I mention that national crime rates are, despite a recent spike, much lower than they were 47 years ago? Trump is entitled to alternative opinions, but not alternative facts.

The second executive order supposedly prevents violence against law enforcement and proposes, among other things, to define new crimes and creating new mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes. In all likelihood incarceration rates will reverse their current downward trend and the private prison industry will boom again under the Trump administration.
(d) following that review, and in coordination with other Federal agencies, as appropriate, make recommendations to the President for legislation to address the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, including, if warranted, legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes;
None of the provisions in the third executive order caught my attention as particularly noteworthy; it's the same old war on drugs schtick that's been failing for the past 40 years, which is also around the time when there was a dramatic spike in crime rates that peaked at 10.2/100,000 murder rate nation wide in 1980.

An institution that is itself a criminal enterprise does not stop criminal activity; its only concern is gaining a monopoly over criminal activity and becoming the sole purveyor of injustice.

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.' 
- Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Obama's Fascist Legacy

Obama's Police State
I am more relieved than ever that the Obama presidency is over, not because I think anything will improve under a Trump presidency, now complacency towards the march of tyranny will finally die. Every leftist crying that the inevitable Trump presidency will bring fascism here has apparently been asleep for the past eight years because they have failed to grasp that the Obama Administration has set the precedent for fascism. He didn't just continue the Bush era police state; he expanded it and made it much worse. The fourth and fifth amendments have been obliterated under his administration; he not only extend the Patriot Act twice and left the PRISM program in place, he broadened it by allowing the NSA to share the private information of American citizens with federal law enforcement if they come across evidence of a crime, giving way to the use of parallel construction in prosecutions. It was also not too long ago that he signed the amendments to Rule 41, allowing judges to issue search warrants for computers outside of their jurisdiction. It was under his administration that the subpoena power of FBI field offices were expanded to include email data and browsing history and the Cybersecurity Internet Surveillance Act was passed, eliminating liability for tech companies that share Americans' data with the DHS and requiring the DHS to, in turn, share this data with the NSA, DOD, and Director of National Intelligence. Lets not forget that it was this administration that signed indefinite detention into law through a provision in the 2011 NDAA. The same administration assassinated four American citizens, through drone strikes, without a jury trial, around the same time. Now that the dictatorial powers to indefinitely detain American citizens accused of abetting terrorism, without a criminal trial, and executing them via drone strikes has been handed over to Trump, I am sure the left will start paying attention to the exponentially growing executive powers. Under his administration, civil asset forfeiture revenue ballooned from 1.5B in 2008 to a peak of 4.5B in 2014, exceeding the aggregate value of property stolen by common thieves (3.9B). The same administration brokered more weapons sales than any other since World War II, and lifted the arms embargo on the totalitarian socialist regime of Vietnam. On his watch, local and state police received more surplus military weapons than under previous administrations, and non-military federal spending on guns and ammunition jumped from 55M in 2006 to 112M in 2011. Even administrative agencies such as the FDA,  the EPA, the United States Mint, and the VA bought 335M in military gear and weapons. The EPA, for instance spent 3.1M on guns and ammunition from 2006 to 2014.

Obama's Imperialism 

The Obama admin destabilized three near east countries through three illegal wars, conducted without congressional authorization, in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Libya has been turned into a wasteland overrun by warlords and Salafists; Yemen has been bombed into oblivion and starved by the Washington backed Saudi coalition, and Syria might have shared the same fate as Libya were it not for 'Russian aggression.' You would think that out of anyone, a noble prize winner would be repulsed by the usual excuses of collateral damage and cheap appeals to expediency, which is best exemplified by his arming of 'moderate rebels' i.e. Salafi terrorists who invaded Syria from the surrounding Gulf states and coopted the early protests.

Authoritarian domestic policies tend to be correlates of perpetual warfare either at home or abroad; historically, there is a high degree of comorbidity between the two. At present the Obama admin has deployed special forces in four different countries (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq) and is conducting the CIA drone program, that has killed hundreds of civilians during Obama's tenure, in seven different countries. It is no wonder that he has ramped up the war on terror propaganda and ramped down our constitutional rights.

Side Note: A popular misconception is that Obama ended the war in Iraq, which is false on two grounds: the agreement with the Iraqi parliament to withdraw all troops by 2011 was negotiated under the Bush admin and there are at present still a couple hundred special forces in Iraq.

The Trans Pacific Partnership 

The so called 'free trade' agreement that Obama tried to push through congress, but failed, would have had the same effect as his foreign policy, which is the consolidation of corporate power on a global scale (i.e. globalism). Had Obama been successful in this endeavor, the Trans Pacific Partnership would have dealt a single death blow to our national sovereignty. Even though it died with Clinton's loss, it still had a significant impact on our laws; the Country of Origins Labeling Act was repealed, the DARK Act was signed into law, and the executive office was given fast track authority on future trade agreements.

Final Note

I do not believe that the election of Trump has saved our republic, but it has, for the time being, slowed the political momentum towards despotism by sowing discord between the press and the executive office. Perhaps a hostile press will unwittingly bring the Obama administration's abuses to light when Trump inevitably capitalizes on them for his own agenda.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Civil Asset Forfeiture, Anti-Structuring Laws and Other Spawns of The War on Drugs

'The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be a merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy of your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villains as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. The proceedings of those robbers and murders, who call themselves "the government," are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.'
 - Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority N.O. VI
If I were to tell you that if congress prohibited people from buying, selling, and ingesting certain narcotics, that it would eventually lead police to steal the capital of small-scale proprietors, even if they hadn't committed a crime, and would render every citizen's 5th amendment right to due process of law null, you would think it asinine since the latter is not an obvious consequence of the former, but every violation of moral law, the law of equal liberty, sets a precedent for further violations and every statute, ruling, or executive order has not only an immediate and intended effect, but several distant and unintended effects.Whether or not such acts of government are well intended does not matter; the outcome is what matters and when governments diminish the natural rights of their citizenry widespread miseries tend to follow and social ills tend to multiply.
NO PERSON SHALL be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor BE DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY, OR PROPERTY, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The IRS seized $107,000 from Lyndon McLellan, the owner of a convenience store, gas station, and restaurant all in one place. His only transgression was making multiple deposits of under $10,000. McLellan was never charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to even face his accusers. Although the IRS did eventually return McLellan's money, they never compensated him for the interest he lost over the year and a half they confiscated it for.

The IRS seized $33,000 from Carole Hinders, the owner of a Mexican cuisine restaurant that only accepts cash payments. Like Mr. McLellan, she was not charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to face her accusers. Her only transgression was making multiple deposits of under $10,000. Ms. Hinders, like Mr. McLellan was unaware of the fact that banks are required to report all deposits or withdrawals over the $10,000 threshold and that any avoidance of the reporting requirement, whether intentional or unintentional, was grounds for asset forfeiture.

The federal government seized $447,000 from Bi-County Distributors, a family owned convenience store in Long Island, NY. Like Mr. McLellan and Ms. Hinders, neither of the Hirsch brothers were charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to face their accusers. Their only transgression, one which they were probably unaware of, was making multiple deposits under the $10,000 threshold. Although they were eventually able to retrieve their money with public outcry and pro-bono legal aid from the Institute for Justice, they were never compensated for the interest they had lost for the year they had been dispossessed.

The federal government seized $66,000 from Sgt. Jeff Cortazzo. His intention was to save for his eldest daughter's college from his own paycheck, but unbeknownst to him he was violating the anti-structuring law, The Bank Secrecy Act, by making multiple deposits of under $10,000. He was only able to settle for $35,000.

The Illinois State Police seized $107,000 from Mr. Adam and Jennifer Perry, who were heading for  Utah to see a hearing specialist. Their only transgression was driving a few mph over the posted speed limit and being 'suspected' drug runners. No drugs were found in their car and the police did not charge them with a crime or even cite them for speeding.

According to an analysis conducted by the Institute for Justice the IRS made 639 seizures in 2012. Only 1 in 5 seizures (128) were prosecuted as criminal structuring cases.

The modern highwaymen have only become more efficient robbers over the past four decades. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has just recently employed special Card readers called ERADs to seize money off of prepaid cards.

The same conceptual war that has deprived small-scale proprietors of their capital and rendered everyone's 5th amendment right to due process of law null, has also swept away our 4th amendment right to protection against searches and seizures without probable cause or in cases of peoples' homes, warrantless searches and seizures.
'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.'
So called 'Stop and Frisk', most commonly used by NYPD thugs, is one such manifestation of this, in which officers can search anyone on the basis of reasonable suspicion.  In other words, the basis for a pat down is left to the purview of the officer's personal prejudices and biases. In practice, an officer could stop and search someone for wearing a hoodie or simply looking over their shoulder, neither of which necessarily indicates they have committed a crime and for all of its hype it is a very inefficient practice: 9 out of 10 of those stopped and frisked are not found guilty of any crime. Aside from its inefficiency, reasonable suspicion is only grounds for detainment and questioning, not searches and seizures.

In the same spirit, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the 4th Amendment by ruling, in a 4 -3 decision (State of Wisconsin vs. Matalonis), that police officers no longer need a warrant to enter homes and seize evidence; they just need to claim to be exercising their 'community caretaker' function.

In the U.S. vs. Pena-Gonzales, the Fifth circuit U.S. appellate court ruled that having multiple air fresheners, bumper stickers and religious memorabilia is grounds for probable cause because drug runners often use these items to conceal their intentions.  Of course their reasoning, like that used to justify 'stop and frisk', rests on the base rate fallacy. Whether the majority of drug runners use religious memorabilia and air freshener to hide their intentions is irrelevant; the vast majority of people who display religious memorabilia and use air freshener are not drug runners. The same abortion of logic could be used to justify detaining and searching anyone riding a Harley.

The same conceptual war has allowed law enforcement to use college students as slave labor for their rent-seeking enterprise.

The UN convention against transnational organized crime defines human trafficking as: 
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
the consent of a victim of trafficking intended for exploitation is irrelevant once deception, coercion, force or other prohibited means have been used. Consent, therefore, cannot be used as a defence to absolve traffickers from criminal responsibility.
That confidential informants are nothing more than slave labor for the police state is clear from the facts:

1) The officers do not receive the informed consent of the people who agree to work under them as confidential informants. They only detain the suspect and therefore are not obliged to inform the suspect of his/her rights and they do not disclose the risks involved in the work they will do as confidential informants.

2) Suspects become confidential informants under the threat of violence against them i.e. incarceration

3) Confidential informants receive no compensation for their work

That no government should regulate what its citizens put in their own bodies is discernible from moral law. Every natural right (artificial division of moral law), whether enumerated in the constitution or not, establishes an equilibrium of power among everyone within which each person can adequately gratify their desires and adapt to their social conditions. Every violation of moral law, whether intentional or not, tends to reduce the capacity of some to gratify their desires, and therefore reduces their capacity to preserve their own lives, and the misery that results tends to have a rippling effect across interlocking social circles.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Political Superstitions (part 1): Anti-Desecration Laws

 I addressed this particular sentiment back on August 16th and I didn't think it was a particularly contentious issue in our day and age, regarding it as a remnant of a more authoritarian past, until the future president expressed support for it on Twitter and his lackeys chimed in agreement. It's apparent that Trump, like his 'constitutional lawyer' predecessor, understands neither constitutional law nor, more importantly, moral law. Both are explicit about the restraints on government power in regards to free speech and expression.

'CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.'

In fact the SCOTUS has already made this much clear regarding flag desecration in Texas vs. Johnson
(a) Under the circumstances, Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment. The State conceded that the conduct was expressive. Occurring as it did at the end of a demonstration coinciding with the Republican National Convention, the expressive, overtly political nature of the conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent.
(b) Texas has not asserted an interest in support of Johnson's conviction that is unrelated to the suppression of expression and would therefore permit application of the test set forth in United States v. O'Brien, 391 U. S. 367, whereby an important governmental interest in regulating nonspeech can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms when speech and nonspeech elements are combined in the same course of conduct. An interest in preventing breaches of the peace is not implicated on this record. Expression may not be prohibited.
The Government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved.
More importantly, Moral Law also places the same restraints on the exercise of power: that every person should have the freedom to do all that he/she wills provided he/she does not infringe on the same freedom of any other person.

It is instantly obvious that if a person burns an American flag, that they own, and especially if they do so on their own property, they are not preventing other people from exercising the same freedom to do what they wish with their own American flags. No person or group of people is therefore justified in initiating violence against them. They may ridicule, scorn, ostracize, and use all other manner of social pressure to change that person's behavior, but they may not initiate violence against that person. Any resort to initiatory violence is a regression to the law of the jungle or 'might makes right', regardless of what phony pretense they may cook up to justify violating another person's natural rights.

This sentiment that the American flag is sacred and 'represents American values' is no different in character than the divine right of kings, anti-blasphemy laws, the labor theory of value, the belief that governments create rights and all other political superstitions: it's rank nonsense. Furthermore, performing rituals to 'revere the flag' is really nothing more than a crude form of idolatry. Historically, the U.S. has had several different flags, the first one being the Gadsden flag, each no more sacred than its predecessor.

What Trump's sentiment really amounts to is this: the government should kidnap anyone who burns a piece of colored fabric, they own, that has a certain pattern. Implicit in this is the belief that a piece of colored fabric with a certain pattern is more valuable than human life, which contradicts his pro-life stance. What Trump has made clear is that leftists aren't the only enemies of natural rights and since conservatives have taken the helm of power in Washington the next four years will require combating the power grabbing right.