Outlawing Fornication in Utah

Fornication

Legislators of Utah recently repealed a law that made having sex outside of marriage a crime, fornication. Interestingly, when the United States was founded no such laws existed but eventually sixteen states added them to the books. Punishment was rarely imposed and the Supreme Court largely made them unenforceable. Still, I wanted to examine the idea behind them and the danger they represent.

It’s pretty much summed up by the words of one of the Utah legislators against the repeal. Basically, Representative Kevin Stratton says that what is legal is below what is moral, and fornication is immoral. Far below, in his own words. I would guess there are people across the country who feel this same way, I would guess largely religious people. What Stratton is saying is that it’s true we cannot legally enforce the moral codes as laid about by various religious texts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Thus, he voted, along with 31 other members of the Utah House, against the repeal.

This is the sort of thinking that has long held sway in both major parties. I think I know what is best for you and, when I have a majority position, I’m going to force you to do it against threat of criminal prosecution. In this case it’s certainly Republican based but I can offer examples of Democrats doing the same thing whether it be vaping or drinking sugary soda. Either way, it’s simply you telling someone else how to lead their life.

We must be cautious about how many things we make against the law or we will essentially turn our entire population in criminal. Oh, too late, we’ve already done it. There are so many traffic and drug laws I would guess that hardly a day goes by without everyone committing a crime of one nature or another. Here in my home state of Missouri, it’s illegal to use the wrong side of a crosswalk while crossing a street.

Imagine if the Supreme Court had decided it was perfectly acceptable to prosecute people for fornication. How many of you would be in jail? How many of you would have lost your freedom for having the audacity to believe you were actually free? Every time a law like this makes it onto the books, we put law enforcement officers in a position to selectively enforce their laws and that inevitably leads to inequity against whatever group is perceived to be the enemy. This is a danger to us all, because, eventually, someone who doesn’t like the way we conduct our lives is going to have the majority.

At some point a person is going to be in a position of power who doesn’t like something that you do and try to make it illegal. This is where the Constitution of the United States and its final arbiter, the Supreme Court, comes into play. They can strike down any law they believe violates the Constitution. Hooray!

We have limits expressed by the Constitution that people of both political parties really like and others that they hate. I find the Second and Fourth Amendments illustrate this nicely and I have a blog addressing that issue if you want to read it.

The point here is that Utah has, until the Governor signs the new legislation, a law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is unenforceable both legally and pragmatically. Yet, some people want it still on the books. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the Constitution, all of it, then we are not of like minds.

Tom Liberman

Camp Fire Workers and Freedom of Speech

Camp Fire Workers
Camp Fire Workers Offensive Images

A news story making the rounds about Rob Freestone, and other Camp Fire Workers, who took vile pictures of themselves amongst the ruins of people’s lives after the tragic wildfire in Paradise, California, perfectly illustrates the concept of Free Speech as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Freestone and two other workers took pictures of themselves laughing it up over the corpses of beloved pets, in destroyed homes, jumping on burned out trampolines with captions denigrating the owners, along with other pictures. That these pictures might upset the owners of the homes and their neighbors who had recently lost everything, including friends and family, is not at all surprising. What can be done about people who do such things? That is where the Freedom of Speech of the camp fire workers comes into play.

One group of people seems to think the men are free to say what they want without repercussions based on the First Amendment. A second group of people want the camp fire workers to be arrested and charged with a crime for their vile behavior. Both groups are incorrect. The concept of the First Amendment seems relatively simple to me. People are protected against an overly aggressive government attempting to incarcerate or fine them because of their words. However, the camp fire workers are in no way protected from ramifications devised by sources not the state.

The company that employed the men, Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. and their contractors PG&E are entitled to do as they will. They have done so. Bigge announced the three men were fired from their jobs and wrote an apology to the residents of Paradise published as a press release.

I don’t necessarily fully support Bigge for this decision, nor disagree with it, but I absolutely think Bigge has the authority to fire the men. If law enforcement agencies bring charges against the camp fire workers, which they are looking into doing, then I find myself on the side of the workers. The police should not be allowed to charge people with a crime for posting deeply offensive photographs.

Now, to demonstrate the difficulty of law, let’s suppose Bigge didn’t fire the workers and the state subsequently refused to give future contracts to the company because of that decision. This is where law becomes problematic and why we have a judicial branch. This situation not being the case, I won’t wade into the thorny issue.

The outcome as it stands cleanly and neatly illustrates the protections of the First Amendment. We are entitled to say what we will, with exceptions carved out over time by the courts, without fear of arrest or fine by the state. We are not free to say what we want without repercussions from our employers, family, friends, and random strangers on the internet.

You might find particular words to be offensive while another person supports and agrees with those same utterances. That is the point of the First Amendment to a large degree. The state, in the form of whatever political party is currently in power, will always like certain speech and find other words to be dangerous. The state, and the state alone, is very limited in how it can respond to such speech, this is a good thing.

Tom Liberman

The Right to Peaceably Assemble makes us not North Korea

Constitution of United StatesCongress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …. That particular part of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States has been buzzing around my head for the last few days. Likely because of all the people marching up and down in my neighborhood, blocking traffic, smashing windows, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

As I peruse the delightful and polite intercourse that flies across the wall of my Facebook feed much like poop flies gently through the air in a full blown, alcohol fueled, chimpanzee brawl, I’m forced to consider why it is we are allowed to assemble and protest what we perceive as wrongs perpetuated by the government. Why did the Founding Fathers include the aforementioned language in the Constitution?

The answer is quite simple. It’s so we don’t end up like North Korea. There is only one effective way to prevent people from assembling to air their grievances; arrest them for doing so. Arrest anyone that doesn’t like the way the government is doing business. Arrest them for stepping one foot off the sidewalk. Arrest them for marching in the street and blocking traffic. Arrest them and throw them in jail for breaking a window. That’s certainly the tenor of much of what I read from those who don’t like the protestors or their cause. This certainly seems to be the attitude of a lot of people in this country.

This path is frightfully dangerous for two reasons. The first reason is that people who feel they have no voice, people who cannot assemble and cause inconvenience, people who think they have no recourse to their complaints are much more likely to become violent. They will attack and kill police officers instead of marching in the streets. I don’t have to argue this point; the evidence is stark and mounting. Police will become afraid of the people and start shooting them at the slightest provocation. Again, I feel no need to support this point. Look around. It is manifestly happening.

The second thing that can happen is that we simply arrest everyone who dares speak out against the government. At that point, the United States will no longer exist in a way the Founding Fathers imagined. We are no longer a nation of laws when we can throw out those parts of the Constitution that cause us inconvenience. We are no longer free.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate seeing broken windows in establishments I frequent. I hate waiting in my car for a long line of protestors to clear the intersection. I might well sympathize with their cause but such behavior makes me less likely to look upon such protestors kindly. Still, I quite clearly understand to prevent them from doing so is a grave danger to this country and to my personal safety.

Terrorism is the child of repression. It was born in the most oppressive nations in the world and thrives when people try to violently destroy it. Where people have nonviolent means to address their government, terrorism has a hard time taking hold.

When we do not allow people to assemble and cause inconvenience we beget violence and rage. When we say arrest them all, we sign the death warrant of our nation.

You may not like the protestors. You may not agree with the protestors. You might find their methods troublesome and inconvenient, but trust me when I say you’ll like the alternative far less.

If protestors plan their marches to coincide with rush and happy hour to make our lives more inconvenient; we must resist the urge to call out law enforcement with riot gear and weapons. We must let them march to wherever they want to go. We must allow them to march where it causes problems because if we don’t, we take away their hope for progress. And people without hope do horrible things.

That’s why the Founding Fathers expressly gave us that particular freedom. I concur with their judgment.

Tom Liberman

I’ll Use Our Second Amendment Rights to Defend our First Amendment Rights

Constitution of United StatesCongress 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.

I want to be as clear as possible about the First Amendment.

The freedom of media to report as they will without fear of retribution from the government is vital to the survival of this great nation and of This Great Experiment. The media must be allowed to tell the story; the true story, the false story, the agenda driven story twisted with nuance, or the apolitical story. It is necessary. It is my freedom.

If you are under the impression those telling stories you don’t like must be arrested, repressed, intimidated, fined, sued, or otherwise cowed from doing their job; know that I will defend them. If necessary I’ll use another right guaranteed to me to do so.

I will accept the consequences of those action.

Just so you know where I stand if you want to discuss Freedom of the Press in my presence.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution

Constitution of United StatesAs a Libertarian I’m in a bit of an interesting situation in regards to the recent Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges.

The decision makes it largely illegal to ban same-sex marriage in the United States. I’m in agreement with this completely. It’s ridiculous that the government can either ban or sanction what is essentially a contract between willing parties. If any group of legally competent adults wants to sign a contract of marriage with one another there should be no law against it nor government reward for doing so.

There should be no law against ten people marrying each other. A man marrying five women. A man marrying his biological son. It’s just not the government’s business if consenting and legally competent adults want to get married. There should be no legal benefit to being married. The state and the federal government should have no say in the matter whatsoever.

However, the decision itself relies on the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Specifically the Equal Protection clause. It argues that all people within a state must be protected equally by the Constitution. The Constitution is silent on the issue of marriage although that hasn’t stopped the Supreme Court from invalidating laws against mixed race marriages, men in debt getting married, men in prison getting married, and a variety of other laws written by the states to “protect” the institution of marriage.

Justice Anthony Kennedy spends a lengthy amount of time explaining why marriage is such an important institution and why people cannot be disallowed from getting married. In the end he relies on the Fourteenth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause to justify saying that the Constitution protects same-sex marriage.

I disagree. I don’t think the Constitution protects the right to marry for anyone who is not what is called a Protected Class. These are people against whom discriminatory laws cannot be made. Homosexuals are not among them. This is why the Constitution can protect the rights of a black man to marry a white woman but not be used to protect two men who want to get married.

Without such protection the Tenth Amendment comes into force. This allows states to pass laws where the Constitution is silent.

Therefore I think the decision was wrong.

That being said, I think it is anti-American to restrict marriage in any way as long as all parties are legally competent. To do so is an example of government interference in the private lives of citizens where it has no place. Laws against same-sex marriages are among the most egregious overreaches of government authority in the United States today. However, they are legal. If a state chooses to thrust their government into the personal lives of the citizens of that state then it is up to those self-same citizens to vote for new politicians.

The practical result of all this would be, in my opinion, no difference. Time and attitudes are changing quickly. Without this ruling it would not be long before all states allowed same-sex marriages anyway. Those states that used laws to prevent such marriages would see loss of tourism and businesses that catered to those who thought same-sex marriages were perfectly acceptable. There are almost enough states (32 of the necessary 34) where same-sex marriages are legal to pass a Constitutional Amendment making it law for all states. This would have eventually occurred if there had been one or two holdout states.

In the end it’s all the same. Still, I don’t like the twisting of the Constitution to make it happen.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Prayers to Satan – Religion and Government

ConstitutionI wrote a post about a misleading headline last week but now I’d like to talk about the article to which the satiric story was really about.

There was a Supreme Court decision last week which allowed a municipality to open their meeting with a prayer as long as that prayer is not intended to convert listeners or denigrate other religions. The community, Greece, NY, has opened their town meetings since 1999 with a prayer. In all that time it has always been a Christian denomination giving the prayer except a brief period when the lawsuit was filed after which four of the twelve prayers were non-Christian. Since then all prayers have been Christian in nature.

So the Supreme Court says that municipalities can open their meetings with a prayer. Christian groups think they’ve won. They haven’t and I’ll tell you why.

Now that government agencies are allowed to open meetings with a prayer to a specific religious deity, everyone wants to open the meeting with a prayer to their non-existent god. Yes, Satan. And that’s only the beginning. When religious groups “win” the right to display religious monuments on city property guess who immediately starts to submit requests to start having their own monuments?

Satanist, Pastafarians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all sorts of non-Christian organizations. If those organizations are banned from presenting their prayers or their monuments then the state is clearly violating the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Basically this has come to mean that no political organization should be in the business of endorsing any one religion over another. Belief is a private matter for the free citizens of the United States. When the state says only Christians or only Muslims or only Jews or only Atheists are allowed to present then they are establishing that this is the religion of choice. This is bad for anyone of any faith.

When Communist Russia banned most religions and enforced Atheism this imposed belief from the state. When Religious Oligarchies like Saudi Arabia impose Sharia Law upon their population this is religion sponsored by the state.

What I think most Christians struggle with is the idea that there are people of other faiths out there and that when Christians politicians are allowed to sponsor their religion the door is opened to anyone, Satanists or not, to sponsor their own religion from the state house.

Christians think they’ve won when they get the right to sponsor their religion in a local municipality but in reality they have opened the door to their, and my, ultimate destruction.

I don’t want Christians preaching to me at state sponsored events but I don’t want Muslims or Atheists or Wiccans doing it either. I want to have my private beliefs separate from what the state sponsors. I’m in the Atheist minority while Christians are in the majority. It seems as though having the state sponsor your religion is a good idea when you are in the majority but time moves on and suddenly there is a town where the majority of people are from a different religion or no religion at all. Then this state sponsored religion that they fought to promote doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The solution seems so simple to me. People of a particular religion persuasion should simply meet in a private chamber somewhere and have their prayer or invocation or whatever. At Rams football games the players who are Christian meet at the center of the field and have a prayer after the game. Not during the game. Not before the game when the audience is waiting for them to start playing.

This insistence on the right to say a religious prayer before an event doesn’t seem to me to be a position of faith but actually a lack thereof. Those with true faith shouldn’t need, or even desire, the state to say a prayer in any form.

The Founding Fathers didn’t feel the need to put religious slogans on our coinage. They didn’t feel the need to put the words “Under God” in their oaths. They didn’t feel the need to Pledge Allegiance to anything. They were confident men who believed in themselves and the ideas they promulgated, the ideas of freedom. Were that they were around today.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Our Constitution – All or Nothing

ConstitutionI recently wrote a blog post about how members of both the Democratic and Republican parties seem to have a rather relaxed attitude about those parts of the Constitution with which they don’t agree and more passionate support over things with which they do agree.

What do these words mean to you: … nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, …

I am physically sickened, upset to my stomach, by recent events in Congress by those who are our representatives, who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Back when the Founding Fathers fought for the freedom you enjoy they decided this simple oath was enough: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

Some unnecessary words have been added but those fourteen sum it up pretty well and they are basically still there.

Lawyers can parse it all they want. They can claim Lois Lerner made a statement. They can weep and wail. The words are in the Constitution and great men fought and died to put them there.

When you subvert the Constitution for political gain, be it the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment or any other, you lose this Libertarian.

I don’t believe in Republicans. I don’t believe in Democrats. I don’t even believe in Libertarians. I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe in me. And I particularly don’t believe in the 231 Congress members who violated their oath today.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Georgia and the 4th Amendment Vs the 2nd Amendment

Constitution of United StatesAs a Libertarian I’m a supporter of the Constitution of the United States. That’s a period at the end of that sentence.

I find it extremely discouraging that people seem to increasingly care very little about that document, regardless if whether a Democrat or a Republican. In elections Libertarians generally get about 1% or less of the vote; this means that 99% of voters in this country vote for Democrats or Republicans.

If people only care about the parts of the Constitution that are expedient to their cause of the moment it means the document doesn’t have any real meaning at all. We live in a Representative Republic wherein the people choose their elected officials. If the people don’t care about the Constitution then the duly elected representatives will not either.

Georgia is a case in point that strikes home so powerful, so undeniably that I’m using it as an example. This doesn’t mean that Georgia is alone in their cherry-picking of Constitutional Rights, it just means that it’s the example I’m using. I think the problem extends to every state and every district in this country.

Here are two news stories:

The Georgia legislature wants to drug test welfare recipients.

The Georgia legislature allows firearms to be carried just about anywhere.

Here are two Amendments:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

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.

This absolute insistence on following the Constitution when it promotes a policy you agree with and utter disregard for the Constitution when it protects someone you don’t like is extraordinarily disturbing to me. Even worse, the proponents and opponents of these two policies are inversely related to the political party to which they belong, unless they’re in the 1% with me.

This means that 99% of the people don’t care at all about Constitution, they care about political expediency.

The people who argue both sides of both situations can rationalize their position all they want. I’m not hearing it.

Here’s the deal. People are allowed to have guns. The government cannot search me without probable cause.

If you’ve got a problem with either of those things then you’re in the majority. If you love freedom then that should cause you great concern.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Freedom of Speech – Duck Dynasty and what it Doesn’t Mean

Constitution of United StatesThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about the star of a television show called Duck Dynasty. The story seems to engender a great deal of confusion about the First Amendment to the Constitution and the idea of Freedom of Speech.

The confusion runs so deep that even the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, apparently has no idea what the Constitution means, and that’s a scary thought. A governor who is totally misguided about the Constitution of the United States!

What happened is that Phil Robertson said some things about homosexuals and blacks that people found offensive. The network where he worked, A&E, suspended him for these remarks. Immediately following the suspension people began to talk about the First Amendment to the Constitution and the concept of Freedom of Speech. They seem to be under the bizarre illusion that you can say anything you want and face absolutely no repercussions. This is in no way, shape, manner, or form the idea of Freedom of Speech.

Depending on what state you work in you can be fired without cause at any time. What do you expect would happen to you if you went up to your boss and told them you paid their spouse five dollars for a sexual liaison down in the alley? Fired! You betcha.

Could you be thrown in jail? No.

That’s the point of the First Amendment and I absolutely shudder in disbelief when someone who is the governor of one of our states apparently doesn’t understand this. When I see comment sections filled by inaccurate statements about the First Amendment it doesn’t bother me too much, it bothers me, just not to the point of writing a blog. A lot of people just aren’t that smart. They have no idea what the Constitution is about nor what Freedom of Speech means.

The pertinent part of the First Amendment reads: Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.

What part of that could possibly be unclear? There shall be no laws written to prevent people from speaking freely. Generally this means political speech but it can cover other things. Over the years certain types of speech have been ruled not to be subject to the Amendment. Yelling fire in a crowded theater being the primary example often used.

How on earth can anyone think that A&E is passing a law by suspending Robertson?

Robertson has every right to express his opinion. Those who support him have every right to support him as loudly as they want. Those who oppose him have the same right. However, Robertson is not free from repercussions. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

Go on, tell your spouse how fat they are, see how much the Constitution protects you from the wrath that follows.

I absolutely support Robertson’s right to say whatever he believes. I support A&E’s right to suspend whoever they want, it’s their network. I applaud Robertson for stating his mind. Now he has to live with the consequences of that decision, good or bad. It has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.

My advice to Governor Jindal and everyone else who is foggy on the First Amendment? Read the Constitution, good stuff there.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Do You Support Presidential Term Limits?

Term LimitsI read an article just a moment ago that suggested it was time to repeal the 22nd Amendment and remove the two-term limit to the office of the President of the United States. The comments indicated that the vast majority of people not only opposed repealing the amendment but wanted to institute term limits on Congress and the Federal Judiciary.

Besides the 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in 1951, there have never been restrictions in the Constitution of the United States that limit the amount of time a politician or judge can serve.

States have a variety of term limit laws with 36 states having gubernatorial limits while fifteen states limit the amount of time state representatives can serve. Additionally the 22nd Amendment was ratified by 41 states with 2 states rejecting the amendment and a further 5 states not considering it. As a bonus trivia question for my well-educated and thoughtful viewers, why does the total of states not reach 50?

Those who argue for term limits generally suggest that politicians become corrupted upon being repeatedly elected and garner a dangerous amount of power. That they do as they desire without regard to the electorate as would a tyrant.

Those who oppose term limits largely argue that voters are the ultimate factor in how long a president serves and often quote George Washington who said, “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public.”

They also argue that artificial term limits change the way a president governs. That last term office holders have a difficult time building coalitions and accomplishing anything. That last term office holders can effectively do whatever they want without worry of repercussions. That term limited and popular politicians will simply end up with a rotation system where allies are continually elected as proxies. This particular idea reached its highest level of absurdity when Lurleen Wallace was elected governor of Alabama in 1966.

Personally I am for repeal of the 22nd Amendment and the removal of term limits in general. In my opinion term limits are largely designed to correct the problem of elected officials accumulating too much power. That these limits are merely a substitution to our responsibilities as voters in a Representative Republic. That such artificial solutions solve nothing and, in many ways, make the situation worse by giving the illusion of security.

The duty of every voter is to cast their ballot for the most qualified candidate. The candidate that will best serve our nation, our state, and our community. If a politician fails to do so, we have recourse. If we fail to avail ourselves of said recourse then no law can save us.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Your Freedom is my Freedom – Child Forced to Participate in Pledge of Allegiance

Your Freedom is My FreedomThere’s a great story in the news today. A teacher from the Sunshine state of Florida forced her Jehovah’s Witness fourth grade student to place his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. When the student resisted the teacher told him “You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag.

Why is it a great story? Because the teacher was suspended for five days without pay and the comment section is filled with people who absolutely agree that the teacher was in the wrong.

It’s not about patriotism, it’s not about loving your country, it’s not about being a free-thinker; it’s about your constitutional rights, it’s about my constitutional rights. I’ve got a buddy who doesn’t stand during the national anthem and we get looks, angry looks. The constitution isn’t about uniformity. The constitution isn’t about conformity. The constitution doesn’t make for a pretty country. The constitution doesn’t make for a nation in lockstep formation.

The constitution guarantees me rights. It guarantees you rights. It guarantees members of the Ku Klux Klan the right to assemble and say vile things. The constitution guarantees the right of members of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest the funerals of service members.

The constitution guarantees you the right to say nasty things about President Obama. To make fun of his name. It guarantees you the right to say vile things about members of the Tea Party. It guarantees all these things but most importantly it guarantees me the right to say and do as I please with some limits.

Don’t like it? Tough.

If someone wants to look at my buddy with hate because he doesn’t stand for the anthem that’s their absolute right. If someone wants to tell him they don’t like it, well, I’ll tell them right back to mind their own damn business. This is the United States of America, bub.

His Freedom is my Freedom. Your Freedom is my Freedom.

Those who spew hate? Their Freedom is my Freedom.

A Flag Burner’s Freedom is my Freedom.

You want to take my freedom? Here I am.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

 

Miranda Warning Exception – Boston Bomber

Miranda WarningI haven’t written a post about the despicable attack during the Boston Marathon. I honestly don’t think I have anything to add to the conversation but there is an interesting situation arising from that attack that has sparked my desire to speak out.

As most people already know brave law enforcement officers captured one of the two bombers. I can’t bring myself to write “suspects”. They did it. We all know they did it. At the time of the capture the man was unconscious or nearly so and was not read his Miranda Warning. There was some outcry about this although I assumed that it wasn’t given because the bomber was not capable of understanding and, if he recovered, they would proceed with the reading. Apparently I was wrong, or at least the Obama administrations is indicating that I was mistaken. They do not plan on reading said warning because of an exception to the Miranda rule.

The 1984 Supreme Court case leading to the exception can be found here but I’ll quickly summarize. A police officer captured a suspect who had been identified as having a firearm. When searched the weapon wasn’t found. The officer asked the suspect about the location of the gun. The suspect pointed out, with a head nod, where he had thrown the pistol. This was deemed to be a possible violation of his rights as the Miranda Warning was not yet read. The Supreme Court ruled 6 -3 that immediate public safety, the loaded weapon very nearby, was a “narrow” exception to Miranda. Chief Justice Rehnquist authored the opinion and was joined by Burger, White, Blackmun, and Powell, while O’Connor wrote a concurrent opinion and Marshal, Brennan, and Stevens dissented.

The basic idea of the Miranda Warning is an extension of our Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It cannot be assumed that all citizens have a full understanding of their rights and thus arresting officers are required to give them this brief sketch.

The Obama administration is arguing that the bomber might have information about other bombs and therefore the public safety exception can be invoked. Presumably they would ask about other bombs and then read the Miranda Warning.

I’m extremely skeptical of this logic. Even if we take the Obama administration at face value all they can ask about is other bomb locations not anything else to do with the case. Otherwise it is a clear violation. This is not a police officer asking a quick question at the spur of the moment. This would be days later when the situation had calmed considerably.

By this logic any suspect who may be construed to have planted an explosive device falls into the exception. A suspect who made a threat against a spouse might have planted a car-bomb, who knows? I can see the exception being expanded virtually without limit. There is, I suppose, a possibility that there might be more bombs but the idea that reading the warning would influence whether the bomber admitted their location or not seems far-fetched. If he is remorseful he will give their location whether read the warning or not and vice-versa.

In my opinion this is one of those situation where it is important to uphold the constitution and the court’s interpretation of it. It’s easy to demand rights for people who deserve them. It’s harder to want the constitution to apply to scum like the bomber. It’s easy to want to put a gun to his head and finish this business. I know that’s what I want to do. That’s exactly what they would do in totalitarian countries, in theocratic countries, in nations where a free population is something be feared by the ruling party. It’s not what we do here, and I’m proud of that fact.

We’re free for a reason, it’s called the Constitution. Let’s keep following it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (buy it, read it, review it)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Government Week – Totalitarianism

GovernmentGovernment week starts off with one of the most vilified forms known to man, Totalitarianism. A number of government types fall under this general umbrella including monarchy, fascism, nazism, and Soviet Union and Chinese style communism. All of these states are defined by the attempt of government to have complete control over aspect of its citizens lives.

The official definition of totalitarianism is: Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.

This usually includes state controlled mass media which the United States Constitution forbids. There is generally only a single political party to which all citizens who hope to advance socially, financially and politically, must belong. It often uses what is called personal cultism. This is essentially making the leader or leaders of the states godlike. We saw this idea as far back as ancient Greece and continuing all the way through modern North Korea.

There are generally severe restrictions on speech against the party in power which again the U.S. Constitution forbids. Another hallmark is mass surveillance of its citizens. Again the U.S. Constitution forbids this. Anyone getting the idea that the Founding Fathers knew what they were about?

Totalitarian regimes generally control all aspects of the economy and use terror as a weapon to keep the population in line. It was formulated as a political concept in Italy in the 1920’s although it has existed in a defacto manner since people first assembled. Benito Mussolini said, Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

There are differences between Authoritarian Regimes and Totalitarian Regimes but I’m hoping only to give a general outline of the various forms of government this week so if the topic interests you I’d suggest a full perusal of the Wikipedia articles.

An interesting book, which I haven’t read, called The True Believer by an equally interesting man Eric Hoffer, suggests that totalitarian regimes often have their roots in picturing western style republics as soft, decadent, and selfish. We see those argument today in the Middle East where Totalitarianism still thrives. I’ll be talking about Theocracy later this week.

I hope this gives you a better idea of what other people are saying when the compare someone to a Nazi or a Soviet Style Communist. Let me know if you think this was helpful with the poll below and Like, Tweet, Comment, share, or otherwise freely use the media the Constitution guarantees.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy in the Modern World – Conclusions

PrivacyAfter a day off to talk about the magnificent sports rivalry between Kansas and Missouri that, barring a change of heart, has come to a conclusion I return to the highly popular issue of privacy in the United States and its impact on our freedom and safety.

Over the last few days I’ve discussed the definition of privacy and how it has changed over the years with advancing technology first from things like photographs to today’s computer age. What I want to discuss today involves how that technology and change in privacy is going to effect both our privacy and our freedom.

One of the most powerful new tools in the hands of both citizens and government law enforcement is remote surveillance devices. We’ve seen stoplight cameras for a few years and individual states have rulings on their legality in regards to the Sixth Amendment to the constitution of the U.S. I don’t want to get into that level of detail in this post and I’ll keep things more general.

The idea is that the state has certain legal tools which they use to promote the general safety of its citizens. We have traffic laws so that rogue drivers don’t put innocents at risk, the police serve a useful and important purpose in society. The difference between Libertarianism and Anarchy is an important distinction and all too often I think Libertarians slip into a more Anarchistic point of view. Again, I’ll save that topic for a later post.

We are going to see a huge increase of state operated drone vehicles in our skies and on our roads in the next few years. Largely these will be placed under the auspices of securing our safety and there is no doubt they do offer benefits in that regard. But, they also take away from our privacy. In the U.S. we are guaranteed protection from the state unless they have reason to watch us. The government cannot come into our homes without a warrant and they cannot listen to our conversations without probable cause but remote surveillance devices are always on, always watching.

Another factor is that citizens now have a far greater ability to watch the state. With remote control vehicles more readily available and increasingly powerful we can check up on the police and other government agents to make sure they are not overstepping the laws in the prosecution of criminals. We can also use such devices to watch for legal violations of neighbors, local businesses, and just about anything we want.

This opens up a huge area of questions. If I use my increasingly sophisticated remote control helicopter to spy on a neighbor, say, hitting his child, and then turn that over to family services what is the constitutional answer? Did I break the law? Should they go to prison? Have their child removed? Hidden camera have been used to tape people in normally private behavior for the purpose of humiliation or blackmail and has led to suicide.

It’s a hugely complex issue and I can’t come up with a single solution but I’d offer up this advice. Surveillance cameras offer useful tools to law enforcement and private citizens but also present significant issues in the realm of privacy. We have the right to privacy in our own house but there are ever increasing chances that it will be violated by people using such devices for their own purposes, well-intentioned or not.

In conclusion I offer the only advice that seems plausible.

  1. Diligently protect our freedom by prosecuting those who use such devices in violations of existing privacy laws.
  2. Invest in devices that pick up wireless signals that might be emanating from your residence.
  3. Keep your curtains closed.
  4. And most importantly, embrace Libertarianism. We have the right to privacy and we should respect that others have the same right.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Privacy in the United States – Definition

Privacy
Privacy is a complex issue in the United States. The advent of new technology is changing not only the perceived definition of privacy but also its reality. In this series of blogs I’m going to take on this complex issue and examine how it relates to every citizen of this county and, more generally, to the idea of Libertarianism and free thinking.

As is my want, I’ll start out with the general definition. This is a difficult concept because there is the definition of privacy, the general expectation of privacy, and the actual fact of privacy law in the U.S. Surprisingly, these three things are fairly widely divergent.

First I want to examine simply the concept of privacy. The dictionary seems a good place to start. Sadly, I don’t have a subscription to the magnificent Oxford English Dictionary site but Merriam Webster comes to the rescue.

a. the quality or state of being apart from company or observation

b. freedom from unauthorized intrusion <one’s right to privacy>

I think we are largely talking about definition “b” in this case. Our right to privacy from unauthorized intrusion. The first definition concerns itself more with my individual right to hide in my room typing my blog, writing my latest book, and playing Skyrim.

Now, as to our perception of privacy. An interesting story recently demonstrated that, largely, our sense of what is private does not mesh with reality. I don’t want to get into the details of the story but basically it talks about how our shopping habits, tracked through our credit, debit, and reward cards gives retailers a great deal of information about us.

We think that is private for the simple reason that until the advent of massive database tracking it was impossible for someone to keep track of that much information. Those sorts of databases now exist and combined with identifying tools like reward cards and tracking cookies it is possible for people to not only keep that information but mine it for gain, both yours and theirs.

How does that help me? It helps me everyday when I’m on the computer. Advertisements that interest me show up in my browser, books that correspond to my reading habits show up every time I visit Barnes and Noble or Amazon to check on the rather anemic sales of my books. This sort of targeted advertising will only increase as the technology blooms. When I check in at the grocery story my phone will tell me items on sale that I’ve purchased in the past. When my shirts start to get to be a year or so old  I’ll get an automated message from Brooks Brothers that I need some new ones.

These are the sorts of things we once thought private but are quickly finding out are not. If, say, I purchase an inordinate amount of Bookers Bourbon in a month perhaps I might get a call from an alcoholic center. It’s difficult to say how far this information will go but its safe to say that where there is money to be made the technology will follow.

When you are talking on the cell phone or send an email there is no privacy. That is open line communication and fully non-private. Everything you do on the computer at your workplace, browse the internet, send instant messages to your loved ones, or play solitaire is managed by the Information Technology team at your office. None of it is private.

Every web page you visit is tracked although this is where we start to get into the legal definition of privacy. While certain information is available it is not necessarily admissible in a court of law.

So, as to the legal definition of privacy in the U.S. There are different laws for public and private figures and I’m mostly going to talk about personal privacy for now. Public figures have less privacy than non-public ones for a variety of reasons.

As far as most of us are concerned, privacy laws essentially protect us from someone finding out information about us to either publicly disclose or use for personal gain. Yellow Journalism and the advent of the easily available cameras spurred many new laws in the past and new technologies are changing the landscape almost every day.

To try and wrap up part one I’ll mention the idea of tort law in the U.S. in regards to privacy. There are basically four areas covered and I’d recommend a long perusal of the Wikipedia article for better information.

  1. Intrusion of solitude: physical or electronic intrusion into one’s private quarters.
  2. Public disclosure of private facts: the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable
  3. False light: the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory
  4. Appropriation: the unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness to obtain some benefits.

Ok, that’s it for part 1. Tomorrow I’m going to try and take on the history of privacy in the U.S. and how technology has, and is, currently changing it.

As always, Like, Stumble, Tweet, Digg, and otherwise share this information if you think someone else might find it of interest. Comment are always welcome!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

We the People

The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Great SealIn 1912 an amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed that Senators be directly elected by the population of each state rather than be appointed by the legislatures of said states. It was ratified within a year by 31 of the 48 states and became law on May 31, 1913.

In my experience I find that most people are unaware of a time when Senators were not directly elected so I’m going to go back in time and try to explain the original concept of the Founding Fathers.

Put on your time travel hats and come with me on a journey … journey … journey.

During the Philadelphia or Constitutional Convention the founding fathers gathered to write the new constitution. There were a number of factions each with their own plan but one of the main issues rested on how officials to the new government would get their jobs. I’m going to generalize here pretty broadly and I’d suggest a perusal of the article for better details.

Anti-federalist largely wanted there to be one representative per state so as each state would have equal power and the federal government would be weaker. Federalists largely wanted direct, proportional elections so that larger states had more power and the federal government would be stronger. They ended up with the Connecticut Compromise. Direct, proportional election of the House of Representatives, two Senators per state appointed by state legislatures, and an executive elected by the Electoral College.

The effect of this was as follows: The house of representatives with their two year terms were beholden to the people of their states, more subject to the whims of the moment, and the larger states had significantly more say. The senators with their six year term were beholden directly to the state representatives and not the people of the state which gave state legislatures, big and small, an equal say in federal policies.

The reasons suggested for the new amendment were that some senators engaged in direct and indirect bribery of state legislatures to get their job. Also, when a state failed to elect a senator because of gridlock the senate went unfilled.

These reasons gained so much momentum that 31 state legislatures proposed making the change. This galvanized the federal government into proposing the amendment before the states themselves engaged in a “runaway convention” and took matters into their own hands.

In my opinion the federal government was correct to propose the change at the time because it was the will of the state legislatures and their ratification of the amendment demonstrates this fact. However, we’ve had a hundred years to see its effect and it is time we reexamine an amendment as has been done before.

Its effect has been profound and I’ll site one dramatic example. In 1994 the Republican Party took control of the Senate with 52 of the 100 seats. Had the 17th amendment not been passed Democrats would have had a filibuster-proof super-majority of 70 seats.

Now, as to the less dramatic effects of the new amendment. Essentially the Senators are no longer beholden to the state legislature and that removes power from the states. Some argue that it also helped pave the way for special interest groups and lobbyist to influence the now unburdened Senators. Essentially lobbyist used to focus on their own state legislatures but now gather in ever growing flocks in Washington D.C. Before lobbyist had to spread their attention to multiple people in each state legislature but now only have to influence two senators.

Now, as to my opinion, finally.

I think the weakening of state power has only increased the corruption that was largely the motivator in making the change in the first place. Certainly there was corruption in the Senate appointment process but that corruption has simply gone up the ladder to the federal level while at the same time depriving states of their primary weapon in this great Union. As individual states lose their power, and the federal government gains it, the concentration of power draws in more and more corruption. As the federal government becomes directly responsible to the people and not the state legislatures we slide towards democracy rather than representative republic. I detail why this is a bad thing here.

I’m not suggesting that repealing the 17th amendment will fix the woes of the country but I think it’s one step necessary in the process.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Great Seal of United StatesTomorrow I leave the heady world of sports and take on a topic which might not provoke quite as much interest but is of worthy of exploration. The 17th Amendment to the constitution of the United States changed the way senators are chosen. Prior to May 31, 1913, senators were appointed to their position by state legislatures. Afterwards they were directly elected by popular vote.

There are a number of arguments both for and against the amendment but there is no doubt its implementation has had a profound effect on the United States.

Stay tuned for details!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist