Author Archive

Holy War? Not So Fast

2013/09/20 5 comments

Everyone is at least basically aware of the Crusades, what most don’t know is that religion was more of an excuse or at least a relatively minor cause.

In 1095 AD, a Turkish army invaded the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantine Empire) and threatened Constantinople itself. Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested volunteers and other military assistance from the area that was once the Eastern Roman Empire, then a hodge podge of comparatively small kingdoms and city-states and today greater Europe.

It was really something of an answered prayer to many European rulers and subjects. Europe was thick with out of work soldiers, petty kings and marauding parties of second sons and outlaws, it was an exceedingly violent place with rulers constantly in fear of being deposed and the population at large suffering from raids, attacks, pillaging, etc. Few things are as dangerous and uncontrollable as a disbanded army.

It should be obvious now that Alexios’s call for assistance provided a way for the Pope, and more importantly the nobility, to refocus the violence and economic destruction onto someone else. However most were not keen to go to war for a foreign ruler. By promising land, wealth, and glory in the territories to be conquered to those who took up the crusade and framing it as a holy war, droves of people packed up and headed east to points unknown.

It’s rather telling, and overlooked, that the crusaders sacked christian cities and put Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike to the sword. That rings more like a conquest for riches than a war to free Christians from oppression and protect holy places, the Muslims were doing neither, in fact the Muslim rulers went to great lengths to protect Christian holy sites and keep them open for pilgrims. To this day the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is guarded by two Muslims.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the crusades, religion was certainly a driving factor, but not the primary one. It’s lazy and simply wrong to just shout, “ahhhh religion did it!” whenever one looks at the crusades, the same folly appears with our own Civil War*. At least in that case slavery was actually a major issue but 5 minutes on Google would show that it was just the final straw, and even if the south had agreed to end slavery, the war almost certainly would still have occurred.

You might disagree about how much of a holy war the crusades actually were, but the one thing that is indisputable is that it was not the singular or even primary cause. The cause was an invasion, the goal was riches, and the excuse was religion.

*As an aside, the 3/5ths compromise is widely misunderstood. The south wanted to count slaves as full persons to give their significantly less populated states more clout in Congress. The North didn’t want to count slaves at all, for similar reasons, to gain more congressional power for the North. It’s still appalling, but that fact is no excuse to not learn the truth, and it’s frustrating to see people get it backwards and claim that the Southerners only considered slaves as 3/5ths of a person, the 3/5ths has nothing to do with the human value of slaves and so should not be seen as a way to oppress them.

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Tax All The Things!

2013/08/27 1 comment

It should come as no surprise that some of the more liberal members of Congress want to increase a tax, but it really looks like they haven’t thought this one through very much.

I have my doubts that the tax would pass constitutional muster, but assuming that it does for a moment, here is the unintended consequence that I see.

Americans have a constitutional right to own firearms, just as they have a right to vote and speak freely and so on. If it’s alright to tax guns and ammunition, not just as a matter of course, but in an effort and at a level intended to keep people from exercising their rights, than presumably the same is true for abortion or gay marriage and so on. You can still exercise your rights, a lot of people just become unable to afford to do so, predominantly the poor of course.

The average cost of a first trimester abortion is between $350 and $550, which is more or less what a decent middle of the road handgun sells for new. Given that the gun tax is expected to collect $600,000,000 per year, and the yearly number of abortions in the US far exceed the number of handguns sold, a massive 50% tax on abortions would rake in hoards of cash.

In the case of the gun tax, the sponsors say that revenues would be directed to efforts to reduce gun violence or some such nonsense. Once again we can draw a parallel with abortion, and direct the billions collected through our 50% abortion tax on sex education and free condoms and such. How many liberals would be okay with that? Damn few I would guess.

Now, I don’t believe the tax would hold up in court. It’s clear that it is permissible to tax guns and ammunition, but it’s also clear that guns and ammunition can’t be banned. Presumably a tax intended to keep people from acquiring guns is also a no no. Additionally you can’t take a step without hearing how voter ID laws are targeting minorities because they are the most likely demographic to not have ID and not be able to afford to get one*.

In the case of a $350 handgun, the tax would come to $175 alone, which almost certainly prices the poor out of the market and prevents them from exercising a right.

In case after case, the courts have consistently ruled that while the government can charge a fee to get a permit for a demonstration, that fee cannot be so high as to price people out of being able to get a permit. If a precedent were established affirming that the government can tax rights out of existence, or tax the poor out of being able to exercise them, the sky is the limit, prepare for a whole host of things to be taxed into oblivion when the government decides they don’t particularly like a right.

*In most of the states that have moved to require ID in order to cast a vote, the fees that were previously attached to state ID’s were eliminated, making the cost very close to zero.

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The Bill Of Rights & Pre-Existing Rights

2013/08/27 1 comment

Michael, has provided me with an excellent topic in the comments of another post, even though I’m about a month behind in responding. Michael quotes me and says:

One point that I will make is that the Bill of Rights does not create rights, it recognizes preexisting ones

If you extend this argument to the other amendments, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t, then can you please explain how voting at 18 is an inherent right that does not depend upon government? Does it come from God? Nature? Libertarianism?

The post in question regarded the Third Amendment, and so to address the first piece of this post’s title, The Bill of Rights (amendments 1-10) is considered separate for some practical purposes, but really is just the first set of amendments to the Constitution.  It’s like buying a new car and immediately sending it in to the shop to be pimped out, and thusly America was born.

But the burning question is this thing about “pre-existing rights” and where they come from.

Part of the evidence is grammatical with regard to the US Constitution, the Second Amendment gives us one of the best windows through which to look at this idea:

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.

Emphasis mine. It’s not “the people shall have the right”, but “the right of the people”, this gives us an indication that there is an underlying right here, it wasn’t created, it was named, described, studied, observed, perhaps, but just like Darwins Finches, they are not human creations. This, of course, makes perfect sense. Governments are imaginary in the sense that they exist only in the mind, you can’t hold a government, or poke it*, and be thankful for that, because governments poke back.

The Bill of Rights guarantees certain natural rights, it does create some, the right to legal counsel for example, but those are more the exception than the rule. That makes a lot of sense because with no governments there would be no need for legal counsel. I would even go so far as to say that, we don’t actually have a right to counsel, but rather that the government has a constraint placed upon it**. To top it all off the 9th Amendment says:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In case it wasn’t clear enough before not only does the Bill of Rights enumerate, list, rights considered to predate the Constitution, it only lists some, and it specifically references other rights that clearly must also exist outside of the framework of the Constitution since they are not listed within the text.

So where do these rights come from? Well, God. However it isn’t really a religious notion, specifically we are talking about the idea that these rights come from something that preceded governments and, more importantly, supersedes them. God is a fine word for the concept, but one who isn’t religious might say that some rights are part of the very fabric of humanity, or stem from nature itself, not from institutions created by humans.

We have the right to free speech, religion, assembly, self defense*** and so on. We have these rights by virtue of our existence, not because we live in this country or that.

We can argue over whether a particular right is “God-given” or not, but the concept of natural rights is central, not only to the US Government, but also to those of many other countries and also on the international scale when you consider things such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Perhaps what is most significant about the concept is that even if we were to repeal the Bill of Rights, we would retain the rights of free speech and such. For example, if you read or listen to the oral arguments and the decisions in D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago you’ll find that even without the 2nd Amendment that right would be retained in some form.

In the end it’s important to recognize that what are considered to be natural rights can change with time, but the concept does not, and that is vitally important to overall liberty, otherwise we would have no rights, but rather only privileges given on the whims and impulses of the government in question. What the government giveth, the government can taketh away.

*That isn’t to say that the government shouldn’t be small enough to drown in a bathtub.

**It amounts to the same thing. It’s just a way of thinking about it that resolves some of the problems brought to bear if you start proclaiming the existence of positive rights. One doesn’t have a right to a lawyer, the state is required to provide one if it wants to take your life or liberty.

***The Second Amendment recognizes the right of self defense and specifically restricts the extent to which the government may infringe upon it, guaranteeing the right to use arms, for example.

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The Search For ET

2013/07/17 Leave a comment

I follow the Mars rovers and the other poking sticks we send out into space pretty closely, primarily because the idea of finding extraterrestrial life, or evidence of it in the past, is pretty exciting. With that said, part of me wishes we would stop doing it, something I’ll get to in a minute.

I would like to see us doing more things just for the hell of it, and I think that our movement towards principally science missions is part of the reason that science education has to some extent gone down the tube. It sounds like a contradiction, and it very well might be. My reasoning is that a lot of this stuff is boring. Consider why we went to the Moon…

We went to get some samples, set up some experiments, sure, but mostly we went there to beat the damned Russians, the rest of that stuff was secondary in importance. We would have gone even if we couldn’t have taken so much as a disposable camera. Yet, the space race and the public interest that went with it touched off massive interest in science and technology. I think its something like a mouse trap. You can build the best mouse trap ever, but if you don’t put bait in there, you aren’t going to trap many mice.

Lets go back to the Moon. Lets go to an asteroid. Lets send up mini space telescopes that the public, schools, etc, can play with. You set out the bait, and you’ll catch mice. When they recently drilled into a Mars rock and found the inside to be grey (not oxidized) that was cool, they found many of the ingredients inside that pointed to a much more habitable planet in the past, but not life, just a world that could have maybe harbored it. Frankly, that’s pretty boring stuff. It’s certainly bait, but it’s bait for scientists and those with some interest to begin with. We need something more exciting to lure in those people that need catching, not those who are already caught.

I said that I wish we would stop looking for ET, not because it’s not an exciting prospect, but because I couldn’t find my wallet this morning. I checked all my pants pockets, the washer, dryer, my car, backpacks, the driveway, my dogs bed, my shoes, my bed, the refrigerator, the freezer, the microwave, my business, even the garbage. I eventually found it, in the cargo pocket of the shorts I was wearing.

That last part, where I found it, isn’t relevant, but we are looking for a our “wallet” in a place with practically infinite pairs of pants, cars and driveways, most of which we will never under any circumstances even be able to search. Simply put, we are spending a lot of time and resources looking for something we are quite frankly very unlikely to ever find, even though we are all but certain it is out there somewhere.

Search for life, send robots, send space probes, do all of that, but put it a little lower down the priority list. If we could capture once again the excitement of the 60’s and 70’s, it would be an investment that would keep public interest high enough not only to increase interest and support for pure science missions, but also keep people from looking at multi-billion dollar robots that to laymen are pretty much just a power drill with an easy bake oven strapped to a RC car, and asking, “why?”

I don’t have all the answers, and maybe I’m totally wrong, but discovery is captivating, the journey is often several orders of magnitude less so.

Columbus discovering the new world! Wow! Exciting! We don’t hear much about the spoiled food, the illness, the injuries, the near mutiny, the burials at sea, stagnant bilge water, excrement covered lower decks, sailors hanging their asses over the side of a pitching and rolling ship to… well you get the idea. The Victorians filled that depressing void by asserting that his crew, and everyone else, thought the world was flat, they were worried about falling off the edge! AHHH! Exciting! The only thing is, it was never a really widespread idea, this flat Earth. St. Augustine wrote all about the Earth being round, as did many others before and after him. It’s a much more exciting story than that of sailors squatting over the side of the ships and having that which they expelled catch back up to them and the ship bobbed up and down.

You catch mice with cheese, but you catch people with combination of bitchin’ and awesome.

But maybe I’m wrong. All I know for sure is that we are spending more on education then ever before, and we are getting less and less education the more we spend.

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Zimmerman v. State of Florida

2013/07/15 Leave a comment

There are some extremists on both sides of course, I would also say that the bulk of them think Zimmerman should be in jail. Don’t read into that very much, I don’t think it says anything about blacks or any other division that could be made, Martin is dead and that obviously and understandably coaxes more excitement out of people when you have a hazy case like this.

I’m not in either camp, I’m in the middle, which might seem surprising if you know me, but it isn’t.

I don’t think that Zimmerman is guilty of anything, but I don’t really think Martin is guilty of anything either. Regardless of your stance, there is no evidence to suggest that Zimmerman acted recklessly, hatefully, or maliciously, if you don’t understand that or refuse to recognize it, you might as well stop reading now and go make a tin foil hat.

In the interest of full disclosure I own multiple guns, I carry a pistol everywhere I am allowed to, and I support allowing people with no history of criminal violence to carry concealed weapons everywhere. Speaking for myself the reason I carry a gun is to kill things if I need to, which should not be as shocking a statement as some believe it is.

Not so long ago, I came upon a car that had hit a deer, the thing was going to die anyway and I had the driver call the game warden back (he was going to be at least 45 minutes) and I told the warden that I had a gun and if he was agreeable I would put the poor beast down, which I did shortly there after. Within the last two years I’ve also shot two raccoons that were almost certainly rabid, being out in the daylight as they were, and while I am not fluent in raccoonish, I understood them to be making threats against me and my dog, and responded in the appropriate way. I write that to make the point that self defense does not only refer to human threats, but it obviously includes other less obvious things.

As far as my background goes, I received extensive training while in the military, and I have a very even disposition, I rarely get excited, never drink to excess, and never do any drugs whatsoever. I know that the people around me are safer for the presence of my gun, unless they intend harm to me or those around me. Most importantly, if I thought I needed a gun for my safety in some location, you wouldn’t find me there, armed or otherwise. I carry everywhere because with a few exceptions, no one has any idea when or where violence will occur, just like my spare tire and jumper cables, if I knew I’d get a flat tire or a dead battery, I wouldn’t plow on just because I can accommodate those things.

Getting back to the Zimmerman case, I have no reason to believe Zimmerman was planning on using his gun for anything other than to keep his pants from riding up. I think he should have stayed in his truck, sure, but I can’t blame him for not doing so, hindsight is always 20/20, and he wasn’t breaking any laws, even if he followed Martin, and I’m not at all sure he did.

In Martins case, he shouldn’t have been cutting through private property, if you are slinking around in the rain and dark, in an area where burglaries have recently been common, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone treats you with suspicion, because your dumb ass is plainly acting suspicious. However, trespassing is generally not a crime until you have been asked to leave or never return. Even if Martin did circle around and approach Zimmerman, and I’m fairly certain he did so, that isn’t a crime either.

So they were both being stupid, and stupidity does not simply add together, it compounds. The laws of nature dictate that 1 stupid + 1 stupid = 3 stupid. We have no idea who started the fight, and I’m not sure that either one of them could actually tell us who started the altercation even if they were both alive today.

What I am absolutely convinced about is that we have no evidence to tell us that any crime was committed, the closest we come to that is Martin being on top, but that doesn’t mean he started it, he may well have been the one defending himself. If I had to choose one or the other, and lay all the blame on that individual, I would say it was Martin, only because the witness with the best view said he was on top. Doesn’t mean he did it, but the strongest (and still pitifully weak) evidence points to that conclusion, even if it isn’t solid enough to win in traffic court.

One idiot lost his life and the other idiots life is completely ruined. No one wins and I doubt either is guilty.

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And Now A Word From Our Vice President, Joe Biden

2013/07/14 3 comments

I’m as sad as everyone else that despite there being little or no evidence indicating the guilt of George Zimmerman, the gun lobby has succeeded in forcing jurors to acquit him. This was clearly a case of racism in action even though there is no evidence to indicate that race played a role. I believe that Zimmerman covered up his racism very well, going so far to spend his time mentoring minority youths for the last few years while he plotted to kill the first black person he saw trespassing, at night, in an area stricken by a spate of burglaries, in a rain storm, while wearing dark clothing with their pockets full of skittles.

I urge people nationwide to be peaceful, but as black people are stereotypically violent, riots are likely. All responsible gun owners should blindly fire several rounds through their front door as a precaution.

What? Zimmerman is a registered democrat? I… uh… we just found out about this trial the same time you did… republicans… uh… sequester cuts… Iraq… Bush did it… shit… this is a big fucking deal…

This was clearly a case of Florida prosecutors acting without evidence and targeting George Zimmerman because he is Hispanic. I won’t be taking questions at this time, but the Justice Department will be looking into whether Florida charged Mr. Zimmerman based on his race. Jay Carney will be holding a press conference on the matter later today, just as soon as he finishes up using  a ouija board to determine the facts and will take any questions you have at that time.

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Third Amendment

2013/07/08 3 comments

I’m not 100% sure of what to make of this story.

The family is alleging that the police forced them from their house in order for the police to use it for surveillance purposes, at one point using force to gain control of the premises, which is awful, but boring. What makes this interesting is that the suit is being brought, at least in part, under the third amendment, the one that prohibits the involuntary quartering of soldiers in private homes during peace or war.

One has to imagine that lawyers everywhere salivate over the idea of being able to be the first to argue and prevail on a point of law.

Now, on the one hand, it seems more of a search and seizure (the fourth amendment), or perhaps more likely an eminent domain (the fifth amendment), issue. However, on the other hand, the police are to a large extent soldiers in that they perform many of the duties that the government would have used soldiers to do 200+ years ago.

One point that I will make is that the Bill of Rights does not create rights, it recognizes preexisting ones, so even the repeal of any of the first 10 amendments would, at least in theory, change little case law. The Bill of Rights also makes it clear that the list of rights is not complete, and that other rights exist, thus many rulings hinge on the underlying ideas and concepts of the recognized rights, in this case privacy in the home* might be the issue and that may indeed be something the court will find underlays the third amendment.

I have no idea what to think of this, and no idea what will happen as a result. If I had to choose an outcome, I don’t think they will win based on the third amendment, I think they will succeed in some way, just not under that part of the Bill of Rights.

But I do like shiny new things, including legal arguments, so I’ll hold out hope, as forlorn as that hope is like to be.

*Privacy in the home in instances where the occupants or owners are not being charged with or investigated for a crime, where no property seizure for evidence or other proof of wrong doing, as such, is taking place, and where the partial use of the home is being retained. In that case, even if police are not considered soldiers in any sense, the third amendment may still offer some protection because of the light it sheds on the rights not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights.

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Treason Or Not Treason?

2013/06/11 Leave a comment

We have yet another scandal floating around out in the aether, this time regarding the NSA. I’m not giving out a link, if you don’t know about it already, don’t bother reading the rest of this, because you are almost certainly don’t have a pulse, and I’m sure there are better things to be doing in the afterlife than discovering my opinions. (Especially true if you actually get 72 virgins.)

We have a guy, Snowden is his name, who apparently leaked the story about the NSA’s data mining operation, and they are now talking about bringing him up on criminal charges. I want to contrast him, based on what we know right now, with Bradley Manning, who is also up on similar charges because of his release of countless privileged documents.

In Manning’s case, he just leaked everything he could get his hands on, and so I do think that is treason. One of the key reasons he seems to have done this was a video (most of the details escape me) that showed civilians being killed by a US military helicopter, from the choppers FLIR system. If he had released just that, I wouldn’t be calling him a traitor. I think those who ‘blow the whistle’ on illegal activities, both private and government, should be protected.

Now, there is some debate about whether these civilians were knowingly killed, or whether it was a case of mistaken identity, or some other kind of mistake. If it was a mistake, it’s still bad, but it’s not criminal. Procedures and the ROE might be at fault, but civilians suffer and die in war, that’s just the way it is. I don’t like it, but I don’t like mayonnaise either, and sometimes it still gets put on my hamburgers. It’s the same type of thing, no one meant to do it, there are ways to avoid it in the future, but it’s still an unavoidable part of the burger making process.

But Manning didn’t so much blow a whistle as he did throw the baby out with the bath water, he had no idea what it was re was releasing, didn’t even try to figure it out.

It may be the case that this guy who leaked the info about the NSA program, has done something similar, but all indications at this point seem to be that he just blew the whistle on illegal government activities. So based on what we know now, I don’t think we can call it treason, and I don’t think he should be charged with any other crimes. From my point of view, it seems similar to a situation where a robber breaks into a house, trips on a foot stool, and sues the homeowner.

I contend that the is the scenario we are looking at. The government has broken into our home, tripped over a foot stool, and broke it’s leg, now it’s blaming someone else and ignoring the fact that it happened during the commission of a crime.

It may turn out that this man is a traitor, maybe he should be led to the gallows, we just don’t know at this point, but if nothing new comes to light, I can’t agree that he is a traitor.

Update: Snowden’s story seems to be unraveling a bit, so the truth may not be as clear cut as it has appeared thus far.

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Finally Some Real Progress

2013/06/09 Leave a comment

I’m not entirely sure that American Atheists have made any changes to their tactics, but I saw a smattering of stories today that show they are much more in line with my views on freedom of religion than I have perceived them to be in the past, at least in these cases.

The first one is this essay/article. (Please note that you can make a donation to the effort, and I am happy to inform you that I just did so.) In case you aren’t inclined to click, the basic idea is that they feel, not so much that religious groups are favored by the tax code, but that secular groups are penalized, and I couldn’t agree more. I feel that groups like American Atheists should be treated as religious organizations and be entitled to the same hands off approach to the exercise of religious beliefs (specifically the complete lack thereof) the government affords churches. In fact, I don’t think the government should charge any applicants a fee. They ask that all nonprofit organizations be treated the same.

What I usually see atheists demanding is that churches be taxed, so I’m glad to see a different approach here. The power to tax is the power to destroy, and I think that having churches and secular groups be tax exempt furthers the separation of church and state, rather than closing the gap*.

The second story is that rather than try to have a monument to the 10 Commandments removed in front of a Florida courthouse, they demanded to be allowed to add their own. I’ve always been appalled in cases where the plaintiffs contend that religious freedom means no religion in the public square, rather than no favoritism. It often seems like they are trying to say that we have freedom of non-religious speech only. I’m not as inline with their comments on this one, but I love the outcome. In fairness, the president of American Atheists said just what I loath:

The monument emphasizes the role secularism has played in American history, and the Bible quotes make it clear that the Ten Commandments are not the ‘great moral code’ they’re often portrayed to be. Don’t kill, don’t steal? Of course. But worship only the Judeo-Christian god? That conflicts overtly with the very first right in the Bill of Rights, freedom of religion.

No it doesn’t Dave, your comments conflict with the very first right in the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, government is prohibited from establishing a religion or prohibiting it’s free exercise, which I have always thought is pretty clear. He seems to be of a mind that that means religious speech is not protected. Ken Lukin, American Atheists Regional Operations Director, is roughly on the same page I am:

When it comes to government and religion, there are only two ways to show equality: all or none, I am glad that Bradford County has chosen to show equality and will be a great example for other cities in Florida and the United States.

I would argue that the First Amendment prohibits the ‘none’ part of his quote. They cannot establish a state religion or favor one over another, but neither can they prohibit speech and expression based on it’s religious nature. There is no sense in the common assertion that less is more. Remove the monument? No, no, add other monuments that add to the discussion, don’t remove them to quash it. The Community Men’s Fellowship (whatever that is. Don’t know, don’t care) made their own statement, also declaring the matter a victory, not for them, but for everyone:

We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free speech issue, so don’t be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument. It’s their right.

I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully this is the tack that American Atheists will use in other lawsuits, they could save us all some money, time, and strife, and just endeavor to restrict their lawsuits to actual church/state separation issues, not issues of where government has permitted free speech of a religious nature, and not endorsed or banned others from also expressing their ideas and beliefs. I think Bradford County is on to something by declaring a “free speech forum” where monuments could be erected at private expense. It doesn’t try to limit free speech, it seeks to provide an area in which to concentrate free speech, a place where it’s sure to bump against other speech. It’s basic chemistry, which I would expect most atheists to realize, mix some chemicals together, apply heat, and study the reaction. All to often we have people on both sides of the issue who think we can learn more by preventing reactions, instead of facilitating them. Go figure.

UPDATE: The monument is now installed. I want to say again how refreshing this is, instead of trying to prohibit religious speech (because it’s somehow distinct from other speech) in the public forum, we now have more speech, not less.

There are no constitutional problems with groups erecting a cross memorial on public property unless other groups are prohibited from doing the same. Having said that, those groups should be accountable for maintaining such monuments, when the American Atheists bench starts to disintegrate it needs to be on them to fix it, remove it, or replace it.

There are actually a range of circumstances where other groups could be prohibited, one possibility is when there is a lack of space, in which case these types of things should be for a limited time frame. Another possibility is using a lottery system to allocate spaces. there are tons of options that would maximize speech of all types instead of eliminating or minimizing certain classes of speech.

*Having nonprofit status requires that organizations, religious or otherwise, not endorse or support candidates, but limit themselves to issues only, among other political involvement restrictions. They get to be free from the heavy, and destructive, hand of taxation and church and state become as minimally interdependent upon each other as we reasonably can manage.

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The Boston Bombings Didn’t Scare Me…

2013/06/07 1 comment

I think we know enough now, and it’s been long enough, to stand back a little and consider what the most terrifying part of the entire ordeal was. I can only speak for myself, but for me, it wasn’t the bombings, it was the aftermath.

Have a look at this video:

There are a  few things I’ll get out of the way first. Notice the weapons they are carrying. While it’s hard to tell from appearances alone, they were either M-4’s or AR-15’s, I would guess the latter. Haven’t we been exposed to endless emotional screeds about how these weapons don’t belong on our streets? How many times has some ignorant political opportunist told us that these weapons have one purpose, to “kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible”? Now if you do know about these weapons, you know that they are no different in function and capability than other semi-auto rifles, and they are not designed to kill with extreme efficiency. The police carry them for the same reason civilians like them, they are light, adaptable, all weather (wooden stocks change with temperature and humidity), modular, easy to repair, reliable, and so on. They are the multitool of guns, and just like multitools, they are not really the best thing for all circumstances, they simply provide the best performance across a number of situations. If you really need a good pair of pliers, you go to your tool box, if you just need a pair for general use, you grab your leatherman.

So it isn’t the weapons that I am concerned about.

I started out saying that the bombings didn’t scare me, what scared me was the police going door to door in force, in some cases harassing homeowners (not often, just in a few cases), and generally instilling terror in the population. In some instances, they happily tromped around on private property without permission or articulable suspicion, to say nothing about reasonable cause, and I’m still not sure why police departments feel like they need what are essentially tanks (I know they can be useful, but they are expensive, and having very limited usefulness, they seem like an awful waste of tax money).

I’m not sure what else they should have done, I don’t claim to have answers there, but I do know that the idea of the police rolling around the streets in force, yelling at people to get off their porches and go inside, not permitting people to move about freely, all those things make me uneasy. We have seen the ever increasing militarization of the police force, and I’m not saying that is a bad thing by itself, but crime has been plummeting for a couple decades, and as far as I can tell, the cause is no more related to this militarization than it is to increasing rates of gun ownership, the proliferation of concealed carry and the general loosening of gun laws we have seen over that same period. There is correlation between falling crime rates and all of those things, but not much causation to be found.

The police serve a purpose, but lets remember one very important and oft overlooked thing: the military is prohibited from being used for law enforcement purposes. There is a reason for that, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to let our police forces use the same tactics that the military does. The weapons are not the issue, there are no functional differences that matter, the issue is tactics. If we are going to have the police operate the same way as the army, why are we paying for both? We might as well just do the thing properly and save a bunch of money in the process, I can’t see spending more than we absolutely have to if we are going give up the protections we have against oppressive government, protections that were bought and paid for with the lives, blood, and injury, of countless men and women over the past two centuries.

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