Archive for April, 2014

Federal police

One phenomena that illustrates the slowly encroaching erosion of established practice started with the FBI. The Bundy case illustrated a new highlight and some are starting to notice. The Washington Times reports Utah lawmaker moves to disarm BLM, IRS, says ‘They’re not paramilitary units’.

Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, concerned about the armed agents that surrounded Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s property, introduced a bill to cut funding for any “paramilitary units” that work for the Bureau of Land Management, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal regulatory agencies.

“There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team,” he said on the House floor on Tuesday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. “They’re regulatory agencies. They’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us.”

The preference for local policing with the federal government only being involved with military outside the borders is a long standing tradition going to the Bill of Rights items about housing soldiers. These days, it seems every federal agency thinks it needs its own SWAT team and LEO qualified personnel. There are reasons to worry.

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Grand conclusions from small islands

Michael Barone says Thomas Piketty wants income equality — and the hell with growth and notes a common tactic of those on the left.

“Like global warming alarmists, he extrapolates from abstract theory and a few years’ trendlines out a century forward — and presents the results as inevitable.

He also presents them as justifying the confiscation, more or less, of wealth accumulated by private individuals and putting it in the hands of mandarins guided by their supposedly superior sensitivity to public welfare.

People that build things, create things, make things cheaper and better — these are the targets of Piketty and others of his ilk (and, it appears, the Pope as well).

The U.S. stands as an example of just what you can do for the poor if government will stand back and let people build and create and improve. Sadly, the modern trend seems to be to harass, inhibit, and punish this sort of effort. The rationale, as Barone illustrates, is often dishonest in that it takes a small island and creates a grand conclusion with much hubris but very little base.

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Burning Man does an about face

“Money is not Bundy’s point. Pleasing Harry Reid or the federal bureaucracy is not either. Making a living from the scrub of a desert by providing people good food probably is.

“Grant him that. He’s our past, Harry Reid and the bunch in Washington our future. To paraphrase the ancients, sometimes we’d rather be wrong with Cliven Bundy than right with Harry Reid — and the SWAT teams that will revisit Mr. Bundy and his clan very, very soon to enforce a dispute over grazing fees and insensitivity to a tortoise.”

Victor Davis Hanson on Civilian Bundy and The Rural Way

But it seems that Bundy has got a Burning Man organizer miffed (Washington Times). It seems they pay The Man so why shouldn’t Bundy? It does seem rather strange. Burning Man is about individual freedom and sticking it to the powers that try to control, a.k.a. The Man, you know, the one they burn. In this case, though, they side with The Man and go after the individual.

Burning Man charges its participants to pay whatever fees the government decides to charge along with other costs and whatever is needed to make an appropriate profit. The fee is to allow them use of a BLM playa for a week or so. As they’ve done before, they can change venue if the fees become too onerous or the government sets unreasonable conditions or whatnot. Burning Man organizers are more interested in keeping participants coming – and paying the fare – than they are in the land. The land and the nearby communities and the various governmental agencies fall into the category of ideological niceties or necessary nuisances.

Bundy is in a bit different situation. His ranch is a homestead which the government deeded to him with certain rights on nearby resources in exchange for developing the land as a productive ranch. His livelihood depends upon effective and proper stewardship of that land. He can’t just up and go somewhere else – he’s lost 52 neighbors who have been forced out and had to find other careers. When the government goes rogue, or some folks like the Burning Man organizer target him, he is backed into a corner.

It is a typical disingenuous tactic of the left, though: Ignore the issues and ramifications and instead find a nitpick to pound incessantly. The nitpick here is that Bundy is a lawbreaker. The issues and ramifications have to deal with armed forces trying to enforce a civil matter, governmental overreach, regulatory harassment, potential governmental corruption and collusion, proper land use, historical precedence, state’s rights over lands within their boundaries,  and governmental enforcement priorities.

I wonder what the Burning Man organizers would think if Federal, State, and county enforcement showed up en-masse in full SWAT gear to take a sweep of their event to arrest any and all lawbreakers. How many vehicles are not equipped properly or properly licensed and registered? Drugs? Public displays of nudity? Child porn? Polluting the playa or otherwise not following the letter of the use permit? Attendees with outstanding criminal warrants? Foreigners with improper paperwork? Vagrancy? Fires and hazardous materials? Electrical and construction code violations?– It’d be quite a project to cull all the laws and regulations to find all the offenses that could be cited. Handcuffs, guns, tazers, police bullying, and other tactics as seen at the Bundy ranch would probably not make for happy campers.

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Jumping the shark at the Bay of Pigs?

There is an interesting juxtaposition in commentaries this morning.

John Fund wonders about The United States of SWAT? where “Military-style units from government agencies are wreaking havoc on non-violent citizens.”

“The proliferation of paramilitary federal SWAT teams inevitably brings abuses that have nothing to do with either drugs or terrorism. Many of the raids they conduct are against harmless, often innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.”

Then Humberto Fontova takes look at the history of the Bay of Pigs assault that happened 53 years ago.

“Where are the planes?” kept crackling over U.S. Navy radios two days later. “Where is our ammo? Send planes or we can’t last!” Commander Jose San Roman kept pleading to the very fleet that escorted his men to the beachhead (and sat much closer to them than the Sixth Fleet sits to the Libyan coast today). Crazed by hunger and thirst, his men had been shooting and reloading without sleep for three days. Many were hallucinating. By then many suspected they’d been abandoned by the Knights of Camelot.

The Cuban effort marks a point where the heart for winning went out of U.S. efforts for freedom and liberty. The militarization of the police illustrates a building of heart in political leaders for the suppression and intimidation of citizens.

In Cuba, as in Vietnam, as in Iraq, as in Syria, and as in many other places in the modern era, The president tells his forces they can’t be involved and must let those fighting for their freedom die from lack of support. But, let the opposition be one of the President’s citizens who owes a fee and it’s no holds barred to use paramilitary forces to quell that opposition.

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution’s Third Amendment, against the quartering of troops in private homes, was part of an overall reaction against the excesses of Britain’s colonial law enforcement. “It wasn’t the stationing of British troops in the colonies that irked patriots in Boston and Virginia,” Balko writes. “It was England’s decision to use the troops for everyday law enforcement.”

Just how far down this road we will go is the question.

Worried, yet?

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Terrifying: Just how far does this go?

Bryan Preston describes The Terrifying Implications of the IRS Abuse-DOJ Connection. It appears Judicial Watch finally got some traction on an FOIA request and the results are indeed terrifying.

“Lois Lerner intended to use her position atop the IRS’ tax exempt approval office to coordinate the prosecution of political speech. The Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder had at least tentatively bought into that. The Federal Elections Commission was being roped in as well. Lerner’s emails prove that beyond doubt.”

Complaining about others who express their views is one thing. Attempting to suppress such expression via laws such as campaign finance restrictions is another. A rogue government employee using the color of office to harass free speech raises the stakes. But now it becoming rather clear that is has been raised from a rogue individual to an agency to multiple agencies to political party leaders. That escalation of involvement and collusion in the effort is indeed terrifying.

Preston describes a well established tactic: select a target to set an example and then use that example to get the rest in line. 

Now, take that effort to go after nonprofit organizations and think about the southern Nevada Rancher episode. The feds spent millions to go after an individual delinquent in government payment of thousands and used paramilitary operations to do it. In the process, they trashed personal property and showed contempt and incompetence for the lifestyle and craft of the rancher in honoring the land.

worried, yet?

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The false delimma

One of the rationales used to excuse the BLM in the Bundy case is provided by Walter Olson On the Bundy Ranch confrontation quoting Tom Frank. “I hate to see how many on my side who are upset at Obama’s violation of the Rule of Law cheer the Bundys’ criminal contempt of a court order.” The article links to a Breitbart Big Government story that provides a rundown on the legal history. The non-legal, non-conspiratorial background needs Dana Loesch’s view on The Real Story Behind The Bundy Ranch Harassment for balance on the larger picture.

The rationale in the dilemma depends upon the fact that officers in the executive branch (e.g. president, attorney general) take an oath to faithfully enforce the law. A citizen’s role is not so explicit but rather an implicit responsibility to follow and honor the law. To try to hold Bundy to the same status as Obama in regards to the law is a dishonest comparison. The fact that Obama and his party are not setting a very good example in regards to following may make no excuse for others but it also doesn’t set a standard.

There are many issues in the Bundy case that tend towards an interpretation of appropriate civil disobedience rather than criminal lawbreaking. One is in the area of government taking and the property rights of the individual. That goes deep in this case involving homesteading of western lands, water rights, and urban development. It is the property rights issue that has lead to conspiracy theories regarding the Senate majority leader, Chinese interests, and corruption.

The excessive and irrational regulation issue is a factor here as well. One of the primary rationales used by the government for action against Bundy was in regards to an endangered species. That rationale falls flat on several fronts. Cattle and the endangered species have co-existed at the Bundy ranch for generations. The BLM itself is assassinating thousands of members of that species as their recovery facility has been closed. ‘Green’ projects that do have disastrous impact on the species’ habitat have been approved. All of these facts indicate a problem with the government’s basic rational for a taking.

Other issues involve state control and ownership over lands within their borders and appropriate response of law enforcement. The courts have not done themselves proud, either. They have allowed the government’s case to stand despite history, irrational rationale, and competing interests. One cannot also ignore the fact that the Bundy case is not one that appeals to the left which means media inspection and evaluation is rather lacking and poor.

Civil disobedience has an honored history with many ugly spots. The citizens who arrived from all over the U.S. to support Bundy indicate that something is not right with government in this case. That indication tells the rest of us that we need to pay attention and take a look beyond the shallow ‘didn’t pay the rent so is a criminal’ argument to fully understand what our government is doing and whether that is the sort of thing it should be doing – to Bundy or to each of us. 

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The frog is boiling – and it appears he may be noticing

There is that old story about selling something unpleasant using an analogy about how to boil a frog: set the frog in cool water and raise the heat gradually so he won’t notice until it’s too late. The same idea seems to be underway when it comes to oppressive government. There are some indications, though, that the frog isn’t too happy.

First up is Alan Prendergast on You don’t want to go there, okay?. The AG is showing everyone just what the government, at least the executive branch, thinks of itself.

“Eric Holder – “You don’t want to go there buddy”.

That covers it doesn’t it? A nice summary of the attitude of this administration acting like ‘gentlemen’ from Chicago. Covers 6 years really. Budgets, Fast and Furious, Gun control (but, as Mr. Twain observed, I repeat myself, and so will they), Benghazi, IRS Scandal, Obamacare and “If you like your health plan…”, Government spying, Immigration.”

“Don’t go there buddy? That sounds, as they say here in Texas, like fighting words, certainly the prelude to fighting words. So what was that other than the opening of a threat. Why not complete the sentence Eric? “Or…”.”

“He sort of threatens a member of Congress while treating Congress with continued contempt over his contempt of Congress charge; and for flair manages some high dudgeon about it for publicity sake.”

Then there’s the case of the Woman Loses Tax Refund Over 37 Year Old Debt to Social Security. “Marc Fisher of the Washington Post reported this week…” that the IRS is trying to recover decades old disability payments provided to parents of taxpayers by confiscating their withholding.

Finally, the BLM, which is part and parcel of the NFS high handed closing of public lands during the budget brouhaha. In this one, a ranch homesteaded in 1870 was under assault in a typical Nevada land grab story. The immediate predicate was a ‘save the desert tortoise’ effort despite the fact that managed cattle grazing improved tortoise habitat. Underlying issues involve federal land grabs for developers to obtain water rights in southern Nevada and even rumors of a Senator colluding with Chinese special interests to use the land for a solar farm. After going through the courts to get permission, the BLM mounted a small army to roust the rancher from his land. That sparked a protest that caused a traffic jam on nearby Interstate 15. John Hawkings provides a report about how the Bureau of Land Management Thugs Prepare To Flee Conflict With Nevada Rancher.

“What probably happened was that someone on the scene at the BLM sent written communication saying that someone could be hurt. Because it was in writing, they decided to pull out. Unfortunately, because these government thugs ended up with egg on their face, they’ll be twice as determined to destroy Cliven Bundy now. My guess is that they’ll probably try to do it legally. Next thing you know, he’ll be face a dozen charges that could put him in prison, millions in fines and they’ll do everything possible to destroy his business. It’s not as showy, but it’s just as tyrannical because it means there’s always some weasel in DC who can ruin you any time they take a notion.”

The cynicism illustrated here is growing, maybe. The number of people showing up at the Bundy ranch does indicate that perhaps, just perhaps, there is a growing concern about attitudes such as the AG demonstrated towards Congress and the IRS towards common citizens. Fortunately, this time – for now – the conflict is ameliorating – for a while. Back off the heat and hope the frog gets complacent so you can then proceed with the cooking.

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Whooee! what a rant. Maybe some are beginning to notice?

Daniel Greenfield calls it The Paranoid Madness of the Democratic Party. His conclusions:

“Political paranoids are totalitarians… and totalitarians are political paranoids. The Democratic Party has become both. Its paranoid totalitarianism runs on conspiracy theories that justify its abuses of power. It has accepted the left’s classic formula of the conservative political opposition as a reactionary force that is the source of all evils in society.”

“progressive suburbanite is not interested in a close look at his political movement. Instead of giving him something to believe in, his party’s media outlets give him someone to hate. His political identity is shaped not by what he stands for, unsustainable debt and an incoherent foreign policy of platitudes, but by his resistance to the Tea Party hordes who want to put black people back in chains, put women back in the kitchen and put homophobes back in the CEO’s office at the Mozilla Foundation.

“The politics of paranoid hatred is the crutch of mental cripples who protect the source of their dysfunction by projecting it onto phantom enemies.”

“The Democratic Party has been contaminated by the madness of the left through its alliance with the left and the entire country is paying the price.”

As is usually the case with this sort of rant from ‘other than the left’, the column is based on observations of behavior and specific incidences or cases that support his view. Greenfield calls out the common tactic of pulling selected items out of context to distort meaning and then illustrates how selection can be done with intellectual integrity. Confusing this use of example and illustration is important in propaganda where the audience doesn’t want to make the effort to see what is constructive and what is not. All too often, the interpretation is more about what confirms and comforts rather than creates dissonance.

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Contempt and collusion

One of the more frightful things these days is the contempt and collusion amongst the powerful for transparency and accountability. Tammy Bruce describes one example in Eric Holder’s contempt for the American people – Wherever Team Obama is taking the nation, ‘you don’t want to go there’

Many of us are not big fans of Congress, but when the attorney general, while speaking at an official congressional hearing, decides to speak in a manner worthy of a gang leader, we see how serious the problem of an unchecked executive can be.

This was after one of the people who report to Holder was found in contempt of Congress and the minority leader in the committee was shown to be in collusion with IRS misbehavior. It was also after much foot dragging on information requests and other cover-up type antics in regards to the Fast and Furious and Benghazi scandals among others.

What is happening here is that all the foot dragging, obfuscation, perjury, and similar tactics drag the hearings and investigations out. That tenure of the investigation is then being used as proof that there is nothing there and that the committee chair is an incompetent boob (as per Bob Beckel).

In previous scandals of this weight, members of both parties – and the MSM – were after the evidence. Not this time. Again, the fact that the investigation is partisan is being used as an upside down excuse. The party doing the obstruction, the party with members involved in collusion, is using partisanship to condemn the investigation and to cover over transparency and accountability.

Worried, yet?

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Envy and ignorance, insurance, causation vs correlation

Mike takes a look at How Does Wealth Affect Auto Insurance Coverage and Costs? and provides an illustrative example.

“These days, auto insurance companies offer discounts based on your education, profession and wealth. They don’t tell that they give you discounts because you are rich. … Effects of credit score cannot be ignored either.

These revelations may come across as discrimination and many states fought using credit score as a factor in premium calculations. However, the fact is that companies and the studies carried about by some states showed that people with better credit history are less likely to make claims.”

As Mike points out, the discrimination is based on factors that insurance companies have found correlated to their costs. However, discrimination is a bad word these days. There is an ongoing effort to eliminate any form of discrimination. Perhaps one of the better examples of this has been in the housing market. Banks and other lenders were forced to eliminate their traditional methods for discriminating between who was likely to pay back the loan and who wasn’t. The result was the housing crash between 2005 and 2010.

Discrimination, whether in product quality or in business factors, can lead to increased quality, better production and reduced costs, and a growth in wealth … but it also results in winners and losers and that, for some, is morally repugnant. The choice is better wealth and health for all as in the U.S. or what people suffer in places like Cuba and Venezuela. The underlying problem is that some can’t see this reality.

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Police, teachers, and others ‘above’ criticism: what’s changed?

Timothy Birdnow takes a look at The Police and Progressive Law

“Traffic laws were a huge part of the problem; because communities could make money from ridiculous things like 20 mph speed limits or whatnot; they started using the police as a revenue collection agency, and to do that they had to make the police more callous to the people they protect. And, of course, these laws gave the public regular interaction with the legal system, thus prepping them (consciously or not) for ever intrusive laws.”

“Police were intended to SERVE, to come when the need arose. They were not supposed to be our nannies. But as with everything, the Left has perverted their purpose, co-opting them from protection and service to enforcer of their Will. And in doing this the police have grown increasingly despotic.”

Toss in the SWAT squads and their suppression of family pets and so on and you have a real problem brewing.

Then there’s David Post wondering How Many Constitutional Violations Does It Take to Keep Our Planes Safe?

Worried yet?

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Sounding oh so reasonable

Timothy Geigner offers what sounds sensible:

“Climate change is the better term, of course, and the majority of the scientific community firmly believes that there is such a thing as man-made climate change. From there, we could have a discussion about how profound the effects of climate change are, whether they’re actually better or worse, what other contributing factors might be in play in impacting climate, and all the rest, and those would be worthy conversations to have. What we shouldn’t do is try to use the law to silence dissenting opinions, particularly if those opinions come in the form of scientific research.”

But then he goes on to describe how the threat of a lawsuit removed a peer reviewed paper from a journal. See Chilling Effects: Climate Change Deniers Have Scientific Paper Disappeared.

“In other words, a study that was judged by peers to be scientifically sound, has been disappeared over the murky threats of possible legal action. Let that sink in for a moment: science is undone because some people didn’t like it.”

What is completely missing from his reality is the fact that it the climate alarmists who are using lawsuits to squash the debate, not the “deniers” that he impugns. This delusion can also be seen when he asserts:

“Look, if you’re a climate change denier, that’s cool. I don’t agree with you, but feel free to write up your own research, publish any compelling information you can come up with, and all the rest. Consensus is never something I’ve been much interested in; I’d rather have multiple ideas to choose from and study. And, hey, if you think we never landed on the moon, Hitler was actually fighting the lizard-people now running world government, and 9/11 was all a holographic light-show designed to allow George Bush to fulfill his childhood dream of landing on an aircraft carrier in a flightsuit, have at it. I want you to let me know you believe in that stuff, because that’s how I’ll know to keep my future children away from you.”

The simple fact of using the term “denier” for his straw man illustrates the dishonesty. There may be a few fanatics who do deny that the climate changes and that humans have some impact on climate, but they don’t drive the debate. That debate is between alarmists and skeptics. Geigner would indeed get his desire for a reasonable discussion if he could cease and desist with creating straw men, with the ad hominem, and with the misperceptions that he illustrates in his essay. It is those he impugns that seek to “have a discussion about how profound the effects of climate change are, whether they’re actually better or worse, what other contributing factors might be in play in impacting climate” and are unable to do so because they encounter lawsuits, insults, invective, censure, and worse.

UPDATE: for the perspective from the other side, see My complaint letter regarding the Lewandowsky affair by Anthony Watts on his blog. From other entries on the blog, it sounds like he is the one being accused of a lawsuit such as noted by Geigner. The contrast between what Watts offers and Geigner is something to consider carefully as well.

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Facism, thoughtcrimes, and the rule of the mob

John Hayward with More on donor lists and the Mozilla oppression:

“The intimidation factor will be huge with corporations, who don’t want to suffer through boycotts or corporate character assassinations; the path of least resistance will involve quietly checking the politics of high-profile hires, to make sure they haven’t voted or spoken in a way that might touch off the mob.  Those who seek such high-profile positions will understand that their political credentials must be kept in good order; the exercise of free speech, or providing financial support to certain issues, will be judged far more trouble than it’s worth.

“That’s how fascism works, and while you might be chilled to the bone by reading the previous paragraph, rest assured that Eich’s tormentors are delighted – it describes precisely the environment they wished to create. ”

“you can see why the improper disclosure of donor information is so unnerving to groups that oppose the dominant political culture, and why the IRS’ demands for such information from targeted Tea Party and pro-life groups were so oppressive.  There is every reason to believe Obama levels of corruption will lead such information to pass from the government to activists groups, sooner or later – and even if it’s four years later, as was the case with Brendan Eich’s little Prop 8 donation, damage can still be done.

“Such a level of paranoia is entirely unbecoming a free republic. ”

“Ultimately, the power rests with We The People. …  It is the destiny of free people to vigorously oppose totalitarianism, even when – no, especially when – the totalitarians hold a position on some issue that we personally agree with.  The method is the enemy, not its professed objectives.”

Also see Sally Zelikovsky on Brendan Eich and the new American totalitarian state.

“in the end, his personal liberties, reasonableness,  and competence couldn’t survive the pitch forks and threats.” … “This isn’t new:  we have seen it take place on a national level with Chick-fil-A.” … “This is NOT about Prop 8, gay marriage and religion.  That is just the context in which this latest abuse has come to be.  It is about the freedom — in your personal life — to believe as you do, support the candidates and issues you want, and to be left in peace to do so without fear of recrimination at the place where you make your livelihood.”

And then, see how all this fits with Professor Hanson’s One California for me, another for thee.

“Professing that you are progressive can be wise California politics. It means you sound too caring ever to do bad things, while the costly consequences of your ideology usually fall on someone else. And that someone is usually less hip, less wealthy and less powerful.”

There was a book written about how the state controlled thoughtcrimes not all that long ago. It was considered science fiction and fantasy just a generation or two ago. Perhaps it is another example of fiction and fantasy becoming fact — worried, yet?

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How sick it is

Matthew Garret illustrates just how bad it gets in a discussion about Mozilla and Leadership:

“A CEO who’s donated money to strip rights[4] from a set of humans will not be trusted by many who believe that all humans should have those rights. It’s not just limited to individuals directly affected by his actions – if someone’s shown that they’re willing to strip rights from another minority for political or religious reasons, what’s to stop them attempting to do the same to you? Even if you personally feel safe, do you trust someone who’s willing to do that to your friends? In a community that’s made up of many who are either LGBT or identify themselves as allies, that loss of trust is inevitably going to cause community discomfort.”

There is the a priori assumption that a belief in traditional marriage strips the rights of a “set of humans.” That assumption leads to the idea that it is one’s opinions that creates trust in a community, not one’s behavior. Then there is the elevation of ‘community comfort’ as superior to an individual’s views. Behind all of this is that it is not behavior that is at issue but rather feelings and emotions.

Basically, what Garrett is saying is that you can only trust someone who believes the same as you and that anyone who disagrees with you is untrustworthy and can be accused of causing social discord as a means to ostracize them (or worse). This is much the same idea as in the SCOTUS minority position by Breyer in regards to campaign finance (re Volokh Conspiracy). It is that freedom and liberty in speech only exist so as to serve the community, not to protect the individual. How that ‘serve the community’ is defined is the question and Garrett is providing an answer for how he thinks it should be defined.

worried, yet?

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Silence! (or else)

“This sort of totalitarianism is not unique to the gay marriage issue. Global warming hysterics are now arguing that those who disagree with them should be imprisoned. Seriously; even though it is the realists, not the alarmists, who win all the arguments. When you can’t win the argument, what do you do? Throw your opponent in jail, or get him fired. Liberals have no intention of living in a pluralistic society. They want to wipe you out, or at a minimum force you underground. And if you don’t fight back, they will succeed, just as they did with Brendan Eich.”

John Hinderaker says it is Today’s most ominous news story. One CEO hounded out of employment due to politcal views. 

If you think this is ominous, then look at the logic of the minority in the recent SCOTUS decision regarding campaign finance limitations and free speech.

worried, yet?

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