Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Cities are Falling

The city of Maywood, CA, recently shut down their police department and outsourced all services. This is because their police department was so corrupt that the city could no longer afford the insurance necessary to guard against lawsuits. They outsourced their police protection to the city of Bell, CA.

The city of Bell, CA, was the next city in the news. It was discovered by the Los Angeles Times that City Manager Robert Rizzo was making $787,637 per year, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia was making $376,288, and Police Chief Randy Adams was making $457,000. The city has a population of 36,664 and a median income of $29,946, well below the state average.

For two weeks in a row, there has been overflow attendance at city council meetings. The first time the council immediately recessed for seven hours, not resuming business until after midnight. The second time the council reconvened earlier to meet the demands of their citizens. When the citizens of Bell demanded the resignation of the whole council, the response was that the mayor offered to work the rest of his term for no pay and the rest of the council offered to work at one-tenth their prior pay.

As it was members of the police department who allegedly tipped off the Los Angeles Times regarding the pay issue, it was thought that the city council was going to disband their police force in retaliation at that second meeting and turn security over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It was even reported by John and Ken that there was an agreement between Police Chief Adams and Sheriff Baca that ensured the Sheriff’s Department would not hire any of the displaced police. So far the department is still intact, although the threat of retribution is still very real.

On Monday, July 26, State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued a subpoena for all city records, giving the city officials 48 hours to comply. It is doubtful that in any case not involving government officials he would announce that the culprits have 48 hours to destroy all evidence. Eventually a police raid did occur, not led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or any state enforcement agency, but by Police Chief Adams who was barred from his own office.

There is obviously a lot of corruption in the city of Bell, just as there is in the city of Maywood. The mood in Bell was extremely bitter to the point where city councilmen desired police protection to simply get from their cars to the city council meeting.

These are just current events. It was California that also hosted the first city to go bankrupt as a result of the Greater Depression, the city of Vallejo. Across the state of California, and across much of the nation as well, cities are being hit hard.

Listening to John and Ken report on it, one thing became clear: the people are angrier than ever. In spite of efforts to force the Tea Party movement into picking a side and only one side, keeping the greater freedom movement divided, the people as a whole are angrier than ever before. Had it been announced that the crowd had turned violent, it would not have been surprising to any listener.

Many people are starting to see a definite possibility of a second American Revolution, probably more similar to The French Revolution than the first American Revolution. As each new scandal of each new city hits the news, each scandal worse than the one before, it gives reason to ponder if that revolution could be sparked by a particularly corrupt city and a riot that gets out of control.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Overused Tactic

If an average American were accused of being a Tory, he’d probably shrug his shoulders and consider it a silly thing to say. During the American Revolution, however, it was a potent insult. Call him a Papist and he’ll understand that it refers to Catholicism, but will find it an odd way of putting it. If called a Communist most would find it funny, although that does still retain some sting.

The truth is that labels meant to be insults do lose their power over time. Sometimes the issue ages out, such as when calling someone a Tory. Sometimes the label looses effect due to overuse, such as when calling someone a Racist.

It has come to the point where the term "racist" has become so completely overused that it is losing its impact. There was a time when a person so accused would take great offense and spend much time demonstrating a lack of racist tendencies. The typical response now is to sigh and accuse the other person of making the accusation due to having run out of actual arguments.

The reason it was overused is because the person making the accusation typically did resort to it due to having run out of actual arguments. Now an outside observer, hearing a progressive refer to someone else as a racist, hears "he's saying that guy isn't a progressive."

That is what happened when the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, called out the Tea Party movement as racist. It was such an obviously cynical and transparent ploy that it takes a determined effort to believe that there is any legitimacy to the claim.

He was called out on it a cynical and sarcastic response by Mark Williams of Tea Party Express. While the Tea Party Express is one of the groups trying to co-opt the Tea Party movement with false promises of "enemy of my enemy" and "lesser of two evils", in this instance Mr. Williams was right. He compared the NAACP to slaves rejecting an offer of freedom.

For that he was pilloried in the media as racist. While the National Tea Party Federation did expel him, the wider reaction was interesting. Most progressives worked hard to convince themselves that the letter was itself racist. Everyone else yawned.

While it is good that those who dare to oppose progressive are no longer afraid of the charge, the unfortunate effect about the diminished meaning of the word "racism" is that it enables the few real racists to defend themselves with "he called me that because I’m not progressive enough."

Once again, a useful word has been destroyed by progressives. First the word "liberal" was taken to mean the reverse of what it originally meant and now "racist" has come to mean nothing at all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tea Party Protest History

The first of the modern Tea Party protests took place in 2007. It was a combined event, both a protest against the excessive spending of George W. Bush and a campaign event of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Throughout 2008 more of these combined events occurred.

This is important to remember, because while the current state of the Tea Party movement is such to cause many libertarians and other freedom lovers to be a little cautious of the current Tea Party protests, especially those that emphasize the pseudo-patriotism of the current military misadventures in the Middle East, especially the Tea Party Express AstroTurf movement, the history is still noble.

Currently progressive and liberal critics of the Tea Party movement like to ask the question where the protesters were before February 2009. This is asked in order to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the protesters by highlighting how they didn’t protest spending under Bush. This allegedly shows that the protests aren’t based on spending but either on partisanship or on alleged (but never proven) racism.

It is true that after the election many people joined the movement who were not in it previously. It is true that many of these late-comers could have their concern described as partisan instead of fiscal, but certainly not all of them. The same can be said about the reduced attendance in anti-war protests since January 2009.

The history of the Tea Party protests is also forgotten by members of the Republican Party trying to absorb the Tea Party protests with false promises of “enemy of my enemy” and “lesser of two evils” who do not want to recall the true origin of the protests. To acknowledge where the protests came from is to acknowledge the dirty secret of Republican fiscal irresponsibility and to lose the audience they wish to capture.

History is inconvenient, and thus forgotten.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fascism with Free Speech

One of the most difficult challenges people face in convincing people that the United States is far from free is that, for the most part, people still have a considerable amount of the right to free speech as allegedly protected by the first amendment.

There have not been any incidents to truly rival the White Rose Resistance Movement of Nazi Germany, in which the six people who were handing out pamphlets criticizing the government were executed. It is true that compared to Nazi Germany, Americans have pretty impressive free speech rights. Anybody can start a blog, or post to any internet forum, and criticize the leadership of the United States. There is no crime in saying that George W. Bush and Barack Obama are incompetent, idiotic, despotic psychopaths.

But doing so has no impact.

Sometimes internet activity can have an impact. In the case of Michael Nifong, William Anderson’s relentless blogging, combined with the defendants having the resources to defend themselves, not only led to the case being dismissed but to Nifong being disbarred, losing his job, and spending an entire day in jail. It was clear that the trial of Nifong had the entire court staff mystified because it was a prosecutor being put on trial for prosecutorial conduct. But that was an isolated case. Libertarians commenting on the case tried repeatedly to branch the discussion from this particular example to the behavior of the legal system in the United States and the behavior of prosecutors, only to have the audience disappear every time. While this particular case was impacted, the system as a whole was not impacted.

Or there is the case of the Critical Mass Cyclist, where the internet forced the case to not only be dropped but for the officer involved to be stripped of his badge. He was not incarcerated for his crime. This relates to the case of the BART shooting in Oakland, where the officer was convicted of fourth degree manslaughter because of the large number of cell phones recording the shooting - after the police attempted to confiscate all the cell phones in the vicinity of the shooting. In both of those cases, modern technology facilitated free speech to achieve some (albeit insufficient) justice, but libertarians commenting on the cases tried to branch the discussion from isolated incidents to police behavior in general, only to have the audience disappear every time.

In these specific instances, in these specific cases, the specific people involved were impacted by free speech, but the overall system was not impacted. Even so, there is discussion inside Washington on how to regulate blogging, because even isolated incidents show that the power of the elite is not absolute. It is when speech starts having an impact that government officials seem to be more than willing to sacrifice the first amendment. It is already the case that elected officials believe campaign contributions are not a form of speech at all, and have managed to convince many people of that.

Radio personalities John and Ken of KFI640 were unhappy with Congressman David Dreier area over the topic of illegal immigration. So they led a campaign to have him lose his next election, calling it "Fire Dreier" and urging people to vote against him due to his stand on illegal immigration. Their impact was such that, in his safe district, he won by a small margin instead of a large margin. That result was so troubling that the Republican Party filed an FEC complaint against them in a deliberate effort to chill political speech. The FEC has not taken any action against John and Ken or KFI.

Unlike the victory of John and Ken, Julian Heicklen is constantly being abused by those in authority, so that when he is not being arrested by police he is being involuntarily committed to the hospital. He is receiving this treatment for handing out FIJA pamphlets in front of court houses. He is not a major radio personality in a major media market, and that is why the police can continue to get away with this kind of abuse. FIJA pamphlets are a direct assault on the court system which has conspired to prevent people from exercising their full rights as jurors. In some states, such as California, it is currently illegal to hand out pamphlets on court house grounds at all, unlike in the places were Julian Heicklen does his work.

It is clear that free speech is under assault, but in a very careful manner to protect all speech except for speech that may actually make a difference. That way the average American will not ever encounter a situation where he will find his free speech to be limited, and thus will never believe that free speech is limited in the first place.