Wednesday, August 25, 2010

False flag cell phone guns

One alleged reason that the police are so quick to take action against anyone who uses a cell phone to make a video recording of their activities is because the cell phone might actually be a weapon. And there are two reported incidents of firearms that are disguised as cell phones.

The first was discovered in 2000. The second was discovered in 2008. Their existence was verified by Snopes. There are a few problems with the reports though.

First, the only reports of these disguised firearms come from reports of the police finding them. There are no reports of anyone ever actually using these firearms. There is never even any follow-up to the stories, such as trials for those the police seized these firearms from.

Second, although the design of cell phones has changed during the eight years between the two stories, the pictures are nearly identical to the point where it is very possible that they are pictures of the same firearm. If they are not the same firearm then they were manufactured from identical cell phones by the same person and function the same way.

Third, there are only two incidents in eight years. One report could mean this is an isolated incident of one person trying to disguise a gun. More than one report means these are being manufactured in some bulk. But if they are being manufactured in that way why are there only two incidents?

To believe the official version of events it is necessary to believe that the government never runs any false flag operations. On the other hand, to believe that this is a set up by the government to give police an excuse to confiscate any cell phones (that coincidentally have cameras) is to be a conspiracy theorist. Never mind that when cell phones are returned the videos have been deleted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lemonade and Nullification

Recently yet another group of bureaucrats tried to shut down yet another lemonade stand by yet another child trying to raise pocket money. Predictably people thought this quite absurd, and the county backed down in this case with Oregon County Chairman Jeff Cogen issuing an apology for the incident.

This parallels an older case where some students spontaneously broke into song at the Lincoln Memorial, singing the national anthem and were told by the park police that it wasn’t allowed because it was a demonstration. Bystanders supported the students and joined in the song in spite of a rule being broke.

Although it can easily be argued that the park police and the health department bureaucrats were wrong to enforce the law the way it was written, the actions by the observers and onlookers was most curious. Most people do not know of or agree with the concept of nullification, and yet in both cases they were advocating it.

Libertarians have long advocated jury nullification and judicial nullification. It is not as often discussed, although it is agreed with when police nullification is brought up as well. But just as libertarians are the only ones to agree with the concept of jury nullification, they are also the only ones to agree with the concept of police nullification.

Many people are unjustifiably afraid of nullification, except for judicial nullification. Perhaps the reason that they are not afraid of judicial nullification is because judges are in a special position of authority, all the credentials that the average person lacks. When a police officer, or worse a jury member, nullifies a law that puts decision making power several layers downward and out of the hands of the elite.

Of course that is not the argument made. People argue against nullification on the grounds that they do not want juries and police simply making up laws, completely ignoring that nullifying a law is the exact opposite of making up a law. They also argue that the principle of nullification would enable corrupt police to fail to enforce the law on their friends, forgetting that that already happens.

Those who support not enforcing the law on the child selling lemonade are advocating nullification, whether they know it or not. Those who oppose nullification should support full enforcement of the law on children selling lemonade.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Legal Positivsm

There seems to be, in the United States, a general assumption that when something is immoral it should be illegal, and if something is illegal it is therefore immoral. This assumption most often strikes those who argue against state interference, since the accusation is always that those who favor liberty therefore favor immorality. People also conflate opposing a program or strategy with opposing the goal of that program or strategy, because a law has been passed to make it so and that makes it good. Has legal positivism actually taken hold in the United States? Or is it the case that it is a convenient mental shortcut for a population no longer skilled at thinking about issues in depth?

Legal positivism is an enemy of any natural rights basis for formulating law. Under natural rights there are standards that a government must not cross, but under legal positivism there are no such standards since the law itself is the standard. Defenders of the state will try to paint libertarians in a bad light by saying “the laws you object to are legally enacted by the duly elected representatives of the American people and those representatives are elected and re-elected without any real objection from the majority of the American people.” That phrase aptly describes the Fugitive Slave Laws, and those who make that argument should be reminded of that fact.

A stronger case can be made that the average person is not a full legal positivist. To be an actual positivist is to embrace a philosophical system. Most people instead think of themselves as pragmatic while endorsing some of the most non-pragmatic laws and programs. It could be called intellectual laziness, but most people have never bothered to consider matters deeply. People seldom actually consider things to be right or wrong because it is law, but instead take the lesser positivist route and believe that what is right and wrong should be made into law.

It is necessary to disengage morality and legality from each other if liberty is to be achieved. If it is possible to say "that is immoral but should not be illegal" and to have that not sound strange then people are free. That they are so often found together shows the inroads legal positivism has made through a combination of poor education and laziness.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wikileaks and Telling Forbidden Truths

"I like the pretty lies" - Myca, The Crow

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell, My Few Wise Words of Wisdom

In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged there is a scene early in the book when Dagny Taggart is trying to get the Rio Norte line built against the combined challenges of her looter opponents. To circumvent the difficulties she creates her own company, the John Galt line. The point of that scene is the immense pretense she had to go through to get the looters to leave her alone. Jim Taggart, near the end of the scene said "nobody must know it." Dagny responds with "everyone will know it, Jim. But since nobody will admit it openly, everybody will be satisfied."

In the United States, on so many issues, there are many things which everybody knows but few admit. When people repeat lies that they know are lies, because the lies are what they are supposed to repeat, then speaking the truth is indeed a radical act and condemned as such. And one of the issues it is true of is the military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When someone, in a discussion of the wars, talks of civilian casualties as a criticism of the wars the response is to pooh-pooh it as unsupported, or as being anti-American, or as conspiracy theory. Everyone knew that there were massive civilian casualties, but as long as nobody admitted it then it was considered acceptable to ignore it.

Wikileaks broke the convention by not only saying it, but by giving solid support to what everyone already knew.

Because it is still unpopular to discuss the issues raised by the content of the leaked documents and leaked videos, most people prefer to discuss just how dangerous Wikileaks is to national security and whether or not the owner should be considered a traitor or a terrorist.

The documents are valuable, and not because they reveal anything new. To some extent it could be said that they reveal a depth that was previously unknown, but that isn't new information as much as it is an expanse of information.

Many who support the military activity insist that only government sources or American media sources are to be trusted for information about the wars. That is where the true value of Wikileaks comes in because the video from Iraq and the documents about Afghanistan are from government sources, the most trusted source of war supporters. It is no longer possible to dismiss the information as anti-American propaganda.

That's why supporters of the war don't want to discuss the content of the leaks at all. But it is too late, Wikileaks already "admitted it openly."