Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Official Accountability

Troy Davis has been executed for killing a police officer. There appear to be a large number of people convinced of his innocence, but the courts did not stop the execution. Some even claim that they have a confession by the actual murderer.

Assuming those protesting this execution are correct, then what does that mean? It means that the prosecutors, police, and a few other officials are guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. But what does that mean? Tragically, that means nothing.

First, the state holds a monopoly on criminal prosecutions. It is impossible to hold anybody in the law enforcement apparatus responsible unless they agree to do so. In the case of Kelly Thomas of Fullerton, CA, the worry of many was that the District Attorney would decline to prosecute entirely. That particular case had the population so enraged that it was impossible to bury without damage to the government structure, so two of the six police were charged. That case was very much an exception. In other cases where a criminal member of the law enforcement apparatus was held accountable, Mike Nifong got a single day in jail because neither the prosecutor nor the judge could believe that a prosecutor was being held accountable.

Second, assuming there was sufficient evidence to prove that an innocent was executed there is no guarantee that in a civil court these people could be held accountable. The law enforcement apparatus have granted themselves immunity for their actions. It takes a significant effort to prove that those responsible were acting outside what is legally allowable for them, and prosecuting someone who they have reason to believe is guilty at the time and then later ignoring the case when contradicting evidence comes to light is considered allowable. Refusing to reconsider a case is not forbidden.

If Troy Davis is innocent, as many claim, that means that there are several murderers in Georgia, from the police to the prosecutors to the judges, and it also means they have gotten away with it. Meanwhile in Fullerton there are four police officers who are accomplices to murder who are getting away with it. Both cases emphasize the need to reform the whole of law enforcement by stripping prosecutors of their monopoly on criminal prosecutions and severely diminishing the nearly all-encompassing protections of official immunity. Essentially there is no accountability anymore, and that is the indicator of a police state.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

TSA won't molest kids anymore ... maybe

The TSA has recently changed the rules for subjecting minors to the highly invasive pat-down that is given to those who opt out of the Advanced Imaging Technology (formerly Whole Body Imaging.) The problem is, according to the TSA, this doesn't mean anything is actually changing.

Please understand that this isn’t a free pass. TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures and nobody is guaranteed expedited screening.

The procedure is changing except for when it isn't?

Another problem with this announcement is that it is not the first time the TSA has made this announcement. There seems to be a real recidivism problem with the TSA, their policies, or their agents. The stories about the TSA and the invasiveness of their pat-downs are coming faster and more detailed, with the comments the stories receive showing the public gives more credibility to the passengers than to the TSA.

There is something deeply wrong when an agency has to promise to not molest children. There is something even more deeply wrong when an agency has to promise to not do it anymore. The recent rule change is the TSA promising to stop molesting children - unless the front line agent feels it is absolutely necessary.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who Is a Libertarian (and won't admit it)?

Given the different people and groups trying to attach themselves to the libertarian label in spite of there being no actual connection, it may seem odd to find that there are people who fit neatly within the basic definition yet often wish to deny that label for themselves. Such is the case with Objectivists.

Libertarian and Objectivist are not synonyms. That is one of the reasons Objectivists like to not use the term. Objectivism is a fairly comprehensive philosophy, touching on all five major branches: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics, Aesthetics, and Logic. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, which means it exists really only within the realm of Ethics, and mostly within macro-Ethics.

Also the major concern of each varies slightly from the other. Libertarians are concerned with the relationship between the individual and the state, while Objectivists are concerned with the relationship between the individual and society. These two causes overlap significantly, but not entirely.

Even so, when a basic definition of libertarianism is given, such as calling it a political philosophy that seeks to maximize the rights of the individual, or a philosophy that objects to the initiation of force, there really is no discord between Objectivism and other schools of libertarian thought.

Objectivists try to argue that because other libertarians arrive at similar conclusions from different basic premises that the agreement is more coincidental than based on common ground. The problem with that is twofold; first it argues that agreement is basically issue specific instead of philosophy based as the two above definitions would show, and second it neglects that the basic definition of a political philosophy is based on agreement on certain core principles without regard for how those core principles were derived.

Given that second argument, Objectivists try to argue that since the derivation is unimportant it means that libertarian has no actual definition and can mean anything. That's clearly not the case given that two non-conflicting definitions were already given that effectively describe what it is to be a libertarian. The term does have a meaning, and Ayn Rand had some pretty choice words to describe those would shy away from the meaning of a word. Objectivists, if they want the term "Objectivist" to have meaning, should heed her position on the meaning of words and realize that "libertarian" also means something.

When they do admit that "libertarian" means something, then they will have to confront what it does mean. That means that Objectivists, if they are true to their philosophy, are indeed libertarians in the political sphere