July 4, 2011
An Independence Day open thread seeking comments on liberty and freedom in the US
Blogging has been light this holiday weekend as I have been enjoying sun, family, fireworks, tennis, golf and lots of company (not necessarily in that order). But the morning of July 4 gets me to my computer for a few minutes to link to my prior Independence Day blogging and to urge readers to use this space to comment on the state of liberty and freedom in the United States.
Prior July 4 posts:
- 2010: Celebrating our declaration of rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
- 2009: What to the American imprisoned is the Fourth of July?
- 2008: Celebrating liberty in the country leading the world in incarceration rates
- 2007: House hearing planned to examine Bush commutation
- 2006: A holiday retrospective on Blakely fireworks
- 2005: Celebrating liberty, Blakely-style
July 4, 2011 at 08:44 AM | Permalink
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The state of liberty and freedom in this country is not great, and in a constant tug-of-war between the fearful and the rational. Each day our liberty is challenged by those who would take it away for personal use. It is up to all of us, individually, to protect our liberties.
In my time serving this country in the military, my oath of office to become a Lieutenant included defending the Constitution of this country against enemies both foreign and domestic. Foreign enemies are easy to spot because they display open aggression toward America.
Domestic enemies do not always look like Timothy McVeigh. Domestic threats to the Constitution of the United States include anybody who would try and destroy the liberty it provides. Deprivation of life and liberty could look like the Oklahoma City Bombing. However, it can also looking like the government sanctioned and sponsored weakening or outright breaking of the 4th Amendment (i.e. PATRIOT Act, TSA, etc.), the 8th Amendment (California's entire prison system), 2nd Amendment (the milions of non-violent Americans who are now called felons cannot own any type of gun), the 10th Amendment (i.e. Universal Health Care, etc.).
My point is that threats to the Constitution don't always involve bombs and terrorists. I'll part with a few of my favorite quotes on liberty and freedom from two of this country's founding fathers.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is
wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts
they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure."
Posted by: Eric Matthews | Jul 4, 2011 11:50:28 AM
The lawyer needs our help.
He runs a tighter ship than the KGB or Cuba's thought police. We are not freer than Cubans, or Soviet citizens, if you add up the rules and regulations. Few have had any external validation save enforcement at the point of a gun. As China has wised up, and gone to extreme capitalism, we are going to extreme socialism. They will be very powerful. We will be weak, as the situation of the last 50 years is reversed.
Yet, we are not as safe as Cubans or Chinese citizens. Predators have nearly total immunity, and viciously plunder our money, our families, our peace of mind.
I tried to convince psychology friends that psychologists should run the criminal law, being experts in the technical aspects of punishment, valuing scientific evidence, and being experts in mental problems. It was unanimous. The result would be even more catastrophic, unsafe for the public, and supportive of the criminal, less punitive, more therapeutic, they felt. At least, they did not kid themselves. So the lawyer cannot be replaced by any established profession.
In this real world, what can be done to increase our safety, our accuracy and precision of punishment, our economic performance? It will take a hundred years. Self-help, self defense, and that of others must be legally protected. If a criminal shows a gun, it should become a duty to shoot him by every bystander, all to be required to carry a gun. All out legal resistance to lawyer attacks on our way of life must be attempted. Parents must impose their values on out of control school boards, indoctrinating our kids into left wing extreme ideologies. So if butt banging is discussed in 7th grade health class, press criminal charges against the teacher. Direct action groups must physically intimidate lawyers who are dangerous to the public safety. Constitutional amendment must end all lawyer immunities, including those of judges, legislators and juries. Let each carry insurance if afraid of being sued for any deviation from standards of due care.
Imagine a nation with virtually no crime, 10% economic growth, with outstanding education, with 20% of GDP going into research and development, creative pursuits, instead of being wasted on pointless regulations, with the end of the cat and mouse game being played to evade rules we have no business writing.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 4, 2011 11:53:26 AM
Posted by: albeed | Jul 4, 2011 6:01:57 PM
I second albeed's comment. Upon entering the Army in 1965, I took the same oath that you did. Thank you for your service.
Posted by: Thomas | Jul 4, 2011 6:38:36 PM
A brief word to offer thanks to all who served honorably in the military, whether or not they agree with positions I have taken.
I also would offer thanks to our host Doug, for advancing robust debate and the free exchange of ideas. In my view, that is an important part of what America is about.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 4, 2011 8:01:29 PM
Let's not forget the majority of the population of the US that has hide at home after sunset. The night belongs to the criminal, under the full protection of the lawyer. To liberate this nation under house arrest, we must get rid of the lawyer hierarchy, a group of self-appointed dictators, heading a criminal cult enterprise. The CCE controls 99% of the policy decisions of the government of the US. I hate to be unpatriotic on this day. Had the Japanese conquered us in 1945, there would be less fear and more freedom after dark. For a population of 100 million, they have 20,000 lawyers. We have triple the population and 70 times the number of lawyers. Their crime rate is a twentieth ours, their murders an eighth of ours.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 4, 2011 8:38:12 PM
I don't know whether our country was ever as free as our propaganda claims. But if it was, then it has unquestionably become less so, primarily thanks to the "War on Drugs."
Drug prohibition is, at its heart, a decision by government actors that individuals should not be able to control their own bodies, even when it comes to ingesting harmless substances like marijuana. At some level, one might accept the need for such government limitation of the freedom to ingest dangerous intoxicants, but the policy in this country is not based on any public safety or any other legitimate end. It is aimed instead at preventing people from behaving in ways that others might find offensive.
I am particularly dismayed by drug prohibition's toll on the Fourth Amendment. I will cite only one small aspect of this problem. In the part of Texas where I live, state troopers patrol public highways looking not so much for traffic violations as excuses to pull people over and search their vehicle. Virtually every stop is a pretext stop, and virtually every stop ends with a "request for consent to search". The farce is that people are supposed to feel free to refuse the search. But in reality, people do not believe they are allowed to refuse, and the troopers take advantage of this. Moreover, they do not inform people of their intentions; the request for consent usually takes the form of "Mind if I check your car?" No reasonable person interprets this as a request to dismantle the car in a search for contraband, but the Fifth Circuit--ever the enemy of the Fourth Amendment--says it is. I once saw a trooper testify that he found contraband in only about 1 in 7 cars he searched, which means that most people are subjected to this inconvenience for no good reason. People who refuse are forced to wait until a drug-sniffing dog can be brought to the scene, and it shouldn't surprise anyone when the dog "alerts" to the recalcitrant driver's vehicle, whether or not it contains contraband.
This is just one example. Drug prohibition has led to the proliferation of no-knock search warrants, the use of SWAT teams to execute warrants for non-violent offenders; mass incarceration, and numerous other ills. All so that you and I cannot choose whether to smoke a joint or snort cocaine.
I think the people who founded our country would be horrified.
Posted by: C.A.J. | Jul 4, 2011 8:57:31 PM
"I don't know whether our country was ever as free as our propaganda claims." And on and on from there.
Think you could stow this kind of stuff for one day -- July 4 -- and be grateful for what we have in this country?
Guess not. Maybe you've been snorting too much wonderful coke.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 4, 2011 10:18:46 PM
Sorry, I didn't realize that "comment on the state of liberty and freedom in the United States" only referred to comments praising the state of liberty and freedom in the United States.
Posted by: C.A.J. | Jul 4, 2011 11:48:32 PM
yes i took that same oath myself in 1978!
Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 4, 2011 11:51:52 PM
Bill, as representative of the prosecution bar here, you have never answered for the total failure of the criminal law to protect anyone, and the 20 million FBI Index crimes you allow in this country each year, including 17,000 murders, with 5000 more than expected for population black male murder victims. Maybe, "It's not my job." I see prosecutors as both lazy ass, slow shuffling, worthless, careerist, government workers, trained to move at the Post Office School of Postal Clerk Delaying Tactics. Then you are at will employees who have to obey their political appointee supervisor when told to not prosecute a favored defendant.
The prosecution in the USA sucks. Maybe the the prosecution in Sierra Leone is worse, but it is hard to imagine that. That's right go after 1000's of child porn down loaders who have never touched a child. Meanwhile, don't worry about the illegal alien gang that has beheaded 100's of people that offended it. Then the lawyer gives itself immunity for all the innocent people railroaded into prison without divulging exculpatory evidence in the prosecutor's possession.
The criminal law is in utter failure save for one huge success, lawyer rent seeking and job generation. As a result, crime victims have no freedom.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2011 1:14:00 AM
"...The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775 at St. John's Henrico Parish Church in Richmond, Virgina.
Posted by: anon1 | Jul 5, 2011 11:10:53 AM
I have never claimed to represent the "prosecution bar" here, nor could I do so, having been given no portfolio.
I guess the other problem is that there is no such thing as the "prosecution bar." The great majority of people who work in prosecutor's offices are there for a few years, generally toward the beginning of their careers, and then become private lawyers, some in criminal defense and some elsewhere.
Although I was in a prosecutor's office for longer than most, I haven't been there since the last millenium, and my views of criminal law are similar to those of most conservatives, whether or not they have even seen the inside of a prosecutor's office.
I agree with the notion that there is way too much crime in this country and that insufficient determination and diligence by prosecutors is partly to blame. But if you want to put someone on the hook for the amount of crime we have, I respectfully suggest that you look first to those who commit it, and second to those who work to insure that there will be few or no consequences. I am not among that number, although any number of our fellow commenters are.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 5, 2011 11:28:20 AM
There are 364 other days in the year when you can trash your hated USA to your heart's content. I was just thinking you might be able to put it aside for one day to see, and say, something good about the country.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 5, 2011 11:32:31 AM
Sadly, Bill Otis' comments are emblematic of the erosion of political discourse. Pointing out dangers to the freedom envisioned by the founders is "trashing" the country. Mentioning inconvenient truths is "hate."
Posted by: C.A.J. | Jul 5, 2011 11:48:22 AM
And STILL you can't think of one single good thing to say about the country! You're consistent, I'll say that.
P.S. You understandably provide no documentation to support the proposition that getting blasted on coke was the sort of "freedom" the Founders had in mind.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 5, 2011 12:05:53 PM
Bill: I pretty much have to agree with your comment.
The prosecutor runs the criminal law. If the "prosecution bar" of a state goes to the legislature and asks for more tools, what happens usually? Don't they get whatever they ask for? The prosecution is not really hired to prosecute 2 million people, to generate jobs, but as part of the effort to prevent the 20 million crimes that keep large fractions of our population behind locked doors after sunset, as if on house arrest. Criminality is the single biggest taker of our freedoms.
Because safety is Job One and Job Last of government, I would double salaries for DA's, give them protection from their political supervisors, and raise the prestige. Bonuses would be for dropping crime in the entire jurisdiction. As soon as someone gets really good, they leave now.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2011 1:39:45 PM
Prosecutors can take the lead in ending crime, even short of the attrition of the criminals before age 18.
They should get rid of every vestige of Scholasticism in all Rules of Evidence. Then acknowledge the probabilistic nature of reality. The defendant should carry the indictment charge into prison and later, not the adjudicated charge, so as to not mislead releasing authorities and employers. The prosecutions should be in descending order of damages done by the defendant.
Every innocent defendant with a false conviction should set off an airline crash style investigation, looking not for blame, but for the factors. Then give the investigators the power to change the system.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2011 2:58:55 PM