Let us “occupy” our own street

I once read a quote that summed up the problem with the Occupy Wall Street movement very well. It went something like this, “blaming Wall Street for controlling Congress is like blaming the other woman for controlling a cheating husband.” So many on the left (and the “occupy” movement in particular) are looking at the small fry and refuse to look at the real force behind their discontent. Large corporations and industries hire lobbyists for a sound, solid reason and not to just toss money around. They hire lobbyists and toss money around D.C. because the central government of the U.S. is where the power and coersive force is located. They can get protection there. They can get special favors and consideration there. They can get in tight with the seat of corruption.

The “progressives” can not seem to distinguish capitalism from corporatism. The laissez-faire free market that makes the consumer the king is conflated with the fascism developed by Mussolini in Italy in the 20s. They see the fusion of big business and industry with the State as the same thing as the free-market of laissez-faire! How does someone get that deluded? Or is it that they are power seekers who want to attack freedom and liberty in any underhanded manner that they can?

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Progressives love the awesome power of the coersive and brutal state and see the only problem being that their own tribe might not be in power. If the voters elect good progressives to brutalize the people then progressives are all a-twitter with delight. Of course the progressives don’t see the state domination over you as “domination” really; they see it as your re-education and, of course, it is “all for your own good” anyway.

So what about the marketplace? They see government controlling the market just like the USSR once tried to do. The fact that this led the people of the USSR into poverty and famine does not seem to bother the progressives at all. The fact that Cuba and North Korea are poster children for backwardness, poverty, and police state actions does not seem to bother the progressive a bit. Well, as long as they can envision themselves as being inside the ruling circle that is.

Libertarians, on the other hand, seek freedom and liberty so that people can do as they please as long as they don’t commit aggression against another person or his property. They see all private business under laissez-faire as having to provide the best service or good for the least amount to gain the business of the very fickle customer. We see every consumer as being the king or queen of the market. Business can not make people deal with them as the armed thugs of the state can. No, business in the freed-market must satisfy their customers in voluntary, mutual exchanges.

Murray Rothbard once pointed out that “Man has found that, through the process of voluntary, mutual exchange, the productivity and hence, the living standards of all participants in exchange may increase enormously.” It should be obvious that the “natural” course for mankind is to cooperate and to attain as much “wealth” as possible to attain the highest standard of living that is possible in this mortal plane. The Austrian School of economics, following in the footsteps of von Mises and Rothbard, have shown us that the laissez-faire freed market along with well defended property rights is the best and most sure path towards a high standard of living for all.

So how come the American progressives and the Occupy Movement continue to peddle the idea that the State should control all aspects of our life? How can they attack the warfare-state while trumpeting the welfare-state and the nanny-state? How can they continue to believe that state enforced egalitarianism is anything other than a revolt against nature?

I continue to see craziness like “tax the rich” out of people that should know that “taxing the rich” was the slogan that gave us income taxes in the first place. Now the working poor see about 50 percent of their income go to the government in one tax or the other while the rich know how to avoid taxes. The answer is not to steal from the rich, but rather stop the thief called the state from taking what little we have now.

There are those who think that if we tax and bleed business to death as the city of Detroit did then all would be peace and light. What heifer dust! The minions of the State love to play divide and conquer. They love to get one group fighting another group when it is the intervention of the state itself that is the real problem. And when it all comes crashing down? Why then they say you need to give the state even more power to “fix it”.

The answer, my friend, is still blowing in the wind. The answer is to withdraw all consent from the state and to try to educate your fellow man as to the real nature of the problem. For as many have pointed out over the centuries, every complex social problem caused by the State has a simple State solution and it is always wrong.

The U.S. is a police state

In a recent post called The State answers Winston Smith there was one person (wophugus) who insisted, in the comments section, that calling the US a police state was way out of bounds. For example he claimed:

I also think you either know next to nothing about what life is like in a police state or are enormously callous to those who suffered through police states, appropriating their pain for rhetorical value.

There was a long back and forth, but no meeting of the minds since I think calling the present USA a police state is quite appropriate and so I decided to take a look at the issue. But first, there was a response to “wophugus” from another fellow that is worth looking at.

From praetorSF in comments:

wophugus’ statements are reflect very common sentiments amongst people I talk to, and they are sentiments that I find rather fascinating and mysterious (when they aren’t the result of pure ignorance of current events that is).  My theory is that it is the result of denial and cognitive dissonance.  We were all raised being taught about the founding fathers and how great our country was because we were a free country without Kings or Dictators or repressive police organizations.  We have a visceral reaction to the word police state, we don’t like to imagine that WE are the people that we always used to feel a bit sorry for, living in an unfree country.  I think many people just find it hard to admit that to themselves.

My challenge to those people, and to wophugus, is this:  give me YOUR definition of a police state.  At what point does a country cross that magic line?  What specific things does a country have to do to make it meet that definition?  If you sit down, think about it, and come up with a coherent definition, America pretty much has to fit the bill.  Secret law?  Check. Incarceration of a vast number of our citizens (more than any other country in the world)?  Check.  Execution of our citizens without trial?  Check.  Torture?  Check.  An oligarchichal ruling class that is above the law the rest of the citizens are subject to?  Check.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who do not move do not feel their chains” (and I really need to look up who said it one of these days 🙂 ).  Really that’s what your argument comes down to wophugus:  “most people don’t make a big enough nuisance of themselves to draw the state’s ire, thus we are not a police state.”

I have read that a police state is generally defined as a government that exerts extreme and pervasive political, economic, and social control over its subjects. It is the situation where the State can do as it pleases while the citizen needs permission to act. Some people cannot see what’s happening in the US. To them it seems ridiculous to say that the US is a police state. “Where are the jack-boot Nazi Gestapo thugs breaking down doors and hauling people off to death camps?” they cry out. They seem to think that only the very worst police states from the past can be called by the name “police state”.

Normally a police state maintains control through a vast number of laws and pervasive surveillance like in the old East Germany with its Stasi secret police force. The population’s right to travel about is converted into state issued privilege and the minions of the government operate with little transparency. The police state typically concentrates on non-violent crime and uses the astronomical number of laws to enforce their will upon the people.

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As we have been reading lately, whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden have documented the vast surveillance operations of the NSA, while others have alerted us to the operations of the CIA and FBI. The local police have become militarized and the no-knock home invasion by SWAT teams has become standard operation procedure. Even shooting the family pets has become a normal police procedure.

There is no aspect of life that is not controlled by government in a police state. In most places in America you must get a “permit” to even work on your own house. It costs $140 in Orlando, Florida for the “permit” to install a new outside door on your house. I know because I need one after the latest break in attempt; the sort of crime that the police refuse to protect the population from because they are too busy issuing tickets and fines to raise money for their own benefit. Does this fact make the USA a police state? Of course not. But it is a data point in the case that the US seeks the power to control every single aspect of your life. In many places it is a felony to sell fresh whole milk to the public. I bet the boys in 1776 never thought that would happen. And enforcement has become draconian, with police departments pursuing militarization. Even police in the grammar schools will taser and handcuff young children. A special federal police force called the Department of Homeland Security has spearheaded this militarazation while the DHS functions without transparency or accountability. The NSA is spying on everyone with far greater abilities than the east German Stassi did.

To travel freely about the country without any “papers”, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Without proper “ID” you may well end up in jail. The people who lived in the USSR would be very familiar with that concept, and god forbid you carry any real amount of cash as you travel about as that marks you as a criminal unless you can prove that you have a good reason to carry the money — and good luck with that as you will need it.

How many peaceful activities are now felonies in the USA? Harvey Silverglaten wrote a book called Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent  in which the civil rights attorney argues that, “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.” And if the state decides to make an example of you, then the prosecution in this country is so powerful and out of control that 99 percent of the accused don’t even try to fight the charges in court. They take whatever plea bargain the state offers.

How many nonviolent activities can get a man caged in one of the US rape prisons? Can you go to prison for writing on a sidewalk? On the “people’s sidewalk”? In this article Writing with Sidewalk Chalk Can Earn You Hard Time? we find that 20 years hard time can be handed down for writing a slogan on the sidewalk in chalk that will wash away with the rains in short order. 20 years? In a free country? A women in Florida got 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to keep her abusive husband from attacking her yet again. She could have shot him, but instead gave him a warning shot to prevent violence. She even had a restraining order against him which the police obviously did not help her with. Apparently Florida thinks women should just take their beatings and not disturb the peace.

How freely can you relocate your assets and person outside the jurisdiction of the US government? You had best check into that because currency control laws have become draconian; all in the name of fighting the war on drugs and the “war on terror”.

The site Dissident Voice posted an article called What the NSA Revelations Tell Us about America’s Police State a few days ago. The USA has become a police state. Like East Germany in the days of the Stassi, most people do not get into any trouble. Most people will obey their masters just as the Germans in East Germany did or just as the African in the U.S. did in the deep south once upon a time even though they outnumbered their white masters by a considerable margin.

In the U.S. a person can be accused of numerous crimes without knowing exactly what he has supposedly done. He might be arrested in the middle of the night by a SWAT team no-knock military style raid. A citizen might find himself on a no-fly list and be unable to travel for reasons that remain secret to him. Everyone’s electronic communications or actions are spied upon and recorded.  Secret orders are handed down by a secret court to target individuals who then have no recourse to discover why they were targeted.

The U.S. has a government that wields the legal authority to round up people, including U.S. citizens and take them to concentration camps, detention centers, or military jails where the government can torture them, incarcerate indefinitely, or execute them. Just claim they are “suspected terrorists” and there is no limit to the power the government has over them. Due process? “We don’t need no stinking due process”.

We hear from lawyers and other government loving types that claim that these things don’t happen to everyone in the U.S. but only to “a few”. Excluding the TSA groping and the NSA electronic snooping they may have a small point. Their point is that the majority of the people obey their masters and stay out of trouble for the most part. They claim that with tons of money anyone can get due process. They claim, in effect, that we have as system as caring and free as in Nazi Germany (as long as you were a “good German”)

My friends, we have a full blown police state. It is not an exact duplicate of any that came before it, after all, the technology has changed tremendously, and the U.S. police state is uniquely American, but we have a police state.

Any state, be it a dominate Empire or not, can exist only when the vast majority of the people are satisfied with their lot in life or are resigned to it. The U.S. central state needs the cooperation of the more than 300 million people — be it enthusiastic or sullen cooperation. The people of the USSR brought down the communist police state without bloodshed by simply withdrawing their consent to be ruled by the system. It was an unbelievable sight at the time. We can do likewise. Withdraw your consent to be owned by the state.

The grounding of the Bolivian Presidential Jet

The presidential plane of Bolivia was forced to land in Austria on July 3, 2013 as it passed through Austrian airspace on its way home to Bolivia due to the fact that the someone in the US government believed that whistle-blower Edward Snowden was on board the plane. Several European Union countries barred the plane from entering their airspace over suspicions that whistle-blower Edward Snowden was on board the jet. These fly-over denials limited the options of the pilot of the Bolivian presidential plane.

The grounding of Bolivian President Morales’ plane set off angry protests from leaders all over South America. It was asserted by many that the US Empire had kidnapped President Morales. Certainly if the US presidential plane had been forced down in a foreign country the US would have acted as if an assassination attempt were under way. It is hard to see how war could be averted under those circumstances.

Bolivian President Morales waves from his plane before leaving the Vienna International Airport in Schwechat

President Morales spoke to the press about this incident and reminded everyone that he is not a criminal and that the period of colonialism is long past. He called on those countries that closed their airspace to his country’s plane to explain why. He has rightfully pointed out that a very shameful act was carried out against him and his country.

So who authorized this imperial sky-jacking? Obviously the US government was behind the Bolivian Plane Affair, no one else has reason to charge Edward Snowden for a crime or the power to bully their toady client states into this political abomination. But who, exactly, in the US government was behind this unprecedented decision to assault the Bolivian President? Someone in the US Empire issued an order to the vassal states of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and possibly others to forbid the plane from using their airspace.

The compliant main stream media did not bother to find out who was behind the order to detain the Bolivian President’s plane and illegally board it for search. We can be assured that no mid-level bureaucrat decided to risk their career on such a move. The orders had to come “from the top”. The orders to ground the plane must have come from the inner circle of the center of imperial power: the orders must have come from the White House and in the name of the president.

After the plane was on the ground in Vienna, the Austrian police or military boarded the plane to search for the fugitive Edward Snowden. The trouble for the Empire was that the target himself, Edward Snowden, was not on that plane. Whoever concocted this horrible plan neglected to consider the scenario of Snowden not being on the presidential plane of Bolivia. The worldwide political fallout has been enormous. The several complicit European states were exposed as the toadies that they are and were thoroughly embarrassed. The South American governments rallied around the Bolivians with righteous outrage. Venezuela’s President offered Snowden asylum and the Bolivian president followed that with his own offer of asylum. Others followed after that.

CNN reported:

Portuguese authorities wouldn’t let President Evo Morales’ plane land for refueling in Lisbon, Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told CNN en Español. French authorities also wouldn’t let the plane enter their airspace, he said.

“We are told that there were some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane,” Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said. “We do not know who has invented this lie. Someone who wants to harm our country. This information that has been circulated is malicious information to harm this country.”

In a televised address late Tuesday night, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera described Morales as a “hostage of imperialism.”

“The president has been kidnapped by imperialism, and he is being held in Europe,” he said, calling for workers worldwide to protest “this act of imperial arrogance.”

The situation is the latest twist in what has become a global guessing game over Snowden’s next steps.

Leftist governments all over South America looked courageous standing up to the US Empire while Austria looked positively foolish. This affair made the US look bad in front of the whole world. But worse than these foreign policy set-backs is the fact that the US Empire set a precedent that it asserts that no government’s planes are allowed to fly without the approval of the Empire. Such is the world today.

Someday perhaps we will find out who came up with this disastrous plan to ground the presidential plane of a country at peace with the world. Someday we will find out how far up the chain of command in the imperial forces the approval process for the plan went.

As we said in the Watergate days, “what did the President know, and when did he know it?”

Note: this essay was posted in an edited version last week at The Libertarian of the UK.

State, Government, Governance, and Anarchy

Today let us look at the difference between violent political rule under a centralized state and governance in civil society. The Anarcho-capitalist or Voluntaryism movement has been growing significantly over the last few years. There are many reasons for that growth, but I think mainly it is that the idea of liberty sells well; but we could be more clear on a few things. For example, many people have trouble grasping anarchy because they are conflating ‘the State’, ‘government’ and ‘governance’. These things are not all exactly the same thing. If we don’t all use the words properly then we risk ‘talking past each other’. Obviously, if you talk to someone and they think that the absence of The State is the absence of any social order, or governance, then they can only envision a “Mad Max” type situation.

We must drive home the reality that all “States” are governments, but not all government requires the State. Some of my voluntaryist friends go so far as to insist that we use the word ‘governance’ rather than ‘government’ for the social organization in an anarchy situation and they have good reasons for that. The primary reason is that the word “government” comes with tons of bad baggage. I still tend to call the entity that governs, no matter if it is a state or not, by the name “government”.

In an anarcho-capitalist society, there would still be governance. Let me type that out one more time: in an anarcho-capitalist society there would be governance. What makes anarcho-capitalism “anarchy” is the absence of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territorial area by “the State” but, never the less, even without the State there will still be governance.  We envision governance by your peers through social and commercial means. There will be ostracism and acceptance, traditions, and all the other aspects of civil society that one sees throughout history.

Anacho-capitalists foresee governance of social behavior, disputes, and justice by competing courts along with defense and security agencies. These private agencies will help ensure protection though the recognition and respect of the individual’s property rights. Businesses and commerce will be regulated or governed through the totally free market which involves supply and demand, the price signal, profit and loss, competition, and customer satisfaction. There will, no doubt, be commercial ostracism via credit ratings, boycotting, reputation, and so forth. There will be risk management and socialization of that risk through insurance agencies unencumbered by State mandates. We see self-government through the individuals’ pursuit of their rational, subjective self-interest. Yes, we see them having to bear the responsibility of their own actions through the decentralized accountability systems arising out of the market.

Anarchism does not mean no governance but rather it means no State. In a purely capitalist, free market society you would have no coercive authority over you as there is no State to impose its violence and brutality upon you. Instead all social and commercial relationships would be private, peaceful, and voluntary. If you seek employment, your employer would not be your ruler since you can leave at any time and look elsewhere. You grocery store would not rule you as you could go down the street to a competitor. No group can lobby for a law against smoking pot as there would be no coersive state for enforcement, but there could be areas of private property where no smoking of any kind would be allowed. (my house for example) In short, all commercial and social relationships would be voluntary.

Anarcho-capitalism (also called market anarchy) or Voluntaryism is the only moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and maximize human prosperity, liberty and justice. Humanity would live in far greater abundance and with far superior technology than it would under any form of State rule.

For many anarchists the conflation of ‘government’ and ‘the State’ is probably more stylistic than anything, but to those who don’t understand anarchy we do them a disservice by continually saying that we want to eliminate all government when we mean we want to eliminate the Monopoly State. We have to remember that for many non-anarchists different perceptions of what we mean are leading to problems in understanding and we end up talking past each other.

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If a non-anarchist understands the concept of ‘no government’ as no rules, no governance, and no society then we can see why they would be horrified at our political philosophy. I would be too! There would be chaos and misery — a Mad Max world. But anarcho-capitalists do not advocate rejection of governance and society, nor do we think an ordered society would be absent if the State did not exist; rather we see justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized in the absence of the State by the governance arising via mutual voluntary cooperation.

I think anarcho-capitalists, voluntaryists, market anarchists, and especially myself could do a  better job of communicating our ideas of what a market anarchy would look like to those we are trying to inform. Then, maybe, many more people would be open to discussing our ideas.

Some rules for understanding U.S. politics

We all need an understanding of what is going on in the Empire no matter if you live here in the Empire or in a country outside its borders. Understanding democratic politics in the U.S. can be confusing since the politicians say one thing and then do another so often that one wonders what on earth is the underlining path they are following. To try to find an answer I would like to look at a few practical rules for understanding democratic politics today. I do not claim that these four rules are a comprehensive list, only that they are a good start.

1) If people have power over others, they will abuse that power

Rule number one for understanding democratic politics is that people love power over other people and they will abuse any power given to them. It is especially important to remember that this applies to everyone from the President (god Emperor?) down to the lowest bureaucratic functionary. The lowest people on the totem pole of the state’s apparatus may be the most vindictive of all since they have only a small amount of power and treasure using what power over other that they do have. If you have ever had to visit the DMV you will appreciate what I mean.

This rule about loving power and abusing it applies to both Democrats and to Republicans. Some people think that it is only “the other side” that will abuse the awesome power of today’s US Empire. No, gentle reader, both parties are made up of humans whose nature is to abuse whatever power they can lay their hands on. By the way, if you think that the “Green Party” would not institute a massive purge and lay down draconian laws if they ever get the chance, you have not studied the history of the French Revolution. (or almost any other one)

It is because humans love power over others and tend to use and abuse it that the architects of the US government at the end of the Revolutionary War labored to devise a weak central government that would separate the powers of the State into many hands hoping that in some sort of adversarial dance this situation would keep any portion of the state from accumulating power. As it turned out, many worked together to accumulate ever more power for the central government until the Leviathan you see today was created. There was also the idea in the original system that the various states would keep much of the power rather than have the power flow to the central government. That idea died during the war between the north and south in the 1860s when the rights of the states were utterly destroyed. Ironically, the concept of “states rights” was destroyed for the “winning” northern states as well. Amendment 10 in the Bill of Rights is a dead letter.

2) All politicians are disposed to lie

All politicians lie because they are prone to abusing power and committing illegal, corrupt,  and immoral acts. They lied wholesale to gain office, so why would they become honest once in office?

We all recognize that Bush the lesser and his minions lied to the American People over and over again to get us into the war against Iraq. There were no “weapons of mass destruction” that threatened us, nor were there any connections between Sadam Hussein and al-Qaida. We all recognize that the Obama administration was lying about the scope of the NSA spying operation against the American People. The lies and scandals just keep on coming. President Lydon Johnson knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not an attack by North Vietnam but he used the situation to lie the people of America into a greatly expanded war that killed over 60,000 US personnel and millions of Vietnamese.

Lying by American politicians has become so pervasive that it is hard to believe how many citizens will believe the government when it makes its various pronouncements. One should always hold suspect any finding or promise made by any minion of the State. If a politician says that the sun rises in the east, then you should get up early the next morning and check for yourself. Lies should destroy the credibility of the politicians and their bureaucrats, but the states employs all manner of opinion makers and intellectuals to bolster their myths and lies.

3) Governments love secrecy

Rule No. 3 in understanding the nature of the state is to know that governments love secrecy. The latest NSA scandal is a prime example of this. The Empire has gone nuts now that Edward Snowden has revealed that the Empire is spying on you by every electronic means known to modern mankind. The state loves to work in total secrecy but does not want you to have any privacy. Why? The state seeks to hide its corruption and abuses by total secrecy just as it seeks to gain even more power by denying the public any privacy at all.

The only secrecy that any state should be allowed is war-time information when its military is repelling an invasion of its own territory by hostile forces that have committed aggression against it. There is no other time that we can allow the state to have any secrecy and still hold on to liberty.  The state has now gone overboard and promiscuously classified everything it can. There are even examples of the state classifying things that have already been in a newspaper! They are protecting state functionaries from embarrassment or exposure of criminal activities. They are not protecting you or “national security” unless you think their lying hides are “the nation”.

4) Governments promote corruption

I see modern leftist wail all the time about the power of money involved in our domestic politics. They seem to think that only those in corporations who are the beneficiaries of favoritism by the state are corrupt. But it is the very power of the state that enables all of the people involved to promote the corruption, bribery, deceit, and lawlessness that is an integral part of crony-capitalism as practiced in the U.S. today. It should be obvious to anyone who has studied the U.S.S.R. that vast amounts of corruption is inherent in any government, even those that have no private corporations at all. No, my deluded leftist friends, it is not the “evil corporations” who started what you see but the raw power of the coersive state.

Conclusion

Is should be obvious that unless you want to be a “player” and live off the labor of others by force and coercion that you should be an enemy of the state. There is no way that you can use politics to fix the hell that politics has created. You can not use the same system that got us in this deep hole to get us out of it. Reject the state.

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The State answers Winston Smith

I first read the classic George Orwell dystopian novel 1984 in 1968 when the date he used as the tittle of his book still seemed far in the future to a late teen that tended to concentrate on the slow moving present. The date must have seemed even further in the future to the people who read the book in 1949 when it was first published. I read Orwell’s book one slow summer in the heat of central Florida when no one we knew could afford air conditioning, especially us, and so I read the book outdoors sitting under the shade of an oak tree that was well over a century old which offered me the small comfort of some shade in the sweltering heat. I had time. I had plenty of time to read the book slowly and reflectively — and the book effected me profoundly. I was never to be the same again.

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As the Wikipedia article on 1984 points out, many of the terms Orwell coined in his masterpiece such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, and memory hole, all became part of our language over time. My favorite Orwellian phrase has always been down the memory hole. The job of the protagonist, Winston Smith, was to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always was consistent with the ever changing Party line. The Party, of course, was the State. There was just one Party and it had an inner core of elites who were in the Inner Party and they controlled the masses via surveillance, mind control, constant propaganda, and brutal police state violence which is all justified due to the ever present war. The nation-state ruled by the tyrannical Party was always at war, had always been at war, and would forever be at war.

Winston Smith was a party member but he was not one of the Inner Party. Rather he was a member of the Outer Party just as most of our federal bureaucrats today are not part of the ruling elite of our own Empire. At one point he says to an Inner Party member, “I understand how, but I don’t understand why.”  He wanted to know why the Party did all those immoral and rotted things.

One of its leaders explains:

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement – a world of fear and treachery and torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” ~1984

Orwell captured the essential nature of the State perfectly in this speech by the party member to Winston Smith. Far too many people in the modern age have watched the American Empire start endless wars and grow ever more tyrannical without allowing themselves to ask the question: “why“?

In the book we find that the destruction of language makes it impossible to think independent thoughts because the meaning of words has become too confused while logic has been destroyed via doublethink. Orwell once observed in an essay on the English language that political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Our modern world has its own version of the thought police and our state has a propaganda machine that would have astounded George Orwell. While the present US Empire does not match the Orwellian dystopia exactly, there are many parallels between our reality and Orwell’s dystopian novel.

The latest NSA revelations due to the whistle blowing of Edward Snowden as published in the Guardian have told us that the US Empire fully expects to be able to read the minds of the masses just as The Party did in 1984. It is claimed that by computerized analysis of “meta-data” collected by the NSA that one can practically read the mind of the target individual. It is almost a cliché to say that the revelations of Edwards Snowden and others point to an Orwellian state being built.

But the massive spying by the NSA on the entire public is not the only bad news to come out over the last few years. We have the TSA terrorizing the flying public and making sounds like they want to be involved in searching people outside of airports. We have SWAT teams making routine no-knock raids on houses. And as various police state tactics escalate nationwide we learn, according to a report by KTTV, the Department of Homeland Security partnered with the Los Angeles County California Sheriff’s department and TSA agents to conduct an exercise that was described as a “full scale terrorism drill”. The drill was reported to have been taking place nationwide with various agencies even using agents “working undercover, looking like any other passenger, they scour faces, briefcases and backpacks, looking for anything out of the ordinary.” US Officials claimed that these drills were designed to make the public feel “safe” in light of the 4th of July holiday and rumors that the Boston Bombers had planed a July 4th terror attack. According to Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the people will celebrate their independence from tyranny by submitting to random bag searches.

Winston Smith observed that your worst enemy was your nervous system because at any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom. Today our own police state is working towards the capability to use real-time computer analysis to read thoughts, emotions, and intentions that they claim will keep us safe from “terrorists” but could very well ensnare any of us in a false charge . The state is keeping an ever tighter grip on the public and far from making them safer, the state is putting everyone at risk of being identified as an “enemy” of the state. 

A few years ago, Wendy McElroy asked the question: does the US have police state powers now? Her answer:

Clearly it does. The American government exerts extreme control over society, down to dictating which foods you may eat. Its economic control borders on the absolute. It politicizes and presides over even the traditional bastion of privacy — the family. Camera and other surveillance of daily life has soared, with the Supreme Court recently expanding the “right” of police to perform warrantless searches. Enforcement is so draconian that the United States has more prisoners per capita than any other nation; and over the last few years, the police have been self-consciously militarizing their procedures and attitudes. Travel, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Several huge and tyrannical law-enforcement agencies monitor peaceful behavior rather than respond to crime. These agencies operate largely outside the restrictions of the Constitution; for example, the TSA conducts arbitrary searches in violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees.

The methods that the ruling elite use to control the mases have been documented in many, many places. I ran a Google search today on “US police state” (without the quotes) and Google yielded just shy of one Billion hits. The question is not “is the USA becoming a police state” but rather the question is “why”. Why does the state continue to grab power and why do we allow it to do so? Just as Winston Smith pointed out, we can easily see how the total control by the state is coming to be, but we need to know why. It is not, my friends, to keep you safe. Your safety is the last thing on the minds of the rulers.

George Orwell answered the “why” in ’49 and the answer has not changed. It is about power. Solely about power. It is the nature of humans to want power over others, and we have known for thousands of years that power corrupts and with ever more power comes ever more corruption. There is no reason to expect that we can hand power over to those running the State without them seeking ever more power until the dystopian nightmare comes to us.

If you do not see the state as our enemy as did Albert Jay Nock, then you have not been paying attention.

Note: an edited version of this essay first appeared a week ago here.

Update: In the editing process the number one billion got changed to one trillion somehow and has now been fixed due to the kind response on this matter in other media.

Injustice in Tennessee: “Making a Terrorist Threat”

I saw recently on the LRC blog that Professor Michael S. Rozeff posted a story and a portion of a letter sent to him about a black man in Tullahoma, Tennessee who has been railroaded by the hysteria surrounding the “terrorism” issue. From the report: “The man is facing 12 to 20 years in prison for making a hotheaded statement to a government school employee. Tyrone L. Watts, 43, could face from 12 to 20 years after a jury returned guilty verdicts late Tuesday of charges of disorderly conduct and attempted terrorism.” Twenty years for disorderly conduct? Oh my, we have fallen down the rabbit hole for sure. But no, it is the “terrorist threat” that gives you 20 years in Tennessee.

Dr. Rozeff commented:

Lawmakers have literally created the crime of terrorism for possibly or allegedly ill-considered and/or extreme remarks made in a variety of emotional or mental states that include haste, anger, sarcasm, habit, ignorance, being under pressure, stress, the desire to fight back somehow, frustration, displacement, being under the influence of alcohol, or simply lack of restraint and bad judgment. People should not be put in prison for decades for being human and saying things that they have no intention of doing!

Have law makers done this? Have they criminalized saying things in anger or while drunk that no one paid any attention to back during the 20th century? As it turns out the central government and the various states have all enacted laws that make it a very crime to make a terrorist threat. OK then, so what does it mean to make a “terrorist threat”?

For an introduction to laws on making a “terrorist threat” I followed the link Dr. Rozeff gave to see this explanation at a site that tries to explain legal issues to legal laymen like myself. They have a page that says this:

What Exactly Does “Making a Terrorist Threat” Mean?

The crime of “making a terrorist threat” is a recent creation enacted at both the state and federal levels after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  It is a very general law that can be used to prosecute terrorists, but has been used far more often to prosecute situations involving domestic violence, hate crimes, bomb threats, and school violence.  Indeed, in many states, the term “terrorist” has been amended to mean simply “criminal.”

Although the exact definition varies from state to state, generally one makes a terrorist threat if one threatens to commit a violent crime for the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing public panic.  Some states laws are very narrow, meaning the threat must be very specific and direct, while other states adapt a looser approach, allowing even negligently made threats to be prosecutable.

What are the Elements of a “Terrorist Threat?”

The most commonly used definition of a terrorist or criminal threat has five elements:

  1. Someone willfully threatens to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily harm.  This means that the threat obviously has to be of a highly dangerous nature.  Threatening to slash someones tires, for instance, would probably not be sufficient.  However, the threat can be made in any medium, written, orally, or electronically transmitted.
  2. The threat was made with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat.  Although this certainly seems like a redundant sentence, it is meant to convey that the threat is a crime even if there is no actual intent to carry it out.  The only intent you need is the intent to make the threat itself.  So if you threaten to blow up a school, you will still be guilty of this crime even if you are completely unarmed and have no means of accomplishing this at all.
  3. The threat is so unequivocal, unconditional, and specific as to convey a gravity of purpose and immediate prospect of execution.  This extremely complicated sounding sentence is very important to the law, so let’s break it down.  Remember you must satisfy ALL of these requirements.Unequivocal: This means that the threat must be a direct statement of what you WILL do, as opposed to CAN do (i.e. “I could be the next man to blow up the federal building” does NOT count).Unconditional: This word is very bizarrely used here, because the courts have directly held that conditional threats (“If you touch me again I’ll kill you”) DO qualify.  It is a gray area, but presumably, the fewer conditions used, the more likely the court will rule that it is a threat.Specific:  The threat cannot be vague (“if you don’t give me a million dollars, something bad will happen”).
  4. The threat actually caused fear in the victim.   People must actually believe your threat for you to be arrested for it.
  5. The fear was reasonable.  If you said that you are going to blow up the White House with your spaceship, it is unlikely that any reasonable person could take this seriously.

Each state may have its own version of these rules.  Missouri, for instance, only considers a terrorist threat one which frightens more than ten people, while California insists that the fear caused be “sustained” (held for more than a brief instant).  Because the laws differ from place to place, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with the rulings in your state.

What are the Punishments for Making a Terrorist Threat?

The punishments for making a terrorist threat will depend on what state you are located in, and whether you are charged with a federal or state crime.  Sometimes the punishment can be as little as a year in the county jail.  In other instances (especially under federal law), the punishments can be extremely severe.  Individuals who threaten the use of a biological toxin can receive up to life in prison. The law provides for up to five years in prison for mailing communications that contain any threat to injure the addressee or any other person, and five years for those who lie to law enforcement officials about terrorist hoaxes.

In post 9/11 America, something as juvenile as calling in a phony threat to close down a school or skip a test can land you 20 years in prison.  Obviously, it is not a crime that is taken lightly, and if you’ve been charged with making terrorist threats, it is very important you speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your options.

In post 9/11 America, something as juvenile as calling in a phony threat to close down a school or skip a test can land you 20 years in prison.” Come on now, have we gotten to that extreme by now? A fake bomb threat was called in at my high school on several occasions in the spring of 1969 as a prank by a boy who was later caught. He was given a week suspension for the actions — plus a severe talking to, and a paddling. We seem to have arrived at the dystopian idea of “thought crime” in the US. We have arrived at a place where you will speak as the ruling masters allow you to speak or you can be put in a cage for decades. This is the reality, this is not fiction from a writer’s imagination.

Back to the case of the Tennessee man who made a “terrorist threat”. He is a 43 year old family man who got so upset with a public school’s refusal to check out his child early into his custody that he made an angry threat as many people sometimes do when they lose their temper. But in this era of school safety hysteria he should never have allegedly said he would go buy an AK-47 and come back to shoot the place up: if he ever did say that. A lady who lives there sent Dr. Rozeff an e-mail about the incident and she said in part:

The only evidence against this gentlemen was the hearsay of an  inarticulate office worker at his stepson’s school. I have met  Mr. Watts. He was for some time a local pizza delivery driver, a very polite man. Our families later became casually acquainted at various community events. When I was pregnant with my first child he delivered his wife’s old maternity clothes with our pizza.   It certainly did not work in Mr. Watts favor that he is an African-American  (to clarify, I am a white), nor that he was convicted for a felony ten years ago. Perhaps the most damning detail was that this incident occurred two days before the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary became national news. On the day of the incident, police questioned a cooperative Watts and released him. Two days later, they returned to his home with a swat team and he was charged. The story was released to the local and state media and concerned parents were up in arms. Local police were beaming with pride that they had ‘stopped an act of terrorism.'”

It looks like the state of Tennessee has destroyed a family in a mindless attempt to “look tough” on crime and to “look tough” on terrorism. If everyone who ever made a hot-headed idle threat was sent to prison we would have at least half of all the men in jail. In addition to this, does it take only the say so of a school employee to put a man in a cage for two decades? Looks like it. Just one more reason to get your kids out of the government schools of the Empire.

This conviction and the legal description cited above tells us that an American citizen may now become a felon based on his speech alone without any intent to harm others or even the ability to harm others. This is an obvious violation of due process and the rights put forth in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. This means that you may say something out of anger, drunkenness, sarcasm, or as a joke without meaning any of it and end up a convicted criminal in a cage. These are the laws of a police state.