A sneak peak of post-constitutional America

Reblogged from Sinking Ark:

Police Shooting Missouri

First, read this story here.

What do I mean by post-constitutional? Well, think of our present day not as the end of history – which is too easy to do – but rather a point on a continuum which future citizens of America will look back on with perfect hindsight and say, “Well, why did they make that stupid decision? It was obviously going to lead to [insert terrible circumstances here].” This is the point in history when we decided to relegate the constitution – the foundational law of our land and the document that embodies our cultural idealism – to historical edifice.

I frequently find myself playing devil’s advocate with myself, saying: “Am I being too over the top here? Too sensationalist?” Unfortunately, in this case I strongly believe the answer is no.

The debacle in Ferguson has not by any means abated, and yet it has dissolved from the public’s mind as the media decides to focus on more immediately-recent matters, such as elections, etc. Because remember all the way back to August requires a type of focus that isn’t entirely profitable. There is, however, a shocking new tale to tell in the Ferguson story. This week, the associated press obtained recordings proving that officials of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) purposefully created a no-fly zone over the Ferguson riots specifically to keep media out.

I very highly suggest you read the story in its entirety here, and ponder its implications, perhaps before you venture on to my perspective below.

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With the passage of its new terror law, Australia ceases existing as a free society

Reblogged from Sinking Ark.

Citizens in the Western world (and, indeed, the world over) should take note of the striking law that was just passed in Australia last week.

The law allows Australian government spies to monitor the entire Australian internet with a single warrant, and will simultaneously allow the government to punish anyone who releases information about government intelligence capabilities – including journalists – by jailing them for 10 years. In other words, a single bill has effectively legally ended both the right to privacy and free press in Australia.

Seems like a big fucking deal right? Yeah, well it is.

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Civilized societies must stop using the word “terrorism” and its derivatives

Reblogged from Sinking Ark

In a recent post, I argued that language contained in the U.S. “terrorist” watch list provides for the criminalization of dissent in America, depending on who may be interpreting the definition of “terrorism” contained in that document.

As a follow up to that post, I propose that the word “terrorist” itself, and its derivatives (i.e. “terrorism” and the like), should no longer be used in civilized societies, either by governments or peoples. Why? Because when someone is a terrorist, the law no longer applies to them as it does other citizens. It is such an ambiguous word that it can be too easily applied to a broad swath of individuals. After all, what counts as terror? Depending on who’s interpreting “terrorism,” it can imply Islamist extremists, gang members, regular criminals, or just people who disagree with the government.

Labeling people “terrorists” is an easy way for the government to circumvent civil liberties. The inherent ambiguity of the word allows for too much room for abuse of power by those who just hate getting caught up in things like “laws” and “restrictions on power.”

Remember what 2001 was like?

It is easy to get lost in the present disarray of politics, especially those related to national security. I think that, for context, it is helpful to remember the moment in American history when “terrorism” became a word thrown around the dinner table much like “communism” had been during the cold war. Of course, I speak of Al-Qaeda’s attack on the twin towers during 9-11.

This was a frightening moment, and if you were old enough to recognize what was going on, these attacks were likely one of those times that will be forever etched into your memory. You will never forget where you were when America was attacked that day. No one really knew what was happening, but for one single fact: we were under attack by someone. When that attack would end, no one really knew, but these attacks seemed to come out of nowhere (even though, according to former senior NSA officials, the US had more than enough pieces of intelligence to learn about and prevent these attacks, and didn’t because they didn’t know how to handle bulk collection system they purchased in 2000, which was several times more expensive than the alternative), and that was pretty terrifying.

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The beginning of property protection destruction and the emergence of guilt by association in the US (aka you’re doing it wrong)

Reblogged from Sinking Ark.

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created, that they endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and Property.”

Because that’s how it originally read in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. When they decided that “property” wasn’t sufficiently lofty verbiage for the country’s ideologically defining document, they changed it to “pursuit of happiness.” Why? Because property protection is a basic expectation in free societies, and in such societies it is the government’s role to protect the peoples’ right to property. Despite all that Republicans and Democrats disagree on, this is one of those “yeah, well, duh” points on which almost everyone sees eye to eye. In fact, so important are property rights, that when our country’s founders – people who were unusually well-educated in political theory and well-suited even in their time to lay the rules for a steady government – decided to write the declaration of government for the newborn Republic, what did they talk about in the first sentence? 1) the right to live 2) the right to be free and 3) the right to control one’s property.” When the government can take your property at whim with weakly justified laws that don’t pass the “Is this fair?” sniff test, people start to get pissed off.

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The leaked terrorist watch list contains language that criminalizes dissent

Reblogged from Sinking Ark:

Note: In order to provide some context to my argument I will first be summarizing and referring to many of The Intercepts’ remarks from their report on the US terrorist watch list, which I highly recommend reading. My original commentary will then follow below.

What is the watch list, and what did we learn in this leak?

About a month ago, The Intercept posted the unclassified but nonetheless “secret” government document that outlines that internal procedures to place someone on the terrorist watch list. This is the watch list that is shared across agencies that basically prevents you from ever flying if you end up on it, among other things.

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Book Review: Are We Rome by Cullen Murphy

Are We Rome?

Reblogged from SinkingArk:

I’ve developed a recent interest in Roman History- from Romulus & Remus through the Republic to Empire to Fall. Aside from being an interesting time in history in of itself – of which I knew, sadly, too little – I believe there are lessons to take away from the past failings of a giant society. So while on vacation I decided to read a book called “Are We Rome” by Cullen Murphy. While by now some of its contemporary examples are a bit dated (it was published in 2008), I believe Murphy provides very good overviews of both some leading hypotheses on the causes of Rome’s fall as well as challenges facing America today.

Needless to say, this sort of historical comparison invites sensationalism. I found Murphy’s approach, however, to be even handed, and I felt that he tries to objectively evaluate both similarities and differences between modern day America and the Roman Empire. The takeaway is, essentially: there is quite a bit that distinguishes us from the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD, before its fall. However, there is enough in common that should, if not concern us, then at least catch our attention.

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Reflections on reflections on an infamous dictatorship

Reblogged from SinkingArk

“How could something like this ever happen?”
“Why didn’t the people do something?”
“How could a whole country go crazy?”
“If I had lived then, I would have done something.”

Introduction and brief apology

First off – no, the repetition in the title is not an error.  And – I’ll get to the quotes above, below. Promise.

Those following my still nascent blog (thanks, by the way!) may have noticed a decrease in frequency over the last two weeks. I took a few weeks off to travel through Europe, and since I had limited internet access anyways figured I’d try to stay somewhat disconnected (try it sometime, it’s refreshing).

First off, apologies. I know that part of the responsibility – if you want to call it that – of running a blog is maintaining consistency. That said, time away from the monitor’s gradual erosion of my corneas actually allowed for a bit of time to reflect on some of the issues I’ve been writing about.

The first result of this contemplation is the article you’re reading now. It’s a big longer than my usual posts, and requires a touch of historical context, but ultimately ends with an appeal to you, my dear readers. I have a handful of these “reflection” topics I intend to post, and while they will not entail action items, I believe they will lay out more fully the rationale for the moral duty carried by citizens of a democracy to maintain constant vigilance in the form of participation in their self-governance. In other words, why I’m writing this blog at all.

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