"After taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd." - Alexis de TocquevilleAs I reflect on this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville I find myself recognizing this pattern in our daily lives as citizens of the United States. As an entrepreneur I often think of businesses or products I'd bring to market, yet frankly shut it down before I get started as my mind reviews government legislation, regulation, and product liability issues. While this is obviously an investment, economic, and business blog, the creeping hand and influence of government in our lives must be recognized and arrested, otherwise we and our children will wish that we had acted when is was possible to do something about it.
Since 1868, more than 600,000 of our military members have given the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedoms from tyranny and oppression that I am about to highlight. If our deceased veterans that gave their lives in war were able to, I'm sure they would simply shake their heads at the mess we've created and the lack of focus on the preservation of our liberties. On this Memorial Day weekend I wanted to present to you how we are ushering in a new life here in the United States, one that is something right out of a Orwellian novel or out of the imagination of a totalitarian dictator. As we saw new political tides sweep across the Middle East in the form of the Arab Spring, I can only wonder what tsunami has begun to cover what was once the greatest nation on the earth.
THE PATH TO HELL?
Like many well meaning activities I do believe that the reach of government began in an effort to improve peoples lives. Legislatures attempted to protect individuals, keep them from financial and physical harm, and ensure that the little guy could have a seat at the table. Unfortunately, good intentions tend to get out of control and we may find that all of these nice rules and laws have sent us down a road we don't want to tread. It seems that we have a pervasive attitude that every interest group with money can buy a lobbying firm and get their pet project and bill passed.
24 HOUR A DAY LEGISLATION
Clearly we have an issue in city, state, and federal spheres of government where we have professional politicians that are paid to craft more rules and regulations. These "professional politicians" legislate and frankly that is a problem. When politicians are paid and their full-time jobs are to create laws, guess what? They create lots of laws! While these political leaders work to create laws, they just keep adding up and up and up. It isn't too hard to see that anyone with a great need, political influence, or a lot of money could shop their cause or need to our legislatures that seem to have an unending appetite for passing new bills, or passing fresh laws to fix older perceived bad ones.
What types of great laws do we get when our leaders spend their time drafting ordinances and guidelines for our daily life?
Gardening - Go to jail for gardening?
Leaf blower bans - More city council non-sense
Each of these situations posted above demonstrate the reach of government. Do we need protection from gardens and leaf blowers? Do we need safety so much that we give city employees access to our businesses, property, and personal assets?
LAW ENFORCEMENT OR SIMPLY BRUTE FORCE WITHOUT OVERSIGHT?
In America we used to grow up thinking that we had specific rights that protected us from undue scrutiny and interference from the government as long as we did nothing wrong. Unfortunately, that might not be the case as citizen's rights are being whittled away or simply revoked as the governmental system acts and often acts strongly and violently then apologizes after citizen's suffer injury or pay the ultimate price. We now live in an America where if we want to travel by plane we are subject to intense questioning and strip searches. We live in towns where police can now stop you without cause because you look out of place. Our email and phone conversations are easily intercepted and can be used to implicate you or trap you when previous communications were protected and required advance approval from a judge. We reside in a nation where governmental agencies can sue you and prevent you from using your land, levying fines and essentially bankrupting you as you attempt to defend yourself. Our nation is now one where you can be tried criminally in a state and then forced to defend yourself for a similar crime at the federal level, draining your financial and psychological resources and circumventing the notion of double jeopardy.
DOE - Task force goes after fraud invades wrong home -
Note that the woman the Feds were looking for had alledgedly committed student loan or financial aid fraud and I'm sure she was a huge threat (not!). Even the Federal Department of Education is employing its own armed SWAT teams to apprehend violators through the Office of the Inspector General. Couldn't the FBI assist with such a scary and threatening financial aid fraud violator? It seems that every action by the government now needs overwhelming force as we see white collar criminals swarmed with dozens and dozens of agents all fully armed with shotguns, machine guns, and other high powered weapons. Our police force has been fully militarized and sees every potential interaction with the public as an opportunity to demonstrate its power.
It is also troubling that the task force had a warrant with 100 names AND it included the husband's on the list, not just the wife. You think they were casting a pretty wide net to capture anything they could?
Arizona Iraq Veteran Shot 70 Times - Never Fired A Shot & "They were just doing what they were trained to do"
US Government Aids Drug Trafficers and Gun Runners - Fast and Furious
We all know the Fast and Furious story, yet I don't think it has sunk in with enough of us that our Justice Department and senior government leadership were willing to risk the safety of Americans AND were absolutely ok with the killing of Mexican citizens to potentially arrest some bad guys. Really contemplate what they must have discussed. "Mexican citizens will get killed and some American's might......Operation Approved!" Where is the citizen oversight for these governmental agencies? Frankly, there is none as we see Eric Holder refuse to answer questions posed to him by Congress. Why did the whole operation come to light? A US Federal agent was killed, otherwise we might not have any idea that our highest levels of government were willing to risk a few foreigners and citizens to catch some criminals.
Protect and Serve Replaced by Violence, Corruption, and Domination
The video above highlights just how it takes just one police officer in authority to impact the lives of by-standers in very permanent and negative ways. Is there any defense for the stupidity of the guy that claimed initially that it wasn't his home? No. Did he deserve the attack by the officer? No. Did the person with the camera threaten the officer? No. Did the officer act reasonably or even try to discern the facts of the situation before reacting violently? Clearly, the answer is no. The officer went further and kicked the camera attempting to disable it. In December 2011 the officer was terminated from his position with the Las Vegas police force.
I know that police officers are concerned about video taping of their actions and I know that 99% of police act honorably and have a horribly difficult job. When video taped, officers feel as though they are being spied upon, monitored, and set up for a trap. Unfortunately, we have seen that citizens do need the right to video tape officers at work. If not, there is no chance to punish the very small minority of bad cops that do bad things. Below is a video of a fatal shooting in San Francisco on the BART transit system. A defenseless 22 year-old man was shot as he lay on the ground and was hand-cuffed. Fortunately, riders of the stopped train video taped the attack. As you watch the Chief of police, make sure to note that he defends the procedures of the cops and mixes up the order of events. He claims that the man was hand-cuffed after the shooting, which is clearly not the case. The officer ultimately did get convicted, but it took video and bravery on the part of people attempting to reign in the unfettered power of an out of control governmental agent.
STUPIDITY YES, BUT WHAT IF IT WERE YOU?
Look, I see clowns like the guy video taping the police officer and I think he is an idiot. I see thieves run from the police and then when caught they are beat senseless. Many of you will state that these criminals are stupid and shouldn't run or that the person deserves the full measure of the repercussions the offender receives. I once felt like that. Oddly, I expect more from our police since they are highly trained and quite militarized. If they are going to be equipped and trained like soldiers they better have the professionalism and self control of elite soldiers. These videos highlight just a few instances over the last few years of power misapplied by our police and government. What is important to remember is that there are millions of interactions a year where the police handle things perfectly. The issue is that when you are involved in one of those instances that goes bad, you might just find yourself injured seriously or killed. If a SWAT team entered your house at 3AM without warning, would you be able to discern that they were friendly cops that were trying to execute a warrant on your neighbor, but mistakenly entered your home? My guess is that I would shoot one or two of them and they would kill me, filling my body with many bullets. At 3AM, I wouldn't have time or the inclination to determine who was breaking into my home and they wouldn't take the time to explain that they accidentally had broken down the wrong door.
Our system of checks and balances is unique and has served citizens of the USA and forged a prosperous country that has so far fended off the attempts by tyrants (government) to dominate life. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for long. The judiciary is simply a step of affirmation that works to create case-law and legal support for unbridled use of power against our citizens.
We even live in a country where in 2011 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that a citizen may not prevent police from entering your home or fight back even when the entry is illegal! - "The court has now given police authority, even when they don't have a warrant and even when the search may be illegal, to enter an Indiana citizen's home without a warrant to search,” attorney Jack Crawford said.
WE MUST HAVE AN ENEMY
I've mentioned it quite often in the blog over that last couple of years that we often see "convenient" terror actions at just the right time. Remember when we were hearing lots of calls for the end of the War on Terror, suddenly we had the Shoe Bomber and next we had the Underwear Bomber. Recently we had a case of the Underwear Bomber Part II. Notice anything interesting about these events?
If our citizens aren't reminded to be scared frequently we might begin to question the size of our "police" force and wonder about their infringement of our Constitutional rights. However, if we are scared and concerned for our safety as these threats are continually popping up, we are more than happy to give up a few things to be "safe".
It is odd that we live in times where our US leaders and government are implementing the actions that will transform our country from one that possessed liberty to one that wishes for it. What is strange is that right now, the middle class in Russia is attempting to throw off the very same oppression and totalitarian controls that our focused leadership desires. While Putin further consolidated power, Russians are at least aware of the dangers of a brutal totalitarian state. Unfortunately US citizens seem either asleep or quite content with the idea that our protection and security forces operate without oversight and without concern for privacy and basic US citizen rights. They are happy to give away protections of privacy and liberty in the name of safety.
PRICELESS LIBERTY - WHAT LIFE LOOKS LIKE WITHOUT IT?
And what happens when we move beyond talking about losing rights and suggesting that we are on a slippery slope? What does life look like when the abuse of power by influential leaders in government, police, or even connected corporations or political organizations becomes so rampant that our precious civil rights can be terminated with the stroke of a pen and a classification of a terrorist or "person of interest". Is it beyond imagination to think that some nutty power-hungry government official won't stretch the truth just a little to get his man? Is it possible that that same leader would attempt to overreach authority to hear their target's conversation, search his house, read his email, and detain him indefinitely?
Here is a Cuban example of what happens in these societies without morals and without a check in the power of a totalitarian government - CUBAN PRISONERS FINALLY ACHIEVE FREEDOM IN THE WORST WAY. The story simple describes how hopeless one becomes in an environment where the government controls every aspect of life in the name of protecting every man equally.
WHY WRITE THIS POST?
Economic repression of the middle class, growing and suffocating government, militarization of our police, encroachment of rights, psychological terror, abuse of power, corporate control of everything, and lack of representative government are all simply signs that our liberties are quickly eroding. A political and economic elite dominate and a powerful security force has arisen to maintain "safety" at the cost of freedom. If you imagine a time when every action you perform outside your home is video taped through cameras or monitored via drones and every verbal cell phone conversation or online communication you have is gathered and indexed for analysis or future use you begin to sense that the purpose of all of this is not exactly for our protection..... although it is said to be done in the name of protection. As I wrap this up I am convinced that all of these people involved, whether it is politicians, police, or citizens that advocate these measures, want the very best for America. Unfortunately, their actions are misguided. They see a state sponsored solution but that only results in more "state" and more cost. If you ask me, I am willing to risk my life and a few other lives in the US to preserve my living freedoms rather than hand over all of my liberties in the name of saving a few lives.
I don't want to minimize the death of anyone, but I am appalled to know that we are willing to hand over almost everything to politicians that pass the NDAA, CISPA, and Patriot Acts as a result of the 9/11 attacks and a few subsequent terrorist actions. In total we have lost perhaps 10,000 people total (when you add in the lost lives in 9/11 and the IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN WARS over the last 10 years), yet when measured against the fact that in America almost 300,000 people die each year of obesity related issues you have to ask yourself what are we thinking! No, this isn't an argument to control high-fructose corn syrup in food, it is a declaration that we are happy to give away everything that truly is important (ask someone in North Korea) to save 5,000 or 10,000 lives when we lose 30 times as many because we a country filled with fat cows! Our rights and liberties are precious we must get our heads out of the pie plate and demand that we retain them or else we will all regret our complacency in the near future.