End, Don't Mend, Police Militarization

by Will

Liberty Minute September 19 2014

 Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador and Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson have co-sponsored a measure intended to limit a federal program that transfers war-fighting materiel to local police departments.

The Pentagon’s Law Enforcement Support Office, also called the 1033 program, was created twenty years ago in order to fight the so-called War on Drugs. The program, which operates through the Defense Logistics Agency, allows police departments to receive combat-grade weapons, body armor, night vision equipment, and armored vehicles on concessionary terms. According to Pentagon spokesman Fred Baille, each police department that applies for the equipment is treated “as if they were a [Defense Department] organization” – in other words, as war-fighters, rather than peace officers.

Among the reforms proposed by Representatives Labrador and Johnson would be restrictions on transfers of armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other battlefield armaments. They also seek to repeal a provision requiring recipient police agencies to use their Pentagon-provided equipment within a year, an arrangement that creates a perverse incentive for overkill.

The problem with the Labrador-Johnson measure is that it takes an incremental approach rather than simply abolishing a program that shouldn’t exist in the first place. And it doesn’t address the real issue, which is the very literal War on Drugs that makes police militarization inevitable.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

No Good Can Result when Governments Conduct Human Inventory

by Will

Liberty Minute September 18 2014

It was a Roman tax census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where the Christ Child was born.

A few years later, points out Lew Rockwell in his new book Against the State, the information collected by the Roman government was “used for more than just taxation” when its local ruler “decided he wanted to find the Christ child and kill Him.”

During the first century A Jewish sect called the Zealots “saw complying with the census as equivalent to submitting to slavery. Many ended up paying for their principled stand with their lives.”

Significantly, for a thousand years following the reign of Emperor Constantine, “no central government was in a position to collect data on its citizens,” Rockwell continues. This happy state of affairs ended with the Norman Conquest of England and the creation of primitive information-gathering methods that are the ancestors of the modern census – not to mention the IRS and the NSA.  

Census data were used by the US government to imprison innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II. Germany used similar methods to identify, imprison, and murder Jews. Any government that conducts an inventory of its subjects intends to expropriate or exterminate them.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

Blasphemy and Civic Idolatry

by Will

Liberty Minute September 17 2014

 Blasphemy is a grave sin. It is not, however, an offense that falls within government's jurisdiction.

 A young man in Pennsylvania faces prosecution and the prospect of a prison term after photographing himself pantomiming an obscene act with a statue of Jesus. If he hadn't published the photograph via social media it's likely nobody would have taken notice of his act. Now, however, he has been arrested and charged with public desecration of a venerated object. If found guilty, he may spend up to two years in prison.

 A “venerated object” is more properly referred to as an idol. Criminalizing offensive gestures toward such object isn't an act of Christian piety; it is an act of state-enforced idolatry.

 Over the past decade, Americans and westerners have condemned efforts by Muslim regimes to punish supposed acts of blasphemy, such as attempts by cartoonists and other artists to depict Mohammed. It isn't obvious to the unprejudiced mind how that Islamic practice differs in principle from the effort to punish the uncouth Pennsylvania man's admittedly offensive gesture.

 Though hateful and repulsive, that man's vile gesture isn't a legitimate crime. Those seeking to imprison him might well be acting out of zeal for God, but as the Apostle Paul might conclude, their zeal is not according to sound knowledge.

 Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

Seeking Political Profit from Persecution

by Will

Liberty Minute September 16 2014

 

Representatives of displaced and persecuted Arab Christians gathered in Washington for a conference entitled In Defense of Christians. The keynote speaker, Republican presidential aspirant Ted Cruz, insisted that “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” This provoked audible disapproval from some in attendance, whose view of the Arab-Israeli dispute differs from that of American Evangelicals and politicians seeking their favor.

 

Cruz conspicuously rebuked conference attendees, accusing them of displaying “hatred” for Jews and proclaiming: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

 

It is an act of monumental presumption to impose an ideological litmus test on persecuted Arab Christians. Whatever one's perspective on Israel, the founding and expansion of that state have contributed to the dispossession of Arab Christians, some of whom were evicted from lands and homes their families had owned for generations. Millions of others have been driven from Iraq by an Islamist regime brought to power in a war widely perceived in the region to have been waged for Israel's benefit.

 

Within hours of the incident, Cruz was using it in fund-raising appeals targeting Evangelical voters, which strongly suggests that he acted not out of solidarity for those who suffer, but out of a cynical desire to capitalize on the conflict.

 

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

How Many More Times?

by Will

Liberty Minute September 15 2014  

The nihilistic movement calling itself the Islamic State, or ISIS, boasts a membership of roughly ten thousand fighters. It has neither a navy nor an air force. It has seized control of a handful of cities and towns in Iraq inhabited by Sunni Muslims who were severely persecuted by the U.S.-installed Shiite regime.

 In cities occupied by ISIS, Sunni Muslims support the group out of fear – not only toward ISIS, but also fear of what the regime in Baghdad would do to punish those cities once ISIS leaves. In Syria, Christians and other minorities are supporting Assad out of the understandable fear of what ISIS and its allies would do to them if the incumbent ruler were to be removed.

 The weapons used by ISIS fighters are American-made, and were provided to them by way of allies in the U.S.-backed Islamic insurgency in Syria. In recent days the so-called moderate Syrian rebels announced a non-aggression pact with ISIS, which means that they are now officially part of the US-supported coalition seeking to remove Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.

 Now Americans are being manipulated by fear into supporting a new war that would bring about that result.

 Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

Killing Without Consequence: "Qualified Immunity" in Action

by Will

Liberty Minute September 9 2014

 Kelly Roach of Orlando, Florida has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 22-year-old Maria Fernanda Godinez – but he never fired a shot. While he did have a handgun, it wasn't loaded. The fatal gunshot was fired by Officer Eduardo Sanguino, who sprayed nine shots in Roach's direction, hitting him five times.

 Police responded to a 911 call from a nightclub describing Roach as a “gun-wielding maniac” who was disruptive and uncooperative when asked to leave. After the officers arrived, they attempted to subdue Roach with a Taser, but his baggy clothing made that device ineffective. The officers claimed that Roach then reached into his waistband.

 According to a police press release, Officer Sanguino opened fire “[i]n order to prevent an armed individual from causing harm to any members of the public or to any of the surrounding officers....”

 By opening fire, Sanguino protected himself and his fellow officers – at the price of killing an innocent bystander.

 Roach has now been charged with first-degree murder – which would mean that he intended for the officer to shoot and kill the victim. Officer Sanguino, by way of contrast, has been placed on paid vacation, protected from accountability by the untenable doctrine of qualified immunity.

  

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

Alba Gu Brath!

by Will

Liberty Minute September 8 2014

 

“What force or guile could not subdue, through many warlike ages, is wrought now by a coward few, for a hireling traitor's wages.... We're bought and sold for English gold – such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”

 

Scottish patriot poet Robert Burns penned those lines of lamentation in memory of the betrayal of his country's independence through the Act of Union in 1707. The Scots had famously won their independence at Bannockburn in 1314. The April 1320 Declaration of Abroath made the preservation of their nation's independence the defining task of Scottish kings.

 

As Burns observed, the country lost its independence through subversion, rather than military conquest. This campaign was not completed until the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when Royalist forces annihilated the refractory Scottish Highlanders.

 

On September 18, however, Scotland might reclaim its independence through a national referendum. This prospect has caused a seizure of panic in the British establishment, which has been pleading with foreign powers – from Washington to Moscow and Beijing – to pressure the Scots into rejecting independence.

 

Ever since the Tower of Babel, consolidation of political power has facilitated evil designs. Devolution, decentralization, and succession are valuable checks on such malign ambitions – whether in Great Britain or the USA.

 

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

"Use It, or Lose It": Feds Abet Police Escalation

by Will

Liberty Minute August 29 2014

In Caldwell, Idaho, a SWAT team was deployed in an effort to arrest a single suspected gang member, who escaped and was arrested later by less dramatic means.

Six days later, police in Boise dispatched a SWAT team in an MRAP – a combat-grade armed vehicle – to arrest a man suspected of pointing a gun at a pedestrian. This raid, which took place late in the evening, resulted in an arrest on a single misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace, which is the sort of thing that happens when police carry out a military-style raid at midnight.

Neither of those arrests required the use of a SWAT team and military hardware, which were used because of availability, not need. Since 2011, police agencies in Idaho have received $9.3 million in military equipment from the federal government.

Analyst Noel Brinkerhoff points out that the Pentagon’s 1033 program specifies that “any participating law enforcement agency must use its equipment within one year of receiving it. If they don’t, they have to give it up.”

If a police department wants combat gear, it can get it, and once the department has that gear, it will use it. In fact, the Feds will require that they invent a need where none exists.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

"Convert, Leave, or Die"

by Will

Liberty Minute August 28 2014

Following a bitter and bloody sectarian war, the triumphant faction imposed a severe victor’s peace on the vanquished: They could either “Convert, leave, or die.”

New laws were imposed and brutally enforced. Clergy were expelled from the country or compelled, on threat of death, to swear an oath repudiating their religious views and submitting to the new order. Anybody caught encouraging apostasy was subject to the death penalty.

People regarded as infidels were disarmed, forbidden to seek education, denied the unrestricted use of their property. Anybody observing unapproved religious holidays was beaten. An army of secret police was created to hunt down and capture priests, who were subject to the most inventively cruel tortures devised by the imagination of fallen humanity.

This could be considered a brief summary of the reign of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In fact, it is a description of the official persecution of Catholics in Great Britain following William the Orange’s victory in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

It is often said that the problem with Islam is that it reflects the personality of its founder. The problem with Christianity is that it too often fails to reflect the personality of its own.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Diplomacy is not Dictation

by Will

Liberty Minute August 27 2014

 

In 2003, then-French President Jacques Chirac urged the Bush administration to consider a negotiated solution to the confrontation with Iraq. Blinded by its hubris, the Bush administration ignored Chirac's advice, as well as that of the Pope and other international figures, and embarked on an unnecessary war that removed Saddam – and replaced him with a Shi'ite Muslim government now under siege by a radical Sunni movement called ISIS.

 

The group now calling itself ISIS coalesced out of radical Muslim elements that were supported by the U.S. in Libya and Syria. A year ago, as the US prepared to escalate its military campaign against the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin – who, while hardly a saint, is a canny diplomat -- sponsored an initiative to remove that nation's chemical weapons without a dramatic military confrontation. He also warned that Washington was supporting the worst and most militant elements in the anti-Assad coalition – the same group, once again, that morphed into ISIS.

 

The Book of Proverbs teaches that wise leaders seek “an abundance of counselors.” This is particularly true in diplomatic affairs. Doing so is neither weakness nor a threat to national independence. Pretending we can dictate to the world evinces the kind of pride that is a precursor to a fall.

 

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

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