6 big lies the government told us

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 10.58 pm

This week’s column is the first of a two-part series of 12 reasons not to trust the government:

American trust in government is at an all-time low, and the continuing tension in Ferguson, Missouri isn’t doing much to strengthen the public’s trust.

Skepticism of the state is healthy. But it was happening long before Ferguson.

Here are 6 big lies the government has told us.

1. We know what we’re doing

Last week, the Washington Post reported that TSA agents will be taught that Washington, DC issues driver’s licenses. Why is this necessary? Well, TSA agents have repeatedly hassled travelers because the agents apparently don’t know what the District of Columbia is.

This story of government incompetence is just the tip of the iceberg:

These are not stories of an organization that knows what it’s doing.

2. This nanny state is for your own good

The war on drugs—like Prohibition—is supposed keep us safe from crime and addiction, right?

Well—also like Prohibition—it doesn’t.

When liquor was banned, violent crime spiked and alcohol consumption didn’t substantially decrease. The repeal of Prohibition is what actually made America safer.

The drug war works the same way. Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, for instance, there has been a notable decrease in violent crime; and police can reroute their time and as much as $40 million annually to dealing with real criminals instead of people who buy pot. In Portugal, where all drug use was decriminalized more than a decade ago, drug use and addiction rates are way, way down.

3. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

If any lie on this list is in the running to win “most obvious,” it’s this one—given what we know about the insane, illegal, and invasive things the NSA does.

Mass surveillance suppresses dissent and breeds conformity. It’s unconstitutional and more intrusive than we know. And even if you think you don’t have anything to hide, you do: The average American unknowingly commits three felonies a day because we’re so over-regulated. In short, it’s pretty clear we all have something to fear: our government.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in , ,

This week’s column is, of course, about the chaos and brutality in Ferguson. I wrote it as a primer for those learning about the problem of police misconduct essentially for the first time, so you may find it useful to share with family and friends who are still figuring things out.

As the police use of tear gas and First Amendment limitations continue in Ferguson, Missouri—the small town wracked by protests following the still murky police killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown—there are a number of reasons to believe this story is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are 5.

1. Because we only care about policy brutality when we’re forced to care.

Though the largely peaceful protests in Ferguson have unfortunately been tarnished by the actions of a few looters, its citizens have accomplished a rare feat: They have made the whole country care about police brutality.

Let’s face it: Normally, we don’t care enough. While libertarians have been talking about police militarization for years and the black community is well aware of racial bias in the justice system, most of us too easily forget, or are simply unaware of, the many cases of police misconduct that occur on a regular basis.

Here are stories from the last month alone:

  • EMTs have to stop four NYPD officers from beating a handcuffed, emotionally disturbed patient on a stretcher
  • Six Philadelphia police charged with robbery, extortion, and kidnapping
  • Harrisburg, PA police order a man with a video camera to leave the area while they body slam a drunk man
  • LAPD officers under investigation for ferociously kicking and punching a woman placed in a holding cell under suspicion of petty theft
  • NYPD officer charged with breaking into a woman’s apartment and beating her

Have you heard of any of these? I hadn’t. And without the protesters in Ferguson, Mike Brown would be just another entry on that much-abbreviated list of recent incidents.

2. Because we arm police like soldiers and then wonder why they act like soldiers.

This is a topic which Radley Balko has amply addressed for years (seriously, read this), but this comment from the past week really nailed it:

Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

Following the reports of police violence in Ferguson, President Obama and administration officials condemned police misconduct. But the fact is, they’re complicit: The military equipment, vehicles, and weapons which so often contribute to police brutality are frequently presents from the federal government (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with minimal proof required that these weapons are in any sense “needed”).

The Pentagon has confirmed that some of the equipment used by police in Ferguson is from their stockpile.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in , , , ,

America is constantly abroad, constantly seeking monsters to destroy—monsters which, like the hydra of mythology or Marvel, only seem to multiply as we launch war after endless war.

As much as we may want to say, “America is coming to help,” it’s never that clear-cut, and innocent civilians too often pay the price.

As ISIS commits atrocity after atrocity, it is easy to wonder if this tragedy might have been prevented had the 2003 invasion of Iraq never occurred—if we’d listen to the wisdom of Founding Fathers like Adams…and Washington, and Franklin, and Jefferson, and Madison, and more.

Adams’ explanation of the dangers of foreign intervention is now writ large in the violence in Iraq and the suppression of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism here at home:

[America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.

She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

For more than a decade, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy has been marked by fighting for causes that are not our own—and mired “beyond the power of extrication” in the inevitable mess which ensues.

The basic posture of our government toward our citizens has changed from liberty to force, as anyone with knowledge of the National Security Agency alone well knows.

And rather than standing as a beacon of hope and liberty for the world, American foreign policy has too often become one of failed and bloody micromanagement, a bull in the china shop that is the Middle East.

I don’t know how to “fix” Iraq. But I do know that what we’re doing—what we’ve been doing for more than decade now—isn’t working.

Maybe we could start over with the advice of John Quincy Adams, and once again make our motto “Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in , , ,

« Older Entries   Newer Entries »