Was Julian Castro correct that We Should be “Pissed?”

During the June 27, 2019 Democratic presidential debate, candidate Julian Castro stated, “We saw that image today that broke our hearts,” referring to photos of  Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter drowned after crossing the Rio Grande River to illegally enter the United States.

Both Castro and the debate moderator, José Diaz-Balart, stated that Martinez Ramirez and his family were seeking asylum in the United States because of the economic hardships the endured in El Salvador.  Expanding on his reaction to the drowning, Castro stated, “It should also piss us all off.”

Castro was right, it should piss us off!  But not for the reason he alleges.  In fact, Castro, Diaz-Balart and their ideological allies have propagated this myth that anyone wanting to enter the United States is eligible for asylum.  This myth has provided false hope to many individuals seeking to bypass the legal immigration process.  They have been led to believe that asylum is possible if they are economically destitute in their home countries, or if they live in dangerous areas. 

In fact, none of this is true.

Asylum is not offered by the United States for people suffering economic deprivation, nor is it available for people who reside in violent or dangerous places.  Asylum is only legally available to people “because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 

If a person is unable to prove that he or she is actively being persecuted by a governmental or de-facto governmental policy directed specifically at specific races, religions, nationalities, social groups, or political opinions, that person is not eligible for asylum in the United States.  Even if a person is a victim of persecution due to their membership in the listed groups, people are not eligible for United States asylum if there are areas in their own nations where that persecution does not exist or if they pass through another country in which that persecution does not occur.  In fact, if a person makes a frivolous claim for asylum, that person may be permanently prohibited from any kind of immigration to the United States in the future.

It is true that the “catch and release” policy of asylum seekers used under previous presidential administrations facilitated illegal immigration.  Those seeking to bypass United States immigration law knew that the asylum claims system was overwhelmed.  If people claimed asylum after arriving on United States soil, they were usually given a future court date and were permitted to remain in the United States.  It is no surprise that an overwhelming majority of those who claimed asylum never appeared for their court dates.  Instead, they remained in the United States as illegal immigrants.

Recognizing that well over 90% of requests for asylum are denied by our courts and that the vast majority of those claiming asylum never returned for their court dates, the Trump administration ended the “catch and release” policy.  Instead, applicants for asylum were either incarcerated while waiting for their court dates or were refused entry until the courts would be able to hear their cases.  Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez chose not to wait in accordance with United States policy, and instead took the dangerous path of fording the Rio Grande River with his family to enter the United States illegally.  From all appearances, Martinez Ramirez was not legally eligible for asylum anyway.  He was attempting to enter the United States solely for economic reasons.

It is obvious that there are many politicians, particularly in the Democratic party, who are encouraging people to immigrate illegally and to improperly claim asylum.  Julian Castro and José Diaz-Balart exemplified this during the June 27, 2019 debate.  This tactic undermines United States immigration law, overwhelms our immigration enforcement resources, and puts potential immigrants at risk.  One can not know if these politicians are signaling false hopes for asylum in order to pander to certain electoral constituencies, intentionally undermine immigration law, or out of sheer ignorance.  But their actions in holding out false hope puts more potential immigrants at risk than any of Trump’s policies.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates served in Congress.  They know (or should know) that President Trump did not create immigration law.  Immigration law emanated from Congress – the president just enforces the laws passed by Congress.  Each of these candidates had the opportunity to propose new immigration laws.  None of them did.  Instead, they advertise false hope to potential immigrants in order to sabotage Trump’s presidency.  This is an abdication of their own responsibilities and a reckless policy that puts lives at risk.  I fear the Democrats don’t recognize the consequences of their actions and are only concerned with the political advantages they may provide.

Should we have completely open borders?  Some make strong cases that we should.  But the United States (or any other nation) can’t have unconstrained immigration and generous and universal social welfare programs.  If we wish to retain the current level of welfare programs, we must carefully vet potential immigrants to ensure they won’t become burdens on the public welfare system.  If we instead decide to open our borders completely, we must recognize that our current social welfare programs will be quickly overwhelmed by freeloading immigrants who will put significant pressure on the public treasury.

Regardless of the type of immigration laws we desire, it is not within the authority of the president to create such laws.  Immigration laws may only be created and passed by Congress.  If any presidential candidates who once served in Congress claim they will change immigration law as president, they are lying!  They had their opportunity to do so while in Congress.  If they failed to reform immigration law when serving in the body responsible for creating such laws, what makes one think they will successfully change the law while serving in a position that does not have the authority to create laws?

Julian Castro is right when he says we should be pissed about immigrants dying as they try to reach our shores.  We should be pissed that there are pandering politicians who make people believe they can receive asylum even though they are not legally eligible to do so.  We should be pissed at politicians who seek to undermine the laws they are responsible for creating just because they with to pander to certain groups in order to secure a political advantage.  We should be pissed at politicians who use desperate and uninformed people as pawns in their attempts to secure political points.  Yes, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez was ultimately responsible for the poor decision that cost him and his daughter their lives.  But they were encouraged to make that decision by politicians who falsely and cynically held out hope for asylum to Martinez Ramirez.

It is those politicians who should be targets of our ire!

The Polarization of the Parties and Why they are Unlikely to Change

Despite their differences over the years, until recently, every major political party was in agreement about one thing – the definition and nature of rights.  The Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans, the Democrats, the Whigs, and the Republicans all subscribed to the philosophy of natural rights, as introduced in the Declaration of Independence and enumerated in the Constitution.  Respect and acknowledgement of natural rights is a prerequisite for individual liberty – the cornerstone value upon which our nation was founded.

In recent years, however, many in the Democratic party have moved away from the concept of natural rights in favor of a statist view of rights.  As a result, the concept of individual liberty has been deemphasized, if not abandoned, in favor of the domination of the collective.  Although these Democrats do, on rare occasions, provide lip-service to the concept of individual rights, this belief in individual rights is very limited and exclusive to narrow and specific partisan preferences.  As a general rule, Democrats are increasingly viewing rights as an artificial construct created by the state, rather than a natural condition of mankind.

The dichotomy in the definition of rights is causing political polarization that will not be remedied until and unless there is a common consensus on the nature of rights between the major political parties.

The United States of America was founded upon the concept that every individual possesses natural, equal, and inalienable rights, which are bestowed upon each person by our Creator.  These rights precede and take preference over any government or governmental structure.  Governments have no ability or authority to create rights; rights already exist solely on the basis of our humanity.  Governments may help protect and preserve rights, or governments may infringe upon rights.  But governments cannot, by definition, create or modify rights.

Natural rights, which, on a general level, recognize humanity’s rights to life, liberty, property, and self-determination, are universal.  Every human possesses them as part of the inherent nature of humanity.  No government may legitimately limit them to specific groups of people or create new rights for other groups of individuals. 

In addition, rights, by definition, cannot impose any obligation upon anyone else, with the exception of the obligation to respect and not infringe upon others’ rights.  Rights are the exclusive province of each individual, and it is up to each individual to assume responsibility for his or her exercise of such rights.  For example, one of the enumerated rights in the Constitution is the right to a free press.  Although this right recognizes that every individual may express and publish his or her opinions, it does not automatically imply that everyone be given a printing press. Each individual is independently responsible for acquiring the means to exercise his or her rights.

Political leftists, who have increasingly seized control of the Democratic party, do not recognize the concept of natural rights.  Instead, they view rights as artificial constructs that may only be granted by benevolent governments, and that those rights may be amended or repealed based upon the preferences of that government.  Individuals are not independent beings, each with their own liberties acquired at birth.  Instead, all individuals are subjects of a collective government, whose whims and preferences supersede the rights or desires of any specific individual.

The concept of rights as an artificial construct that may be granted or repealed by the will of governmental leaders is a European concept, shaped by its monarchical and feudal history.  Most Europeans, regardless of the term actually used, are subjects of their governments, rather than citizens.  This is an important distinction because it reflects the hierarchical perspective of a society.  In the European model, the state takes supreme precedence, and all individuals in that state are fundamentally vassals laboring for the collective. 

The United States of America broke away from British rule primarily because it did not agree with this hierarchy.  As a product of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, the United States rejected the European concept of government and rights.  The Declaration of Independence illustrates that Americans consider individuals to be supreme, and that governments only exist through the consent of the governed.  Rather than being vassals to the state, individuals even have the right to “alter or abolish” governments as they see fit.  An essential part of the American experience is the belief that rights precede and transcend governments, instead of being the products of the state.

The question that must now be explored is how the differences in the perception of rights really affects society, and how these differences contribute to the increased polarization of politics in today’s America.

In general terms, Republicans, particularly those who identify themselves as true Conservatives, endorse the vision of our nation’s founders and the concept of natural rights.  This means that Republicans generally believe in individual rights, the liberty of individual to do as they please (provided they don’t infringe upon the rights of others), the sanctity of private property, individual initiative and responsibility, and limited government (particularly the Federal government).

The Democrats, on the other hand, are increasingly adopting the Progressive/Socialist perception that the collective, as manifested by the state, is superior to any individual.  Any rights that individuals possess are granted by the state, and may be limited, expanded, or revoked depending upon the perceived needs of the state.  In essence, rather than following the United States’ Constitution and its insistence that rights “may not be infringed,” Democrats are more apt to recognize the conditions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which in its first section, explicitly states, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Note that the Canadian approach, representing its historical and present ties to Europe, denies the inalienable nature of rights and instead declares that rights are subject to law and must be “justified” by that law.  This is the characteristic of the current dogma of the Democratic party in the United States.  Rather than viewing rights as natural, universal, and absolute, the Progressives/Socialists believe that rights are conditional – based upon the goals and desires of the state.  If public policy, or the ostensible “public good,” is to be served, rights must be subject to restriction or abolition in order to accomplish social goals. 

As such, rights that were once universally acknowledged by all Americans are openly rejected by many Progressives/Socialists.  The rights of free expression and conscience enumerated in the First Amendment of the Constitution should be restricted, according to many on the left, in order to ensure that such expression is not offensive to anybody and supports the implementation and expansion of their social goals.  Rather than recognizing that the First Amendment protects and recognizes the right of any and all expression, the left hopes to limit it to advance their social agenda and restrict criticism of their goals.  Ideas in opposition to Democratic dogma are increasingly coming under attack if such ideas may be considered “triggering”, a “microaggression”, “offensive,” or “hateful.”  Naturally, there is no universal consensus of the meaning of these terms.  Instead, any thought in opposition to the social desires of the left are subject to censure or prohibition.

The left endorses significant restrictions, if not prohibitions, of other natural rights in the Constitution.  The right of individual defense, enumerated under the Second Amendment’s right “to keep and bear Arms” should be solely a state, rather than individual right, according to many on the left.  Others even advocate to have this amendment repealed from the Constitution, thereby denying individuals the natural right to protect their persons and their property.  Likewise, large groups of Progressives/Socialists have attacked the concept of due process and the right to confront one’s accuser in cases in which the accuser may feel “uncomfortable.”  They deny the existence of rights not enumerated by the Constitution, unless such rights actually reflect their political preferences.  The left also attacks the general principals of Federalism, in which the bulk of political sovereignty is held by the states, which only ceded limited powers to the federal government.  The Progressives/Socialists prefer a large, monolithic, all-intrusive federal government that severely constrains the powers and sovereignty of individual states.

In line with their belief that government, rather than our Creator, grants rights, the Progressives/Socialists conjure rights out of thin air when it suits their purpose.  In just about every instance, the left misuses the term, “rights.”  Anything the public may want or desire, or anything the government determines that people need (particularly if it’s offered for free) is labeled a “right.”  If one looks at the most recent Democratic platform, they claim that Americans should have the following “rights:”

  • Right to Education
  • Right to Retire with Dignity
  • Right to Paid Sick Leave
  • Right to Healthcare
  • Right to Special Accommodations for the Disabled
  • Right of all “life forms…to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles”
  • Right to abortion
  • Right to clean air and clean water

None of the above a true “rights.”  In order to be rights, they must exist naturally, be independent of governmental fiat, and not create an obligation or rights infringement on any other party.  For example, if healthcare is to be considered a “right,” who is responsible for providing that right?  Who is responsible for financing that right?  Unless we are speaking of someone providing a healthcare procedure on him or herself, healthcare is a service, not a right.  The same holds true for education, paid sick leave, special accommodations, abortion, and even air and water.  These may be desirable goods and services, but they have to be financed and provided by someone. 

If a good or service must be provided by someone else, it can not be defined as a “right,” because it inherently infringes upon the rights of others.  If healthcare is to be called a “right”, it would violate the right of a physician to practice as he or she sees fit, and of a taxpayer financing this “right” of the right to keep his or her own property.  Some may argue that healthcare should be made available to all.  While some may see some merit in this idea, it does not make healthcare a “right.”  At best, it makes healthcare a government-controlled, taxpayer funded service. As a rule, Democrats believe that individual rights should take a backseat to implementing their concepts of “social justice.”  Naturally, programs supporting these concepts must be funded, requiring that the government seize the fruits of people’s labor in the form of coercive taxation.  In essence, the Democratic party believes that wage earners in America should be forced to work about 40% of their hours (or whatever they momentary consider an individual’s “fair share”) as slaves to the desires of social justice warriors of the left. 

The left increasingly argues that individual expression should be limited, as is seen most prominently on American college campuses.  Students are not permitted to express themselves freely; instead they are subjected to speech codes to ensure that no person or group can possibly be offended by an idea.  Democrats also tend to favor the expansion of “hate” crimes, in which an action is not punished, but instead the thought and motivation behind the action.  For example, Democrats seem to think that murder is somehow more heinous just because a perpetrator utters a racial slur while committing the crime, as opposed to remaining silent.  I’m guessing that the thoughts going through the murderer’s head are actually far less important to the victim than the act itself.

The natural right of property is one of the primary rights ignored and infringed upon by Democrats.  Essentially, Democrats don’t believe that property should belong to any specific individual.  Instead, they view property as a community resource, and that it may be expropriated by the state for any reason or any purpose.  It is only through the benevolence of the state that wage earners are permitted to retain even a portion of their property.  In fact, the direct redistribution of wealth is often instituted as a policy in and of itself, for the ostensible purpose of reducing wealth “inequality.” 

The left also tends to confuse social justice with charity.  In the view of the left, social justice defines any goal they may have, to be provided by compulsory “charity.”  Charity is not designed to be compulsory; it is intended to be voluntary, for both the donor and the recipient.  The left, however, believe that their personal social goals are charity, and that donors must be compelled to fund that “charity” and recipients forced to accept it.  The right to self-determination, also known as the right to choose, is ignored and infringed upon by the self-righteous Progressives/Socialists.  In fact, many Progressives/Socialists believe that private charity should be outlawed, because it limits their power to determine who is worthy of assistance, who should fund that assistance, and the form which that assistance should take.

In essence, the modern Democratic party no longer recognizes universal, inalienable rights, as instituted by our nation’s Founders.  Instead, they believe the end justifies the means, and as long as their preferred programs are instituted, the fact that it may or may not have infringed upon individual rights are of little to no consequence.  The left believes that rights are fungible and transitory creations of the state.  Republicans, on the other hand, tend to view most individual rights as inalienable and sacrosanct.  Individual rights, and the protection of those rights, generally takes precedence over the implementation of specific programs.

It should be noted that the perception of Republicans and Democrats on the issue of rights is not always consistent.  There is ample hypocrisy and willingness to deviate from a consistent philosophy in both major parties.  There are areas in which Republicans are perfectly willing to dispense with rights in order to pass certain favored legislation, and there are instances in which Democrats suddenly discover a fidelity to natural rights when it suits their purposes.  In broad terms, however, Republicans tend to follow in the footsteps of our nation’s Founders by defending and preserving natural rights.  Democrats, on the other hand, tend to ignore the values that contributed to the American Revolution, and favor a more European approach to government and rights. 

With such a wide gulf between their respective values, and a complete dichotomy between representing individuals and representing a collective, it will be very difficult to minimize the political polarization that now exists between the major parties.  In order to have a productive working relationship and compromise, all parties must share certain basic values.  In today’s political reality, there are very few shared values between the major parties, and their essential premises and philosophies are in violent opposition to one another.

Elizabeth Warren’s Attack on Success

If anything is a glaring example of pandering, misguided, authoritarian, collectivist tendencies, it is Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to institute a “wealth tax” against individuals with large assets.  Not only is her proposal likely an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against direct taxation, it is a policy designed to penalize success in order to grant Washington the power to redistribute earned wealth to those who haven’t earned it.  In essence, Warren is proposing the seizing of assets from some in order to pay off the political constituencies she prefers.

For generations, economists have suggested that the economy functions best when people save their money, and invest it in areas that help the economy grow.  As an economy grows, overall wealth increases, benefiting all.  This does not mean that equal outcomes ensue, or even that equal outcomes are desirable.  Instead, it means that the producers and investors help grow the economy, producing goods and services valued and used by people of all economic circumstances.  One needs only look at some of the products created, many of which did not even exist twenty or thirty years ago, to see the value of allowing producers to earn, keep, and invest their funds.  Cell phones, pharmaceuticals that cure disease, and personal computers are among the products that were unobtainable a generation ago, but now owned by rich and poor alike.  Although there is obviously inequality in incomes, the fruits of a vibrant economy are made available to all.  The wealth tax, instead of encouraging savings and investments, instead instigates the squandering of money.

Warren, and others of her ilk, believe that the economy is “rigged,” and that only intervention by a select group of bureaucrats and technocrats, using money seized by producers, will allow the attainment of her goal of income equality and equal outcomes for all.  Instead of recognizing the value producers and investors have on the economy, Warren advocates a lowest-common denominator form of economic “equality” in which one’s skills, abilities, and contribution to the economy are ignored and unrewarded, while those who do not offer goods and services needed by the economy are unjustly compensated.  She is under the mistaken assumption that wealth is a fixed-size pie, in which one’s success denies others the opportunity to achieve success.  Warren ignores, or is ignorant of, the fact that wealth can, and is, created and can grow.

As with other politicians with socialist tendencies, Warren ignores the failures of other nations that have imposed wealth taxes.  In the last 27 years, the number of nations instituting wealth taxes has decreased from twelve to four.  It is also worth noting that although Warren claims the wealth tax will only affect the “richest of the rich,” nations with a wealth tax have always quickly lowered the wealth standard to include those with middle-class incomes.  Like the income tax, which was originally levied only on the super-wealthy, any wealth tax will eventually (and quickly) be expanded to affect almost all wage earners.  Once government gets a taste of additional tax revenues, its hunger for more taxes to fund politicians’ pet proposals inevitably increases.

Even if one ignores the inherent immorality of seizing one’s earned assets (which were already taxed when they were initially earned), one can not ignore the huge and intrusive bureaucracy that must be established to ensure compliance with the wealth tax.  The wealth tax is not limited to assets in financial institutions which can easily be traced; it also is levied against any fixed assets or property owned by the citizenry.  Will tax authorities be given the power to break into people’s homes to ensure that they are properly declaring the value of their furniture, artworks, clothing, vehicles, etc.?  Will people who invest in tangible goods be penalized, while people who squander their money on consumable products and experiences (such as opulent food, entertainment, and travel) be spared the burden of the wealth tax?  How is it fair that those who prefer tangible property over experiences should be burdened by additional taxes?

In practice, any imposition of a wealth tax will likely lead to the conversion of assets to easily hidden and transferable assets like precious metals and jewels.  In fact, the institution of a wealth tax will likely cause the creation of a parallel, underground economy, in which gold and silver are used for untraceable transactions.  This will place a burden on the national currency system, causing an outflow of assets that must be replaced by the printing of additional currency.  This, in itself, will create inflationary pressures that could be as significant as the hyper-inflation experienced by Weimar Germany in the 1920’s and ‘30’s or more recently, Venezuela.  Capital used for investments will diminish, resulting in a stagnant or collapsing economy.

Finally, Warren’s proposal includes a caveat that attacks even the appearance of individual liberty and self-determination.  If a person subject to the wealth tax decides that he or she wishes to relocate to a nation that actually values productivity and success, that individual will be subject to a confiscatory tax that seizes 40% of their total assets before they can move.  Not since the fall of the Berlin Wall have we seen any nation erect such substantial barriers to prevent its citizenry from seeking out greener pastures or freely moving wherever they wish.  Warren is proposing the imposition of an economic prison that will extort wealth from producers and limit the ability of producers to engage in self-determination.  In essence, Warren is advancing the creation of an economic despotism that replaces free-enterprise and rewards for success with a centralized, socialized, command economy dictated by a small group of selected “elites.”  Not only is her proposal immoral and unconstitutional, it repudiates the values of individual liberty upon which our nation was founded.

The Police War on Innocent Citizens

Another week has gone by, and with it, another very questionable shooting of an innocent person by a police officer has occurred.

In Dallas, an off-duty police officer, Amber Guyger, after allegedly working a 15-hour shift, returned to the apartment complex in which she lived.  Instead of returning to her apartment on the third floor, she walked into an apartment on the fourth floor, directly above her own apartment.  She claims the door was ajar when she put the key into the lock, and when she entered the apartment, it was dark and she “saw a large silhouette” across the apartment who she thought was a burglar.  She fired two shots, killing the man, who was later identified as Botham Jean.

The only problem was that this was Botham Jean’s apartment.  He was in his own apartment, minding his own business, when this reckless police officer burst in and killed him.  She had no business being in his apartment.  In fact, there was a very unique and distinctive red floor mat outside of Mr. Jean’s apartment that other units lacked.

Yet, somehow, the other responding police officers let the killer go home immediately after the killing.  It was not until the public outcry grew that Amber Guyger was finally arrested and charged with manslaughter three days later.  Even after these charges, there are doubts as to whether she will be convicted because of two legal doctrines available only to police – qualified immunity and reasonable fear.

Unlike regular citizens in similar situations, police who use deadly force on other people are immune from prosecution or culpability if they demonstrate that they had a “reasonable fear” that they, or someone else, might be in imminent danger.  It doesn’t matter if that danger is real or not – the police officer just needs to believe it is.  The standard for this “reasonable fear” is set ridiculously low; it is must be seen in the context of what reasonable officers would do in the same situation, given the danger and stress of police work.

One must keep that definition in mind, particularly the phrase, “given the danger and stress of police work.”  This means that a skittish police officer has carte blanche to use deadly force just because he or she might be fearful in a given situation because the job of a police officer is “stressful.”  No other citizens can claim this defense in similar situations, regardless of the stress of their own jobs or personal lives.

If Amber Guyger can convince a jury that she was operating in the role of a police officer, and felt genuinely in fear of her life, she might very well be acquitted of the charges against her.  This is in spite of the fact that she was essentially trespassing in Mr. Jean’s apartment, if not outright breaking and entering.  If, on the other hand, the jury recognizes that she was off-duty and treats her as a regular citizen, it is difficult to see her being convicted of anything less than manslaughter.

The vast majority of police officers go through their entire careers without ever removing their firearms from their holsters.  Yet, this has been the second time that Amber Guyger has shot somebody, even though she is only 30 years of age and has only been with the Dallas Police Department for four years.  It is quite obvious that she is a skittish, fearful, trigger-happy officer who has no business holding a position of public trust.

An investigation of the 50 largest police departments by Vice found that 20% of all police shootings are against unarmed persons.  And in proportion to their total population, black citizens are more likely to be shot by police than any other group.  It is hard to believe that there is not an overt or subconscious racial bias among many police officers.  But even so, innocent victims of police shootings span different ages, genders, races, and walks of life.  These shootings aren’t confined to inner cities or “dangerous areas;” they have claimed the lives of pastors, people in their own homes in good neighborhoods, and people innocently walking down the street.

Even when the victims of these police shootings are innocent of any crimes, the police officers responsible are very rarely held accountable for their actions.  Even when the shooters are prosecuted, conviction is difficult because of the qualified immunity and reasonable fear doctrines.  Rather than being held to a higher standard than the rest of the population, those entrusted with keeping the peace and enforcing the law are actually held to a lower standard!  The qualified immunity and reasonable fear doctrines grant police officers the carte blanche power to use deadly force in all but the most egregious situations.

Apologists for police officers argue that their jobs are stressful and difficult, and that police are often targets of criminals.  That is true, but police officers take their jobs voluntarily, with full knowledge of the risks involved.  Normal citizens, on the other hand, have no reason to suspect or believe that they may arbitrarily become victims of an overly skittish or fearful police officer, or that a rogue officer will escape charges just because he or she believed, in his or her own mind, that there might be some kind of imminent danger.

In fact, very few police officers are killed each year, particularly when compared to the number of people killed by police.  In 2017, for example, 46 police officers were killed.  Yet, in that same year, police officers killed 987 people.

As difficult as police work may be, there is no excuse for police officers harming or killing innocent individuals.  And there is certainly no reason to exempt police officers from accountability for their actions just because their jobs are “stressful.”  If a police officer can’t handle the stress of the job, that individual should seek out another career.  And if a police officer harms an innocent person, that officer should be held fully accountable for his or her actions.

There have been arguments that these unjustified police shootings could be reduced by requiring police officers to undergo racial sensitivity training, more training on police procedures, or by having police departmental policies updated.  But the fact remains, none of these proposed remedies will make a bit of difference until police officers are held fully accountable for their actions.

Police officers must be held to the same legal standards as regular citizens.  They should not be granted any special immunities.  The laws must be revised to abolish the qualified immunity and reasonable fear doctrines granted exclusively to police officers.  Why shouldn’t those responsible for enforcing our laws be held to same legal standards as the citizens they are charged to protect?

Stephon Clark, Alton Sterling, Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Tony Robinson, Rumain Brisbon, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, Daniel Shaver, James Scott, Andrew Thomas, Dylan Noble, Andrew Finch, Rev. Jonathan Ayers, Justine Damond, Botham Jean – the list of innocent victims of police shootings goes on and on.  If we fail to abolish the qualified immunity and reasonable fear doctrines, we will continue to mourn the deaths of innocents at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve us.

The Tantrum of the Snowflakes

snowflakes

 

It had to come to this.

Members of the “everybody gets a trophy” generation have taken to the streets to “protest” the election results, and in some cases, to riot.  It’s a shame that no one ever taught them that taking meaningless action to express dissatisfaction with a free election is not protest, it’s a temper tantrum.  If these people are really dissatisfied with the direction they feel the government is moving, they should craft a compelling argument for their positions.  Glorified loitering and inconveniencing others is hardly a compelling “statement.” 

But, before they attempt to craft an opposing argument, they should put some of their wounded feelings aside and try to employ reason.  The left has been spoiled for generations.  When the Democrats controlled government, they had the ability to use the coercive power of government to pander to any of their perceived needs.  It didn’t matter what those needs were, whether the programs to address those needs were effective or right, or even whether the consequences of the government programs they desired were counterproductive.  It just mattered that government did something, and that someone else paid for it or bore the consequences.

Typically, when Republicans took control of the apparatus of government, they employed restraint.  Traditional Republicans usually believed in limited governmental power and in allowing each person to exercise their own individual liberty.  In a worst case scenario for today’s fragile, precious snowflakes, the Republicans merely rolled back some of the more egregious abuses of governmental power and temporarily reduced the programs of the social-engineering elite.

Now, the left is confronted, for the first time in over a century, with a Republican president who supports a very activist, involved government, and not a limited government.  And this phenomenon was created and supported by the left, as they incrementally expanded the powers of the centralized federal government and decreased the power of the states and the liberty of individuals.  Finally, they are confronted with the prospect of seeing an intrusive, all-powerful government conceivably being used by the opposition to impose a different set of coercive policies on the population.  Forgive me if I have little sympathy for those who are comfortable allowing the government to impose its will on the population when one group is in power, but uncomfortable with having a different group impose its will when it secures power.  Did the left really think that governmental tyranny would only exist while they held the reigns of power?

These “protestors” come from a generation with a limited, insulated worldview.  They were raised by “helicopter parents” who shielded them from any personal responsibility and protected them from any of life’s unpleasantness.  For many, this is the first time they didn’t get what they thought they wanted; the first time somebody actually said, “NO!” to them.  Their sense of moral superiority has been honed to the point that they can’t even conceive of any different viewpoints, and the only way to handle opposition is to demonize and try to dehumanize those with contrary opinions.  When they seek out others, they surround themselves with like-minded sycophants and only follow media that reaffirms their previously held views.  Individual liberty is an afterthought, if it is considered at all.  Many of the young seek out the homogeny of self-affirmation, rather than the challenge of considering, and responding to, different life experiences and viewpoints.  They herald diversity as an ideal, but fail to actually practice it.

It never occurred to these precious snowflakes that a large, intrusive central government might actually be used against them and advance an agenda contrary to their preferences.  Their sense of moral infallibility blinds them from realizing that there is an inherent contradiction in supporting an all-encompassing, intrusive government in some areas, while opposing it in others.  They don’t recognize that restoring a small, constrained government is preferable to a large, dictatorial, activist government, because their moral worldview can’t process the fact that some people want to live their own lives, make their own decisions, and bear their own consequences free of the whims of elites.  They have failed to realize that when a person or entity is granted unlimited powers, they won’t hesitate to use those powers in any way they see fit.

Donald Trump may very well be a bad president.  Contrary to a century of Republican practice, he has advocated for a very proactive government.  If he follows through on his promises, he won’t wield power much differently than previous Democratic administrations.  The policies may differ a bit, but the methodology he proposes comes straight out of the “progressive” playbook.  Those who protest against the election of Trump, because they fear he might actually implement certain policies, must recognize that the entire system of government must change.  A large, monolithic government that micromanages people’s lives and property must give way to the government our Founders conceived – small, responsive, and dedicated to preserving, and not infringing upon, personal and economic choice and liberty. 

Just replacing one dictator with another won’t do.
  There will always come a time when a dictator will do something that certain people won’t like.  Right now, the young protesters are experiencing this reality.  If they want to be effective in changing things, the young protesters must look beyond their narrow worldview and address a structure that allows potential despots of any persuasion to wield power.

Or, we can just give them all trophies so they go back home.

 

 

Thoughts on the Police Shootings in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights

A few thoughts on the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights:

Both the shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights are very troubling. Video in both instances seems to indicate the police officers overreacted. Although there were signs that Sterling was resisting arrest, he appears to have been subdued and on the ground before the fatal shots were fired. The case of Castile seems more cut and dried. He was pulled over, clearly explained that he had a concealed carry permit, and informed the police officer as to what he was doing. The police officer clearly overreacted by shooting a compliant and respectful Castile.

After shootings like this, a certain segment of the population comes out in blind defense of the actions of the police, and they maintain that any criticism of police conduct is an attack on all police officers. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Police officers are granted wide (and I’d argue, far too wide) latitude to legally use violence as part of their job. With this authority comes great responsibility. I would expect police to use the upmost discretion before resorting to violence, particularly deadly violence against any citizen. Police are charged with the duty to apprehend potential law-breakers. They are not authorized to function as judges, juries, or executioners. Police are only authorized to use deadly force when their lives, or the lives of others, are in immediate danger by a suspect. In far too many instances, police have been granted much more latitude in this decision than would be accorded ordinary citizens. The mere “feeling” that a suspect is a potential threat, or the results of an adrenaline rush after a chase, are not, and should not, be adequate justification for using deadly force.

Although I’d like to think the vast majority of police officers are dedicated public servants, I also realize that there are far too many officers who lack the psychological characteristics to function in this role. Far too many police are on a power trip, taking the job for the sole purpose of expressing their authority and, sometimes, violent tendencies. These officers should be identified, and removed from police forces.

The “thin blue line” in which any police officer automatically backs the actions of another officer, even if those actions are clearly wrong, undermines the confidence of the public in their interactions with any police officer. Those officers who perform their jobs properly, but who turn a blind eye on misconduct by others, are contributors to the distrust many in the public hold towards all police. This distrust will continue until all police officers insist upon the highest standards of conduct by their colleagues.

Some argue that the public does not respond with the same level of outrage when a police officer is killed as when a police officer kills a citizen. There is a reason for this. When a police officer is killed, the perpetrator is automatically considered a criminal, hunted down, and aggressively prosecuted. One who shoots police officers is clearly considered a criminal and is subject to the harshest sanctions allowed by law.

When a police officer kills a citizen, the circumstances are usually far more ambiguous. The first presumption, particularly by other police officers, is that the shooting is justified. Police officers are held to far looser standards in their use of violence than ordinary citizens. They need only demonstrate that they felt, in some way, threatened. Investigations are often suspect, with the colleagues of police officers being the same ones investigating the actions of another officer – a clear conflict of interest. When police officers engage in violent actions, they are not immediately arrested. Instead, when identified, those officers are usually suspended, or placed on modified duty, with full pay. Police involved in shootings of civilians are accorded a presumption of innocence far greater than that accorded to non-police in similar situations.

Finally, I have to shake my head in disbelief at groups, like Black Lives Matter, who protest against what they perceive as racial profiling by government officials (the police), while at the same time, proposing and endorsing the granting of additional powers to the state. Part of the reason for the prevalence of racial profiling and the use of violence against civilians is that police are granted extraordinary authority to use violence by the state. Any time you grant any authoritative body additional powers, there are large numbers of people who will abuse those powers, particularly if that authoritative body possesses a legal monopoly on the use of violence.

Much of the violence perpetrated by police is the direct result of expansive and broadly defined laws that criminalize almost every daily activity. Police are charged with enforcing these laws, many of which are designed for the sole purpose of raising revenue or placating and pandering to select constituencies. As government increases the scope of laws, they also increase the chance of encounters between police and the citizenry. As these encounters increase, so does the potential that a certain number of these encounters will end in violence. Besides the obvious tragedy of a loss of life, law enforcement encounters designed to enforce poorly-conceived laws undermines the public’s trust in the rule of law, and by extension, those who are responsible for enforcing the law.

Those who decry police violence need to stop advocating for a more “activist” government in other areas. An “activist” government, by definition, replaces personal liberty with the whims of those elites in power. Those whims may not be shared by large segments of the population, which leads to inevitable conflict when police are called upon to enforce the law. Even dedicated and professional police officers are put in an untenable position when they are required to enforce bad laws. If certain constituencies truly want to reduce racial profiling and police violence, they need to step back and stop demanding that government intrude upon every facet of human existence. If there are fewer laws, there will be fewer interactions between the police and the citizenry. And if there are fewer interactions between the police and the citizens they are supposed to serve, there will be far fewer instances of questionable and tragic police shootings.

The Republican Choice for President

I’ve had more than a few people ask me my preference for the Republican primary. Up until this point, I’ve been hesitant to name a preference. I tend to have very strong libertarian leanings, believing that individual rights, as outlined in our Constitution, take precedence over a collectivist, socialist system. Accordingly, my preferred candidate for the GOP nomination was Rand Paul. I also deeply admire the presumptive Libertarian Party nominee, Gov. Gary Johnson, and, depending upon how the campaign plays out, might vote for him in November.

For anyone who has read my blog or any of my Facebook entries, it is obvious that I can’t, and won’t, support either of the two remaining Democratic candidates. We do not need a president dedicated to pandering to every left-wing interest group and who advocates forcing his or her pet social-engineering projects on the population through governmental coercion. Private property is one of the cornerstones of liberty. Both Democratic candidates believe that their personal perception of the “public good” grants them the right to seize private property as they see fit to fund and support any group to which they wish to pander.

That leaves the five remaining candidates seeking the Republican nomination. I urge all voters to carefully read the candidate’s websites and to take some time to review their positions on the issues and their histories.

It is no secret that I consider Donald Trump a danger to both the Republican Party and to the nation. Historically, Trump has backed Democratic candidates and has supported “activist” government programs, like socialized medicine and the use of eminent domain for private projects. He has been very vague on most issues of substance, substituting bravado and insults for nuanced policy positions. He is not afraid of throwing his weight around to bully those with whom his disagrees, and there is no reason to believe that this pattern would change if he became president. He displays an alarming naïveté on foreign affairs, doing all he can to insult and alienate our nation’s neighbors and allies. His whole campaign has been based upon nationalist appeal, the venting of anger without any substantive remedies, and tapping into vague, populist slogans. When cornered on specifics, he has let slip an inclination towards an increase in federal governmental scope and power. The world saw what happened when industrialized nations elected National Socialists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. We don’t need to repeat that history here in the United States.

Ben Carson has arguably developed one of the most comprehensive, detailed, and workable set of policies on today’s issues. His proposal for a national, flat income tax is fantastic for its simplicity, effectiveness, and fairness. I urge everyone to take some time to take a look at his policy positions on his website.

While Dr. Carson is an affable and likeable candidate, I harbor serious doubts about his experience and overall temperament, and believe those to be current impediments to his ability to both win the election and to serve as an effective president. He would be a beneficial addition to anyone’s administration, particularly as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or Surgeon General. I hope that his current campaign is just the start, and not the end, of his commitment to national service.

Either of the remaining three candidates would make fine presidents, and would be vastly preferable to either of the Democratic candidates.

John Kasich has had a solid record, both as a Congressman and as Governor of Ohio. He has confronted many challenges in Ohio, and has handled all of them well. However, he still has a tendency to rely upon governmental programs, when the free-market would be far more effective. With the exception of Trump, Kasich has been most vague about his policy plans once in the White House. He has, rightfully, extolled his record as governor, but has not been very specific as to what he will accomplish as president. I am looking for a more detailed and specific set of plans than what Kasich has already advanced.

Ted Cruz has laid out a fairly detailed set of proposals, and most of them are pretty solid. He is arguably the strongest Constitutionalist of the remaining candidates. He is a fervent believer in the Constitution and in respecting the limitations of federal power. He is the candidate least-likely to pander to specific interest groups in order to solicit political support. His vocal opposition to ethanol subsidies while campaigning in Iowa is a testament to his integrity on the issues and fidelity to his beliefs.

While I would probably have few reservations about voting for Cruz over either Clinton or Sanders, I do find some aspects of his positions and temperament troubling. His corporate tax plan seems to be a value added tax in disguise. I am always reluctant about supporting new ways to tax individuals and businesses, since such taxes always seem to supplement, rather than replace, other forms of taxation.

I also find his positions on immigration and social issues to be a bit too hardline. The government has no more business interfering in people’s private lives than it does their economic affairs. In addition, we have over ten million illegal immigrants in our country. While the United States certainly has a right, and an obligation, to secure our borders, illegal immigration has been tacitly accepted by government, private industry, and individual citizens with a “wink and nod” for generations. A nativist element in the country uses the issue of illegal immigration as a cover to express their deeply held prejudices. The rest of the country has had, in one form or another, no problem in hiring illegals when it was convenient. While I believe the government has no obligation to provide welfare and other governmental benefits to illegal immigrants, I believe that we need a more realistic policy towards them than just “throwing them out of the country.”

Finally, Cruz’s temperament is a potential issue. It is no secret that he is a strident advocate for his views, and this stridency has won him few friends among his Senate colleagues. His campaign has also engaged in very questionable tactics, using dirty-tricks to a far greater extent than any of his rivals. A president needs to work effectively with both members of his own party and with the opposition. Reagan did this masterfully, while failed presidents like Carter and Obama were less adept. We need a president who will be able to work effectively with Congress, while maintaining fidelity to his beliefs. While I have no doubt about the sincerity of Cruz’s beliefs, I do have serious doubts about his ability to work well with other politicians of either party.

Marco Rubio has pretty solid positions on most of the issues. His tax plan, while not a flat tax that I would prefer, is well thought-out and comprehensive. He is a solid Constitutionalist, and would certainly appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. He does have the personality to work effectively with others in government, while maintaining his ideological integrity.

Rubio’s history on the immigration issue is mixed. I believe that the attempts of the so-called “Gang of Eight” were well-intentioned. Their proposals acknowledged the reality that exists, and did not solely pander to either the nativist or social-engineering liberal elements. However, he has supported expansions of the H1-B visa programs, which have had a detrimental impact on some U.S. workers. He has since backed off his previous support of H1-B visas.

Rubio is young, and is not as experienced as I would prefer. But he is far more experienced than our current president, and has demonstrated his leadership skills and ability to work with other politicians. I think he has laid out a solid foreign policy platform and has the ability to be a very successful leader.

While I would have no problem with selecting Kasich or Cruz over either Clinton or Sanders, I think that Marco Rubio would be the most effective president of the current candidates of the two major parties, and will be the most electable of the current Republican candidates.

 

The Tyranny of Legislation

In a society based upon the principles of individual liberty, there is a need for only seven laws:

  1. One may not take another’s life unless one’s life or property is in imminent danger.
  2. One may not physically assault another individual unless one’s life or property is in imminent danger.
  3. No one has a right to take, use, or damage another’s property without the voluntary consent of the owner of such property.
  4. Commerce must be conducted honestly. All products and services must be represented accurately and function as described and intended.
  5. All parties who voluntarily enter into an agreement or contract are obligated to fulfill the terms of said agreement or contract.
  6. All social and economic interactions must be undertaken on a voluntary basis. No one must be coerced to engage in any social or economic activity.
  7. An individual’s personal rights must always be respected and protected. No personal, moral, societal, or other preferences supersede the rights of personal liberty.

Laws may be legitimately passed to clarify each of these seven laws. For example, laws or regulations preventing one from causing pollution may be legitimate, since pollution emanating from one individual or concern may damage the property of another. Laws that ensure commerce is conducted honestly may be legitimate, provided that such laws don’t hinder commerce or provide an advantage or penalize any party.

Any type of law not addressed by the above seven laws is probably illegitimate in a free society. These include laws in which one’s personal morality, preferences, or ideals are coercively imposed upon another. Examples of these types of illegitimate laws include laws that regulate individual behaviors that do not infringe upon the liberties of others. Sexual practices, religious preferences, economic decisions, personal moral beliefs, and lifestyle choices are areas that should not be subject to coercive legislation.

Laws should also not be passed to address the economic or social preferences of any group of individuals, regardless of how noble or useful such preferences appear. Not only do attempts to establish a “nanny state” paternalistic society inevitably fail, they also are an affront to the concept of personal liberty. One should have the freedom to make one’s own decisions, even if those decisions are bad. When government tries to act as the arbiter of “good decisions,” or attempts to protect people from the consequences of their decisions, that government creates a society of mediocrity. In such a society, the population has no personal incentive to make good decisions, since government protects them from their own failures. Conversely, and more importantly, such a society also discourages risk taking. Those who have accomplished the most throughout history have usually been those who were willing to assume the largest risk and to deviate from conventional thinking. A paternalistic nanny state merely reinforces and rewards the status quo. It actively discourages new thinking and the new ideas that fuel economic and social progress.

Attempts to create social or economic engineering solutions through the coercive power of government, besides infringing upon personal liberty, inevitably lead to unintended consequences. These so-called solutions usually involve providing an advantage or reward to a certain group, while denying the same advantages or rewards to other groups. This means that government, instead of protecting individual liberty and initiative, actively interferes with the organic growth of the economy or society by imposing its preferences for behavior or outcomes. For example, providing tax incentives to specific industries artificially inflates the value of these industries, while ignoring or penalizing industries that may actually produce more societal or economic good if left to compete in a free marketplace. This also creates an atmosphere that invites governmental corruption, as any special interest will lobby, petition, or bribe the government for special favors. When a favor is granted to any specific interest, other interests are, by definition, penalized by not being allowed to compete on the same level. Rather than competing on merit, by the strength of their own products or services and their acceptance in a free marketplace, organizations are forced, in this corrupt environment, to compete upon the basis of the clout they wield in government. There is no economic or societal advantage in using clout, rather than merit, to determine the success or failure of any undertaking.

The same argument about unintended consequences holds true to legislation that attempts to regulate personal behavior. The attempt to ban the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages failed miserably. People routinely ignored the law (leading to a breakdown in respect for government) and illegal organization sprung up and thrived in order to satisfy the demand for the now-illegal beverages. A similar situation exists in the consumption of recreational drugs. Legislation outlawing the consumption of recreational substances and the so-called “War on Drugs” did little to stifle demand for these substances. Instead, these laws caused the emergence of illegal organizations and cartels to supply the inherent demand for these substances. Since this commerce is illegal, there are no contractual controls to govern the behavior of these organizations or ways to ensure that such commerce is conducted honestly. It should come as no surprise that these illegal organizations engage in violent behavior, since their basic trade is illegal to begin with.

In order to combat the violence caused by organizations that have sprung up in response to such ill conceived laws, public law enforcement has had to become more militaristic in order to fight the violence, and more and more laws that restrict basic civil rights and liberties have been passed in order to address the problems caused by this illegal trade. For example, in order to prevent cash transactions and money laundering by drug cartels, Americans can no longer conduct any cash commerce in excess of $10,000 without notifying Federal authorities. Even if the authorities are notified, civil forfeiture laws allow government authorities to seize property if they claim to suspect such money or property was obtained through illicit drug sales. There is no need for due process before seizing a person’s property – suspicion is enough. It is up to the owner of the property to prove that their property was obtained through legitimate means. The basic concept of innocence until proven guilty, which is a cornerstone of a free society, is abandoned in order to maintain the façade of legislation initially enacted to create a socially engineered solution to a perceived problem.

There is no denying that addiction can be a tragic and debilitating experience. However, the choice to consume an addictive substance rests solely with the individual choosing to indulge in these substances. He or she should bear the brunt of those decisions, not society as a whole. The entire population should not have their behavior constrained, or liberties restricted, because a small proportion of the population fails to make good decisions. Attempts to use the coercive power of government to regulate specific behaviors not only fails to ensure good decisions by the targeted population, such legislation usually has significant negative effects on the rest of the populace.

Laws that exceed the seven listed above are fundamentally an attempt by a group of people to impose, through threat of government-enforced force or forfeiture, their will upon others. No matter how well-intentioned, laws that impose the will of one group upon another group are an assault on personal freedom. The United States was not founded upon the principle of the mediocrity of collectivism. It was founded upon the principles of individual liberty and personal initiative. We must be very vigilant when leaders or candidates propose “solutions” that exceed the scope of these seven basic laws. Although they may craft a compelling argument in favor of their solutions, these “solutions” are merely the leader or candidate’s attempt to impose his or her will on the populace. There is a term for the form of government that coercively imposes its own preferences on the population, even if the leaders are “freely” elected by the populace. That term is “dictatorship.”

 

Why Progressives Must Ban Santa Claus

Progressives, in their never-ending zeal to establish a utopia on earth as envisioned by a select group of elite social engineers, have neglected to confront one of the most oppressive symbols of the white male dominated Western-centric imperialistic patriarchy of privilege – Santa Claus! Good progressives must demand that even the mention of this evil being be preceded by a trigger warning and that safe spaces be created free of Santa Claus’ presence. It’s time the left declares a war on Santa Claus.

Let’s look at why the presence of Santa Claus must be eradicated from a progressive society.

The most obvious reason is the blatant bias and discrimination practiced by old St. Nick. He only delivers toys to the homes of Christian children (excepting Jehovah Witnesses and some other small denominations). While distributing toys to the homes of practitioners of the same oppressive religion that brought us the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and so many other calamities hundreds of years ago, he intentionally refuses to deliver toys to adherents of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism. Displaying his abject lack of commitment to diversity, Santa Claus bypasses the homes of Wiccans, Animists, non-theists, and anyone else who does not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is long past time that society rejects such an exclusionary and prejudiced practice.

Santa Claus also perpetuates social division and inequality. Even with his exclusionary practices of ignoring non-Christians, it is no secret that children from wealthy families receive better presents than children of the economically oppressed. There is no place in the world for such inequity.

Santa Claus’ labor practices also deserve scrutiny and condemnation. He has established an off-shore manufacturing facility, beyond the reach of OSHA regulations, equal opportunity laws, and other regulations designed to ensure the fair treatment of workers. His workshop lacks diversity. His workforce is exclusively composed of elves. Nymphs, fairies, sprites, and other mythological creatures need not apply. Even the elves are not guaranteed fair treatment. There are no assurances that the employees of Santa’s Workshop are being paid a living wage and there is no union to protect the interests of the elves. Considering that alternate employment opportunities in the barren wasteland of the North Pole are scarce, we can be almost certain that Kris Kringle is exploiting his workers. Remember that even within the confines of his establishment, opportunities for advancement are almost non-existent. Santa’s Workshop has always been led by a white male. There are no females, minorities, or underrepresented mythical beings in any significant leadership positions.

Santa Claus is a typical white male Western colonizer. He established his workshop in lands traditionally inhabited by the Inuit population. It is very unlikely that he secured the permission of the aboriginal population before establishing himself in the North Pole. Even though he has taken their land, Santa refuses to employ the indigenous peoples in his enterprise, instead importing elves from far-off lands. His presence in the North Pole certainly is contributing to climate change and it is not unreasonable to believe the presence of such a large manufacturing and distribution concern is contributing to the melting of the polar ice caps.

Santa Claus ignores the basic precepts of social justice in his activities. He routinely spies on the children serviced by his operation, to the point that he can actually see if they have been sleeping and knowing when they are awake. Ignoring socio-economic factors and cultural differences, Santa takes it upon himself to be the sole judge as to whether children have been naughty or nice. He refuses to accept the fact that children are not in control and not responsible for their naughty behavior.   If children are naughty, it must be due to the oppressive climate in which they are raised. Naughtiness is a problem of all of society, not of individual children. Santa’s inflexible expectations of behavior are obsolete in a culture of moral ambiguity. Singling out naughty children and penalizing them by delivering coal instead of toys is a major attack on the self-esteem of our young charges.

Even the use of coal to discipline naughty children displays Santa Claus’ disregard of proper environmental stewardship. Why must he deliver a fossil fuel that is one of the major contributors of global warming? He displays a blatant disregard for our planet. If Santa Claus was truly concerned about the future of the world, he would only deliver locally-sourced, environmentally sustainable, gluten-free, renewable items to children. Our environment would be so much better if Santa was to stop delivering toys and coal to children and replaced it with something more environmentally sound – like kale.

One must not ignore the chilling affect of his surveillance activities against our children. Old St. Nicholas has, in recent years, established a secret police force to supplement his already intrusive monitoring of the behavior of children. He has deployed a Gestapo-like contingent of elves to invade children’s homes, where they sit on a shelf all day observing the behavior of children. Every night, these intrusive investigators return to the North Pole and provide Santa with a report on the activities of children in a given household. After submitting their reports, these elves return to the homes of children, spying on their activities from the safety of a shelf in the house. One can only imagine the pressure this puts on our population of delicate children. Rather than receiving gifts as their rightful entitlement, Santa is planting the subversive idea in children’s heads that rewards are actually based on behavior.

It is a documented fact that Santa Claus presides over a hostile workplace. One of his reindeer, afflicted with a physical deformity that made him different than other reindeer, had been continuously subjected to hostile comments and ridicule. It is known that this poor reindeer was purposely excluded from the recreational activities of other reindeer, all because he was different. Santa maintained a blind eye to this practice and only accepted this oppressed reindeer when he was able to exploit the reindeer’s disability during one particularly stormy Christmas night. In fact, progressive organizations like PETA have publicly questioned whether it is right that Santa forces eight tiny reindeer to pull a heavy sled full of toys for twenty-four hours straight, with no breaks for recuperation or refreshment. How can anyone, in good conscience, defend this type of animal exploitation?

Some apologists of Father Christmas point out that he does have a diverse sleigh team. The lead reindeer, Rudolph, is differently enabled. Two of his reindeer, Dancer and Prancer, are known to be gay. And two others, Cupid and Vixen, are believed to be transgendered. Although this one instance of enlightenment on the part of Santa should be applauded, it hardly mitigates his other offenses.

No progressive could condone the lifestyle choices of Santa or the bad example he sets for our children. Santa Claus has been photographed smoking a corncob pipe, ignoring the known health effects of tobacco consumption or the danger his second-hand smoke poses to his employees and the children he services. Kris Kringle is also morbidly obese, and, according to all known accounts, limits his diet to milk and cookies. This sets a bad example to children who may be lactose intolerant and, as any good progressive knows, cookies are laden with sugar, a known poison. All reports indicate that Santa Claus lives a sedentary lifestyle and exercises only once a year, when he spends an entire day descending and ascending through chimneys. This is hardly the type of person any progressive would subject to children.

Santa Claus is an exclusionary, reactionary, unenlightened relic of the dark ages and the mere mention of his name should be prohibited. Progressives must demand that the government protect children from his presence and that all visages of St. Nicolas be removed from public and private spaces. It is apparent that a vast right-wing Christian conspiracy is in place to support this racist, big corporation bigot, probably financed by the Koch Brothers. All good progressives must protest until speech codes to outlaw his name are implemented and government regulations are put in place to prevent Santa and his elves from entering progressive safe spaces. Only government should be empowered to distribute free goodies, not conservative Christians trying to brainwash our children with tea bagger ideas through bribery. The progressive cause depends upon swift action to eradicate this threat to a truly color-blind society of equal outcomes.

The Misrepresentations and Naïveté of Firearms Opponents

After every notable act of violence involving firearms, there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction among a portion of the population to call for bans on certain types of weapons or restrictions on gun ownership. Those calling for restrictions on Second Amendment rights use historical misrepresentations, incendiary rhetoric, and an inability to learn from experience to justify their emotional distaste for firearms.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly reads,

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Opponents of firearms emphasize the term, “well regulated Militia” as their justification to legislate restrictions on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. They interpret this phrase to mean the government has the right to impose regulations on ownership and that the right to bear arms is only guaranteed for military units sanctioned by the Federal government. These opponents of firearms either fail to recognize the historical context of the Second Amendment or are engaged in a purposeful attempt to misrepresent it.

The concept of Federal regulations and restrictions on everyday activities is, in a historical sense, a relatively new phenomenon. The idea that the Federal government has the power to impose its will on the states and the people therein did not even originate until the Civil War and was not institutionalized until the Progressive Era in the early twentieth century. The framers of the Constitution did not use the phrase, “well regulated” to mean Federal oversight and restriction on the right to bear arms. What, then, did the phrase, “well regulated,” imply at the time of the passage of the Second Amendment? “Well regulated” was a relatively common phrase meaning that something was in proper working order. Within the context of bearing firearms, “well regulated” meant that someone was properly trained and proficient in the use of these weapons. That meant that people bearing arms were expected to be trained in the use of the arms, and as members of the militia, engage in periodic drills. The phrase did not imply that the Federal government had the authority to regulate the use of firearms, as we commonly understand the term, “regulate,” to mean today. Indeed, the entire concept of granting a central government the right to unlimited regulation was totally foreign to the Founding Fathers. The term, “militia,” is also misunderstood or misrepresented by opponents of firearms. They argue that the militia only consists of the National Guard and reserve units of the uniformed services and that the Second Amendment only pertains to people enlisted in these government-controlled entities. This is probably due to ignorance of the Efficiency in Militia Act of 1903, which codified the circumstances in which state National Guard units could be brought under federal control. The act did not, however, restrict militia membership to organized units (like the National Guard). In fact, the Efficiency in Militia Act recognized the existence of an unorganized militia (which was also recognized in the Militia Acts of 1792). The unorganized militia was comprised of all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 17 and 45. In other words, the entire population of capable males was considered, by default, members of the militia. (It could certainly be argued, based upon current legislation and Constitutional interpretation, that the age and gender restrictions are no longer in force.) Therefore, every citizen of the United States, by default, is a member of the militia and subject to the rights enumerated in the Second Amendment.

Militias in America were historically designed to allow citizens to band together for the common defense. All able-bodied males of a certain age (as codified in the various Militia Acts) were expected to be trained and proficient in the use of firearms and expected to be able to use those arms if the need arose. The Second Militia Act of 1792 required that every male citizen possessed a firearm and adequate ammunition. Except in rare instances, militias were established and controlled at the local or state level; federal control was limited to extraordinary circumstances, usually limited to service in a declared war or insurrection.

There was a good reason for establishing militias at the state or local level. People at the time of the passage of the Second Amendment distrusted a standing army in times of peace. The abuses of British authority were still fresh in their minds. Rather than granting power to a large central government, the citizenry preferred to restrict most political power to the states or individuals (as codified in the Tenth Amendment). If there is any doubt that the framers of the Constitution intended the Second Amendment to apply to all citizens, one needs only read the amendment carefully. It clearly states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” shall not be infringed. Note the use of the word, “people.” The amendment does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms to governmental authorities; it extends this right to all people. This does not contradict the first part of the amendment because, as was already established, the militia was composed of all people. Anyone arguing that the Second Amendment should not be universally applied is ignorant, or is purposely misrepresenting both the historical context and the true wording of the amendment.

The opponents of the rights codified in the Second Amendment also resort to incendiary rhetoric to appeal to emotions, rather than reason. The most common example of this is referring to certain types of firearms as military-grade “assault” rifles, as if the only purpose of these weapons is to assault someone in the commission of a crime. Although many of the opponents of the Second Amendment are woefully ignorant of different types of firearms, they usually use the term, “assault” rifles to refer to automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Of course, many firearms opponents don’t even know the meaning of these terms.

In general terms, a fully automatic weapon fires multiple rounds with a single pull of the trigger. Machine guns are the most obvious examples of weapons in this category. A semi-automatic weapon only fires one round per pull of the trigger. Although a new round is automatically chambered after the previous round is fired, it can not be fired until the shooter consciously pulls the trigger. A single-shot weapon requires that a round be manually chambered each time the weapon is to be fired.

Fully automatic weapons, the only true “assault” rifles, have been subject to substantial restrictions since the National Firearms Act of 1934, and virtually outlawed by the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986. They are not available to the general public except under very stringent and specific circumstances, as prescribed by law. Today, the only “long guns” available to the general population are single-shot and semi-automatic rifles, each of which require a specific single pull of the trigger for each fired shot.

Finally, the opponents of the possession and use of firearms rely upon emotional knee-jerk reactions to violent incidents (or outright political pandering), rather than reason. Legislation at both the state and federal level restricting access to firearms has proven ineffective at stemming the violent incidents seen lately. On the federal level, more and more restrictive legislation has been passed (including the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993). Many states have even more stringent restrictions on the use and possession of firearms than provided for by federal statutes. In addition, it is a crime, with substantial penalties, to harm a person with a firearm, except in cases of self-defense. If these laws have not prevented those with evil intentions from committing crimes, how can we expect further laws to do so? Rather than addressing the real causes of violence, further restrictions on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms will only penalize individuals who use firearms for legal purposes, like hunting, target shooting, and personal defense. Although further gun restrictions may allow a fearful population the illusion of protection, these “feel good” laws will do nothing to prevent future outbreaks of violence. Additional laws will only have the unintended (or maybe intended) consequence of turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals if they inadvertently run afoul of one of the newly legislated restrictions.

The recent spate of mass shootings has certainly been a tragedy, and it is understandable that people are searching for ways to prevent further occurrences. But further restrictions on our Second Amendment rights are not the answer. (In fact, they may even make the citizenry more vulnerable to attacks by removing the deterrent of self-defense). Most of the mass shooters are willing to die during the commission of their crimes, so further laws will not deter them. The perpetrators of these vile deeds obviously have no respect for human life, including their own. Perhaps the reasons for this tendency are worth exploring if we wish to prevent further occurrences of violence. Further restrictions on our Second Amendment rights, however, will, as historically shown, have no impact on preventing further mass shootings. In fact, further gun restrictions may have the negative impact of lulling the population into a false sense of security while other actions that may actually reduce tendencies towards violence are ignored.