Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When the Cop Pointed the Gun in My Face

A few weekends ago I was driving down a major thoroughfare near the Pomona Fairplex when I noticed a black and white La Verne P.D. patrol car in my rearview mirror speed up and start tailing me.  After a moment, the officer turned on his interior window-based lights, but I continued driving cautiously.  I’ve had experiences before where police officers flashed their window lights at me just to show that they were keeping an eye on my conduct on the road, and I’ve only ever been pulled over after they turn on their flashing overhead lights.

After a quarter mile of tailing me, the officer turned on his overhead lights signaling me to pull over.  I couldn’t do so immediately, as we were in the center lane and there were cars passing us on either side at 50 miles per hour.  Still, when he turned his overhead lights on I stuck a thumbs-up out the window to acknowledge him and turned on my right-turn blinker.  For our safety, I drove for ten seconds, reducing my speed, and slowly took the first right turn possible.  If I had pulled over immediately on that busy thoroughfare, it would have put both of us in danger as cars drive very fast on that road and there’s no road shoulder.

So far his pursuit of me, in which I thought I was cooperating, lasted approximately thirty seconds.  I turned off my engine in a parking area near the Fairplex Sheraton Hotel and rolled down my driver-side window.  As the officer approached my vehicle, hand on holster, I was fumbling through my jeans pocket for my wallet so I could hand him my driver’s license.  “Put your hands on the steering wheel!” he shouted.  I put my hand on the wheel like he asked.

“Put your other hand on the steering wheel!”

“There is no other hand,” I replied.

“I SAID PUT YOUR OTHER HAND ON THE STEERING WHEEL!”  As he shouted this, only a foot away from my window and standing diagonally behind me, he un-holstered his weapon, chambered a round, and pointed the weapon straight at me.

I shouted back to him, “I have one arm!” as I raised an empty sleeve so he could see it.  He proceeded to interrogate me at lightning speed, asking if I had any drugs or weapons on my person, whether I had any warrants out for my arrest, asking if I’d been texting while driving, etc.

He then asked me whether I had a driver’s license, where it was, and which pocket.  He told me to slowly reach into my pocket and pull the license out.  I did so and handed it to him.  He finally re-holstered his weapon, told me to stay put, and took my license to run my history.  When he came back he told me why he pulled me over.  It turns out one of my rear tires was visibly wobbling and he was concerned it might come off and cause an accident.  I let him know it wasn’t loose, it just needed repair and I already had an appointment with a mechanic.

My friends all say he must have felt like “such a dick” when he found out I was missing an arm.  I don’t know.  All I know is that he proceeded to give me a lecture about pulling over immediately, and then sent me on my way.  In hindsight, he must have been a fairly inexperienced officer because—having been raised by veteran cops—a veteran cop would have glared straight into my soul and lectured me about Lord-knows-what instead of un-holstering his weapon.

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t shaken up afterwards.  Having a loaded weapon pointed directly at me when I committed no crime was a bit upsetting.  When I told my friends about the incident, they all recommended I file a complaint against the officer and get him suspended.  There’s one problem, though.  The cop technically didn’t do anything illegal.

It certainly wasn’t the best judgment—in my book—for him to pull out his gun on a civilian the way he did so incredibly fast.  However, he had a viable argument.  Regardless of safety concerns, I did fail to pull over quickly.  Furthermore, when he approached my vehicle my hand (hands, as he thought) was out of sight and fumbling for something of which he had no idea.  So far the law is on his side, since officers are killed all the time doing routine traffic stops.

However, he did walk a very fine line.  Because I’d said that I had no other hand, had he fired the weapon, he would be subject to disciplinary action and possible prosecution, since calling an ambulance to the scene to rescue his wounded suspect would have revealed that such a suspect indeed had no other hand.

The LVPD officer and I both frightened the hell out of each other at some point during our exchange, but neither one of us did anything illegal.  This brings us to a problem.  Being raised by police, I fully understand how police quickly develop an us-versus-them mentality, as there are criminals out there who hate the police, have gone to prison because they were caught by police, and want to extract some revenge from any police officer whenever they can get away with it. Talk to any experienced police officer and he or she will be able to list off a number of incidents where perpetrators tried to attack them, including at routine traffic stops.

On the flipside, this shows what is, in my opinion, a problem in the law enforcement culture.   See a culture in law enforcement that can be traced back to the styles of law enforcement from the 1930s and 1940s where the police could do just about anything to people they deemed suspect of committing some sort of crime.  Perhaps that culture itself stems back from the rough-and-tumble tradition of law enforcement in the Wild West, where for cops and criminals it was literally war.

Nonetheless, it’s getting better in some ways.  I can cite a plethora of Supreme Court cases where the Court rules in favor of the defendant’s rights in cases where they were arrested by the local or state police.  But it gets more tricky when it comes to cases involving federal law enforcement.

The Bush-era PATRIOT Act gave the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security the legal authority to spy on American citizens without a warrant.  The National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law annually by President Obama, does the same.  Americans are FINALLY outraged that the National Security Agency has been seizing all kinds of personal records.

Just yesterday the Atlantic Wire reported that book sales of George Orwell’s 1984 skyrocketed over 3,100% in the preceding twenty-four hours.  This is in direct response to the blatant violation of the privacy of millions by the NSA (and as far as we know, several other federal agencies as well).  Dare I say that Ron Paul was right when he used the metaphor of Orwellian government spying on its citizens?

I’m glad that nothing truly bad happened in my run-in with the LVPD officer.  I don’t like it when guns get pointed at my face, whether by some thug or by a police officer.  At the end of the day, I at least have the comfort of knowing the local police can’t spy on my without a warrant, nor can they indefinitely detain me.  However, thanks to Congress and the Bush and Obama Administrations, federal agencies can, and they’re doing it at this time.

I’m deeply opposed to this, which is why I remain involved in the political process.  I call my Congresswoman’s office.  I sign petitions that fight to secure my liberty.  I spend untold amounts of hours campaigning for candidates who will fight against government violations of the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

I doubt that LVPD officer will be so quick to pull his gun on people in the near future, and again, I’m glad nothing bad happened.  However, if he was a federal agent, I’m not so sure the confrontation would have ended so quickly or painlessly.

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Police car image by Scott Davidson, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, and used via CC BY 2.0 license.  NSA satire image retrieved from the Ron Paul Problems tumblr blog with no copyrights given or implied.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

NO War with Iran!

While I disagreed with Rick Santorum on a number of items on his presidential campaign platform, one detail seemed to constantly stick out and it bothered me intensely.  Santorum had, and perhaps still has, a very hostile attitude toward Iran.  His statements led me to believe that under his presidency, the Global War on Terror would expand to include a new front in Iran.

2009 Iran election protests
Some may say that “we’ve been at war with Iran since 1979” and all that militaristic baloney, but the fact is that we really haven’t.  Our country’s armed forces are no more at war with Iran than with the Mexican drug cartels or the Canadian syrup smugglers.  Yes, I’m certain that the Ayatollah’s regime looks the other way as jihadists organize in rural Iran and make their way from Iraq to Afghanistan.  Such has been the case for years, but the very fact that the ex-Mujahadeen Taliban are armed with CIA-provided weapons from the 1980s is a testimony that our country really ought not to intervene in foreign conflicts when they don’t pose a direct danger to us.  After all, arming the Mujahadeen ended up arming the now-Taliban, and arming either side in the Syrian civil war will either support a bloody dictatorship or a rebellion whose ranks is rife with jihadists.

There are many reasons I can name why our country shouldn’t go to war against Iran.  The first is that we’re financially drained and our young veterans are incredibly war-weary after nearly twelve years in Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Africa.  Another is that I believe in the concept of blowback.  The combination of the CIA’s operations in 1980s Afghanistan and the permanent occupation of Saudi Arabia (the Muslim holy land) after Desert Storm both resulted in Al Qaeda’s war declaration on America, as well as the capability of radical Islamists to plan and carry out attacks on the West from Afghanistan.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army—a Shi’a Islamist militia—gave the coalition untold amounts of grief in southern Iraq.  Lord only knows what fragile stability in Iraq, paid for by the blood of American, British, and Iraqi troops—will be undermined if Sadr’s militia answered the call to help their Shi’a brothers in Iran.

I remember Santorum protesting against Ron Paul’s opinions by trying to spout out the militant nationalistic rhetoric that “we’ve been at war with Iran since 1979!”  Paul had an excellent point: the Iranian people’s grievances against American intervention pre-date the Ayatollah’s propaganda to 1953.  In the name of waging the Cold War, the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, replacing him with a puppet prime minister and giving dictatorial power to the Shah, Mohammed Reza.  In the eyes of the Iranian people, it was America that instigated the dictatorship of 1953-79.  In their memory, they’re not blind to the fact that the Reagan administration supported Ba’athist Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War.  If we go to war against them, it will play directly into the xenophobic propaganda of the Ayatollah’s regime, and it will rally Iranian patriots to hold their nose and support the Ayatollah in fighting for their country.

However, there’s one reason in particular why I wish to avoid that war at all reasonable cost.  During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran sustained the majority of casualties.  The Iranian war machine was able to last as long as it did because Ayatollah Khomeini founded the Basij—the national militia—three million strong by 1985.  One of the main duties of the Basij at the front lines was to serve as human shields.

For every offensive, there were thousands of teenage boys, many as young as ten and twelve, who marched forward in columns toward the enemy.  Their job was to martyr themselves on the battlefields by stopping bullets with their bodies in order to draw the fire away from the army behind them.  They did their job exceptionally well and hundreds of thousands of Iranian teenagers died that way.

Scenes from the Iran-Iraq War
I disagree with their cause for dying.  Most of them were convinced they were simultaneously fighting for their country and for Islam.  I, on the other hand, am a Bible-believing Christian.  In Matthew 28 Jesus gives us the great commission to go to the corners of the world and teach the Good News of the Resurrection and afterlife.  I know for a fact that if my country goes to war against Iran, there will be many thousands of teenage boys meeting our troops at the border.  These boys’ job will be to serve as bullet catchers, and they’ll do their job exceptionally well.

This war with Iran will kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians—Basij, poor-bastard draftees in the army, and many civilians through collateral damage.  Not only will these human beings, created in the image of God, be slaughtered by the combined war machines of two countries, but they will never hear the Gospel.  They will never have the opportunity to be saved.  They will forever be robbed of the privilege of answering the great commission themselves, teaching other brothers and sisters about Jesus Christ and living in peace.  To make matters worse, dead people cannot build a libertarian society.  I don’t want these people to suffer or die in another decade-long war.

I know many people suffer under the Ayatollah’s regime today, but we must not free them through military might.  I believe the people who will free Iran are the Iranians themselves.  These people will be the internet hackers who bring Western books, movies, music, and ideas into a country where orthodoxy is the law.  These people will be the brave missionaries who risk their lives to teach the Bible and story of Jesus of Nazarethwhom I call the Christto the hungry souls in the Underground Church.  These people will be the black marketers, the rebels who ignore such anti-liberty policies like bans and embargoes and import merchandise to sell to Iranians under the table.

How many times now have they taken to the streets to protest against their government?  How many more times will their protests be silenced by riot police and the Basij?  It can’t be much longer until Khameini dies of old age, or the Iranian people rise up successfully.  Frankly, I’m in favor of new ideas—religious, political, and social—being the driving force behind the New Iranian Revolution.  That’s why I say NO war with Iran.

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Iran protest image by Milad Avazbeigi and used via CC BY 2.0 license.  Iran-Iraq War montage courtesy of Wikipedia and used via CC BY 3.0 license.  Both images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Acts of WAR vs. Acts of PROTEST

Pink Pistols, a conservative LGBT group, marches for their 2nd Amendment rights

One of my friends in L.A. County Oathkeepers read my last piece and commented on it.  She posed the hypothetical scenario: suppose the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas was marching up and down my street protesting, practicing both their First and Second Amendment rights by carrying fully locked and loaded weapons with them.  Would that be an act of war or an act of protest?

My immediate answer might surprise some people.  I answered that, in and of itself, a locked and loaded protest would simply be an act of protest.   This is a reference to the recent armed march Adam Kokesh was planning on carrying out in Washington, D.C. on July 4.  Needless to say, I’m incredibly glad the protest was canceled.  Kokesh and his and of merry conspiratarians would merely be carrying an act of protest, although it would simultaneously have been an act of stupidity.

For starters, D.C. has some strict gun control laws and an armed march around federal buildings like the White House or the Capitol simply wouldn’t fly.  The event would be more fittingly called “Surrender Your Gun to the Government and Get Arrested like a Dumb-Ass Day.”  Furthermore, it would have been a horrible reflection on the libertarian movement, making us look like a ban of militants and rendering us all responsible if somebody’s weapon had a misfire.

As much as I disagree with their methods or even their reasoning, as long as the Kokesh march—or an armed Muslim Brotherhood march—is carried out by people whose sole aim is to protest, then it would be an act of protest.  However, there are multiple dimensions to the scenario, and small details could greatly change the dimensions of such an event.  If the same group congregated in D.C. to protest and display loaded weapons, demonstrating their Second Amendment right but with no intention of firing, yet one of the protestors loses his cool and fires a shot, then the protest becomes an act of war.

If the same group had even the slightest intention of firing one of their weapons, especially around government buildings, then the protest was an act of war before they even arrived at the National Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue.

An armed militia in the streets of Tripoli following skirmishes
Let’s relate this concept to two examples from involving revolutionaries and our American countrymen.  The first example is the Benghazi killings in Libya, where four American diplomats were murdered by militants.  Though the official reports from the State Department claim that the Benghazi incident was a protest that sparked into a violent confrontation, hard evidence points to a militia attack.  If it had truly been a protest, then it would have become an act of war the minute the protestors got violent.  However, the protest was a farce orchestrated by an Islamist militia so they could attack the U.S. embassy.  It was an act of war before they even congregated.

The second example was covered in the last rant: the local militia at Lexington in 1775.  Though a military body, the local militiamen at Lexington assembled themselves on the village green as an act of protest.  They were locked and loaded, but their goal was not to fight the British.  Firing their muskets was certainly in their back-up plan, but that definitely wasn’t their plan of the day.  Word from Boston had already reached Lexington about the British seizing firearms.  The militiamen stood their ground, locked and loaded on the village green, in demonstrating that they wouldn’t give up their personal property.

The British response to their silent protest was an act of war.  The militia stood in a silent formation but did not have their muskets aimed at the enemy.  The enemy, on the other hand, broke the rules of engagement and fired on the militia.  That’s when the confrontation at Lexington became a battle.  The local militia participated in a military operation, but their protest was not an act of war.  Had the British kept moving, there would have been no battle or shots fired whatsoever.

Going back to the Kokesh march, it remains in my opinion a very bad idea, but so long as everything went according to plan, it would have been merely an act of protest.  Again, I’m glad it was canceled.  I see too much room in this scenario for some rookie law enforcement officer to get nervous around so many loaded weapons and possibly fire on the protestors, causing a bloodbath.  I also see ample opportunities for an armed conspiratarian to panic when the police close in, and fire at them.

A final note: as I see it, the Second Amendment is equally important as the First Amendment.  However, armed marches aren’t the best tactic for arguing our Second Amendment rights.  After all, that just makes us libertarians and conservatives look like the violent gun nuts the left makes us out to be.

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Pink Pistols image by "russavia" and militia photo by "Magharebia".  Both photos were obtained from Wikimedia Commons and are used via CC BY 2.0 license.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tyrannical Government: The Hitler and Stalin Argument

I’m quite disappointed to realize I never fully tackled the Alex Jones guest appearance on Piers Morgan’s television program at the beginning of this year, so I’m taking this opportunity to discuss something important.  Whether they’re in favor of gun control or not, everyone who watched that interview can clearly remember Alex Jones’ outburst and what he said:

“Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns … 1776 will commence again if you try to take the guns from the American people!!!”

While Jones’ point held an incredibly valid argument, he unfortunately stated some tiredly overused rhetoric that conservatives and libertarians use as an ideological defense of their Second Amendment rights.  To this very day, leftists take the totalitarian argument completely out of context, and they’re able to do so because conservatives and libertarians rarely ever add the proper context to this valid argument.

Let me attempt to give a logical and easy to understand explanation of what Jones meant.  It’s overstated that the reason the Second Amendment exists is for the American people to be able to protect themselves from “tyrannical government.”  That statement in and of itself is incredibly vague and unclear in its meaning.  What does “tyrannical government” exactly mean?

This is what it boils down to: the purpose of the Second Amendment is for the American civilian population to be armed to be able to fight a war against the federal government.  Plain and simple.

Battle of Lexington
Bear in mind that the Constitution and its appendage, the Bill of Rights, were written and ratified less than a decade after the American Revolutionary War had been won by the United States government (formerly the confederated Continental governments).  This war for independence began precisely as an armed faction of the British citizenry in North America went to war against the British government.  The war began at Lexington when a British Army battalion fired on the local militia, blatantly violating what we understand today to be the rules of engagement.

The government fired on the citizenry and the citizenry sure as hell shot back.

Many people on the left like to say that the circumstances of the American Revolution were unique, and that the federal government is not being tyrannical today the way the Crown was being.  Not so!  Anyone can take a look at the Declaration of Independence and see how many of the grievances—especially those in the second half of the list of outrages—written by the bipartisan Continental Congress in 1776 have been repeatedly committed against the American people by the federal government, under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Some on the left may indeed agree that the federal government is behaving the way the Royal Government behaved in the 1770s, but that our country’s government will never become as tyrannical as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union under Stalin.  But how can they really be sure?

Let’s first look at the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany.  The infamous fire that broke out in the Reichstag in February 1932 was the basis upon which German President Paul von Hindenberg—a supporter of Adolf Hitler’s—issues the Reichstag Fire Decree which was the “legal” basis for the German federal government to nullify many key civil rights, including a protection against warrantless arrests, indefinite detention, and seizures of personal property.

Adolf Hitler was elected in the spring of 1933.  Within one year of the seizure of state power by the Nazi regime—by democratic means, no less—all Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany were marked with a yellow star or the word “Juden.”  In 1935—two years into the Nazi regime’s tenure—the passage of the Nuremburg laws stripped Germany’s Jews of their citizenship (as well as various political targets and other undesirables).  In 1936, special prison camps were built for political prisoners.  These prisons would later be known as “concentration camps.”   By 1938, the regime began enforcing stringent gun control laws, confiscating as many firearms as possible, and also began the mass incarceration of Jews into the newly built camps.

The terror and horror was in full swing within only five years.  What amazes me is how the majority of civil servants and elected officials in the German government in 1932 were ordinary people, hardly different from those serving in American government today.  Is it still completely implausible that tyranny could occur in America, creeping subtly to the surface, within just five years?

Let’s look back even further at the genesis of the Soviet Union.  The Bolsheviks occupied the Winter Palace in November 1917.  Within a few months Lenin had dissolved the Constituent Assembly (their at-the-time equivalent of a Congress or Parliament) and outlawed the other political parties.  Within two years of the October Revolution, Lenin organized the Cheka (secret police) that was sixteen times as large as the Tsar’s secret police.  He ordered the arrest and execution of at least 80,000 “enemies of the state” from the Social Democratic and Socialist Revolutionary parties.

Many people assumed this madness was simply part of the birth pangs of a new nation and part of the horrors of war (Russia was in a civil war from 1918-22).  However, it continued and progressively intensified.  Lenin’s regime did not only arrest the kulaks—landowners—but executed tens of thousands of them.  These figures do not reflect the people that were forcibly deported from the young Soviet Union.

In 1924 Lenin passed away and Stalin was selected by the Party to succeed him as Secretary.  Within five years Stalin began his “Second Revolution” to correct deviations from Marxist-Leninist doctrine which had occurred during the Civil War and New Economic Policy (NEP), to eliminate the new kulaks of the rising middle class which emerged during the first Five Year Plan under the NEP, and to purge impure elements from the Communist Party.  Though the Bolsheviks confiscated as many civilian-owned firearms as possible during the Civil War, the Second Revolution saw gun control officially implemented in 1929, immediately followed by a nationwide campaign of firearms seizure by the government.

NKVD (precursor to the KGB) records testify to 681,692 people executed during Stalin’s terror of 1936-39, though experts put the number of people murdered by their government during this time at over one million.  Let it be understood that when a government begins murdering its unarmed population, such a program is called genocide.  When a government begins murdering its armed population, such is usually the initiation of a civil war and likely government overthrow.  Nonetheless, in Russia during the end of the Tsar’s reign and early months of Bolshevik rule, just as in Germany, the majority of those serving in government were ordinary people, hardly different from American government employees and public servants.  When the regime began committing acts of tyranny, these same civil servants probably believed they were doing the right thing, entirely for the public good, just as the majority of the American Congress felt when they passed the PATRIOT Act and the various versions of NDAA.

We’ve demonstrated that atrocities in Germany began within five years of a change in government.  The long list of atrocities in the Soviet Union began within one year of the Bolsheviks taking power.  Let’s ask ourselves, is it completely implausible that a government could become tyrannical within one year?  Even after the cases of Germany and Russia—ancient lands steeped with rich histories and sophisticated culture—is it still impossible to consider that the American government could inflict tyranny on its own citizens?

It is indeed possible, though I pray it never happens.  I love my country and I consider my experiences so far in public service to have been an honor, but I also realize that I—like all of you—must remain vigilant and protest whenever the government oversteps its authority.  I fully understand that I’m 100 times more likely to be attacked by a fellow citizen than by my own government, but as long as I practice my Second Amendment right I can at least have a fighting chance to successfully defend myself.  I’m defenseless if the government disarms me.

Returning to the Alex Jones shout-a-thon on Piers Morgan’s show, it’s quite obvious that Piers set Alex up for that one.  There was no table, after all, bringing the two talking heads intimately close and thus making it more personal.  As far as setting Jones up, Morgan succeeded as Jones walked straight into the trap and began shouting.  Once Jones commenced his tantrum, he’d already lost and this victory for gun control advocates was broadcast internationally.  Because of that, it’s my hope that shedding some light on the tyrannical government argument will help my compatriots in the liberty movement present the argument accurately and in context so as to make our pro-Second Amendment position understood, not reviled.

Keep in mind and never forget that the same brilliant statesmen who brought you the rights to free speech, due process, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure are the same thinkers who brought you the right to own firearms.  They did so in consideration of the U.S. government overstepping its authority and attacking citizens, just as their government did in 1775.

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YouTube video contains footage that is the property of CNN but is used here in accordance with Fair Use Law and via Standard YouTube license.  Alex Jones image used courtesy of "911conspiracy" and Piers Morgan image courtesy of Ian Lively.  Both images hosted on Flickr, were obtained from Wikimedia Commons, and are used here via CC BY 2.0 license.  The First Blow For Liberty, Battle of Lexington by A.H. Ritchie is in the public domain.