Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ban guns...ban booze

In order to remain logically consistent, anybody favoring banning so-called “assault weapons,” or guns in general, must also support banning alcohol with equal passion.

Ostensibly, gun banners hold their position based on a desire to protect lives and prevent tragedies. Obama alluded to this in a statement made in the wake of the horrible mass shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary.

“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” he said.

A few days later, the president pledged concrete action.

“But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.  The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence,” he said during a press conference on Dec. 19. “The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.”

So presumably, the majority of Americans also support banning alcohol. Because the havoc wrecked on American society by booze at least equals, and in reality far exceeds, the horrors brought about by gun violence.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, 10,228 people died in drunk driving accidents in 2010. That compares with 11,105 deaths attributed to firearms related homicides, according to the Center for Disease control. The carnage resulting from drunk driving and gun crimes stand close to equal.
Of course, if you include suicide and gun accidents in the statistics, the number of firearms related deaths increase to 31,513.

But a CDC study in 2005 attributes a whopping 75,000 deaths per year in the United States directly to alcohol, including alcohol related diseases and non-vehicle accidents. That’s more than double the number of firearms related deaths. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the damage to families and the violence perpetrated by drunks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, alcohol was a factor in between 19 and 37 percent of violent all crimes from 1997 to 2008.

Clearly, if we must band guns, it follows that we must ban alcohol as well.

As the president said, "We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." 

If not a complete ban, at least a ban on the highest proof booze. And obviously, we need to outlaw high capacity containers, like “forties,” 24-packs and kegs. I mean, who can object? Nobody NEEDS alcohol after all. 

So, to sum up, if we must take immediate action to restrict guns due to some 32,000 deaths per year, we must also immediately pursue booze-bans due to the 75,000 alcohol related deaths per year. It's only logical.

From this point forward, I will completely disregard any gun-ban-nut who refuses to support alcohol bans as well..

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Don't let them steal your joy

The other day, I did a radio interview. When I was brought on air, I asked the host how he was doing.

"Well, I could give the socially acceptable answer and say, 'Fine,' but, I'm really not doing too good."

He went on to chronicle all of the things going horribly wrong in the country to justify his ill-humor.

I have to admit, most of his observations where spot-on.

The radio show host was just one of many liberty-minded folks that expressed a sense of despair as I spoke with them over the last few weeks. I guess it's pretty easy to become disillusioned, defeated and depressed if you love liberty in this day an age.

But seriously folks, look up and pull yourself out of the mud! Don't let the bastards steal your joy!

I fight for liberty and freedom because I love life. I want the opportunity to live it to the fullest. Not just for me, but for my children. That being the case, how can I justify living my life in a fog of depression every day? If I do that, I've let tyranny win. They can limit my liberty to some degree, but if I let them cage me in a pit of despair, they've truly already won. 

I believe in the importance of political activism. I spend hours every day working within the political realm. I am constantly reading about, writing about and discussing political philosophy, tactics and policy. But this doesn't define who I am.

I am a father. I am a husband. I am a friend. I am a hockey player. I am a musician. I am a jokester. I am a photographer. I am a writer.

Most significantly, I am a child of God.

There are an awful lot of reasons there to be joyful!

The apostle Paul wrote, "I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds."

That sounds like a much better way to live life than "woe is me."

One of the hard lessons I've learned through 45 years on planet earth is that an awful lot of things happen that I cannot control. Spending time and energy focused on things I have no control over wastes an awful lot of time and energy. So I try to live like this: focus on what I can control, and let the rest take care of itself.

People often ask me, "Doesn't all of the political activism wear you down? Don't you feel like you're just beating your head against a wall?"


But here's the thing; I am only responsible for doing what I feel called and led to do. I can't make people listen or act. I can only spread the message. The rest lies in their hands. If I do my part, my responsibility ends. I have to let the rest go. Ezekiel provides the basis of my view on this.

33 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’

I view my work with the Tenth Amendment Center as vital. I will continue to fight for liberty and constitutional fidelity as long as I have breath. It's that important. But I refuse to let those who would try to steal my liberty steal my joy as well. My joy comes from a greater source. No human being can steal my joy unless I let them.

And I won't.

Who knows what will happen down the road? My hope is that the people will wake up and reestablish constitutional restraints, that we will devolve power away from centralized, tyrannical structures, that we will stop the runaway spending and restore civil liberties. But that may never happen. It may get worse. Heck, somebody may decide I'm dangerous someday and lock me in a cage.

But you know what? Even then, I will still have joy. And I will live free. Because nobody can shackle my spirit. It has been set free for all eternity!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and DO NOT LET yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why I became a foreign policy non-interventionalist

Over the last few of weeks, a couple of people have asked me why I’ve turned into such a foreign policy non-interventionalist. Or as one friend put it, “What turned you into such a bleeding-heart?”

To put the question into context, I was once quite the hawk. I supported the first Gulf War to “liberate Kuwait,” I urged on the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, and I stood behind G.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. And I’m not going to lie, I still love military hardware, I respect the toughness and dedication of our warriors, and I am awed by projections of force.

But over the last few years, I’ve struggled to develop a cohesive political philosophy that also encompasses my faith in Christ. And I’ve realized, at times, my previous “conservative” political viewpoints contradicted the tenants of my faith, even occasionally contradicting each other.

After a great deal of reading and thought, I’ve settled upon the non-aggression principle to guide my political philosophy. Simply put, I find the use of coercive force in a non-defensive context morally objectionable.This principle provides a moral constant against which I can evaluate both domestic and foreign policy.

With that in mind, it becomes clear why I can no longer support U.S. inverventionalist foreign policy.

But I recognize many people, particularly some of my conservative friends, won’t accept the non-aggression principle as a viable reason to oppose U.S. foreign policy and war-making. They will raise some valid question: don’t we need to sometimes strike preemptively to defend ourselves? Don’t we have a moral obligation to defend democracy and human rights in other parts of the world? If we withdraw from our role as the world’s “policeman,” won’t our enemies fill that power vacuum and endanger our security.

All valid questions.

But I contend that even rejecting the moral arguments against foreign intervention, several practical reasons exist to abandon the neo-conservative worldview that drives both Republican and Democratic foreign policy.

First off, we simply can’t afford any more empire building. The U.S. has emptied the bank account and maxed out the credit card. Historically, overextended empires have led to the fall of many great societies. If America insists on continuing to play the role of international cop and spending the trillions of dollars necessary, she will soon collapse. The U.S.  may  still stand as the premier world power, but the republic is quickly rotting from the inside out.

A nuclear Iran doesn’t pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.

Neither does Al Qaeda.

How about China?


The greatest threat to American security takes the form of a $16 trillion debt.

This number stares down the nose of every moral and philosophical argument for continuing U.S. interventionalist policy.

Secondly, we cannot have limited government at home while at the same time intervening in nations across the globe. As Randolph Bourne brilliantly argued, “War is the health of the state.” Constant military engagement leads to the expansion of government power and an erosion of even the most basic civil liberties. We see this playing out in the U.S. with Patriot Act Spying, NDAA indefinite detention and drone executions without due process. It even weaves its way into everyday life, taking the form of TSA groping at your local airport.

So, self-proclaimed conservatives who constantly advocate for limited government, while pushing for an every larger military and continued intervention around the world, actually stand for mutually exclusive policies.

James Madison eloquently made this point more than 200 years ago.
"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
Finally, U.S. foreign policy is convoluted and counter-productive. America claims to fight for democracy while supporting tyrants when expedient. The U.S. constantly engages in actions which result in blowback. And we even arm select groups, only to fight them later on.

A speech by Tom Woods served as a turning point in my journey toward non-interventionalism. He pointed out that conservatives constantly talk about the utter ineptitude of federal policymakers and government in general when it comes to domestic policy. Then he asks a profound question:  how is it that these same people suddenly become geniuses when it comes to foreign policy?

The answer is self-evident.

They don’t.

If we truly want limited government, we must not only fight for less federal control domestically. We must also oppose the warfare-state in all of its manifestations. We can’t afford it, and it hovers like an axe blade over our most basic liberties.

That is why I’ve turned into such a “bleeding heart.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

I love George Washington, except for his foreign policy

Over the last year or so, I've been struggling to redefine my views on foreign policy. As a former neo-conservative, I enthusiastically embraced the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I readily accepted the notion that military force serves as a legitimate tool for nation-building. And I still get goosebumps seeing projections of military power. I love fighter jets, tanks and big guns. Maybe that's just a guy thing.

But it doesn't take a doctorate in foreign relations to understand that U.S. policy has forged a tangled mess of contradictory alliances and obligations, and created a much more dangerous world. I've gradually come to accept that military intervention in foreign affairs typically causes more damage than good and that the whole concept rests on morally dubious grounds. Who am I to point a gun at another man's head and demand he practice "democracy"?

This does not make me a pacifist. I believe in a vigorous defense. If attacked, respond with overwhelming force. As I tell my kids, avoid a fight if at all possible by every means at your disposal. But if you get forced into a position where you have to fight, fight to win.

This does not make me an isolationist. Non-intervention differs greatly from closing yourself inside a box and avoiding interaction with the world around you. I favor vigorous and open trade. This stands in direct contradiction to the concept of isolationism.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, I bought into the conventional wisdom on Ron Paul. He was pretty good on domestic policy, but a "nut-job" when it comes to foreign policy. But as I've really listened to what he says, as opposed to the media spin, and studied the world I live in today, I find he makes much more sense. Do I agree with him 100 percent? No. But I can no longer simply discount his foreign policy as quackery.

I hear this mantra all the time today. "I like that Ron Paul feller, except for his foreign policy." I'm not even sure many who say that really understand his foreign policy positions. In fact, they line up pretty closely with stated positions of another president revered by most Americans - George Washington.

I wonder if Washington could get any traction in American politics today with this kind of foreign policy thinking? The following comes from his Farewell Address, delivered on Sept. 17, 1796.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean,as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dear Warren: Just write the damn check

Warren Buffett says he wants to pay more taxes.

Which raises a logical question in my mind. If he is so gung-ho about giving more money to Uncle Sam, why doesn't he just write a check? Nobody is stopping him.

Apparently, his is really more interested in perpetuating and extending a system of legalized plunder.

What is legalized plunder, you might ask. Well, economist and political philosopher Frederic Bastiat came up with a pretty good definition.

When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it - without his consent and without compensation - and whether by force or by fraud - to anyone who does not own it, then I say the property is violated, that an act of plunder is committed.

So why would Buffett advocate plundering himself? I don't know, but I guarantee you he has something to gain by it, something greater than the potential cost. Billionaires don't become billionaires by being stupid. Political power? Some kind of special treatment? Who knows. But he stands to gain.

Perhaps, you retort, he simply cares about the country. Well my friend, that simply brings us back to my original question. Nobody stops him from writing that check.

Do you even realize how few people Buffett is talking about?  In 2009, only 236,883 tax returns in the U.S. had an adjusted gross income over $1 million. They made, combined, about $726.9 billion. Lets say we increase their tax load by 20 percent. That would represent an additional $145 billion dollars in revenue. The U.S. spends about $10 billion a day, so the extra income raised would run the government for an extra 14 days. Lets get really crazy...lets confiscate ALL of these rich dudes' money. That would be enough to run the government for less than 3 months.

Clearly, this isn't about raising revenue. It's about class warfare. It's about making one group of people feel better. It's about concentrating political power.

The problem in the U.S. is not that it doesn't take in enough revenue. The problem is that it spends too much money. The treasury borrows  40 cents of every dollar it spends.

You want to talk fairness? Lets talk fairness. The top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. (AGI over $113,799) paid 69.9 percent of all federal income taxes. The bottom 50 percent paid 2.7 percent of the total tax burden. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 percent paid NO federal income tax.

It's time we stop with the class warfare and set about solving the actual problem. That means shrinking government. That means REAL spending cuts. That means restraining the federal government to its prescribed constitutional role. And it means reforming the tax code to make it truly fair. Where everybody contributes.

And Warren, if you feel you aren't contributing enough, by all means, write the damn check!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why was the word explicit removed from original drafts of the Tenth?

I've not been writing much here lately. I am currently working on a book that I will hopefully have finished up by late this summer. So, I've been dedicating most of my writing to to the book, and of course to the TAC website.

But I thought I would take a moment to share an exchange with a reader at the Huffington Post website. I commented on a story that made an excellent case for the Tenth Amendment and its importance today. I included in my comment the Madison quote outlining the scope of federal power.

A reader going by the tag Mikel Moore wrote the following.

You conveniently did not give the Madison quote wherein he states that the word 'explicit' was removed from the express rights clause to give the federal government more wiggle room.

Then the post civil-war amendments changed that balance of power and allowed the federal government to impose on the states. The Bill of Rights did not apply to the states prior.

Here is my response:

The Madison quote from the Federalist Papers is particularly relevant because it outlines the role and scope of the federal government that was “sold” to the states and the people. And it was upon that understanding that the ratifying conventions adopted the Constitution. So whether some of the framers desired a more powerful, national government, and some certainly did, is not at all relevant. Unless of course you accept the idea that an agreement based upon bait-and-switch remains binding even after the switch.

But yes, the word “explicit” was removed from original drafts of the Tenth Amendment. The original proposal came from Massachusetts.  Many didn’t see the point, arguing that the Constitution carefully enumerated the powers of the general government. It was self-evident that this excluded any other power.  Designato unius est exclusio alterius – a legal maxim meaning, "the designation of one is the exclusion of the other."

But many fearful of federal overreach didn’t want to rely on the assurance of proponents and insisted on an amendment making this explicit. (And they seem pretty insightful at this point in history.)

“It removes a doubt which many have entered, and gives assurance that, if any law made by the federal government should be extended beyond the power granted by the proposed Constitution, it will be an error, and adjudged by the courts of law to be void.  It is consonant with the second article in the present Confederation, that each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not, by this Constitution, expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.” – Sam Adams

So why was explicit removed? (The word clearly was also considered) It was in essence to give “wiggle room” already provided for in the Constitution. The fear was that leaving explicit in the Tenth would in effect repeal the “necessary and proper” clause. It was always understood that the federal government would have powers not “explicitly” enumerated, but incidental to carrying out those enumerated functions. Necessary and proper was a legal construction with a specific meaning, basically that any necessary and proper power had to be 1. Necessary to carry out the original purpose. 2. A customary way of carrying out the original purpose. 3. Incidental power could never be greater than the original power granted.

As for the 14th Amendment, it did not repeal the 10th. The validity of the incorporation doctrine, a function of courts, is up for debate. But you certainly cannot argue that the 14th granted additional power to the federal government.

I always find it fascinating that the same people who rail against the concentration of corporate power in an economic context don’t bat an eye at concentrated power in the political arena. Both are equally nefarious for the same reasons.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Some thoughts on the arrests at the Jefferson Memorial

Yesterday, five people were arrested inside the Jefferson Memorial for silently dancing. A group of about a dozen showed up to protest a recent court ruling upholding the governments right to ban certain expression at memorials.
If you have not heard about this, you can read the story and watch a video here.

The event stirred a lot of controversy, with folks coming down on every side of this multifaceted issue. Some praised the protestors for standing up for our free speech rights. Others condemned them as rabble-rousers, looking for trouble and finding it. As a result, several people thought the police were completely justified in their response. Others argued that the police actions illustrate a movement toward a police state in the U.S.

After contemplating the incident for about 24 hours, I thought I would share a few random thoughts.

First, I basically agree with the court decision. The First Amendment was never intended as a carte blance right to say whatever whenever. When the framers drafted the amendment, a well-defined understanding of what “free speech” meant already existed. For instance, slander was a punishable offense, as was “blasphemy” and “lewdness.” So the framers clearly didn’t mean all speech was permitted at all times.

In essence, the judges in the memorial case followed precedent, allowing the government to limit speech, keeping with the “purpose” of the place. A memorial serves as a place of honor and solemnity, and regulating expression to maintain that purpose does not strike me as a particularly insidious thing. We limit speech in this was all the time. I can’t go hold a noisy protest in the middle of my street at 2 a.m. I would find myself under arrest for disturbing the peace – assuming a neighbor didn’t come out and whip my butt before the cops showed up.

Opponents will counter that a plain reading of the First Amendment makes no exception for places. And this is true. But I would counter that if we are going to appeal to a literal meaning, the First Amendment offers no protection for dancing. There exists no indication that the framers considered all "expression" speech. That is a construct of our court system through the evolution of First Amendment law. It becomes difficult to argue that the courts can create a construction protecting "dance" as expression and then turn around and say the court cannot create a construction limiting speech in certain places.

That said; the police overreacted. The force used in no way correlated to the crime. If the police were concerned about maintaining decorum at the monument, they certainly botched that. They should have just let the group do its little dance (I doubt anyone would have noticed anyway. It was of course “silent”) and then cited them after the fact. But I suspect the police intended to make a point, just like the protestors.

I found the treatment of those filming the event particularly troubling. The police tried to shut down videotaping, threatening at least one man with a camera with arrest if he continued to record. That indicates to me the officers knew they were over the line and didn’t particularly want anybody to see it.

Courts have consistently held that police cannot stop anybody from filming as long as they remain in an area open to the general public. The police have the right and authority to clear a "crime" scene, for their own safety and the safety of bystanders. But once a person complied and was outside of the restricted area, he had every right to continue recording. Threatening arrest for filming was a clear violation of press rights.

I wonder if the camera man working for the local NBC affiliate lodged any protest. He was shoved out of the memorial and that was way out of line. There really wasn’t any reason to clear everybody out. The situation was well in hand at that point. Again, it appears the police wanted to limit their exposure. That is a dangerous thing. Nasty stuff happens in secret – thus the importance of a free press.

And by the way, press means every citizen. You don’t have to be a member of some secret club to enjoy the rights of a free press.

Finally, I commend the protestors. Even though don’t agree with their position from a constitutional standpoint, I do respect the fact that they stood up for what they believe. They didn’t just submit. And the reaction taught us a valuable thing about the police and how they handle such situations – pretty darn poorly.

The whole incident was rife with irony. Police arrest citizens exercising their rights in the shadow of the statue of a man who wrote, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

It appears these folks don't consent.