Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the California Plastic Bag Ban

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

In California, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill 270 into law. This new law bans single-use plastic bags at California grocery stores and the like. The law gives customers a choice: “Purchase a reusable bag, or pay at least 10 cents for a paper bag or a multiuse plastic carrier that meets a set of state durability standards.” This is not a new concept in California. Over 100 California municipalities had already enacted similar bans on single-use plastic bags based on the conclusion that “the amount of waste generated by plastic bags outweighs the convenience.” Immediately following the enactment of this new California law, an industry group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance vowed to collect enough signatures to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot to overturn this ban.

Is this latest California Nanny State law really necessary? Are single-use plastic bags overrunning California and threatening to despoil the natural beauty of the Golden State? Clemson Professor Daniel K. Benjamin has pointed out that garbage dumps do not take up a large amount of land in the United States: “Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Montana, could handle all of America’s trash for the next century—with 50,000 acres left over for his bison.” The real problem, if there is one, is simply a matter of litter. If these single-use plastic bags are winding up on the ground, government simply needs to enforce laws against littering. With all of the actual social and economic problems facing California, banning single-use plastic bags appear to be a solution in search of a problem.

Who will benefit from this new law? Manufacturers of reusable bags and state-approved multiuse plastic carriers for one. State bureaucrats, who will now have more tax money to award to their cronies or use curtailing the liberties of Californians, for another.

Who will be hurt most? Manufacturers of single-use plastic bags will be harmed. However, more egregiously, poor consumers will be harmed. Forcing the less affluent to purchase reusable shopping bags or pay a tax of at least 10 cents for each paper bag is yet another regressive means of redistributing wealth from the poor to government and its corporatist puppet masters. This is all nothing but a collectivist plot by environmentalists and neo-progressives in California to force their misguided vision upon the state and harm the poor.

(For a much more detailed discussion of the Collectivist nature of Environmentalism and Neo-Progressivism, read my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong. Available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Self-Defense Against the State

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw
On May 11, 2014, Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie, an 18-year member of the Killeen Police Department in Texas and 15-year SWAT Team veteran, died from injuries received in the line of duty. In the early morning hours of May 9, 2014, members of the Killeen Police Department Tactical Response Unit and the Bell County Organized Crime Unit attempted to serve a narcotics search warrant. When the members of this team were breaching a window into the house, a 49-year-old male occupant of the house opened fire, striking four officers. Two officers received only minor injuries, Officer Otis Denson was struck in the femur and required surgery. Officer Dinwiddie received a critical wound to his face and later died.
The man who shot and killed Officer Dinwiddie was Marvin Louis Guy. Guy had been arrested in 2011 for assaulting a family member. He pleaded guilty and served 40 days in jail in 2012. Guy had no police record for drug offenses. The Killeen Police Department were executing a no-knock warrant based on the information of an informant who claimed to have seen bags of cocaine transported to Guy’s house. The Killeen Police found no cocaine or any other narcotics in the Guy residence. They recovered a glass pipe, a grinder, and a safe. While perhaps this is evidence of drug use, it is hardly a sign that Guy was a dangerous drug kingpin. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Guy.
Officer Chuck Dinwiddie bravely served and protected his community, and he died in the course of doing his duty. But consider this from the point of view of the middle-aged African-American Marvin Louis Guy. At 5:30 am, he is awakened by loud sounds. He witnesses what appears to be a home invasion. His significant other is in the house, and he wishes to defend her and himself against these intruders. There are no drugs or any other contraband in the house. Perhaps Guy has used cocaine in the past, but why would a petty drug user with one small criminal offense years earlier expect a SWAT Team to bust into his house to execute a simple search warrant? It is not like the Killeen Police knocked on his door and presented their badges and a search warrant. Simply stated, how could Guy possibly know these were police officers and not home intruders? If he had assumed that anyone breaking into his house with guns before dawn were police officers and they turned out to be criminals and not officers of the law, would it have been exemplary of Guy to forfeit his life and not defend himself? Could one not argue that the Killeen Police were reckless and unnecessarily put Officer Dinwiddie in a position where he might be harmed? Could it not also be argued that the Killeen Police Department is just as responsible for Officer Dinwiddie’s death as Marvin Louis Guy was?
Human beings have natural unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. These natural rights entail that human beings have the right to self-defense, and this includes the right to bear arms. Marvin Louis Guy had the right to defend his life, the life of his significant other, his liberty, and his home. Given that the apparent home invaders were well-armed with guns, Guy had a prima facie right to employ deadly force in self-defense.
Officer Chuck Dinwiddie and his companions were officers of the law executing their official duties. Of course, one cannot be permitted by law to engage in gun fights with officers of the law just because these officers are armed and could potentially pose a significant danger to a suspected criminal. However, the Killeen Police were not acting as officers of the law. In not identifying themselves, they were essentially going rogue. In the case of a building controlled by known members of a violent drug cartel, perhaps a no-knock warrant is appropriate. Perhaps. But in the case of someone like Marvin Louis Guy, a no-knock warrant is totally inappropriate. No-knock warrants in almost all—and perhaps in all—instances are nothing but totalitarian heavy-handed tactics more appropriate to the Gestapo than American police.
Marvin Louis Guy does not deserve to die for killing Officer Chuck Dinwiddie. In fact, he should not even be charged with a crime. He killed in self-defense, exercising his natural right. Even if he had been using cocaine, human beings also possess the natural right to liberty which includes the right to ingest any substance that does not directly harm anyone else—e.g. any substance other than highly radioactive material, explosive devices, contagions, etc. The true murderer here is the unjust and unconstitutional War on Drugs that causes police to act like soldiers storming American homes like they are GIs storming German bunkers on Normandy Beach. It is the War on Drugs and drug prohibition in general which should face the death penalty. Not a man exercising his right to self-defense.   
(For a much more detailed discussion of natural right to self-defense as well as the immorality of the War on Drugs, read my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong. Available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Upskirt Photos and the First Amendment

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

In June 2013, Christopher Cleveland of Springfield, Virginia was arrested by U.S. Park Police when he was found to be photographing women in dresses seated above him on the Lincoln Memorial steps. After his arrest, several photos of women’s crotches and buttocks were found on Cleveland’s camera. D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna recently threw out charges of voyeurism that were made against Cleveland for taking these photos at the monument. Judge McKenna said of Cleveland: “The fact that the Defendant was intentionally photographing publicly exposed areas of women’s clothed and unclothed bodies … is repellent and disturbing.” However, more importantly, she stated: “Mr. Cleveland is not alleged to have engaged in any covert or surreptitious behavior but rather was taking photos in broad daylight.”
In an age where privacy is rapidly declining both online—government and corporate data collection—and in public—surveillance cameras, drones, etc.—this appears to be yet another blow against the right to privacy. However, the truth is that this decision is an important defense of the First Amendment.
In regards to reasonable expectation of privacy against government intrusion, the Supreme Court has held that there exists an expectation of privacy. The Court held in Katz v. United States (1967) that what a person “seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.” Justice Harlan’s concurring opinion created a test—which was later adopted by the Court in Smith v. Maryland (1979)—for determining whether a government search is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. This test contains two parts. First, “a person [must] have exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy,” and second, that “expectation [must] be one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’”
The Katz test should also be employed in cases like Christopher Cleveland’s. The women photographed were in public in broad daylight. They were not in a restroom or a fitting room. Cleveland had not set up hidden recording equipment. He openly took the photographs. Nothing that Cleveland captured with his camera was something that could not be seen with the naked eye.
But is this just another version of the misogynistic claim that women who dress provocatively in public are asking to be raped? No. There is every difference in the world between sexual assault and photography. If one does not wish something to be seen and possibly photographed, one needs to keep it hidden and not reveal it in public. Protecting individuals from being looked at in public and being the object of sexual thoughts is ridiculously paternalistic and a seed from which to grow totalitarianism. Thought crime is eerily Orwellian, and any and all such laws against thought violate the natural right to liberty.
Photographs are a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. The photographs taken by Cleveland may be objectionable, but they do not fit into any category of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment—e.g. obscenity. Prohibiting the kind of public photography that Cleveland engaged in would put us on a slippery slope. How soon would it be before the photographing of police or other government officers in public would be prohibited?
(For a much more detailed discussion of natural rights such as freedom of expression, read my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong. Available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle.)