Judges and Rights

I’m experimenting with some equipment and have been doing some vlog type stuff on dlive. (Check it out.) Anyway, I figured I’d start cross posting the videos here.

Before Trump has even nominated a Supreme Court judge, the right is saying that this individual must be pushed through at all costs while the left is claiming that this judges confirmation must be stopped at all costs. Both sides are clinging to the idea that this one person will shape the direction of this country for a generation, and while this could be problematic depending on who is actually appointed and whether or not you agree with their positions, the real issue is why does one person wield so much power? How does a panel of nine individuals have such a dramatic impact on life as we know it?

I take a look at these questions in my third vlog as I experiment with some new-ish equipment. I welcome any advice or comments be they on policy or my video speaking skills (or lack thereof.)

https://dlive.io/video/bpangie/22efe1d0-7ea5-11e8-bbe8-435b8d3c86e8

dlive won’t embed, so you have to click over.

The Urban Homesteader’s Nightmare; or How Voting is Force

Cowan Animals
Some of Lloyd Cowan’s animals. He also raises chickens for show and has had a pair of Indian Runner ducks for eight years. It is unclear what he will have to do with his animals.

Imagine you live on an urban lot just over an acre and you’ve been reading up on how to grow your own food; you’ve studied the copious numbers of urban homesteading books in your local library and joined too many online forums to remember all your login IDs. You’ve dabbled with a garden, and even raised some chickens, but want to become a little more self-sufficient. Maybe you get some bees and raise a beef cow every year for the freezer; or maybe it’s some goats or a dairy cow to make soaps and cheeses. Of course you need a small shed to house your rototiller and other garden implements, and if you live in a colder climate you are going to want a shed or small barn to house your animals in the winter months; naturally, you tuck those structures to the corners of the property, out of the way and unnoticeable. By no means are you an expert homesteader, but you are learning, so when your town votes in favor of food soverignty, you are curious at first, but when you learn that it allows farmers to sell farm products from their homes or farms without state intervention (think inspections, raw milk, etc.) you’re pretty excited.

Being allowed to sell some of your products, you decided to go in even deeper with your dairy production and start delving into meat rabbits. It is tough to turn a profit, but you are learning, and you’ve started to trade goods with the other urban homesteading ilk in town. Because you are on a smaller lot, you don’t have room to grow your own hay or other treats for your livestock, so you have built a relationship with a local farmer that get’s you a 25% discount on your hay, but you have to help on the farm two Saturday’s a month. It is work you would rather be doing on your homestead, but you have gleaned a lot of first hand knowledge and you get a monetary discount.

Now, imagine that you wake up one morning and find that 65 people in your town of 4,700 voted by raising their hands to outlaw essentially all farm animals except for hens and rabbits, and even then, you can have no more than twelve which makes keeping animals for meat a near impossibility. Your cozy barn that housed your chickens on one side and rototiller on the other that you put in the back corner has to be moved; outbuildings housing livestock or poultry within 15 feet of property lines, and 100 feet of a neighbors dwelling are now illegal. Now imagine that anyone previously homesteading on an urban lot 1.5 acres or smaller is not grandfathered into the new restrictions. All of the sudden, you have to sell your animals, the equipment you used to make cheese and yogurt has to be sold at a significantly lower price than when you first acquired it. You have lost money on equipment, you have lost income on goods you can no longer sell, and you have had to part ways with animals that you love and care for like a family pet. The farmer you were helping loses direct income and valuable labor. The local hardware store where you buy your fencing and other supplies no longer sees your business.

Now know that on June 11, 2018 this is actually what happened in the Town of Madison, Maine when the town held is annual meeting to do whatever it is that gets done at town meetings; however, at this fateful town meeting, where around 1% of the town population showed up, a vote was taken to outlaw backyard farming and a majority voted in favor by show of hands. The vote was not well publicized. There were no billboards or lawn signs sprinkled throughout the former mill town. In fact, it was not a hot topic for debate among angry neighbors caught up in farm fury. Many residents did not even know it was an issue. Resident Ann Harsh found out about the vote two days after it happened when a friend informed her of the new rules in town. Even according to the town manager, Tim Curtis the vote did not seem thought our or well planned; in fact, it is almost as if they voted on a whim. When asked how many inidividuals this new ruling would effect, he answered: “We don’t have a number. We never really went that level of detail in looking at it.”

It would seem that this new ruling counteracts the earlier decision by the town to declare itself food soverign: to allow farmers to sell goods without government meddling. Curtis, does not see it like that. In fact, he said, “We never intended to do anything anti-farming” and “It was never the Select Boards intent to hurt small farms.” It is hard to make rational sense of that statement considering that the Select Board just passed a law banning farming on lots smaller than 1.5 acres. It would seem tha the Select Board passed a rule that directly limits small farms.

At the heart of it, we have two issues, the first, private property rights. These individuals own their land, and now a publically funded government is telling them what they can and cannot do with it. If this were a private housing authority in which all memembers signed a contract before moving in, one could understand how an ordinance like this might be acceptable, but in a publically run town that is in essence owned by the tax-paying public, this is absolutely absurd, but unfortunately, not unheard of.

The second issue lies around the idea of voting. Many hardcore liberty minded folks will tell you that voting is force, and while a lot of people may scoff, this is perfect illustration of that force. A majority of 1% of the population voted in favor of something, and now a rule is being forced upon 4,700 town residents. Tell me how that is not force? On the other hand, living in the Statist Utopia that we do, this shows why voting to protect the individuals right of property and association is of great importance. The State will not dry up and go away because people don’t vote, rather they will continue to pass rulings just like this and the will of 1% will be used to dictate the lives of the other 99%.

Thanks to Lloyd Cowan for allowing me to use the picture of his animals and to Ann Harsh for giving me time out of her day to talk about the present situation in Madison.

Considering Mental Health, the Second Amendment and New York’s SAFE Act

When something horrible happens in our personal lives, we grieve, and eventually we come around to make decisions in an attempt to modify future behavior, so naturally when tragedy strikes the nation, we look to our politicians to make decisions that will modify national behavior. There are a number of issues with this decision making process, and a number of different angles to approach it from.

Firstly, we must consider the state of our collective conscious when we make decisions regarding a constitutional amendment. The immediate days after a tragedy – let’s say a mass school shooting – everyone is politicized; everyone has an opinion; they are boisterous and short sighted. When we are emotionally charged, our judgement clouds, and we can become irrational without even realizing it. This is a normal part of the grieving process, but when we turn to politicians after something like Parkland, we run the risk of having our emotions taken advantage of by politicians who’s livelihood requires re-election. Just like you, politicians want to keep their jobs; they want to keep their income, and that means pleasing their constituents. Unfortunately, in times of collective social outcry when a seeming mob-mentality rules, pleasing constituents isn’t always best for everyone. If we look at knee-jerk reaction legislation, it has not done much to cede the initial cause for legislation, but has eroded some number of personal liberties and given more power to the government. For example, consider 9/11. A once privatized industry – flight security – is now run by the largest governmental agency created since WWII, the TSA. We are patted down, given full body scans, water bottles emptied, shoes and belts removed, minorities targeted. Do these things really make us safer in the skies? Certainly they make us feel safer, but at what cost? The TSA’s annual budget is 7.5 billion dollars. So within two months after a one-off event, the government took a privatized industry, and created a department with a $7.5 billion budget.

unsafe

Remember Sandy Hook, one of the deadliest school shooting in US history? The days following, there was, of course, much heated debate about gun control and in neighboring New York state, legislation was quickly passed in the form of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) one month after Sandy Hook. It passed, utilizing legislation within the NYS constitution that allows for bills to be expedited by the governor. The NY SAFE Act passed through both houses and received the governors signature in less than two full days. Once the bill passed, it was found to have a number of misguided provisions that called for restrictions that would inadvertently ban some common types of weapons and make some police weapons obsolete. For example, magazines sales were restricted to those that could only contain seven or less rounds – ten round clips were grandfathered in, but could only be loaded with seven rounds. This provision of the bill was later struck down. And more legislation had to be worked through later as the NY SAFE Act made no provision for police firearms. All this at cost to the NY tax payer. All things that should have been worked out prior to passage of the bill.

The NY SAFE Act also requires New Yorkers to re-register guns, and can sometimes be a confusing process as many of these guns have already been registered. When the final provision of the NY SAFE Act went into force at the end of January, 81,000 legal gun owners in NY became felons overnight for failing to register their weapons to NY’s new standards.

The biggest problem with the NY SAFE Act, however, has to do with a requirement of mental health practitioners to report to a state wide database if someone might cause harm to another. This database is then used to revoke permits and seize weapons. It may not seem like much, but this is a huge issue.

The NY SAFE Act may not seem to be invasive, and may even seem to have some “common sense” gun legislation in it, but when we consider it’s implications, it can quickly become quite nefarious and it’s something we must consider when we start to clamor for stricter gun laws and sales. The second amendment grants individuals the right to bear arms, the NY SAFE Act and other legislation would begin to limit these rights based on a soft medical condition.Undoubtedly there are times, when the mental state of an individual should probably preclude them from acquiring a weapon, but this is a very slippery slope.

Further consider the implications of the NY SAFE Act. If an individual reports to a mental health professional, including a physician, psychologist, nurse, or social worker and they deem the individual “is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others” they are required by law to report their findings to county officials who then agree or disagree with the professional’s findings and then put the individual’s name on a state wide registry. Once on the registry, any existing permits are revoked and an individual is no longer able to purchase a weapon; on top of that, any weapons currently owned by the individual are seized by the government until their name is expunged from the list. Ideally, this would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous, mentally unstable individuals, but there is a whole lot of room for things to go sideways. Imagine someone who owns a weapon, but is having some minor depression issues, and wants to seek counseling, would they still seek counseling now that the government could seize their weapons? This provision, without a doubt, jeopardizes mental health.

On top of jeopardizing mental health, consider that we are giving the government the ability to confiscate weapons for a non-criminal offense, we are removing someone’s second amendment right due to their state of mind. Where does this removal of rights stop? Once the government decides an individual is unfit to exercise their second amendment right, how long until the government decides that a person is unfit to practice speaking freely or worshiping freely? Or even voting freely? Is it that far fetched to imagine government requiring a mental health evaluation to acquire a gun permit? Remember, not long ago, the federal government used the IRS to target individuals of dissenting political beliefs; how long before they use the ATF? Do we really trust big government to ascertain an individuals ability to implement their rights afforded by the constitution in a fair and unbiased manner?

Surely, something needs to be done to stem the seemingly endless barrage of school violence, but before we rush into giving the government more power over individuals (that they never give back, mind you) let’s consider the long term and full scope impacts of our decisions. Let’s consider fixing the violence from all ends, including the social side that raises individuals who have such little – or perhaps such vast – self worth that they either can’t, or don’t grasp the immensity of killing innocent children. There are no easy answers, to this problem, but I can assure you, knee jerk solutions will only be rued.

Surely, something needs to be done to stem the seemingly endless barrage of school violence, but before we rush into giving the government more power over individuals (that they never give back, mind you) let’s consider the long term and full scope impacts of our decisions. Let’s consider fixing the violence from all ends, including the social side that raises individuals who have such little – or perhaps such vast – self worth that they either can’t, or don’t grasp the immensity of killing innocent children. There are no easy answers, to this problem, but I can assure you, knee jerk solutions will only be rued