Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Personal Politics

Personal Politics
©2012 Ross Williams

TSA is ducking and covering once again. On their own website they are trying to dodge the Constitutional issue of their detention of Senator Rand Paul.

It’s not a detention, they say. Except ... yes it is. Stopping someone from going about his business under color of authority is a detention. It is an arrest. It is not remanding into custody. You are under arrest when you are pulled over by a traffic cop needing to meet his ticket quota. You will almost certainly not be taken into custody.

Pedantic semantics of law aside, Paul was arrested by TSA.

The next dodge is to quote the statute authorizing the creation of TSA in the first place where it specifically states that members of the government, including elected federal legislators, are not exempt from the rules TSA may impose. ...which is true as the law does say that, but it’s irrelevant as the Constitution says you can’t detain those federal legislators. Statute does not trump Constitution.

Rather, it is not supposed to trump Constitution. But as we’ve seen with the whole warrantless search thing, laws are passed constantly that, under review, seem to find some newly written invisible ink clause that only judges can detect which the judges then use to justify the law. So let’s just say, then, that until this judicial review actually takes place, and the courts hallucinate their “except for terrorism” clause into another section of the Constitution, the statute authorizing TSA to detain Senators and Representatives does not trump the Constitution.

Federal judges do not have the same Constitutional protection, ... detain them.

Their last attempted deflection is that Paul was in fact not on official business while his chamber was in session ... he was flying to DC that day to attend a Pro-Life rally before giving his speech on the floor of the Senate and voting on a judicial nominee that evening. His participation in the Pro-Life rally negates everything else, and somehow trumps Article I, § 6 of the US Constitution.

Using this line of logic, if it were 1820 and a US Senator was on horseback on his 3-day trip to DC but stopped at an inn for the night, he’s not actually on official business either.

If it were 1880 and the US Senator was on the train heading to Washington, but his first stop was at the washroom to scrub a thousand miles of coal soot from his face, he is also not on official business.

Potty breaks are not allowed, no stop at the vending machines, if you’re going to DC when your House is in session, you go straight there and no nuthin’ in between. No detour to luggage claim, no hailing a cab, no checking messages on the blackberry. God forbid there’s road construction. If anything else comes first on a Senator’s trip to DC to attend to his official duties in chambers, TSA has the authority to take dibs on him.

Needless to say, this is all preposterous. Making appearances at political events is an official duty; making stump speeches is an official duty; attending constituent meet-n-greets is an official duty.

And this means – as if it really needs to be said at this point – that TSA is demonstrably wrong once again. Well, as I say, stick with what you’re good at. TSA is good at being the American Gestapo, and wrong. They have these two skills in their wheelhouse.

What bothers me significantly more in this whole episode, though, is Rand Paul himself. Not that his attitude about TSA is insupportable, but his politics – actual versus perceived. To be honest, I took the practice shots at TSA above only to clear the sights for my shots on Paul below.

For some reason, Ron Paul – erstwhile Republican presidential candidate and Texas loony Representative – and his son Rand Paul are considered by huge numbers of Americans to be libertarians. The only possible explanation for this is that these huge numbers of Americans have no clue what a libertarian is.

First of all, a libertarian is almost never a member of the Libertarian Party. The only way a libertarian could be a member of the party is if he were to completely ignore, indeed actively refute, the political philosophy he swore to abide by when being admitted to it. Members of the Libertarian Party are self-involved navel-gazing rationalists who have as much understanding of the real world and how to operate in it as those who call themselves “progressives”.

Instead, a libertarian is one who resists any and all attempts by the government to impose itself onto its citizens in ways that the Constitution does not allow the government to impose – regardless of the reason for the imposition. The libertarian understands that quite often the government seeks to impose itself in improper ways because huge numbers of citizens ask it to as they are certainly entitled to do, but the libertarian resists those groups of citizens as well. The libertarian resists those citizens not for wanting something to be done, but for trying to get the government to do it when the rules say it’s not the government’s job.

Case in point: TSA. After 9-11 millions of Americans were shocked, outraged, and frightened. And for good reason: we had just suffered a frightening and outrageous shock. It is very understandable that millions of people would seek comfort and solace and safety.

What is not understandable is that a nation, conceived in liberty, with a government of, by and for The People, would turn its back on the principles on which it was founded in order to offer the frightened masses a fleeting and ineffectual “safety” that cannot be provided in any event, and especially not by a law. ...unless, of course, the function of the government has insidiously shifted from a constitutional democratic republic to being a garden variety tyranny of expanding bureaucratic fiefdoms. Then the government can justify doing whatever it wants to do.

For what it’s worth, my money is on the US suffering from the expanding bureaucratic fiefdom thing.

A libertarian does not pick and choose which improper expansions of government into undefined authorities he is against; he is against all of them, even if he is privately sympathetic to the cause. Few of us have any difficulty sympathizing with those who want somebody, anybody, to make us feel safe from yahoos with boxcutters on planes. Almost no one fails to understand and indeed sympathize with those who wanted TSA to be created.

The government of a nation conceived in liberty, though, would tell the people “Your fears are understandable, but other than kicking their asses on their home field, we cannot do much for you here ... and we won’t, because it kills your freedom in the name of preserving it.”

Any group of people who would use the power of the government to compel free citizens of a free country to choose between abdicating their rights and removing themselves from public activities is the worst type of coward there is. He is the paranoid conspiracist bully coward: he is frightened, and everyone else is automatically suspicious until they prove, under force, that they are harmless. And the government that would play along with it is a tyranny.

Libertarians do not condone this attitude, regardless of the circumstances. Whether it is TSA lining up air travelers by the million to subject them to warrantless electronic strip searches and hands-on handjobs to satisfy “alarms”, or whether it is a group of fetus-huggers who want to extend rights to the pre-citizen superior to those of the actual citizen to be left alone, the libertarian tells them both to get bent.

The only legitimate business a libertarian Senator Rand Paul would have at a Pro-Life rally would be to say, “Your position is obviously sincere, but other than providing you an opportunity to speak your mind we cannot eliminate the rights of a citizen to be left alone in favor of promoting any right of a person who does not yet exist; the real citizen takes precedence over the possible future citizen.”

As a libertarian, you can pine for safety all you want; you can also weep for the permanently unborn as well. But you cannot justify harnessing the power of the government to enact your private sympathies to tyrannize free citizens just because you think it's swell. Not if you want to be a libertarian. You can do these petty [and not-so petty] incremental tyrannies if you are a Democrat or a Republican, but not as a libertarian.

As a libertarian you are against them all. Paul – father and son both – is only against selected government impositions, the ones which don’t bother his conscience. The libertarian sets his conscience aside when it comes to his politics, for the personal is not political. It is, instead, personal.

Anyone who takes his personal and forces it to be anyone else’s political is a despot.


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