Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scoundrel defenders line up here. Please!

One reason that authoritarianism continues to prosper in this country is the dangerous notion that bad laws, which ostensibly target some undesired group, are not a threat to those who do not fall within that group.

This is how liberty is destroyed. Rarely do governments pass legislation that clearly assaults the liberty of everyone at the same time—to accomplish that they first have to terrify the public over some imagined monster. While that does happen, witness the odious Patriot Act as a prime example, most liberty is whittled away by slivers, not by large chunks.

To whittle liberty down, the politicians must target some group that the majority of people are loath to defend. Once the new legislation is in place, the net it casts grows wider and wider with each passing day. By the time the law is a threat to the majority of people, it is firmly in place and there is usually an organized special interest group that benefits from it, which will lobby strenuously to keep it, if not to expand it even further.

The drug laws are a good example of this. Most Americans do not consider themselves “drug users,” as in users of drugs who violate the law. Frances Thompson is clearly one such person. She’s a church-going granny who was startled to find armed men attacking her home one day. They were drug warriors who were in the wrong place. As they were preparing to break down Thompson’s door, a neighbor saw them and told them an elderly woman lived there who was quite law abiding, not the drug dealer they claimed they were looking for. Police told the neighbor to mind their own business and attacked Thompson’s home anyway. She was lucky—she lived.

Kathryn Johnston was not so lucky. This woman, in her 90s, was too frightened to leave her home. Police concocted false reports of drug dealing from her home to get a search warrant. They started smashing down her door. The terrified old woman pulled out a gun in self-defense and started shooting. The police killed her. There were no drugs. There was no drug dealer. And all the “evidence” the police had presented to prove there was, was a lie. As we have shown here, this sort of killing of people who have nothing to do with drugs is not uncommon. The police have the power the kill and they just aren’t very careful about they use it.

We have documented numerous cases where laws that are passed, because the politicians say it will protect “the children” from sexual exploitation, are used to actually arrest children for mutually consenting sex with their peers. Kids who take nude photos of themselves get arrested and charged with manufacturing child pornography. The law has gone haywire on the issue.

Easily somewhere around half of all American adolescents could be arrested and convicted as sex offenders, not because they are rapists, but because they are engaged in the sort of sexual experimentation common to teens for all of recorded history.

But a lot of people aren’t teens, and don’t have kids, so they don’t give a fuck what happens. They can’t be the target, can they?

Consider the terror that Harry Berlin, described as “ 71 years old, frail, and, frankly, petrified” has to endure. Berlin moved into an apartment and suddenly found himself the victim of constant harassment and vandalism. Apparently the state of Nevada listed his address as being the home of a “sex offender.” These sex offender registries list the address as belonging to a man who had been arrested for having some child porn. But it wasn’t Berlin. No matter to the vigilantes the registries encourage.

The Las Vegas Sun reports:
“Now whenever the Web site gets TV attention, Berlin says, people come looking for Risdon. Maybe to rough him up. Or at least give him a good scare. Instead, they terrorize Berlin.

Depending on whom you ask, this is either a disturbing example of why the Web site should be taken down or an inevitable and easily remedied occurrence when dealing with sex offenders.
Berlin tried to get his address removed from the web site since no sex offender lived there. The Sun says his “complaint was suffocating in a bureaucratic morass.” The state told him to talk to the city, the city told him to talk to the state. Neither wanted to talk to him. So this elderly, innocent man is constantly victimized by vigilantes encouraged to find his apartment because the police are quite happy to hand out the address on-line.

The police are pretty ho-hum about it. They don’t care that innocent people get harassed—hell, they enjoy doing that when on duty, so why deny the public the same sort of entertainment. Sgt. Steve Rossi, who runs the Vegas program, says the police aren’t responsible. He claims that the sex offenders are supposed to report their current address or when they move. If they don’t do it, you can’t expect the police to worry about it. And he points out that site has a disclaimer telling people not to harass people at the addresses in question. You have got to be fucking kidding me! Any moron knows that a disclaimer like that will have no impact whatsoever on the people reading the registry.

Because the number of “crimes” that qualify one for the sex registry have grown like Topsy, the police say they can’t go out and actually check the data that they publish on-line. The city registry has a statement saying they can “not verify, warrant, vouch or confirm the accuracy of the data posted and makes no warranties whatsoever that the data is accurate or timely when posted by the related agency.” So, of what use is it? These disgusting registries were created because the politicians said the public “had a right” to accurate information on “dangerous sex offenders” (which now includes large numbers of non-dangerous individuals who got caught in badly written laws). But the registries are wrong. They contain bad information. They have even been known to list people as convicted sex offenders who were not.

Only when the press started sniffing around this one case did Harry Berlin get the police to actual remove his address from the list. But that’s just one error fixed. As the laws expand through the invention of new “sex crimes,” thousands and thousands of additional people are placed on the list. Tens of thousands move. Address changes get lost, neglected or typed in wrongly. And the numbers of innocent people living at addresses supposedly marked with the Scarlet O (for offender) grows.

Harry Berlin is lucky. He got out alive and he eventually got the police to correct the error. But people on those sex offender lists have been executed by vigilantes using the on-line information to find their victims. As errors accumulate on the lists it is only a matter of time before vigilantes kill the “wrong person.”

In the cases I know about, an older man was killed by a neighbor who saw the man’s name on the sex offender list. The killer said he had to do it to protect his children from a potential child rapist. The man’s offense had nothing to do with children. The neighbor didn’t realize that. A young man in Maine was executed at his front door, in front of his mother. His crime was that his girlfriend was slightly underage when they, both in their teens and of similar ages, had sex. The killer assumed this meant the young man was a child rapist.

Just because you aren’t a sex offender (which may just mean you were lucky, since the laws are so broad that I suspect half the country is guilty of one sex crime or another), doesn’t mean the sex offender laws won’t harm you. Harry Berlin was no offender yet he suffered for years. Kathryn Johnston is dead because of the drug laws, laws I suspect she would have approved of, and which she did not violate. No matter how “innocent” she was she is dead because of them.

H.L. Mencken warned us. He said: “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

There are a lot of libertarians who, to placate the conservatives, don’t want to spend much time “defending scoundrels.” For P.R. purposes they think it best to avoid those issues. “After all, most Americans aren’t scoundrels, so why should we bother? Let’s stick with issues that bother everyone, like taxes, and avoid the contentious issues that get people upset.” So they avoid them. And the webs that the government spiders weaves just grows bigger and more numerous every day. Sure, some real cockroaches get stuck in the web, but a growing number of butterflies and Ladybugs get trapped as well. But the “moderate” libertarians keep quiet since they don’t want to be seen as defending cockroaches. And so it goes. Liberty is undermined more each day, and cowardly libertarians are often the accomplices of that process.

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