What is the point of having this splendid military, if you never use it against your own citizens?

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Unmanned aircraft, having performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan, are coming to a police department near you. Declan McCullagh gives the lowdown on drone usage for border patrol, marijuana hunting, and something called "thermal rooftop inspections." A Maryland Sheriff's department has already used the "CyberBUG" to snoop on a biker gathering at a local fairgrounds, and the Gaston County, NC, police department is rolling out an unmanned air force of its own. Unmanned aircraft have been used since 2004 to patrol the Arizona border (with Mexico, presumably, not Utah).

Unless I missed something, none of yesterday's testimony on unmanned aircraft at the House transportation subcommittee mentioned any privacy concerns. The only real objection came from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which worries that UAs will collide with manned aircraft—something that has happened once in Iraq. (Forget the Killer Bee vs. the Predator!)

Related: "We Can Put A Man On The Moon, But We Can't Make Killer Robot Police?"

NEXT: Massachusetts Marriage Migration Made Mandatory

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  1. you’d think kyllo vs. u.s. would’ve ruled this sort of behavior out of bounds

  2. Is there a cabal that sits around discussing “What can we do TODAY to further restrict freedom in America?” Because I’m getting a little paranoid. You don’t get a breather. They don’t even take a week off here and there.

  3. I think I’ll buy some stock in the drone makers and spread my seeds everywhere.

  4. In my youth, I tried to grow plants on the property of the dioxin king of Missouri, in his piles of horse shit. Had we had drones in the eighties, perhaps Times Beach never would have happened.

  5. The reason why the military uses drones is because you don’t risk the life of a pilot. In terms of privacy there is no differnce between a drone flying overhead and an airplane. The real complaint here is that the police can use airplanes to spy on people without a warrant. That may be a valid complaint but its not a new one. The fact that they are using unmmaned versus manned vehicles makes no difference and is no difference in terms of how invasive it is. Police have been using airplanes for decades now. Again, it may be wrong, but it is not new. Using unmanned drones doesn’t invade our privacy anymore than it already is being invaded.

  6. Please go stand by the stairs
    So I can protect you

  7. OMG do u haev stairs in ur house?!!!!!111

  8. I suppose the cops would like a few platoons of these.

    OK, they’re not real, but it’s a cool video.

  9. John, the difference is that the drones are cheaper, so more police will be *able* to use them, and some will succumb to that temptation. Then other police will respond to “peer pressure” and get their own. Maybe if *everyone* puts grow lights in their house, so that the signal-to-noise becomes 1:1…

  10. Sounds like the cops are getting tired of their old toys and want something new ones to play with.

  11. something Should be some (Man, I must be tired).

  12. Apropos of nothing but my own GODDAMNED FRUSTRATION …

    Can anyone explain why the text at Hit & Run appears so tiny in the Firefox browser?

    I’m not looking for user-end fixes, such as “You can change a site’s text appearance in Firefox by clicking VIEW, then blah blah blah,” or “Try the IE Tab Extension!”

    I’m simply wondering why this site, of all the gazillions of web pages I visit, is the only one on which the text renders in Firefox so differently from Internet Explorer.

    Hell, I guess I’m also wondering why nobody’s bothered to address it.

  13. Aw hell, I go to Gaston County pretty often, and they have absolutely no use for a unmanned-drone-police-air force. Not only is it a grotesque use to beging with it, but it’s also a waste of tax money.

  14. Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that when I’m outside, people can see what I’m doing?

    MY GOD, WE HAVE TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!!

  15. PS – Your “thermal rooftop inspections” article mentions nothing of the kind. In fact it says exactly the opposite:

    “The courts already have ruled that the police cannot use thermal imaging to see through the walls of your home without a warrant”

    Thanks for the FUD.

  16. I am not even sure the locals have to purchase or rent the military drones. I was thinking posse comitatus proscribed against the US military from doing so, but it is 1) unmanned, and 2) seems (to my untrained in law eyes) to fall under a change in the 80’s designed to help against drug smuggling, although I could be wrong under point 2, or point 1 for that matter.

    If the locals bought this stuff is still seems cost ineffective. NYC under Bratton, and since him too, has shown that computer-guided placement of undercover law enforcement is incredibly effective at fighting crime. I suggest that before any locality tries this drone crap they try real policing first.

  17. Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that when I’m outside, people can see what I’m doing?

    MY GOD, WE HAVE TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!!

    Wait a minute, you meant to tell me that the goverment is going to waste OUR tax dollars on UAVs when there is no reason for them?

  18. Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that when I’m outside, people can see what I’m doing?
    MY GOD, WE HAVE TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!!

    Wait a minute, you meant to tell me that the goverment is going to waste OUR tax dollars on UAVs when there is no reason for them?

  19. Sounds like they’d be fun for target practice.

  20. Not to get all threadjacky, but if you want the text larger in Firefox, hit CTRL + (control and plus). It will resize the text on the fly. No explanation, and totally an end-user solution, but when it’s just two keystrokes, its not that bad.

  21. UAVs in the hands of alternative media may one day make a lot of corpoRAT/government crime and corruption public.

    And viral internet video can move politics.

    http://skytruth.org/index.htm

    Poor neocorpora-tarians, this will not make your favorite corporate citizens happy. That’s a shame.

  22. If I ever need a handy definition for “bat-shit insane”, I’ll just link Dr. X’s website.

  23. You libertarians are so worried about your freedom, but you are oblivious to how restricted it is in many ways you haven’t thought of. That’s because your definition of freedom is so narrow–freedom from restraint. But freedom is so much more if you think of it in a positive sense: the freedom to do. The stupid are not free to do many things that require intelligence. The poor are not free to do many things that require wealth. The infirm are not free to do many things that require health. You put yourselves in a libertarian box, and you can’t think outside it. Dogma=Death.

  24. Uri ben Tzvi,

    Dude, if you’re going to lecture us, try to get your definitions straight, okay? What you are talking about is POWER, not freedom.

    Regardless, assholes like you are just the type to enslave the entire world just so you can have the power to do anything you can dream of.

    You are not moral. You are evil.

  25. Whoa Uri, Philosophy Club at Short Bus U. let out early today? Let me clue you in dumbass: you are not deep. Stay on point, don’t come in here expecting to inspire awe by pretending your cheap semantic games have some sort of relevance to political theory.

    1. we never had “freedom” in the united states. All we ever had was a system of checks and balances designed to cancel each other out. we are not subject to monarchial tyranny, but something more akin to the republic of rome in its pre-ceaser days. Look where they went. the only freedom is found in small tribesof hunter gatherers spread throughout the globe. unfortunatley, in the u.s of fukin a, to do so is tresppassing, vagrancy and hunting without a license or out of season. hell, they probably would slap you with indecent exposure if you bathed

  26. Uri’s just a drone from another universe. Ignore him, eventually he’ll run out of gas.

  27. For someone who says “Dogme+Death”, Uri has a curiously . . . dogmatic tone, no?

    Uri, freedom from restraint is the first freedom, without which the others mean nothing.

    It is a necessary, if not sufficient condition for achieving whatever your intelligence or other assets make possible for you.

  28. Well, the police state marches on. Just attach “war on…” to whatever you want and presto bango – you’ve got another massive expensive failure to waste your tax dollars on. I’m with you libers on this one. The last thing we need is more toys for the cops to use to bust the least dangerous and criminal amongst us.

    (Funny how they haven’t invented a new toy to bust white collar criminals…)

    JMJ

  29. Solution:
    1: When you see an unmanned drone over your (or anyone else’s) house, shoot it down.
    2: When the police come to you, angry that you shot down their drone, claim that you suspected it was controlled by terrorists, and that all those billboards you’ve seen in the last few years have conditioned you to be vigilant against suspicious behavior. Hovering metal bugs certainly qualify as suspicious.
    3: I would recommend calling the media sometime between steps 1 and 2.

  30. I have a better idea – vote out any police dept that tries to aquire this.

    There’s a township out in west Jersey called Greene. Some years ago (I think about 20) the people of the town got fed up with the draconian police-state cops pestering their kids and community – so they voted to have the dept anulled. Gone. Done. They contract the state police to come for emergencies.

    Now that’s people power.

    JMJ

  31. Spy drones in the sky?
    What’s next — surveillance cameras in the malls?

    I doubt more than a handful of municipalities will ever fund and deploy such technology. Probably the same number who have acquired tanks and bazookas.

  32. Oh, I don’t know about that, Ed. These drones will be used to spot meth labs and hydroponic MJ growers. I could see many towns and states doing that – how else can they steal more people’s homes and property?

    JMJ

  33. I like Jeff P.’s plan–“I was just being vigilant against those terrorists and drug dealers, officer sir.”

    I’m simply amazed at how much we put up with. I don’t care about the drones themselves, but it’s just more of the same overzealous crap. When did we get so passive?

  34. Pro Liberace:

    We got so passive when: the government failed to protect us against foreign attack; in return, we offered up more of our freedoms so that they could fail us again.

    And because so many lazy/scared americans like being told what to do and how to live.

  35. “We Can Put A Man On The Moon, But We Can’t Make Killer Robot Police?”

    See Robocop Circa 2005

    But then, what do we need Killer Robot Police for, when we have Killer Human Police?

  36. I foresee Hummers full of hunters in street cammies cruising through neighborhoods looking for drones. Housewives gaze out attic windows with binoculars like WWII planespotters. Kids with crystal radio sets tuning into the remote frequencies.

    I think the best way to bring down a plice drone would be an arrow with a rope attached. That way you can bring the carcass to the police and say “I saw this thing buzzing ‘ound my neighborhood, officers…”

  37. well, before activating the killer robot police, I insist that they program them with Asimov’s laws of robotics plus a fourth one: stop fingering my wife

  38. My goodness, you guys don’t like dissenting views, do you? You’re not all former stalinists by any chance, are you? Just answer a couple of little questions, and I’ll go away. What good is a theoretical freedom–say the freedom to go to any university of my choice–if I don’t have the means (power) to realize it? Is someone with advanced MS as free to walk to the store as a healthy person? Does someone with an IQ of 80 have the same freedom of choice in life as someone with an IQ of 140?

  39. Evan,

    Screw that. Bring it on, I say. At the risk of repeating myself for the googol-plexth time, I don’t get how the Soviet menace–a real, nuclear weapons-wielding, nation-smashing threat–seems to have required less (overt, anyway) nonsense than a few idiotic terrorists and some drug dealers. Yes, the terrorists were idiots, because they did the one thing that would ensure American military intervention. Two governments went buh-bye after that attack. If that’s “winning” a battle or war against the U.S., then the Black Knight “won” his battle against King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    As for the domestic front, I’d prefer to live in a nation where people shoot down drones (“It was over muh property”) than in one where the people are drones.

  40. You’ll find few pure egalitarians around here, Uri. What do you suggest, that we hit people with high IQs on the head with a baseball bat until their IQs go down to the mean? Take money from the rich until they no longer try to stay or get rich? Give unproductive people for free everything that productive people work hard to get? Blind everyone who can see?

    I’m a lot more sympathetic to people who want to help those at the bottom out of poverty or to give them extra opportunities (though I quibble over the means for achieving those ends), but this idea that we all must be perfectly “equal” scares me. Equal treatment under the law is a noble idea that I agree with, but reducing all of us to the lowest common denominator is bad even as a theory.

  41. and speaking of drones

    Did anybody else see Sec’y Rice on the BBC News this morning? Good gravy- what a lot of mind-numbing, nonsensical rambling. Does she write this stuff herself, or does the State Dept have a random- phrase generator bot?

    Sorry- we return you now to your regularly scheduled…

  42. The potentials for abuse are illustrated in the novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic (Chapter 6)

    [BATFE Special Agent] Malvone walked with Silvari out through the back door, around the house and up the path to his car. “Joe, I gave Castillo my proposal to activate the STU and turn it into the Special Projects Division today. You know he’s by the book, so he won’t go for it, but he’ll pass it on up to Boxell. Wilson’s already got a copy; he’s just waiting for it to come through channels.” David Boxell was the Director of the BATFE; Paul Wilson was the Deputy Attorney General. “Boxell’s a dip shit, but he’ll see which way the wind is blowing and go along. Wilson’s already in our pocket, he’s going to be our pitchman to the Attorney General and the president.”

    “Is Wilson still banging that little senorita in the hot tub?” asked Silvari.

    “I guess so. I think she’s still at his place. Who’d have ever guessed that an old goat like Wilson would go for a teenage taco like her?”

    “Did Wilson’s wife ever find out?”

    “No, and she won’t as long as he does his part,” said Malvone.

    “You sent him a copy of the video tape?”

    “Damn right. It’s my favorite movie; I’ve only watched it about a hundred times.”

    “Yeah Wally, that was a nice morning’s work.”

    The STU had its own single-engine Piper Lance, and had obtained a BigEye surveillance pod for it. The BigEye was a gyro-stabilized combination video camera for daytime use, and infra-red camera for night use. An operator in the plane could put the camera’s cursor mark on a stationary or moving ground target and the camera would lock on to it even as the plane circled high above, out of sight and sound of its quarry.

    The extensive use of light planes was a tradition in the ATF going back decades; from the time when the “revenue agents” had flown them to spot bootleg liquor stills from the air. These pilot-qualified agents bragged that for them ATF stood for ‘agents that fly’. The numerous flying special agents and ATF light planes often permitted them to reach the scenes of federal crimes involving illegal firearms or explosives before any other agencies. Any one-horse Podunk town with a dirt landing strip nearby could usually have ATF agents on the ground in a few hours at most. The ATF was independently air-mobile to a greater degree than most other agencies at the light plane end of the aviation spectrum.

    After a brief familiarization period with the BigEye Malvone gave his air team the addresses of a dozen senior government officials who were in a position to help the STU. They hit pay dirt on a Sunday morning in June when the Piper was flying lazy eights over Fairfax County Virginia, and they noticed activity at the estate of Deputy AG Paul Wilson. A Mercedes arrived with a young couple who turned out to be Wilson’s daughter and son-in-law. Mrs. Wilson then left with them to attend church services.

    Soon after the driveway’s automatic gate closed behind the Mercedes, Paul Wilson had appeared in a bathrobe on the back patio of the mansion by the swimming pool, accompanied by someone else. The stabilized zoom lens of the Big Eye then recorded in intimate detail the white-haired senior federal official and a black-haired girl playing in the Jacuzzi, with no detail left to the imagination for the next fifteen minutes. Upon further investigation the girl had turned out to be the 16 year old daughter of the Wilson’s Costa Rican housekeeper, who had taken the day off.

    Malvone was smiling broadly at the memory. “As soon as I saw that tape I knew we’d own Wilson, we’d have him in our pocket. When the time comes he’s going to go to bat for us, big time, and we’ll get the Special Projects Division approved.”

    “The FBI’s going to fight it. They’ll never let ATF have a new division with that much power.”

  43. What good is a theoretical freedom–say the freedom to go to any university of my choice–if I don’t have the means (power) to realize it? Is someone with advanced MS as free to walk to the store as a healthy person? Does someone with an IQ of 80 have the same freedom of choice in life as someone with an IQ of 140?

    Uri, have you ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s story Harrison Bergeron? It’s a great little piece showing just how such pure equality would play out. Here’s a link to it:

    http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html

    THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren?t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

    Some things about living still weren?t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron?s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

    It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn?t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn?t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

  44. Well played, Jennifer; I immediately thought of that story, too, but I was too busy (or possibly LAZY) to go look it up.

  45. I immediately thought of that story, too, but I was too busy (or possibly LAZY) to go look it up.

    It’s not fair that I have enough of a work ethic to introduce the story here, while your laziness prevents you from making so effective a point. What can the government do about this?

  46. The point Uri is making is that in a Libertarian nightmare the disadvantaged would be abused by the advantaged – not the other way around. Anyone who thinks that story sited abouve could ever happen is a fool.

    JMJ

  47. The point Uri is making is that in a Libertarian nightmare the disadvantaged would be abused by the advantaged – not the other way around. Anyone who thinks that story sited abouve could ever happen is a fool.

    Where have you been these last thirty years? It’s already starting. Schools are doing away with academic segregation in favor of putting the smart, average and dumb kids all together because otherwise, the dumb kids might feel bad about the existence of kids smarter than they are. Some schools are doing away with class rankings because the low-ranking kids feel bad about themselves. I read of a youth soccer team that was required to let a kid in a wheelchair play on the team–hey, just because you’re confined to a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t be a great athlete!

    And then there are the other cases of enforced equality–for example, women in general weren’t strong enough to pass physical-fitness tests to become a firefighter, so the tests were made easier. Hey, just because you’re not strong enough to carry an unconscious adult out of a burning building doesn’t mean you should be unable to get a job carrying unconscious adults out of burning buildings!

  48. Jennifer,

    Break some of your fingers to slow you down.

  49. Jennifer, since you asked,

    I think it’s the duty of the government to medicate me, in order that my innate faults might be remediated, and thereby compel me to be a better citizen.

    And to provide me, free of charge, with unlimited access to high-speed internet facilities and to the Library of Congress, in order to facilitate my every intellectual whim and curiousity.

  50. “Where have you been these last thirty years? It’s already starting. Schools are doing away with academic segregation in favor of putting the smart, average and dumb kids all together because otherwise, the dumb kids might feel bad about the existence of kids smarter than they are.”

    Jennifer – the schools are LOCALLY RUN. They do that because we have democratized the schools. If schools were regional and more centrally funded – and the idiot PARENTS were thrown out of the process because they don’t belong – there would be a variety of school tyoes and social promotion would be a thing of the past. It is the very libertarian notion of local funding and operations that CREATES the failed system we have now.

    “And then there are the other cases of enforced equality–for example, women in general weren’t strong enough to pass physical-fitness tests to become a firefighter, so the tests were made easier. Hey, just because you’re not strong enough to carry an unconscious adult out of a burning building doesn’t mean you should be unable to get a job carrying unconscious adults out of burning buildings!”

    I agree with that. If you can’t do the job, you shouldn’t be able to get it.

    JMJ

  51. I, for one, welcome our nannytarian overlords

    -sorry, I couldn’t resist

  52. If schools were regional and more centrally funded – and the idiot PARENTS were thrown out of the process because they don’t belong – there would be a variety of school tyoes and social promotion would be a thing of the past. It is the very libertarian notion of local funding and operations that CREATES the failed system we have now.

    No, the failed system is caused by people who mistake “equality of opportunity” with “equality of outcome.” I agree that all people–male and female–should be allowed to apply for a firefighter’s job if they want to. And a woman who happens to be as strong as a man shouldn’t be prevented from getting that job just because she’s a woman.

    But that’s not good enough for some people–if the number of female firefighters doesn’t correspond with the number of females in general, that’s considered proof of discrimination, not proof that women in general tend to have less physical strength than men, and thus would be less likely to hold jobs requiring physical strength. At the rate we’re going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Congress attempt to outlaw sexual dimorphism.

    And the same thing with education–people are pretending that saying “you can’t take this AP class because you’re black” is no different from saying “you can’t take this AP class because you’re not smart enough to handle the work.” And “you can’t join this youth soccer league because you’re a Catholic” is no different than “you can’t join this youth soccer league because you’re confined to a wheelchair.”

    But according to you, this isn’t happening at all, right? Because “only a fool would believe that the Harrison Bergeron story would ever come true.”

  53. No, the problem is that we have local schools accomodating national standards with goofball idiot parents in in the way. Schools should not be local democracies. Regional systems with a variety of school types, funded by everyone in the region instaed of just those in a town, run by professionals and not elected school boards (all of which should be abandoned) would alleviate the need to equalize the children. Who do you think wants their kid to be “equalized?” THE PARENT WITH THE BIG MOUTH. We need to take them out of the picture.

    Check out what they are doing in NYC right now. I think all you libertarians would be quite impressed.

    JMJ

  54. No, the problem is that we have local schools accomodating national standards with goofball idiot parents in in the way. Schools should not be local democracies.

    So parents should have no say in how their kids are educated? Children are property of the state?

    I don’t buy the hardcore libertarian idea that kids are the absolute property of their parents, but your idea sounds even scarier. Native NYer, on another thread, mentioned that his first-grader came home a few days ago with a “safety coloring book” explaining that not ONLY should kids not smoke, they shouldn’t even go near people who do! So Native had to explain to his child why it was still safe to go visit Grandpa, even though he smokes.

    Native should have no say in this? He shouldn’t be allowed to tell the school to stop filling his kid’s head with propaganda stating that his own family members are too dangerous to be around?

  55. Is there a cabal that sits around discussing “What can we do TODAY to further restrict freedom in America?”

    Actually there are at least two. They are called the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

    At one time (in a close approximation of Madison’s ideal) the various factions proposing freedom reducing policies were small enough and sufficiently at odds with one another that very few of them came to pass.

    Those times are gone. Will they return? The optimist in me says “yes”, but the pessimist is winning out.

  56. Jennifer,

    Parents would have a lot more say in how there kids are educated if we had regional districts with a variety of school types. Remember, the same mainstreaming and equalizing you are complaining about is what the parents of the underachievers want, and as such, in the local democratic system we have now in most states, that parent with the big mouth and the bad kid is causing the very problem you’re upset about.

    As for educating kids not to smoke, sounds okay with me.

    JMJ

  57. “The point Uri is making is that in a Libertarian nightmare the disadvantaged would be abused by the advantaged”

    In a libertarian nightmare? Are you at all familiar with human history?
    Your theoretical picture of a libertarian society seems to be a nightmare. If so, it’s because that’s the way you envision it. Maybe because you assume that only you and people like you have any concern for others and everybody else is a selfish jerk.
    That’s not how I envision it at all.

  58. Your dogmatism is impairing your ability to read. I’m not suggesting that we do anything to compensate for inequalities. I’m mearly pointing out that freedom is restricted by them. Why shouldn’t we recongize that in some sense freedom is a commodity, and you can have as much of it as you can afford? Now it is certainly in the interests of the wealthy to promote the acceptance of inequalities among the poor, but do we have have to insult their intelligence by insisting that they’re as free as we (the wealthy) are? We should admit that what we really value is our power and we don’t want any restrictions put on it. If we can get the poor to buy this idea, so much the better.

  59. In other related nooze, the House is now having hearings for

    Firearms Corrections and Improvements Act (Introduced in House)

    HR 5005 IH

    109th CONGRESS

    2d Session

    H. R. 5005
    To make technical changes to Federal firearms laws and for other purposes.

    Part of which would allow federal contractors to be exempt from the National Firearms Act of 1934 as well as the cap/ban on machinguns manufactured after 1986.

    In other words, Blackwater and other outfits are free to transport newly minted machineguns between states. This means they get to circumvent not only the ban, but they don’t have to pay the exorbitant prices that private citizens are required to pay.

  60. As for educating kids not to smoke, sounds okay with me.

    Agreed, but educating kids to stay away from family members who do is unconscionable.

    Why shouldn’t we recongize that in some sense freedom is a commodity, and you can have as much of it as you can afford? Now it is certainly in the interests of the wealthy to promote the acceptance of inequalities among the poor, but do we have have to insult their intelligence by insisting that they’re as free as we (the wealthy) are?

    I think you’re confusing “freedom” and “ability.” I am free to try and become a basketball player, though I lack the ability to be any good at it. I am free to quit my job and travel through the country, though I can’t afford to do it. But there is a HUGE difference between “I can’t visit all fifty states because I can’t afford it,” versus “I can’t visit all fifty states because the government won’t allow me to.”

  61. No, Jennifer, I’m not confusuing freedom with ability; I’m merely recongnizing that they’re related. The freedom to become a nuclear physicist is meaningless to a moron, although clealry the freedom to post on Hit and Run isn’t.

  62. When I read Uri’s comment about “what good is a theoretical freedom”, this was what sprang to my mind:

    What has made so many men, since untold ages, stake their all on freedom
    is its intrinsic glamour, a fascination it has in itself, apart from all
    ‘practical’ considerations. For only in countries where it reigns can a
    man speak, live, and breathe freely, owing obedience to no authority save
    God and the laws of the land. The man who asks of freedom anything other
    than itself is born to be a slave.

    — Alexis de Tocqueville

    (Attributed to AdT, anyway. I don’t know what the actual source is.)

  63. Quoth the nannybot:

    Eeee- Qua- Liiiiize

  64. I’m not confusuing freedom with ability; I’m merely recongnizing that they’re related.

    Everybody has (or should have, anyway) the same freedom to make the most of whatever abilities they have. Again, don’t confuse equality of opportunity with equality of outcome.

    You’ve mentioned examples like the guy with MS who can’t move around as much as the guy who’s healthy, or the guy who’s not smart enough to become a physicist. Yes, we all agree that such people exist. Now what are we supposed to do about that? And what has that to do with the philosphy that the government shouldn’t be going around restricting people’s freedom?

  65. Ah, this thread takes me back. Made me remember the words to Rush’s The Trees:

    There is unrest in the forest,
    There is trouble with the trees,
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas.

    The trouble with the maples,
    (And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
    They say the oaks are just too lofty
    And they grab up all the light.
    But the oaks can’t help their feelings
    If they like the way they’re made.
    And they wonder why the maples
    Can’t be happy in their shade.

    There is trouble in the forest,
    And the creatures all have fled,
    As the maples scream “Oppression!”
    And the oaks just shake their heads

    So the maples formed a union
    And demanded equal rights.
    “The oaks are just too greedy;
    We will make them give us light.”
    Now there’s no more oak oppression,
    For they passed a noble law,
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet, axe, and saw.

  66. For libertarians, the focus is on political freedom.
    If you are concerned about people who are handicapped in various ways, it’s a crucial that we have the freedom and ability to find ways to do something about such problems

  67. Thus Uri’s comments are non sequitur to libertarian political commentary.

  68. No, no, it’s all true–I am a dogmatic, illiterate moron.

  69. A friend of mine back in the 1980s used to answer, when asked whether we would ever have fascism here in the US of A: “Of course we will. But we will call it anti-fascism.” Does anyone know where that originally came from?

  70. Okay, Uncle Sam, let’s concentrate on political freedom. Everybody is free to advocate whatever political position he or she desires. You surely won’t argue that the smart and wealthy don’t have an advantage over the poor and stupid in exercizing this freedom. I don’t think it’s merely a semantic trick to say that when it comes to political freedom, smart, wealthy people are freer than stupid, poor people. Whether we want to do anything about this difference is another question. But I don’t think it’s useful to talk about freedom as though it were some mystical quality like grace. It makes libertarians sound like Chistians (when they’re not sounding like marixan economic determinists).

  71. Jennifer:

    The point is that however much governments may want to promote freedom, natural inequalities restrict it. Don’t you think that the clever will always manage to promote their own interests over the stupid? There is abundant evidence that that’s the case. Do you think in a libertarian society, the clever will become selfless saints? Making government go away won’t make the natural inequalities go away, and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re talking about equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. In the real world both are chimeras. Your faith is touching, but it’s still just a romantic belief system.

  72. markv:

    It was Huey Long, a noted realist.

  73. “Don’t you think that the clever will always manage to promote their own interests over the stupid?”

    Of course; that’s why they run for Congress.

  74. Do you think in a libertarian society, the clever will become selfless saints? Making government go away won’t make the natural inequalities go away, and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re talking about equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. In the real world both are chimeras. Your faith is touching, but it’s still just a romantic belief system.

    I’ve never claimed that libertarianism would turn people into saints, and I’ve never called for making government go away–I’m just trying to figure out what “MS victims can’t walk as easily as healthy people” has to do with “government should be limited in its authority to mess with people.”

  75. Okay, Uncle Sam, let’s concentrate on political freedom. Everybody is free to advocate whatever political position he or she desires. You surely won’t argue that the smart and wealthy don’t have an advantage over the poor and stupid in exercizing this freedom. I don’t think it’s merely a semantic trick to say that when it comes to political freedom, smart, wealthy people are freer than stupid, poor people.

    Perhaps you think you are scoring points by stating the obvious.
    It’s an inevitable feature of political systems that some people will gain advantage over others. What’s more, it’s not just the smart and wealthy that seek that advantage, it’s the unscrupulous that are best at it. That’s why libertarians think political power structures should be severely limited. No honey, no flies.

  76. Uncle Joe..er..Imean, Sam

    The Marxists used to say, “You don’t need potato bugs to grow potatos.” Same silly, platitudinal thinking born of an absolutist ideology.

  77. I really don’t see where Uri is coming from here at all. It’s like I’m saying “people should have the freedom to make friends and form romantic relationships if they wish,” and he keeps saying “Oh, yeah? Well, pretty, charming people can do that more easily than ugly people who lack social skills!”

    How the hell does the one contradict the other?

  78. Jennifer:

    Do you think MS victims and healthy people have equality of opportunty?

  79. Do you think MS victims and healthy people have equality of opportunty?

    What’s with the “victim” shit? I have a friend with MS and if you called him a victim he’d shove his cane up your ass. If you’d let him; I’m sure you’d run away, which wouldn’t be a fair thing to do. But I suppose he wouldn’t begrudge your freedom to run away.

  80. Do you think MS victims and healthy people have equality of opportunty?

    Do you think “equality of opportunity” and “equality of potential” are the same thing? You made an earlier example of physicists. I do, in fact, have equal opportunity to be a physicist (in that there are no laws saying I can’t because of my gender, ancestry or anything else); however, I don’t have the math skills to do it. So be it.

    The freedom to make the most of your potential isn’t restricted just because you personally don’t have any.

  81. After calling my admittedly very abreviated observation “silly platitudinal thinking” perhaps you can give us an idea of how ANY poitical system can avoid being an opportunity for clever, unscrupulous opower seekers.

    And the “uncle joe” slur is just plain stupid but excusable given your ignorance of my individual comprehension.

  82. Russ:

    Sorry, I had no idea political correctness was an issue here. How about “members of the MS community”?

    Jennifer:

    For the life of me, I can’t understand what good a freedom is that can’t be exercised. In what sense are you free to be a physicist if you’re not very smart again? I’m missing something.

  83. Uncle Sam:

    I don’t think any political system avoid being an opportunity for clever, unscrupulous opower seekers.
    “Uncle Joe” was a reference to Stalin. He had a similar distaste for dissenting views.

  84. For the life of me, I can’t understand what good a freedom is that can’t be exercised. In what sense are you free to be a physicist if you’re not very smart again? I’m missing something.

    The question isn’t “what good a freedom is”, but “does that freedom exist.” Unless you define “freedom” as “do anything you want, regardless of ability.”

    And I am free to be a physicist in the sense that nobody else is preventing me from doing so. If I personally can’t do it, that still doesn’t mean that my freedom is being impaired.

  85. Jennifer:

    So freedom is meaningless. Now I get it.

  86. So freedom is meaningless.

    No, but your dictum “freedom is synonymous with ability” is.

  87. Uri has problems with even the simplest definitions. It’s no wonder his thinking, therefore, is a muddled mess of half-assed abstractions.

  88. Jennifer:

    Your freedom to be a physicist is rendered meaningless by your inability to do physics. How can that be so difficult to understand?

  89. Your freedom to be a physicist is rendered meaningless by your inability to do physics. How can that be so difficult to understand?

    It may be meaningless, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  90. Jaimie:

    I hope you agree that defintions matter. Whether moron is as free to solve complex problems as a genius depends on your definition of freedom. It seems to me that any freedom the moron has to solve complex problems is negated by his or her low intelligence. That is not to say that both the moron and the genius are not equally free in other respects, but on balance the genius has more freedom than the moron. How do you define freedom?

  91. Jennifer:

    The freedom is meaningless, but it nevertheless exists. Amazing. I can see why you might not want to study physics.

  92. I hope you agree that defintions matter. Whether moron is as free to solve complex problems as a genius depends on your definition of freedom.

    Once again, you’re assuming that “freedom” means the same thing as “capability.” How do you define freedom, anyway?

  93. Uri’s lack of basic understanding of what we are all thinking when we say “freedom” leaves him without the freedom to comprehend our responses.

    Uri: When we say we are free to do/become x we are not saying we have the ability, but rather the right to pursue x (we may fail, but that is another matter).

    The primary concern of most people who post here is not whether that have the ability to be a physicist / basketball player / runway model but whether there is some outide power (typically called government) that prevents them from doing so regardless of ability.

    Let’s say I want to be a prima ballerina:

    Acceptable limit on my “freedom” to be one: No one would freely employ me, a 40-year-old-overweight-male as one bcse I have not the ability, not look of a prima ballerina

    Unacceptable limit on my “freedom” to be one: Government law states that 40-year-old-overweight-male cannot be a prima ballerina.

    In case 1 we here defend the right of the ballet company to hire whom they wish: that is there freedom.

    In case 2 we here revile the government’s imposition of a law (regardless of whether it makes sense or not) that deprives both me and the ballet company of the freedom to choose to hire me or not.

    Do you get it now?????

  94. Here, I got the definition myself:

    free?dom ( P ) Pronunciation Key (frdm)
    n.
    1. The condition of being free of restraints.
    2. Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.
    3. Political independence.
    4. Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.
    5. Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.
    6. The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon.
    7. Ease or facility of movement: loose sports clothing, giving the wearer freedom.
    8. Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels.
    9. The right to unrestricted use; full access: was given the freedom of their research facilities.
    10. The right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship: the freedom of the city.
    11. A right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference: ?the seductive freedoms and excesses of the picaresque form? (John W. Aldridge).

    Nowhere does it say anything along the lines of “the ability to solve math problems as well as any mathematician” or “the ability to walk even though you have MS.” Definition 7 might be twisted to mean the latter, but the example sentence demonstrates that it is not intended in that fashion.

  95. Jennifer:

    Let’s take the first definition. Does low intelligence impose any restraints on one’s freedom to study physics? Try to think for a minute before you answer.

  96. Garth:

    The ballet company’s freedom to hire someone it would never want to hire is a meaningless freedom. I am free to swallow frogs. So what? How about the ability to have first-class medical treatment. That’s something everybody might want–a meaningfull freedom–but only the wealthy have. In this regard, the wealthy are freer than the poor even though no government law forbids the poor to have such treatment. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s certainly something we should recognize if we want to talk about freedom.

  97. I assumed you were referring to Stalin.
    I’ve got no problem with your “dissenting” views.
    You seem to have a problem with mine though.

  98. Again, he strays from the political into the circumstancial.

    Libertarians assume that even morons generally prefer to be free from restraints so that they may do as they choose within the natural limitations imposed by their circumstances.

    We all have natural limitations, but within those limitations, we prefer to have maximum choice to operate so that we may find the optimum way to benefit from that abilities and talents that we do have. When YOU speak of freedom, you are attempting to shift the point of discussion into another realm.

    Perhaps there will come a time when anyone can enjoy maximal human capacity to enjoy virtually any human mental and physical power, but that subject lies in the realm of human technological evolution and not in the realm of the nature and course of political economy.

  99. How about the ability to have first-class medical treatment. That’s something everybody might want–a meaningfull freedom–but only the wealthy have.

    The ability to seek medical treatment is not a freedom, it’s an ability (and a right as well). It’s only a (political) freedom issue if someone attempts use government to interfere with your ability to obtain it and a rights issue. I do not believe I have the right to force you to provide me with medical treatment, directly or indirectly.

    If you want to have effective discussion with others, terms must be agreed upon.

  100. Does low intelligence impose any restraints on one’s freedom to study physics?

    No, it does not. However, low intelligence will limit ones’ ability to study physics.

    We’re using two words here that really do mean different things.

    But practically speaking, I assume that anyone that desires to study physics, must have some capacity for comprehending physics. Else why the interest?

  101. Uncle Sam:

    If I accepted your definition of freedom as nothing more than “freedom from government restraint” and kept my observations within its parameters, I could settle into the comfortable mutual masturbation that passes for political discussion here, but it would be such a yawn. I leave you to it.

    All the best!

  102. In the political realm, how could it mean anything else?

    If I accepted your definition of freedom, then we would be talking about something else, as your definition of freesom is interchangeable with various other words such a “power” and “ability”.

    This kind of “fluidity” of language is typical of leftist political discussion where words are defined according to the need of the moment and one must spend much effort in pinning them down as to what they mean, and you have to keep doing it because their meaning can change as is convenient. Freedom is slavery!

  103. “I leave you to it.

    All the best!”

    Love,
    Uri

    Drat!

    I so adore pedantic quibblers.

  104. Uri,

    I don’t think it’s merely a semantic trick to say that when it comes to political freedom, smart, wealthy people are freer than stupid, poor people. Whether we want to do anything about this difference is another question. But I don’t think it’s useful to talk about freedom as though it were some mystical quality like grace. It makes libertarians sound like Chistians

    What’s your angle, already? You make it crystal clear you’ve got one, but you don’t show your cards.

    If you’re going to hang around here and roll off what sounds like pure bullshit

    I could settle into the comfortable mutual masturbation that passes for political discussion here, but it would be such a yawn.

    then you’ve either got something to say, or else you really are just the arrogant ass you’re looking like. Which is it?

    This would make for good starting point.

    Whether we want to do anything about this difference is another question.

    Do you think we should want to do anything about this difference, and if so what, and why? If your answer is no, then why?

  105. Wrong Kahn, Kirk.

  106. How expensive would it be to build some RC planes to hunt and kill government UAVs? I will know that it’s time to move to another country when they ban RC planes and start up a WAR ON RC PLANES campaign explaining why RC plane use causes CANCER, and mental illness.

  107. Koan for the day: What is the sound of one mouth flapping?

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