Civil Liberties

Predictions for 2008

The un-parodiable state of civil liberties in America

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As the end of the year approaches, it's time for another column of government overreach predictions for the New Year. What outrageous, beyond-parody grabs at power and erosions of civil liberties will transpire in 2008? My predictions:

• The Bush administration will claim it has the power to kidnap citizens of foreign countries for violating U.S. law, and extradite them to the U.S. for trial and imprisonment—even for white collar crimes unrelated to terrorism, and even for acts that aren't illegal in the countries where the target is a citizen.

• Police will take enforcement of prostitution laws to a new level, by arresting and seizing the cars of anyone who merely talks to an undercover cop posing as a sex worker. Good samaratans, beware.

• The war on prescription painkillers will also reach new absurdities, as people will begin to be arrested and convicted of possessing painkillers for which they have a prescription . Prosecutors will weirdly argue that there is no "prescription defense" to possessing prescribed medication.

• How about sex crimes laws? I predict that here too, prosecutors will overreach. Watch, as some overzealous district attorney will charge middle school kids with sex crimes for such childhood shenanigans as slapping fellow classmates on the buttocks.

• While it continues to federalize crime and find new reasons to toss people in prison, members of Congress will simultaneously continue to attempt to put themselves above the law. I predict that the House of Representatives will attempt to prevent police from searching the computers of one of its members, even if that member is being investigated for soliciting sex with minors.

• Public schools will teach not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, they'll start teaching students to spy on their parents , and to report their parents to local authorities for minor violations of city codes, such as failing to recycle, or failing to keep their lawn trimmed.

• Pressed for revenue, at least one state in the country will pass draconian new traffic laws mandating fines of $1,000 or more for routine traffic violations, in a bald attempt to fill state treasury coffers. The bill will be sponsored by a lawmaker who, conveniently enough, also has a law practice that specializes in defending people accused of traffic violations. He will not disclose during the debate that the bill will almost certainly benefit him financially. He'll be reelected, anyway.

• A state governor will propose legislation calling for two-year prison terms for people who play online poker . Rather shamelessly, the proposal will come in the same bill that calls for allowing the construction of three new casinos in the same state.

• While we're talking about gambling, states will continue to crack down on the poker craze. Even VFW posts won't be immune. Soon, we'll see cops sent to break up $5 cribbage games, and SWAT teams to break up charity poker games. In fact, cops will raid bars where it merely looks like people are gambling, even if no gambling is actually taking place. Meanwhile, states will continue to spend millions promoting their own lotteries.

• Standing on the sidewalk will become a crime .

• Cities will begin seizing the cars of people who play their stereos too loud . In fact, they'll seize the cars based on little more the word of someone else that the car's owner was playing his stereo too loud.

• Proving there's no part of your life the Nanny State can't reach, states will begin asking bars to install talking urinal cakes, which will warn men as they relieve themselves that drinking and driving isn't cool.

• Another state's lawmakers will propose a bill that bans "eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing an instrument, interacting with pets or cargo, talking on a cell phone or using any other personal communication device" while driving.

• Two years after banning traffic cameras in the name of "liberty," the Virginia legislature will decide that revenue is more important than liberty, and will revoke the ban .

• The FBI will imply to Congress that sometimes it has to let it's undercover informants get away with murdering American citizens so as not to disrupt drug investigations.

• Following up on the enormous "success" (that's sarcasm) of laws putting cold medicine behind the drug store counters because they can be used to make meth, legislators will propose putting baking soda behind the counter , too, because it can be used to make crack.

Too over-the top? Too paranoid? As you may have guessed from clicking the embedded links (of if you read either of my two prior year-end columns ), none of the bullet points above were actual predictions. Each of the above already happened in the past 12 months, in 2007.

Each year, government at all levels encroaches a bit more on our personal, economic, and political freedom. One prediction that I'm pretty confident will come true: Come December 2008, there will be more than enough material for another column like this one.

Radley Balko is a senior editor for reason.  This article originally appeared at FoxNews.com.

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  1. Radley is The Man. However, he makes me sad and angry. If I had his job, I would be sad and angry all the time. Some jobs are just too much. I couldn’t go social work and I couldn’t be Radley.

    Ho, ho, ho.

  2. Following up on the enormous “success” (that’s sarcasm)

    Good thing you spelled it out, as the Faux News readers might not understand. No, really.

    As I stated before, Radley’s posts are like finding out Santa isn’t real: It’s good to know the truth, but you die a little inside…

  3. Can’t stop the erosion.
    Can only hope to contain it.

  4. Radley –

    excellent work, as usual. The one about CongressKirtters putting themselves above the law is a disturbing development among the Very Very Disturbing, indeed.

    Blurring Obliterating the lines between the power wielders and the rest of us.

  5. Some of those actually physically nauseated me. I have to ask though, how posting something like this over at FoxNews isn’t anything other than shouting into the (deaf, unfeeling, uncaring) wilderness?

  6. The scary thing about these prophecys is the number of americans that would welcome them in the name of national security. It is in the best interest of the nation to put all these restrictions in place so 9/11 doesn’t ever happen again.

    DOWN WITH SUBVERSION IN ANY FORM

  7. I am expecting the Bush Administration to monitor our every move we make and he will due to Islamic conspiricy to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids….

  8. In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.

  9. I would actually be fine if we had an actual democracy in this country instead of the ‘managed democracy’ we have now.

  10. Peace on Earth!
    Purity of Essence!

  11. In the name of His Majesty and the Continental Congress, get over here Mandrake!

  12. Hey all you tin-foil-hat-wearing libertoonians! These articles are completely made up and this country is actually getting better! We must continue to crack down on idle pedestrians and other menaces of society!

    IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN!

  13. Rember War is Peace…and We have always been at war with Oceania.

  14. The Bush administration will claim it has the power to kidnap citizens of foreign countries for violating U.S. law, and extradite them to the U.S. for trial and imprisonment

    They still get trials?

  15. “Good thing you spelled it out”

    I was thinking the same thing. This need to spell everything out in a sort of kindergarten-level cadence is more damning of the demographic that consumes Fox than anything else. Really scary stuff.

  16. I would actually be fine if we had an actual democracy constitutional republic in this country instead of the ‘managed democracy’ metastasizing Total State we have now.

  17. My prediction for 2008: More ‘free trade’ agreements will be pushed through by congress against the will of the people and enforced brutally on 3rd world countries….against the will of the people. Hooray Freedom!

  18. I make one further prediction given recent news.

    People will begin hoarding incandescent light bulbs in large amounts to prepare for the phase-out by 2020. By this time there will either be a black market or an individual imperative to disobey the state mandate to keep one’s house from looking like (and how apropos) a government hospital. This will succeed for a brief time until the state will see upon monitoring household electricity use, people aren’t using the florescent bulbs they are provided. Officials from the newly nationalized power company will come to people’s houses and apartments, perhaps outsourcing these duties to the police in certain cases, and confiscate the last incandescent bulbs.

    Ain’t it the life.

  19. Enough with the light bulbs people…human life existed a long time without incandescent light bulbs and will be fine without them…now nationalized power companies…that might not be too bad of an idea, the energy industry is unbelievably corrupt and nearly everytime utilities have been privatized the costs have gone way up…

  20. Police will take enforcement of prostitution laws to a new level, by arresting and seizing the cars of anyone who merely talks to an undercover cop posing as a sex worker. Good samaratans, beware

    I remember that one. It struck me as being a wonderful example of being caught operating a vehicle while Hispanic.

  21. How the heck did Balko get Fox News, of all media outlets, to post this? Is there a libertarian strain there that I’ve been missing?

  22. “””The scary thing about these prophecys is the number of americans that would welcome them in the name of national security.”””

    They are not prophecies. They are things that happened in 2007

    No wonder why some right-wingers no longer live in reality, it’s starting suck.

  23. Starting to suck

  24. Jeez James, whose side are you on? I kid, I kid. But seriously, the fact that we lived without something at one point (which includes a lot of shit that we’d not like to give up now) is not a great case for surrendering it in the name of draconian hysterical regulations. I’ll not let this become by extension an argument about climate change, for I fear that light bulbs (for God’s sake) is symbolic of the lengths to which the government is willing to purloin our rights to the most concentrated and trivial degree. You’re right, will we survive without them? Yes. Does it piss the living hell out of me that the government that is supposed to be my representative is telling me I can’t use the fucking light bulb I want? Absolutely. It is mostly the principle that bothers me, and the fact that I’ve seen what a room looks like bathed in buzzing, sickly energy saving light. And let’s not go down the slippery slope of the virtues of nationalization of utilities.

  25. Officials from the newly nationalized power company will come to people’s houses and apartments, perhaps outsourcing these duties to the police in certain cases, and confiscate the last incandescent bulbs.

    Along with any cash or other valuables. It’s the WoIB, you know.

  26. So much for that song we learned in grade school:

    God Bless America,
    Land that I love.
    Stand beside her, and guide her
    Thru the night with a light from a bulb.

  27. What drives me nuts is that my two regular ladies tell me that some of their clients are cops, a prosecutor and even one judge. The hypocrisy is mind numbing. It’s the bullies and rich kids from my school years still trying to determine who I can and can’t fuck and under what conditions. As for family concerns, one of the girls says I’m her only single regular. All the rest of her regulars are married family men.

    And for those of you who don’t understand why men seek prostitutes, Charlie Sheen put it best. You aren’t paying them for sex. You’re paying for them to leave afterward. You savvy? Doesn’t matter if you do because it’s none of your fucking business.

    Heh heh. Fucking business. 🙂

  28. “People will begin hoarding incandescent light bulbs in large amounts to prepare for the phase-out by 2020”

    You Luddites really are sad. The current generation of compact fluorescent bulbs are great! My electric bill is 1/3 of what it was and they fracking last forever, The one on my porch is 12 years old. they’re great for desk lamps because they don’t throw off waves of heat.

    I have a friend who was all “Oh, incandescents are better.” So I turned on another lamp and said, “You mean like this? What’s so much better?”

    He went on and on about how it was a warmer light and some other nonsense. I then took the lamp shade off and showed him he was waxing rhapsodic about just another compact fluorescent. He thought he saw a difference because his closed mind thought it was an incandescent.

    It’s theater of the mind. It’s all in your head, or you haven’t actually *seen* a room lit by them. Most of the “warmth” comes from the stupid lampshades anyway.

  29. Dear Libertarians,

    Please take over the Republican party. Then I can vote against you without feeling like if I lose, someone might snatch my country out from underneath me.

    -Bill

  30. Didn’t have to ‘click the links’; all were very familiar.
    Into the breach once more…

  31. That’s it. I’m moving back out of the country where they don’t bother rich foreign visitors and anybody can be bribed. It’s sad when you feel more at ease and more like you own your own skin in China than in your US home.

  32. Bill, the libertarians are working on it. Help them out by not believing the lies being told about the libertarian-in-republican-clothing candidates and they just might manage it.

    As for incandescents, there’s not going to be a black market. Christ, stop over-reacting. This will be another case of legislation being too late, rather than too restrictive… they’re going to ban something that the marketplace will have gotten rid of 5 years prior, and then they can pretend they’re the ones that did it, rather than the cost savings of not using a 5% efficient 1890s technology.

    And to any Iowans out there: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show up to vote. The man can win, but he’ll need every last vote. If you don’t because it’s too cold, Huckabee wins. I can’t vote until February, so it’s all up to you guys. Good luck.

  33. Ridiculous traffic tickets are already in VA. If you get reckless speeding, you have to pay the original ticket which is around $450, with an annual fee of $1,000 for three years.

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