Worldview: Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Fanaticism

There’s something about the sustainable food movement in all its various incarnations that brings out the fanatic in people, both pro and con. I admit that I am just as bad as anyone.

Yet, there is an underlying problem with that fanaticism that undermines the whole attempt to improve the way we feed ourselves, and it finds its voice in purity tests voiced by some that demand things that are unrealistic or downright impossible.

Among the worst of these tests are calls for laws that threaten the livelihoods of the very kinds of people trying to make change happen. For example, there are those who want to pass laws that would require sustainable farmers and vegetable producers to get licensed before they could produce.

I understand the motives that drive such calls because I experience them first hand. I also know they only serve to threaten the very undertaking we’re all supposed to be working together to achieve by making it harder to do what we are doing.

Perhaps, instead of calling for laws, boycotts, and bans, if we see a problem, we should be working extra hard to solve it and let the chips fall where they may. All that effort spent trashing others could be used in a far more productive way, and in the end, that properly applied effort might just produce something better than what we already have.

DLH

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Worldview: Stop SOPA/PIPA

Tomorrow, Worldview and the rest of my active websites will be blacked out from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act/Protect Intellectual Property Act wending their way through Congress right now. These are bad bills conceived for bad reasons intended for bad purposes and they should not have ever been put forward let alone have the chance to go into law.

These pieces of legislation also represent part of ongoing actions on the part of our government, bot the executive and Congress, to encroach on the liberties of individual citizens for reasons that have nothing to do with making those citizen’s lives better. Examples include the latest iterations of the Patriot Act, the social media surveillance of social media by the Department of Homeland Security, a provision in the Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism links, and the individual mandate provisions of the health care law.

Unless we the people–which people the government is supposed to be of, by, and for–stand up against such abuses, we have no hope of securing our liberty for ourselves or for future generations. We must act now or lose more. You can start by speaking out against SOPA/PIPA by contacting your representatives using the form from the menu on the right. Then you can go further by carefully considering how you vote in 2012. Finally, you can realize that the next election begins the moment the last one ends and become involved in the entire political process.

Act now or lose more.

DLH

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Worldview: Once upon a time

A few years ago, I vigorously defended the power of the  government to use warrantless searches as an intelligence gathering tool against foreign nationals and their collaborators living on American soil who our intelligence agencies believed were enemy agents. I defended that action based on precedence (e.g.: forms of warrantless searches for intelligence purposes have been conducted since the Lincoln administration) and the fundamental lack of better tools (e.g.: federal laws do not adequately provide for domestic intelligence gathering methods). I stand by that defense, yet I also stand by my observation that it was only necessary because there were not better tools.

These years later, our intelligence agencies still do not have the better tools they need, and the government has taken even more obtrusive steps in its efforts to secure intelligence through ever-looser definitions of the laws that govern what it can and cannot do.

At the risk of taking a black eye from my opponents in the warrantless searches debate, I must now say that the government has proven incapable of using the powers it possesses by precedent and function in keeping with the ideals of federal republicanism, the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, and fundamental individual liberty. While I still believe that the warrantless search tool was one the government had the right to use in the proper time and place, I also now believe that the time has come for the people and the government to specifically spell out the type and scope of powers the government has to use for domestic intelligence gathering and to define a meaningful process for due process and appeal against intelligence gathered on US soil.

At the heart of this–partial–reversal in thinking is the following evidence:

“The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.”

If suspicion is the only threshold for placing anyone, especially citizens, under surveillance, then the system is broken. Suspicion is not probable cause, nor will it ever be, even in the shadowy world of intelligence gathering. This new threshold represents a fundamental change in thinking on the part of the government, and because it has proven itself so prone to abuse, it also represents a fundamental threat to liberty.

If we are going to bother to call ourselves a nation, we must accept that our government needs tools to act in our national interests, and effective intelligence gathering is one of those tools. Yet, we can now see that the government cannot be trusted to use loosely defined tools responsibly, so the time has come to create limits so that the liberty of the people can be preserved from government abuse.

DLH

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