Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Here is the very first edition of my new Antiwar.com column, “The War at Home.” In the column I intend to write about drones, propaganda, police, feds, spying, and anything else that makes sense under that domestic-leaning banner.

First off, a plea for caution about still more militarization of the border. Border advocates should reconsider how comfortable they are with drone fleets and scores of thousands of Border Patrol officers. So should the folks who are so keen on amnesty. They may accept some bad legislation that makes that problem worse.

For months, Senate Bill 744 – which would reform immigration and make citizenship possible for some of the 11 million individuals living illegally in the U.S. – has been stuck in the House. Generally, Republicans think it is too soft. Democrats have pushed and compromised. But the bill is bad. Not because granting amnesty is bad, but because the border issue is already intruding into the lives of average Americans as well as migrant workers. The last thing we need is more money and more high-tech toys spent in the name of paranoia over “security.”

This bill increases all sorts of things of which we already have too many. Back in 1992, there were less than 5,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents. As of 2013, there were 21,000. S.B. 744 increases the number of Border Patrol agents to 38,000, mandates building enough fencing to cover 700 miles, and includes a strategy to make the border secure at last. All this at the low, low cost of 46 billion dollars. And all for “security” and for a projected 90 percent success rate in catching immigrants who mostly just wish to work and better their lives and the lives of their families.

Like all government agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will never decide on its own that it’s funded enough. It will keep keeping on in order to feed and justify itself and keep growing at a “reasonable” rate. But when will the border be sufficiently militarized? When there are 50 drones instead of the current 10, which occasionally crash? Small government advocates – or anyone skittish about open borders – should consider the inevitably of mission creep in all government endeavors – particularly the militaristic type. And pro immigrant-activists must seriously consider how much amnesty is worth, and whether they’re willing to trade it for a border that even more closely resembles a Maginot Line. The question of what to do with the areas between the U.S. and its neighbors affects both lawless migrants and legal U.S. citizens.

There’s a long line of legal precedent that says the borders don’t count in terms of Fourth Amendment protections. Though the drug war and the war on terror have cut many privacy protections off at the knees, they were always more ephemeral at the border. There a search simply has to be “reasonable.” And though the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) gets awfully intimate in airports, mild groping still pales in comparison to how close some Border Patrol agents can get to your private parts while searching for illicit items. Back in 1985, United States vs. Montoya de Hernandez confirmed the Border Patrol’s right to detain you until you defecate if they have a reasonable suspicion that you might be carrying drugs and you refuse an X-ray. More recently, a New Mexico resident who crossed the border near Ciudad Juarez was taken to the hospital and subjected to a cavity search and a CAT scan after she was suspected of drug smuggling.

The rest here.

Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana

Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana

potLast Tuesday, during a hearing on legislation that would permit the use of recreational marijuana in Maryland, Annapolis police chief Michael Pristoop testified against the bill, in the process claiming that 37 people had overdosed on marijuana the day that pot became legal in Colorado. Pristoop was apparently getting his information from the Daily Currant, a notoriously shitty, unfunny “satire” website that put up a joke piece that “reported” that those people had died back in January.

State senator Jamie Raskin, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, immediately corrected Pristoop and told him that the Daily Currant is a comedy site. Pristoop said he would check on the error, but he was “holding on to information I was provided.” The next day Pristoop acknowledged he was wrong but said the general objection to legalization still stands. In other words, his opinion was based on lies, but he wasn’t changing it.

Now, Pristoop’s job requires that he enforce the drug laws, which in theory means that he should be more educated than the general public about what individual drugs can and can’t do. What’s disturbing is that he believed such a baseless story on faith—believed it enough to bring it up in a fancy hearing!—even though YOU CAN’T OVERDOSE ON MARIJUANA.

The rest of the Bad Cop Blotter over here

In honor of the topical terrors of a new Cold War (thanks, Vlad), I offer this unsubtle — it is folk punk, so that is nearly redundant — 58 second tale of how “everybody just forgot about” nuclear weapons after a while. But those bombs are still there, and somebody might use them someday. So sleep well.

I was alive when the Berlin Wall fell, but I don’t remember it. And though I know the situation — and how the Wall came down, partially through bureaucratic error — was more complicated than just joyous people streaming through the holes their sledgehammers built, that footage never fails to bring a tear to my eye. So little world news is happy news. This was. When I build my time machine, I will definitely watch the USSR and the GDR crumble. (And again, being entirely antiwar and anti-empire doesn’t mean I can’t extra object to countries that, if nothing else, do not let their people travel freely or leave. That tells you all you need to know about a country, apologist lefties. If you can’t leave it, it’s a bad place.)

Did you fear the Russians when you were younger? And do you remember stopping at some point? It’s hard for people who don’t remember it to suss out how all-encompassing the anxiety really was, but popular culture and history so often suggest it was everywhere all the time.

Oakland, California

Oakland, California

Philadelphia, 2011

Philadelphia, 2011

snowproblemIn case you didn’t get the memo, today is International Polar Bear Day. It’s a day filled with poorly-researched articles where “science” writers bemoan how evil humans will wipe out polar bears, and cry over spilt carbon.

Yahoo is running a “5 Weird Facts About Polar Bears” on its front page. A dubious list of four “weird” facts with a fifth that trumpets “Two-thirds of polar bears could disappear by 2050.

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt, and studies predict that global warming could melt enough sea ice to lead to the disappearance of two-thirds of polar bears by 2050. The decline in sea ice has forced the bears to swim longer distances, consuming energy they cannot afford to use.

The United States listed polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008, and Canada and Russia have listed them as a species of special concern. Unless climate change slows, eventually there may not be any bears around to celebrate Polar Bear Day.

It’s an especially poor attempt by author Tanya Lewis at making a valid point about polar bears. She doesn’t even link to an article that supports her theory of polar bear disappearance other than they have to swim longer distances. The least she could do is try to make an effort — if she’s so concerned about the polar bears — to write a compelling article based on facts. The whole thing is just a way to drum up uninformed outrage.

Not that Tanya should be singled out.

Time has its own hysteria inducing “Save the Polar Bear, Especially Today.” Basically a rehashed, non-listacle version of the Yahoo article, (now with more hysteria!)

Many scientists and conservationists fear that there may be far fewer polar bears in even that single-decade time frame, thanks chiefly to the effects of climate change. Polar bears use sea ice as a platform to reach their prey, chiefly seals, and summer sea ice is melting fast. Despite a rebound from a record low in 2012, the extent of Arctic sea ice is generally trending downwards, often dramatically. As the ice vanishes, polar bears are forced to swim longer and longer distances to reach those hunting platforms, which is taking a toll on the species.

Once again, there’s no link, no data to back up his claim that swimming long distances is killing the species. It’s the standard global warming doomsdayers trope. The Time article also goes on to make various other wildly unsubstantiated claims like:

Still, most experts agree that there are about 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears alive, scattered around the Arctic—a perilously small number though some subpopulations have rebounded, in part because of restrictions on hunting.

So perilously small that some populations may have reached their carrying capacity.

In fact, research shows that polar bear populations have been increasing, to between 20,000-25,000 bears. Far more than the 12,000 estimated in the late ’60s before an international ban on hunting in the 1970s. What’s more, scientists still don’t even have sufficient data about eight of the 19 known polar bear habitats. But of course the lack of data won’t prevent a lot of people from spouting off about the imminent destruction of the polar bear.Polar Bear Map

(And don’t let the facts dissuade you from using these “sexy” beasts as the mascots for your climate change hysteria.)

Fortunately the truth is out there. Zach Unger, who originally set off to write “an elegy” for the certain destruction of the species, ended up writing “Never Look A Polar Bear in the Eye,” a chronicle of the massive success and rebirth polar bears have enjoyed in the past decades.

And then there’s this article about polar bears from Canadian Geographic that highlights two experts who view predictions of extinction as “joke”:

Consider Mitch Taylor’s story. He spent more than two decades as a polar bear researcher and manager for the Nunavut government and has published around 50 peer-reviewed papers. That should garner widespread respect. But Taylor has been highly vocal about his belief that polar bears are mostly doing fine, that cub mortality varies from year to year and that the much ballyhooed predictions of extinction by 2050 are “a joke.” He also alleges that a lot of the “exaggerated decline” is just a way to keep certain scientists well funded and to transfer control of the polar bear issue from territorial to federal hands.

[…]

Yet by 1990, Ian Stirling — at the time, the senior research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service and a professor of zoology at the University of Alberta; basically, one of the most respected polar bear scientists on the planet — felt comfortable answering the question as to whether polar bears are an endangered species by stating flatly: “They are not.” He went on to say that “the world population of polar bears is certainly greater than 20,000 and could be as high as 40,000 … I am inclined toward the upper end of that range.”

So next time you see a picture of some poor polar bear “trapped on an ice floe” or Leonardo DiCaprio Photoshopped into the arctic, ask yourself this: “Who benefits from all the polar bear hysteria?”

(It’s not the polar bears.)Vanity Fair and Knut

Western Pennsylvania, 2010

Western Pennsylvania, 2010