Friday, May 27, 2011

In a Free Society, Recording Cops CANNOT Be Illegal

Essentially by definition, in fact. Unfortunately, public servants all too often hold a differing -- and somehow weightier than yours, citizen -- opinion. Herewith, an open letter to the NH Senate (previously submitted to my own Senator Sanborn, to enthusiastic support, as expected) regarding government accountability and transparency. In a phrase, its intended subservience to the People for whom it ostensibly works. Following which, the referenced hearing record in toto, and selected testimony from William Kostric, Seth Hipple and John Lewicke. And serendipitously, a little something extra from Reason.tv...

Senators,

HB145 as originally introduced, "permitting the audio and video recording of any public official while in the course of his or her official duties," served particularly to clarify the rights of citizen journalists and detained "suspects" (to produce their own evidence, as per Part First, Article 15) in the face of continued legal threats by, particularly, less-than-transparent local police departments -- arrogance that will inevitably cost the taxpayers, in liberty as well as lucre.

It reflected, in good faith, the NH GOP's own platform, in fact ("Will work to amend the wiretap statute to allow citizens to make audio/visual recordings of interactions with public officials"), as well as the fundamental concept that in a free society, public servants are, as Part First, Article 8 states and RSA 91-A reinforces, "at all times accountable." On the job means on the record. Public servants, rationally enough, are accountable to that public. "Private" citizens need to take off the badge.

The bill as currently amended, however, in addition to muddying what should logically be an already clear legal picture with regard to audio recording of public servants on the job, as well as limiting its scope to law enforcement only (who are nevertheless still granted "wiggle room"), also for the first time appears to introduce purely video recording (such as, say, security cameras) to the ranks of potentially prohibited activities in NH. And it makes no allowance for recording with the permission of someone "personally interacting with the officer." Whither, then, Rodney King?

This is altogether entirely unacceptable. In as much as, for example, (actually) interfering with law enforcement is already illegal, prohibiting "surreptitious" (audio) recording of public employees is certainly the limit of what a proper bill might restrict. But then where would investigative news teams, exposing government corruption, be?

HB145 was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 26th. I was there, brazenly recording the authoritarians without their consent -- the evidence is below -- because I have a right to hold my employees accountable. Particularly, it should be noted, the ones with a (granted and revokable by the People, let's never forget) monopoly on force and the tools to impose it. And citizens who can't be personally on-scene -- whether in the State House or at a traffic stop -- nevertheless have a right to know what their government is up to, in their name, on their dime. "At all times accountable."

I trust that we, the liberty community, the "small government" community, the "accountable government" community, the "citizen journalist" community, can count on your earnest efforts to amend HB145 back to its simple, straightforward, clarifying, proper original form. And then compel the House to stand with the courage of its declared convictions against the special interests of clandestine -- and as recent history, particularly, has clearly demonstrated, capricious and petty and vindictive and profligate -- government agents. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Thank you.

The committee, later that day, voted to recommend more study...





Friday, May 13, 2011

"Three times a charm"

Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul announces his candidacy for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination, Exeter, NH, Town Hall, 5/13/2011.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Manchester Finally Going to the Dogs

And it's an impressive community-directed thing. An unused city-owned longtime eyesore (too bad government never cries "blight!" and somehow relieves itself of its "own" property, handing it off to private interests, eh?) begins the process -- more a ground-covering than a ground-breaking -- of being transformed into a functional center of Manchester, NH, neighborhood activity -- a dog park, the city's first -- all through voluntary funds and effort, on this otherwise dreary (snow spitting between the rain and sleet -- no traditional New England Easter blizzard, thankfully, but the ground was white when I got home) Saturday, 4/23/2011. (Pushing the envelope of electronic prudence rather too hard resulted in some, um, technical difficulties, and thus this substantially delayed posting -- oh, the sacrifices we make for activism, eh? -- up-side: hey, I'm gettin' a new camera...)

Now if we could only convince the city to divest itself of property it has no business "owning" in the first place ("the city" is a fictional entity, of course: it owns nothing, it produces nothing -- you own it, whether you like it or not. But then they'll threaten you with trespassing! On your property! Does that seem right to you...?). And how did this government-controlled property even arguably benefit the taxpayers before people finally managed to overcome government opposition to these improvements?

Sell off publicly-owned real property, thus immediately generating cash the government claims it needs, and return it to the tax rolls, thus increasing the property tax base (and concomitantly decreasing the rate -- if you keep an eye on 'em, that is), and letting the (invested) market -- not uninvested bureaucrats, with no personal skin in the game, just other people's money -- decide its most sustainably productive use. In the mean time, do the best you can to minimize the harm government intentionally and methodically does to civilization.

So kudos to tenacious Manchester (now) state Representatives Tammy Simmons and Phil Greazzo for finally bringing their vision to fruition. For providing an example of what people can accomplish voluntarily to improve their own lives despite their government's best efforts to thwart them. May your dogs always be content. See some earlier debate on libertarian perspectives on this project here.