Nine Attorneys General, and Alyssa Milano, versus the First Amendment

On July 30, National Public Radio reports, “[a] coalition of attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration  … to stop a Texas-based company from publishing instructions for 3D-printed guns on its website.”

In English: Nine state attorneys general want the federal government to censor the Internet, in violation of the First Amendment, for the purpose of making the Second Amendment less effectual.

Defense Distributed, a non-profit started by libertarian activist Cody Wilson, creates and publishes files that tell 3D printers and CNC milling machines how to make guns. After a five-year battle with the US State Department, which demanded censorship of these files on the risible claim that publishing them violated weapons export restrictions, Defense Distributed prevailed: The feds said uncle, paid the organization’s legal fees, and got out of the way.

Cue bizarre claims — actor/activist Alyssa Milano, writing on behalf of the anti-gun lobby, calls these files “downloadable guns”  in a CNN op-ed — open cries for Internet censorship, and a conspiracy of state attorneys general to give those cries legal effect.

We’ve been here before.  The 1873 Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use — parent act of the “Comstock laws,” so called after the priggish Postmaster General who pressed for their passage, provided that:

“Every obscene, lewd, or lascivious, and every filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character, and every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for preventing conception or producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use … is hereby declared to be a non-mailable matter …” The law provided for five years in prison and a $5,000 fine (more than $100,000 in 2018 dollars) for violators.

A century of resistance and legal challenges — led in part by an organization Ms. Milano avidly supports, Planned Parenthood — followed. It wasn’t until 1970 that Congress removed references to contraception from federal anti-obscenity laws.

I’m not surprised that the anti-gun lobby is throwing in with other pro-censorship lobbies (such as the anti-sex-worker lobby which recently got its own Internet censorship law, FOSTA, passed in the name of combating “human trafficking”).  Enemies of freedom may be evil, but they’re not stupid. They understand that freedom can only be successfully attacked by suppressing access to ideas and information.

Fortunately, defenders of freedom understand that too. Even if today’s Comstocks manage to shut down Defense Distributed like they shut down Backpage, the genies are already out of the bottle. Sex workers are already advertising elsewhere (and more securely). Defense Distributed’s gun plans have been downloaded thousands of times and made available via numerous publicly accessible venues.

The second round of the battle against Comstockery isn’t going to last a century. In fact, Comstock’s spiritual children have already lost — nothing short of shutting down the Internet, if even that, could possibly turn the tide for them.

Now it’s time to punish those rogue attorneys general — in court, in reputation, and at the ballot box.

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Back Alley Regulation

Before Roe vs. Wade, pregnant women were almost never prosecuted for breaking anti-abortion laws.  Instead, enforcement focused single-mindedly on the sellers of abortion services.

[T]here is a long record of states treating women as the second victim of abortion in the law that can be found and read. To state the policy in legal terms, the states prosecuted the principal (the abortionist) and did not prosecute someone who might be considered an accomplice (the woman) in order to more effectively enforce the law against the principal. And that will most certainly be the state policy if the abortion issue is returned to the states.Why did the states target abortionists and treat women as a victim of the abortionist?

It was based on three policy judgments: the point of abortion law is effective enforcement against abortionists, the woman is the second victim of the abortionist, and prosecuting women is counterproductive to the goal of effective enforcement of the law against abortionists.

That’s from Americans United for Life, but Katha Pollitt concurs in The Atlantic:

[T]he general lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting those who perform abortions and the almost total failure to prosecute and jail women for having them suggest that whatever Americans may consider abortion to be, it isn’t baby killing, a crime our courts have always punished quite severely.

Now suppose you actually care about a woman’s effective right to choose.  If so, the target of the punishment is far less important than the probability and severity of punishment.  If you had an unwanted pregnancy, would you rather live in a world where anti-abortion laws imposed a $50 fine on the mother with 1% probability?  Or a world where anti-abortion laws imposed the death penalty on the doctor with 100% probability?  Obviously the former.

In the topsy-turvy world of political debate, however, the target is what matters.  “You want to put women in jail” is widely seen as a “pro-choice” claim, and “We don’t – and never did!” is widely seen as a “pro-life rebuttal.”  Severity of punishment?  Probability of punishment?  These variables are too dull to discuss – even though strict punishment of doctors can easily be just as prohibitive as strict punishment of mothers.  (Indeed, strict punishment of doctors is probably more prohibitive than strict punishment of mothers, because one doctor is capable of performing thousands of abortions).

What’s going on?  This heated discussion is a special case of a more general pattern of “back alley regulation” that I discussed five years back.  Governments strongly prefer to concentrate their coercion on dehumanized “businesses” rather than human beings… even though businesses are, in fact, composed of human beings.

Governments rely on indirect coercion because direct coercion seems brutal, unfair, and wrong.  If the typical American saw the police bust down a stranger‘s door to arrest an undocumented nanny and the parents who hired her, the typical American would morally side with the strangers.  If the typical American saw regulators confiscate a stranger’s expired milk, he’d side with the strangers.  If the typical American found out his neighbor narced on a stranger for failing to pay use tax on an out-of-state Internet purchase, he’d damn his neighbor, not the stranger.  Why?  Because each of these cases activates the common-sense moral intuition that people have a duty to leave nonviolent people alone.

Switching to indirect coercion is a shrewd way for government to sedate our moral intuition.  When government forces Costco to collect Social Security taxes, the typical American doesn’t see some people violating their duty to leave other people alone.  Why?  Because they picture Costco as an inhuman “organization,” not a very human “bunch of people working together.”  Government’s trick, in short, is to redirect its coercion toward crucial dehumanized actors like business (and foreigners, but don’t get me started).  Then government can coerce business into denying individuals a vast array of peaceful options, without looking like a bully or a busy-body.

My point: Regulating sellers is a “back alley” method of regulating consumers.  If you actually care about consumer welfare, you won’t focus on the de jure targets of the punishment.  You’ll focus on what the punishment accomplishes de facto.  Indeed, if you think a regulation is a bad idea, you should probably prefer regulations that target the most humanized humans involved.  Why?  Because when the law orders people to harshly punish sympathetic targets, law enforcement looks for excuses not to enforce the law.  And such excuses are never hard to find!

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Few Libertarians?, Law Enforcement Culpability, & Not Feminism (35m) – Editor’s Break 071

Editor’s Break 071 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: why there are seemingly so few people who identify as someone who believes in the philosophy of liberty; who holds more culpability for aggression that is the result of bad laws, policymakers or law enforcement?; a challenging and enlightening look at motherhood, birth control, and abortion from a feminist perspective; and more.

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That’s Not Feminism: 3 Ways Women Advocate For Their Own Oppression

Another women’s march has come and gone, and once again I wasn’t in attendance. Not because I am anti-woman (I would actually argue that I am more pro-woman than even the most die hard feminists), and not because I don’t think women should have equal opportunities and treatment as men. Of course I do. At this point, who doesn’t, really? (Donald Humpty Dump and his cronies don’t count). I love seeing all the ways we demand our rights and equality (like intersectionality), and saddened by the issues that don’t make it to mainstream media (like rights in childbirth).

At the same time, women aren’t men, and often times feminism seems to me more about women wanting to become like men than more like… women.

The patriarchy runs so deep that we can easily find ourselves knocking on the doors of it and desperately asking to join the ranks and systems of a man created world. Personally, I would much rather tune into the power of what makes us female, and work to take down the current model, recreating a new one that wholly supports what it fundamentally means to be a woman. In all of our intuition, vitality, and nurturing spirits.

Don’t mistake this to mean that I believe women and men should be pigeonholed in set gender roles and stereotypes. With that said, and I will say it again, women and men are different, and that is ok. Not only is it ok, but it is crucial for the health and continuation and cooperation of our species.

Something I often see in the feminist movement (and I am a feminist!) is women demanding for something that appears on the outside will liberate them, but in reality, it only furthers their oppression. Usually, the very nature of the thing they are asking for, the very concept of it is bred from patriarchal ideals and ways of thinking.

Women, if you are really wanting to take back your power as a woman, then understand the ways we unknowingly conspire with the patriarchy to keep us from knowing who we really are and what we are capable of…

1) Work/motherhood/childlessness

No, I am not here to say that mothers need to stay home, not work and resort to being housewives. But I will say that it’s the patriarchy that made us all believe that “merely” raising children is an inferior path. Only a society that detests, ignores, and denies the importance of the mother/child relationship says that motherhood is nothing but a burden on women. It is only a burden in a society that puts all of it’s worth into production and growth of industry. It is only a burden in a male centered society that offers women who have had babies no support. It is only a burden in a society that has made it to where the choice to become a mother only further disadvantages a woman.

Your choice to not have a baby is most likely coming from being raised in a patriarchal society that has tragically low views on women and children and has detroyed the the more natural ways of life lived by our ancestors that is more conducive to that.

But don’t be confused. It isn’t motherhood itself that further disadvantages a woman. It is the society that she finds herself in and the fundamental way it operates. Patriarchy puts mothers at a disadvantage. Not motherhood.

There is a big influx of women choosing to not have children and parading it as a choice of empowerment and liberation. For some or many women this is perhaps the case. I am not suggesting all women should have babies and I absolutely believe in having a choice. But a choice can only be made when the option to have a child without you having to sacrifice your life is present. I can’t help but wonder if this choice was made based on the current way society is set up, and the values women have taken on from a society who only grants validation to women who work hard according to its patriarchal definition of “hard work.”

You see, we don’t recognize the hard work of woman (yes, I meant woman, not women). The dark, underground work. The lead to gold. The blood. The death to rebrith. The places we have to go to bring life into the world (and many women don’t even know that one because more patriarchy, i.e. medicalized birth).

We don’t see the behind the scenes work of mothers and women. The work that often goes unnoticed, but without it, everything would collapse.

If a woman has to choose between her job or having a child, that isn’t an empowered choice. If a woman has to jump out of bed at 3-6 weeks postpartum to go back to work or else she loses that job isn’t something we should all high five for because #workingmom.

That mom just severed the symbiotic relationship that is required for mother and child to thrive (which ultimately means for humanity to thrive). She just had to stop breastfeeding and start feeding from a bottle. She just had to leave her baby all day which increases her risk for PPD. It also increases her and her baby’s cortisol production (stress hormone). A woman’s body isn’t even fully healed in this amount of time, and some studies show it takes a woman a whole year to fully recover on every level after giving birth (I can attest to that one). What this is essentially saying is the work to be done out in the world is more important than the work of raising healthy (physically, emotionally, psychologically) humans. We are telling women that they are more valuable at work than they are at home with their newborns. A job that no one can replace for the mother and be as effective as. How is all this in any way, “pro woman?”

2) Birth Control Pills (and all hormonal contraceptives)

I’ve always been a feminist, right? So even when I was younger and very much ‘asleep’ I identified as a feminist, and I was one of these people who thought birth control was like a female entitlement like, ‘How dare you not make this free and widely available.’

But as I began to research more about it, I learned it’s–and not to be too inflammatory–but the ultimate tool for oppression of the modern woman.

Your biology is meant to guide you. It’s meant to empower you, it’s meant to, you know, create a sense of vitality if you can inhabit your body and be in a truce with it.

-Dr. Kelly Brogan MD

Your fertility is not a burden. It’s your power. Our demand and outcry for hormonal contraception means the patriarchal system has very successfully made women believe that they can’t be bothered by what makes them women (so be like a man, basically).

The wide use of synthetic hormonal contraceptions have stripped women of their unique rhythmic cycles and understanding of their own biology. It has meant that the majority of women know nothing about their monthly cycle, or how to track it, or how to read their body for their own personal advantage. This ancient and vast well of wisdom that was given to women has been taken from them by medical, patriarchal thought that says women can’t know their bodies so well. That they need a pill to control their moods, hormones, and when they bleed.

Just like a lot of pharmaceuticals, the pill keeps you from looking within. It band-aids potential imbalances within the body. Don’t even get me started on the long list of side effects and negative outcomes women experience on the pill. Did you know if a woman is taking birth control she is 30% more likely to be prescribed anti-depressants than a woman who is not on birth control? Do you know how many parents are grieving over their daughters who lost their lives to pulmonary embolism (a side effect of the pill)? Not to mention the day-to-day health repercussions like weight gain, migraines, heavy bleeding, low libido, mood swings, et cetera, ad infinitum

Hormonal contraception is a total undermine of a woman’s health and wellbeing. It is the manipulation of her sex hormones, which are inextricably connected to the rest of her body. It is the tactical breakdown of a woman’s autonomy and opportunity to know her true self. It is the rejection of her feminine essence and the power, intuition, and magic that women of the past gained from the total embrace and connection to their monthly cycle.

There is nothing more liberating and empowering than embracing who you truly are as a woman, without suppressing it. There is nothing more empowering than taking 100% control and responsibility for your body, fertility and cycles, and knowing how to work with and understand the ebbs/flows and energy shifts that occur throughout a woman’s life. For me, there has been nothing more radically empowering than taking 101% responsibility and control of my reproductive health. My rights cannot be taken away. Nothing can be given to me that I don’t already have.

There is nothing empowering or liberating about handing your health over to big medicine. There is nothing empowering about not seeking the wisdom of your body because you can just pop a pill to manage your cycles for you. It doesn’t come without a cost. Women deserve to be given all the information before they are given the pill, but more often than not, this information is not disclosed, once again making it not a truly empowered choice. It’s more like the default due to the lack of choices.

There’s a reason there isn’t a birth control like this for men. No really, it’s because they tried but the side effects were too unbearable for them. I don’t know if the patriarchal overtones could reek anymore strongly. Not to mention it absolves men of the responsibility to be vigilant about unwanted pregnancy.

3) Abortion

No “choice” is ever made outside of the potent and unseen forces of socialization that we are all subject to, whether we recognize this or not. I’m much less interested in the reasons and rationalizations for why individuals make the decisions that we do, in favour of looking at choices as political and systemic. I hope that everyone can recognize that while it is never necessary or appropriate to judge individual women for their “choices”, it is in fact essential to make judgements about the cultural mores and expectations that underpin individual choices—this is, after all, the purpose of feminism as a political movement.

-Yolande Clark

Whoa, Nelly. Before I get bombarded with hate, let me tell you that I don’t identify as pro-choice or pro-life (as we commonly define those terms), because this issue is not that black and white to me.

With that said, what I have come to realize in my investigation is that often times, a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is a symptom of living under a patriarchal regime, not a solution to it. Let me explain…

At this point, I don’t have strong opinions about what constitutes as the beginning of life, nor do I have a religious dog in this fight, so that won’t be the position I am coming from. I am more interested in what drives 1/3 of women to have an abortion at some point in their lifetime. One third. That’s one third of women who don’t “feel proud kinship in the earthy, elemental beauty of birth. To hold it in contempt is to reject our distinctive power, our bodies, ourselves,” as put by Frederica Matthews-Green. (Seriously go read that article). So what’s up? Honestly, I could dissect this topic forever, but I will try to keep it concise.

First I want you to ask yourself this question: Do you believe that if we lived in a matriarchal/woman-centered and revered society, one that understood deeply and honored and prioritized the mother/child dyad, women would still be getting abortions at the number we see them getting them today?

In my opinion, if a woman wants her baby, she should have the right to the means to be able to do that. For a woman to feel like she has no choice (which is the opposite of how we tout pro choice abortion) but to terminate her pregnancy because of societal expectations of who and who is not capable and deemed acceptable to give life, is in its essence patriarchal and abusive to women and their children. Because we don’t have an understanding or reverence for the mother/baby relationship, we place all these outside conditions on who is suitable to have a baby. The underlying message is that the woman herself isn’t enough. She must have a certain amount of money, be a certain age (we hate pregnant teens), be partnered (and preferably married according to many), et cetera, for society to give the nod of approval to her pregnancy. One poll revealed that most women get abortions because it was what someone else thought they should do (boyfriend, parents, et cetera).

In a patriarchal society, death and destruction is the solution to a perceived problem. In a society that was truly for women, the suggestion to end her pregnancy when she felt alone and upsupported wouldn’t make the top of the list. Asking how we can help and support her and make it possible to have her baby (the preferred choice) would. Abortion is a false sense of control and autonomy when a woman feels she has no other option.

If an entire society is set up in a way that becoming a mother only further disadvantages you, is it fair to call having an abortion a true choice?

It’s not really pro-choice if the option to keep the baby (and thrive) isn’t on the table. If we are going to be a pro-choice society then we really need to give women the resources and support they need to keep the baby without it being some great sacrifice. Otherwise, where is the choice really? I don’t think any woman ever really chooses to abort her baby. Abortion is what happens when a woman feels she has no other option.

-Suzanne Gross

Patriarchy is driven by profit and control. It’s what ultimately deconstructed colonial and tribal lifestyles. Lifestyles that support the mother/baby relationship, which is to say, supports our humanity. Without that, it isn’t a wonder why so often women feel driven by desperation to end a pregnancy. Having a child in this culture is grueling work. How can we blame us?

Feminists for Life maintains that abortion rather reflects traditional patriarchal values: seeking power through control and domination, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy, and using killing as a solution to conflict. These views represent a renaissance of the original American feminism. Like the early American suffragists, today’s pro-life feminists envision a better world in which no woman would be driven by desperation to abortion.

It is unjust to ask a woman to choose between sacrificing her life plans or her own child in order to participate freely and equally in society. Instead, let us work together to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.

Marilyn Kopp, Washington Examiner

I haven’t even touched on the corruption of the abortion industry and how it’s simply another way we commodify women’s bodies. Nor have I mentioned the physiological and emotional consequences of interrupting a pregnancy that most women have to suffer in silence about because our society doesn’t offer support for the biological after effects of abortion. Because, once again, patriarchy only values that which it can cash in on and assert control over. Nurturing and healing people doesn’t exactly fall into that category.

I totally get that there are some situations (like rape) where a woman choosing to terminate isn’t coming from being driven by societal expectations and lack of support. These are more rare, and I am speaking about the majority of women, but this is why I am not an absolutist in this discussion. With that said, I still believe this is a systemic issue that needs to be investigated and addressed.

Again, I could go on about all the misconceptions here, but I think I have made my point clear. Please contact me personally if you have any questions.

When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society — so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.

-Mattie Brinkerhoff

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Reproductive Rights, Legalizing Murder, Social Warfare, & Wage Slavery (34m) – Editor’s Break 066

Editor’s Break 066 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: female verse male reproductive rights in a legal context, what would happen in society if murder were legalized, how democracy creates social warfare, the logical sleight of hand performed by people decrying so-called “wage slavery”, and more.

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Substituting Passion for Reason

I’ve said in the past that I don’t “like” abortion, but I’m not passionate about the issue. People who are passionate about it make me uncomfortable, and anytime I write about it I know I’m inviting passionate people to descend upon me. Thus I don’t mention it often.

I do not believe a zygote has rights– you can’t violate it. I believe a full-term baby does have rights, even though it isn’t capable of exercising many of them yet. I believe those things as strongly as I believe gravity is a real force which I can depend on to be consistent, but I can’t think of a way to prove it so I can’t be 100% positive.

That means I believe somewhere along the path from zygote to blastula to embryo to fetus to baby, this living tissue- the zygote into the future, undergoing continual cell division- becomes a human. Not just human tissue or a unique human genetic thing, but A Human with human rights no one has the right to violate. And I don’t know how to know where that happens so my position would be to err on the side of assuming rights earlier rather than later.

I do absolutely believe pregnant women have every human right.

It seems to me that rights could probably be said to correlate to nervous system function in some way. Yes, I know this opens the door to debating how functional a human’s brain must be before I would say they have rights. And, like all the rest of this, I don’t know.

This lack of knowing is why I can’t be passionate about it. It’s why I’m not going to go hard against others for their opinion, whichever way they believe. I’m not going to argue very hard for my opinion on the topic. Because, no matter how passionate you are on either side, it is an opinion (not based on enough facts) you are passionate about. You don’t know, even if you believe you do. No one does. It depends on subjective definitions and assumptions. It leads to absurd declarations from both sides when passion gets involved.

And, usually, it leads to calls to make something “illegal”. I don’t believe it’s ever right to get government or its “laws” involved in anything.

If you are passionate about the topic, on either side, do what you feel you must. Just don’t expect much support or attention from me.

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