Satan: The Evil Within

Nearly all of us are familiar with the concept of Satan, the personification of pure evil. He tempts his victims with the promise of granting them their hopes and dreams, only to pull them into his inferno when they have no way to escape. The Christians like to think of Satan as a red, horned, goat-legged monster (probably in order to make him easier to identify), but in reality, the devil is never so easy to identify. The devil is not a charging mass of soldiers, he will never admit that he bears any ill intentions towards you. He is not HIV, for the only way that he may wreak havoc upon you is by your own consent. As the master of deception, his job is to make you greet him with open, unwitting arms.

Now, the concept of Satan need not be taken literally in order to be potent; I follow no religion and don’t believe the devil is a physical being or even an outside force, but despite my descriptions of him as a largely symbolic being, he is nonetheless very real.

Where is this devil? He manifests himself in our behavior, tempting us to engage in dangerous behavior ranging from procrastination in the face of an ultimate deadline to falling for the tricks of politicians who promise to bring you security by removing restrictions on their power to kill or otherwise coerce you whenever they want. If you gauge his intentions by the smile he wears on his face, then you will fall for him, as he only ceases to smile when he knows that you have no escape from his wrath.

As the danger posed by this force is very real, we must also realize that since our devil is not an external force like the wind or the rain, the key to defeating him is within our own minds. As he can only attack you when you allow him to, you must be able to see past his illusions through the lens of truth. Stand firmly by your goals, your dreams, and your respect for the rights of others, and so long as you do so, he will not be able to open up your door. To do so is by no means easy (and I do not claim, in any way, to be perfect in this regard); he will knock ceaselessly and implore you to let him in, but if you believe strongly enough in what is right, the devil will lose in the end.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of warding off deadly desires within, resisting the will of people who have already succumbed to those temptations is even more complex. You can’t so easily bend the will of a dictator who is intent on killing you, but we can prevent such ugly weeds from growing on humanity by encouraging others to live a moral live and inform them of the dangers they will surely face. If ignorance is the first step towards defeat, then knowledge is the first step towards freedom.

Looking back at what I’ve just said, this post may seem like some sort of secular sermon. Indeed, religious principles operate on a common level with nonreligious principles, and as there are variations of ideas such as the Golden Rule in both Eastern and Western philosophy, we can identify certain morals as basic to our humanity. Killing, stealing, and enslaving are basic wrongs that nearly all of us can identify, and these are some of the principles by which all of us can live a moral life.

2012: Four cheers for liberty

The year 2012 isn’t even halfway over, and already, among all of the civilian-killing drone strikes abroad and bills in Congress intended to gang-rape the Constitution, there have been at least a few people who have decided to bite back, and in doing so, have made great strides in defending the freedom of the people. They have blocked free-speech-stifling cybersecurity measures, punched the teeth out of gluttonous public unions, and told the legislative and executive branches to sit down, shut up, and read the Constitution. They are:

The people of the Internet

Since November 16, 2011 when news of two putative cybersecurity bills called SOPA and PIPA, bills that would permit the government to take down entire websites for single instances of copyright law violations, leaked out, the Internet took action. Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) vigorously campaigned against the bill both on-and-offline, the owners of prominent websites such as Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia countered the support of companies like Netflix for the bill with anti-SOPA campaigns, and millions of Internet users all across America protested and called their Congressmen until both bills were taken off the discussion table.

It was heartening to see the American people joining together in defense of their freedom, and although the “cybersecurity” advocates in Congress will continue their onslaught against Internet freedom with bills like CISPA, the Internet will continue to fight against them.

The Supreme Court

In 2004, the FBI tracked a man named Antoine Jones for 4 weeks via a GPS device planted under his car under suspicion that he was committing narcotics violations. The government obtained no warrant for the search, in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for such searches, and when Jones was arrested, he moved to suppress the evidence obtained under that search as pursuant to his Fourth Amendment rights.

Jones’s case went to the Supreme Court, and on January 23, 2012, the court unanimously ruled against the warrantless search of private vehicles. The government has, in past years, been trying to get its slippery hands around the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement for searches, and with the US v. Jones ruling, combined with the earlier rulings of Bond v. United States (2000) and Kyllo v. United States (2001), it seems that this Supreme Court is very much in favor of protecting the 4th Amendment.

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and the people of Wisconsin

Public sector unions are a menace to the American people. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on increasing the wages of their members without having them work for it (public union members have a 31% advantage in wages over non-union members), and they campaign to elect politicians who will increase their funding, since they work for the government (they spend upwards of $165 million on campaign funding). All of that money comes from the taxpayer, and since these workers are receiving raises for free, the taxpayer receives no benefit whatsoever.

However, when Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin attempted to remedy this situation by pushing a bill to strip public unions of their power to collectively bargain for more money, he was met by fierce opposition. The unions themselves, predictably, would not let their free money be taken away from them without a fight, and many ordinary voters took their side as well.

An election to recall Walker was held, but the unions lost out on this one. Governor Walker is there to stay in Wisconsin, and with public unions stripped of much of their power, public education will surely increase in quality there, as teachers will now have to actually teach better in order to get wages (those teachers must be fuming in their indignation). This may very well have a ripple effect in other states, and I can only hope that these money-burning unions will grow weaker and weaker as other states will take the same measures that Walker did.


Judge Katherine Forrest

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2012 (NDAA), which contained a provision authorizing the indefinite military detention of any person, American citizen or not, who is suspected of being a terrorist. If you’re familiar with what happens when governments are given more and more unrestrained power (Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are great examples), then you were probably scared of what havoc the government could wreak with this law in place.

Fortunately, NDAA was given a satisfying kick in the crotch by District Judge Katherine Forrest, who declared the indefinite detention clauses of the act to be unconstitutional under the 4th and 5th Amendments. By filing an injunction against the act, Forrest has nullified it, and when the Obama administration claimed that it will apply the ruling only to the kinds of journalists who started the case (the same Obama administration that claimed to oppose indefinite detention), Judge Forrest announced that the ruling applies broadly, to all American citizens.

Is the NDAA case over? Certainly not. The Obama administration will certainly cling to the opportunity for draconian powers as long as it can, so expect the NDAA case to end up in the Supreme Court soon (which, I’m sure, will uphold Forrest’s ruling), but this ruling was a great first step and a stellar defense of the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution.

The forecast for liberty

The fight for liberty will likely always be a rocky one, and it will certainly be rocky this year, as governments tend to favor maximizing their own power, but liberty will always have allies so long as people like Wyden, Forrest, Walker, and the Supreme Court are there to support it. The only thing better than a number of committed freedom-fighters in government, however, is an informed public that is equally willing to defend the rights of the people. Any citizen is instrumental to protecting the rights of all the people, and as the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, our rights will be immeasurably safer if we have 313 million people watching.

(sources on public unions from the CATO Institute. Link: http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb_61.pdf)

Eduard Khil: 1934-2012

The unfortunate news came in on June 4, 2012. The 77-year old Russian singing sensation and internet meme, Eduard Khil, died due to a stroke that had left him in a coma about a month before. As a general rule, I don’t regard the deaths of famous people as more grieve-worthy than the death of anybody else, but Eduard Khil was a notable exception to that rule.

Now, unless you grew up in the Soviet Union, you probably hadn’t heard of Eduard Khil before 2009, when a video from 1976 of him poorly lip-synching to a non-vocal song of his surfaced on the Internet. Within a year, the video, referred to as “Trololo” by YouTubers, became popular for Khil’s quirky (and often ridiculous) movements and facial expressions. In 2010, Khil became aware of his Internet fame and took to it cheerfully, encouraging the people of the world to unite through the Internet to share their interpretations of the song and craft lyrics for it. Indeed, he seemed to love everything about his song being an Internet meme, laughing along with parodies and performing the song to fans online in order to share his cheer and good spirits.

Now, I was a fan of “Trololo” for a while before I had seen footage of Eduard Khil in 2010; the song was lighthearted, funny, and very exploitable for even more humorous parodies, but Khil’s recent videos put a human face to the man who, until then, was just a relic from 1976. His goodwill made “Trololo” more than just a YouTube video, and even though almost nobody who has seen the video personally knew him, the Internet will miss Eduard Khil, the man who wrote the national anthem of all Internet trolls.