Thank you for your kind words. I know we don't always see eye to eye, but I appreciate you as a sincere, independent-minded observer on the state of the world. That and the fact that we get along and can converse civilly helps make questioning each other's ideas in these discussions productive as part of a collective endeavor in the libertarian community (like other intellectual communities) to reason and dispute with each other in order to seek the truth.
You say that "the goal of productive expression is to bring about specific desired change." So then since George Orwell's classic "1984" was science fiction and not tied to seeking any specific real-world change, but rather warned of the dangers of totalitarianism with a broad brush, you would say it was not "productive expression"? If it *wasn't* productive expression it's sure fooled me, because over half a century after he wrote it, Orwell's book is seen as a masterpiece, makes the bestseller lists and even the news, and is regularly mentioned whenever discussions about government surveillance and privacy come up.
I didn't say "Remove the current government from power" is always the implicit goal of radical speech, only that it is in many cases. (If you can visualize a better system, why *wouldn't* you want the current system gone?) Orwell's novel can be seen as radical speech in the sense that the world he envisioned was drastically different from the status quo -- only instead of describing a better future and arguing "We ought to make the world more like this", "1984" described a much worse future and implicitly argued (explicitly if you count Orwell's writings and comments about his work) that "We ought to make the world *less* like this."
The difference between revolution and reform is mostly a matter of degrees. When a government is overthrown, very rarely if ever are *all* the vestiges of the old order swept away. A revolution can be seen as simply a big, sweeping reform, or package of reforms. So from the perspective of preserving the status quo, I don't think the FBI was being paranoid about the civil rights movement, if by "paranoid" we mean "fearful without any rational basis". After all, none of the American revolutionary leaders of 1776 (well, except maybe Thomas Paine) were planning to overthrow the British government either, just reform a part of it (in a manner of speaking). They did end up replacing all the personnel in the division of the British government with jurisdiction over the 13 colonies, but maintained much of the British political tradition. The civil rights movement *did* have the potential to significantly disempower the U.S. government. What if American blacks had tried to secede and form a separate country? There was talk of this in the '60s.
Moving on to who qualifies as a "political prisoner"... The penalties for dealing in narcotics are way harsher than the penalties for simply operating an otherwise approved business without a license. When the penalties for a particular action are way out of proportion relative to how other similar types of behavior are treated, that is a telltale sign that you are dealing with a political offense rather than a real crime. It isn't just language and social attitudes that can be "politically correct" -- the law has its own forms of political correctness. Selling cocaine without a license is more "politically incorrect" than selling coffee without a license. If you're punished for being politically incorrect, you are arguably a political prisoner. The victims of government bans on selling politically incorrect substances aren't so categorically different from the 18-year-old sitting in Guantanamo. If government officials had sufficient chutzpah, instead of letting people rot in Guantanamo without charges or trial they could simply create a law requiring enemy combatants to be licensed, and then punish them for not having the proper licenses. By your logic this would make them equally entitled to be called political prisoners, yes?
I think I've remarked before on this list how infantilizing their political opponents seems to be a favorite conservative trope, so it seems fitting to me that you would used the term "whining" -- even if it may fall a bit short of the standard for "reasoned" or "objective" discussion -- in arguing for what is to my mind a socially conservative or bourgeoisie point of view (that those who break the law should "expect", that is to say incur without complaint, the punishment prescribed for breaking it. If a law is *unjust*, why the hell should one be forced to endure its unjust penalty as the price of breaking it? It's like saying that you should be willing to have the schoolyard bully beat you up if you object to him taking your lunch money! Where's the justice in *that*? Enduring an unjust penalty when you can avoid doing so may be brave. From an activist perspective, it may be an effective sacrifice for the cause. If someone voluntarily goes to jail with the explicit aim of protesting a law from the most morally unassailable position and in order to increase the likelihood that it will be abolished and others spared wrongful imprisonment, I'd say it is not just brave, but noble. But it may also be foolhardy, defeatist, masochistic, or just plain stupid.
Regarding Aung San Suu Kyi, I in turn anticipated some of what you might say, which is why I took the trouble to look up the specific Burmese law that she broke, which was a little hard to find. Yes, the Burmese regime's 1975 State Protection Law cited at the bottom of my previous message is undoubtedly a "self-preservation rule". But it's also The Law™ in Burma. It happens to be about as explicitly about the self-preservation of those in power as such laws get, but -- and this is key -- *lots* of other laws are about government self-preservation whether they acknowledge it so straightforwardly or not!
The marijuana laws that Adam Kokesh was protesting are largely about government self-preservation. Look at the history of how marijuana was criminalized in the U.S. "After Alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933, funding for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), which is now the Drug Enforcement Administration, was reduced dramatically. The FBN's director, Harry J. Anslinger, then became a leading advocate of Marijuana Prohibition..." (see http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/editorials/jan-june01/drug_laws.html ). Those elements in government that profit from these laws and depend upon them for their well-paid government jobs -- police, prosecutors, judges, prison guards -- are among the chief statist elements fighting to maintain them on the books.
But maybe I'm focusing too much on looking for a rationale that would allow Adam Kokesh or someone else to safely break a law without jeopardizing his political prisoner status in your eyes. If you can arbitrarily discount government laws designed for self-preservation when considering the question, surely you can arbitrarily dismiss other unjust government laws inn a similar manner?
According to the article about Kokesh linked in my previous message, he was charged with assaulting an officer and impeding arrest. If you have a link that says otherwise (i.e. that he was charged with inciting people to break the law), please provide it. Let it also be noted that inciting people to break a law *is* a form of speaking against a law. It is calling for specific, productive action, but itself remains speech, not action. Holding such incitement to be a crime is a bit of a slippery slope, because it can easily be argued that *any* criticism of a law diminishes respect for that law and thus encourages people to break it. One can clearly see how that interpretation could easily lead to serious abridgments of free speech.
I'm not sure I even saw your original message about federal funding for local SWAT teams. Is that how this thread started? How do you figure that our discussion means we are not ready to take action with the SF Board of Supervisors? What's more likely to lead to action -- a topic that is discussed, or a topic that is not discussed? If the latter, should we be delighted when Congress talks about gun control or higher taxes?
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))