bookmark_borderThis weekend in overzealous social distancing enforcement…

In one of the latest examples of overzealous attempts to fight the spread of COVID-19, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham banned a drive-in movie theater from reopening.

According to the Washington Times, city officials in Las Vegas, New Mexico believed that the state government had given the drive-in the OK, and a showing of “Trolls World Tour” and “Doolittle” was planned. But then the governor called the county’s emergency management department and told them the drive-in wasn’t allowed to open after all. “The governor’s office said they would treat the drive-in just like any other movie theater,” said Mayor Louie Trujillo.

This makes no sense. A drive-in, where people sit in their cars in an outdoor field watching a movie on a huge screen, is completely different than a movie theater, where everyone is sitting in an indoor auditorium. If there is any form of entertainment well-suited to social distancing requirements, it would be a drive-in. I can think of no reason why a governor would ban a drive-in from operating, unless she is attempting to be as much of a jerk as possible and to ensure that none of her citizens are able to do anything remotely fun, ever.

In separate but similar news, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot dispatched three squad cars and two unmarked cars filled with armed officers… to shut down a church service.

Pastor Courtney Lewis was in the middle of his sermon at the Cornerstone Baptist Church when the police began to bang loudly on the front doors.

“All we are seeking is the same consideration and trust that is being tendered toward the liquor stores, abortion clinics, and Walmart,” the pastor said, according to the Geller Report. He described the arrival of the armed cops as “like the Soviet-style KGB… the only thing she hasn’t done yet is beat the doors down and arrest our members.”

Pastor Lewis wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch which can be read here.

bookmark_borderCoronavirus vaccine should not be mandatory

When a vaccine for the coronavirus is eventually developed, it will be a huge benefit to those who want the protection and peace of mind that it brings. There will also almost certainly be a minority of people who – for one reason or another – would prefer not to receive the vaccine.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

That’s why it’s disturbing that Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said in an interview:

If a safe vaccine is to be developed for Covid-19, I hope it’s mandated, and I will defend it… Let me put it very clearly, you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread the disease, even if you disagree. You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.

Like most proponents of forcing people to undergo medial procedures against their will, Dershowitz points to the Supreme Court’s decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), in which the court ruled that states may require people to be vaccinated if their boards of health deem it necessary for public health or safety. As World Net Daily puts it: “If any individual is allowed to act without regard to the welfare of others, true liberty does not exist, the court argued.”

I strongly disagree with this school of thought. Each person has a right to do anything he or she wishes, as long as those actions do not violate the rights of anyone else. What determines whether an action violates someone’s rights? One must compare the effect of the action on other people against the effect of banning the action on the person or people who wish to do the action.

In the case of vaccines, the question is: Which has a more direct impact on a person, having other people existing in the world who have not been vaccinated, or being forced to be vaccinated against one’s will?

As Dershowitz and the Jacobson court note, people are affected somewhat by the existence of other people who do not get vaccines. The percentage of people in a community who have or have not been vaccinated does affect each individual’s risk of catching a disease. People who are not able to get vaccines for medical reasons can catch illnesses from those who have chosen not to get the vaccine.

However, this impact is indirect. Actually getting sick has a large and direct impact on someone’s life, but a person who hasn’t gotten a vaccine does not cause anyone to become sick. The disease does. The presence of unvaccinated people merely affects a person’s risk of catching a disease; it does not cause a person to catch a disease.

On the other hand, being required to undergo a medical procedure such as vaccination affects a person directly. It involves a person’s skin being pierced by a needle and a substance being injected into his or her body.

A person’s right to make decisions about his/her own body outweighs any supposed right to make decisions about the bodies of other people in order to manage one’s own disease risk. In other words, the importance of being able to decide for oneself whether or not to get vaccines outweighs the importance of being able to decide whether or not the people around you get vaccines.

A country in which the government has the power to take someone to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into their arm is a country without liberty in any meaningful sense of the word. To claim, as the Jacobson court did, that there is no true liberty without being able to control other people’s actions that might have an indirect impact on you, is ridiculous.

I would likely choose to get the coronavirus vaccine when it comes out. But it should be my choice.

bookmark_borderGym owner defies restrictions in MA

In my home state of Massachusetts, a gym owner is defying government restrictions and encouraging others to do the same.

Dave Blondin, owner of Prime Fitness & Nutrition in Oxford, MA, opened his business on Monday, even though Massachusetts will not allow gyms to open until “phase 3” of its reopening plan. Monday was the beginning of phase 1.

“Enough is enough,” Blondin said, according to the Boston Herald. “We need our sanity back. Gyms should join me. Every gym owner is essential… We need to stand our ground. We have to open our gyms.”

“They’re so happy and smiling being able to work out again,” he said of gym members. “It’s so important for their mental health, anxiety, stress, depression.” He added that members are unanimously supporting him and have offered to pay any fines that the gym incurs.

One gym member, a nurse, said: “I think it’s a great idea. It definitely helps with the mental health… I don’t think there’s any issue going on whatsoever.”

Blondin said in a Facebook video: “I would like to call upon all other gyms in Massachusetts to do the same. Whether you’re big, whether you’re small, whether you’re a studio, whatever you are, start opening your doors. We’re all in this together. If Walmart that’s right down the street can sit there and have 356 cars there, then we can work out.”

So far Blondin has received a verbal warning and a written warning from the Oxford Board of Health. The law authorizes a $300 fine for each day the gym is open, as well as eventually a cease and desist order. Yesterday, 7 News captured an exchange between Blondin and board of health agent Tom Purcell during which Purcell asked Blondin if there was anything he could to convince him to comply. “Nope, let me open my business and get back to my livelihood,” he replied.

Speaking to 7 News, Blondin said, “It’s not fair. We’ve been out of business for too long now. The eight weeks have gone by, and I’ve used my PPP (paycheck protection program) funds, and that’s it. Unless they want to fund me again, this is over.”

“It takes a lot to stand up to everybody who’s staying closed,” said gym member Samantha Chamberlain.

Blondin said to Channel 5/WCVB:”If the worst thing that they’re gonna do is give me a citation… I’m trying to choose my freedom. Yeah, I’ll take the citation.”

Town Manager Jennifer Callahan said she has received “many angry calls and emails from residents calling on the town to shutter this business immediately.” Why someone would make an angry call or send an angry email about people minding their own business is beyond me. Blondin and his members are doing nothing wrong, and I admire their courage in standing up to government overreach.

bookmark_borderRebellious gym owner arrested in California

In Oceanside, California, gym owner Lou Uridel was arrested for opening his business in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home order. Upon being released, he has continued to defy the order by re-opening the gym. The police department stated that it plans to cite Uridel for each day the gym remains in operation. The maximum penalty for each citation is $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.

Reportedly, police told Uridel that they would arrest every customer if he reopened his gym. However, after consulting with his lawyer, he was advised that police did not have the power to do that, and so he decided to re-open this past Wednesday.

“There’s some members who kind of shy away from that and there’s some members who say, you know what, if they’re going to take me away in handcuffs for working out, then they can go ahead and do it,” Uridel said.

Salute to everyone who falls into the second category and is willing to take a stand against government overreach.

bookmark_borderNorth Carolina tattoo artist arrested for opening store

In another example of government overreach, a tattoo artist in Apex, North Carolina was arrested for opening his shop and charged criminally for violating Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order. Matthew “Jax” Myers, owner of Apex Tattoo Factory, faces up to 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Myers announced his intended opening on social media, and police arrived on scene shortly after the shop opened at 1:00 p.m.

Even facing arrest, Myers stuck to his principles. “While understanding of and generally cooperative with officers, he refused to come into compliance with the Proclamation and was subsequently arrested without further incident,” a police statement read.

Like Michigan barber Karl Manke, Myers said that he had attempted to apply for unemployment benefits and for a small business loan, but was denied. He had no other way to pay his mortgage and was concerned that his business would die.

“I’m a law-abiding citizen,” said Myers in an interview with TV station WRAL. “I’ve done nothing wrong… If people are willing to take the risk, it’s their body and their choice.”

As Western Journal columnist Andrew Sciascia points out, this is exactly the argument that liberals make with regards to abortion. Why does it not apply with regards to getting a tattoo, or any other activity that affects one’s coronavirus risk?

The Mayor of Apex, Jacques Gilbert, seemed to express support for Myers to WRAL: “Whatever the consequences are to his decision, I’m gonna be there after it all and extend my hand to him and say, ‘I’m in this with you and I support you and we’re gonna get through this together.'”

Read the Facebook post by Apex Tattoo Factory below or at this link:

Continue reading “North Carolina tattoo artist arrested for opening store”

bookmark_borderMichigan barbershop defies lockdown order with the help of militia

In another example of brave resistance to authoritarianism, a Michigan barbershop has opened in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home order.

On Friday, when barber Karl Manke, 77, attempted to open his shop in Owosso, Michigan, state police served him with an order from the Attorney General’s office telling him to close.

Yesterday, he opened shop again, this time with the help of the militia group the Michigan Home Guard, as well as dozens of other supporters. “Six troopers came in to enforce the governor’s order or to issue a cease or desist order so we are here to make sure he doesn’t get arrested,” said militia member Daniel Brewer. “We’re willing to stand in front of that door and block the entrance so the police will have no entry there today.”

Manke said that he had complied with the stay-at-home order for weeks but was denied unemployment benefits and had no choice but to open shop to earn a living. “I don’t need the governor to be my mother,” he said. “I’ll be open until Jesus walks in or until they arrest me.”

Reportedly the barbershop was filled with customers, with a line stretching down the block.

A legal victory took place today for Manke and his customers. Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart declined to sign a temporary restraining order against him. Additionally, Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian Begole announced that he would not enforce the stay-at-home order. “With limited resources, staffing and facilities, our priority focus will be on enforcing duly passed laws for the protection of Shiawassee County citizens,” he said. “I have decided, within my authority, that our office cannot and will not divert our primary resources and efforts towards enforcement of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders.”

Manke does face two misdemeanor charges and a $1000 fine.

At a press conference today, he said, “I’ve never seen this type of oppression by a government, ever, not even in the 60’s. The government is not my parent. Never has been…. If people don’t feel safe, they should stay home.”

Amen to that.

bookmark_borderColorado restaurant rebels against stay-at-home order

Salute to C&C Coffee and Kitchen, a Colorado restaurant that unabashedly opened yesterday in defiance of Governor Jared Polis’s stay-at-home order.

“We are standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!!” the restaurant tweeted.

A sign on the door read, “ATTENTION: Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins. If you are afraid to be within 6 feet of another person, do not enter this business!”

Many citizens of Castle Rock, Colorado seem to share these views about freedom, for the line to place orders wrapped around the building, and the tables and patio were full. According to owner April Arellano, approximately 500 customers showed up, almost double the number she typically sees on Mother’s Day.

“I’m so happy so many people came out to support the Constitution and stand up for what is right,” Arellano said. “We did our time. We did our two weeks. We did more than two weeks… and we were failing. We had to do something.”

“I know a lot of things are ran by fear,” she added. “I don’t have that fear.”

These sentiments make perfect sense and are something Americans should live by as the country emerges from its government-imposed lockdown.

Those who are fearful of catching the coronavirus – whether because they are in the over-60 age group, have lung problems or compromised immune systems, or simply would rather play it safe – can simply avoid going to businesses or other public places that are expected to be crowded. They can receive groceries, household items, and prescriptions (if needed) via delivery. Or perhaps some restaurants and stores will cater to the more risk-averse and limit their capacity so that a 6-foot distance between people can be maintained.

At the same time, people who do not have as much fear of catching the virus must be free to live their lives and run their businesses in the way that they choose, just as April Arellano and her customers did on Sunday. Placing a sign on the door warning people not to enter if they are afraid of being within 6 feet of another person is a great way to enable people to make informed decisions in managing their risk. Customers who are willing to take the risk of being inside a crowded restaurant can do so, while those who would rather not take the risk can choose not to go inside.

The bottom line is that people with and without fear have the right to live according to their own values. Those on the more risk-averse end of the spectrum have no right to impose their judgment on others, but unfortunately that is what has been happening all over the world for weeks and months as governments have imposed restrictions on people’s privacy, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement in an effort to combat the virus. Those who prioritize safety have the right to take any measures they deem advisable to reduce their risk, but they do not have the right to restrict the activities of others in an attempt to reduce their risk.

Therefore, C&C Coffee and Kitchen did absolutely nothing wrong by opening. The owners, employees, and customers should be saluted for their bravery and defiance.

bookmark_borderHawaii police arresting people for quarantine violations

In Hawaii, police are cracking down on dangerous criminals perpetrating such horrific deeds as visiting beaches, buying groceries, and picking up take-out food.

Hawaii requires all people entering the state to quarantine for 14 days, which is the strictest requirement of any U.S. state. Violations are punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or one year in jail. Government officials enforce the quarantine rule by requiring travelers to tell them what hotel they are staying at, and by telling hotels to issue room keys that can only be used for checking in, and not for re-entry. They also repeatedly call travelers and alert the police if the person does not answer his or her phone.

At least 20 people have been arrested for violating the requirement. This includes a couple from California celebrating their honeymoon who were arrested for leaving their hotel room. Another couple, from Virginia, were arrested for attempting to go to a grocery store before checking in at their hotel. Other individuals have been arrested for swimming at a hotel pool, for operating personal watercraft, and for purchasing groceries at Costco.

Honolulu City Council Member Kym Pine believes that travelers should be required to either be tested for the virus before boarding planes to Hawaii or have their locations tracked via cell phone. Speaking to the Associated Press, she made the curious argument that the economic damage caused by the lockdown rules – the unemployment rate in Hawaii is estimated to be between 25% to 35% – makes it particularly bad for people to violate them. “The people that are coming don’t care about us,” she said. “They obviously could care less whether they get the virus or not. So they obviously could care less about that mom and dad who have no job and no food.”

This just doesn’t make sense. The cause of Hawaii’s economic devastation is the rules that the government put in place banning events from happening, businesses from operating, and people from moving about freely. It’s the government who could care less about people with no jobs and no food. They caused the situation by implementing authoritarian measures that prioritize safety over not just economic prosperity but also freedom. People violating the harsh regulations are not causing Hawaii’s economic problems; the regulations themselves are. If anything, someone who cares about the economy would encourage tourists to visit, not punish them by throwing them in jail when they have done nothing wrong.

bookmark_borderCambridge man (and others) get a bit overzealous about social distancing

In one of the latest examples of people taking things a bit too far with regards to coronavirus safety measures, a Cambridge man allegedly threatened another man with a knife for having the audacity to exist on the same street as him. The victim was jogging and minding his own business. A man with two children, who was 30-40 feet away, screamed “Get the [expletive] on the other side of the street” and allegedly pulled out a knife. Although the man denied doing this, police found a knife in a yard bag nearby.

Speaking of overzealousness, in France, police dispersed a group of a couple dozen people who had the audacity to dance in the street. The cops also spoke to the person who was playing the music to which the group was dancing and warned him not to do so again. This individual, who had been playing music from his balcony for weeks to bring a bit of cheer to his neighborhood, publicly apologized.

And in another example of ridiculous excess, in Brooklyn, NY, cops broke up a funeral procession, chasing after and screaming at mourners. NYPD Chief Terence Monahan called this funeral for a rabbi “completely unacceptable,” and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, “We will not tolerate it. You are putting my cops’ lives at risk and it’s unacceptable.” Since March 16, there have been 60 arrests and 343 summonses issued in New York for social-distancing-related “crimes.” 

People should be able to play music in their own homes without being reprimanded, and to jog on a public street without being accosted and threatened. As for the funeral, how, pray tell, is a group of people going about their business, harming no one, and doing something they have a fundamental right to do “unacceptable”? And how does it put cops’ lives at risk? Anyone who does not wish to risk contracting the virus can simply not attend the funeral, and not have contact with the people who attended. There is no reason for cops to have anything to do with a funeral; the only reason they would need to be there is to enforce New York’s totalitarian policies, which should not exist in the first place.

These and similar incidents underscore the fact that we are now living in a world in which such simple actions as jogging on a public street, dancing, or attending a funeral are considered crimes. Police and private citizens are punishing innocent people who are doing nothing wrong and are simply going about their business. Mean-spirited, senseless statements and actions such as these are truly unacceptable and should not be tolerated in what is supposed to be a free society.

bookmark_borderMore protests against government overreach around the country

My heart is cheered at the news reports of protests all over the country against state governments’ authoritarian, anti-liberty actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Michigan, protesters held what they described as “Operation Gridlock” to express their opposition to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.

In Texas, a “You Can’t Close America” rally took place outside the State Capitol in Austin. “It’s sad how easily, with the snap of a finger, they’ll just shut down society,” said protester Dave Litrell, “and it’s even more sad that most of the people just acquiesce.”

In Indiana, protesters rallied outside Governor Eric Holcomb’s residence to criticize his executive orders closing businesses and directing people to stay at home. (Looks like one had an awesome picture of Ron Paul according to a photo in this article.) Protester Andy Horning said, “I’ve got kids who want to live a good life. I don’t want to bequeath them a Venezuela. I don’t want to bequeath them a North Korea.” One sign read, “My freedom does not end where your fears begin.” It would be hard to say it better than that.

Similar protests have taken place recently in California, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“Free people make their own risk assessments,” read one sign in New Hampshire.

“Quarantine is for sick people,” said Eric Moutsos, a protester in Utah. “When you lock healthy people away, that’s tyranny.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the protests: “People are frustrated, we’re anxious, we’re scared, we’re angry. Look, if you have partisan divisions splitting this nation now, it’s going to make it worse… This is no time, and no place for division. We have out hands full as it is. Let’s just stay together, and let’s work it through.”

But this statement does not really acknowledge the protesters’ dissenting viewpoints. It’s not that people are anxious or scared or angry… it’s that people believe the government’s policies are wrong. Cuomo makes no attempt to listen to the protesters’ arguments or to understand where they are coming from. He essentially says that everyone should simply have the same opinions as him and follow the policies that he and other governors enact. But the whole point of the protests is that not everyone supports those policies. Cuomo does not acknowledge that people can read about and think about the issues and have different opinions than he does. He does not acknowledge that people can have different ideas about how best to work through the situation and what values should be prioritized.

President Trump, to his credit, had good things to say about the protesters. “These are people expressing their views,” he said. “They seem to be very responsible people to me.” He also tweeted his support:

These pictures from the protests make me proud of my country. My views about individual rights, particularly in the context of the pandemic, place me in the minority, but reading about and watching videos of the protests makes me feel that I am not alone. I hope that there will always be true patriots like these, bravely fighting for freedom.