Welcome to YOUR Thursday edition of….<drumroll>…The Morning Roar!
Rapper Tiny Doo Faces Life in Prison for Rap Lyrics
“But at least we still have freedom of speech!” It’s a common phrase to cheer up those who are down about the current state of affairs, and indeed it’s true to a large extent. For the most part, people in the United States today can engage in political speech without much fear of serious repercussions. The key phrase here is for the most part.
Two years ago we reported on the chilling case of Brandon Raub, a an ex-marine forcibly taken to a psych ward after some incendiary Facebook remarks. Thanks to the Rutherford Institute, he was eventually released.
Now we have the case of Brandon Duncan aka rapper Tiny Doo, who is facing a possible life sentence in California for lyrics to his rap songs, which prosecutors argued aided in a conspiracy to commit murder by a gang he is allegedly associated with. ABC 10 of San Diego has the scoop:
On Friday, Duncan and some of the 14 other gang members facing attempted murder charges were in court for day two of a preliminary hearing. They are charged in a gang conspiracy involving nine local shootings since April 2013, as a judge mulled a possible trial.
Prosecutors are calling upon a state law put in place by voters in 2000 that has not been used until now. It allows for the prosecution of gang members if they benefit from crimes committed by other gang members.
Though Duncan hasn’t been tied to the shootings, prosecutors argued that he benefited from the shootings because his gang gained in status, allowing him to sell more albums.
“We’re not just talking about a CD of anything, of love songs. We’re talking about a CD (cover) … there is a revolver with bullets,” said Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna.
The goal of the law — extra powers aimed at gang crime.
In San Diego, a third of all crimes are committed by gang members.
Duncan’s attorney calls the charges a reach.
“It’s shocking. He has no criminal record. Nothing in his lyrics say go out and commit a crime. Nothing in his lyrics reference these shootings, yet they are holding him liable for conspiracy. There are huge constitutional issues,” said Brian Watkins, Duncan’s attorney.
It’s understandable why a community plagued by gang crime would want to take a “tough stance” on violent gang activity. I have no idea the extent, if any, of Duncan’s actual connection to the gang in question, or the murders. If it can be proven that he actively conspired to engage in murders, he should indeed by prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. However, the justification used for the charges against him and the law associated with it are troubling.
How is “gang” defined? Could the definition be expanded to include any group of people who gather together? How closely “associated” must one be to a gang to be prosecuted for a crime committed by them? Should song lyrics written by someone be used to prosecute them for crimes committed by others?
Regardless of whether Duncan is involved in any crimes, the free speech implications of this case should be troubling to anyone with a concern for individual rights.
Elon Musk Warns of Killer Robots
I love technology. I really, really do. It allows me to do all sorts of cool things like endlessly rant on the internet about liberty, and even to create a podcast to do so even more! I love my smart phone, my Roku, my iPad – all of it! But the science fiction lover in me has always had the sneaky feeling that “hey…what if this stuff gets too smart?”
Apparently I’m not the only with these concerns, and now someone with actual knowledge of the technology at hand has a warning about the future of technology. Business Insider reports on some remarks made by Elon Musk at futurology site Edge.org:
“The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe,” Musk wrote.
Aware that internet commenters may mock him for his outlandish predictions, Musk defended his views, writing, “This is not a case of crying wolf about something I don’t understand.”
This comes after remarks made by Musk at a recent Vanity Fair conference, when he stated:
I don’t think anyone realizes how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing. Particularly if [the machine is] involved in recursive self-improvement … and its utility function is something that’s detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect…
…If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans …
This immediately made me think of the film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where government agency SHIELD designs a program to detect “bad guys” before they actually become bad guys, with giant warships ready to patrol the globe eliminating undesirables. I can’t recommend the film highly enough, for comic book nerds, liberty nerds, and even regular folks!
Massachusetts Town Seeks Tobacco Ban
Just when you think society is making progress on the War on Drugs – and it certainly is, with the recent trend of marijuana legalization at the state level, as well as states like California decriminalizing drug possession – leave it to Massachusetts’ busybodies to try to crash the party.
Fox News reports on a Massachusetts town which is attempting to pass through a ban on tobacco:
Health officials in Westminster, Mass., about an hour outside of Boston, have proposed officially banning the purchase and sale of all tobacco products within city limits.
The Board of Health says the ban would make it more difficult for young people to get their hands on tobacco, in turn curbing the number of young smokers and eventually helping to cut down on tobacco-related illnesses and deaths in the area.
Tobacco use has been declining for years as people have finally begun to grasp the long term consequences of cigarette smoking. As with bans on any drugs, the ban on tobacco would do nothing more than turn tobacco users into criminals and push tobacco sales to the black market, or simply outside of Westminster.
In a more free society, people would be free to create and join city-states and communities in which people could mutually agree not to use tobacco, but enforcing such man-made rules on those who do not consent to them can only lead to rights violations and all sorts of accompanying disastrous consequences.
UPDATE!!! After a massive outcry from the people of Westminster, the proposal was dropped with the council voting 2-1 to end the proposal. Story can be found HERE.
I spoke with Dr. Mark Thornton about such consequences in an early episode of the Lions of Liberty Podcast.
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