Monthly Archives: January 2006

A funny thing happened on the way to the TV

So I’m getting ready to make dinner, and one of my favorite ’80s teen romps comes on, Summer School. It’s a pretty baaaad movie, but there were some great moments, mostly provided by the dialogue of one Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp, A.K.A. Dean Cameron.

Actually the movie has quite a lot of actors who actually had carreers, like Mark Harmon, Courtney Thorne Smith, Patrick Labyorteaux, and the aforementioned Cameron.

He’s also one of Sean Penns best friends; but I’ll try not to hold that against him too much; since he’s a hardcore libertarian, and has spoken at the last two national conventions (not a Big “L” libertarian here, but hey, it’s better than being a liberal).

So anyway, I do my normal thing and browse through the bios of the actors on IMDB, and I notice this: “Is the inventor of the Bill of Rights: Security Edition cards”

Huh… think I need to check these out… So I hit the website and see these:

What is the “Bill of Rights – Security Edition” ?

The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments to the constitution of the United States printed on sturdy, pocket-sized, pieces of metal.

The next time you travel by air, take the Bill of Rights – Security Edition along with you. When asked to empty your pockets, proudly toss the Bill of Rights in the plastic bin.

You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government workers enforcing the USAPATRIOT ACT need to get used to deciding if you’ll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights with you when you travel”

Flipping Brilliant!!!!

I bought the five pack, and I’m sending them to certain selected friends. Frequent travellers who can appreciate the sentiment, and dont mind pissing off the TSA.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra


“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”
— P. J. O’Rourke

“The blame for [the national debt] lies with the Congress and the President, with Democrats and Republicans alike, most all of whom have been unwilling to make the hard choices or to explain to the American people that there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
— Warren Rudman
(1930- ) US Senator (R-NH)

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

What The Censors Want To Achieve

Re-posting from The Liberty Belles, we have these two Google searches. The first is a US Google search for “Tiananmen” and the second is a PRC Google search for “Tiananmen”.

US Google search

People’s Republic of China Google search

In the long run this is not going to work for the PRC and it’s going to be negative for Google. I wonder how Patri feels about this?

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

War on Semantics

Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise: Analytic philosophy and liberal politics suggests that the ”war on terror” isn’t even a war.

The buy cialis discount fact is that we're not at war on terrorism, let alone against terror. Terrorism is a strategy. Actually, it's a normative assessment of a family of tactics. In the current climate “terrorism” refers to any political violence the speaker

doesn't like.

Fair enough, but are we not at war with terrorists? Bin Ladin et al certainly thinks so.

War is a metaphor for any all-out struggle against a serious problem: poverty, cancer, drugs, terrorism… Sometimes we use military hardware and tactics to further that struggle. Sometimes we even fight real wars as part of our strategy.

While a criticism of declaring war on “everything but the kitchen sink” is justified, terrorists are not inanimate, as are poverty and drugs; they are severely deluded and violently doctrinaire thugs who see our death as their sacred responsibility. So no, we’re not dealing with a metaphorical threat.

The idea that the so-called war on terror justifies dramatic expansion of presidential power is extremely dangerous. Terrorism is never going to go away. If we accept that we are literally at war with terror, we are signing on to perpetual war for perpetual peace.

I too am apprehensive about expanded presidential power. This is mainly because I think the government already exercises more power than the constitution allows. Nevertheless, we can’t very well accept terrorism, by offering no defense at all. Just think of what could have transpired, had the cheap cialis no prescription US and its allies (and liberty-minded individuals) simply assumed—as some did— that communism was a permanent fixture on the world stage.


Looking Around the Blogosphere

Brian Doss, at Catallarchy, has a great discussion on Treaties, Sovereignty and Binding Legal Authority. Apparently, there was an earlier discussion that brought up the idea that the US had ceded some of its sovereignty to the United Nations and could not declare war, in all cases, without UN authorization. Brian does an excellent job of explaining why this is not the case.

Brad Warbiany gives us his take on The Future of Liberty. He has an optimistic and upbeat view of the future, one that I personally share as well.

Perry Eidelbus takes a look at the birth rate and marriage rate in France and other Western countries and then discusses the problems that this brings to light for a social structure built on young workers paying for the retirement of the aged population in his article Hardly Something France Should be Proud of.

Resistance is Futile brings us Carnival of Cordite #45, which focuses on, appropriately enough, firearms involving the number 45.

An entry about the NSA and their wiretapping led to a discussion of the 4th Amendment at Hammer of Truth. Interesting discussion, and one that illustrates, to me, how important it is to determine the law through a textual reading, rather than an interpretive reading, of the law.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Upgrading to WordPress 2.0

Okey dokey folks, I’m upgrading The Liberty Papers to WordPress 2.0 this morning. At some point the site is going to go down. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that it comes back up. :-)

Update: All done. And amazingly easy. Here’s what I did:

  1. Backed up the database using PHPMyAdmin
  2. Backed up The Liberty Papers home directory using CPanel’s backup function
  3. Deactivated all plug-ins
  4. Ran the Fantastico upgrade script
  5. Reactivated all plug-ins

That’s it, all done.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

I Think They Skipped This Day In School

They being Congress Critters. Or, they just don’t read anymore. That might be the problem, since many of them are products of our wonderful public education system. Next time your Congress Critter votes for pork spending, send them this quote and ask them if the Constitution got amended.

“The true test is, whether the object be of a local character, and local use; or, whether it be of general benefit to the states. If it be purely local, congress cannot constitutionally appropriate money for the object. But, if the benefit be general, it matters not, whether in point of locality it be in one state, or several; whether it be of large, or of small extent.”

— Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Think About It

Think about the quote below and be honest about it. We call it “social justice” to take money or property from one person and give it to another through the use of the state’s monopoloy on coercive force. But, it is only justice for the person who benefits, not for the person who has the property taken by force. If you were to take state power out of the equation, would it be acceptable to take my money by force and give it to another person so that they can spend it on themself?

Robin Hood was still just a damn thief, regardless of who he stole the money from, or gave it to.

“Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve… But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn’t belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish that law without delay … No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic.”

— Frederic Bastiat
(1801-1850) French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before — and immediately following — the French Revolution of February 1848.
June 1850
Source: The Law, by Frederic Bastiat, 1850

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Sticks and Stones and Suicide Bombers

Matt Welch has a good essay up at Reason

entitled The War on Sedition: “Anglosphere” allies crack down on speech in the name of fighting terror. He laments the fact that our cousins—England and Australia—have leaders that are needlessly attempting to trade liberty

for security. The following quote especially ‘spoke’ to me:

“We need not to worry so much about Willkommen in einer Welt in der das Gewicht von Mohren Gold wert ist! The Rolls Royce der Slot book of ra online kostenlos spielen Slots. the loudmouths,” the former Conservative cabinet member and current Lord Douglas Hurd told reporters, sounding very much like an American, “as about the quiet acts of buy cialis proffessional online subversion viagra canada and training by dangerous people, up and down the country, who on the whole keep their mouths shut.”


Responding to a Reader

Stephen, of On Beyond left a comment for me on Elitists and a Society of Fear over on Eric’s Grumbles. In the comments on that post, Stephen holds forth with a few things that I don’t agree with, so I responded with my own comment. I decided that my comment really deserved to be a post of its own, given the length and set of thoughts. But, since I’m now transitioning this sort of writing pretty well entirely to The Liberty Papers, I posted it here. Enjoy. Discuss. Take issue. What have you.

Stephen, pointing out that there is a lack of evidence for someone’s pet theory is not political. It is, actually, an important component of the scientific method. It is perfectly valid to say that global warming is not established fact due to the inconclusive and contradictory evidence. Calling such a position political is an act of politics that plays right into the hands of those who wish to use “global warming” for their own purposes.

Your argument about why there should be intrusive government action taken is part and parcel of the precautionary principle. Check out the link in the main post. The primary problem with this principle is that it is logically inconsistent. The second problem with it is that it creates a stasis, a fear of change, because change might be bad. The worst thing about Kyoto is that it dooms billions of people to poverty and privation permanently. The reality of human society is that change is part and parcel of it. Humans are dynamic. If you try to lock them into an unchanging environment for “their own good” forces far beyond your control will undo your every effort.

I’m always amused when people deny that the media, including newspapers, television, magazines, Hollywood, musical artists, etc. don’t have power. Information is power. The ability to put information in front of people is power. The media, as a group, has an immense amount of power and money both. In fact, Sony, AOL, Comcast, Oprah, Susan Sarandon, NYT, People, and on and on, have at least as much liquid capital as companies like Chevron and GM. Potentially, since many Hollywood artists are worth tens of millions, or more, and under no obligation to share holders to turn a profit, they have more money. And, since they get invited into our living rooms, car stereos, etc. every single day, they wield immense influence. Couple that with lawyers who stand to make enormous amounts of money (and already have) through environmental legislation and litigation. How many lawyers make enormous amounts of money from environmental impact statements every single day? How many lawyers are involved in lobbying to increase environmental regulation and legislation? Why is that? Why is it that the advent of the media and politicians taking environmental issues really seriously coincides almost perfectly with the fall of the Berlin Wall?

By the way, there’s some interesting science to suggest that global warming and increasing CO2 is good, not bad. Consider that the Earth was actually in a minor ice age until the early 19th century. Evidence, almost universally ignored by the mainstream, indicates that emerging from that minor ice age has led to increased agricultural productivity, among other things. Increases in CO2 improves plant growth. Further, the earth has been in a constant state of change since the very beginning of the planet. The reality is that the planet and the various ecologies found on it have changed dramatically over the past 20,000 years, some “natural” and some caused by humans. I’m not sure I understand how humans creating change is not “natural” but beavers causing change is, but that discussion could fill a whole bunch of posts all by itself.

As someone with a background in engineering, which includes substantial training in the scientific method, I have to seriously question investigation and research funded by organizations with serious investment in certain outcomes. I have to question whether evidence is being suppressed when major scientific journals receive funding, through advertising and donations, from those same organizations and when scientists and engineers report that papers casting doubt on the desired outcomes are suppressed. I would argue that your friend is not getting all of the data because the data is being suppressed.

Now, suppose you were Chevron, and your primary source of revenue was being attacked. Would you fund research to find out the validity of the arguments made against you? Yes, you would. Would that be suspect due to conflict of interest? Of course. So, why isn’t the research funded by environmental organizations suspect due to the conflict of interest? The majority of the research being published right now is funded by environmental organizations and the Federal government. Now, interestingly, environmental organizations have three primary sources of funding: Hollywood, the government, and the fossil fuel industry. One has to ask who has less conflict of interest. The oil industry, which is funding all sides of the research, or the environmental organizations, which are not? Just a question to ask yourself. Another question to ask yourself is why the “reputable trade publications” will publish research favorable to the theory of global warming, but not research unfavorable to it?

On your last point, the primary difference between what Crichton (and I) have to say on this topic and what the folks who believe vehemently in global warming has to say is that we are saying that global warming has too many contradictions to accept as proven. We aren’t saying it isn’t happening, or is happening. I would like to see a truly concerted effort made to understand this without the pre-determined outcomes. If you think that can happen with government funding, I would suggest looking at the history of government science, which is not good.

Finally, I don’t choose my science based on my preference for the implications and thus I have no need to be gentle in my judgement of the censorship and suppression of science by religion, whether historically, or occurring today. I don’t like the implications of research into solar and wind generated power (it can’t meet our needs and will be far more expensive than fossil fuel and nuclear power), but I don’t reject it because I don’t like it.

There is a huge difference between my position, which is that the evidence is inconclusive, contradictory and biased and the position you appear to be taking. I should also point out that one of the pluses to true scientific investigation is that any other person with reasonable intelligence, who is willing to invest the time and effort, can recreate the investigation done by someone else and draw conclusions based on that without having to take what someone tells them on faith. When you are being asked to take something on faith (which much of current global warming theory is asking you to do), then it isn’t science.

Finally, the issue of technology and your bank analogy. A bank will lend me a million dollars when I walk through the door if I have a track record that shows I can pay it back. So, is there a track record for science, technology and engineering? There absolutely is. Not only has it kept pace with the population growth of the planet, it has surged far ahead. All humans, in every quarter of the planet, are far better off, by any tangible standard, than they were in 1800. There is less disease, less starvation, fewer childhood diseases, more food, better housing, more leisure time. Every single disaster predicted by doomsayers over the past centuries has been negated by the advance of science and technology. That’s a pretty good track record. If you showed up in my bank with a record of paying off million dollar loans every time one was made, and doing it early, I’d be inclined to lend you a million dollars, knowing full well I was going to make a profit on you. When a claim is made that technology and science can solve these issues, based on the track record, I agree and I’m willing to make the loan.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

American Gestapo?

There’s another Paul Craig Roberts piece at counterpunch that sounds the alarm, so to speak.

A provision in the “PATRIOT Act” creates a new federal police force with the power to violate the Bill of Rights. You might think that this cannot be true, as you have not read about it in newspapers or heard it discussed by talking heads on TV.

The portion in question, SEC. 605. THE UNIFORMED DIVISION, UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE, reads in part:


There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division'. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall perform such duties as the Director, United States Secret Service…

In addition…

(b)(1) Under the direction of the Director of the Secret Service, members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division are authorized to–

(A) carry firearms;

(B) make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have Normalerweise sind Fruit slots sehr ubersichtlich in der Vergabe von Bonusfeatures, aber dieser Spielautomat hat tatsachlich ein paar kleine Uberraschungen im Petto. reasonable grounds to cialis no prescription needed quick delivery believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony; and

(C) viagra soft perform such other functions and duties as are authorized by law.

Mr. Roberts’s reaction is nothing if not imaginative:

The obvious purpose of the act is to prevent demonstrations at Bush/Cheney events. However, nothing in the language limits the police powers from being used only in this way. Like every law in the US, this law also will be expansively interpreted and abused. It has dire implications for freedom of association and First Amendment rights.

We can take for granted that the new federal police will be used to suppress dissent and to break up

opposition. The Brownshirts are now arming themselves with a Gestapo.

So, the question before the house is: does the creation of a uniformed sub-set of the Secret Service signal the end of basic civil liberties in America? If so, why? If not, why not?


You Gotta Love the <span style="font-style:italic;">far</span> Left

Paul Craig Roberts, writing for counterpunch, touches all the bases in grand polemical style. There are the requisite ad hominem attacks against Bush, Cheney, Israel and America’s other “puppets” in the Middle East.

Nothing new there, but I was struck by an interesting bit of hypocrisy. Compare this:

Fox “News,” which in fact is the most thorough-going dispenser of war propaganda since the Nazi Third Reich…

…with this:

The US breeds terrorism by its 60-year old buy levitra policy of interfering in the internal affairs of Muslim lands online casino games and ruling them through surrogates. The US assaults Muslim sensitivities with the export of “American culture,” a euphemism for sexual promiscuity. The US creates enormous animosity by appearing to exploit Muslim oil wealth and by turning a blind eye while Israel expropriates the West Bank.

If the counterpunch article isn’t a prime example of propaganda,

the word is meaningless.


Carnival Of Liberty XXIX

Carnival of Liberty XXIX is up over at Combs Spouts Off. There was alot of great writing contributed for this week’s carnival and Richard’s does a great job pulling it all together. Head on over and check it out.

Are you interested in hosting the Carnival of Liberty ? As of right now, there are spots open in April and May. All the information you need is right here.

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Elitists and a Society of Fear

I just got done reading Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear“. I was very impressed by the depth of his research (most modern science fiction is long on fiction and short on science) as well as by the story. Like all of his books that I’ve read, the story gripped and entertained. Just as importantly, it is based on solid research and science. The underlying subject that is dealt with is global warming, climate change and the environmental movement. The actual plot line is a conspiracy by eco-terrorists and environmental groups to create a series of climate change disasters in a short period of time to convince people that rapid climate change due to global warming is actually happening.

The story, by itself, is entertaining, well written and enjoyable. Even without the science and research presented throughout the book, it would be a great read. But, using the mechanism of dialogues between the main characters and various folks who are either global warming “true believers” or skeptics, some excellent science is presented to the reader in a manner that doesn’t require a strong background in science to understand. Several key points are made throughout the book. Points that those who value liberty would do well to pay attention to.

  • The “science” that establishes global warming as something that “everyone knows is true” is very shaky. To the point of actually proving the opposite, in some cases.
  • Science has been politicized, primarily due to the presence of money and power
  • Global Climate Change is completely unfounded, there is no evidence whatsoever that weather patterns have gotten worse, or significantly different, in the past 50 years.
  • One of my favorites, proper application of the precautionary principle would actually preclude using the principle to make decisions. I live in a risk based world, and make decisions based on risk. The precautionary principle is the antithesis of risk based decision-making.
  • We live in a state of fear that is preyed upon, magnified and used to manipulate us by the Political-Legal-Media complex, or PLM. The ultimate goal of the PLM is to gain and hold power.

I’ve known for a while, somewhat vaguely, that the science surrounding environmentalism, global warming and climate change is very poor, even distorted or outright lies in some cases. But this book presented evidence that is incontrovertible. And demonstrates clearly why the environmental movement resorts to ad hominem attacks against those who speak out against them. In fact, this is a favorite tactic of a group of people that I will discuss further along in this post. When someone tries to prove you wrong by attacking you, rather than your facts, logic and reasoning, they have implicitly admitted that your position is correct. The next time an environmentalist attacks someone that doesn’t agree with them as a fascist, or right winger, or tool of the corporations, ask yourself why they don’t just prove that the person’s position is wrong. Matter of fact, ask them why.

A few facts about global warming are in order, and very interesting. The first is that, if you use global temperature data from roughly 1930, to today, it indicates a warming trend worldwide, although the amount of the warming trend is hotly debated. Conservative estimates indicate that the line is very nearly flat, less than one degree Centigrade. But, even more interesting, if you start with data in the 1830’s, instead of the 1930’s, the global trend is either flat, or slightly cooling. In fact, based on that evidence, in the 1970’s the environmental movement was preaching about the coming ice age, NOT global warming. Other “evidence” for global warming that also turn out to have very little basis in fact include the supposed melting of glaciers around the world and rising sea levels. It turns out that Antarctica, which contains 90% of the world’s ice, is actually getting colder and the ice packs are actually thickening. Except for one peninsula, which is the most northern portion of the continent, but accounts for less than 1% of the total ice in Antarctica. The overall trend in Antarctica and Iceland (two areas studied extensively) is increased glaciation, not melting. The glaciers in Iceland are actually “surging”, growing at rates far above historical trends. Concurrently, satellite studies of mean ocean sea levels indicates extremely minor rises in sea level, or none. The celebrated case of a village in Vanuatu having to be abandoned due to rising sea levels is not supported by evidence. The South Pacific shows a minor increase in mean sea level, while the North Pacific shows a minor decrease. In other words, local changes are occurring, but not worldwide changes.

None of this is to say that the environment is not impacted by man. Of course it is. And it has been for as long as man has existed. Indians in California, ten thousand years ago, used to set forest fires purposefully, in order to destroy specific types of forestation that didn’t provide an ecology that was conducive to the sort of game they lived on. Which is how the Sequoia and Redwood forests came to exist. Twenty thousand years ago, California was barren and nearly treeless as it came out of the last ice age. Between 14 and 15 thousand years ago, according to archaeological evidence, hunter-gatherer tribes around the world hunted the mastodon to extinction. There are really two different issues here. One is measurable and quantifiable and the other is not. The first issue is the impact that man has locally. We can measure and quantify the impact of dumping industrial waste into a river, for example. The second issue is what impact man may have globally. This is something we have no idea about, although we have a lot of wildly varying suppositions. And, as long as politics is part and parcel of the science involved with climate and ecology, we will not have any idea. Like anything else, when politics, power and money comes into play, the science of the environment, ecology and climate becomes distorted and corrupted.

This is one of the hardest things for those who favor regulation, intervention and “management” to understand. When you regulate something, when you provide money to bureaucrats to manage the regulation, when you associate political power with the thing, you automatically introduce corruption. Corporations, unions and other non-goverment organizations that have a vested interest in either the the thing being regulated, or the regulation itself, bring money and influence to bear to ensure that it works out the way they want it to. I’ve written on the subject before, as have many others. In this entry, We Gave Up Our Market Power, I give some strong reasoning for the fallacy that regulation can solve problems without leading to its own problems of corruption. By introducing tax money and government regulations and involvement into environmental and ecological science, we have brought about a situation where we can’t get at the truth. For the environmental movement, this doesn’t pose a real problem so long as the folks doing the research and publishing the papers give them the results they desire.

What the environmental movement doesn’t seem to understand, or refuses to understand, which isn’t quite clear, is that they have played into the hands of the very folks that most of them detest. Politicians, the media and lawyers, Crichton’s PLM complex, have capitalized on this entire thing to perpetuate a “state of fear”. Not the police state that some claim. This isn’t about secret police and military power and totalitarianism. These folks just want to perpetuate their own power, continue as the ones on the inside of the oligarchy. As far back as the 1890’s (or further, depending), politicians and the media were discovering that there was power and personal profit involved in creating fear. And, unlike the past, with modern methods of disseminating information, they could induce a much larger portion of the population to buy into their fear-mongering. Then they would position themselves as the ones who could “do something about it”. Thus we had fear of the Wobblies and possible communist revolution in the USA that helped bring FDR to power, fear of Japanese-American saboteurs that gave FDR’s government unprecedented (and unconstitutional) power, the Red Scare of McCarthyism, fear of Hippies and anarchy in the 60’s, another Red Scare in the 70’s, a crime scare starting in the 80’s and so forth. Interestingly, the current preoccupation with, and fear of, environmental disaster dates to the fall of 1989.

Which is when the Berlin Wall fell and we all realized the Cold War was over.

While I am not saying there is some huge, secret conspiracy (there isn’t), I am saying that the politico-legal-media grouping began engaging in groupthink, searching for other things they could use to continue to maintain power, prestige and money. And they found two things that would do the trick. One was crime. The other was the environment. Here’s what’s interesting about both of these topics. There is no objective evidence for the thing that we fear.Just the opposite, in fact. There is plenty of objective evidence that the things we fear are bugaboos. There is plenty of objective evidence that politicians have distorted these things to gain power, the media have distorted these things to maintain a very powerful position as purveyors of information and lawyers have distorted these things in order to increase litigation, which ……. gives them power and wealth.

In fact, since 1991 the crime index in the United States has steadily declines, every single year (source: The Disaster Center). When’s the last time you heard that on television or read it in a newspaper or magazine? Or heard a politician tell you that crime is getting better, not worse? During the years of steady increase in criminal behavior in this country, 1960 – 1991, crime was rarely the lead on the evening news or the front page. It was usually the Vietnam War, or the Cold War, or natural disaster or nuclear missiles, or what have you. Since 1991, violent crime has been a major facet of the media’s news, movies and entertainment, much larger than it was prior to then. The same goes for environmental issues. Starting in the late 1980’s, the media, followed by lawyers and politicians began to give environmentalists much more credence than previously. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the environmental movement was treated by the mainstream as a bunch of crackpots, which most of them are, to be honest. Suddenly, they got treated as serious people, talking about real issues, even when their data was completely suspect pseudoscience of the “everyone knows” variety. The exact same people. It’s not like these are different people, we are talking about folks on the extreme of environmental issues, Hollywood weirdos and such. Yes, these days there are a variety of scientists on board with the idea, but they didn’t get on board until their funding began to come from people who had a vested interest in an outcome that showed that global warming was happening. And now it’s on the evening news every night. With no real evidence to back it up.

If you doubt me, read Crichton’s book. He documents every single assertion and piece of data he presents in footnotes and a very extensive bibliography. It’s interesting that the author of “The Day After Tomorrow” didn’t bother with a single footnote or bibliography entry to back up their contentions. Nor was the movie’s science any better. In fact, at least the book tried to make a point of the fact that abrupt climate change happens (if it does, no one is really sure of any of this) regardless of what men do, or don’t do. The movie didn’t make any such attempt.

Now, here’s where things start getting interesting. Why is it that people use things like the precautionary principle, environmentalism to prevent technological advances, fear of crime? What has been the outcome of each of these things, as promoted by the establishment of politicians, lawyers and the media? The single biggest impact has been to add cost to technologies and activities that could dramatically lower cost and improve standards of living for the poor. Not for the wealthy, who, after all, already have sufficient surplus in their life. Better methods of farming, power production and industrialization have been prevented time after time in the name of saving the environment. The wealthy elites of the West have decided that they know best for those poor, ignorant folks in Africa and Asia and South America. Aside from it being about environmentalism these days, it is amazingly similar to the words that came out of the mouths of wealthy Europeans in the 19th century who were going on about the “White Man’s Burden”. That, in fact, was a progressive idea in its day. Now, I suspect that if Hollywood had to live in the same conditions as they are condemning people in Cambodia to live in, they might be a bit more eager to not prevent the use of technologies and products they don’t like. In fact, what’s even worse is the hypocrisy of all of this. Watch what kinds of cars the Hollywood and media elite drive. Are they driving a little hybrid that gets 50 or 60 miles to the gallon? Or a stretch Hummer? When’s the last time they flew anything less than first class? How about their homes? Ten and fifteen thousand square foot monstrosities in the Los Angeles basin that cost thousands of dollars a month to cool and light. When’s the last time Ted Kennedy or Susan Sarandon suggested putting a wind generator on their own property?

This is yet another case of elites who believe they know what is best for you and I. These folks are no different from the men who ran the Soviet Union. They have, in fact, through their arrogance and elitism, condemned hundreds of thousands, even millions, to death, starvation and privation. And they will keep on doing so until you and I wake up and demand some accountability. Until we demand proof for their wild claims that have no basis in real scientific data. Until we demand that the government get out of the business of pushing the agenda of environmental radicals in order to create more power for the politicians. Until we call them on their insane political correctness that doesn’t allow real scientists to point out that the emperor has no clothes for fear that they will lose their livelihoods.

Originally posted at Eric’s Grumbles

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Thinking About Teen Drinking

One of the sub-sets of the War On Drugs™ is the continuing, and pretty well fruitless, effort to prevent people under the age of 21 from drinking. Brad, the Unrepentant Individual, points out yet another episode in this continuing and puritanical folly in Alabama.

If the bill becomes law, people could drink draft beer only at a bar, restaurant, private club or other retail establishment licensed for beer sales by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, the bill’s sponsor.

There’s so many reasons that this is not just stupid, but morally repugnant, swirling through my head that I hardly know where to begin. I think I’ll just toss out a list of thoughts at this point and all and sundry are welcome to join in the conversation.

  • Obviously, all you have to do is drive across the state line to one of the states that borders Alabama, buy a keg and drive it back to Alabama. Since this is interstate commerce, I don’t think there is anything that Alabama can do to prevent this, provided that you meet all the legal requirements to buy alcohol in the other state and consume, or possess, alcohol in Alabama. Even if you don’t, let’s stop and think about how well Prohibition worked.
  • The intent, acccording to Singleton, is to cut down on teen drinking at parties. This won’t do a darn thing to prevent, or diminish, teen drinking. Nothing. What it does is to prevent me from perfectly legal and ethical activity on the off chance that I might do something wrong. That is hardly a presumption of innocence until I’m proved guilty, now is it? This is like the media companies (Sony, anyone?) who want to prevent legal copying of music because you might make an illegal copy.
  • I’ve lived, and travelled, in Europe. One of the immediate things you notice is that Europeans don’t have the same puritan attitudes towards kids drinking as many Americans do. In Germany, for example, kids can, and do, go buy beer for their parents at the local store. And, teenagers go into bars and have a beer. I haven’t studied this, or looked up any statistics, but my personal observation was that they handled it much better than American kids do. Probably because it’s not treated as taboo.
  • It’s a bit hypocritical to insist that a 16 year old can drive a car, an 18 year old can assume the responsibilities of adulthood, including writing contracts, joining the military and voting, but you aren’t responsible enough to drink alcohol until you’re 21.
  • My experience as a teenager says that making it forbidden just guarantees that the kids go off somewhere secluded and drink anyhow. This is usually the worse alternative because now you have a bunch of drunk teenagers driving from wherever the party was. That’s so much better. Great plan guys.

Mike, at No Angst Zone, has an excellent rant in response to this topic. Although I have to say that I think a bit of angst is showing through Mike. ;-)

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Public Rights vs. Private Contracts

The Washington Post typically devotes the back pages of its Sunday Outlook section to short articles written by local community activists and others expressing their opinion about various issues of interest to the Metro DC area. This morning, one of those articles, titled My Rights Aren’t A Matter Of Address regarding the alleged threa to individual rights posed by Homeowners Associations or, as the author refers to them Property Owner Associations.

Virginians are proud of the commonwealth’s role in the founding of the country and the formation of the ideals and rights that define us as Americans.

From George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, to Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom to James Madison’s role as the father of the Constitution, Virginians have been at the forefront of declaring and protecting individual rights.

Increasingly, however, these rights are being undermined or stripped by a form of government that the Founders did not foresee: the property owners association (POA).

The Constitution and Virginia law specifically recognize and protect the display of political yard signs on a homeowner’s property, yet a POA can and often does strip people of this right to free speech.

There is one problem with the entire premise of this argument. The Constitutions of the United States and Virginia to protect an individual rights to freedom of speech, but they only protect it against the action of the state. There is no such thing as a right to free speech that applies to private entities. If you are on my property, I have the right to stop you from engaging in speech that would otherwise be protected if you were on your property and I were a police officer. And this is where POA’s come in.

POA’s are entirely a creation of contract. Groups of homeowners come together and form an organization that will accomplish certain goals. Typically, this includes maintaining some standard rules of esthetics for the community, contracting for trash removal, and maintaining property that is owned by the POA members in common rather than by any one person.

When you buy a house that is part of a POA, you agree to certain rules and regulations. These rules can be as mundane as what day you put your trash can out or what color you can paint or front door. Or, they can be as rigid as telling you that you cannot put a sign of any kind in your front yard. In fact, if your front yard is actually POA property, which is true of many townhouse communities here in Northern Virginia, then the property really isn’t yours anyway.

Its evidently clear that the author of the article does not recognize this simple fact:

During holiday seasons, homeowners in my development are encouraged to decorate their homes with, say, Halloween scenes or Christmas decorations. Shouldn’t Election Day be treated as an important holiday for democracy? In my community, putting the issue to a vote has been suggested, but I disagree with this approach. What the Constitution gives, neither my POA nor my neighbors should be able to take away. Moving into a POA-ruled neighborhood should not mean moving out of America.

Property owners associations in Virginia have the legal right to prohibit homeowners from displaying political signs in their own yards. Homeowners are bound by the contracts they must sign to live in POA-regulated neighborhoods, and they agree to sacrifice some rights at the gates to the community. But it should not be within the reach of a POA to establish covenants that deny homeowners a constitutional right. Limitations on the size, number and duration of sign displays might be reasonable, but prohibition is not.

If you don’t like the rules that a particular POA has then you have several options. For one thing, you don’t have to move there to begin with. In Virginia, sellers are legally required to give buyers a copy of the POA rules and buyers are given an opportunity to review those rules and back out of the contract without penalty. If you’re in a POA and you don’t like the rules, or how they are being enforced then get involved in your community and get the rules changed. What you don’t need to do, though, is what the author of the article advocates:

To stop free-speech infringements by POAs, the Virginia General Assembly should follow the example of these states. Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate in Richmond, and a bill should be passed and signed into law. The efforts of our neighborhood’s founding developers to create attractive, homogeneous enclaves should not trump the efforts of the Founders to declare and protect the rights we enjoy as Virginians and as Americans.

Ah yes, if you don’t like the way the world is, just get the government involved and force everyone else to change. Unfortunately, that seems to be becoming the American way.

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It’s NOT about RACE

A frequent canard of black activists, liberal advocates, “justice” advocates etc… is that there are “sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine”; followed of course by “Clearly because crack is seen as a black drug, these harsher sentences must be racially motivated”.

It is repeated so often that even some responsible conservatives (and a LOT of libertarians)who really should know better, think there is something there.

Only it’s not true. In fact it’s not even the slightest bit true.

It’s not about race; it’s about power, and control.

It is all predicated on a technical detail, that isoften overlooked; and that most don’t understand even if they see it.

See, most people think you should sentence people based on the amount of drugs they have or are trying to sell etc… Which makes sense to a degree. Most people further assume that this amount is based on the number of doses of the drug. This is just intuitive on most folks part; because they think of “one pill, one dose” etc…

Here’s the problem though; in this country, drug related sentencing is generally calculated based on the weight of the drug INCLUDING THE CARRIER; not by the dose.

By that I mean, the actual active ingredient of the drug is generally only a small part of the weight they charge you on, because the weight of all the inactive ingredients is counted as well.

If I mixed 7 grams of cocaine into 1 oz of baking soda, 1 oz of milk sugar; I would be charged as if I had 63 grams of cocaine (which would be a minimum 10 year sentence); even though there is only 7 grams of actual cocaine there.

So why are sentences for crack “so much higher” in comparison to powder?

Crack actually contains a relatively small amount of cocaine by weight, vs. powder cocaine, and the sentencing laws ONLY CONSIDER WEIGHT.

A person with a gram of coke, has maybe 4-6 doses (less for a heavy user); and 1-2 grams would be a typical days usage for a habitual user; with up to about 5 grams for the most serious users (Richard Pryor level).

A person with a 1 gram dime rock of crack cocaine has only about 1/8th to 1/4 gram of actual cocaine in it (there isn’t a lot of consistency in dosage). A crack user will go through anywhere from 5 nickle rocks (1/16th to 1/8th gram of coke) to 10 solid rocks (a $20 2 gram or so rock with between 1/4 and 1/2 gram of actual coke) in a day (from $25 to $200) depending on how much they can buy; and how much tolerance they have built up (10 solid rocks in a day would probably kill a new user)

Thats as little 5/16 of a gram of coke, to maybe 5 grams; about the same as a days use of powder cocaine; but the total weight is from 2.5 to 20 grams.

The sentence is calculated on the total weight, therefore one days worth of crack is counted as anywhere from 2.5-20 times as much drug as one days worth of powder.

And you are sentenced as if you have 2.5 to 20 times as much of the drug.

Of course this doesnt just apply to cocaine.

No-one ever talks about sentencing disparity in LSD, which typicaly has a dosage of less 25 to 50 micrograms, which is one 2000th of a gram in weight; but which is often absorbed into tablets or a piece of heavy paper that may weigh more than a gram.

This means that someone who has five doses of LSD in 1 gram tablets is charged as if they had several hundred, to several thousand doses.

There are dozens of hippies serving 25 to life in prison right now for selling as little as 5 doses of LSD to DEA and FBI agents.

Then theres MDMA, which has the same issue.

It’s not about race; it’s about inflating the numbers of the drug enforcement agencies; and inflating the records of district attorneys. It’s about power, money, and control; pure and simple.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Hooked On Takings

According to this report in the New York Times, the use of eminent domain to advance private development is the dirty little secret of commercial real estate.

Bank of America agreed to join the developer Douglas Durst in 2003 in building a 54-story tower in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, giving a psychological and economic lift to a city that was still reeling from the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Durst said he would not have been able to negotiate with Bank of America or other prospective tenants had the state not authorized him to use eminent domain, a redevelopment tool that is coming under fire in the wake of a United States Supreme Court ruling last June in a Connecticut case.

Now under construction at 42nd Street and the Avenue of Americas, the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, as the project is known, was decades in the making as the Durst family assembled the site. Ultimately, only two buildings remained, but their owners kept raising the price, Mr. Durst said.

Eventually, the state told Mr. Durst that if he found an anchor tenant the buildings could be condemned even though the site was not in a blighted neighborhood. That threat alone was enough to break the impasse. “Once we had that ability, we were able to quickly come to a resolution on the two properties and meet Bank of America’s schedule,” Mr. Durst said.

Let’s be clear about what happened hear. While not as well-known or flamboyant as Donald Trump, the Durst family is one of the largest commercial real estate developers in New York City, if not the nation. When they ran into two building owners who realized that the laws of supply and demand gave them an advantage, thus refusing to sell at a rock-bottom price, they called on their cronies at Gracie Mansion and in Albany to forcibly take their property from them. Now, I’m sure that the owners of those buildings are quite different from the Kelo’s and other citizens of New London who were the subject of last year’s Supreme Court decision, but theft is theft and that’s exactly what this is.

What is more interesting, though, is the extent to which the use of eminent domain has become common place in the commercial real estate development business. With the backlash that has come from Kelo, however, the article goes on to point out the delicate situation that developers and government officials find themselves in:

Using eminent domain for private projects has long been a divisive issue, but never more so since the Supreme Court upheld the right of officials in New London, Conn., to condemn homes and businesses to increase the tax base of one of the state’s poorest cities.

That decision, coupled with reports of abuses in places like the predominantly African-American community of Riviera Beach, Fla., where plans called for replacing thousands of homes with upscale condos, has prompted a onslaught of legislation, both federal and state.

In other words, when Kelo was handed down, ordinary Americans began to realize what was happening and what could happen to their property. They responded by pressuring their elected representatives to do something about it:

In November, the House of Representatives approved a bill by F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, that would penalize government agencies for using condemnation powers for private projects by denying them economic development funds for two years. Legislation has been introduced in 27 states, and more is coming, said Larry Morandi, the director of the environment, energy and transportation program of the National Conference of State Legislatures

That hasn’t stopped them from trying to justify what they’ve done, of course:

But around the country, developers and city officials say weakening or destroying the power to condemn property will seriously undermine efforts to rehabilitate decaying cities and might even hinder the rebuilding of New Orleans. Without eminent domain, the Inner Harbor, which played an essential role in Baltimore’s success in building its tourist industry, could not have been redeveloped, said Ralph S. Tyler, the city solicitor.

The fact that you stole someone’s property to do it doesn’t matter does it ? Apparently not.

One business group that has opposed restrictions on eminent domain is the Partnership for New York City, whose members include most of the city’s top developers. Kathryn S. Wylde, the president and chief executive of the group, said her members opposed any efforts to alter condemnation procedures through federal or state legislation. “When you add restrictions on development, you are never quite sure what the results are going to be,” she said. “We want to avoid political reaction to an issue that adds more problems and obstacles to economic growth.”

Hmmm, and when you create a legal environment where people’s property can be taken away from them on the whim of a government official who happens to be in the pocket of a big developer what kind of result will that create Ms. Wylde ?

If one thing is clear from this article it is that these commercial developers have become dependent upon the government to get them the land they need to build their projects, and politicans have become dependent on campaign contributions from the developers. The end result is a world where your property isn’t really yours anymore.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway

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The Difference Between Reverend Nagin and Reverend Robertson

Yesterday as you may or may not know, New Orleans Mayor For Life Ray Nagin had some interesting comments at the annual MLK Jr. parade. In addition to his publicized “chocolate New Orleans” comments (for which he has a lame excuse), he said God sent hurricane after hurricane because He did not approve of us being in Iraq “under false pretenses”. Finally, at the beginning of his speech, he had a conversation with Dr. King himself and they talked about everything from the Federal response to Katrina to the state of black America. Some in the blogosphere are comparing Nagin to Pat Robertson, but there are some very important distinctions that need to raised here, and these distinctions make all the difference.

The first major distinction is that Pat Robertson only hosts a TV show and has a limited following even among evangelical Christians whereas Ray Nagin is the mayor of a major American city. When Pat Robertson starts talking about God, I have the choice to turn “The 700 Club” off. However, I have to wait up to four years to remove Ray Nagin from office, or I did have the means to remove Ray Nagin from office until Louisiana Dictator Kathleen Blanco and her poodle, Secretary of State Al Ater, canceled New Orleans’s mayorial elections until further notice. Nagin can do far more damage due to his position of power than the crank Pat Robertson can with his television audience.

Another major distinction is that Robertson never made race an issue with his remarks, whereas I fear that Nagin’s racist remarks can possibly set the stage for race riots when black residents begin returning to New Orleans en masse. The black community in New Orleans has made the Katrina aftermath all about race from day one. They have alleged everything from a racist conspiracy to blow the leeves deliberately (if so then why were white Old Metarie and Lakeview flooded as well) to a racist conspiracy to keep blacks out of New Orleans (which Nagin alluded to yesterday). The black community and leadership in New Orleans has not condemned not just Nagin’s racist remarks but has not refuted the conspiracy theories, therefore these conspiracy theories and racist feelings have legitimacy among the black population of New Orleans.

The best way to bring New Orleans back and honor Dr. King’s dream is to vote Nagin out of office when Dictator Blanco finally sets an election date or is forced to by the Feds. Only then can New Orleans begin to rebuild for the benefit of all of the residents that make what has been termed a racial and cultural “gumbo” by former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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