Monthly Archives: December 2006

Seattle-Tacoma Airport Removes Christmas Trees

I’m not one to fall into the whole “war on Christmas” meme we see repeated this time each year, but this story just strikes me as ridiculous:

SEATAC, Wash. — All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the Port of Seattle didn’t add the menorah next to the trees, which had been festooned with red ribbons and bows.

“Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season,” said Bogomilsky, who works in Seattle at the regional headquarters for Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation.

Repeat after me folks. Putting a Christmas tree up is NOT an endorsement of religion.

Update 12/12/06: The Christmas Trees have returned to SeaTac.

First They Came For The Cupcakes

The latest target of the food police has been identified. It’s that grave threat to America’s future, the classroom cupcake:

Once a cupcake wasn’t something to think about. It was just what your mom brought to school for your birthday. But this year, as schools across the country begin enforcing new federally mandated “wellness policies,” many are banning the little treats. And parents are fighting back.

When the principal at George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria explained to the PTA earlier this year that cupcakes were out, a furor erupted.

“A lot of people are really angry,” said Karen Epperson, a George Mason parent. “They think this is really stupid.”

Really stupid doesn’t even begin to describe. Well, at least kids are being taught from an early age that Big Brother will protect them from the horrible threat of a tasty, sweet cupcake.

Taiwan vs. China — Possible Outcomes

I want to state, first, that this is an expression of what I would think may likely happen, not necessarily what I’d like to see happen. I’d like to see a fully independent Taiwan, living in peace with their neighbors on the mainland. Of course, I’d also like to see the end of the drug war, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to walk in front of a cop smoking a joint while selling shrooms to anyone that wants them. Principles sometimes compete with each other, and sometimes pragmatism make the costs of living up to those principles too heavy to bear. So take it for what it’s worth.

For the purposes of argument, let’s stipulate that tomorrow Taiwan formally issues a declaration of independence from China. There are three scenarios I see occurring, and the most likely two are bad (all below the fold):
» Read more

Closing The Door On An Era

The gavel came down yesterday on the 109th Congress, and the end of an era of Republican control that lasted 12 years.

Demoralized Republicans adjourned the 109th Congress at 5 a.m. yesterday with a near-empty Capitol, closing the door on a dozen years of nearly unbroken GOP control by spending more time in the final days lamenting their failures — to rein in government, tame the deficit and temper their own lust for power — than reliving their successes.

Still reeling from their electoral defeat Nov. 7, Republicans capped an era of conservative ascendance with the passage of business tax break extensions, a package of trade measures, and legislation to stave off physician-payment cuts they once trumpeted in their budget-cutting drive.

While GOP leaders touted their handiwork, it was a far cry from 12 years ago when the Republicans swept to power with the zeal of self-described revolutionaries and a mission to shrink the size of government, limit its reach, strengthen the nation’s security and end an era of a privileged, imperial Congress.

A far cry indeed, as some Republicans are finally starting to realize:

“You know, the American people took the reins of government away from the Republican Party . . . in this last election. They did so, I think, in large part because they were tired of our hypocrisy,” fumed Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) from the Senate floor. “Our leadership and some of our members grew arrogant in their own power, and with arrogance comes corruption,” said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a member of the class of 1994.

“We came to change Washington, and Washington changed us,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Actually, except for the past six years, when the GOP controlled both the Congress and the White House, there was actually some good done:

Combing through the fine print of the 1994 “Contract With America” campaign manifesto, one finds goals that Americans now largely take for granted. Congressional committee chairmen, who once built empires from inviolable perches, are now term limited. The contract anticipated a lucrative tax credit for each child, the end of a tax penalty on marriage, federal incentives for adoption, the easing of limits on the amount seniors could earn and still receive their Social Security benefits and some curbs on civil litigation. The overriding political fear of tax increases, still evident as Democrats move to resume control, can be seen as a conservative victory, as can a federal minimum wage that has grown increasingly irrelevant after nearly a decade without change.

That is something to be proud of, but when you compare it to what hasn’t been accomplished, it comes up lacking:

Yet measured against the ambitions of 1994, not much has changed. The House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee might be no more, but the departments of commerce, education and energy, once slated for the chopping block, are still very much alive, as are the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Compared with the size of the economy, government discretionary spending has grown. The vision of a term-limited Congress of everymen, rotating through Washington after short stints, has all but vanished. And government programs such as Medicare and federal education bureaucracies are larger and more pervasive.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the architect of the 1994 revolution. “In a three-year period, we changed things fairly dramatically. We, candidly, then failed.”

So does this mean that a political agenda devoted to limiting and even reducing the size of government is inherently destined to be co-opted by the very government it seeks to reduce ? For several reasons, I don’t think so.

» Read more

How Government And Business Combine To Hurt The Public

In today’s Washington Post, there is a report that serves of a perfect example of what happens when the state becomes involved in regulating business. It involves the milk industry, which, along with the rest of farming, is one of the most heavily regulated businesses in the country. Those regulations, however, aren’t meant to help the public, they’re meant to “protect” dairy farmers by ensuring that prices remain artificially high regardless of what market conditions might be.

What happens, though, when one producer decides to buck the system and offer his product to consumers below the regulated price ? Well, as the Post report indicates, the heavy hand of government intervenes:

In the summer of 2003, shoppers in Southern California began getting a break on the price of milk.

A maverick dairyman named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid system that has controlled U.S. milk production for almost 70 years. Soon the effects were rippling through the state, helping to hold down retail prices at supermarkets and warehouse stores.

That was when a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga’s initiative. For three years, the milk lobby spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Last March, Congress passed a law reshaping the Western milk market and essentially ending Hettinga’s experiment — all without a single congressional hearing.

“They wanted to make sure there would be no more Heins,” said Mary Keough Ledman, a dairy economist who observed the battle.

Hettinga, who ran a big business and was no political innocent, fought back with his own lobbyists and alliances with lawmakers. But he found he was no match for the dairy lobby.

“I had an awakening,” the 64-year-old Dutch-born dairyman said. “It’s not totally free enterprise in the United States.”

Apparently not. Needless to say, the dairy lobby, and their allies in Congress got what they wanted. The loophole that allowed Hettinga to sell milk as much as 20 cents a gallon cheaper than the regulated price has been closed, and milk prices have gone back up in the West.

The lesson is clear. When the government regulates a marketplace in this manner, it is inevitable that  participants in the market, in this case big dairy farms, will get involved in the political process to ensure that their interests are protected and those of their competitors (and consumers) are harmed. The regulators, and more importantly the politicians who write the laws, are eager to please the men and women who fill their campaign coffers, so this becomes very easy to accomplish. More importantly, though, Hettinga’s experience demonstrates clearly that regulations like this don’t exist to benefit the consumer at all.
Further thoughts at Cafe Hayek

Responding to Walter

So, we have a reader, Walter, who advocates going toe to toe with the Chinese over Taiwan. In response to a single comment by me, he posts a couple hundred words tackling me and his perception of what I advocate or believe.

Below the fold, I tackle his comments. I’m sure they won’t make much difference, but it’s worth a shot. Maybe Walter will at least learn a bit about how to conduct a debate.
» Read more

Cool Uses of Technology

So, my family used to use Amazon’s (you don’t really need the URL, do you?) wish list feature for Christmas and birthday gift giving. But there were two problems with it. First, you could only list and link things sold on Amazon. That left plenty of possible gifts that I (or anyone else) might want unavailable for listing. And second, it was relatively easy for folks to see what gifts someone else had bought for them.

We changed that last year, using a service called Gift Geek. It solved our two problems. First, you can list anything you want, with or without a URL to the item. For those of us that shop online, it works really well if you embed a URL. Second, you cannot see on your own list what was purchased for you before Christmas day.

This year, we changed to a new service called Family Gift Organizer. It has similar features to Gift Geek. How did Family Gift Organizer come about? From their website:

The Family Gift Organizer started out as a bunch of lists on my bulletin board in my home office. I had lists of what the kids wanted, lists of what they needed and lists of what they already had. I had lists of gifts I planned to purchase, gifts I had already purchased and stashed somewhere and lists of items I needed or wanted, not to mention lists of clothing sizes and favorite colors, lists of web sites with super deals and more.

Awesome. Such capabilities were unheard of not all that long ago. Now they are ubiquitous. Yet another way that technology has empowered the individual.

I know this isn’t politics, but I am very interested in the power that technology gives the individual and thought others reading this site might be too.

YouTube is Great!

These kids are great musicians. It helps, of course, that I love metal too. The Gauchos are a South American sibling garage band that does metal covers.

Like Iron Maiden’s The Trooper:

Or, their tribute to ELP:

But, this cover of Sepultura is probably my favorite:

Google was brilliant for acquiring YouTube. One more way that individuals are empowered by technology. Music labels would have ignored these kids, as good as they are. With the Internet, they have been able to get their videos watched over 2 million times.

H/T to Radley Balko

Teacher’s Unions: Enemies Of Free Speech

Labor unions exist to protect the interests of their members. All their members. Right ? Well, not so fast. Let’s say you happen to be a member of the teacher’s union in the State of Washington who doesn’t want your union dues used to fund political activities you don’t believe in. Well, at least according to the Washington Education Association, too darn bad:

SPOKANE, Wash.–Teachers unions are supposed to promote the financial interests of, well, teachers–but not in Washington state. Here, the Washington Education Association is fighting some 4,000 nonmember teachers who don’t want their paychecks raided each year and used for political activities that they don’t believe in. “The right of free speech is being trampled” by the union political spending, complains Scott Carlson, a business teacher in Spokane. “And that’s a right I hold very precious.”

Too bad the unions don’t. The WEA derisively refers to teachers like Mr. Carlson who want their money back not as free-speech advocates but “dissidents.” The goal is to squash these dissidents by overturning Initiative 134, a law–approved by 72% of Washington voters in 1992–that requires unions to obtain written approval from teachers before dues are spent on campaigns or candidates. Back in March, the unions got a surprising assist from the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the paycheck protection law places “too heavy” a burden on the free-speech rights of the union.

That case is now before the United States Supreme Court, and, as Stephen Moore explains in the Wall Street Journal, the stakes could not be higher:

At issue is whether workers have the right to effectively declare themselves conscientious objectors to the unions’ multimillion-dollar political war games. “All we are saying is that no one has the right to take our money and spend it on causes we don’t believe in,” insists Cindy Omlin, a recently retired speech teacher in Spokane. “If you want my money, ask for it, like private charities, political candidates and businesses do.” Ms. Omlin was one of 250 teachers who successfully sued the WEA in 2002 to get half their dues refunded after a Washington superior court found the union guilty of “intentional violations” of the paycheck protection law.

The outcome of this case should be, one would think, blindingly obvious. No organization, especially not one that you are required by law to belong to in order to hold a job (which is apparently the case with the Washington Education Association), has the right to take your money and use it to fund political causes you don’t agree with. It is, after all, your money, the product of your labor. Of course, it helps that the WEA has the state, and even the State Supreme Court on it’s side:

The Washington Supreme Court defended its ruling by arguing that the benefit to the individual teachers was trivial compared to the “heavy administrative burden” that complying with paycheck protection would impose on the union. That attitude incenses Jeff Leer, who for 10 years has been a phys ed teacher outside Seattle. In an interview, Mr. Leer fumed: “I wonder how these justices would feel if I reached into their pockets and took $200 to support causes they don’t believe in.” He told me that when he investigated the candidates that his union dues were going to support, “it was nearly 100% opposite of the way I voted. How is that fair?”

In others, the Washington Supreme Court is saying, it’s just too darn inconvienent for us to worry about your trivial little rights. What’s appalling about that is that the State Supreme Court’s decision seems to directly contradict state law on this very issue:

Washington law states unambiguously that a union may not use dues “for political purposes without the affirmative consent of the nonmembers from whom the excess fees were taken.” The Washington Supreme Court somehow twisted these words to mean that the unions can spend as they wish unless workers object and affirmatively opt out. That’s a big distinction, because the unions make it as time-consuming and cumbersome as possible to get the money back once they snatch it.

And, at least in the State of Washington, they’ve got the Courts on their side.

H/T: The QandO Blog

Disgusted….

Is how I feel about Dollar Bill Jefferson being re-elected. How can so many people in New Orleans be so goddamned stupid. Let the city sink.

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 Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

I may open an account at BB&T

I have a lot of respect for BB&T. After the Kelo decision they took a firm stance in favor of private property rights when they made it a bank policy not to lend money to any developers that used the practice of eminent domain for private development.

BB&T is taking another step in promoting capitalism:

Winston-Salem-based BB&T’s philanthropic organization, BB&T Charitable Foundation, recently made the $1 million donation to UNC-Greensboro to establish the BB&T Program in Capitalism, Markets and Morality. The program also will create the Ayn Rand Reading Room in the school’s library. The room will include fiction and nonfiction works by Rand, who was an economic freedom advocate, and other authors.

BB&T Chairman and Executive Officer John Allison IV said the grant would help to promote students’ understanding of concepts outside the technical framework of businesses. “Unfortunately, we find that many students who graduate with business degrees while understanding the ‘technology’ of business, do not have a clear grasp of the moral principles underlying free markets,” Allison said.

The gift will fund an undergraduate course on markets and morality and a separate course for graduate students. It will also provide faculty grants for curriculum development to increase students’ knowledge of capitalism and moral foundations in the economic principle.

Also included in the gift is the creation of the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series in Capitalism, which will promote discussions on business ethics and values. Dr. Bruce Caldwell, a professor of economics at UNC-Greensboro and editor of The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek, will be among the various presenters during the lecture series.

Hat tip to the Libertarian Party blog.

Trans-Fat Hypocrisy

There’s been much discussion about the health benefits of New York City’s decision to ban trans-fat’s in restaurants, but no discussion at all about how the trans-fat’s got there in the first place:

Before other cities decide to regulate diets absent a safety issue, they might also consider that some of the same people now pushing for a trans fat ban once recommended the ingredient as a substitute for another health scare: saturated fats. Twenty years ago, Mr. Jacobson’s CSPI launched a public relations blitz against fast food joints for using palm oil to cook fries. The group claimed victory when restaurants started using partially hydrogenated oil instead. In 1988, a CSPI newsletter declared that “the charges against trans fat just don’t hold up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent.” Today, Mr. Jacobson is claiming trans fats kill 30,000 people a year. We wonder if he feels guilty.

Probably not, because public health really isn’t what the food police at CPSI are concerned about:

The ultimate goal of these so-called consumer advocates is to persuade the FDA to turn on trans fats, a move that would serve the food industry up as the next entree on the plaintiff bar’s menu.

In other words, they want to be able to sue McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s for committing the unpardonable sin of making burgers people want to eat.

H/T: Lew Rockwell Blog

Previous Post:

The War On Trans-Fat
The Nanny State Comes To Manhattan
Don’t Like Unhealthy Food ? Don’t Eat It

Why Republicans Need Libertarians

David Kirby and David Boaz note that the Republican losses in the 2006 elections can be directly tied to a loss of support for the GOP from libertarian-minded voters:

In the past, our research shows, most libertarians voted Republican—72 percent for George W. Bush in 2000, for instance, with only 20 percent for Al Gore, and 70 percent for Republican congressional candidates in 2002. But in 2004, presumably turned off by war, wiretapping, and welfare-state spending sprees, they shifted sharply toward the Democrats. John F. Kerry got 38 percent of the libertarian vote. That was a dramatic swing that Republican strategists should have noticed. But somehow the libertarian vote has remained hidden in plain sight.

This year we commissioned a nationwide post-election survey of 1013 voters from Zogby International. We again found that 15 percent of the voters held libertarian views. We also found a further swing of libertarians away from Republican candidates. In 2006, libertarians voted 59-36 for Republican congressional candidates—a 24-point swing from the 2002 mid-term election. To put this in perspective, front-page stories since the election have reported the dramatic 7-point shift of white conservative evangelicals away from the Republicans. The libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.

Based on the turnout in 2004, Bush’s margin over Kerry dropped by 4.8 million votes among libertarians. Had he held his libertarian supporters, he would have won a smashing reelection rather than squeaking by in Ohio.

As Kirby and Boaz point out, it’s not hard to understand why voters that hold libertarian views would be upset with the GOP under the leadership of George W. Bush:

President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.

Boaz and Kirby further point out that libertarian-oriented voters seem to be an especially high percentage of the vote in places like New Hampshire and the Mountain West that are absolutely essential for a Republican national majority and electoral college victory.

With all the talk about a left-libertarian fusion and calls for libertarian oriented voters to abandon the GOP, there is a lesson in these statistics. The Republicans need libertarian votes, the Democrats don’t. Which party do you think is more likely to adopt policies that libertarians favor, the one that needs us, or the one that doesn’t ?

H/T: Professor Bainbridge

Related Posts:

Should Libertarians Leave The GOP ?
Brock Lindsey’s “Liberaltarianism”
F.A. Hayes On Conservatives vs. Classical Liberals
Matt Welch on Liberaltarians

A Post-Kelo Update

Ilya Somin writes at The Volokh Conspiracy about what looks to be the most important eminent domain case to reach the Federal Courts since the Kelo decision:

[T]wo Port Chester [New York] property owners joined with the Institute for Justice (the public-interest law firm that litigated the Kelo case) to ask the Supreme Court to look again at the issue of eminent domain abuse and ensure that lower courts do not read Kelo to completely eliminate judicial review. The case illustrates the dangerous results of the Kelo decision and asks what should be an easy question: Does the Constitution prevent governments from taking property through eminent domain simply because the property owners refused to pay off a private developer?

In 2003, private developer [Gregg Wasser] approached Bart Didden and Domenick Bologna with a modest proposal: they could either pay him $800,000 or give him a 50 percent interest in their proposed business, or he would cause the Village of Port Chester to take their property from them through eminent domain. Outraged, they refused. The Village condemned their property the very next day.

Bart and Domenick filed suit in federal court, arguing that the taking violated the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which only allows property to be taken for a “public use.” Shockingly, the trial court threw out their case, and the Second Circuit agreed. Because their property lay within a “redevelopment area,” a region the Village had designated as subject to its eminent domain power, the Constitution didn’t protect them from condemnation, even though they had alleged that they were condemned solely because they resisted the developer’s attempted extortion….

“What the developer and Village of Port Chester did is nothing short of government-backed extortion,” said Didden. “I had an agreement to develop a pharmacy, a plan fully approved by the Village, and in the eleventh hour I was told that I must either bring this developer in as a 50/50 partner or pay him $800,000 to go away. If I didn’t, the City would condemn my property through eminent domain for him to put up a pharmacy. What else can you call that but extortion? I hope the Supreme Court sets things right.”

As Somin points out, this case seems egregious even by Kelo standards:

It’s hard to find a more blatant example of pretextual condemnation and “favoritism than the Didden case. The plaintiffs’ property was only condemned because they refused to pay $800,000 to Wasser. Had they given in to Wasser’s threats and paid him the money, there would have been no public benefit, because the money would have gone into Wasser’s pocket, not the Village treasury. Moreover, Wasser’s planned use for the property – building a Walgreens pharmacy – is almost exactly the same as the current owners (who plan to open a CVS). So there is no potential economic gain to the community from transferring the land to Wasser; indeed, the area’s taxpayers will be net losers because they will have to foot the bill for the condemnation. Nonetheless, the condemnation did occur within a designated “redevelopment area,” so the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that it is immunized from legal challenge under Kelo.

This will be the first opportunity of a reconstituted Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to speak on the eminent domain issue. The result bears watching.

Should Your Employer Be Allowed To Fire You If You Smoke ?

That’s the question raised by the case of a Massachusetts man suing his former employer for firing him when he tested positive for nicotine:

A Buzzards Bay man has sued The Scotts Co. , the lawn care giant, for firing him after a drug test showed nicotine in his urine, indicating that he had violated a company policy forbidding employees to smoke on or off the job.

The suit, filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, is highly unusual because it involves an employee who was terminated for engaging in legal activities away from the workplace. The lawyer who filed the complaint said he believes it is the first of its kind in the state.

Scotts announced last year that it would no longer hire tobacco users, a policy company officials said was intended to improve employee wellness and drive down the company’s healthcare costs. But civil libertarians say it violates personal privacy rights and could be used to mask age discrimination or other illegal behavior.

The gut reaction of most people, I suspect, will be to say that Scotts had no right to fire this man for something he did outside of work. But, why shouldn’t they be allowed to fire him for any reason they deem appropriate ? You don’t have a right to a job, and you don’t have a right to a job under rules you find acceptable. If Scotts, or any other employer, believes that off-the-job behavior can have an impact on the company, which it certainly can when the company is paying for health insurance, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to tell someone that if they engage in certain behavior, on or off the job, they could be subject to termination ?

As the article goes on to state, the Plaintiff in this case knew about the no-smoking policy at the time he was hired. If he didn’t like the rule, then he didn’t have to take the job. Having taken the job, though, he can’t complain when he faces the consequences of not following the rules.

H/T: Hit & Run

A Perverse Incentive

A Question was asked by a reader:

1500 SWAT raids a day…. Has the Drug War completely corrupted our legal system?

It depends on what you mean by corrupted. It is certainly corrosive to the souls of the police, and their relationship with the public they are, and must be, inextricably a part of.

I was watching the history channel, or discovery channel or some such, and they were talking about SWAT training. They mentioned 5 towns in rural Illinois I just happen to know about, as all having full time SWAT teams, equipped with fully automatic weapons, and full ninja gear etc…

As I said, I know these towns. None of them are bigger than 30,000 people. None of them have a real crime problem. The only crime issue they have is meth labs; but no more than anywhere else in the American midwest these days.

But all five towns have full time SWAT teams; and those teams existence has to be justified somehow.

Last I checked, more than 60% of all departments now had at least part time swat teams or something similar (ESU, high risk warrant squad etc…); now really, is there a need for even HALF of these teams, for a quarter of them?

I understand the need for officer safety; and how the movement of meth into rural America has changed the risks and difficulties of law enforcement for a large portion of the country; but is there any reason on this earth why a town of 24,000 people, where the only real violent crime is domestic; should have a five man full time SWAT team?

Of course not. Most of those SWAT teams didn’t exist before 1994; which coincidentally is when federal funding, and equipment purchase programs were ramped up for SWAT type teams, so that local law enforcement organizations could better fight “the war on drugs”.

Of course most place dont NEED a SWAT team, but almost any law enforcement organization could use more money, more training, more equipment etc… The incentive was there for federal funding to be spent, and federal equipment to be acquired; and where there’s financial incentive, there will be a means created to fulfill that incentive.

Now that they are there, they need to justify their continued existence; so what used to be a normal warrant service all of a sudden ends up with 5 guys with machine guns and balaclavas busting a 90 year old womans door down in the middle of the night.

And this sort of thing is 1500 times a day all over this country. Now of course, most of those SWAT raids are on genuine bad guys (drug dealers mostly, who aren’t exactly boy scouts); but some of them most definitely are not necessary, or worth the higher risk of injury or death to the general public… in fact Id wager a guess a hell of a lot of them are not.

Of course the police will say it’s all about officer safety; but in reality more officers are shot on raids than in standard warrant service (and we’re going to get into a correlation vs. causation issue here)… oh and the number of officers shot in any other circumstances are dwarfed by officers being shot in domestic disturbances, and traffic stops (especially felony traffic stops, which are in fact how most criminals end up getting arrested).

So, in the name of oficer safety; and of course in preventing the evidence from being flushed down the toilet; purse snatchers, and 90 year old women with joints, end up getting killed.

This is properly decried wherever it happens; but police being what they are, the blue wall goes up, defending policy and officer actions; and gets higher, and tighter; separating the police from the public they serve, ever more, with every raid.

Corruption? Not the way most people mean it. Just the perverse incentive toward the militarization of the police, and their estrangement from the public

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

Sex Offender Insanity

In a case currently before the Utah Supreme Court, the justices are trying to reconcile a case where a 13 year-old girl has been branded a sex offender:

Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old Ogden girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act – in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

“The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,” said Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

And Chief Justice Christine Durham wondered if the state Legislature had intended the “peculiar consequence” that a child would have the simultaneous status of a protected person and an alleged perpetrator under the law.

The comments came in oral arguments on a motion asking the high court to overturn the finding of delinquency – the legal term in juvenile court for a conviction – against Z.C., who became pregnant after she and her boyfriend engaged in sex in October 2003.

Yes, that’s right. A 13 year old girl fooled around with her 12 year-old boyfriend and now both of them are being branded as sex offenders and charged with a crime that would a felony if they were adults.

Can this really be what the Utah legislature intended when they passed this law ? The attorney general certainly thinks so:

At Tuesday’s arguments, Matthew Bates, an assistant Utah attorney general, argued the prosecution of the girl was not unreasonable. He said the statute in question is designed to prevent sex with children who are 13 and younger, even if the other person is in the same age group.

By passing that law, legislators were sending a message, Bates said: Sex with or among children is unacceptable.

But can you really say that the law was intended to put 12 and 13 year olds in jail in situations like this ? Mr. Bates may think he’s “protecting the children” by making this argument, what he’s really doing, though, is ruining their lives.

H/T: Hit & Run

Matt Welch On Liberaltarians

Former Reason writer Matt Welch gives three reasons why he thinks a libertarian-liberal alliance wouldn’t amount to anything:

1) There’s rarely such a thing as a libertarian in local politics (where most politics are practiced), because it’s awful hard to grant favors (or jobs) to either labor or business while cutting the size of government.

Generally true, I think. Every now and then, you hear the LP touting about a Libertarian being elected to a Water Board or some such other local government body, but, for the most part, Libertarian success at the local level is even more dismal than it is at the national level.

2) Self-described libertarians over the age of 40 who don’t belong to the Libertarian Party (which is to say, most of them) are overwhelmingly likely to consider the GOP their default home, because of taxes, the memory of anti-communism, and hatred of all things McGovern/Carter (even though Carter was arguably the greatest deregulation president … though that’s a rambling essay for another time).

Well, I’m not over 40 but this is certainly true of me. All of my problems with the Republican Party notwithstanding, I just can’t see myself voting for a Democrat any time in the foreseeable future. That party has been so co-opted by socialism that any hope they’d be palatable to someone who believes in free markets seems slim indeed.

3) Libertarianism just ain’t that popular to begin with.

By which Welch means that the left doesn’t need to worry about gaining libertarian support. Sadly, I think this is true as well.

Related Posts:

Should Libertarians Leave The GOP ?
Brock Lindsey’s “Liberaltarianism”
F.A. Hayes On Conservatives vs. Classical Liberals

On the Second Amendment

One of the contributors over at Peach Pundit is showing a very limited knowledge of both the Constitution and the intent Founding Fathers with the Second Amendment with this post on the Second Amendment and a gun ban in Washington, DC.

The District is arguing that the Second Amendment is a collective right. But one of the judges responses to that is great:

“Show me anybody in the 19th century who interprets the Second Amendment the way you do,” Judge Laurence Silberman said. “It doesn’t appear until much later, the middle of the 20th century.”

I typically enjoy banter with Decatur Guy, but I cannot express into words how wrong he is on the issue of gun ownership. He says he supports gun ownership, but says that this is “good regulation” and somehow believes that if all guns in the District are banned that criminals and drug dealers will stop using them. That is naive.

The Second Amendment is there, not just to keep government in check, but it’s for personal protection as well. It grants both the states to keep armed militias and the individual citizens the right to keep arms to guard against threats to their life, liberty and property, whether it be from government or criminal.

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