Monthly Archives: January 2007

Why I’m Not an An-Cap

A few weeks ago, I delved into the question of Libertarianism and Utilitarianism. The two are competing moral philosophies, with Libertarianism valuing personal liberty as its paramount goal, and Utilitarianism valuing maximizing utility (aka “the common good”) as its highest goal. I believe that the logical end of Libertarianism is anarchism (which, to be truly anarchist, will likely take the form of anarcho-capitalism). The logical end of utilitarianism, to most people who believe in “the common good”, is socialism, but that’s not necessarily the case. The logical end of utilitarianism is a political system which best maximizes utility, which socialism has proven— at least in practice— to be far from maximizing utility.

I call myself a libertarian, but I don’t consider myself an an-cap. The reason I’m not an an-cap is that I have a bit of utilitarianism in me, and I see the tradeoffs of anarcho-capitalism as being less able to maximize utility than a just minarchy. Ideologically, I see anarcho-capitalism, if it were to be stable, as being the most moral possible system. My understanding of humanity, though, makes me think that the end result of a society set up as an-cap will be worse than the a just minarchy.
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They Never Learn

As much as we have griped lately about the GOP not learning it’s lessons (Doug has been especially effective on this front), the Democrats show no propensity to learn from their victory. They did not win because the hard core left of the Democratic Party carried them to party. They won because the small government Republicans were sick of “Compassionate Conservativism” and the centrists were sick of the war. Now, we have Hillary and Barack Obama, John Kerry and John Edwards vying for the Democratic nomination. Yet, none of them will appeal to small government Republicans or centrists.

You doubt me? David Boaz at Cato reminds us of Hillary’s record:

For more than 15 years now, Hillary has been the incarnation of Big Government. She votes with taxpayers only 9 percent of the time, according to the National Taxpayers Union. She calls herself a “government junkie.” She says, “There is no such thing as other people’s children” and calls for ”a consensus of values and a common vision” for 300 million people. She was best known in her White House years for heading a team of 500 bureaucrats organized into 15 committees and 34 working groups to recreate in 100 days one-seventh of the American economy. After health care, she told the New York Times, her next project would be “redefining who we are as human beings in the post-modern age.” Or, as the Times put it, “She wants to make things right.”

She just might be the scariest collectivist this side of Al Gore.

Except that Kerry, Edwards and Obama all have records as bad, or worse. As Boaz points out.

The best hope we have is for Ron Paul, as a spoiler, to shift the debate. And he may just be able to. Better yet, a surprise upset in the ’08 primaries as all the Republicans who are not “Compassionate Conservatives” realize he is their dream candidate now that Reagan and Goldwater are no longer among the living.

Heaven forbid we see McCain vs. Hillary, because the outcome is bad, period. Either a First Amendment hating big government conservative or a Bill of Rights hating big government progressive gets elected. Think on that for a minute if you hated the last 6 Bush years.

More on Police Culture

In yet another clear sign that the Drug War’s most prominent success has been the corruption of police culture in this country, we have this story in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Police Department is accused of taking possession of a Mercedes-Benz convertible from a drug-addicted local businessman in return for agreeing not to prosecute him for cocaine possession.

So, in Milwaukee rich folks can trade an expensive car for having criminal charges dropped? That hardly sounds like Rule of Law to me. Wisconsin law does not provide for forfeiture of vehicles in cases of simple possession. Even if it did, normally forfeiture laws and criminal charges are separate issues and you can’t just forfeit a vehicle, or other property, to get the criminal charges dropped. It turns out that wasn’t all the police decided was appropriate for this guy.

Maistelman [ed: the Beck family’s attorney] also cited the family’s belief that police contributed to Beck’s death by threatening to disclose his drug activity.

“At the time of Jordan’s arrest he was in a custody battle with his wife for his minor children. Subsequent to his arrest Jordan and his family were bombarded with threats by your office and or the Milwaukee Police Department that unless he gave his car up, then the authorities would contact his wife’s attorney and ‘rat him out’ about his drug offense.”

Maistelman also wrote that a member of Beck’s family had witnessed “harassing, intimidating and coercive telephone calls” and that authorities also threatened that if he didn’t give up the car, “they would tell certain drug dealers that Jordan and his family were informants, when in fact they were not.”

Remember, as you are reading this, that Mr. Beck was a drug user, not a dealer. He was facing charges for possession, not dealing. He was not a criminal, he was a drug addict. But, he had something the police coveted. An expensive car, worth $100,000, give or take.

We have taught our police departments that taking property if someone is a drug user is okay. They are simply doing something that we have condoned. We have given them power, and they have abused it, as was predictable.

h/t: Radley Balko

Should The State Protect You From Making Bad Choices ?

The Virginia General Assembly is debating a number of bills that would regulate, and in some cases nearly eliminate the pay-day loan industry in the state based upon the belief that the loans’ high interest rates take advantage of lower-income citizens:

The rite of borrowing modest amounts of cash against a future paycheck — known as payday lending — has become an increasingly popular practice for working families in Washington’s suburbs. It has also become big business across Virginia.

But the routine is under increasing scrutiny in the commonwealth, where a broad coalition of religious and consumer advocacy groups say they are concerned that the practice enables low-income earners such as Reyes to unwittingly take on more debt than they can handle. They are joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the General Assembly that wants to reverse a 2002 law that eased restrictions on the payday loan industry.

There’s no denying that pay-day loans can be expensive for the people that enter into them. Depending upon how long the loan is outstanding, the effective interest rate can be as high as 390 percent or more, but when you consider the fact that the people who are serviced by this industry typically have bad credit, low income, and few assets, it’s not all that surprising that they would be charged high interest rates for a loan. Moreover, as the article points out, they a really don’t have many other alternatives:

Interviews with more than a dozen customers in Northern Virginia over the past week found that many have come to count on the access to easy money if they are in a pinch, although several admitted they sometimes took out one loan to pay another.

Percy Jones, who works as a chef, among other jobs, and who recently moved to Dumfries from South Carolina, said he has several outstanding loans to payday centers. He said he was waiting for a check from his previous job to be able to pay everything off. The District native added that he has tried to avoid relying on payday lending, but having four teenagers to support on a modest $32,000-a-year salary forced him to cut corners.

“I can see how people would see this as bad, but this is how I’ve had to scrape by,” he said.

He added that in some cases he has paid one loan off with another, but always knew he had money coming in the future that made him secure. He expects to take out more over the coming months because life in Northern Virginia is more expensive than in South Carolina.

“It’s a way of life for some of us,” he added, counting several $20 bills as he headed to a brown Chevrolet. “It would be better if it wasn’t, but, frankly, it’s like an addiction.”

You can question the wisdom of Mr. Jones’ decision to enter into a payday loan, or even his decision to move to a part of the country with a much higher standard of living, but it is his choice. What right does the state have to say that he can’t make it ?

Further thoughts over at Atlas Blogged

More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition

Cross posted at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

I have written in the past about the insanity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on at least two occasions (here, and here). In my previous posts, the minimum sentencing guidelines had to do with the war on drugs. In this latest outrage however, this mandatory minimum sentence has to do with “aggravated child molesting.”

In theory, mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes seems like a great idea. The problem with such a “one size fits all” approach is it gives judges absolutely no discretion when it comes to particular cases. No matter how well written or intentioned a law may be, there are always going to be cases where the application of the law is simply unjust. The case of Genarlow Wilson is a perfect example of what I mean.

From The New York Times article “Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester”

[Genarlow Wilson] was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17.

[?]

Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.

[?]

Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson?s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers. “Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,”? said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.

So let me get this straight: Genarlow Wilson is 17 and engages in oral sex with a girl who is 2 years younger than he is. At the age of 15, the girl is not at the legal age of consent in Georgia. However, had the two had “consensual” sex instead of oral sex, Wilson would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence 1 year but because they didn’t go all the way, Wilson is facing an 11 year sentence and will not be eligible for parole until after he has served 10 years. OR if Wilson chooses, he can have his sentence reduced to 5 to 7 years with a possibility of parole if he agrees to register as a sex offender.

So why won’t Wilson take the deal? According to the aforementioned article, Wilson is quoted as saying the following:

“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”

There is no question that Wilson used poor judgment in engaging in oral sex with a girl who was under the age of consent. But he is quite right in making a distinction between a child molester and a couple of horny teenagers. When I think of the term “child molester” I tend to think of an adult (usually middle-aged) having inappropriate contact with a prepubescent child. These are the real sexual predators who should be put away possibly forever.

It seems to me that there needs to be a serious discussion about where exactly the line should be drawn. Clearly, children should be safe from predators but at what point is a child an adolescent of an age where he or she can be held responsible for his or her choices? I believe there should be some sort of sliding scale taking into consideration the ages of the parties involved. Is an 18 year old having sex or sexual contact with 17 year old molestation, regardless of the age of consent? I think not! What about a 30 year old with a 17 year old? I tend to think so!

There seems to be no clear answers; what might seem reasonable to me might not seem reasonable to you. When a “zero tolerance” policy in the form of mandatory minimum sentences is in play, there can be no thoughtful discussions in the jury room. It’s all or nothing.

Genarlow Wilson has served nearly 2 years for this offense. Does he really need to serve another 8 to teach him a lesson? Alternatively, should he be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? The answer to both of these questions depend on whether or not one believes that Genarlow Wilson is a threat to children based on his actions as A 17 YEAR OLD WITH A GIRL WHO WAS ONLY 2 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM. If you ask me, he has already done enough time.

The Futile Drug War and Crime

Over at just a marine, the author is making the argument that the drug war, while it hasn’t been as successful as he’d like, is not futile. This is in response to Radley Balko’s piece at Reason highlighting the folks of LEAP.

The marine makes a point that is very personal, but has wider implications:

Along the way, instead of hearing about the corrupting influence on cops, how about hearing about the influence on those of us who been stolen from, or worse. Wait till your car has been broken into in your driveway to see what I mean. Now multiply it several times in the same place, again as on your land.

National property crime rates (burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) since 1960 say as much. That there has been a small decline since the 1990’s shows some progress, but it is still twice the 1960 rate. It has been almost three times as high.

He is correct that property crime appears to be roughly double that now of what it was in 1960. But he’s misleading in his statement that there’s been a small decline “since the 1990’s”, since crime rose quickly and steadily throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s, but the rates of theft and burglary have been cut in half since then. Crime has declined slightly since the 1990’s, but declined quite significantly during the late 1970’s into the 1980’s.

propertycrime

Of course, this table only goes to 1995, but the numbers of property crimes in the US have consistently fallen since 1995, despite the fact that our population increased by almost 13%.

To some extent, this may be tied to rates of drug use. Drug use has also decreased significantly since 1979, followed by a levelling off around 1990 and perhaps a slight rise in the last few years.

druguse

But not shown here is any sort of causative relationship. Since drug use stabilized and rose during the 90’s and into the current decade, a causative relationship would suggest rising property crime rates, according to the author of just a marine. Yet crime continued to drop during this time. Clearly the correlation between drug use and crime is strained. It could be that drug use and crime are both effects of a cause which can more easily be traced elsewhere.

After all, if you look at the history of the 1960’s and 1970’s, they were a time of incredible social upheaval. The civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the Great Society, and the war in Vietnam created a wave of social unrest that rippled through all of American society. Lots of previously mistreated social groups came to believe that they were entitled to jobs and equal participation in society, but the society was reluctant (and not entirely ready) to integrate them. The promises made during the civil rights movement, sexual revolution, and Great society weren’t being upheld, and it caused a lot of unhappiness. Could it be that crime and drug use were both the result of that social unrest?

What is missing, though, is the question of whether the war on drugs is futile, which isn’t proved by anything that just a marine has said:

The article I mentioned earlier included the corrupting influence of alcohol during prohibition. At least that problem went away with the end of prohibition. But nowhere did the alcohol prohibition problems include the high amount of burglary that comes from our drug problem today. Does anyone believe that if we make all drugs legal, then the burglary, and worse, problems will end? I know some do, but they are wrong, in my opinion.

Does anyone believe that if we continue the current war on drugs, the current rates of burglary will decrease? Can it be shown that if we end the war on drugs, the rates of those problems will increase? Current evidence doesn’t support that claim. Some evidence, such as that in the Netherlands, actually show a decrease in marijuana use after decriminalization.

Nor does his claim that the prohibition of alcohol didn’t include high rates of crime hold water. Crime rates (both violent and property crimes) rose steadily through the 1920’s, and then suddenly reversed course in 1933, when alcohol prohibition was repealed. This appears to be rising crime rates during the strong economy of the 1920’s, followed by declining crime rates during the country’s struggling economy and high unemployment during the Great Depression. Burglaries, violent crime, and Prohibition-related incarceration rose quickly during alcohol prohibition, and then decreased thereafter. Could it be that our current crime rates, which have been declining for 15 years despite drug use holding constant and the War on Drugs in full swing, may decrease even further with an end to drug prohibition?

Further, all the arguments of the drug prohibitionists are predicated on one assumption: that drug prohibition can work. The evidence has clearly shown that drug Prohibition does not end drug use, nor does it end or reduce crime. What it does do is create a violent black market, dominated by organized crime, while forcing drug users underground— thus making it socially unacceptable for drug abusers to seek treatment. All while causing billions of dollars every year, and stomping on civil liberties. If the War on Drugs means we have horrendous corruption of law enforcement, and moderate drug use in our society, but removing the War on Drugs ends the corruption of law enforcement while retaining moderate drug use, wouldn’t it still make sense to remove the War on Drugs?

Just a marine seems to believe that because drugs are illegal, drug-related crime will cease. Yet his own experience, having his car broken into, is evidence that drug-related crime occurs in a world where the War on Drugs is prosecuted with ever-increasing ruthlessness. How he can make the claim that the drug war is not futile, when it is expensive, destroys lives, and yet has complete inability to stop drug use, I simply don’t understand.

Chavez To Declare Himself Dictator

Making official something that was really quite apparent, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on the verge of being given dictatorial power, and freedom continues to silently die south of the border:

Venezuela’s National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants “revolutionary laws” to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December.

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.

This is hardly surprising considering that the National Assembly is completely controlled by Chavez’s party, but it is still somewhat shocking to see people voluntarily vote themselves into servitude.

Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation II

A Federal Judge in New York has ruled that a lawsuit by the music industy against XM Satellite Radio over a new XM radio that allows consumers to record songs played on XM onto an MP3 player can proceed forward:

A lawsuit in which record companies accuse XM Satellite Radio Holdings of cheating them by letting consumers store songs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled yesterday after finding merit to the companies’ claims.

Judge Deborah A. Batts of United States District Court in New York made the finding in a case brought by the Atlantic Recording Corporation, BMG Music, Capitol Records and other music distribution companies against XM Satellite, the satellite radio broadcaster.

In a lawsuit last year, the companies said XM infringed on their exclusive distribution rights by letting consumers record songs onto special receivers marketed as “XM + MP3” players.

XM argued that it was protected from infringement lawsuits by the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits individuals to record music off the radio for private use. The judge said she did not believe that the company was protected in this instance by the act.

While this is an early stage of the proceedings, this doesn’t strike me as very good news, or anyone else who believes in freedom to innovate. Especially when you consider remarks like this:

The judge said XM operated like traditional radio broadcast providers who cannot offer an interactive service, publish programming schedules before broadcast and play songs from an artist more often than specified within a three-hour period. But by broadcasting and storing copyrighted music for later recording by the consumer, the judge said XM was both a broadcaster and a distributor, but was paying only to be a broadcaster.

“The record companies sufficiently allege that serving as a music distributor to XM + MP3 users gives XM added commercial benefit as a satellite radio broadcaster,” Judge Batts said.

And what’s so wrong with that ?

Related Posts:

Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation

The Slow Advance Of The Nanny State

I’m convinced that one of the reasons that liberty is always on the defensive is because people fail to notice the small ways in which it is being chipped away at, little by little, day by day, sometimes even for reasons that seem to make sense. I was reminded of this by Dale Franks in this post at QandO talking about trivial little laws that continue to chip away at our autonomy.

For example, next week, a California legislator will introduce a bill that could send parents to jail for spanking their children:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California parents could face jail and a fine for spanking their young children under legislation a state lawmaker has promised to introduce next week.

Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber said such a law is needed because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child,” Lieber said. “Is it OK to whip a 1-year-old or a 6-month-old or a newborn?”

Lieber said her proposal would make spanking, hitting and slapping a child under 4 years old a misdemeanor. Adults could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Leaving aside the debate about corporal punishment, it’s clear that there’s a difference between spanking and child abuse. Child abuse is already illegal, as it should be. Ms. Lieber seems to be saying that any form of physical punishment, no matter how mild, should be punished by the state. But here’s the funny, part, Lieber can’t even say what she considers illegal spanking to be:

Aides to the assemblywoman said they are still working on a definition for spanking.

The dangers in a law like this are, I think, obvious. The state would become more involved in daily family life and any physical contact between a parent and child, no matter how inadvertent could become a criminal act. Stupid if you ask me.

But wait, there’s more. » Read more

Supreme Court To Hear Two Major First Amendment Cases

Via SCOTUSblog comes word that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in two cases dealing with challenges to the McCain-Feingold law’s restriction on advertising by third-parties within 60 days of an election:

Returning to the much-litigated controversy over political campaign ads broadcast during election season, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to rule on two cases that newly test the constitutionality of congressional curbs on such ads. In a brief order, the Court granted review of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life (05-969) and McCain, et al., v. Wisconsin Right to Life (06-970). The cases were consolidated and expedited so that the cases can be heard and decided during the current Term — well in advance of the opening of the presidential campaign in 2008. Because there is a potential issue of mootness in the case, the Court postponed a decision until the hearing on whether it does, indeed, have jurisdiction to rule.

(…)

The campaign ad cases are sequels to the Court’s 2003 decision upholding the ban on so-called “electioneering communications.” However, it made clear in a summary ruling a year ago that that decision involved only a facial challenge and “did not purport to resolve future as-applied challenges.” The new appeals involved just such as-applied challenges, to the threat of FEC prosecution of Wisconsin Right to Life over three ads that group prepared to air during the 2004 senatorial campaign. A three-judge U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in a decision Dec. 21, ruled that the “electioneering communications” ban was invalid as applied to those specific ads.

The ban forbids corporations and labor unions from using their own in-house funds to pay for broadcast ads that mention in any way a federal candidate, if the ad runs 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before a general election. Wisconsin Right to Life’s planned ads would have mentioned Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, who was running for reelection in 2004, in ads that discussed Senate filibusters of judicial nominees.

How this could not be a violation of the First Amendment escapes me completely.

FCC Chairman: We Won’t Approve An XM-Sirius Merger

For the moment, any discussion of a merger between satellite radio providers XM and Sirius is just that, talk. Nonetheless, the advantages of such a merger to both companies are apparent.

The Chairman of the FCC, who you will remember is a Republican appointed by a Republican President and approved by a Republican Congress, though, has already announced that the FCC will not approve a merger of the two companies if it is ever proposed:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — XM and Sirius satellite radio’s proposed merger hit a roadblock yesterday when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin suggested at a press conference in Washington that their licenses would cause a monopoly.

“There’s a prohibition on one entity owning both of those licenses,” Mr. Martin told reporters.

The problem, as the Adage article goes on to explain, is that the FCC has historically viewed satellite radio (and television) as its own market, and refused to look at the broadcast industry as a whole, even though it’s clear that traditional radio broadcasters consider satellite radio to be a serious competitor for listeners:

“Clearly, traditional broadcasters view satellite radio as a competitor, but FCC is viewing it as a separate entity. So [FCC’s] concern would be you have one satellite radio company that can dictate prices or whatever they want. But the question is, if they jack the prices up, can the consumer in that case say. ‘I’m going to local digital radio stations or internet radio or various other sustainable products.'”

Clearly, the answer is yes. That new car you bought may come with the capability to receive either XM or Sirius, but you don’t have to buy the subscription plan, and you don’t have to renew it when it expires. More importantly, and I think this will become more a important consideration as XM and Sirius are forced into the position of running commercials on some channels (already a fact on most non-music stations on XM), you don’t have to listen at all.

Of course, the FCC shouldn’t be involved in this process at all. But, if it is going to evaluate the potential market impact of an XM-Sirius merger, it needs to have a more logical definition of the relevant market.

H/T: Outside The Beltway

Why Chavez Will Be Bad For Venezuela

The news came down early this month that Hugo Chavez intended to nationalize industry in Venezuela. There have been many media glorifications of Chavez in recent times, who has been using the oil wealth of Venezuela to improve the lives of the poorest in the nation. Many socialists think this might be their one bright point in the history of the movement. They see Chavez as the guy who will prove that socialism can work.

But it won’t. Why won’t it work? Atlas is shrugging, and the capitalists have been pulling up stakes for years.

Asked about the AES investment by a Venezuelan newspaper in May 2000, Chavez said, “I do not have to meddle in that, because I consider it strictly private.” He said the company’s executives “displayed a quite progressive vision.”

Forbes magazine at the time said the AES move was “perplexing,” noting that other investors were fleeing because they saw Chavez as an unpredictable, self-styled revolutionary autocrat.

Yep. It seems that when Chavez first showed up, he told a few businessmen that their investments were safe. Quite a few other businessmen didn’t believe him, and started pulling their investments out of the country. Those who did believe Chavez ended up getting screwed anyway, even if it was 6 years later.

Why does this matter? Well, regardless of whether you’re a capitalist or socialist, capital is necessary to expand business and expand an economy. You can believe capital comes from people looking to make a profit by investing, or you can believe that capital comes from the desires of workers and the central planning of government. Either way, capital is necessary.

Unfortunately, though, people who want to make a profit get very scared when someone who is advocating nationalizing industry get elected into power. They force the socialists to put their money where their mouthes are, by removing their money from the equation and asking the government and workers to actually put that investment where it is needed. And by pulling out their investment when the economy is nationalized, they give the socialists profits (which used to go to investors) with which to distribute that capital.

We’re going to watch the real-life effects of socialism before our eyes. External investment, faced with the understanding that property rights have now been nullified, has ceased. But the socialists in Venezuela have ample national resources that they may be able to use to remain afloat. If any country can show how wonderful socialism can become, it’s probably Venezuela. It’s too bad— for the people of Venezuela— that it’ll fail.

Stephen Littau in 537 Words

Before I get into introducing myself to the readers of The Liberty Papers, I want to thank Brad and Doug for inviting me to become a contributor to this wonderful blog. The Liberty Papers has been my favorite blog since its inception and it is my hope that my writing lives up to the high standards set by those who have made this blog a quality source for those who wish to advance the ideals of Life, Liberty, and Property in a world which increasingly finds these to be foreign concepts.

About Me…

I am quickly arriving at my 30th birthday (February 4, Super Bowl Sunday), happily married to my wonderful wife Aimee, have three children (2 boys and a baby girl), and a pesky cat. We have recently moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Denver, Colorado where my wife grew up and where most of her extended family resides. I am a structural draftsman by trade and am working on a bachelor’s degree in business management. My hobbies include following politics, listening to talk radio, reading (mostly non-fiction), watching NFL football (especially the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos), bowling, playing HeroScape with my boys, and of course blogging.

Speaking of blogging, the name of my blog is Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds where I write about philosophy, politics, religion (from an atheist’s perspective), science, economics, media matters and everything else you were told was not polite to discuss at the dinner table. I’m a Classical Liberal who is an unapologetic advocate of liberty, individualism, capitalism, limited government, property rights, criminal justice reform, the rule of law, and church/state separation. I am the arch enemy of socialism, Islamofascism, communism, collectivism, mob rule, big government, government waste, the war on (some) drugs, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, race based & sex based preferences, blue laws, overly burdensome green laws, political correctness, the welfare state, and the nanny state.

The thinkers who have influenced me the most are John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. As far as contemporary influences go, Peter McWilliams, Walter E. Williams, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Neal Boortz, Leonard Peikoff, and John Stossel have all contributed a great deal to the way I view the world. One trait that all these individuals share is a desire to create a world of maximum liberty and minimal government interference.

Unfortunately, most of what we read in the newspaper or see on television advocates the polar opposite. Our elected officials on both the Left and the Right have no problem with taking our liberty if it fuels their agendas and grants them additional power. This is why I believe the blogosphere in general and The Liberty Papers in particular is so important…to hold our elected officials accountable. Knowledge is power and when the MSM refuses to do its job, someone must fill the void and inform the public of the disgraceful actions which take place on a daily basis to rob us of our most basic liberties. If we ignore our rights they will go away but at The Liberty Papers, we refuse to allow our readers to remain ignorant by “Defending individual freedom and liberty, one post at a time.”

Whatever Happened To Parental Responsibility ?

Today, it was reported that four families have filed lawsuits against the parent company of MySpace because their children were targeted by adults they met online:

NEW YORK — Four families have sued News Corp. and its MySpace social-networking site after their underage daughters were sexually abused by adults they met on the site, lawyers for the families said Thursday.

The law firms, Barry & Loewy LLP of Austin, Texas, and Arnold & Itkin LLP of Houston, said families from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina filed separate suits Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging negligence, recklessness, fraud and negligent misrepresentation by the companies.

“In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of their underage users,” said Jason A. Itkin, an Arnold & Itkin lawyer.

The families are seeking monetary damages “in the millions of dollars,” Itkin said.

“Hopefully these lawsuits can spur MySpace into action and prevent this from happening to another child somewhere,” he said.

What about the actions that the parents of these girls should have taken to begin with ? Is it really responsible for any parent to allow their child to have unrestricted, unsupervised access to the Internet ?

There is no excuse for what happened to these girls, but that doesn’t mean that a website is responsible for the fact that there are perverts in the world, or for the fact that parents still don’t seem to understand that it makes no more sense to give kids unlimited access to the Internet than it does to leave the door to your house wide open on a Friday night.

So Much For Open Debate

Up in New Hampshire, Toby Iselin wrote a letter to Delmar Burridge, his local representative in the state legislature urging him to support a bill currently pending that would decriminalize marijuana.

Here’s Iselin’s letter:

Dear Representative Delmar Burridge
I hope you are in good health. I understand that you are on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee which is going to hear testimony this Wednesday on HB92, decriminalizing marijuana. I know you are opposed to this bill, but I trust you can understand how important of an issue this is to many people both in Keene and the rest of New Hampshire. I hope you will consider passing it through committee so that all sides will have their chance to speak on it. NH has some of the most draconian legislation on marijuana, and hundreds of our friends and family members are being arrested for choosing to smoke instead of drink. Please think about passing this through committee so everyone can listen to the opposition and have their chance to speak. Thank you very much,

Toby Iselin
Keene NH

And here’s the money paragraphs from the response he got:

My youngest brother Albert who I was very close to died from head injuries sustained when he wrecked his car in West Virginia. His wife walked away. He was a triple major in college; biology, philosophy, and psychology and was smoking a joint before the crash. It is all very vivid including the anguish my parents went through. This occurred in the 1970s and I still miss him. I began work as a juvenile probation officer in the poorest section in Philadelphia in 1969 and the above described experience pales to my on the job, eyeball to eyeball observation of family devastation I saw daily…..and these males were reefer users just like you….saying the same dumb stuff just like you and they were not smart college smart. I saw lots of blood and death. Trust me, these campers were not soon going to be setting the world on fire. Some did suffer severe burns.

(….)

I am copying two members of the Keene Police Department in case you want to change your ways and act legal and save your friends.

You are very passionate in your beliefs and would make a great snitch. It is thrilling to dime on your so called friends.

Is it any wonder that it’s next to impossible to have a rational debate about drug legalization in this country ?

Full coverage at Iselin’s blog.

More restrictions on speech?

Are you a blogger? Then S. 1 may concern you.

From Of Arms and the Law:

S.1 has been introduced in the Senate as “lobbying reform” — which in this case means “First Amendment infringements.” An amendment has been attached, which requires registration of bloggers with more than 500 readers, and who comment on policy issues. Violation would be a criminal offense.

I looked it up on the Library of Congress webpage (which is essentially unlinkable) and have attached section 220 in extended remarks, below. As the bill is reported, it appears to cover any “paid” grassroots lobbying, that reaches more than 500 people. But a blogger who receives contributions might be classed as a “paid” grassroots type. It looks like Congress wants to keep an eye on annoying people like Porkbusters. It may be significant that S.1 was introduced by Harry Reid, one of the Kings of Pork.

[UPDATE] We won this round. The Senate passed the Bennett Amendment, which eliminated the questionable language. Here is the roll call vote.

However, the Gregg Amendment, which would have established a line-item veto was blocked by the Harry Reid and Robert Byrd.

[ANOTHER UPDATE] Welcome to all Instapundit readers!

Another Defeat For The “Fair Share” Crowd

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today struck what is very likely a fatal blow to the movement to compel large companies such as Wal-Mart to provide health insurance coverage for their employees:

A federal appeals court ruled today that Maryland violated federal law when it required Wal-Mart Stores to increase spending on employee health insurance, in a decision that appears likely to end a bitter yearlong legal battle that pitted state legislators, organized labor and health care advocates against the nation’s largest retailer.

The 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is a major setback — if not a fatal blow — for a nascent campaign, called “fair share,” that sought to move millions of America’s working poor off of state-sponsored insurance programs, like Medicaid, and on to employer-based plans.

(…)

the appeals court, upholding a lower court ruling, found that the Maryland rule violated a federal labor law intended to allow companies to create a uniform system of health benefits across the country, rather than navigate a patchwork of state-by-state requirements.

By requiring employers in Maryland to restructure insurance plans, the court found, the law “conflicts” with the intent of the federal labor law, known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.

The ruling could have wide-ranging implications for the so-called fair share health care legislation under consideration in several states, which has been put on hold while lawmakers awaited a final ruling in the Maryland case. It was not immediately clear whether Maryland officials were planning to appeal the case to the full circuit court or ultimately to the United States Supreme Court.

Given the fact that this law has been struck down twice now, once at the District Court, and now at the Court of Appeals, a reversal by the Supreme Court is, to say the least, highly unlikely.

Like the decision earlier this year at the District Court level, this decision did not say that the state doesn’t have the right to compel employers to provide health insurance to their employees, only that such a requirement conflicts with federal law. The right result, but unfortunately for a reason that could be easily reversed given the right votes in Congress. But I’ll take the victory anyway.

Full text of the opinion here.

Related Posts:

Maryland’s Wal-Mart Law Struck Down

The End Of Warrantless Wiretaps

There really is no other way to spin this story except to say that the Bush Administration has given in, there won’t be anymore warrantless wiretaps:

The Justice Department announced today that the National Security Agency’s controversial warrantless surveillance program has been placed under the authority of a secret surveillance court, marking an abrupt change in approach by the Bush administration after more than a year of heated debate.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said that orders issued on Jan. 10 by an unidentified judge puts the NSA program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel that oversees most intelligence surveillance in the United States.

Gonzales also wrote that the current NSA program will effectively be abandoned after its current authorization expires in favor of the new approach.

The change marks a dramatic turn of events for the Justice Department, which has strenuously argued for more than a year that the NSA spying program was legal and that the foreign intelligence court was poorly suited to oversee the program, as many lawmakers had advocated.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, President Bush authorized the NSA to monitor telephone calls and e-mail between the United States and overseas if one party to the communication was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda or related groups.

The program did not require any court oversight, prompting widespread objections from privacy advocates and many legal experts after the program was first revealed in news reports in December 2005. Bush and his aides strongly defended the legality and efficacy of the NSA spying initiative, which they dubbed the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

In his letter to lawmakers, Gonzales said a judge on the surveillance court issued orders “authorizing the government to target for collection international communications into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe” that one of the targets is a member of al-Qaeda or an associated group.

Hmm, so the Bush Administration has decided to follow the Fourth Amendment after all. Will wonders never cease.

Of course, as Kip points out, there isn’t any reason that this program couldn’t be continued in secret, but the difference now is that, if (and when) such a secret program were to become public, the spectacle of a n Administration evading the very oversight program it set up would be pretty embarrassing.

For the moment, I’ll chalk this one up as a victory for the Constitution.

Is Fidel Castro The Latest Victim Of Socialized Medicine ?

According to a new report from a Spanish newspaper, Fidel Castro’s current condition may be due to failures in Cuba’s vaunted nationalized medical industry:

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban leader Fidel Castro chose to avoid a colostomy and opted for riskier intestinal surgery that led to serious complications, the Spanish newspaper El Pais said in its Wednesday edition.

The problem is that the procedure that they did in place of the colostomy didn’t go well, and has apparently caused serious internal infections.

U.S. doctors said Tuesday’s report in El Pais suggested Castro had received questionable or even botched care.

“It sounds like they tried to spare him the colostomy, which would have been the safer and more conservative approach,” said Dr. Meyer Solny, a gastrointestinal expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Now, of course, doctors make mistakes even in the United States, but there is some delicious irony in the idea that Fidel may be dying because of the incompetence created by his own system.

H/T: Classical Values

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