Monthly Archives: January 2007

Further Thoughts On The Ron Paul For President Campaign

James Ostrowski responded today to my weekend post criticizing his comments that Ron Paul is Hillary Clinton’s greatest threat, and that he has a realistic chance of winning the the GOP nomination:

[C]onsider the fact that on the key issue of the campaign, the Iraq War, Ron Paul beats Hillary. He voted against the war and she for it. On three other key issues, the economy, immigration and health care, Ron Paul’s views should fare quite well against Hillary’s.

That’s well and good for the General Election, perhaps, but first the Congressman has to win the Republican nomination, and the three factors I mentioned in my original post (money, getting the message out, and name recognition) are going to be a big hurdle for Ron Paul on the road to the nomination, should he actually run for President.

Ostrowski finishes by saying this:

All I’m saying is that the Ron Paul campaign could be a political earthquake. We won’t and can’t know until after the fact.

Perhaps, but the likelihood of it actually happening is, I think, slim indeed.

Related Posts:

Ron Paul For President !
Ron Paul’s Presidential Chances
Ron Paul Votes For Price Fixing Prescription Drugs
A Moment of Hubris On the Ron Paul For President Campaign

Federal Judge Outlaws Hyperlinking

According to one U.S. District Court Judge in Texas, it’s against the law to hyperlink to copyrighted material if the copyright holder objects:

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that it is unlawful to provide a hyperlink to a Webcast if the copyright owner objects to it.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in the northern district of Texas granted a preliminary injunction against Robert Davis, who operated and had been providing direct links to the live audiocasts of motorcycle racing events.

Lindsay ruled last week that “the link Davis provides on his Web site is not a ‘fair use’ of copyright material” and ordered him to cease linking directly to streaming audio files.

The audio Webcasts are copyrighted by SFX Motor Sports, a Texas company that is one of the largest producers of “Supercross” motorcycle racing events. SFX sued Davis in February, noting that fans who go to its own Web site will see the names and logos of sponsors including wireless company Amp’d Mobile. (Anyone who clicked on the link from Davis’ site, however, would not see the logos of companies that paid to be sponsors.)

Think for a second about what this means. You’re not posting copyright material yourself, you’re not even quoting from it. All you’re doing is linking to it. And yet, according to Judge Lindsey, this is a copyright violation. Of course, if he’s right, then the entire World Wide Web is nothing more than one big copyright violation, as John Dvorak points out:

A link is a link. Banning deep linking is a step towards banning all linking, and what does that do for the Google business model? Where are the Google attorneys helping out in this case? Are they helping out on the appeal? If not, then why not?

How do we even use the Internet if deep linking is illegal for some reason? We don’t, that’s how. Goodbye, Amazon. Hey Jeff, did you help out on this case?

Cases like this point out the problems I have with the entire concept of intellectual property law. How am I violating your rights if I post a link on my website to something you posted on yours ?

It’s not as if I took your content and appropriated it as my own. Heck, I haven’t even altered your content to make it appear original. Moreover, if you don’t want me deeplinking to your site, the you can take steps to make sure that won’t happen, but not doing so, you are implicitly saying it’s acceptable.

Of course, as the New York Times has discovered, hiding content behind a firewall seldom leads to success.

H/T: QandO

Bush Administration Official Rejects Right To Fair Trial

The deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, Charles “Cully” Stimson, made some troubling comments recently that threaten law firms who represent detainees at Guantanimo Bay.

Stimson on Thursday told Federal News Radio, a local commercial station that covers the government, that he found it “shocking” that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms represent detainees.

Stimson listed the names of more than a dozen major firms he suggested should be boycotted.

“And I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms,” Stimson said.

Asked who might be paying the law firms to represent Guantanamo detainees, Stimson hinted at wrongdoing for which some explaining should be done.

“It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart — that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are,” he said. “Others are receiving monies from who knows where and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

He has been forced to apologize for getting caught. If the Bush Administration was really did not believe in Stimson’s remarks, he would have been fired.

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.

The Road To Media Serfdom

At the National Conference for Media Reform that my fellow contributor Doug touched on earlier, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps spoke. During his speech, he outlined an agenda that he called The New American Media Contract. The rationale he follows is that the American people own the airwaves and there is:

Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality
entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional
music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists. Too little of America, too much of
Wall Street and Madison Avenue. That’s what we get for half a trillion dollars. It’s one
hell of a bad bargain, don’t you think?

What Mr. Copps doesn’t understand apparently is that the viewer or listener has a choice not to listen or watch those things he describes. But, he’s a government bureaucrat so he has to come up with a five point plan to solve this outrage of media catering to the consumers’ demand.

First, let’s make sure the FCC backs off any further loosening of the
few media ownership protections we still have. This is not the time for more duopolies,
triopolies and sweetheart newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership deals that strangle
localism, diversity and competition.

In other words, if we think your company owns too much of the airwaves (nevermind things like cable and satellite) and newspapers, we’ll break your company up. Why, we’re the government and we can. Oh and we’ll make sure we’re going to have a precence in every market via NPR and PBS.

Second, let’s make FCC license approval and renewal into more than a paper
tiger. That means enforcing the American Media Contract every time a media company
comes in to renew a license or get a new one. No more postcard license renewals—but
instead a requirement for license-holders to prove they are fulfilling the Contract.

This will kill political speech in the mainstream media, and possibly the Internet. I point to the threat by the Democrats in late 2006 to revoke ABC’s license over the movie The Path To 9/11 which had some criticism of Bill Clinton’s terrorism record as an example. The media will be afraid to criticize the government for fear of losing their license.

Third, give minorities a seat at the media table. Wait a minute—seat at the table?
Why can’t they own the table? Thirty per cent of our population cannot be consigned to
owning three per cent of our broadcast outlets—not unless we want another century of
equal opportunity sham and shame.

Another words, affirmative action for media ownership, to be enforced by the redistribution of property to comply.

Fourth, expand the number of media outlets in each community. That means
more support for Low Power, PEG programmers and community wireless—movements
that defend the last bastions of localism as Big Media marches toward one-size-fits-all
national programming and distribution.

To be taken and run by government. Now this is a violation of the principles of the First Amendment because this can be used again to muzzle speech government disapproves of.

Fifth, protect new forms of media from the awful consolidation that ensnared
traditional media. The Internet can be truly transformative—or it can become another
network monopoly. Does everyone here tonight support Network Neutrality?

Why should the companies that developed the Internet not be allowed to profit off their creation?

If the New American Media Contract is adopted by the new Democratic Congress, this will result in a chilling effect for free speech as the threat of government revoking the license of stations and Internet providers who allow speech it doesn’t like. The real solution is to privatize the airwaves and restrict the FCC’s power to only making sure the stations stay on their assigned frequencies and channels.

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.

Amtrak: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed

Since 1970, the business of intercity and interstate rail passenger service has essentially been nationalized. In that year, Congress created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, known more popularly as Amtrak.

Not surprisingly, the history of the American passenger rail system since then has been little more than a disaster. Without the federal subsidies that it depends upon, Amtrak would not have survived the past 37 years. And, yet, for the most part, Americans have abandoned train travel for less expensive, and quite honestly more pleasant methods of travel.

Despite that fact, the government continues its inane efforts to get us all on the train:

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) introduced legislation yesterday that would authorize $3.2 billion a year for Amtrak over six years in exchange for greater efficiency and increased investments by states.

Supporters said the plan would place Amtrak on a firm financial footing after years of instability.

A similar bill was passed by the Senate in November, 93 to 6, but was not taken up by the House of Representatives. Lautenberg said prospects were much improved with Democrats now in control of both houses of Congress.

“It’s not going to be that difficult this year,” Lautenberg said yesterday at a news conference at Union Station, where he was joined by Lott and Alexander K. Kummant, Amtrak’s chief executive.

Amtrak, the main operator of passenger trains in the country, has been beset with money-losing routes, hobbled by technical troubles, criticized for mismanagement and crippled by a lack of capital investment. Conservatives especially have questioned whether large operating subsidies for Amtrak are a wise investment.

Amtrak received $1.3 billion in federal funding last fiscal year.

And yet, here we are a year later, Amtrak is again a financial failure, and the only solution that anyone can come up with is to throw more money at it.

Yea, makes sense to me.

Copyright Law And The Assault On Innovation

New legislation currently pending before the Senate would greatly expand copyright law in an effort by the music industry to stifle yet another area of innovation:

Satellite and Internet radio services would be required to restrict listeners’ ability to record and play back individual songs, under new legislation introduced this week in the U.S. Senate.

The rules are embedded in a copyright bill called the Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act, or Perform Act, which was reintroduced Thursday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). They have pitched the proposal, which first emerged in an earlier version last spring, as a means to level the playing field among “radio-like services” available via cable, satellite and the Internet.

By their description, that means requiring all such services to pay “fair market value” for the use of copyright music libraries. The bill’s sponsors argue the existing regime must change because it applies different royalty rates, depending on what medium transmits the music.

But the measure goes further, taking aim at portable satellite radio devices, such as XM Satellite Radio’s Inno player, that allow consumers to store copies of songs originally played on-air. The proposal says that all audio services–Webcasters included–would be obligated to implement “reasonably available and economically reasonable” copy-protection technology aimed at preventing “music theft” and restricting automatic recording.

“New radio services are allowing users to do more than simply listen to music,” Feinstein said in a statement. “What was once a passive listening experience has turned into a forum where users can record, manipulate, collect and create personalized music libraries.”

Excuse me, Senator Feinstein, but I’m pretty sure you were alive in the 1980s. Back then, we used cassette recorders to, effectively, accomplish the same thing that XM’s Inno player would — record songs off the radio so we could listen to them on our portable music players. What the heck is the difference today ?

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I think the only difference is the amount of money the RIAA is contributing to political campaigns.

The Anti-Freedom Doctrine

Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, who is admittedly a gadfly with no chance of getting the nomination in 2008, has reignited the debate over the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”:

Over the weekend, the National Conference for Media Reform was held in Memphis, TN, with a number of notable speakers on hand for the event. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made an surprise appearance at the convention to announce that he would be heading up a new House subcommittee which will focus on issues surrounding the Federal Communications Commission.

The Presidential candidate said that the committee would be holding “hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington.” The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee was to be officially announced this week in Washington, D.C., but Kucinich opted to make the news public early.

In addition to media ownership, the committee is expected to focus its attention on issues such as net neutrality and major telecommunications mergers. Also in consideration is the “Fairness Doctrine,” which required broadcasters to present controversial topics in a fair and honest manner. It was enforced until it was eliminated in 1987.

Kucinich said in his speech that “We know the media has become the servant of a very narrow corporate agenda” and added “we are now in a position to move a progressive agenda to where it is visible.”

In other words, if our point of view can’t compete in the commercial marketplace, we’ll force it down America’s throat.

Election 2008 Developments

Illinois Senator Barack Obama has taken the first step to run for president. He has to be considered a front runner in the Democratic primaries because unlike Hillary people actually like him and unlike John Edwards he doesn’t come off as a dumbass everytime he opens his mouth. I want to see more about Obama and what he believes before I decide if he’s one Democrat I can support in the general elections.

Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo has also entered the race. Tancredo’s campaign platform will be:

Tancredo has said immigration would be a central issue if he does run. Campaign spokesman Tim Haley said on Tuesday that Tancredo would also push opposition to abortion and other conservative themes as well.

Gee, I’m shocked, Tancredo is running as the immigration demagogue. Unfortunately for him, Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul have already cornered the xenophobe market. He’ll run right up until Iowa then he’ll drop out and run for the senate seat in Colorado and probably lose that race.

Sad thing is, I could vote for Tancredo in the Republican primary if he wasn’t a single issue candidate because his record on fiscal issues and federalism is better than most Republicans.

Sam Brownback has endorsed the Flat Tax as he desperately tries to court people other than social conservatives to support him. Unfortunately, this is more bullshit:

Last year, he proposed allowing Washington, D.C., residents to opt into a flat-tax system, an idea that never made it out of committee. Under his plan, the earned income of District of Columbia residents would have been taxed at a flat rate, with an exemption of $5,000 to $7,000 per family member. The formula could provide a national model for Brownback in a presidential campaign.

He hasn’t proposed a specific rate but envisions an optional flat-tax system to coexist with the current system, allowing taxpayers to choose.

Sam, we already have something like that with the Alternative Minimum Tax. If you want real tax reform Sam, support the Fair Tax.

Dick Morris has predictions as to who wins the Republican nomination.

“I think that the Republican nominee is going to be one of these minor leaguers: [Tom] Tancredo, [Mike] Huckabee, [Sam] Brownback, [Jim] Gilmore from Virginia, Duncan Hunter from California,” Morris said. “It’s like the pitching rotation is all going to be injured at the World Series and the Triple –A pitching staff, one of them is going to pitch the opening game.”

If I was one of these five candidates, I wouldn’t start preparing to face the Democratic nominee just yet; Dick Morris is more wrong than right. However, he may have a point as I don’t see the Three Stooges (Guiliani, McCain, and Romney) surviving Iowa and New Hampshire let alone South Carolina. Out of that field, my guess is that Brownback and Jim Gilmore would have the best chance of moving up; but I can see a dark horse moving in the wide open Republican field.

McCain continues to strengthen his South Carolina organization.

UPDATE: This won’t help Tancredo.

UPDATE II: The Lonewacko blog has a rebuttal to the above Tancredo link.

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.

Fighting City Hall….And Winning

Today’s Washington Post tells the story of a man who dared to take on one of Virginia’s largest counties on his own, and won:

The Great Virginia Parking Ticket Battle began with a burst of expletives one Saturday morning in October 2000, when Woodbridge resident Robert W. Eberth, a retired Navy captain, found a $35 citation on the windshield of his 1990 Ford Taurus. NO VALID STATE INSPECTION, it said.

Eberth had been ticketed under Prince William County Code 13-322, mandating up-to-date inspection stickers for vehicles parked on public roads. True, Eberth had allowed the Taurus’s registration to lapse. But he was saving the car for his teenage son and had parked it in the private lot of his apartment complex.

Eberth examined the ticket. He cursed a little more. Then he looked up 13-322 on the Internet.

“Something is very wrong with this picture,” he said to himself. He checked the box marked “contest.”

Over the next six years, representing himself in multiple court battles, Eberth took his parking-ticket dispute all the way to the Virginia Court of Appeals. Last month, he won.

A three-judge panel in Alexandria went even further than Eberth had imagined, ruling that Prince William had no authority to ticket vehicles with expired inspection stickers parked on private — or public — property. The ruling by Judge Robert J. Humphreys said state law prohibits only the operation of a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker, casting doubt on whether police anywhere in Virginia can ticket parked vehicles with expired stickers.

Because Prince William’s code dates to at least 1965, the ruling suggests that the county has been erroneously citing drivers for more than four decades. Since 2000 alone — the year Eberth got his first of three tickets — Prince William has written 29,871 citations under Code 13-322, for fines totaling more than $1 million.

Cheers to Mr. Eberth for winning one for the little guys.

Mandatory Gun Ownership?

Glenn Reynolds has an op-ed in the New York Times extolling the virtues of mandatory gun ownership.

IT’S a phenomenon that gives the term “gun control” a whole new meaning: community ordinances that encourage citizens to own guns.

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for its citizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case of emergency. It’s not a response to high crime rates. As The Associated Press reported, “Greenleaf doesn’t really have crime … the most violent offense reported in the past two years was a fist fight.” Rather, it’s a statement about preparedness in the event of an emergency, and an effort to promote a culture of self-reliance.

And it may not be a bad idea. While pro-gun laws like the one in Greenleaf are mostly symbolic, to the extent that they actually make a difference, it is likely to be a positive one.

Greenleaf is following in the footsteps of Kennesaw, Ga., which in 1982 passed a mandatory gun ownership law in response to a handgun ban passed in Morton Grove, Ill. Kennesaw’s crime dropped sharply, while Morton Grove’s did not.

First of all, I’m not a big fan of mandatory anything. As a classical liberal while I am skeptical of government power, I strongly believe in a well-armed populace. This is a dilemma for me personally. I am from New Orleans as frequent readers of this blog and my other blog, Louisiana Libertarian, may know. While I did evacuate because of Katrina, I have spoken to many people who have confirmed that the rumors of rampant looting and destruction in the New Orleans area were true. Armed civilian patrols kept order in less damaged areas of New Orleans, until they were disarmed by force by the New Orleans Police Department (which itself was involved in looting and still has a reputation for being nothing more than a glorified street gang) and forced out of the city. After Katrina, I substantially increased my own personal aresnal which pre-Katrina was only a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 and I’ve added a Yugoslav SKS and a Romanian WASR-10 which is an AK-47 clone. I am in the process of getting a handgun. I will not be caught unprepared and most of all, unarmed when law and order breaksdown again.

Having said all that, I’m not sure mandatory gun ownership is the solution. People should have the right to defend themselves, but more importantly, they should have the right not to excercise that right. Laws like the one passed in Greenleaf, Idaho which merely encourage gun ownership are a good idea. However, laws that actually require it with the penalty of law are immoral and a violation of the rights of individuals. Those who choose not to own firearms do so for various reasons, including in some instances for religious and other reasons of coinscience. Those people should be allowed to stay gun free, at their own risk.

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.

Joe Biden is Right, For Once….

Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden was in South Carolina this Martin Luther King Jr. Day and he had some comments about the Confederate flag that flies at the state capital.

Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential hopeful joining fellow Sen. Christopher Dodd at Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds.

“If I were a state legislator, I’d vote for it to move off the grounds – out of the state,” the Delaware senator said before the civil rights group held a march and rally at the Statehouse here to support its boycott of the state.

Joe Biden is absolutely right, the Confederate flag must go and in fact the monument on capital grounds that honors Confederate troops must go as well. The Confederacy existed for sole purpose of allowing the enslavement of other human beings. South Carolina’s Causes of Secession, adopted after the Ordinance of Secession itself in 1860 explains:

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

South Carolina makes it very clear it is leaving the United States to preserve the right to enslave other human beings. This is akin to Nazi Germany’s rationale for existance to preserve and promote the Aryan race and its right to enslave and murder those it consider subhuman. Germany does not have monuments to the SS and symbols to Nazi Germany, Confederate soldiers and symbols do not deserve more honor than their evil cause deserves. The Confederacy needs to be repudiated and those who supported it scorned, not honored as some kind of mythical “lost cause”.

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.

Freedom Of Speech Includes The Right To Say Stupid Stuff

Germany is proposing that the EUmake it a
crime to deny the Holocaust as historical truth:

Germany hopes to make Holocaust denial a crime across the EU as part of a package of laws it wants to introduce during its presidency of the bloc.

Berlin is also set to outline plans to ban Nazi symbols like the swastika, which, like denying the massacre of the Jews, is already outlawed in Germany.

Such moves may be seen as curtailing freedom of speech and could prove controversial in several member states.

But the German justice minister says she is confident of winning support.

If it goes ahead, it will be the second time in two years that an attempt has been made to ban the display of Nazi symbols within the EU.

Of course, this could pose a problem as the swastika has many, non-Nazi, meanings:

The swastika, while used by the Nazis as an insignia, was not created by them, and a number of groups still use it.

It has featured in traditional Latvian knitwear for centuries, variously known as the Thunder Cross or Fire Cross, and remains a time-honoured good luck symbol for Hindus.

But the more important point is this: Freedom of speech includes the right to say incredibly stupid, even offensive things. You and I may not agree with someone who wants to write a book contending that the Holocaust is a myth, but the way to deal with them isn’t to turn them into criminals — it is to let them air their ideas and show themselves for the idiots and bigots that they are.

McQ at QandO puts it best:

Letting fools act as fools is the price of freedom. Restricting their ability to say or publish their foolishness only helps them gain a measure of sympathy and credibility. One only has to review how those at the recent Holocaust denial conference in Iran turned the discussion from the subject of denial to that of freedom of speech, and effectively so, to understand how such a law would actually aid their cause.

Previous Post:

Freedom Of Speech Means The Freedom To Offend

Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968

There is no denying that the condition of blacks in the South for the 100 years after the Civil War was as much a travesty as slavery itself. Human freedom was denied and human beings were treated like animals.

Martin Luther King, Jr helped advance human freedom by helping bring that shameful time to an end. So, I can’t think of any fitter way to remember him today than to point to one of the greatest political speeches in American history.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

George Bush Ignores The Constitution

First it was Vice-President Cheney saying that the United States would have invaded Iraq in 2003 even if Congress had said no, know President Bush has said that he will go forward with the so-called surge plan even if Congress votes against the plan:

Faced with substantial opposition both in Congress and among the American public to their Iraq plans, President Bush and Vice President Cheney vowed yesterday to forge ahead with the deployment of more than 21,000 additional troops.

In an interview broadcast last night on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bush said he has the authority as commander in chief to move ahead with the deployment, regardless of what the Democratic-controlled Congress does in opposition.

“In this situation, I do, yeah,” Bush said. “I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I’ve made my decision. And we’re going forward.”

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said yesterday that the money is already in place to begin moving additional troops to Iraq.

“We have authority in the — we have money in the ’07 budget, which has been appropriated by the Congress, to move these troops to Iraq, and the president will be doing that,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Let’s take a look at what the Constitution has to say about this. For example, Article II, Section 8 states that Congress has the power:

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

The President, meanwhile,

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;

In other words, Congress authorizes war and funds it. The President carries it out. Or at least that’s the way it was supposed to be.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been involved in sustained military action in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Not one of those occasions involved a formal declaration of war. Instead, the President has assumed the powers to send American military forces into hostile, even war-like, action first, and ask Congress for permission later.

Now, Bush is essentially saying that he doesn’t really need to ask Congress for permission. And I don’t think anyone is going to stop him.

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Dick Cheney Ignores The Constitution

Romney vs Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is running for president. Like the last Massachusetts politician that ran for president, Mitt is changing his tune on certain issues. For example, the issues he highlights and stances he takes on those issues are a lot different than when he ran in 1994 against the Chappaquiddick Swim Team captain and his record as governor. Today, the Boston Globe has a story about Mitt Romney’s latest flip-flopping, this time on guns.

Former governor Mitt Romney, who once described himself as a supporter of strong gun laws, is distancing himself from that rhetoric now as he attempts to court the gun owners who make up a significant force in Republican primary politics.

In his 1994 US Senate run, Romney backed two gun-control measures strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups: the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on gun sales, and a ban on certain assault weapons.

“That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA,” Romney told the Boston Herald in 1994.

At another campaign stop that year, he told reporters: “I don’t line up with the NRA.”

And as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Romney lauded the state’s strong laws during a debate against Democrat Shannon O’Brien. “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them,” he said. “I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.”

Today, as he explores a presidential bid, Romney is sending a very different message on gun issues, which are far more prominent in Republican national politics than in Massachusetts.

He now touts his work as governor to ease restrictions on gun owners. He proudly describes himself as a member of the NRA — though his campaign won’t say when he joined. And Friday, at his campaign’s request, top officials of the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation led him around one of the country’s biggest gun shows.

This guy is supposed to be the Reagan conservative in the race, instead he’s more like the John Kerry candidate. Mitt Romney strikes me as the type of politician who takes political positions solely for political gain. We’ve had enough politicians like that.

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.

U.S. Military Spying On American Citizens

The New York Times reports today that the CIA and military intelligence have been spying on Americans and others living in the United States:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

The C.I.A. has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.

Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of American military personnel and civilians, officials say.

The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

This is, as you might imagine, a major change from the way things are supposed to be:

“There’s a strong tradition of not using our military for domestic law enforcement,” said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel at both the National Security Agency and the C.I.A. who is the dean at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. “They’re moving into territory where historically they have not been authorized or presumed to be operating.”

Similarly, John Radsan, an assistant general counsel at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2004 and now a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said, “The C.I.A. is not supposed to have any law enforcement powers, or internal security functions, so if they’ve been issuing their own national security letters, they better be able to explain how they don’t cross the line.”

Quite honestly, it’s hard to contemplate how they don’t cross the line.

Did The South Have The Right To Secede ?

The comments that have been generated by this post at my personal blog on Lee-Jackson Day, as well as a comment thread I’ve been involved with in response to a related post at Republitarian, have led me to an interesting question.

Namely, when the Confederacy seceded from the Union in the wake of the 1860 election, did they have the right to do so ? I am not asking whether they had the right under the Constitution, or dealing at this point with the question of whether a right of secession even existed under the Constitution prior to the Civil War, but instead asks this question:

Looking at the secession of the Confederate States as an act of rebellion akin, in some sense, to the American Revolution (although I do not believe the two to be equal in status in any sense), did the political circumstances at the time justify rebellion ? » Read more

Tennessee Legislator Takes On Girls Gone Wild

Apparently, every major social and political problem in the state of Tennessee has been solved, so they can now move on the really important stuff:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee state senator is tired of girls going wild on raunchy late-night TV ads, so he introduced a bill to fine cable companies up to $50,000 for airing ads for obscene products.Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, said he got the idea after seeing commercials for “Girls Gone Wild” videos that show young women baring their breasts and acting out other sexual situations.

“This is being interjected right into our living room,” Jackson said Friday. “People feel like, as they sit in their living rooms, they just have to surrender; there’s nothing that can be done.

“The more I thought about it, I said, ‘You know, it’s time to draw the line,'” he said.

The bill would make it illegal to run advertising for “any obscene matter” and would apply to any station that knowingly accepted the ads.

Three points. First, if you don’t like it, turn off the television ? Second, as far as I know, those ads don’t meet the legal definition of obscenity. Third, at least we know what Senator Jackson has been doing with his late nights.

A Moment Of Hubris On The Ron Paul For President Campaign

Much has been written in the libertarian blogosphere, both here and elsewhere since news broke last week that Texas Congressman, and one-time Libertarian Party candidate for President, Ron Paul had taken the first steps on the road toward running for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008. None, however, were quite as gung-ho as this post from James Ostrowski at Lew

Ron Paul is Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare. Forget about the establishment describing his campaign as “quixotic,” Ten or twenty years ago, maybe so. Not now.

Hillary will be the Democratic nominee once the Obama fantasy subsides. Bet the ranch on that one.

Hillary wants to run against the old neocon warhorse, John McCain. As I said in September, she wins that one 52-48. She wants to run against someone whose moral culpability for the war is greater than her own. She outflanks McCain on the war.

Ron Paul outflanks Hillary on the central issue of the campaign, the war. He was one of the few Republican congressmen to oppose it.

He also outflanks Hillary from “the left” on the drug war and civil liberties.

In Ron Paul, Hillary faces a candidate who can outflank her on the left and right all at the same time. Will the center hold?

Well, before Congressman Paul can take the podium with Hillary Clinton in a real Presidential debate, he’s got to win the Republican nomination and, for the following reasons, I don’t think he can do it. Instead, if you do support the Paul for President campaign, you should be focusing on different goals.

» Read more

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