Monthly Archives: February 2007

Funding Government Through Externality Payments

In most of the libertosphere, you’ll likely hear the statement “Taxation is theft.” The general implication of this, of course, is that for us to right this wrong, we must have no government, or government financed entirely by voluntary contributions. But what if there was a third way?

What if we could fund government entirely through the externality of pollution?
» Read more

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Be Prepared

“Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.”

-Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts (emphasis mine)

First, extremely brief story time. This Thursday I walked into a dorm on campus, turned the corner, and found a female lying unconscious face up on the ground with a rather large pool of blood behind her head. I made sure 911 was called and applied first aid. The night ended with me spending 5 minutes in the bathroom scrubbing my hands to get the blood off. Head wounds bleed. A lot. Anyway, there is quite a bit more to the story, but if you want to read that, head on over to my place. This experience has led me to a larger point that I’d like to share.

The point is best summed up in the Baden-Powell quote at the top of the page. If you are truly going to be prepared, you can’t just go through the training. Training is important, yes, and if you don’t at least know basic first aid skills and CPR, you should take a course or two. But training alone won’t get you through a situation. There were at least two bystanders that I know knew what to do. But they didn’t, at least not initially. I did. I’m not going to try and play this up to be some huge deal; it’s not. Obviously, it wasn’t much of a life threatening situation. But I only found that out after I got my hands bloody and investigated to find out just how bad things were. If, say, it had been an arterial wound instead of a head wound, and say I had froze up for another 20 seconds, or I hadn’t been there and the bystanders I mentioned above had frozen up for that 20 seconds, that could be the difference between life and death. You have to run through things in your head before hand, play out scenarios, so you know exactly how you are going to react and don’t have to think about it. If you are taken by surprise, you will freeze up for that 20 seconds (or more), and as I’ve shown, that can be the difference between life and death.

It is a process that never stops, either. You always need to be reevaluating and rethinking things. For example, with this most recent case, I’ve thought about a couple of things. First, I’m going to start carrying a pair of latex gloves on me, so I’m never put in the uncomfortable situation of getting someone else’s blood all over my hands. Also, I needed to do a better job of taking charge of the situation. The friend was introducing too much stress into the situation; I should have just asked someone to take care of her and get her calmed down instead of trying to do it myself. Finally, I found that I needed to be better prepared to make small talk with the victim. I didn’t take the opportunity to find out anything more about what exactly happened, and I was finding that I was having to force myself to talk to her, which shouldn’t happen. Like I said, always something to learn.

This isn’t just something to do with basic first aid, either. All sorts of contingencies need to be planned for. LW over at Blackfive’s place has done a good job over the past week detailing disaster preparedness, an area I’ll be the first to admit I am piss-poor prepared for. Here’s a summary. Just a quick, by no means comprehensive list of things I’ve thought about: natural disaster (tornadoes/T-storms being the biggest threat where I live, although flooding depending on the topography), a large scale terrorist attack, fire, mugging attempt, car crash (both being involved in one and coming across one), heart attack, shooting incident, leg injury with myself (how do I get help if I’m alone and can’t walk)…the list could go on and on. The point is that you need to always be actively thinking about and preparing for these incidents so you are able to act and respond effectively.

And just so we’re clear, hitting 70 doesn’t clear you from responsibility for this. Those senior citizens seemed to be pretty prepared to act and defend themselves appropriately. Are you?

I’ll let RAH have the last word:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love

UPDATE: Nick posted some good links for first aid and other survival gear in the comments.

GOP Georgia legislators v. Genarlow Wilson

The Genarlow Wilson case has been the talk of the blogosphere here in Georgia this week. Wilson is currently serving a ten prison sentence for participating in an oral sex act with a 15 year old, which is a felony. Wilson was 17 at the time of the act. Had Wilson had intercourse, it would have only been a misdemeanor. Wilson’s case caused the legislature to close the loophole on oral sex. However, Wilson still sits in prison. » Read more

Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Bunch Of Guys

It seems that the Religious Right is finding it hard to be relevant in the race for the 2008 Republican nomination:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 — A group of influential Christian conservatives and their allies emerged from a private meeting at a Florida resort this month dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field and uncertain where to turn.

The event was a meeting of the Council for National Policy, a secretive club whose few hundred members include Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Although little known outside the conservative movement, the council has become a pivotal stop for Republican presidential primary hopefuls, including George W. Bush on the eve of his 1999 primary campaign.

But things are different this time around. The front runners for the GOP nomination aren’t beholden to, or even liked by, the Evangelical Right:

Many conservatives have already declared their hostility to Senator John McCain of Arizona, despite his efforts to make amends for having once denounced Christian conservative leaders as “agents of intolerance,” and to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, because of his liberal views on abortion and gay rights and his three marriages.

Many were also suspicious of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; members have used the council as a conduit to distribute a dossier prepared by a Massachusetts conservative group about liberal elements of his record on abortion, stem cell research and gay rights. (Mr. Romney has worked to convince conservatives that his views have changed.)

And as for the rest of the field, they aren’t too appealing either:

And some members of the council have raised doubts about lesser known candidates – Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Representative Duncan Hunter of California, who were invited to Amelia Island to address an elite audience of about 60 of its members, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who spoke to the full council at its previous meeting, in October in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Although each of the three had supporters, many conservatives expressed concerns about whether any of the candidates could unify their movement or raise enough money to overtake the front-runners, several participants in the meetings said.

The Times story goes on to speculate as to whether this apparent marginlization of the Religious Right would be a bad thing for the GOP, which traditionally has needed the support of these voters to win elections. I agree that this threat exists, but I think it also points out the growing reality that the days when groups like this could have a significant impact on the Republican Party may be waning. They don’t represent a majority of the voting public, and they certainly don’t reflect the views of most Americans on social issues.

Right now two of the three frontrunners for the GOP nomination are essentially anathema to the Evangelical Right and the third, Mitt Romney, is the subject of a lot of distrust. If they can get this far without the support of this supposedly important segment of the party, doesn’t that mean that these people aren’t quite as powerful as we’ve been led to believe ?

New York Congressman Proposes Assault On Free Speech

Maurice Hinchey, representing the 22nd District of New York, is proposing something called the Media Ownership Reform Act. What it really should be called is the Death Of Free Speech Act.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Our airwaves are a precious and limited commodity that belong to the general public. As such, they are regulated by the government. From 1949 to 1987, a keystone of this regulation was the Fairness Doctrine, an assurance that the American audience would be guaranteed sufficiently robust debate on controversial and pressing issues. Despite numerous instances of support from the U.S. Supreme Court, President Reagan’s FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and a subsequent bill passed by Congress to place the doctrine into federal law was then vetoed by Reagan.

MORA would amend the 1934 Communications Act to restore the Fairness Doctrine and explicitly require broadcast licensees to provide a reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.

Isn’t that what talk radio really is ? People call in and voice their opinions on the issues of the day. Yes, it’s true that most of the successful talk radio hosts lean to the right, but that is a reflection of two things; one is that the hosts are largely a reflection of their audience, and the other is that the truly successful hosts are the one’s that are entertaining. The reason Air America failed isn’t because of some vast conspiracy against the left, it’s because their on air personalities were just plain bad.

What the Fairness Doctrine really did when it was in effect, though, was give broadcasters an incentive to steer clear of controversial political topics. Spending the day programming talk shows about investments, or gardening or other things that really aren’t subjects of controversy is a heck of a lot easier than trying to ensure that every conceivable viewpoint on the subject of, say, the Iraq War, has an opportunity to be heard ?

Alex Harrison at Human Events puts forward the problem nicely:

Putting aside the flagrant violations of the First Amendment, compliance with a new Fairness Doctrine would be a nightmare. What constitutes an opposing viewpoint? Who gets to present that viewpoint? In our contentious and diverse world of politics, there are few issues which only have two sides. Is Cindy Sheehan’s view on the Iraq War the same as Hillary Clinton’s? Does Hillary get to come back and revise her opinion (again) after the latest poll? Is the naked “cut and run” policy of John Murtha the same as the nuanced “redeployment” of Monsieur Kerry? I suppose it depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is….

Renewing the Fairness Doctrine would not bring about the paradise of intellectual debate that it’s proponents dream of, instead it would bring the days of hard-hitting political talk radio to an end. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what it’s proponents want.

Washington County, MD Says No To Bulls’ Nuts

Back in the old days, my buddy and I had a saying. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye; then it’s just fun.”

Well, the times have changed. Now I think it should be “It’s all fun and games until a legislator decides to ‘save us’.”

It’s one thing when they’re trying to save us from the dangers of secondhand smoke or unlicensed hair braiding, but this one crosses the line! This is just a pure, plain, buzzkill!

Washington County Sheriff’s deputy Matthew Bragunier figures that he sees, at least once a day, fake bull genitals flopping from the hitches of pickup trucks.

They’re only a toy, but they’re also unpleasant to look at, said Bragunier, worried what his 2-year-old girl might think someday.

“My daughter’s going to see this,” he said. “She’s going to ask what this is. I don’t want to be put in that spot. I don’t think I ever want to be in that spot.”

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, agreed.

This week, he filed a bill for Maryland to ban the toys and others like them.

The bill prohibits any “model, sign, sticker or other item” that shows uncovered human or animal genitals, as well as human buttocks or female breasts, from motor vehicles.

Myers sees his bill as a legislative public service.

One would say that you can’t legislate taste. I’ve seen these nuts, and these nuts, in my opinion as a student of humor, are downright tacky. But a matter for legislation? I’m not so sure…

What’s next, outlawing fart jokes? Oh wait, I shouldn’t jump down the slippery slope, when I’ve got a spokesperson for the ACLU to do it for me!

“The legislation is overly broad, and would probably make it illegal to have a sticker on your car of the Venus de Milo from an art museum,” ACLU of Maryland spokeswoman Meredith Curtis wrote in an e-mail.

Yeah, ‘cuz when I go for laughs, I head straight for ancient Greek sculptures!

Hat Tip: Nobody’s Business, c/o Radley Balko

Democrat Congress — BFF With Venezuela

Alright, first things first. I know Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is a moonbat of the highest level.

But this is still a bit odd:

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, told reporters that she was making the first U.S. congressional visit to Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez’s December re-election with the message: “I want an immediate repairing of the relations between the United States and Venezuela.”

Jackson Lee described Venezuela as a friendly nation that the U.S. should cooperate with and said that the F-16 jets, which are built in Texas, was an issue of concern to her constituents in Houston.

Friendly nation? Hugo Chavez is far from friendly to the US. In fact, the only people he shows more dislike to than the US are his own people, but that won’t be evident for another few years, when Venezuela starts looking even more like Zimbabwe.

But I wonder how many of Lee’s Democrat cohorts were happy to see a quote like this?

But she added that her fact-finding mission to Venezuela was part of an effort by a new Democrat-controlled Congress to show that “Venezuela has many friends in this new Congress.”

Apparently Rep. Lee doesn’t understand that the Democrats weren’t elected to institute Venezuela-style socialism, they were elected because the Republicans were acting like power-mad nanny-state theocrats, rather than the small-government folks they promised to be. Getting buddy-buddy with someone like Hugo won’t endear you to anyone but the hard left, and will cause the moderates to jump ship like the Titanic.

Hat Tip: No Angst Zone

How To Not Explain Things To Libertarians

Chris Clarke, at Pandagon, has written a long article about How To Explain Things To Libertarians. As you might expect, as he leads into all of this, he gets some things wrong. The things he gets wrong are the traditional propaganda of the left related to why we need social democracy. For example:

If those don’t work, sometimes these people [ed: Libertarians] are persuaded when it’s pointed out to them that back in the late 19th century, the US essentially was the Libertarian state they now advocate, and a very few people got very wealthy while the rest of us died of food poisoning or coal mine collapses or shirtwaist factory fires.

Well, now, there is some truth to the fact that the owners of industrial corporations were getting very wealthy in that time period. There is also some truth to the fact that people were more likely to die of things like his examples than they are now. There are some inconvenient facts left out, though. Like:

  1. The US in the late 19th century was not functioning the way a classic liberal would want it to. It was not a capitalist society. Rather, it was corporatist, the government provided all sorts of benefits to corporations and the wealthy, taxed imports fairly heavily and even made the guns of the government available to the corporate owners to coerce their workers. This is hardly the stuff of classic liberal (or libertarian) philosophy, where we advocate an even playing field; i.e. equality of opportunity.
  2. Another inconvenient fact. Although, by our standards today, the average worker’s life was pretty bad, it was much better than when they had been a subsistence farmer in South Dakota. There is a reason why people left the farm, went to the city and got a job in a factory. They made more money, had more leisure time and lived longer. And they knew it. Does that mean all was sweetness and light? No, but it was better than being a farmer, which was their alternative. And it generated wealth that allowed more people to buy things, increasing the demand for industrial output, increasing the demand for workers, etc. This cycle was wealth creating, farming never could be.
  3. Those factory workers his heart bleeds for were wealthier than the previous generation. Chris is raising the typical cry of socialists in favor of equality of outcome. I haven’t the time to show why that is unworkable except with totalitarianism, but Hayek did. So, I suggest reading Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” to understand why equality of outcome leads to totalitarianism.

» Read more

How To Increase Tax Revenue While Reducing Eminent Domain

The question of what constitutes “just compensation” troubles everyone when it comes time for a city to condemn a property for eminent domain purposes. Invariably the property owner thinks it’s worth market value or above, and the city thinks it’s worth as close to nothing as they can get away with paying.

As a result, the question of how much it’s truly worth involves costly legal battles, as well as sometimes involving a jury to determine the worth. In the end, it’s quite likely that nobody walks away happy. So why don’t we change the process? I heard an idea quite a while ago, and nothing so far has made me think it’s a bad one.

Why don’t we allow property owners to set the valuation themselves, and their valuation is what the government needs to pay if they seize it?

“Aha!” you say, “they’ll value it far too high, and eminent domain will never occur!” And without one crucial step, you’d be right. We’ll also use that valuation for property tax purposes.

Think of it as insurance against eminent domain. Let’s say that you have a nice house worth $250K, which you love. You really don’t want to move out of the house unless you get an offer you can’t refuse. Often, the government would come to you with an offer of $150K and a gun, giving you an offer you truly can’t refuse. That’s no good. But when they come to you with the claim that they’ll be able to get more tax revenue if they put something else on the property, the courts will make sure that you accept the offer, as we learned in Kelo.

But what if I think the property is worth $300K to me? I.e. that I don’t want to move unless I get $300K for it, a $50K penalty to whoever wants to seize it? If I really think it’s worth $300K to me, I should feel comfortable paying property tax on $300K rather than $250K. It will cost me more money each year in taxes, but should the government attempt to seize it, I get a nice little windfall. And since the government is usually trying to seize the property to sell it to a developer for higher property taxes anyway, they don’t have an incentive to seize it unless it’s worth more than $300K to the new owner, because they’re already getting $300K’s worth of taxes, not $250K.

Of course, I can play with fire, and only value it at $100K. My house, for example, is situated on a hill, and the land is unsuitable for most commercial enterprises. Thus I wouldn’t expect a developer to come in and want to take my house away. But if I only think it’s worth $100K, the city could easily come in and seize it for that amount, sell it on the open market for $250K to another family, and make a $150K profit while increasing their tax base.

Thus, we have a situation where chosen valuation will truly reflect the worth of the property to its owner. As an owner, I have an incentive not to value the property too high, because the cost to me of paying for that “insurance” isn’t really worth it. I also have an incentive not to value it too low to reduce my tax burden, because the city can come in and snap it up for that low valuation. Thus, we will see a situation where chosen valuations will likely sit slightly higher than the value of the property in question (to cover the transaction costs of relocation should it be seized). Of course, some properties will have higher valuations to cover emotional attachment to the property, but as long as people are willing to pay for that higher valuation, it creates the disincentive towards seizure that they’re looking for while helping the tax base, which the city wants.

Nobody wants to have their property seized by the government, and particularly not for a pittance. But Kelo has shown that we can’t rely on the goodness of elected officials, or the protections enshrined in the Constitution, to insure against it. The best way for us to fight it is to make sure it’s not a financial boon for them to do so, and the only way I can see to do that fairly is to allow people to set their own “insurance” rate to protect their property.

Virginia General Assembly Passes Abraham’s Law

Yesterday, the Virginia General Assembly gave final approval to a law designed to prevent another teenager being forced to undergo a medical procedure when they don’t want to:

Virginia lawmakers passed a bill called “Abraham’s Law” yesterday after agreeing that 14 is the appropriate age for a teenager with a life-threatening condition to have a hand in making medical decisions.

The bill is named after Starchild Abraham Cherrix, 16, who won a court battle last summer to forgo chemotherapy and instead treat his lymphatic cancer with alternative medicine.

A judge had threatened to force Abraham to take conventional treatments and to take him away from his parents, who faced jail for allowing him to end chemotherapy and use alternative treatments. A compromise allowed Abraham to give up chemotherapy as long as he was treated by an oncologist who is board-certified in radiation therapy and interested in alternative treatment.

In certain circumstances, parents would be allowed to refuse medical treatment for a child without facing charges of neglect, according to the bill.

The bill is now headed to Governor Tim Kaine’s desk where he will, hopefully, do the right thing.

Previous Post:

The Nanny State vs. The Family
The Nanny State vs. The Family Part II
Abraham’s Law: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Former LP Presidential Candidate Endorses Ron Paul For President

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party’s 2004 Presidential candidate, has endorsed Republican Congressman Ron Paul in his run for the 2008 Republican nomination:

Michael Badnarik, the 2004 Libertarian Party candidate for President of the United States, has endorsed Republican Congressman Ron Paul (Texas) for President.

“My short term goal for the next two years is to make sure that Ron Paul is elected president in 2008,” Badnarik said Friday night at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, a pro-liberty conference hosted by the Free State Project.

(…)

In his Friday night keynote address, Badnarik, who is also a member of the Free State Project and plans to move to New Hampshire by the end of 2008, urged over 200 attendees to support Ron Paul for president by making campaign contributions and activating grassroots support.

“You cannot do it yourself,” he said. “You have to have wide, wide grassroots support.”

And, as I suggested myself last week, Badnarik called on the LP to get on the Ron Paul for President bandwagon:

Badnarik also urged the Libertarian Party to nominate Ron Paul as well. “I hope the Libertarian Party is smart enough to say, ‘Oh ho, somebody we can trust!’ and nominate Ron Paul as our nominee,” he said. “We should set the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian labels aside, and vote for Ron Paul the person.”

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Muzzling Professors

In Arizona, a state Senate committee approved a bill that would make the First Amendment null and void at that state’s universities. In the name of promoting tolerance and diversity of thought on campus, committee has decided to ban professors from doing the following:

*Endorsing, supporting or opposing any candidate for local, state or national office.
*Endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending legislation, regulation or rule under consideration by local, state or federal agencies.
*Endorsing, supporting or opposing any litigation in any court.
*Advocating “one side of a social, political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy.”
*Hindering military recruiting on campus or endorsing the activities of those who do.

Under the legislation, the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the state’s public universities, and the individual boards of community colleges would be responsible for setting guidelines for the law and for requiring all faculty members to participate in three hours of training annually on their responsibilities under the law.

Punishments could come in two forms. The governing boards’ guidelines would need to develop procedures, including suspensions and terminations in some cases, according to the bill. In addition, the state attorney general and county prosecutors could sue violators, and state courts could impose fines of up to $500. The legislation would bar colleges or their insurance policies from paying the fines — money would need to be paid directly by the professors found guilty.

In other words, if a professor dares to have a political thought, let alone express it, they could be sued and fined $500.

In Orwellian logic, the bill sponsor, Republican state Senator Thayor Verschoor had this:

“In our institutions of higher education, students should be learning how to think, not what to think.

In other words, Senator Verschoor only wants students to be taught what he wants you to think, not have your mind challenged by different thoughts and opinions.

Fortunately, student leaders and professors have come out against this bill. In addition, the man behind the Academic Bill of Rights, David Horowitz, has come out against it.

The First Amendment should not be the casualty of the outrageous actions of the Ward Churchills of our university campuses.

h/t QandO.

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

Someone needs a lesson in separation of powers… AGAIN

Well now, take a quick look at this bill, and see if you can tell me what’s wrong with it:

HR 563 IH

110th CONGRESS

1st Session
+

H. R. 563

To vacate further proceedings in the prosecution of certain named persons.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 18, 2007

Mr. HUNTER (for himself, Mr. POE, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. TANCREDO, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. GOODE, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mr. ROYCE, Mr. DUNCAN, Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland, Mr. HERGER, Mr. COLE of Oklahoma, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. CARTER, Mr. PORTER, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. BURGESS, Mr. GERLACH, Mr. MICA, Mr. SAXTON, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. CANTOR, Mr. HOBSON, Mr. LAHOOD, Mr. WALSH of New York, Mr. TERRY, Ms. FOXX, Mr. HASTINGS of Washington, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. KIRK, Mr. ROGERS of Alabama, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. RENZI, Mr. BONNER, Mr. BAKER, Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania, Mr. EVERETT, Mr. CANNON, Mrs. CUBIN, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SHIMKUS, Mr. COBLE, Mr. ENGLISH of Pennsylvania, Mr. GILCHREST, Mr. HAYES, Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky, Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky, Mr. DAVID DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. PEARCE, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California, Mr. LOBIONDO, Mr. TIBERI, Mr. WHITFIELD, Mr. LATOURETTE, Mr. YOUNG of Florida, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Mr. PITTS, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. SULLIVAN, Mr. MANZULLO, Mr. MCHUGH, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. MCKEON, Mr. AKIN, Mr. KINGSTON, and Mr. TIAHRT) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Homeland Security, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

To vacate further proceedings in the prosecution of certain named persons.

Whereas the conviction and sentencing of United States Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for the pursuit and shooting of drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila which is the subject of a Federal criminal case in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas represents an extreme injustice: Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act’.

SEC. 2. ORDER.

It is hereby ordered that the conviction and sentences of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are vacated. The release of the defendants from the custody of the Government is hereby ordered, with prejudice. No further criminal prosecution or other proceeding against these named individuals with respect to the circumstances giving rise to the convictions and sentences vacated by this Act shall take place.

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS.

It is the sense of Congress that the Department of Homeland Security review the rules of engagement presently utilized by the United States Border Patrol.

END

If you guessed it had something to do with the title of this post, you get a gold star.

So, a little background for those of you who don’t know.

Ramos and Compean were Border Patrol Agents on the U.S. Mexican border, along the El Paso section; which happens to be one of the busiest smuggling regions, as well as one of the more dangerous.

Border patrol rules of engagement specify that BP agents are not to enter into armed confrontation with smugglers. Well, Ramos and Compean did; and they ended up shooting one in the back.

Oooh no, in the back, those foul evildoers…

Yeah it’s bull. Anyone who knows anything about a violent situation knows that when shooting starts, you don’t pay attention to anything other then staying alive, and stopping the threat. If he’s still moving, he’s still fighting; but that’s neither here nor there.

The problem is, after shooting at said scumbag (who was attempting to smuggle 800lbs of Marijuana that day) 15 times (they apparently only hit him once), they figured “ehh just another dead smuggler”, and they didn’t report the incident.

Now, that is a seriously big no-no. Very bad ju-ju. They violated their ROE, and they knew it, so they decided to hush it up. Grounds for dismissal certainly, and possibly a minor prosecution; but probably nothing really serious.

But the scumbag wasn’t dead; and he complained to his own government about being shot. The Mexican government then complained to our Department of Homeland Security (who run the Border Patrol), who at the behest of the Mexican government told the U.S. Attorney for the western district of Texas that these two agents had “Committed a conspiracy to commit murder against a Mexican citizen”.

Anyway, the El Paso U.S. Attorney looks at the ROE, looks at the criminal drug smuggling bastard shot in the back, and then looks at the pressure from Homeland Security and the Mexican government; and of course he sees where his bread is buttered, and decides to crucify Ramos and Compean.

They were charged with and convicted for, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and conspoiracy to commit murder; and they each got 12 years… actually 11 years and 1 day, and 12 years respectively (not sure what the calculation was on that).

It gets better. Once they were remanded to custody, TWO BP AGENTS WHO SHOT A MEXICAN DRUG SMUGGLER WERE PUT INTO GEN-POP WITH ALL THE MEXICAN GANGS.

They were of course beaten nearly to death within hours, before being put into protective custody.

Now, SOP for a cop who gets sent to prison, is that they are NEVER put in with the general population, because if they do, it’s effectively a death sentence. How this was ignored… let’s just say is smells.

Let me just say something: I know for a fact we didn’t get the whole story out to the public. I have family in the Border patrol who tell me this whole thing stinks to high heaven. BUT, based on what evidence was presented, this wasn’t attempted murder or assault, this was a JUSTIFIED line of duty shooting.

What it comes down to is, the BP agents in question were so scared of the bureaucratic bull, and attitude of the Border Patrol management, that they decided to pretend it never happened. Their fear of their own bad management is what created this problem, not any improper action in shooting said drug smuggling scum bag.

Anyway, off my soap box for a minute.

Now, look at this little section from the bill above:

SEC. 2. ORDER.

It is hereby ordered that the conviction and sentences of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are vacated. The release of the defendants from the custody of the Government is hereby ordered, with prejudice. No further criminal prosecution or other proceeding against these named individuals with respect to the circumstances giving rise to the convictions and sentences vacated by this Act shall take place.

Now, here’s the big problem.

Congress can’t do that.

The constitution provides clearly delineated separation of the powers of the branches of government. Congress Makes the Laws, the Courts interpret and apply the laws, and the Executive branch executes and enforces the laws.

Pretty cut and dried.

Congress could write a new law, saying that what Ramos and Compean did isn’t illegal; but it wouldn’t change their case because what they did WAS illegal when they did it, according to the interpretation of the courts.

The courts could overturn their conviction, and dismiss the charges.

The Executive branch is the enforcement branch, and as such the privilege of executive clemency is their purview; so the president could pardon them.

But Congress cannot, “By act of Congress Assembled”, vacate a conviction, or grant a pardon. Oh they can do it symbolically with a “sense of congress” resolution, or they can ASK the president to issue a pardon, they can even by act of congress ask the supreme court to consider the case (as they did with the Terry Schaivo issue… though the way it was worded they overstepped their bounds there as well)…

But congress can not vacate a conviction, or issue a pardon. In fact, they can’t order the courts, or the president to do ANYTHING; except to follow the law. It is not within their constitutionally delegated powers to do so.

The only enforcement power that congress has, is to cite someone for contempt of congress (either for not following a law, or for not responding to the requests of congress expressed in their powers of subpoena to compel evidence and testimony); or to institute impeachment against the president (and in fact, they don’t enforce that: the supreme court, acting on the authority of the senate, vacates the office of the president, and then the next in line of succession takes over).

Of the bills 87 co-sponsors, most of them are lawyers, who one would assume took constitutional law at some point or another. Many of them are congressmen of long service, who really should understand their constitutional authority, role, and powers.

Perhaps we are asking too much of our congressmen to understand their jobs, or the constitution.

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

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

The “New Rules” Economy, Part 2

Well, I’m about halfway through their policy paper. The progressives decided, before laying out their own policies, to critique those of the “neopopulists” (anti-immigration, pro-organized labor Democrats, it seems) and “conservatives” (mainstream Republicans). They lay out a nice, 10-page response to the neopopulists, complete with data, graphs, and logic. Then they went after the conservatives*, and gave conservatives little respect— “This section takes only a very brief look at these myths, since even among conservatives, there is a growing consensus that it is time for a new economic philosophy.” Where they got that, I don’t know. They’re saying that because Republicans are acting like Democrats, economic freedom doesn’t work?

But so be it. Let’s look at their two myths. The first, is “The Myth of Incompetent Government”:

President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress created the Medicare Part D program, arguably the largest expansion of the safety net in forty years. No Child Left Behind not only increased spending for public school education, but created the most extensive federal involvement in local education curricula ever. These measures passed less than ten years after then-Speaker Newt Gingrich pledged to allow Medicare to “wither on the vine” and to abolish the Department of Education.

Some forward-thinking conservatives have already outright rejected this myth and have frankly embraced big-government solutions. The health care proposals of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts are two of the most prominent recent examples.

The conservative pillar of government-as-incompetent is a myth, because even conservatives no longer believe it themselves.

» Read more

Democrats Set To Confront Bush Over Iraq War

Undetered by the failure of last week’s joint resolution to clear the Senate, the Democrats have come up with a new plan to engage the Bush Administration on the Iraq War, you might call it the “take-back” strategy:

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military’s role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

(…)

The new framework would set a goal for withdrawing combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the same timetable established by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Once the combat phase ends, troops would be restricted to assisting Iraqis with training, border security and counterterrorism.

This, not a pointless and toothless resolution that condemns the war, is exactly what is needed, a real debate over the question of whether American troops actually belong in Iraq and what “victory” in Iraq actually means. Hopefully, we’ll actually get it this time.

The “New Rules” Economy

There’s a new group out there called ThirdWay, a progressive organization looking to find new ways to sell their policies to the nation. They’ve written a policy paper about “The New Rules Economy”.

I haven’t yet read the whole thing. It’s about 40 pages, so it won’t take long, and I’ll get to that tonight. But it’s not off to a really good start (emphasis added):

Over the past six years, conservatives have had their shot at coping with the economy’s new rules. In keeping with Reagan’s philosophy, they have tried to shrink government’s reach in the economy with massive tax cuts for mostly the wealthy, wholesale deregulation, and attempts to eliminate or privatize safety net programs for the elderly and those at lower incomes. By any objective standard, the results have been a disappointment. On the plus side, economic growth during this time of change has been generally steady. But it has also been alarmingly uneven: average wages have been flat, income disparity has widened, and there is widespread anxiety about the nation’s economic future. Other measures of economic security, such as health care and pension coverage, have declined.

So let’s look at the first of the italicized sections, “they have tried to shrink government’s reach in the economy with massive tax cuts for mostly the wealthy, wholesale deregulation, and attempts to eliminate or privatize safety net programs for the elderly and those at lower incomes”. For the sake of argument, I’ll grant that the tax cuts for the wealthy. Personally, I’ll take a tax cut any time I can get one, and I’m not sure that I even agree that it is “for the wealthy”, but that’s a talking point that is an axiom to the left, and not up for debate, so I’m not interested in starting that fight.

But first, they suggest that conservatives have tried to shrink their reach into the economy. If so, they haven’t done a good job, because the increase in government expenditures from $2.1T to $2.7T will necessitate reaching a heck of a lot deeper into the economy in the future. Second, I don’t see where the “wholesale deregulation” accusation comes from. Sarbanes-Oxley was a very large increase in economic regulation, and McCain-Feingold was an increase in political regulation. The last six years haven’t seen any deregulation, as far as I can tell. Last, they accuse conservatives of “attempting” to eliminate or privatize safety net programs. Well, maybe they attempted to privatize Social Security, but they’ve dramatically increased federal control and spending on education and prescription drugs for seniors. So all three points they accuse conservatives of doing over the last six years are false.

Then, look at the second italicized portion, “average wages have been flat, income disparity has widened, and there is widespread anxiety about the nation’s economic future”. No argument here that this has occurred. The question is why. I would point out that over the last six years, when the market went through a tough recession, the government resorted to fiscal policy to inflate the currency. When that occurs, you see all of these things. Wages for wage-earners can hardly hope to keep up with inflation, but the investor class can use their money to make more. This is where widening “income disparity” comes from. Those who can invest tend to move money into locations where it will track inflation, while salaries commonly lag inflation. While “core” inflation hasn’t yet spiked, it’s coming, and people vaguely see that on the horizon.

But what “progressive” policies will reduce inflation? One of the primary drivers of inflation, historically, has been socialist governments’ desire to buy things it can’t afford, forcing them to print money to pay for it. Look at Zimbabwe and Venezuela. It’s very rare that a country can balance on the head of socialism while retaining a stable currency (Switzerland, perhaps, being a good example, because they kept a 40% backing by gold until 2000). American leftists are typically Keynesian, who believe that government deficits and money supply can “prop up” an economy, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard American progressives advocate for a return to currency backed by something more than government promises.

As I said, I haven’t even read past the second page of this document yet, but I’m already finding some fundamental disagreements with it… I’ll try to go through the rest, and I expect there may be more to come.

Hat Tip: Catallarchy

Meet Michael Charles Smith

If the 2008 presidential campaign wasn’t about electing the first woman, African American, Hispanic, or Mormon president but rather about ideas, candidates like Ron Paul might have a fighting chance to be the next president. For the purposes of this post, I’ll pretend that this race is about ideas.

Ron Paul seems to be a fan favorite here at The Liberty Papers. I also have a great deal of admiration for Ron Paul. I hope that he draws a great deal of attention in the debates so that certain libertarian issues will be discussed that the G.O.P. front runners wouldn’t touch with a 10’ pole. As far as domestic issues go, I think Paul is right on the money…its some (but not all) of his foreign policy positions I have problems with (the same problems I generally have with the Libertarian Party platform in regard to foreign policy). More specifically, Ron Paul’s inability to understand the very real threats to the U.S. by Islamofascists makes it very difficult for me to endorse him or pull the lever for him.

So what is a liberty and small government minded person who also recognizes the threats of Islamofascim to do? The G.O.P. front runners (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, etc.) all seem to want to combat these threats but will also most likely continue to grow the government in much the same way as President Bush has. Ron Paul would work to decrease the size of government and restore some of our lost liberties but would cut and run in Iraq and leave America vulnerable (as would most if not all of the Democrats who are running). No good can come from a defeat in Iraq. There is at least one candidate who is perhaps even less well known than Ron Paul that might be a reasonable compromise between the G.O.P. front runners and Ron Paul; meet Oregon Republican Michael Charles Smith.

For those of you who are looking for the perfect presidential candidate, I have some bad news: there is no perfect candidate. But as I went through the list of things I am looking for in a candidate, Michael Charles Smith is about as close as I can find who reflects my views. Smith is not your typical Republican and certainly won’t be receiving any support from the Christian Right. Smith calls himself a “fiscal conservative” and “social libertarian.” By fiscal conservative he means that federal spending should only be used for functions specifically mandated in the U.S. Constitution (what a concept!), federal taxing and spending should be reduced in favor of state and local control, and the federal income tax should be abolished and replaced with the Fair Tax. By Social libertarian he means that he is pro choice, that illicit drugs should be de-felonized (not a complete withdraw from the war on drugs but a start), and that gays should have the same rights of marriage and be able to openly serve in the military.

In matters of war and peace Smith was opposed to going to war in Iraq but does not believe the troops should leave until the job is done. Though I did support the reasons for going to war with Iraq and continue to support the war, the president and the congress did not use the constitutional approach and was therefore; reckless and possibly illegal (I’ll leave that up to the lawyers to decide). Smith, on the other hand, actually believes the founders had it right in the first place. Smith explains:

Fundamentally, our approach to military engagement should be reset. The threshold for military commitment should be stringently limited to specific threats to Americans, not American “interests.” Any extended commitment of military force should require a formal declaration of war from the Congress. Discretionary commitments and preemptive justifications are too prone to political motivations and lack sufficient checks and balances.

Let’s honor the sacrifice of those who volunteer to protect our freedom by not carelessly putting them in harm’s way.

While I don’t think Smith would be as strong of a leader in the war on Islamofascism as Giuliani, at least Smith seems to recognize both external and internal threats to liberty in the United States. Most importantly, he wants to restore what he calls “constitutional integrity” by returning to a smaller government, less spending, returning more responsibility to the states, restoring the Bill of Rights by upholding church/state separation, civil liberties, and state’s rights.

Obviously, the chances of Michael Charles Smith being the next POTUS is a long shot (lack of campaign funds, name recognition, the MSM, the G.O.P. establishment, etc.) at best. He probably will not even qualify for the early primaries. Though I’m not prepared to give Smith my endorsement at this moment, I think he deserves some careful consideration by those of us with libertarian leanings. How great would that be to have not one but two ‘true’ Republicans in the Republican debates with the likes of Rudolf Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Duncan Hunter? Is it possible that perhaps one of the front runners might adopt some of the Smith and Paul platforms? In this 2008 beauty contest, this is probably the best we can hope for.

Why Ron Paul Probably Won’t Win

Before I get into the meat of this post, let me just make it clear. I like Ron Paul alot, and agree with him on almost every issue — the major expception being immigration where he is, I would submit decidedly non-libertarian.

That being said, I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in Texas of winning either the Republican nomination for President or a race for the White House against almost any Democratic nominee. James Ostrowski, who I’ve criticized before for his optomistic view of the Paul for President campaign, thinks otherwise and writes today at LewRockwell.com about the reasons he thinks Ron Paul has a chance in 2008:

First, because all the major candidates are deeply flawed.

Second, there are no good Republican candidates other than Ron Paul.

While I agree wholeheartedly with both statements, I don’t think that’s enough to get him over the significant hurdles he faces. As I wrote back in January, the three things that matter most in a Presidential nomination are money, message, and name recognition. McCain, Giuliani, and Romney are going have every other Republican candidate beat when it comes to fund raising, and that is going to give them a tremendous advantage. Second, most Republican primary voters are not going be in sync with Ron Paul’s message. Voting against the war might be popular in a Democratic primary, it is not going to be popular in a Republican primary. Finally, as I noted before, lack of name recognition will be a problem the Ron Paul campaign will need to address.

Third, he would be running against Hillary, which means he starts with an automatic 45 percent of the vote. You only need 49 as Bill taught us.

Fourth, he picks up those extra four points by outflanking Hillary on the war and on other issues that appeal to the left (drug war, financial populism, etc.).

The problem with this is that Clinton won with 43% of the popular vote in 1992 and 49% of the popular vote in 1996, and George W. Bush won with 47% of the popular vote in 2000 because of the presence in those races of third party candidates — Perot in `92 and `96 and Nader in `00 — that had an historically unusual impact on the outcome of the race. Take the third-party factor out of the race, and you have a situation like any other Presidential race where the winner ends up with at least 50.01% of the vote to win.

Also, this doesn’t take into account the fact that the popular vote doesn’t decide elections, just ask Al Gore. I have no idea how the Electoral College might break down if Ron Paul were the Republican nominee.

Ostrowski cites other reasons that he thinks Paul has a chance, including the role of the Internet and the fact that Paul is a better speaker than the other candidates. All of this may be true, but given the handicaps that he faces in the race, assuming that is that he ever officially declares that he’s running for President, I don’t think it will be enough for him to pull it off.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think that I am.

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
Further Thoughts On The Ron Paul For President Campaign
The Ron Paul Interview
Ron Paul: The Least Malleable Republican
Ron Paul: The Real Republican

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