Monthly Archives: February 2007

Our Libertarian President

In honor of Presidents Day, I’m posting Thomas DiLorenzo’s piece on Grover Cleveland, which he calls The Last Good Democrat:

In the post-war years the Democratic Party possessed most of what was left of the states’ rights, strict constructionist Jeffersonians in American politics. The party had its share of scoundrels, politics being what it is, but it still generally championed free trade over the legal plunder of protectionism, and laissez faire over Lincolnian mercantilism. Its greatest spokesman in this regard was President Grover Cleveland, who served two terms as president: 1885–1889 and 1893–1897. His political philosophy was perhaps best expressed in his second inaugural address, where he said, “The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.” He was a nineteenth century James Ostrowski.

Cleveland began his political career as sheriff of Erie County, New York in 1871, where he earned a reputation for fearlessness and incorruptibility. He was then elected mayor of Buffalo in 1882 where he became known as “the veto mayor.” He earned this noble designation for repeatedly vetoing inflated government contracts with politically-connected firms doing business with the city. He also insisted on competitive bidding on all city contracts, a practice almost unheard of in New York.

Ascending to the governor’s mansion, Cleveland became known as “the veto governor” for vetoing numerous Tammany Hall patronage bills put before the state legislature. Inevitably, this reputation would follow him into the White House where he would veto hundreds of bills, including forty-nine that he pocket vetoed on his very last day in office, March 4, 1897 (see Alyn Brodsky, Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2000, p. 57).

Cleveland also campaigned vigorously for a reduction in the tariff rate, calling the current rates, an economic legacy of the Lincoln administration, “indefensible extortion” and “a vicious, inequitable, and illogical source of unnecessary taxation.” Republicans fiercely defended tariff extortion, as they always had, and prevailed politically during Cleveland’s first term.

Grover Cleveland was also a crusader for the Gold Standard and sound money. Naturally, the Republican Party opposed him on this issue with all its powers. In a message to Congress he announced, “The people of the United States are entitled to a sound and stable currency and to money recognized as such on every exchange and in every market of the world.” And only a gold standard, Cleveland believed, could guarantee such a stable currency.

During his first term as president Cleveland vetoed hundreds of pension expansion bills as unwarranted raids on the U.S. Treasury. He became Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of the “Grand Army of the Republic,” the Union army veterans lobbying organization that consistently agitated to plunder the taxpayers. Despite the dwindling number of veterans, expenditures on veterans’ pensions had increased by some 500 percent in the previous twenty years (Brodsky, p. 182), purely because of the political clout of Union army veterans. (Southerners paid taxes to finance the pensions, but did not qualify for them).


Grover Cleveland considered this imperialistic fantasy to be “every bit as odious as imperialism and misguided nationalism” (p. 228). He was determined that “we never get caught up in conflict with any foreign state unless attacked or otherwise provoked,” in the spirit of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. If he were alive today, Grover Cleveland would be the chief nemesis of the neocons.

Grover Cleveland was a principled classical liberal. But even while serving as president, his own Democratic Party was deserting him as the forces of statism and unlimited democracy, unleashed by the death of states’ rights in 1865, were beginning to dominate American politics. He was the last American president in the Jefferson/Andrew Jackson/John Tyler tradition, and the last good Democrat to serve in that office. For the most part, his successors (in both parties) have ranged from pathetic panderers to dangerous, megalomaniacal warmongers, or both.

Unveiling A Piece Of History

On December 23, 1783, George Washington addressed the Continental Congress for the last time as Commander of the Continental Army. Today, the original copy of the speech, in Washington’s own handwriting will be unveiled to the public:

It was a speech so moving the crowd wept. It was a speech so personally important George Washington’s hand shook as he read it until he had to hold the paper still with both hands. After the ceremony, he handed the thing to a friend and sped out the door of the State House in Annapolis, riding off by horse.

For centuries, his words have resonated in American democracy even as the speech itself — the small piece of paper that shook in his hands that day — was quietly put away, out of the public eye and largely forgotten.

Today, however, amid festivities celebrating his birthday, Maryland officials plan to unveil the original document — worth $1.5 million — after acquiring it in a private sale from a family in Maryland who had kept it all these years. It took two years to negotiate the deal and raise money for the speech, which experts consider the most significant Washington document to change hands in the past 50 years.

The speech, scholars say, was a turning point in U.S. history. As the Revolutionary War was winding down, some wanted to make Washington king. Some whispered conspiracy, trying to seduce him with the trappings of power. But Washington renounced them all.

By resigning his commission as commander in chief to the Continental Congress — then housed at the Annapolis capitol — Washington laid the cornerstone for an American principle that persists today: Civilians, not generals, are ultimately in charge of military power.

And for that alone, America should be eternally grateful.

Latest Rack n’ Roll Development

The already sordid case from Manassas Park has taken another turn. Greg L, the proprietor of BVBL, has received a cease and desist letter from an attorney who represents the City of Manassas Park, its police chief, and several other officers.

I would say this is unbelievable, but it’s actually SOP for city officials caught in a compromising legal situation. Of course, as Greg mentions over at his place, if the case was to go forward, the media coverage, and more importantly, discovery, would be one of the best things to happen to David Ruttenberg. Which is why it won’t; this is just an attempt to strong arm into silence those who have the gall to call out their political masters.

If you need background, check out BVBL’s collection of posts here, and Radley Balko’s here.

The Real Connection Between Iraq And Al Qaeda

While the United States military concentrates its resources on keeping together a country that is clearly splintering apart, the men who killed 3,000 Americans on September 11th are gaining strength again:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.

And what about the manhunt for bin Laden and Zawahiri:

Officials said that the United States still had little idea where Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri had been hiding since 2001, but that the two men were not believed to be present in the camps currently operating in North Waziristan. Among the indicators that American officials cited as a sign that Qaeda leaders felt more secure was the release of 21 statements by Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri in 2006, roughly twice the number as in the previous year.

What about the Iraq connection ? Well, let’s ponder some alternate history for a second. Let’s pretend that the United States didn’t invade Iraq in 2003 and instead concentrated on the War in Afghanistan, the seach for bin Laden and the remaining Taliban leaders, and the final destruction of the al Qaeda network. Isn’t it just possible that the situation in Afghanistan would be alot better than it is today ?

The most frustrating thing to me about the Iraq War is the way in which it has distracted us from fighting the real enemy. It wasn’t Saddam Hussein who attacked us on September 11th, it was al Qaeda. It wasn’t Saddam Hussein who was providing refuge to al Qaeda, it was the Taliban government of Afghanistan. That’s where the United States military should have been in 2003, not the deserts of Iraq.

Update: Kevin makes a point in this comment that I think is essentially correct. Sending more troops into Afghanistan might not necessarily have been the right move either, but at the very least I think that the War On Terror would be in a far different state right now if our resources had been focused on the real enemy rather than diverted to Iraq.

We Don’t Need Anymore “Great” Presidents

As we mark the 275th anniversary of the birth of America’s first President, Robert Higgs argues that we need more President’s who don’t aspire to greatness:

In the New York Times Magazine for December 15, 1996, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., presented the results of a poll of historians asked to rank the presidents (excepting only William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, who held office very briefly). Thirty historians plus politicos Mario M. Cuomo and Paul Simon were asked to rank the nations chief executives as Great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, or Failure. The ranking applies to performance in the White House, not to lifetime accomplishments, and the historians used their own judgment as to what constitutes greatness or failure.

The results of the poll correspond well with the results of a number of earlier polls, especially in the set of presidents regarded as Great or Near Great. The three Great ones are Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Near Great comprise Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, and Truman. The Failures are Pierce, Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Harding, Hoover, and Nixon, the last ranking at the very bottom of the heap.


One need not ponder the rankings long, however, to discover a remarkable correlation: all but one of the presidents ranked as Great or Near Great had an intimate association with war, either in office or by reputation before taking office. Of the top-ranking “nine immortals,” five (Lincoln, FDR, Polk, Wilson, and Truman) were commander in chief when the nation went to war, and three (Washington, Jackson, and Teddy Roosevelt) were best known prior to becoming president for their martial exploits. The one exception, Jefferson, confined his presidential bellicosity to authorizing, with Congressional consent, the naval engagements against the Barbary pirates. (Of course, he had been a revolutionary official during the War of Independence.)

In contrast, of the eleven presidents ranked as Below Average or Failure, all but one (Nixon) managed to keep the nation at peace during their terms in office, and even Nixon ultimately extracted the United States from the quagmire of the war in Vietnam, though not until many more lives had been squandered.

As Higgs points out, each of these “great” Presidents took steps that not only increased the power of the state, but increased the power of the Executive Branch far beyond what the Founding fathers intended.

The president is to act as commander in chief of the army and navy, but Congress alone can commit the nation to war, that is, “declare war.” The president is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but only Congress can enact laws, and then only within the scope of its limited, enumerated powers. The presidency was intended to be a largely ceremonial position whose occupant would confine himself to enforcing federal laws.

But over time, abruptly during Lincoln’s presidency and progressively during the twentieth century, presidents seized more and more power.

American liberty will never be reestablished so long as elites and masses alike look to the president to perform supernatural feats and therefore tolerate his virtually unlimited exercise of power. Until we can restore limited, constitutional government in this country, God save us from great presidents.

This will require, though, a significant change in how the American people view both the government itself and the Presidency specifically.

GWB’s Legacy: LBJ

As George W. Bush settles into his final two years, knowing that he’s lost his Congress and has become increasingly a lame duck, the question of his legacy looms large.

As Bush marks the Presidents Day holiday and George Washington’s 275th birthday on Monday, he faces a drumbeat a criticism for the event that will likely be a big part of his legacy — the Iraq war.

The president believes it will take some time to determine his place in the pantheon of presidents, despite the negative assessments some historians have already made.

“I don’t think you’ll really get the full history of the Bush administration until long after I’m gone. I tell people I’m reading books on George Washington and they’re still analyzing his presidency,” Bush told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview last month.

Unfortunately for Bush, I don’t think he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as any of the gentlemen planters of Virginia who founded this country. I shudder to think what an orator like Patrick Henry would have to say about Bush. However, he has a ready-made Texan to be compared to, and that comparison works in more ways than one: Lyndon Baines Johnson.

They both ramped up unpopular wars; LBJ at least having the distinction of not starting the Vietnam war, but only partly so, because he was VP in the administration that did start the war. Bush at least has two years to hopefully clean up Iraq, but may lose any political capital from that potential “win” if he invades Iran.

LBJ began the “Great Society”, initiatives which greatly expanded the federal role in education and began Medicare. Bush chose to leave no child behind by greatly expanding the federal role in education, and chose to greatly expand Medicare by instituting Medicare Part D.

LBJ found himself losing 47 Congressional seats to Republicans in 1966, ruining his chances of ending his presidency on a high note, and imperiling any future programs he would want to institute. Bush lost both houses of Congress to the Democrats, probably dooming his tax cuts to repeal and ensuring that he’ll make no headway on his plans to reform Social Security.

Unless Iraq turns into the model democracy that transforms the Arab world, Bush’s legacy will be one of failure on all fronts.

The Death Of Personal Responsibility

A 58 year old man in New York was fired by IBM recently because he was visiting adult chat rooms on company time using company computers. In response, he’s suing IBM claiming protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act:

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A man who was fired by IBM for visiting an adult chat room at work is suing the company for $5 million, claiming he is an Internet addict who deserves treatment and sympathy rather than dismissal.

James Pacenza, 58, of Montgomery, says he visits chat rooms to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed during an Army patrol in Vietnam.

In papers filed in federal court in White Plains, Pacenza said the stress caused him to become “a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict.” He claimed protection under the American with Disabilities Act.


Until he was fired, Pacenza was making $65,000 a year operating a machine at a plant in East Fishkill that makes computer chips.

Several times during the day, machine operators are idle for five to 10 minutes as the tool measures the thickness of silicon wafers.

It was during such down time on May 28, 2003, that Pacenza logged onto a chat room from a computer at his work station.

Diederich says Pacenza had returned that day from visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and logged onto a site called ChatAvenue and then to an adult chat room.

Pacenza, who has a wife and two children, said using the Internet at work was encouraged by IBM and served as “a form of self-medication” for post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he tried to stay away from chat rooms at work, but that day, “I felt I needed the interactive engagement of chat talk to divert my attention from my thoughts of Vietnam and death.”

In other words, it wasn’t his fault that he was breaking company rules, it was the damn Vietcong…..or maybe LBJ, William Westmoreland, and Richard Nixon.

This case is only one example of something that has become all too prevalent in American society. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions and admitting that they did something wrong, people blame their problems on someone or something else. In Mr. Pacenza’s case, instead of admitting that it was wrong for him to goof off on company time in an adult chat room, he thinks that IBM was wrong for failing to “reasonably accomodate” his Internet “addiction.”

Most likely, this lawsuit will be thrown out long before it reaches a jury. But the underlying problem of the death of personal responsibility will remain and there will be plenty more James Pacenzas in the future.

Ron Paul: The Least Malleable Republican

George Will has an interesting, generally positive, profile of Texas Congressman and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul in this week’s Newsweek:

Most congressional offices are decorated with photos of representatives gripping and grinning with presidents and other eminences. Paul, who thinks the presidency has swollen to anticonstitutional proportions, has photos of two Austrian School economists, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who warned against what Hayek called “the fatal conceit” of governments thinking they can allocate wealth and opportunity more reasonably than can markets. Paul’s office has a picture of one president—Grover Cleveland, the conservative Democrat who asked, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

Paul thinks everyone is born an instinctive libertarian, “wanting to be let alone.” Unfortunately, “the school system beats it out of you.” Paul voted both for the ban on partial-birth abortion (a fetus is alive, leave it alone) and against the ban on same-sex marriage (none of the federal government’s business). He refused to allow any of his five children (three of whom are doctors) to accept federal student loans, and he will not accept his congressional pension. He voted against campaign-finance regulation in 2002 and the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act in 2006, denouncing the former as the left’s attack on free speech and the latter as the right’s attack. Because they are “not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution,” he regularly votes against awarding gold medals to distinguished figures, including—gasp—the Gipper.

Will, ever the political realist, clearly considers Ron Paul, and by extension it seems the Founding Fathers, something of an anachronism, but he doesn’t deny that, for the most part, Ron Paul is the only Member of Congress that get’s it right most of the time.

H/T: Lew Rockwell Blog

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

Steve Jobs Takes On Teacher Unions

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, blames teacher unions for most of what’s wrong with education today:

AUSTIN — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

“What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

“Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.'”


I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said.

“This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.”

This surely won’t endear Jobs or Apple to the National Education Association, but Jobs is completely right.

H/T: Club For Growth

Workers Are Better Off With Fewer Unions

George Mason University Economics Professor Russell Roberts challenges the conventional wisdom that workers are better off when there are more labor unions:

When more than 90% of the private-sector labor force isn’t unionized, why do 97% of us earn above the minimum wage? If our bargaining power is so pitiful, why don’t greedy employers exploit us and drive wages down to the legal minimum?

The simple answer is that bargaining power comes from having alternatives. Even in the absence of unions, employers have to treat workers well to attract and keep them. In a workplace as dynamic as that of the United States, where millions of jobs are destroyed and created every quarter, a company’s ability to exploit workers is greatly limited by how easy it is to find another job.

Ultimately, it is competition among employers that protects us from exploitation. Even those who would seem to be the most vulnerable — immigrants who struggle to speak English, for example — can earn much more than the minimum wage simply because of competition for their skills. Cleaning people routinely earn $20 an hour, more than most cities’ so-called living wage.

Look at workers’ share of the nation’s income. In 1950, employee compensation was 53% of gross domestic income. In 2005, that number was 57%. Somehow, as unions’ strength dwindled over the decades, employees’ share actually grew. And it’s a share of a dramatically larger pie, the result of the incredible economic boom of the last half a century.

The reason that happened, as Roberts points out, is that the real reason wages increase is because worker productivity increases, and productivity is increased by a better-educated workforce and technology that saves workers time in doing their jobs. Handing over more authority to institutions that are a relic of the Industrial Age won’t accomplish anything.

H/T: Club For Growth

Recent Firings Of US Attorneys Were Political

And oddly enough, it appears to largely be Republicans firing Republicans for investigating fellow Republicans…

6 of 7 Dismissed U.S. Attorneys Had Positive Job Evaluations (emphasis added)

All but one of the U.S. attorneys recently fired by the Justice Department had positive job reviews before they were dismissed, but many ran into political trouble with Washington over issues ranging from immigration to the death penalty, according to prosecutors, congressional aides and others familiar with the cases.

Two months after the firings first began to make waves on Capitol Hill, it has also become clear that most of the prosecutors were overseeing significant public-corruption investigations at the time they were asked to leave. Four of the probes target Republican politicians or their supporters, prosecutors and other officials said.

Now, leave off the question of whether the firings had political motivation. At the very least, one must ask, when considering these sorts of actions, “what will the motivation for these actions look like?” In this case, it looks like these are prosecutors who were getting positive performance reviews, but they started looking under the wrong skirts, and got slapped down for it.

Normally, I might not get too upset over this. After all, when you’re in the world of politics, you have to expect that your friends will stab you in the back if it means another point in the polls for them. That’s how politicians operate, and that’s been the rule of the game ever since we transitioned from the divine right of kings to choosing rulers at the ballot box. But given our current administration’s desire to assume their own sort of divine rights, I see that this is merely a continuation of the same pattern we’ve seen the last six years. The money quote:

“There always have traditionally been tensions between main Justice and U.S. attorneys in the districts,” said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “But it does seem like there’s an effort to centralize authority in Washington more than there has been in the past and in prior administrations.”

If you wonder what the effects of centralized power will end up being, look no further than to a quote from Ronald Reagan: “Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.” This only puts in sharper relief the extent to which the conservative movement has abandoned the cause of liberty in the last two decades.

Another SWAT Team Outrage

On Tuesday, the Wharton Police Department in Texas shot a 17-year old boy, Daniel Castillo Jr. to death. The SWAT team was serving a search warrant looking for drugs after the police allegedly witnessed a drug deal take place at the residence. According to the family, Castillo was unarmed and asleep when the SWAT team burst into his bedroom door and killed him. Radley Balko has the details

According to [Rick] Dovalina [head of the local LULAC chapter], police say they found what appear to be stems and seeds of marijuana, either in the Castillo home or in the yard behind it. Contrary to earlier reports, the victim’s father, Daniel Castillo, Sr. was not arrested or charged with a crime.

Police did arrest a man in a white pick-up truck outside the house. The man was apparently dating one of the victim’s sisters, and police claim they found crack cocaine in the vehicle.

Dovalina says Daniel Castillo, Jr. was unarmed, had no criminal record, and according to his father, was not involved in the drug trade. The police affidavit for the search warrant claims an unidentified informant saw crack being sold from the house. It names “David Castillo” as a possible suspect, then later, “Daniel Castillo.” That tip and police observations of “traffic” at the Castillo home formed the basis of the forced-entry SWAT raid. No one but the police knows the identity of the informant.

According to his sister, Castillo was shot just below the eye as he rose up from his bed after hearing her scream. She was holding a 1-year-old child just a few feet from the shooting.

So here we have a SWAT team, in search of Demon Crack, that shoots a kid in the face after they wake him up. The kid was unarmed, there was no reason to shoot him. Sadly, these incidents are becoming all too common as a result of the War on (some) Drugs and use of no-knock raids and SWAT teams. Sadly also, there won’t be as much outrage to this incident as there was over the Kathryn Johnson and Sean Bell shootings because people have become desensitized over these killings.

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.

Colorado Judge Resigns in Protest of Proposed Marijuana Ordinance

Leonard Frieling, associate municipal court judge of 8 years in Lafayette, Colorado says he cannot enforce the city’s proposed marijuana ordinance. Though the ordinance will be voted on next week, by all indications it will pass the city council. The new law increases the maximum fine for marijuana possession (small amounts) from $100 to $1000 and a year in jail. Judge Frieling does not believe pot should be illegal for adults but is willing to enforce the current fine of $100.

It’s a shame that Judge Frieling has to step down because of such a draconian law but he is doing the right thing. A $100 fine is not enough of a penalty to ruin a person’s life but a year in jail looks much worse on a person’s criminal record. Surely Judge Frieling is not the only judge in the country that sees the lunacy that is the war on (some) drugs and its encouraging seeing that there are public servants who will put their principles above their careers.

Virgil Goode Is A Dumbass

Congressman Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) has done it again. He made another dumbass comment about Muslims. From his speech, against the anti-surge resolution:

“In now way do I want to comfort and encourage the radical Muslims that want to destroy our country and who want to wipe the so called infidels like myself and many of you from the face of the earth. In no way do I want to aid and assist the Islamic jihadists who want the green flag of the crescent and star to wave over the Capital of the United States and the White House of this country. I fear that radical Muslims, who want to control the Middle East and ultimately the world, would love to see “in God we trust” stricken from our money and replaced with “in Muhammad we trust.”

The dumbass quote is the last sentence about our money. If Virgil Goode knew anything about Islam, he would know that Muhammad is merely a prophet in Islam, not God. Also, I’m sure the Islamofascists would like to bomb subways, buses, or any other target before joining the (cue scary music) evil secular progressive crusade to outlaw Christanity.

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.

An Open Challenge To The Victory Caucus

The Democrats’s meaningless anti-surge resolution passed the House on a near party-line vote. One of the groups formed to fight the anti-surge resolution is the Victory Caucus, a group that includes in its leadership Hugh Hewitt, Austin Bay, Ed Morrissey, and former Assistant Secretary of Defence Frank Gaffney. Their overall goal is to support victory in the War on Terror and Iraq, which most Americans do not disagree with. However, they fail to define what victory is.

Before I issue my challenge to the bloggers of the Victory Caucus, let me lay out my position on Iraq.

-I have always been a skeptical supporter of the invasion of Iraq and eventually moved to support it because of the Iraqi government’s suspected ties to terrorism and terrorist organizations. I do not know if the Iraq War was a just war or the right war at the right time, I’ll leave that to historians.

-I define victory in Iraq as a stable, self-governing nation or set of nations (I don’t rule out partition as the final answer) that is not a state sponsor of terrorism.

-I oppose the surge because American troops should not be taking the lead in resolving Iraq’s civil war or sectarian violence. Instead, the primary missions of American troops should be securing the borders, combatting al-Qaeda in Anbar province, and training the Iraqi security forces. However, American troops should continue to provide heavy weapons and air support to Iraqi troops until they can develop their own capabilities.

-I do not support the resolution passed in the House today, nor do I support a resolution that would defund the surge or tie funding to other changes in tactics. The president and the military commanders should have the flexibility to deploy the military in a Congressionally authorized war to the tactics they feel are necessary. I do not favor immediate withdrawal, however I do support benchmarks to measure Iraqi progress in achieving goals in security, reconstruction, government, and other areas.

Now to my challenge:

1) Are those who favor victory but oppose the current tactics employed defeatists as well?

2) What is your vision of victory in Iraq?

3) Do you believe that the surge will allow the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias to lie low and rearm and reequip for when the extra Americans do leave, they can go back to butchering Sunnis and other acts of general mayhem?

I urge our readers and my fellow contributors to also take a stab at this challenge and comment on it in the comments section.

(edited at 11:13 CST to cleanup duplicate sentence)

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.

Illegal Immigration And Gun Control

Let’s set up a little thought experiment, and think about how different people might react.

Scenario 1: Nathan awakes in the middle of the night, startled by a loud noise. He heads into the closet, grabs his pistol, and goes to investigate. He lives in Washington DC, and his firearm is completely unregistered. As he exits the bedroom, he sees an intruder armed with a crowbar, heading towards him. He shoots the intruder, killing him instantly. When the cops arrive, they cite him for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Scenario 2: Jose comes from Mexico, where he’s got two small children. His wife has passed away, and his children are being cared for in Mexico City by their elderly grandmother, who Jose also supports. Jose can’t legally emigrate to the US, but jumps the border to work two jobs, so he can feed his family and put his children through school. One day, as he’s working on the construction site, the INS shows up, demanding his paperwork. When he provides his fraudulent ID, they round him up for deportation.

Now, a lot can be explained by your reaction to these two scenarios. I’m going to sketch out a few possibilities. What do you think, am I on target?

Republican: Nathan is a hero. He deserves a medal, not legal threats. Those gun laws are horrible, and you should never punish a man for protecting his family. Jose, however, is a lawbreaker. He should be deported, for stealing our jobs and sucking up our welfare dollars!

Democrat: Jose is just doing what anyone would do in that situation. It’s not his fault that US immigration laws are so tough. He needs to take care of his family, not be deported. But Nathan? Couldn’t there have been a peaceful way out of that situation. His intruder wasn’t armed with a gun, didn’t Nathan have a baseball bat around? Why didn’t he fire a warning shot, or just call the police?

Libertarian: Good on ya, Nathan and Jose! An immoral law shouldn’t be followed. Ooh, hey, are those brownies? I’ve got a wicked case of the munchies!

The Airline Passenger Bill Of Rights

In response to an odd and unlikely scenario, where passengers got stuck on the tarmac for 10 hours waiting for clearance to take off, Congress is suggesting we institute an Airline Passenger Bill Of Rights. In all honesty, considering the fact that air travel is so heavily regulated by the feds, one would think that regulating customer satisfaction would only seem natural. I would say that there are quite a few reasons, though, why this is a bad idea.

Rep. Michael Thompson, a California Democrat, said on Thursday he planned to introduce a bill that would address delayed flights, time on the tarmac, cancellations, and lost or damaged luggage.

Hanni and others want a passenger bill of rights to cap the time any delayed flight can languish on the tarmac without letting passengers get off. They also want the bill to specify compensation when airlines fail to deliver services as promised.

With our airlines constantly fighting against the spectre of bankruptcy, adding layers of potential costs due to these regulations could end up hurting us all. As with any other regulation, of course, airlines will do their best to pass the costs along to travelers. So while I can hope for a $50 voucher or something of the like as a “mea culpa” when they lose my bag for 6 hours or delay my flight, every flight will cost more to pay for this new regulation.

Remember, as with any other regulation, the bureaucrats in Washington are likely to know a lot less about the business than the airlines themselves. So if such a bill is written, one of two scenarios will occur:

1. The legislation will be written by the airline lobbyists, entrenching the major carriers while adding onerous costs to their smaller rivals, ruining competition and screwing customers with higher fares.

2. The legislation will be written by “consumer group” lobbyists, further imposing costs on carriers and making them unable to make money, screwing the airlines and screwing consumers with higher fares.

Congress is trying to “save” us travelers. I travel frequently, and every once in a while, I get delayed with a mechanical problem, weather, or lose a bag. Less frequently, something will occur weather-wise, and I’ll get stuck on the tarmac for a while. It’s annoying, but I’d rather that they spend time making sure the enormous metal tubes they send hurtling through the lower atmosphere gets where it’s going safely than whether I’ll get “compensated” for a delay.

We don’t need the government to give us an Airline Passenger Bill Of Rights. I’d prefer, in fact, that they cut down on some of their other onerous regulations on the industry, and reduce the “need” for this proposed APBOR.

Legal + Legal + Legal = Illegal?

The government, in it’s quest to control your life, is holding up people’s deposits with Neteller as “evidence”…

Neteller says U.S. authorities have frozen access to about $55 million in U.S.-based accounts.

“As a result of the restrictions placed by third parties, court-ordered seizures and related legal concerns, (Neteller) is unable to make payments to U.S. customers,” says a posting on the company’s website.

FBI agent Neil Donovan has said funds are being held in court as potential evidence. He did not provide a timetable on when customers may get their money back.

Though money-transfer companies such as Neteller do business with financial institutions and merchants, many also allow gambling companies to transfer money collected from U.S. gamblers to bank accounts outside the USA. Neteller last month closed its U.S. Internet gambling services, erasing about two-thirds of its business.

So let me get this straight. Gambling is legal, and often in states which don’t allow casinos, through lotteries and horse racing. The internet is legal, and accessing web sites all over the world is legal. Transferring money online is legal, and is the basis for all of eBay. Yet you put the three together, and you’re guilty of a moral crime and the government will seize your assets.

Just how does this make sense again? Neteller has stopped accepting gambling payments from US customers, so why would it make sense that Americans can’t withdraw the money that they currently can’t deposit into online gambling sites through Neteller anyway?
» Read more

A Fundamentally Silly Ruling

In what can only be described as a fundamentally silly decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a never-enforced Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys:

Atlanta — In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Alabama statute banning the commercial distribution of sex toys, saying that there is no fundamental right to privacy raised by the plaintiff’s case against the law.

According to the statute, it is “unlawful for any person to knowingly distribute any obscene material or any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.”

In 1998, the Alabama chapter of the ACLU brought suit on behalf of several plaintiffs — chief among them adult toy retailer Sherri Williams — seeking to enjoin the statute. The recent ruling by the 11th Circuit marks the third trip through the appellate process for the case.

In his opinion affirming the Alabama District Court’s ruling, Judge Charles Wilson concluded that the state has a “legitimate rational basis for the challenged legislation” despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision — Lawrence vs. Texas which overruled anti-sodomy laws across the country.

As Julian Sanchez argues, this decision seems impossible to reconcile with two long-standing Supreme Court decisions on the issue of sexual privacy and commercial activity:

Two of the seminal privacy cases of the last century— Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird—involved contraceptives, which were publicly sold and distributed commodities. So it seems clear that when some activity is implicated in the right of sexual privacy, the fact that it necessarily includes some public component—in this instance the dissemination or commercial sale of contraceptives to be used in the privacy of the home—cannot provide a pretext for gutting the right. Really, in light of Griswold and Eisenstadt, the key question would seem to be, not whether the state may thrust the camel’s nose of regulation into the commercial tent-flap (no!), but whether the liberty interest in dildoes really belongs in the same category as contraception, given that the former do not seem to be something “so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

Then, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court recognized, though, that the right to privacy extended to more than just procreation:

The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government.

And then there’s the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

So where, then, does the State Of Alabama obtain the right to ban a commercial product ? » Read more

Is Bob Barr Good For Libertarians ?

Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr created a bit of a political tornado back in December when he announced he was not only joining, but also taking a leadership position in, the Libertarian Party.

In the March issue of Reason, David Weigel takes a look at Barr’s move and asks whether it is really a good thing for the Libertarian Party. As Weigel points out, prior to December 18th, there were significant differences between Barr and Libertarians on the issue of the War on Drugs:

Before 9/11 changed the issue map so drastically, many libertarians knew Barr primarily for his strong support of the war on drugs. The 1998 Barr Amendment blocked implementation of a D.C. medical marijuana initiative that 69 percent of voters supported (according to exit polls) by prohibiting the D.C. government from spending any money “to conduct a ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act.”

The national Libertarian Party ran a TV ad against Barr in that final 2002 campaign that featured Cheryl Miller, a multiple sclerosis sufferer and medical marijuana user, pleading for Barr to stop trying to put her in jail. When Barr lost, the party whooped it up over beating “the worst drug warrior in Congress.”

Barr has had very little to say about the War On Drugs since his announced party switch, though there is some indication that his views may be changing:

In a late December interview with the Phoenix-based radio host Charles Goyette, Barr said he was “very supportive of the concept of legitimate testing for the use of medical marijuana” and “disappointed that the government has stood in the way of that”; he also indicated that states should be allowed to determine their own policies regarding the medical use of cannabis. That’s at odds with what he has said before, and it might be a sign that his views on drugs are evolving. But it’s still a long way from the full-fledged legalization of drugs urged by his new party. Although his public position may be changing, he and the Libertarians are still an awkward fit.

So what does this mean ? Is Bob Barr only a few more speeches away from publicly adopting the libertarian position on the Drug War ? Quite honestly, I find that unlikely given his past views. Barr’s views on illegal drugs may have evolved somewhat, but it will be very surprising to me if he comes out in favor of full legalization.

As Weigel argues, though, it may also be as sign that the Drug War is no longer the pre-eminent civil liberties issue facing America:

As libertarians discovered over decades of political warfare, the drug war was a unique rallying point. For some people, it’s the sole reason they became libertarians. It was also a deal breaker for many who agreed with libertarian positions on taxes or public schools or motorcycle helmet laws but thought the government had a moral responsibility to keep drugs off the streets.

“Throughout the ’80s and ’90s the drug war was the principal justification for reducing civil liberties in this country,” [As libertarians discovered over decades of political warfare, the drug war was a unique rallying point. For some people, it’s the sole reason they became libertarians. It was also a deal breaker for many who agreed with libertarian positions on taxes or public schools or motorcycle helmet laws but thought the government had a moral responsibility to keep drugs off the streets.

“Throughout the ’80s and ’90s the drug war was the principal justification for reducing civil liberties in this country,” [Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan] Nadelmann argues. “On September 11, the drug war was superseded by the war on terror as the new rationalization for curtailing civil liberties. That’s what changed.”

One issue hasn’t eclipsed the other. While many libertarians are hoping Barr will change his views on the drug war, that might not need to happen. As Barr says, every successful party (or political movement) includes swarms of allies who don’t agree on key issues. The issue that finally pulled Barr into the Libertarian Party—civil liberties during the war on terror—happens to be one of the starkest, most controversial fissures in American politics. If every voter who distrusts the government to respect his liberties were to follow Barr into his new political home, the GOP and Democrats could start holding their conventions in high school gyms.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen, but Barr does have the potential to bring into the libertarian fold voters from both parties upset with the encroachments on civil liberties supported by both parties that five and one-half years of the War on Terror have brought us.

Related Posts:

Bob Barr Joins The Libertarian Party
Bob Barr Explains Why He Joined The Libertarian Party
Just How Libertarian Is Bob Barr ?

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