Monthly Archives: November 2007

Censors Want To Go After Videogames

Earlier this week, four United States Senators did not think that a new game, Manhunt 2, was not sufficiently rated high enough and may even be bought by the children. Those four Senators decided to write the Entertainment Software Rating Board, private agency set up by the video game makers to self-regulate their products.

The demands of the Senators are:

The senators would like to see more transparency from the ESRB: “What information is provided back to developers after receiving a rating? Why is information regarding rating changes or reasons for decisions unavailable, except for content descriptors, to the public?” reads the letter.

The letter also cites the leak of the AO-rated version by a Sony employee and subsequent unlocking of some of the AO-content on the PSP version, as well as the “realistic motions” used to kill characters in the game on the Nintendo Wii, as evidence that the ESRB should reevaluate its ratings process. “[W]e ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability, and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of ‘ultra-violent’ video games and the advances in game controllers,” concludes the letter.

I’m not sure how dense the Senators are, but usually the content description is usually enough to determine if a game is suitable or not suitable for children. If a game’s description says that there’s violence with blood splattering all over and if a parent doesn’t want their child exposed to that right now, the parent probably won’t buy that particular game. However, our wonderful Senators believe we are morons who need to be taken care of by the government. Also, although the letter did threaten the ESRB with government takeover implicitly but the letter itself is a statement that these Senators think that video game content is enough of an issue that they’re more than willing to take it over from the ESRB if they do not meet the prudish standards of our Senators.

Just which four Senators think this is such an important issue:

Signed by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

Of course “protecting” the children is not the issue for these four, it’s power and control over what you can and can’t see and play on your computer.

Finally, today is “Black Friday” so when you’re shopping, piss off a Senator today.

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.
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Rick Santorum: “More Compassionate Conservatism Please”

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has apparently climbed out from the rock he’s been hiding under since he was defeated in 2006. In a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rick Santorum believes that the key to victory for Republicans is to embrace Compassionate Conservatism, except he calls it “common good” conservatism.

What Rick defines as “common good conservatism” is the following:

What I call “common-good” conservatism not only relies as much as possible on private charities and faith organizations, market forces, individual choice and decentralized decision-making, but also sees a role for government in empowering the nongovernmental institutions of civil society that serve the common good.

For example, with the use of government vouchers, individuals are better able to choose a nonprofit service provider that is better for their families than a government program is. Similarly, taxpayers are at least as capable as Washington bureaucrats of choosing an effective charity that aids the poor in their communities. So why not eliminate most government grants and give a tax credit to individuals who give to poverty-fighting nonprofits? Unlike past conservative proposals, that measure would be aiming not to save money but to save lives.

Common-good conservatism creates the opportunity for services to be more effectively delivered to those in need, while helping to re-create a community, a place to reconnect. And for Republicans, it creates an opportunity to reconnect to the millions of Americans who think we don’t care.

The major problem is that the non-government agencies, when you ask them, do not want to deal with the paperwork and regulations that will come with government vouchers (which is why I’m skeptical of school voucher programs). Also, I would like to know how Rick Santorum will define “poverty-fighting nonprofits”.

The best way to fight poverty is through private charity and government getting out of the way of the private sector. Also when we’re talking about poverty, we have to break it down into two types of people: those who cannot genuinely help themselves due to disease, sickness, physical or mental handicap, etc. and those who will not help themselves. Those who cannot help themselves, most of the American people would agree that there maybe a role for government. I would argue that private charity can help most, if not all, of those cases; but clearly I’m in the minority on that particular issue. I can live with a safety net for those who cannot help themselves. However, to expect the government to take people who are clearly capable to taking care of themselves, physically and mentally, is not only insulting to the taxpayers, but only perpetuates the culture of dependence that some Welfare recipients have.

Also, Rick Santorum continually touches on “building a sense of community”. I’m also curious as to what kind of community Rick Santorum wants to build. Finally, why should government be in the business of “building communities”?

If Republicans definitely want to lose in 2008, they should start by taking Rick Santorum’s advise and finish driving out the fiscal conservatives who remain in the party.

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.

The Free Market In Action – The Giant Retailers Begin To Buckle

If you purchased a newspaper in the past week or so, you might have noticed a bunch of circulars advertising post-Thanksgiving sales. The stores publicize these sale prices in an attempt to attract customers for what is known as “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving which, by custom, is one of the largest shopping days of the year. These circulars are important; even if the prices are not truly the lowest in the market, the perception of low prices will attract customers. And, in the days when comparing prices across many differently organized and formatted circulars was arduous, retailers could take comfort in the fact that the circular would bring in customers.

Unfortunately for retailers, the rise of the Internet made this practice dangerous: people started setting up websites that reorganized the sales information and allowed people to compare offers easily across stores an multiple product lines. This put the store owners in a quandary; they want to publicize prices to attract customers, but if the bargain hunting becomes easier, they will have to really slash prices to attract customers and their bottom lines will get tighter.

This gave rise to a new Thanksgiving tradition, the lawsuit against price comparison websites:

For the last several years, Wal-Mart Stores and other large chains have threatened legal action to intimidate Web sites that get hold of advertising circulars early and publish prices online ahead of company-set release dates. The retailers’ threats rest upon some dubious legal arguments, however, which may be the reason they haven’t shown a keen interest in actually going to court over the issue.

Wal-Mart has been among the most aggressive retailers in trying to cow consumer Web sites. Last month, it sent a cease-and-desist letter to BFAds.net, a site devoted to publishing Black Friday ads. Wal-Mart sent the letter even before BFAds had published Wal-Mart’s sale prices, so the cease-and-desist letter would be more properly called a “don’t even think about it” letter.

This year, however, retailers are unusually desperate to get bodies into their stores since the consensus is that this year will be an “off” year for retail sales. This desperation has prompted many chains to not attack the bargain hunting websites but to cooperate with them:

This holiday season, chains large and small quietly handed over their circulars to Web sites like Bfads.net and Gottadeal.com to ensure that millions of deal-hungry shoppers see their discounts well before the day known as Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

Over the past few weeks, Home Depot, Pacific Sunwear, CompUSA and OshKosh B’Gosh each supplied the sites with an advance copy of its ads, according to the chains and the sites’ owners.

In fact, some retailers even went so far as to check to ensure that their circulars had been published on Bfads.net, contacting the website’s founder when they didn’t see their sales listed on the website.

There are some firms that truly have the lowest price on some set of one or more goods. To these firms, websites life Bfads.net are not the enemy, but rather a powerful and free advertising tool. These firms are embracing these websites, and attracting the bargain hunters into their stores. And, since these bargain hunters tend to be mavens whose recommendations can drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to a store these cooperating firms are ensuring banner years for themselves.

Even the officers of big, bad Wal-Mart recognize this. One even wrote a letter to the owner of Bfads.net, thanking him for bringing customers to Wal-Mart:

“I checked out your site today and yesterday and we pulled some traffic reports — great job … Almost over 43,000 clicks just yesterday alone. … Thanks for giving us a nice write-up on your front page. Keep up the great work!”

This is the essence of the free market. People who depend on the voluntary business of customers must excel at satisfying their customers’ needs to thrive and prosper. While most merchants would love to pay little and charge dearly for their wares, only the ones who charge the least dearly will be able attract the customers they need.

Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

So, as you sit down for what is hopefully a nice feast, please remember to give thanks to the wonderful human invention, the one that has allowed our species to spread across the Earth and to enjoy lives that are anything but short and brutal, the concept known as the Free Market.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Ron Paul Makes Thanksgiving Eve Appearance With Alex Jones

For some more pandering to the Troofers and other conspiracy theorist whackjobs. I’ll listen for anything of note, but as of now, I’m done with Ron Paul.

The Ron Paul campaign has unfortunately become a gathering place for 9/11 “Truther” morons, racists, neo-Nazis, Southern secessionists, fascists, conspiracy theorists, wannabe authoritarians, Birchers, and nativists that I do not want to be associated with. Worst of all, the candidate himself knows about these err….outside of the mainstream supporters and he refuses to publically repudiate them and refund the donations from the most high profile ones. (No Lew, I’m not calling for Ron Paul to do background checks on all of his supporters, just refuse the donations from the high profile scumbags). If a candidate thinks its alright to make common cause with these people, especially one who is running a “principled” campaign on restoring liberty, than I have to question his conscience for aligning with these people at best and question his ability to lead at worst. I’ve come to the conclusion that a Ron Paul candidacy unless he repudiates these people who do not share the belief in liberty, will harm the overall freedom movement by giving the impression to the American people that “freedom” and “liberty” are just code words for fascism, racism, and conspiracy mongering like the “New World Order” and the “North American Union”.

The precedent is there. Ron Paul needs to follow it for entire freedom movement’s sake.

Until then, this classical liberal is not a part of the Ron Paul Revolution.

h/t: My Pet Jawa

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.

And The Bubble Goes POP!

What happens in an inflationary economic expansion? Credit comes into a market, getting sucked into ever-larger speculative ventures, driving up pricing in an asset class to the point where people check their good sense at the door in exchange for a shot glass full of hysteria. But unfortunately, growth fueled by speculation requires ever-more speculation to sustain it, and eventually the level-headed start to grow in number. When that happens, those holding the bag look for somebody, anybody to sell it to, but nobody’s buying, and the bubble bursts.

A lesson that Countrywide is learning all too quickly:

Countrywide Financial Corp. survived the first phase of the mortgage meltdown this summer thanks in part to a $2-billion investment from Bank of America.

But the Calabasas-based lender suffered a major new setback Tuesday when mortgage giant Freddie Mac posted a big loss and said it needed new capital — which could curb Countrywide’s ability to make loans.

When the mortgage crisis began last summer, Countrywide said it would cut back making higher-risk loans to concentrate on the safer loans it could sell to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government-chartered buyers of home loans.

That approach is now looking dicey in the wake of Freddie Mac’s surprising $2-billion loss and its announcement that it must raise more capital before its regulator will allow it to step up purchases of loans from lenders such as Countrywide, said Fox-Pitt Kelton analyst Howard Shapiro, who downgraded Countrywide shares.

“Countrywide’s survival strategy has depended on access to the secondary markets” — the companies that, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, buy loans and bundle them into securities for sale, Shapiro wrote. The approach won’t work so well when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae “are capital-constrained and may need to shrink.”

The merry-go-round has stopped, but Countrywide can’t get off.

In a world with real money, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. If you have to actually hold real money to loan it to somebody else, there is not enough fuel for the speculative fire to burn. In our current world, though, money is effectively free. It can be created out of thin air, and cannot bear to sit in a lake. Much like a river, it needs to flow, and it flows downhill to whoever is offering the greatest returns. Our housing crisis was created by cheap money. When prime lending wasn’t enough to lure the money, subprime and alt-A offered the returns it needed. The money kept flowing until it had saturated the market, and nobody was left to buy. And now it’s flowing elsewhere (perhaps commodities), leaving empty shells of former worth in its wake.

What’s the only way to hide the destruction? More money! And that’s what the traders are clamoring for. Ease the credit crunch! Lower interest rates! Bail-out! But all they’re asking for is air to pump a bubble that’s got a hole in it. They can’t repair the hole, so they desperately hope that if they blow enough air into the bubble, it might remain inflated.

The blame will go far and wide on this one. Unscrupulous lenders. Uninformed consumers. Not enough government regulation. There will be congressional investigations, maybe even some indictments and perp walks.

But only those of us in a tiny minority understand the truth: When money is free, it must expand and remain in motion to survive. It flows from asset class to asset class, but can never stay in one place long enough to be a store of value. Those who understand this– get rich. Those who don’t– get foreclosed.

The Best Explanation of the Second Amendment I Have Ever Heard

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”- Amendment II, U.S. Constitution

As Doug reported yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to take its first case on the Second Amendment in almost 70 years. During this period, legal scholars have debated whether the right to bear arms as described in the Second Amendment refers to an individual right or a collective right. For those of us who are certain that the right to bear arms is an individual right, it seems curious that of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights that only this amendment was intended to be a collective right and a restriction on the individual’s rights rather than a restriction on the federal government.

Still I have found the construction of the Second Amendment to be problematic. Language evolves over time; this gives opponents of the Constitution an opening to make the words mean what they wish them to mean. What exactly did the framers mean by “militia” ? My understanding has always been that the framers preferred a citizen’s militia (not part of the government) to a permanent standing army as the first line of defense (the government would reinstate the army in times of war). If this was their intent, then it would make sense that the framers would want citizens to be armed to form militias in the event that the country came under attack from foreign threats or be ready in the event that the government became to oppressive.

My other problem with the construction of the Second Amendment is that I find the first part “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” completely unnecessary. To me “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is short, sweet, and to the point. Individuals need to have the right to defend themselves, not only from the government but also from other individuals who threaten their lives, liberties, and property. A store owner should have every right to protect his store, his customers, his merchandise and himself from a hoodlum attempting to rob his store. A woman should have every right to carry a handgun to protect herself from the rapist hiding in the shadows. In both of these scenarios, the police (the government) are likely to not be of immediate assistance to these individuals.

Be that as it may, the Second Amendment says what it says and I still believe the authors of the amendment intended the right to bear arms as an individual right. Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller gave the best explanation of the meaning of the Second Amendment I have ever heard in an episode from their 3rd Season of their Showtime show Bullshit!

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” sure we need an organized military force to defend your country BUT “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This is the people in contrast with the militia. It doesn’t say “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” it says “the right of the people.”

Now why the word “people” ? Because the people who wrote this just fought a war for two years against a tyrannical state militia. They knew the time might come when they would have to do that again so they made the possession of weapons a right that the militia could never take away.

I have never heard this explanation before but it makes perfect sense. Penn goes on to say that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to make certain that the citizens could violently overthrow the government if the citizens found it necessary. It’s only natural that the government would try to disarm the citizen if it was under constant threat of an armed revolution. Moa, Lenin, and Stalin understood this perfectly well and said much the same thing.

What An Odyssey

That title seemed appropriate, considering that this is the 2001st blog post written on The Liberty Papers. In a way it is also appropriate that I am the one who is writing it.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Eric, the guy who thought it would be pretty cool to create this blog 2 years ago. I would venture to guess that a lot of you that will read this post don’t actually know me. I haven’t actively blogged since May, 2006 when I stopped writing publicly.

In the intervening 18 months (my goodness, it’s been that long already??) I’ve been quite successful in my new position. I’ve even had the opportunity to write and be published in commercial publications, although the writing is all related to my profession rather than politics. You can get an idea of what I’ve been up to with a quick Google search, if you’re interested.

Okay, enough about me. Why the heck am I writing this post if I no longer actively blog? Simple, really. Two years ago today I wrote the first post on The Liberty Papers. When I mentioned that to Brad and the other contributors, and suggested someone write a post about that, Brad asked if I would write it. After giving it some thought, I decided I could.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s something to commemorate two years of The Liberty Papers.

We’ve written 2,000 posts, had over 16,000 comments and more than 650,000 unique visitors in the past 24 months. Our visitors come from all over the world. In the past we’ve had folks visit from China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among other countries that are not exactly friends of liberty and free speech. Our readers and commenters range from the anonymous to such famous folks as David Friedman and David Duke*. We’ve been linked by any number of famous bloggers, including Glenn Reynolds, Lew Rockwell’s blog and many more than I have time to track down right this second.

Now, that hardly seemed likely during the first few months that this blog existed. The original group of contributors and I had much grander ambitions than we were actually living up to at the time. My personal blog, Eric’s Grumbles Before The Grave, was performing much better than TLP was. Most of the site’s traffic was being driven here by Brad, Doug, Chris and I. We were barely getting 2,000 visitors a month and the comments and external links were few and far between. So, how did we go from there to here? A lot of hard work, to be honest. We write, on average, 3 posts a day. We read, comment and link to other blogs and pay attention to topics that matter to our audience. And that has paid off dramatically.

Today this blog is one of the top listings on Google News for Ron Paul and sometimes Rudy Guliani. It is linked by hundreds of blogs worldwide and draws thousands of readers every day. Discussions in the comment sections often run into hundreds of comments and the range of thought, debate and discussion is very broad.

The range of the contributors is broad as well. From anarchist to limited government, practically all of the ideas that fit within the big tent of libertarianism (the political philosophy, not the political party) are represented here. This blog definitely lives up to what I hoped it might become. And I hope it provides a place for dynamic, dramatic and lively discourse on freedom and liberty for many visitors and participants for many years to come.

Thank you Adam, Brad, Chris, Doug, Jason, Kevin, Mike, Nick, Robert, Simon, Stephen, Tarran and UCrawford for all the work you do to keep this place alive and well. A bit of thanks to them is definitely in order, not one of them receives any compensation other than personal gratification for their work on this blog. Thank you to the many thousands of people who have stopped by and left a comment (or more than one). I can’t wait to write another self-congratulatory post 2 years from now! I can hardly wait.

* Update on 11/23/07. Just to clarify, based on an erroneous conclusion by a commenter, I am not proud to associate with David Duke at all. I do think it highlights the reach and scope of this blog that someone like David Duke will come and comment here. That’s not the same as being proud to associate with him. I would prefer not to have anything to do with him at all.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quote of the Day: Rudy’s Latest Bullshit

“I strongly believe that Judge Silberman’s decision deserves to be upheld by the Supreme Court. The Parker decision is an excellent example of a judge looking to find the meaning of the words in the Constitution, not what he would like them to mean.”

– Rudy Giuliani in a statement supporting the Supreme Court’s decision to take up Parker vs DC.

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.

Mike Huckabee: Scarier Than Ron Paul

So says LA Times’ Jonah Goldberg:

While many are marveling at Paul’s striking success at breaking out of the tinfoil-hat ghetto, Huckabee’s story is even more remarkable. The former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister is polling in second place in Iowa and could conceivably win there. He’s still a long shot to take the nomination and a pipe dream to take the presidency, but Huckabee matters in a way that Paul still doesn’t. One small indicator of Huckabee’s relevance: His opponents in the presidential race are attacking him while the field is ignoring Paul like an eccentric who sits too close to you on the bus.

So what’s so scary about Huckabee? Personally, nothing. By all accounts, he’s a charming, decent, friendly, pious man.

What’s troubling about The Man From Hope 2.0 is what he represents. Huckabee represents compassionate conservatism on steroids. A devout social conservative on issues such as abortion, school prayer, homosexuality and evolution, Huckabee is a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do “good works” extends to using government — and your tax dollars — to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

For example, Huckabee has indicated he would support a nationwide federal ban on public smoking. Why? Because he’s on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.

And therein lies the chief difference between Paul and Huckabee. One is a culturally conservative libertarian. The other is a right-wing progressive.

In other words, Huckabee, it seems, is the intellectual heir to the “compassionate conservatism” that George Bush campaigned on, even though it never really formed a coherent part of his governing style, either philosophically or in practice. The difference is that Huckabee actually believes what he says; he believes that the Federal Government should ban smoking, or that it should tell your kids how fat they are, or tell you what you should eat when you go to McDonalds.

He represents not conservatism so much as the death of the small-government branch of conservatism in ways that the other candidates for President don’t, because he actually means it.

And yet Huckabee is rising in the polls and being seriously considered as a Vice-Presidential nominee, which raises, as Goldberg notes, troubling conclusions about the Republican Party in general:

[T]here’s something weird going on when Paul, the small-government constitutionalist, is considered the extremist in the Republican Party while Huckabee, the statist, is the lovable underdog. It’s even weirder because it’s probably true: Huckabee is much closer to the mainstream. And that’s what scares me about Huckabee and the mainstream alike.

You and me both Jonah.

H/T: Freedom Democrats

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear D.C. Gun Ban Case

As expected, the Supreme Court announced today that it would hear the appeal of the District of Columbia in the twin cases that resulted in the District’s ban on handguns being declared unconstitutional earlier this year:

The Supreme Court announced today that it will decide whether the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns violates the Constitution, a choice that will put the justices at the center of the controversy over the meaning of the Second Amendment for the first time in nearly 70 years.

The court’s decision could have broad implications for gun-control measures locally and across the country, and will raise a hotly contested political issue just in time for the 2008 elections.

The court will hear the case after the first of the year. A decision likely would come before it adjourns at the end of June.

Now the battle begins.

The Truth About The Blind Zogby Poll

There have been several comments here as well as posts from Lew Rockwell and Free Market News Network claiming that Ron Paul won a “blind” Zogby poll where voters were presented only with candidates biographies and stand on the issues.

Well, it ain’t entirely true folks. Asked of all voters, yes, Paul wins. Asked of RepublicaNs actually likely to vote in the primaries, it’s no. And since most states do not have crossover primaries, the value of a lot of Democratic support seems small.

Here’s the Zogby Press Release, issued today:

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, long the favorite in nationwide samples of likely Republican voters in the 2008 race for the party’s presidential nomination, has the strongest resume of four top contenders, a new Zogby International survey shows.

The telephone survey, known as a “blind bio” poll because likely voters are given details of the candidates’ resumes without their names attached, shows Giuliani wins 34% support, compared to 22% each for Thompson and Romney. Ron Paul, who has surged recently in polls and has a significant online following, came in last with 13% support, while 9% said they were undecided on the question.

Only those four candidates were included in the question, which was commissioned by Jones Productions, a media company based in Austin, Texas. The survey included 389 likely Republican primary or caucus voters and was conducted Nov. 14–17, 2007. It carries a margin of error of +/– 5.1 percentage points.

The blind bio question was also posed to a larger pool of 1,009 likely voters nationwide, including Democrats and independents, and Paul was the big winner among that universe of voters, winning 33%, compared to 19% for Giuliani, 15% for Romney, and 13% for Thompson.

Full results here.

Parents, Time To Bend Over And Take Your… Injection

One way that is particularly poignant in attracting individuals to libertarianism is bringing to mind the image of the gun in the room. The idea is that when you’re dealing with government, you’re dealing with force. As long as you comply with that force, the gun stays in its holster. When you act to defy that force, only then is the gun brandished. But whether brandished or not, the gun is always there.

Politicians and government know they’re carrying the gun. They know people don’t like to see the gun, as it lays bare the true root of the power by which they attempt to compel us to act. Thus, they try to keep that gun hidden. They try to act as if there is no gun, only their compassion and knowledge to lead us rather than force us to comply with their mandates. Drawing people towards libertarian ideals can be difficult, because they rarely see the gun that we refer to. Thus, it’s important to make use of real examples of the gun when they appear.

Appear it did in Prince George’s County, MD. The local school board has a vaccination policy, believing that it is their duty (rather than the parents) to protect the health of children. Unfortunately for the school board, many parents are not following the policy. In the world of private schooling, a school who creates a policy requiring vaccinations simply has to close its doors to those not vaccinated. No force needs to be involved. For the government, however, they need not be reasonable, as they can simply threaten to throw you in jail:

The get-tough policy in the Washington suburbs of Prince George’s County was one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure its youngsters receive their required immunizations.

Two months into the school year, school officials realized that more than 2,000 students in the county still didn’t have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class.

So Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse Saturday and either get their children vaccinated on the spot or risk up to 10 days in jail. They could also provide proof of vaccination or an explanation why their kids didn’t have them.*

As I’ve said before, the questions regarding vaccines have recently taken a much more prominent position in my life, as I recently became a father. There are confusing and conflicting opinions on just about every aspect of vaccines, and wading through this to try to decide exactly what to do is not an easy task. For me, as an engineer with a mind trained to decode scientific data, and a natural skepticism when I read anything that might be biased, it’s still a daunting task. But I understand that as a parent, it is my duty to decide which vaccines my child does or does not receive, and to accept the potential negative consequences either way. Many of them, I have already decided that it is simply too dangerous to leave a child unvaccinated, and I will ensure that he receives them. But I find many others unnecessary, particularly because the disease they prevent is mild, or because the disease they prevent does not affect a young child, and is worth waiting until he’s older before making the decision.

But the state of Maryland, like most governments, has a one-size-fits-all policy. Follow their recommendations– or else. And their recommendations include some vaccines that make you simply scratch your head in wonder:

Maryland, like all states, requires children to be immunized against several childhood illnesses including polio, mumps and measles. In recent years, it also has required that students up to high school age be vaccinated against hepatitis B and chicken pox.

Okay, polio I can understand. It’s pretty nasty. But chicken pox? Is this not a mild disease that we all faced as children? Is there any reason that we demand parents of healthy, well-nourished children vaccinate against a disease that is largely benign? Or Hepatitis B? A disease of low-prevalence in the US, most commonly spread through sexual contact, blood transfusions, or sharing needles? Is this something that we must inject newborn babies with a vaccine containing aluminum to guard against a disease that they don’t reasonably have much chance to contract until their teen years? Nor is it entirely clear whether it’s safe to administer large numbers of vaccines all at the same time, which invariably would have occurred to the kids in this story (in order to ensure they were in compliance).

There are difficult questions to be answered here. But the state of Maryland doesn’t need to answer difficult questions when they have a gun to force compliance. Instead, the judge who handed down the order has flippant responses such as this:

The judge noted the unhappy looks of some of the kids in line waiting for vaccinations.

“It’s cute. It looks like their parents are dragging them to church,” Nichols said.

Yeah… ‘Cute.’ “Here kid, take this injection or your parents are going to jail.” Why on earth would they possibly be unhappy?

Government may couch their demands in high-minded language. In some cases, their demands may even be what’s best for a child. But make no mistake, whether they’re right or wrong they’ll use force to make sure you do what they say. They won’t say please or thank you, they’ll simply tap the holster and remind you of the consequences of defiance.
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Questions About The Ron Paul Campaign

David Bernstein, a law professor at my alma mater, and a co-blogger over at The Volokh Conspiracy, has been taking a lot of heat recently for comments he’s made about Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign and the reasons that he’s unable to get fully behind it, which he expressed in this post:

Ron Paul is a tempting protest vote, and I did support him in 1988 when he ran as a Libertarian, but he strikes me as running less of a “libertarian” campaign than a pacifist, populist campaign that does have some appeal to young and idealistic libertarians, but has too much appeal to the old, paranoid, and racist pseudo-conservatives. There seems to be a right-wing version of the Popular Front mentality among many Paul supporters: just like it was okay for Social Democrats to ally with Stalinists for “Progressive” ends in the old days, it’s okay to ally with 9/11 and various other conspiracy theorists, southern secessionists, Nazis and fascists, anti-Semites and racists, against the common enemy of the modern “welfare-warfare” state. Count me out!

I’ve expressed much the same opinion in posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It is, I think, an important point.

Just because libertarians might have some agreement with the likes of Stormfront or other groups whose ideology is clearly incompatible with individual liberty on some issues doesn’t mean that we should make common cause with them. It may be fruitful in the short term, but, in the long term, I fail to see how having anything in common with the likes of Alex Jones or David Duke helps the cause of liberty.

Unsurprisingly, Bernstein’s comments have engendered a lot of commentary from bloggers at Lew Rockwell.com, Antiwar.com and elsewhere but, as Bernstein notes, they haven’t answered a very fundamental question that I’ve been asking myself for months now:

[W]hy does Rep. Paul’s campaign find it so difficult to simply issue a statement in Paul’s name that he neither solicits nor welcomes the support of the likes of Stormfront? And why do so many of his supporters think it’s such an imposition to ask this of him?

It is I think, a perfectly legitimate question to which a good answer has yet to be given.

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Open Thread: Justifiable Homicide Or Murder ?

This is a cross-post from Below The Beltway. It doesn’t directly relate to issues of individual liberty, but it raises some interesting questions about when the private use of force is justifiable that should provide a worthwhile discussion here.

A case out of Pasadena Texas raises some interesting questions about when it is justifiable for a private citizen to use deadly force:

(CBS) The 911 call came from a Pasadena, Tex., resident, who alerted police to two burglary suspects on a neighbor’s property. Before he hung up, two men were dead by his hand.

Joe Horn, 61, told the dispatcher what he intended to do: Walk out his front door with a shotgun.

“I’ve got a shotgun,” Horn said, according to a tape of the 911 call. “Do you want me to stop them?”

“Nope, don’t do that – ain’t no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?” the dispatcher responded.

After several minutes on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, during which Horn became more and more agitated, things get more serious:

On the tape of the 911 call, the shotgun can be heard being cocked and Horn can be heard going outside and confronting someone.

“Boom! You’re dead!” he shouts. A loud bang is heard, then a shotgun being cocked and fired again, and then again.

Then Horn is back on the phone:

“Get the law over here quick. I’ve now, get, one of them’s in the front yard over there, he’s down, he almost run down the street. I had no choice. They came in the front yard with me, man, I had no choice! … Get somebody over here quick, man.”

Dispatcher: “Mister Horn, are you out there right now?”

Horn: “No, I am inside the house, I went back in the house. Man, they come right in my yard, I didn’t know what the — they was gonna do, I shot ‘em, OK?”

Dispatcher: “Did you shoot somebody?

Horn: “Yes, I did, the cops are here right now.”

Dispatcher: “Where are you right now?”

Horn: “I’m inside the house. …”

Dispatcher: “Mister Horn, put that gun down before you shoot an officer of mine. I’ve got several officers out there without uniforms on.”

Horn: “I am in the front yard right now. I am …”

Dispatcher: “Put that gun down! There’s officers out there without uniforms on. Do not shoot anybody else, do you understand me? I’ve got police out there…”

Horn: “I understand, I understand. I am out in the front yard waving my hand right now.”

Dispatcher: “You don’t have a gun with you, do you?

Horn: “No, no, no.”

Dispatcher: “You see a uniformed officer? Now lay down on the ground and don’t do nothing else.”

Yelling is heard.

Dispatcher: “Lay down on the ground, Mister Horn. Do what the officers tell you to do right now.”

Here’s the problem. There’s no evidence that at the time Horn shot both men there was an threat either to him or his property, or that he could reasonably have said to be in danger of losing his life. What was happening was two men who had broken into a neighbors house were getting away and the police weren’t showing up.

So, what it reasonable and justifiable for Horn to shoot to death two bunglers who had stolen stuff from his neighbors property ?

Apparently, under Texas law at least, the answer is murky:

Under Texas law, people may use deadly force to protect their own property or to stop arson, burglary, robbery, theft or criminal mischief at night.

But the legislator who authored the “castle doctrine” bill told the Chronicle it was never intended to apply to a neighbor’s property, to prompt a “‘Law West of the Pecos’ mentality or action,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth. “You’re supposed to be able to defend your own home, your own family, in your house, your place of business or your motor vehicle.”

Based on that, it appears that what Horn comes closer to murder than justifiable homicide.

More from YouTube:

Kathryn Johnson: One Year Later

About one year ago, a 92 year old woman named Kathryn Johnson was shot dead when Atlanta police busted down the door of her home in a botched drug raid. In his Fox News Column this week, Radley Balko wonders if anything has changed since then:

All across the country, narcotics units and SWAT teams are still kicking down doors in the middle of the night and still deploying flash grenades and using aggressive, paramilitary tactics–and they’re still doing all of this to apprehend people suspected of nonviolent crimes. And they’re still making mistakes.

In February of this year, 16-year-old Daniel Castillo, Jr. was killed in a police raid on his family’s home in Texas. Castillo had no criminal record. A SWAT officer broke open the door to the bedroom as Castillo, his sister, and her infant son were sleeping. When Castillo rose from the bed after being awoken to his sister’s screams, the SWAT officer shot him in the face.

In March, police in Spring Lake, Minn., acting on an informant’s tip, raided the home of Brad and Nicole Thompson. The couple was forced on the ground at gun point and warned by an officer, “If you move, I’ll shoot you in the f___ing head.” Police had the wrong house.

In June, a 72-year-old woman on oxygen was thrown to the ground at gunpoint in a mistaken drug raid near Durnago, Colo.

In fact, since the Johnston raid last year, there have been mistaken drug raids on innocent people in Temecula, Calif.; Annapolis, Md.; several incidents in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City; Galliano, La.; Hendersonville, N.C.; Ponderay, Idaho; Stockton, Calif.; Pullman, Wash.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Jacksonville, Fla; Alton, Kansas; Merced County, Calif.; and, believe it or not, Atlanta, Ga.

And of course, these are merely those reported in newspapers.

As Balko notes, if any good has come from the tragedy of one year ago, it’s that people and the media are paying more attention to the issue of excessive police force than they were a year ago. Whether that will result in any changes anytime soon is another story.

Ron Paul In 4th Place In New Hampshire

The latest poll of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire has good news for Ron Paul and bad news for Fred Thompson:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has skidded into sixth place in a new CNN/WMUR poll of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, edged out by ex-Libertarian and anti-war congressman Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney topped the poll, widening a lead he has held for months in neighboring New Hampshire, while Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani were running close in the second and third spots.

The CNN/WMUR poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire between Wednesday and Sunday. Pollsters surveyed 404 Republican voters for the survey, which had a sampling error of 5 percentage points.

(…)

[T]he percentage of support for Paul grew from 4 percent to 8 percent, putting him fourth among the GOP contenders in the Granite State.

The Texas congressman, who once ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket, has gained notice as the sole advocate of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq among the GOP field — and he raised eyebrows in Washington earlier this month when supporters claimed to have raised $4.3 million in a single day of online fund-raising. The figure can’t be independently confirmed until Federal Election Commission reports are filed at the end of the year.

The results, then are as follows:

  1. Mitt Romney — 33%
  2. Rudy Giuliani — 16%
  3. John McCain — 16%
  4. Ron Paul — 8%
  5. Mike Huckabee — 5%
  6. Fred Thompson — 4%

This would seem to suggest that the television and radio advertisements that the campaign started running in the Granite State are starting to pay off. More importantly, though, these poll results clearly aren’t a fluke; they’re consistent with the latest polls from CBS/NY Times, The Boston Globe, and Marist.

The trends are moving in the right direction, but there needs to be a sustained move into double digits within the next several weeks if this is really going to develop into the opportunity that it could be.

On that note, I’ve been keeping an eye on the numbers on Intrade and the trend there has been going down since the beginning of November

New Hampshire represents an opportunity for this campaign to really turn into something, but it needs to do better than 4th place for that to happen.

Update: The other factor worth noting is Romney’s surge in the poll, increasing his lead by eight percentage points in two months, while he continues to poll well in Iowa. Republicans have spent several months assuming Giuliani was the man to beat, this seems to indicate that they should have been focusing on Romney.

Ron Paul: We Need To Reclaim The Legacy Of The Founders

I’ve been fairly hard on the Ron Paul campaign, or at least some of it’s stranger supporters, over the past several months, but when the Congressman is right, he’s right:

On the fourth day of July in 1776, a small group of men boldly told the most powerful nation on Earth they were free. They declared that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.

One then has to wonder how Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would react to our current state of affairs.

We have lost sight of the simple premise that guided the actions of our founding fathers. That premise? The government that governs least is the government that governs best.

In our early history, it was understood that a free society embraced both civil liberties and economic liberties. But our government has significantly changed from one of limited power to one of pervasive intervention.

(…)

We can reclaim our heritage of freedom, but it will require commitment, work and a willingness to stand firm for our beliefs, refusing to compromise with those who would continue to push for more taxes, more spending and more government solutions.

Just as devotion to freedom and self-determination brought forth our great nation, a renewed adherence to those principles can move us to new heights.

What’s astonishing to me is that someone who says things like this only gets 7% support in the polls.

We can all come up with our own reasons for why this is the case, but perhaps the most distressing of all is the reality that, by and large, the American people have become used to an interventionist state and, in some cases, like it.

Iran Blasts Dollar At OPEC Summit — Calls Dollar “Worthless”

In a stunning example of a stopped clock being right, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad assails the dollar, suggesting OPEC should break the petrodollar link:

“They get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper,” Ahmadinejad told reporters after the close of the summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. He blamed President Bush’s policies for the decline of the dollar and its negative effect on other countries.

Oil is priced in U.S. dollars on the world market, and the currency’s depreciation has concerned oil producers because it has contributed to rising crude prices and eroded the value of their dollar reserves.

“All participating leaders showed an interest in changing their hard currency reserves to a credible hard currency,” Ahmadinejad said. “Some said producing countries should designate a single hard currency aside from the U.S. dollar . . . to form the basis of our oil trade.”

He was unsurprisingly echoed by statements from Mini-Mahmoud, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

This expands an already wide rift within OPEC, as several states (most notably Saudi Arabia) are allies with the United States. They fear that dropping the dollar will also destroy any semblance of friendly relations between their governments and Washington. Many of their regimes could face internal resistance if American backing disappeared, and given some of their internal policies, it’s not likely that they’ll be peacefully overthrown.

Quite honestly, this has been on the horizon for a long time. Our own Federal Reserve and politicians, in an effort to keep the American economy moving (and themselves from political harm), have engaged upon a credit glut that has covered the world with American paper. And the world is slowly starting to realize that this paper is becoming worthless. To a large extent, they were still stuck with the dollar, as there wasn’t an alternative large and stable enough to be an alternative. With the growth of the Euro, though, the dollar no longer has a monopoly position in the world market.

A global dollar crisis is a nightmare for the entire world. But it’s becoming increasingly likely, and while Ahmadenijad might be crazy, he’s not stupid. He knows that his best option for getting rich on the back of the falling dollar is to get on the leading edge and ditch it before the crisis materializes. And if divesting of the dollar manages to cause that world panic after he’s complete, all the better to damage “the Great Satan” and turn him into a hero to the extremists at home.

To the vast majority of Americans, the “high price of oil” is OPEC’s fault. But in reality, how much of the high price is a reflection of the weakness of the dollar instead of a short supply? The vast majority of Americans see “crazy Mahmoud” spouting off, but I guarantee the prospect of oil being sold in euros rather than dollars is a prospect keeping many folks in Washington awake at night.

Milton Friedman and the Power of Choice

Just over one year ago, the world lost perhaps the greatest economist of his generation. Milton Friedman had the ability to explain complex economic theories to the average person. I just recently watched his 1980 (and updated 1990) PBS series Free to Choose (based on a book Friedman had published with the same title). I cannot recommend this series enough to both proponents and critics of capitalism. If you can watch this series and still hold on to the notion that capitalism is not morally superior to any other economic system, then you are beyond hope.

http://www.businessinnovationinsider.com/Milton%20Friedman%202.jpg

In the 1990 updated version, Friedman discussed the power of the free market, tyranny of control, the Great Depression*, how cradle to grave “entitlement” programs harm the economy, equality, inflation, and much more. After each episode, Friedman discussed his theories with distinguished guests such as Donald Rumsfeld (mostly a critic of Friedman), Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell.

Friedman’s thesis is that capitalism boils down to one important concept: choice. The ability for the individual to choose where to live, where to work, where to send his children to school, etc. makes all the difference between freedom/prosperity and tyranny/poverty. Economic freedom is every bit as important as any other freedom.

Though Milton Friedman has left us over a year ago his important work lives on. Its up to us to make sure what he taught us isn’t lost to future generations.

Watch the entire Free to Choose series at this link: http://ideachannel.tv/
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