Monthly Archives: November 2007

Quote Of The Day: Incredible Irony Edition

From George W. Bush’s speech to the Federalist Society:

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government’s powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities — and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.

Umm, Mr. President ?

?

Oh, never mind.

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Boston Police Encourage Parents To Waive Their Children’s Fourth Amendment Rights

The Boston Police Department is hoping that it will be able to encourage parents to waive their childrens’ rights under the Fourth Amendment:

Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children’s bedrooms.

The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.

In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager’s parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave.

If officers find a gun, police said, they will not charge the teenager with unlawful gun possession, unless the firearm is linked to a shooting or homicide.

The searches, of course, would be perfectly valid because parents have the authority to allow the police to search their homes, including their childrens’ bedrooms. Moreover, since it appears that the aim of the program would be to confiscate weapons rather than prosecute teenagers, any Fourth Amendment violation would be largely moot since there would be no criminal prosecution that the Exclusionary Rule could be applied to.

The big question, though, isn’t why the police would do this. That’s rather obvious.

The big question is what parent in their right mind would allow this to happen ?

Are Libertarians Welcome In The Democratic Party ?

Based on the reaction that the question engendered over at Daily Kos, I’d have to say the answer is an emphatic no.

Based on the fact that Democrats seem to understand economic liberties about as well as Republicans understand civil liberties, I can’t say that I’m surprised.

H/T: Freedom Democrats

Why Don’t You Shut Up ?

King Juan Carlos of Spain said it to Hugo Chavez earlier this week.

And the people of Venezuela are saying it themselves:

The expression ‘why don’t you shut up?’ has become a popular slogan. On Monday, Caracas was full of posters. Student protesters have adopted it as their chant, and you can find various cartoons, songs and ringtones alluding to the subject on the web.

I would love to be able to defend Chavez and feel offended by the king’s remarks, but I can’t! The king said what most of us have wanted to say for a long time. We have been listening to his diatribes every Sunday, which go for hours and hours… When he insults anyone who is not with him, when he humiliates our student protesters… We all want to say ‘why don’t you shut up?’

Unfortunately, President Chavez will never listen to the diversity of voices from students, business people and the people in general who are opposing his constitutional reform. It’s about time that someone told him what many of us think of him.

Heh.

There comes a point at when dictatorship starts to fall apart. And it usually happens when the people realize that the dictator is a ridiculous fool. It happened most notably to Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania. Could it be happening to Hugo Chavez, with a little help from the Spanish Royal Family ? One can only hope.

Forced Employment For Lawyers In Arizona

On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Arizona has the right to force attorneys who practice there to preside on arbitration panels at incredibly reduced rates:

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld an Arizona court rule requiring lawyers to serve as arbitrators on some civil cases with little pay, even if they object.

The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco came 10 years after tax attorney Mark V. Scheehle of Prescott Valley objected to being forced to serve as an arbitrator in a civil case in Maricopa County, a duty required of Arizona lawyers.

Scheehle argued the rule was an unconstitutional “taking” of property by the government without just compensation.

The appeals court rejected the argument, referring to an earlier case where it ruled that “courts have long recognized that attorneys, because of their profession, owe some duty to the court and to the public to serve without compensation when called on.”

(…)

Arizona requires lawyers to arbitrate civil disputes valued at under $65,000. The attorneys are paid $75 per day, without being reimbursed for expenses. They are not required to take new cases in a given year if they have served two or more days.

Just for reference $ 75 per day pays for maybe 15 minutes of the average attorney’s time at standard hourly rates.

This is an issue that’s been discussed among attorneys in the past. On more than one occasion, the American Bar Association has proposed that all attorneys in the United States be required to provide a set number of hours of pro bono (free) legal representation to the public, whether they want to or not.

Leaving aside for the second the absurdity of a lawyer who has spent his career practicing tax law attempting to arbitrate a civil dispute (contrary to what you might think, just because you passed the bar doesn’t mean you know everything about the law), or a real estate lawyer being forced to provide pro bono legal representation to a guy charged with marijuana possession, whatever happened to the idea that an individual owns himself, his time, and his skills ?

Yes, the legal profession may be licensed by the state — and we can argue over whether that’s a good idea another time — but so are hairdressers and plumbers. Do you hear anything about plumbers being required to fix toilets for free ? Didn’t think so.

Why should someone who wants to practice law in the State of Arizona be forced to engage in labor for the state at a rate of compensation that  barely recognizes the level of skill of person involved ?

Lawyers may be officers of the Court, but they shouldn’t be treated like slaves of the state.

H/T: Kip Esquire

Barry Goldwater Jr. Endorses Ron Paul

The son and namesake of Mr. Conservative has endorsed someone that most conservatives are ignoring:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA—Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul today gained a public endorsement from Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.

“America is at a crossroads,” said Mr. Goldwater. “We have begun to stray from our traditions and must get back to what has made us the greatest nation on earth or we will lose much of the freedom we hold dear. Ron Paul stands above all of the other candidates in his commitment to liberty and to America.”

“Leading America is difficult, and I know Ron Paul is the man for the job,” he added.

Mr. Goldwater is the son of the late former Republican presidential candidate and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Barry Goldwater, Jr. served in the House of Representatives for six terms with Texas Congressman Paul, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Goldwater Institute. After representing northern Los Angeles County in Washington, D.C. for 14 years, Mr. Goldwater retired from politics in 1983 to pursue a successful career in business and humanitarian ventures.

“The Ron Paul campaign is exceptionally honored by Mr. Goldwater’s endorsement,” said Paul campaign manager Lew Moore. “Dr. Paul and Congressman Goldwater fought together in the Congress for the ideals of limited constitutional government that Mr. Goldwater’s father so tirelessly advocated. The Goldwaters have left an indelible mark on the Republican Party, and theirs is a legacy which Congressman Paul will certainly inherit as President.

The Goldwaters, it seems, have a thing for long-shot Presidential campaigns led by men who actually believe what they say.

The Liberty Dollar Seizure

The big news for those interested in libertarianism and monetary systems over the last day has been the fed’s seizure of materials and metals related to the sale, production, marketing, and other business activities of the Liberty Dollar. Last night co-contributor tarran posted a very interesting piece related to the government’s tactics and rationale for going after the Liberty Dollar. I am not a lawyer, and cannot speak to that aspect (although I understand Doug is working on it), but there are some very interesting things when you look into it.

Is the Liberty Dollar (ALD) a competing currency? Or is it a scam designed to fill its creators’ pockets while suckering us into buying silver at inflated prices? The best place to understand what is happening is the full seizure warrant.

Looking over the full document, I can see where there might be some standing for a case against the Liberty Dollar*. I’ve never understood the difference between the “face value” of their currency and the US Dollar. For example, they suggest buying the Liberty Dollar $20 piece at a discount and “spending” it as if it is worth $20, when the silver inside is not worth $20. The feds refer to it as a MLM scheme, and through reading their case, I can see where they may have a point there.

As a second point, it does appear that in many ways the Liberty Dollar folks are violating the law against coining your own currency in metal. I consider it to be an improper law, and I don’t begrudge them for breaking it, but it does appear to be illegal.

Of course, none of this in any way should be understood as me being a supporter of the Fed’s system**. I believe strongly in competing market-created currencies.

It does seem, though, that the Liberty Dollar was created to secure profit for its creators from the US Dollar, instead of being a true alternate currency. The “convertability” and desire that merchants give Liberty Dollars as change, as well as the “move-up” process described in the Fed’s case belie a desire by the Liberty Dollar folks to sell silver in exchange for FRN’s at a consistent profit compared with the market price, cloaked in the language of undermining the current system.

For the Liberty Dollar to be a true competing currency, it should not be assumed as a “stand-in” for FRN’s at the same face value, which is what the Liberty Dollar proponents are suggesting. If anything, the cost of converting from FRN’s to ALD’s should be set by a market-based exchange rate, not by NORFED. It is here that I believe the fraud may be found.

As an example of a competing “currency”, my father is a self-employed architect and a member of a bartering group in the Chicago area. The bartering group acts more as a network of producers than anything else, but instead of bartering services directly, they have a system of trade “credits” tracked by the barter service itself. Thus, he can design a home addition in exchange for “trade dollars”, and then use those “trade dollars” at another business within the network.

This differs from the ALD in that trade dollars are expected to only be accepted by businesses who are members of the trade exchange, and are not interchangeable with FRN’s. Thus, much like competing national currencies, a business can accept FRN’s and also accept trade dollars, but their prices for a good or service might be substantially different based on the currency used. If a member of the exchange wanted to divest of their trade dollar holdings by selling them, the exchange rate would be determined by buyer and seller, establishing a market price, rather than a rate demanded by the trade group itself (which is what the ALD attempts to do).

A competing currency must not be interchangeable with FRN’s, which is the fiction that the Liberty Dollar creators try to uphold. Thus, the ALD becomes a method for them to sell silver at a profit while their associates or merchants work to defraud businesses by offering silver worth less (in FRN terms) for goods that are priced in FRN terms. At each level, it appears to have a cut of profit, as all multi-level marketing schemes do, and at the bottom of the scale, those who receive ALD’s as a “face value” equivalent to FRN’s are being shafted.

The Liberty Dollar does not seem to live up to what is bills itself as. If it were a true competing currency, merchants would price goods in ALD terms higher than in FRN terms, in order to receive identical value for their wares. If it were a true competing currency, the “exchange rate” between ALD’s and FRN’s would float, rather than be defined by the Liberty Dollar creators. I previously have written favorably about the Liberty Dollar, but given new information, I have changed my mind. It does not fit the bill of an alternative currency; it is a scam.
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Ron Paul: The Only Republican Who Gets It Right On Medical Marijuana

Remember all those Republican candidates asking for “medical evidence” on the effectiveness of treating chronic pain with marijuana ?

Isn’t it funny that the only actual medical doctor in the race has a different view of the issue ?

Update: For reference, here’s what the rest of the Republicans said in response to the same question:

Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney
John McCain
Fred Thompson
Mike Huckabee

Reason interviews Andrew Napolitano

Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano recently gave an interview to Reason magazine to promote his new book, A Nation of Sheep. I have to say that this is one of the best interviews I’ve read in a very long time.

On the USA PATRIOT Act:

The Patriot Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name “national security letters”] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime.

Remember that the British government permitted its soldiers to execute self-written search warrants. They called them “writs of assistance,” and they were one of the last straws that caused American colonist to rebel. It’s bitterly ironic that 230 years later a popularly elected government would authorize its own agents to do the same thing that when a monarchy did it, we fought a war of rebellion in reaction—which we won!

On Ron Paul:

Congressman Paul has rejuvenated almost single-handedly the Goldwater wing of the GOP. Now Reagan tried, before [James] Baker and his boys advised him on how to behave. Now, I loved the man, but if you look at his record and rhetoric, they are two different things. But Ron Paul had made it legitimate again for small government, maximum individual liberty, Goldwater Republicans to come forth and complain about big government, and I am the recipient of lots of those complaints.

On natural rights:

This is more than an academic debate. If our rights come from government, then the Patriot Act is lawful and constitutional because the government that gives freedom can take it away just by having the president sign a bill into a law. But if rights come from our humanity, as I argue almost every day on Fox, than government cannot take freedom away absent due process and a fair trial, where you are charged and convicted of violating someone else’s freedom.

The president had said he believes in natural rights. Unfortunately when he signs these bills that take away our rights, he reveals he either doesn’t know what he’s doing or he doesn’t really believe in natural rights. The Patriot Act is not only unconstitutional, it’s unnatural, since it purports to take away that which naturally belongs to us.

The Violence Against Non-State Backed Currencies

Yesterday, agents of the FBI raided the offices of NORFED and, according to an email sent by its founder, confiscated all their assets:

Dear Liberty Dollar Supporters:
I sincerely regret to inform you that about 8:00 this morning a dozen FBI and Secret Service agents raided the Liberty Dollar office in Evansville.
For approximately six hours they took all the gold, all the silver, all the platinum and almost two tons of Ron Paul Dollars that where just delivered last Friday. They also took all the files, all the computers and froze our bank accounts.
We have no money. We have no products. We have no records to even know what was ordered or what you are owed. We have nothing but the will to push forward and overcome this massive assault on our liberty and our right to have real money as defined by the US Constitution. We should not to be defrauded by the fake government money.
But to make matters worse, all the gold and silver that backs up the paper certificates and digital currency held in the vault at Sunshine Mint has also been confiscated. Even the dies for mint the Gold and Silver Libertys have been taken.
This in spite of the fact that Edmond C. Moy, the Director of the Mint, acknowledged in a letter to a US Senator that the paper certificates did not violate Section 486 and were not illegal. But the FBI and Services took all the paper currency too.
The possibility of such action was the reason the Liberty Dollar was designed so that the vast majority of the money was in specie form and in the people’s hands. Of the $20 million Liberty Dollars, only about a million is in paper or digital form.
I regret that if you are due an order. It may be some time until it will be filled… if ever… it now all depends on our actions.
Everyone who has an unfulfilled order or has digital or paper currency should band together for a class action suit and demand redemption. We cannot allow the government to steal our money! Please don’t let this happen!!! Many of you read the articles quoting the government and Federal Reserve officials that the Liberty Dollar was legal. You did nothing wrong. You are legally entitled to your property. Let us use this terrible act to band together and further our goal – to return America to a value based currency.
Please forward this important Alert… so everyone who possess or use the Liberty Dollar is aware of the situation.
Please click HERE to sign up for the class action lawsuit and get your property back!
If the above link does not work you can access the page by copying the following into your web browser. http://www.libertydollar.org/classaction/index.php
Thanks again for your support at this darkest time as the damn government and their dollar sinks to a new low.
Bernard von NotHaus
Monetary Architect

For those of you not familiar with the Liberty Dollar, the architect intended them to compete with Federal Reserve bank notes. They currency takes many forms:

  • Specie in the form of silver and gold coins,
  • Bank notes backed by gold and silver in their vaults (in other words every bank note promising redepmption by an oz worth of silver has an oz of silver sitting in their vaults)
  • Electronic or digital money, again backed by specie in their vaults

Each bank note and coin was stamped with a suggested exchange rate with U.S. dollars. This exchange rate was far higher than the value of the metal in the coins, $15.00 USD worth of silver in a coin stamped with a $20.00 exchange rate. The company bent over backward to get treasury department approval and to comply with U.S. currency laws.

So why were they raided? Brian Doherty of reason magazine reports:

I’ve seen a copy of a Nov. 9 seizure warrant on an Asheville, NC, address, not available online, claiming that Liberty Dollars at that address are forefeitable for being connected with money laundering and mail fraud. I have not read the entire 38 page warrant, nor am I 100 percent certain it is connected with the actions in Evansville today, but given that the Indianapolis FBI referred me to the U.S. Attorney in North Carolina, probably so, and that multiple raids were planned or executed re: the liberty dollar.
The warrant explains that the FBI from Aug 2005 to July 2007 were “conducting undercover operations to determine the legality of the American Liberty Dollar currency.” The warrant also notes that von NotHaus sold an undercover agent a Liberty Dollar T-shirt, and that the agent observed von NotHaus driving a 1999 Cadillac Deville. It doesn’t take a trained federal agent to connect the dots here, I suppose. In other words: What-th-what-th-What?

This came after the U.S. Mint made dark warnings that people doing business in this currency were breaking the law.

Furthermore, NORFED is not the first currency backer to be so attacked. Last December, e-gold was also raided, by agents claiming to be going after money launderers.

Is this some plot to shore up the shaky Federal Reserve system by outlawing competition? I don’t think so, namely because government economists all believe that their system is a good stable one. I truly think they believe their propaganda.

The problem is that a system of commodity currency allows someone to do business anonymously. These systems were consciously designed to preserve people’s wealth from the depradations of misguided governmental monetary policy. This protection inherently makes monitoring the flow of money more difficult for government officials. It attracts people who distrust the government, a significant number of which whose fear is based on the victimful crimes they commit. This institutional distrust, in turn, engenders a hostility in modern law-enforcement who are understandably suspicious of people who distrust them.

In the end, it is quite clear to me that it is the hostility of these law-enforcement officers which is the problem. Confusing suspicion of the state with criminal intent, they are convinced that these institutions that have criminals as customers are in fact conspiring with the criminals. So they shut them down, ruining the guilty and the innocent indiscriminately. There is nothing precluding the FBI from reviewing e-gold or Norfed’s records while the firms continue to do business. Shutting them down is as absurd as shutting down the Motel 6 down the road, because it was the preferred resting place of mobsters visiting town.

Neither Norfed nor E-gold are defrauding anyone. Their fees might be a little high, but everyone doing business with them knows what the costs are going to be up-front. The reason that they are being raided and attacked is, in the end, a political one, hostility amongst law enforcement, perhaps egged on by some of the more conventional financial institutions seeking to knee-cap competition. As such, these raids should be condemned.

Update:

Ron Paul Radio interviews von NotHaus, who claims that the FBI agent in charge told him that the Department of Justice ordered the confiscation of all assets because the currency was illegal:

http://www.ebacherville.com/cgi-bin/uploaded/FINAL-LibertyDollarNotHaus11152007.mp3

Update II:

The search & seizure warrant have been posted by NORFED:

The search warrant orders the seizure of all records, all printing equipment, computer hardware and media, devices used to manufacture the coinage and notes, and somewhat sinisterly membershiplists of all Liberty Dollar Regional Currency Officers, Liberty Dollar Associates, Merchants who have registered themselves as accepting Liberty Dollars, and any individuals that have purchased the currency.

The seizure warrant states that

American Liberty Dollar and/or Hawaii Dala currency and/or percious metals of gold, silver, copper , platinum or other substance and Unites States currency are forfeitabls to the United States under 18 USC  §  982 (a)(1) because it is property involved in, or traceable to, money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 1957; under 18 U.S.C. USC  §  982 (a)(3) because it is, or is traceable to, gross receipts and proceeds obtained, directly and indirectly, as a result of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Authority for this warrant is provided by 18 U.S.C. § 981(b) and 21 U.S.C. § 853(f)

This is very interesting:

18 U.S.C. §  981(b) states:

       (b)(1) Except as provided in section 985, any property subject to
forfeiture to the United States under subsection (a) may be seized
by the Attorney General and, in the case of property involved in a
violation investigated by the Secretary of the Treasury or the
United States Postal Service, the property may also be seized by
the Secretary of the Treasury or the Postal Service, respectively.
(2) Seizures pursuant to this section shall be made pursuant to a
warrant obtained in the same manner as provided for a search
warrant under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, except that
a seizure may be made without a warrant if –

        (A) a complaint for forfeiture has been filed in the United
States district court and the court issued an arrest warrant in
rem pursuant to the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and
Maritime Claims;
(B) there is probable cause to believe that the property is
subject to forfeiture and –

          (i) the seizure is made pursuant to a lawful arrest or
search; or
(ii) another exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant
requirement would apply; or

(C) the property was lawfully seized by a State or local law
enforcement agency and transferred to a Federal agency.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of rule 41(a) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure, a seizure warrant may be issued
pursuant to this subsection by a judicial officer in any district
in which a forfeiture action against the property may be filed
under section 1355(b) of title 28, and may be executed in any
district in which the property is found, or transmitted to the
central authority of any foreign state for service in accordance
with any treaty or other international agreement. Any motion for
the return of property seized under this section shall be filed in
the district court in which the seizure warrant was issued or in
the district court for the district in which the property was
seized.
(4)(A) If any person is arrested or charged in a foreign country

    in connection with an offense that would give rise to the
forfeiture of property in the United States under this section or
under the Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General may apply
to any Federal judge or magistrate judge in the district in which
the property is located for an ex parte order restraining the
property subject to forfeiture for not more than 30 days, except
that the time may be extended for good cause shown at a hearing
conducted in the manner provided in rule 43(e) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
(B) The application for the restraining order shall set forth the
nature and circumstances of the foreign charges and the basis for
belief that the person arrested or charged has property in the
United States that would be subject to forfeiture, and shall
contain a statement that the restraining order is needed to
preserve the availability of property for such time as is necessary
to receive evidence from the foreign country or elsewhere in
support of probable cause for the seizure of the property under
this subsection.

Now, what is interesting is that there is supposed to be a hearing, wherein a person can hear the claim and attempt to rebut it, unless:

(3) A temporary restraining order under this subsection may be entered upon application of the United States without notice or opportunity for a hearing when a complaint has not yet been filed with respect to the property, if the United States demonstrates
that there is probable cause to believe that the property with respect to which the order is sought is subject to civil forfeiture and that provision of notice will jeopardize the availability of the property for forfeiture. Such a temporary order shall expire not more than 10 days after the date on which it is entered, unless extended for good cause shown or unless the party against whom it is entered consents to an extension for a longer period. A hearing requested concerning an order entered under this paragraph shall be held at the earliest possible time and prior to the expiration of the temporary order.

while  21 U.S.C. § 853(f) permits seizure of property without a trial:

 (f) Warrant of seizure

The Government may request the issuance of a warrant authorizing
the seizure of property subject to forfeiture under this section in
the same manner as provided for a search warrant. If the court
determines that there is probable cause to believe that the
property to be seized would, in the event of conviction, be subject
to forfeiture and that an order under subsection (e) of this
section may not be sufficient to assure the availability of the
property for forfeiture, the court shall issue a warrant
authorizing the seizure of such property.

There’s only one problem – the law is one that pertains to Food and Drugs.  Obviously, NORFED is not involved in drug trafficking.

I am not a lawyer, so I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that the forfeiture process under the FDA statutes is far less burdensome to the state, and the odds are more heavily stacked against the defendant.  Is the Federal Governemnt violating its own rules by seizing property that falls under the money-laundering statutes using the process for narcotics related seizures? Doug?

It also seems to me that von NotHaus is giving some very bad legal advice.  A class action lawsuit will go nowhere – becasue the claimants will have no standing.

The laws for money-laundering related seizures permit “innocent owners” to file claims with the government.  If they jump through the right hoops, they may get their property back.  The courts will reject any class action lawsuit and instead require people to prove their claims through the regular channels.

More worryingly, the law for narcotics related seizures has no provision for innocent owners, at least that I could find.

Furthermore, the narcotics statute has this littlegem:

(k) Bar on intervention
Except as provided in subsection (n) of this section, no party
claiming an interest in property subject to forfeiture under this
section may –
(1) intervene in a trial or appeal of a criminal case involving
the forfeiture of such property under this section; or
(2) commence an action at law or equity against the United
States concerning the validity of his alleged interest in the
property subsequent to the filing of an indictment or information
alleging that the property is subject to forfeiture under this
section.

Basically, the people who own liberty dollar notes will have to petition the government for redemption of the silver, prove that they did not break the law, to have any hope of getting their money back.

The suit will be costly in time and money, and unless you are sitting on a huge pile of NORFED notes not worth your time.

I think NORFED has just been killed.  Even if the seizure is eventually found to have been unjustified under the law, and the staff be found innocent of any wrongdoing, NORFED is out of business.

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.

230 Years Ago Today: America’s First Constitution Ratified

Two Hundred Thirty Years ago today, only one year after The Declaration of Independence was made public, and in the middle of a war that the American Colonies still had a chance to lose, the Continental Congress took the first step toward creating a national government, adopting the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

This first attempt at national government was quite different from what was adopted only ten years later. There was no President separate from the Continental Congress, no Supreme Court or Federal Court system, and gave the national government almost no power.

The Thirteen Articles provided as follows:

Article I — Establishes the name of the confederation as “The United States of America” and says it is a “perpetual Union.”

Article II — Asserts the precedence of the separate states over the confederation government, i.e. “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”

Article III — Establishes the United States as a league of states united “. . . for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them . . . .”

Article IV — Establishes freedom of movement–anyone can pass freely between states, excluding “paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice.” All people are entitled to the rights established by the state into which he travels. If a crime is committed in one state and the perpetrator flees to another state, he will be extradited to and tried in the state in which the crime was committed.

Article V — Allocates one vote in the Congress of the Confederation (United States in Congress Assembled) to each state, which was entitled to a delegation of between two and seven members. Members of Congress were appointed by state legislatures; individuals could not serve more than three out of any six years.

Article VI — Only the central government is allowed to conduct foreign relations and to declare war. No states may have navies or standing armies, or engage in war, without permission of Congress (although the state militias are encouraged).

Article VII — When an army is raised for common defense, colonels and military ranks below colonel will be named by the state legislatures.

Article VIII — Expenditures by the United States will be paid by funds raised by state legislatures, and apportioned to the states based on the real property values of each.

Article IX — Defines the rights of the central government: to declare war, to set weights and measures (including coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court for disputes between states.

Ariticle X — Defines a Committee of the States to be a government when Congress is not in session.

Article XI — Requires nine states to approve the admission of a new state into the confederacy; pre-approves Canada, if it applies for membership.

Article XII — Reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress before the Articles.

Article XIII — Declares that the Articles are perpetual, and can only be altered by approval of Congress with ratification by all the state legislatures.

In the end, the Articles proved ineffective in providing an effective national government for the new United States. Most importantly, a unitary legislature where each state had an equal vote proved to be the source of discontent between large and small states, each of whom felt they were not being equally and fairly represented in the national debate.

In addition, the Continental Congress soon proved to be a toothless tiger:

A product of haste, the Articles was meant as a stopgap, a short-term defensive alliance, and it took effect at almost the moment it became obsolete. The conditions of 1776 and 1777 had hardly been conducive to a systematic political ideology—and it showed. The central government lacked an executive and a judiciary. As Morgan wrote, “Congress had been safeguarded into impotency.” Unable to levy taxes, it depended on funds from the states, which increasingly ignored its pleas. States issued their own paper money without any specie to back it, negotiated their own foreign policy, raised their own navies, and taxed shipments from neighboring states. The new nation’s commerce and economy fell into chaos, and Britain declined to trade with American merchants. Congress was powerless to respond or even recommend a course of action; the states rarely sent enough delegates to reach a quorum. George Washington called the Confederation “a half-starved, limping Government that appears to be always moving upon crutches, and tottering at every step.”

And, less than a decade after they went into effect, they ceased to exist.

John McCain On Medical Marijuana

A group of New Hampshire voters have been asking each of the Presidential candidates their views on whether people who need it should be permitted to use, here’s what John McCain had to say on September 30th:

The funny thing is, McCain should’ve known better:

It’s refreshing that McCain is willing to state his position with such unvarnished candor. It would be even better if he knew what he was talking about.

Apparently he missed the news that federal agents recently raided the home of Leonard French, a paraplegic who had been authorized under New Mexico law to use cannabis for his condition. He now faces possible federal charges, not to mention that he was deprived of the medicine recommended by his doctor.

As for medical experts, McCain could easily find plenty who testify to the therapeutic value of pot. The American Academy of HIV Medicine says that “when appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients.”

The New England Journal of Medicine has called the federal ban on medical marijuana “misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” A 1999 report by the federal Institute of Medicine concluded, “Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation.”

But, then, maybe not, because even when he was presented with evidence, McCain still refused to change his mind:

And, apparently, even the will of the people doesn’t mean much to the Captain of the Straight Talk Express:

There was a bizarre exchange on medical marijuana in the just- completed John McCain blogger call.

A questioner named Jonathan (I didn’t get his full name) asked, “Should federal law supersede the will of the people in a given state when it comes to medical marijuana?”

McCain started chuckling. “The will of the people, my friend, is that medical marijuana is not something that the quote ‘people’ want,” he responded. “Certain people feel strongly about this issue, and they show up at most town hall meetings, obviously feel very strongly about it. There is no convincing evidence…there’s evidence, but no convincing evidence to me that medical marijuana relief of pain and suffering cannot be accomplished by prescriptions from doctors… So, when you’re talking about the will of the people, you’re going to have to show me the will of the people besides the will of a small number of people who feel very strongly about the issue, as obviously you do.”

The questioner mentioned that voters approved of medical marijuana in a California referendum.

“There may be times when the will of the people, for example Iraq, the will of the people, unfortunately is that we withdraw from Iraq immediately or very very soon,” McCain shot back. “I don’t share that view of the will of the people. And I think the will of the people was that we get out of Korea when Harry Truman was president of the United States, but then he decided to do what he thought was best for the will of the country. Now, I don’t compare this issue with Iraq or Korea, but, look, I’ll be glad to continue this discussion, and read the stuff about it, but I am not changing my position on quote ‘medical marijuana,’ okay?”

I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked by this.

Rudy Giuliani: Goldwater Or RFK ?

David Weigel has a great piece in this month’s edition of Reason about Rudy Giuliani and whether libertarians should even give him a first look:

Some of Giuliani’s positions are libertarian, but the man himself is not. He has never looked over his shoulder and declared that Goldwater was right. Goldwater thought he was elected to repeal laws, not pass them. Giuliani, generally, likes to expand the boundaries of the state. He has no interest in rolling back the government to where it was before the Great Society, let alone the New Deal.

“We believe in giving freedom to people,” Giuliani said in a March speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee. “The Republican Party makes its greatest contribution when it’s giving more freedom to people.” Giuliani does not, however, view freedom as the absence of state control. “Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want,” he said in a 1994 speech two months after becoming mayor. “Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority.”

As the presidential primary heated up in September, Giuliani remained the GOP’s front-runner, to the general amazement of pundits. Only Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator from Tennessee, challenges his supremacy in national polls. Giuliani had long argued that the civil libertarians and traditional conservatives who criticize him are out of their league, second-guessing the decisions he made in “saving” New York. But his record goes back further than that. A more complete picture of Giuliani’s career and of his evolving philosophy shows a man who considers the crusading Kennedy the model for how to use power.

(…)

Americans have a certain disdain for political crusading. Movements burn out and leaders overreach, and the hotter the moment the faster the cycle works. That’s not how Rudy Giuliani operates. In 1988, wrapping up his career as a U.S. attorney, he announced a lawsuit against the Teamsters and drew quotes from Kennedy’s report on the corruption hearings, The Enemy Within. Kennedy, Giuliani said, took heat for aggressively attacking the union and for basking in the media’s spotlight. But Kennedy’s strategy paid off.

“He was ridiculed,” Giuliani said. “He was vilified. He was hated irrationally. But he was right.” Anyone who wants to criticize Giuliani for his ego, his love of power, his view of an interventionist state, his view of America as a transformative military power, or his particular sense of freedom should study those words. He wants to be remembered the very same way.

Considering Giuliani’s position in the polls and the near-teflon exterior he has developed, the entire article is worth a read. After finishing it, you might wonder, as I have for months now, why this man is the Republican front runner.

The Republicans Aren’t Going To Win Campaigning On Hillary-Hatred Alone

Today’s Washington Post has a front-page article detailing the Republican’s General Election Campaign strategy. It’s really not that hard to figure out if you’ve been paying attention —– vote for us, or you’ll get Hillary:

They mock her proposals, utter her name with a sneer and win standing ovations by ridiculing her ideas as un-American, even socialistic. She has become the one thing the Republican candidates for president can agree on.

Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this year, the senator from New York was the subject of an occasional laugh line from former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Now, the trickle has become a torrent as the leading GOP candidates seek to one-up one another in a Clinton-bashing contest aimed at energizing their party faithful.

(…)
In the first five GOP debates, stretching from early May to late September, the candidates and the moderators mentioned Clinton’s name eight times. During the first October debate, she came up 13 times. And at the Oct. 21 debate, she was the subject of conversation 29 times.

“You know, it’s interesting, the most, I guess, wonderful reaction we’ve had in this entire room is when Hillary’s name is mentioned,” noted former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee that night. “It gets louder than an Aerosmith concert.”

With less than two months until voting begins, the Democratic front-runner has become a target for rivals in her own party as well, prompting her husband, the former president, to accuse them of “Swift boat”-style piling-on during the latest debate.

As we get closer and closer to the primaries, and then beyond, you’re going to see more and more of this. On it’s face it would seem to make sense — after all, Hillary Clinton has the highest negative ratings of any of the Democratic candidates. But there’s one problem with the theory — and it’s evidenced by the fact that Clinton beats every Republican candidate in almost every head-to-head poll that’s been done.

As Reason Magazine’s David Weigel notes, conservatives who continue to rally around the “attack Hillary” meme are desperately trying to cover up the fact that their movement has run out of any credibility on the limited government agenda that brought them to power:

Nothing that conservatives can do to Hillary Clinton can fix the fractures in the movement or re-commit the voters who have abandoned them during the Bush era. Attacking Hillary is a short-term fix, a flawed strategy that Democrats tried only three years ago as they nominated a ticket with a muddled Iraq War position and tried to make up the difference with $300-million worth of third-party attacks. They never dealt with their internal crises, hoping that a campaign against Bush would be enough to win.

“I’d prefer these things be contests of ideas,” says Craig Shirley, a longtime political strategist who’s doing some work for Stop Her Now. “Our conservative, libertarian ideas are better than their collectivist ideas. But running on ideas, you know, that requires the people on our side to have the courage and intellect to understand what this is all about.”

(…)

Obviously, 2008 is not going to lack for anti-Hillary campaigns. There will be more books, more speculation about scandals, more digging into financial records—a treasure hunt for some silver bullet that will finally end her career. This is exactly what the Clinton campaign is ready for, and they’re in luck: the swing vote that will elect the next president is far angrier at Republicans and George W. Bush than it is at her right now. It’s moved on. It wants to hear some new arguments.

Instead of new arguments and new energy, though, the GOP is getting ready to offer America the same old recycled rhetoric served with a side dish of over-the-top Clinton-bashing.

Something tells me it’s not going to work this time any better than it did in the Presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, or the New York Senate race in 2000.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway

Barbara Branden Speaks On Ayn Rand & Atlas Shrugged

Barbara Branden is one of the few people who was part of Ayn Rand’s inner circle during the years that she was writing Atlas Shrugged who is both still alive and willing to speak outside of “official” Objectivist circles. Back in October she spoke at a conference sponsored by The Atlas Society marking the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication — her former husband Nathanial Branden also speaks briefly.

The most interesting part of Branden’s talk is her description of what the negative reviews the book first received, and the failure of people who supported the book to come to her defense against things such as Whittaker Chambers’ scurrilous review, did to Rand as a person.

Here’s Part One:

And Part Two:

The Ron Paul-Neo Nazi Story Isn’t Going Away

There have been several posts here at The Liberty Papers about the support that Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign has received from neo-nazi groups like Stormfront and such illustrious personalities as former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. So far, those reports haven’t made it into the mainstream media; but, if Paul continues to show the kind of success he has over the past several weeks, he’s going to come under more media scrutiny, and, as this piece at the conservative American Thinker shows, there’s enough out there for an enterprising reporter to make something out of:

When some in a crowd of anti-war activists meeting at Democrat National Committee HQ in June, 2005 suggested Israel was behind the 9-11 attacks, >DNC Chair Howard Dean was quick to get behind the microphones and denounce them saying: “such statements are nothing but vile, anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

When KKK leader David Duke switched parties to run for Louisiana governor as a Republican in 1991, then-President George H W Bush responded sharply, saying, “When someone asserts the Holocaust never took place, then I don’t believe that person ever deserves one iota of public trust. When someone has so recently endorsed Nazism, it is inconceivable that someone can reasonably aspire to a leadership role in a free society.”

Ron Paul is different.

(….)

On October 26 nationally syndicated radio talk show host Michael Medved posted an “Open Letter to Rep. Ron Paul” on TownHall.com. It reads:

Dear Congressman Paul:

Your Presidential campaign has drawn the enthusiastic support of an imposing collection of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 “Truthers” and other paranoid and discredited conspiracists.

Do you welcome- or repudiate – the support of such factions?

More specifically, your columns have been featured for several years in the American Free Press -a publication of the nation’s leading Holocaust Denier and anti-Semitic agitator, Willis Carto. His book club even recommends works that glorify the Nazi SS, and glowingly describe the “comforts and amenities” provided for inmates of Auschwitz.

Have your columns appeared in the American Free Press with your knowledge and approval?

As a Presidential candidate, will you now disassociate yourself, clearly and publicly, from the poisonous propaganda promoted in such publications?

As a guest on my syndicated radio show, you answered my questions directly and fearlessly.
Will you now answer these pressing questions, and eliminate all associations between your campaign and some of the most loathsome fringe groups in American society?

Along with my listeners (and many of your own supporters), I eagerly await your response.

Respectfully, Michael Medved

Medved has received no official response from the Paul campaign.

Does Ron Paul support the views of these people ? Of course I don’t believe that he does, but that’s not the point.

The point is that the campaign is becoming associated with groups that espouse ideas that ordinary Americans who might otherwise find something worth voting for will, quite rightfully, find repulsive. In the context of a contested election that you actually want to win, no campaign can afford to allow that to happen. I’d also think that most Paul supporters wouldn’t want to be associated with people who would pervert a message of freedom to such an extent that it would justify racial discrimination and bigotry, not to mention a belief in wacky conspiracy theories.

I’ve been criticized before for bringing this issue up, and I’m sure the same thing will happen again this time, but this is something that needs to be said because you can’t live in a fantasy world where actions, more specifically the failure to act when necessary, doesn’t have consequences.

Finally, this wouldn’t require much from the campaign. It would be fairly easy for the campaign, and the candidate, to repudiate these groups publicly and the earlier it’s done the better because, as things stand now, I can almost guarantee that this issue will come up at the next debate. And then, they’ll have to deal with it.

Update: Andrew Sullivan, who has defended Paul from some of the more scurrilous Nazi stories makes this point:

I see no reason why the campaign should not return any money given by neo-Nazis who are subsequently identified as such. But Jonah [Goldberg of National Review] is right that this whole thing tells us more about Paul’s amateurism in rapid-response than anything else.

The thing is the rapid-response that’s needed isn’t that hard to do.

Related Posts:

An Endorsement Ron Paul Should Repudiate Immediately
Is Ron Paul’s Campaign Being Hijacked By the Whacko Fringe ?
More On Stormfront And The Ron Paul Campaign
Ron Paul And The Nazis: My Take

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