Monthly Archives: January 2008

Is Ron Paul’s Fundraising Drying Up ?

Say what you will about his campaign and his supporters, but one of the more remarkable political stories of 2007. There were moneybombs in November and December that brought in more in a single day than some candidates had raised all quarter. By the end of the 4th Quarter, the campaign had raised $ 20 million in three months.

Then, at the beginning of January, the campaign said that it would need an additional $ 23 million by January 31st to be competitive on Super Tuesday. That’s right —- they’d need to raise as much as they did in three months in four weeks.

Right now, it doesn’t seem to be going well.

The tally on the campaign’s homepage shows less than $ 900,000 raised through today, with only 14 days to go. And one site that’s tallying the “road to $ 23 million” shows them to be at least $ 21 million short.

Personally, I’m not sure that $ 23 million is needed just for the Super Tuesday states, but that’s what the campaign is saying.

The question is, what’s happening with the fundraising. Have people stopped giving ? Have they maxed out on the FEC limits ? I’ve got to think that the campaign’s poor showing in the last four primaries/caucuses has something to do with it. Truth be told, people get discouraged.

There is one solution to the money problem, of course, Paul could apply for federal matching funds. However, as I noted in October, doing so would involve violating the very principles Paul claims to be running on.

I think what we’re seeing is clearly a byproduct of disappointment in the ranks, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better.


Apparently, Ben Bernanke Wasn’t Very Convincing

He went to Capitol Hill today and talked about the need for an economic stimulus package, and the stock market fell 300 points anyway:

Federal Reserve chief Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers today it is “critically important” that any economic stimulus package take effect quickly if it is to help ward off recession, and the White House announced that President Bush would make a speech Friday laying out his criteria for such a program.

Despite Bernanke’s comments, the flow of disappointing economic news today sent Wall Street lower. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 307, or about 2.5 percent, to close at 12,159. The Nasdaq composite index was down about 48 points at 2,347, a loss of 2 percent, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 40 points to 1,333, 2.9 percent.

I guess Ben doesn’t really have a golden tongue does he ?

Perhaps We Should Call It The Statue Of Security

Apparently, there’s not much liberty at the Statue of Liberty these days:

Nearly 2 million tourists, many from overseas, descend on Liberty Island each year to commune with that green icon of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty. Most of them will actually get to see the monument—as long they put out their cigarettes, hand over any contraband coffees or pastries purchased at the Liberty Island Café, and maneuver their way through an extensive security gauntlet. In 2007 the path to Liberty runs past a battalion of armed guards.

Visiting in October, I was greeted by hours-long security lines at two sets of metal detectors—one gauntlet to board a ferry to Liberty Island, another feeding into two EntryScan bomb/narcotics sniffing machines near the actual statue. A scrolling marquee along the bottom of a TV monitor illuminated the motto of the New York City Security State: “See something, say something.” Just in case the imminent threat of terrorist attack wasn’t clear, plaques indicated that the statue’s monument base closed for almost three years after the September 11 attacks.


Even at the Liberty Museum in the monument base, the Founders’ vision of liberty is conspicuously absent, unless you count a psychedelic nude painting. (“The artist’s daring expression of naked Lady Liberty symbolizes the desire for the world to return to the peace and innocent days of Adam and Eve.”) Instead there’s a wall dedicated to “the price” Lady Liberty (“born a celebrity”!) has “paid” for her fame, as perfidious “manufacturers around the world have not hesitated to use and abuse the Statue to sell everything from cigars to soap.” So this is the modern Statue of Liberty: exploited by soulless capitalists, famous for doing nothing, an oxidized copper Paris Hilton with the good sense to wear long skirts in public.

A fairly accurate representation of what’s happening to liberty nationwide, don’t you think ?

On Libertarianism And Toleration

Reason’s Brian Doherty has a piece today over at Hit & Run that lends some much-needed sanity to the issues that we’ve been dealing with lately:

I invite all fellow admirers of a tolerant, dynamic, vibrant, liberal, varied and growing world of ideas, expressions, and ways of being to consider, for a moment, that there may indeed have been some wisdom in that famous epigram said to sum up the spirit of Voltaire (though never, apparently, written by him in such words): “I disagree with what this man has said, but I defend to the death his right to say it.”

As ugly and embracing of intolerance as such an epigram may seem in practice, perhaps there are reasons, reasons vital to the flourishing of an interesting, varied, free world of expression, that those summing up the spirit of Enlightenment tolerance did not choose to express the appropriate attitude toward things said with which he disagreed—even strongly and passionately disagreed—like this: “I disagree with what this man has said, and I consider him evil for saying it; furthermore, I consider him having said it the most significant thing about him, and that it overshadows any other accomplishment or statement he has ever made. I fervently wish to have him driven from polite society, and consider that anyone who does not enthusiastically join me in so driving him to themselves be evil, or at least incredibly idiotic and not to be trusted—but don’t worry, I don’t think he should be arrested for saying it.”

It may be that the more famous saying indeed embodies the spirit of a lovable, valuable, rich world of discourse; and that the second one perhaps embodies a less open, free, and dynamic, and thus less valuable and interesting, world of discourse.

In other words, to a libertarian, the fact that you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they are evil and doesn’t make them worthy of excommunication from “the movement” (whatever that is). Yes, there are some issues that are fundamental to liberty (for me, one of those is the idea that each person needs to be treated as an individual, not a member of a group), but, quite honestly there are some that are not, and it doesn’t make sense to attack someone personally because they happen to disagree with you.

For Ron Paul supporters, that means that you aren’t accomplishing anything when you engage what can only be called the tactics of a Paulistinian. For those of us who don’t support Ron Paul, it means that recognizing that not everyone that supports the Congressman is of that group of people who have, quite honestly, given the movement a bad name.

Tolerance is required if civility is going to be maintained, and without civility we’re not going to accomplish anything.

Protecting Employer Rights In Virginia

A Republican State Senator has introduced a bill that would permit employers to fire someone who cannot speak English without being liable for unemployment benefits:

RICHMOND, Jan. 16 — A Republican state senator from Fairfax County has introduced a proposal that would allow a boss to fire employees who don’t speak English in the workplace, which would make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II said the law is needed because a growing number of employers in Northern Virginia are frustrated that some immigrants never learn English, although they said they would when they were hired.

“The point here isn’t to be mean; the point is to allow circumstances to give employers their own ability to hire and fire people who may not speak English,” Cuccinelli said.

Now, Virginia is already an “at will” employment state, meaning that someone can be hired for fired for any reason without liability to the employer unless there was a violation of civil rights law. The problem, though, is that employers who exercise their right to fire someone who refuses to learn English face the possibility of higher unemployment taxes:

Cuccinelli said he drafted the bill after a business owner approached him last year and complained that his unemployment taxes rose after he fired someone who didn’t learn English.

“They had an understanding the employee would improve their English capabilities, and that didn’t happen,” Cuccinelli said. “We are an at-will employment state, but there is a question about having to pay more unemployment insurance.”

Well, it makes sense to me. If someone is hired with the understanding that they will speak English in the performance of their job duties, or even that they will take classes to improve their English skills, and they fail to do so, an employer should have the right to terminate them without having to worry about paying higher taxes.

The reaction from opponents, of course, is typical:

“This is the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years down here,” Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said.

Translation — I have no real argument against this law, but Senator, you’re just a big meanie for expecting that people would live up to their promises.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Mike Huckabee “Clarifies” His Views On The Constitution And God

On Wednesday Jason noted that Mike Huckabee had stated his desire to amend the Constitution to bring it in line with “God’s law.”

Later that day, he appeared on Hannity & Colmes and attempted to clarify what he had said earlier in the day:

On last night’s Hannity & Colmes, Colmes cited Huckabee’s quote about changing the Constitution and said, “That makes people a little worried. It sounds like you’re looking to have a theocratic state when you make statements like that, talking about changing the Constitution in keeping with your view of God.”

Huckabee responded, “Not at all. On two things. The context is two things: Human life amendment, which I support and which has been in the Republican platform since 1980. And, by the way, Fred Thompson doesn’t support it. Nor does John McCain. And yet it’s part of our platform. And it’s a very important part of our platform to say that human life is something we’re going to stand for. And the second thing is traditional marriage. So those are the two areas in which I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting that we rewrite the Constitution to reflect tithing or Sunday school attendance. I want to make that very clear… Except for you, Alan. I think maybe you should, maybe you should obey those things.”

Colmes said drily, “Well, thank you for the suggestion.”

And here’s the video:

I don’t buy it. Huckabee meant what he said, his effort to “clarify” the statement seems to be in response to the generally negative reception it got in the press.

Can The Government Force You To Reveal A Password ?

That’s the interesting legal question posed by a case out of Vermont:

The federal government is asking a U.S. District Court in Vermont to order a man to type a password that would unlock files on his computer, despite his claim that doing so would constitute self-incrimination.

The case, believed to be the first of its kind to reach this level, raises a uniquely digital-age question about how to balance privacy and civil liberties against the government’s responsibility to protect the public.

From a Constitutional perspective, there are two parts of the Bill of Rights that are at issue, the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

And the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Seizing someone’s computer, assuming that it is supported by a warrant based on probable cause, is clearly permissible. But what if you need an unbreakable password to access what may be incriminating evidence (in this case, child pornography) ?

Clearly, the Fifth Amendment permits a suspect to remain silent, and revealing a password (assuming it’s not written down somewhere on a piece of paper subject to seizure) would clearly seem to be testimony. And that’s what one Federal District Court Judge has ruled:

On Nov. 29, Magistrate Judge Jerome J. Niedermeier ruled that compelling Sebastien Boucher, a 30-year-old drywall installer who lives in Vermont, to enter his password into his laptop would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. “If Boucher does know the password, he would be faced with the forbidden trilemma: incriminate himself, lie under oath, or find himself in contempt of court,” the judge said.

Now, here are the facts of the case:

The case began Dec. 17, 2006, when Boucher, a Canadian citizen with legal residency in the United States, was driving from Canada into Vermont when he was stopped at the border by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector. The inspector searched Boucher’s car and found a laptop in the back seat, according to an affidavit filed with the court by Mark Curtis, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was called in by the inspector.

Boucher said the laptop was his, according to the affidavit. When the inspector saw files with titles such as “Two-year-old being raped during diaper change,” he asked Boucher if the laptop contained child pornography. Boucher said he did not know because he was not able to check his temporary Internet files, according to the affidavit.

Curtis asked Boucher “to use the computer” to show him the files he downloads. Curtis reviewed the video files, observing one that appeared to be a preteen undressing and performing a sexual act, among other graphic images, the affidavit says.

Boucher was arrested and charged with transportation of child pornography in interstate or foreign commerce, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for a first offense.

Keep in mind that in some versions of the story I’ve read online, Boucher was said to have typed in the PGP password prior to showing the files to the Border Patrol agents. And that, it seems, could be his downfall:

Orin S. Kerr, an expert in computer crime law at George Washington University, said that Boucher lost his Fifth Amendment privilege when he admitted that it was his computer and that he stored images in the encrypted part of the hard drive. “If you admit something to the government, you give up the right against self-incrimination later on,” said Kerr, a former federal prosecutor.

Kerr has blogged about the case at The Volokh Conspiracy and said the following:

I don’t play in the sandbox of the Fifth Amendment as much as I do the Fourth, but my sense is that Judge Niedermeier is wrong. True, being forced to enter in the password has a communicative aspect to it. It says, “I know the password to drive Z on my laptop.” But based on the specific facts of the case, don’t we already know that? Isn’t it a “foregone conclusion” under the Fisher case? Boucher admitted that it was his laptop, and he described how he used it. When he agreed to show the officers the files inside, he had no problem powering it up and bringing them to the contents of drive Z. The subpoena is simply trying to get Boucher to take the officers back to where he had already taken them before: through the passphrase so they can access the files Judge Niedermier’s response is that this is true for the child pornography the agents saw but that there may be other files on the computer that are also incriminating. Entering in the key will be akin to producing any other files that might exist, effectively saying, “these are files on my laptop.” But I think that’s wrong. As I see it, entering the passphrase doesn’t have any testimonial content as to Boucher’s knowledge or beliefs as to any other files in “drive Z” that may or may not exist. Maybe there are other incriminating files in drive Z. On the other hand, maybe there aren’t. But the answer to that is completely independent of what Boucher is being asked to do

It may be that entering in the passphrase will help the police find more child pornography, but that is not the result of the communicative aspect of responding to the subpoena. Boucher’s entering in the password won’t amount to Boucher’s testimony about anything they don’t already know in the context of this case. Its role is merely that it will let the police access whatever is on the hard drive, which may or may not relate to criminal activity and may or may not implicate Boucher. Boucher won’t be “bringing” the files to the police in response to an order to incriminating files; he ill merely be opening the door to the safe that we all know is his and that we seem to know he knows how to open.

I think Kerr is right on this issue. In the abstract, Boucher has a right to remain silent about the password to his files. His problem lies in the fact that he has already revealed the existence of the encrypted files, allowed the agent to view them (apparently using the password to do so), and admitted the computer was his.

I Thought The Pole Tax Was Unconstitutional?

Or was that the poll tax?

Either way, I’m not a big fan of this new Texas law:

There is a new price to be paid for looking at naked women in Texas. On January 1st the state’s strip clubs began imposing a $5 surcharge for each visitor. The “pole tax,” as it is commonly called, is expected to bring the state an additional $40m in revenue each year.

Ahh, there’s no better way to increase taxes than to make people who can’t defend themselves pay for them! After all, most strip club patrons aren’t going to leave their wives and kids at home to go protest this sort of thing down at the state house. Just like most “dirty evil smokers” won’t get much sympathy for their pocketbooks when a city or state raises the tax by a buck a pack or so.

After all, the politicians know what they’re doing. In Texas, they raised this tax to pay for shelters for rape victims, despite the fact that there isn’t much of a link between strip clubs and rape, as far as anyone can tell. Just like the smoker taxes are to pay for health care, despite the fact that some studies have shown that smokers die sooner and actually take less from the public trough than non-smokers.

But it’s always a winning tactic. Politicians create a scapegoat that the general public doesn’t like, and they can downright lynch them if they’d like. All you need to do is complain about how the strip clubs are ruining the fabric of society, or about how smokers are destroying their health and killing us with their second-hand smoke. Once you make the public think they’re bad people for their actions, the public agrees that they must be punished.

And it’s not a new phenomenon:

Such targeted taxes seem to be in vogue at the moment. Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, recently proposed that retailers pay a fee for selling sugar-laden fizzy drinks. The revenue would fund a city initiative to encourage healthy eating and exercise. Last year’s proposed expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Programme would have been funded by increased tobacco taxes (though the connection here also seems rather a stretch, since not that many children smoke; George Bush vetoed it anyway). In Wisconsin, a state legislator wants to raise more money for the juvenile criminal justice system via a tax on video games.

When our politicians need to push for increasingly dastardly methods for pulling in their tax revenues, one must ask whether we should really let them have the money.

What’s next, will they just finance government via a big swear jar? After all, if they can’t say those words on TV, maybe us foul-mouthed cretins should be charged a quarter by the feds each time we use the seven words in our personal lives as well.

Another Reason To Sink Real ID

A Department of Homeland Security official thinks we should be required to present federally approved identification when buying prescription drugs:

In a presentation aimed at promoting the final identification requirements released Friday, Stewart Baker, the Homeland Security Department’s assistant secretary for policy, suggested the controversial system could help federal agents combat methamphetamine production and abuse in the United States.

Baker cited a 2005 federal law, which requires pharmacies to keep tabs on how often people buy certain drugs, such as cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, that can be used to concoct the drug. The key to that process, naturally, is verifying the customer’s identity through some sort of document.

“If you have a good ID…it would make it much harder for meth labs to function in this country,” Baker said in a morning presentation here at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that supports Real ID.

Meaning that REAL ID has gone from a weapon in the War on Terror to a weapon in the War on (some) Drugs, not that any of us should be surprised about it.

Nor should we be surprised about this:

Echoing earlier remarks, Baker said he doesn’t “understand” the civil liberties objections to the plan. “I would welcome hearing from the ACLU or other civil libertarians why they think that improving the security of drivers’ licenses that people already have, making sure the data we already provide to the DMVs is kept more secure, why that’s a bad thing for civil liberties,” he said.

Mr. Baker, there’s failure to understand and there’s willful ignorance. I think you’re suffering from the later.

H/T: Cato@Liberty

Tax Hike Mike Sees Conspiracies

Christian leader and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sees a vast right wing conspiracy against him:

MIKE HUCKABEE: We’re doing OK in South Carolina. We’re up on television, we’ve got a good budget here, a good buy. We also have an extraordinary ground operation in South Carolina. I really believe we’re going to win here; it makes sense for us to win here. We’re working hard. We don’t take anything for granted. Voters in South Carolina are very smart.

I don’t think they’re responding very well — there’s so much negative. There’s a bunch of Washington special interest groups that are coming into town today [the Club for Growth and Freedom Works are holding a joint presser on the Huckabee record] to attack me. It’s amazing. I’m the only guy who’s just getting hammered from some of these special interest groups, and I think that’ll really turn for me and against some of these folks. Because it’s pretty obvious that, there’s gotta be, almost this, I don’t want to use the word conspiracy, but there’s just an anxiety that exists in the Washington power circles about our candidacy.

Huckafraud should be kept away from the nuclear football at all costs.

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

Protectionism And Coercion

Economist Steven Landsburg has an excellent article in today’s New York Times on the relationship between protectionism and coercion:

Bullying and protectionism have a lot in common. They both use force (either directly or through the power of the law) to enrich someone else at your involuntary expense. If you’re forced to pay $20 an hour to an American for goods you could have bought from a Mexican for $5 an hour, you’re being extorted. When a free trade agreement allows you to buy from the Mexican after all, rejoice in your liberation — even if Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and the rest of the presidential candidates don’t want you to.

Landsburg is right. Why should I be forced to pay more for a car because it was made in Japan ?

Memo To Ron Paul: Come Clean For Your Own Sake, And The Sake Of Liberty

Jacob Sullum has an article up at Reason telling Ron Paul what he needs to do about the newsletter story:

If I thought Ron Paul might be president in 2009, I’d have to admit that his newsletter negligence raises questions about his judgment and about the people he’d choose to advise him. But since the value of the Paul campaign lies in promoting the libertarian ideals of limited government, individual freedom, and tolerance, the real problem is that the newsletters contradict this message.

On CNN Paul emphasized that racist libertarian is an oxymoron, since libertarians judge people as individuals. He should follow through on that point by identifying the author(s) of the race-baiting material and repudiating not just the sentiments it represents but the poisonous, self-defeating strategy of building an anti-collectivist movement on group hatred.

Sullum’s article follows up on the excellent analysis that David Weigel and Julian Sanchez posted earlier today, which my co-contributor UCrawford wrote about earlier today.

And Sullum is absolutely correct.

At this point, the newsletter story is not going to have any impact on the campaign mostly because the campaign is going nowhere, but it will have an impact on how the general public perceives the cause for liberty. The sad truth of the matter is that the cause has not been helped by some of the events that have surrounded the campaign — the association with Stormfront, appearing repeatedly on Alex Jones’s radio program, and supporters who have acted boorishly to put it mildly — creating the, false, impression that libertarian ideas are racist and intolerant would only make the situation worse.

Wednesday Open Thread: So, Now What ?

With Mitt Romney’s win in Michigan last night, we are now at the point where three separate candidates have won the first three contests of the Republican Nomination race. Hucabkee won Iowa, McCain won New Hampshire, and Romney surprised everyone with a strong win in Michigan.

So, what happens next ?

Mitt Romney: A win in Michigan means that Romney is in the race for awhile. Had he lost, it would have been hard to justify staying in through Super Tuesday.  Right now, he’s locked in a four way tie in Florida and a victory there could put him in the front of the pack.

John McCain: If McCain had won in Michigan, he would have had a strong claim to the title of Republican frontrunner. Now, he’s got to win in South Carolina and keep Giuliani from winning in Florida if he’s going to  have a shot at the nomination.

Mike Huckabee:  Tax Hike Mike is competitive with McCain in South Carolina and part of the four way tie in Florida. But I can’t help have the nagging feeling that he peaked too early.

Fred Thompson: Last week, after New Hampshire, he said that South Carolina was a do or die state for him. Well, barring a miracle over the next three days, it looks like he’s going to die. Look for Thompson to drop out and endorse his buddy McCain.

Rudy Giuliani: If Huckabee peaked too early last month, Giuliani’s mistake was bigger because he peaked last year. He’s been on the decline everywhere ever since the voting started and, unless he pulls of a win in Florida, is not going  to be a factor going forward. Heck, Giuliani can’t even beat Ron Paul.

Ron Paul: The Paul campaign did do better in Michigan than it has elsewhere in one respect; it was the first time they’ve made it to fourth place. In terms of overall percentage of the vote, though, they’ve gone downhill from the start — 10% in Iowa, just under 8% in New Hampshire, and 6% in Michigan. I don’t see things getting any better any time soon. In both Nevada and South Carolina, he’s polling at the bottom of the pack. The same is true of Florida.

As always, feel free to disagree.

The Case Against Mitt Romney

In separate pieces, two Cato scholars — Michael Tanner and Jeffrey Taylor — lay out enough evidence to make you wonder why anyone considers Mitt Romney an economic conservative.

First, Tanner suggests that people actually look at his record as Governor:

For some reason, Romney has been able to claim the Reagan mantle despite his support for:

  • A health care plan virtually indistinguishable for the one proposed by Hillary Clinton;
  • Support for No Child Left Behind, calls for increased federal education spending, and a proposal to have the federal government give a laptop computer to every schoolchild in America;
  • Calls for increased farm price supports;
  • Support for the Medicare prescription drug benefit; and
  • An undistinguished record on taxes and spending as Massachusetts governor, earning a C on Cato’s governor’s report card, and including support for $500 million in increased fees and corporate taxes.

Then, Taylor asks a question that nobody asked last night:

What does it say about the Republican Party when the leading fusionist conservative in the field – Mitt Romney, darling of National Review and erstwhile heir to Ronald Reagan - runs and wins a campaign arguing that the federal government is responsible for all of the ills facing the U.S. auto industry, that the taxpayer should pony up the corporate welfare checks going to Detroit and increase them by a factor of five, that the federal government can and should move heaven and earth to save “every job” at risk in this economy, and that economic recovery is best achieved by a sit-down involving auto industry CEOs, labor bosses, and government agents armed with Harvard MBAs to produce a well-coordinated strategic economic plan? That is, what explains the emergence of economic fascism (in a non-pejorative sense) in the Grand Old Party at the expense of free market capitalism?

I would say that it means that Newt Gingrich was right when he said earlier this week that the era of Reagan is over.

Author Of The Ron Paul Newsletter Outed?

After speaking with multiple sources (many of them off-the-record) and going through a publishing history, Reason Magazine has added weight to the suspicions of many on who was responsible for the Ron Paul newsletter…current Ron Paul advisor Lew Rockwell.  From the tone of the article nobody else seems to come close as a prime suspect, except anarcho-capitalist icon Murray Rothbard (who is now dead and unavailable for comment).  Rockwell’s denied the allegations but there don’t appear to be a swarm of people coming to his defense.  Of course, we’ll never know for certain unless the guilty party does step forward or someone provides evidence to point him out, but it seems pretty clear that Rockwell had some significant level of involvement with the newsletter (he benefited financially from it according to Reason) and as such if Ron Paul expects libertarians to believe he had nothing to do with the sentiments in those newsletters when one of the chief beneficiaries of that newsletter is still one of his key advisors I think he’s got some explaining to do…something more convincing than the “I have no clue what was going on because I’m an incompetent manager” defense.

And to the commenter on an earlier thread who claimed that Murray Rothbard was very capable of writing some of the more offensive things in the newsletter, based on what I read in the Reason article you were right and I was wrong.  Kudos for being able to recognize the stench.

I Can’t Think Of A Catchy Title

I suppose the best way to describe myself would be to say that I have a problem with authority. I’ve always disliked when people told me what to do, even as a young child, and I’ve always preferred to find my own path through life and make my own decisions, even if it occasionally went against the conventional wisdom and sometimes worked to my short-term disadvantage. My dad said I inherited it from him, but that I’ve taken it to a whole new level. When I was young I wanted to be a journalist, until I got to college and realized that journalism was less about the search for objective truth than it was about writing the stories that best suited your employer’s interests, whether they were true or not (which didn’t sit well with me at all). So I drifted aimlessly through a couple of years of college as an indifferent (often drunk) student, unsure of what to do with myself until one of my fraternity brothers gave me a copy of “The Fountainhead” and I got hooked on the ideas that success and a refusal to conform to societal standards were not mutally exclusive, and that the greatest evil in the world was society and government’s failure to recognize or accept individuality and individual freedom as a strength, not a weakness. So I threw myself into studying politics and history, worked in a few political campaigns after college, had some success, and thought about doing a career in politics until I realized that most of the people I knew who had never had a career outside of politics had no comprehension of how the real world actually worked and tended to make a lot of bad, self-absorbed decisions that rarely helped the people they claimed to be representing.

That didn’t sit well with me either, so I decided to put any thoughts of going into politics on hold until I’d actually had a life and possibly a real career, and I spent the next couple of years drifting between a series of random yet educational jobs (debt collector, deliveryman, computer salesman, repo man, dairy worker) that taught me the value of hard work, personal responsibility and the financial benefits of dining at Taco John’s on Tuesday nights (2 tacos for a buck) when money got tight.

After awhile, however, the desire to see the world (and the need for a more consistent and slightly larger paycheck) convinced me to join the Army, where I spent ten years traveling around the world on the government dime working as an intelligence analyst. I generally enjoyed my time in the military, despite the aforementioned problem with authority (which wasn’t as much of an issue in the military as many people might think it would be), and I got to see that the decisions our political leaders make were sometimes frivolous, often ill-informed, and always had unforeseen repercussions down the road…especially on the soldiers tasked with implementing those decisions. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my 10 years in the military doing jobs I enjoyed, traveling to countries that I always wanted to see (Scotland is the greatest place in the world to hang out, Afghanistan is very underrated) and working with people I liked and respected, until I finally decided that at 35 it was time to move into a job where I didn’t have the threat of relocation lying over my head every two or three years, where I didn’t have to worry about my friends being blown up, and where I didn’t have to work in any capacity for George W. Bush.

I work now for a financial company in Kansas where I’m responsible for overseeing, pricing and maintaining farms, commercial and residential properties, mineral assets, insurance policies, annuities, etc. In my spare time I like to read books on economics, history, and politics (I’m preparing to tackle Murray Rothbard’s “Man, Economy & State” and Von Mises’ “Human Action”…should take me about a year at the rate I’m currently finishing books), watch movies, and destroy posers on “Halo 3″ (where I’m signed in under “UCrawford” for anyone interested in taking a shot at me some time). I used to play rugby until age, inconsistent conditioning, and a string of gradually worsening injuries finally convinced me to quit. I’m a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks in general and their basketball and football programs in particular and I’m also a devoted fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. I’m also fond of going online and debating/picking fights with people on the merits of the philosophy of individual freedom…sometimes to the point of being an asshole (but hopefully a reasonably well-informed asshole). I’ve been a big fan of The Liberty Papers ever since finding it online, I respect the body of work they’ve put out, and I’m honored that Brad Warbiany invited me to join his jolly band of freedom fighters. So cheers, Brad, and to everyone else I look forward to reaching consensus or locking horns with you in the near future.

The Final Chapter In The Duke Lacrosse Case

Former Prosecutor Michael Nifong has filed for bankruptcy protection:

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Michael Nifong, the former North Carolina district attorney who pursued rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players, then resigned after he was accused of withholding evidence, has filed for bankruptcy.

Nifong, stripped of his law license by the North Carolina State Bar for his handling of the case, listed debt of $180.3 million and assets of $243,898 in documents filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Durham, North Carolina. He resigned from his post as Durham County District Attorney in July.

Three Duke lacrosse players were indicted after a Durham woman alleged she was raped at a March 2006 team party. The charges were later dropped, and the young men sued Nifong for prosecutorial misconduct. Collin Finnerty, David F. Evans and Reade Seligmann are listed as unsecured creditors, each owed $30 million, in Nifong’s bankruptcy filing. Three other current and former players who sued Nifong are also listed as creditors.

“This looks like a smart move for Mr. Nifong,” said Charles Tatelbaum, a Florida lawyer who has represented doctors who filed for bankruptcy to shield themselves from lawsuits. “This stops all the cases against him so he doesn’t have to pay legal fees if he doesn’t have insurance.”

And, yes, that probably is the end of it. There are some exceptions to complete discharge under bankruptcy law, but they wouldn’t seem to apply in this situation.


Why am I not surprised by this comment made by Mike Huckabee:

I have opponents in the race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the Word of the Living God and that’s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so its in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standard so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

And he wonders why all the religion questions are always point to him in the debates.

All joking aside, that comment is scary. Some call it dominionism, Andrew Sullivan calls it Christianism (which I think is a more appropriate term). What Huckabee said highlights the problem with religious collectivism. It is no better than than its secular collectivist counterparts. Both seek to take away liberty from the individual by using the power of government to be more moral or compassionate.

We are electing a President, not a pastor.

[UPDATE] Here is the video, courtesy of Doug:

Congress, Baseball, And Steroids: A Big Waste Of Time

Today was the first day of hearings into baseball’s steroid scandal and the Mitchell Report:

WASHINGTON (AP) — At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in the same, wood-paneled room where Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and others testified three years ago, congressmen mixed criticism of baseball and its players with praise for commissioner Bud Selig and union leader Donald Fehr for progress on the sport’s drug-testing program.

“The illegal use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was pervasive for more than a decade, Major League Baseball was slow and ineffective in responding to the scandal, and the use of human growth hormone has been rising,” said committee chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat.

“The Mitchell Report also makes it clear that everyone in baseball is responsible: the owners, the commissioner, the union and the players.”

So, here’s a radical idea; let Bud Selig, the owners, and the players handle this on their own. If they don’t do it right, the fans will voice their disapproval, as they did in the years after the 1994 player’s strike, when it took years for the game to regain it’s credibility. The last time I checked, Major League Baseball was not part of the Legislative, Executive, or Judicial branches of government. Therefore, there really isn’t any reason for Henry Waxman to get up on his soap box and pontificate.

Of course, pontificate he will. Hearings will be held, depositions will be taken, and time will be wasted. And the Members of Congress involved will convince themselves that this is a subject demanding their attention:

“This is the American pasttime, great pasttime. It’s a game that really exemplifies who we are as a country and as a people. As you know, our youth look up to our celebrities and the top of that list are baseball players, I feel. And so, it’s important to us that we don’t sit by and allow an issue that has impacted baseball for an era to continue, because it breaks down the faith and the trust.

“Baseball players are role models. And so, Congress feels that it has a duty to take a look and investigate.”

That was what Congresswoman Diane Watson said this morning on C-Span.

Role models ? Well if that’s going to be the criteria for determining when a subject demands Congresses attention, I guess it’s time to summon Britney, Paris, and Lindsey to Washington.

Ron Paul And Libertarian Orthodoxy

There’s been much discussion here in the days since the Paul newsletter story broke about the extent to which some Ron Paul supporters seem to have the view that calling oneself a libertarian obligates you to support the Paul campaign.

Apropos of that discussion, I was recently clued into this “Open Letter To Libertarians” written by Walter Block and posted on Lew Rockwell’s site:

In my view, the “Ron Paul question” constitutes a litmus test for libertarians. Simply put, the “Ron Paul question” consists of determining whether or not a person supports Dr. Paul. If so, as I see matters, he passes this test and can be constituted a libertarian; if not, his credentials are to that extent suspect.

I’ve read much of what Block has written over the years and generally thought of him as a reasonable person, but this one quote symbolizes for me what is wrong with the Rockwellian brand of libertarianism. Unless you support us, they say, you’re not a real libertarian.

And it seems to be an orthodoxy that the campaign’s supporters picked up on, as I noted in this comment:

Over the past year, I have posted about Ron Paul because the campaign was an important issue for libertarians. I’ve praised where I thought he deserved prasie and criticized him where I thought he deserved criticism.

And when I criticized, I got attacked — mostly, not so much for my ideas but because I dared to attack St. Ron. This caused me to become more and more skeptical about this campaign and whether it will amount to anything in the struggle for liberty.

But I was still rooting for him, because people were talking about libertarian ideas on CNN, FOX, and elsewhere.

At one point I had even written a post that I intended to publish on my personal blog formally endorsing his candidacy. Then in December the Stormfront story started coming out, and I held back. Frankly, after this latest fiasco, I am glad that I did. Last week, I finally deleted the draft of that post.

You might disagree with my opinion, but it is mine. And I think the worst thing that has come out of this campaign has been the assertion by some that if you don’t support Ron Paul, you’re not a “real” libertarian.

And how are the high priests reaction ? Almost like nothing happened:

There is, I suspect, little joy in Auburn right now. That the crew at LRC is responding to these events in much the same way that they’ve always mocked the Randroids for acting is telling. Hopefully that behavior is driven by genuine shock and confusion rather than by knowledge of their own culpability in what’s fast turning into a combination black eye, broken jaw and diagnosis of venereal disease for the libertarian movement.

We’ll be talking about this one for awhile, I think.

Tuesday Open Thread: Ron Paul, The Internet, And Politics

Forbes Magazine asks what the apparent failure of Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign means for the Internet’s influence over politics:

On the Web, the Ron Paul Army reigns. With or without their favorite presidential candidate’s consent, they flood Web forums, overwhelm online polls and berate bloggers. They build countless fan pages and dominate user-generated media sites. A few may have even hired Ukrainian spammers to fill millions of in-boxes with Paul-supporting propaganda.

But back in the offline world, Paul’s fanbase seems to vanish. In last week’s Iowa caucus, Paul received 10% of the vote, and in Wednesday’s New Hampshire primary, he earned just 8%–hardly matching the near-90% support in Web polls following Republican presidential debates.

It comes as little surprise that Paul–a libertarian who has vowed to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and reinstitute the gold standard–can’t pull votes from more mainstream conservative candidates. But the disparity between his online support and his performance in primaries raises the question: Is the power of the Internet to influence politics all that it’s cracked up to be?

I’m sure that this is something that people will be talking about for some time to come. After all, there is no denying the extent to which the Internet helped bring together people who supported Ron Paul. What’s most interesting about is that nearly all of the things that people point to when they talk about what the “Paulistians” did — the Meetup groups and the moneybombs being the big ones — were done outside the official campaign.  In fact, I would say that the grassroots did more to get their candidates name out there than the official campaign did, although part of the problem the campaign faced last year was the fact that, to a large degree, they were being defined by their supporters rather than their candidate.

So why hasn’t the Internet phenomenon translated into the real world ?

I think  there are a few reasons.

First, most people still get their news and information from the traditional media. They don’t read blogs, they don’t participate in online forums, and they don’t “Google Ron Paul.” When they make up their minds about a candidate, they do it in much the same way that Americans have been doing it for the past 50 years or so. Consider this:

Web users represent a surprisingly small slice of the American electorate, and politically motivated users are even rarer. A Pew Internet study performed last year shows that just 69% of Americans use the Web on a given day, and the same organization found in August 2006 that only 19% of Americans look for political news or information online.

Second, the Internet fan base does not accurately reflect the makeup of the voting population. There’s been a lot of enthusiasm for the Paul campaign online but that enthusiasm was never the same in the real world.

Third, the sub-set of people who are politically active on line are different from the American public in an important respect. Most Americans are not ideological and not necessarily into political activism on a daily basis. Ron Paul was winning online polls and straw polls because they were committed to their candidate. But they are a small part of the voting population, and not the people that a candidate needs to convince to vote for him or her.

It'[s arguably the case that Ron Paul has done better than he would have otherwise because of the Internet, but the lesson is clear — success on the Internet is not a ticket to the White House.

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