Monthly Archives: May 2008

Government Getting Away With What Plebes Can’t

Over at Coyote Blog, Warren is discussing things that the NY Transit Authority can get away with that would get a private property owner fined:

New York City Transit has spent close to $1 billion to install more than 200 new elevators and escalators in the subway system since the early 1990s, and it plans to spend almost that much again for dozens more machines through the end of the next decade. It is an investment of historic dimensions, aimed at better serving millions of riders and opening more of the subway to the disabled.

These are the results:

One of every six elevators and escalators in the subway system was out of service for more than a month last year, according to the transit agency’s data.

The 169 escalators in the subway averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls each last year, with the worst machines logging more than double that number. And some of the least reliable escalators in the system are also some of the newest, accumulating thousands of hours out of service for what officials described as a litany of mechanical flaws.

Two-thirds of the subway elevators — many of which travel all of 15 feet — had at least one breakdown last year in which passengers were trapped inside.

If this was private industry, it’s the sort of performance that an investigative journalist would be salivating over. If it were a private business, it would be a story about how the owner was putting people at risk all in an effort to save money.

But it’s not. It’s the government. So there’s wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth (by the article author, not Warren), and the tone of the argument is conciliatory and making excuses for why the situation is so bad and how sincere the government is about fixing it.

I read Warren’s post two days ago. And as I sat behind a public school bus today, I got a faceful of evidence that it’s not only the public elevators that are able to get away with service no private actor would. The bus was in front of me at a light, and as it left the light, a belched a cloud of foul-smelling gas that quickly permeated the inside of my closed, air-conditioned truck.

I thought to myself: “What would happen to me if my truck was throwing out those fumes?” I’m assuming it would fail emissions and probably not be allowed on the road. Not so for buses. In fact, a clean-air program has rated California‘s soot production and smog production as a “C” and “Poor” level, respectively, despite the fact that the state’s clean-up program, active since 2000, is rated as “Good”. I guess they missed this bus.

But hey, it’s not like they should hurry or anything, it’s only our kids on the bus. I’m sure most of the legislators’ kids are avoiding the bus on the way to their private schools.

Third Police Officer Sentenced in Kathryn Johnston Case

(WSB Radio) A Fulton county judge came down hard on Atlanta police officer Arthur Tesler, giving him near the maximum for his role in the killing of Kathryn Johnston.

Judge Michael Johnson sentenced Tesler to 4 1/2 years in prison for lying to investigators. Tesler was part of the cover up of the botched drug raid at Johnston’s Neal Street home in November 2006.
The judge also sentenced Tesler to six months probation and ordered him to serve 450 hours of community service.

Atlanta police used a “no knock” warrant to raid the home of Johnston two days before Thanksgiving in 2006. During the raid the 92 year old woman was shot and killed by police.
Two other officers who were involved in the raid pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges and are serving time in prison.

Tesler, 42, was convicted Tuesday of making false statements.

One of the morals of this very tragic story is that just because a person has sworn an oath to “serve and protect” does not mean he or she will serve and protect the citizens of the community. All too often, the people who individuals like Officer Tesler serve and protect their fellow officers when they do wrong (in this case by lying to investigators and planting evidence)

Please understand that I’m not trying to paint all law enforcement officers with a broad brush. Most truly do serve the community honorably. I’m only trying to expose this fallacy that if a case is determined based on the sworn testimony of a suspect vs. the sworn testimony of a police officer that jurors ought to give the police officer’s testimony more weight. Jurors should always base their decisions on who they believe to be telling the truth as individuals as opposed their chosen professions*.
» Read more

The Amish– Behind Ahead Of Their Time

From the AP, sure to be an environmentalist’s wet dream:

High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.

T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.

“This fuel’s so high, you can’t afford it,” he said. “We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That’s the truth.”

And Danny Raymond says he just likes using the mules around the farm.

“We’ve been using them quite a bit,” he said.

Brother Robert Raymond added, “It’s the way of the future.”

Way of the future? Does this mean we should all switch from petroleum to alternative mules? Just make sure you understand the mule industry’s “planned obsolescence” strategy. You need to replace the mules every time they stop fogging a mirror.

I guess the Amish would be laughing their heads off over this… They’ve been using alternative mules for generations. But since they’re not typically connected to the internet (oh, the electricity they save!), I don’t think we need to worry about their reaction.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

The Liberty Papers to Cover the National Convention in Denver

The Libertarian Convention of course! Which convention did you think I was talking about? The Libertarian National Convention will run this Memorial Day weekend beginning on Thursday, May 22nd and ending on Monday, May 26th. I plan on attending the convention representing The Liberty Papers as a citizen journalist on Saturday, Sunday, and possibly Monday.

My press pass will give me the same access as the MSM outlets (though some events will be reserved for “invited media only”). The events which I believe I will be able to get into include the platform debate, the presidential debate, national chairs debate, presidential nominating speeches, presidential election roll call with acceptance speech, the first press conference with the LP Presidential Nominee, and much, much more.

Fellow Liberty Papers contributor Jason Pye will also be attending the convention as a delegate.

Usually, The Liberty Papers does not have a great deal of activity on the weekends as far as posts are concerned but this weekend will be much different. Expect periodic reporting from the convention beginning Saturday. I’m going to try to score some high profile interviews, will post lots of photos, and possibly post some video for your consumption.

It’s my goal to bring the convention to The Liberty Papers’ reader. Any suggestions for what you would like me to cover, who I interview, and what questions you would like me to ask would be greatly appreciated!

**UPDATE** Jason Pye will also be adding content to The Liberty Papers throughout the weekend:

I am taking a video camera and a laptop and will be updating daily both here and The Liberty Papers. You may even see a post or two over at Red State.

There will be a few battles between moderates and anarchists, mainly over the platform and Bob Barr. Over a beer not too long ago, I told Daniel Adams, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, that I expected a walkout of different factions at some point during the convention.

Pye has much more insight to the inner workings of the Libertarian Party than I do, so I think his take on the event will be very interesting. Between the two of us, I think we will have the convention covered quite well.

ACLU Strikes A Blow Against Freedom Of Speech & Association

Of course, they tell you it’s all in the name of “fairness”. But their position on the media is nothing more than a blow against freedom:

“Under the pre-December FCC rules, media companies had been already consolidated to the point that threatened our marketplace and public debate. Six major companies control most of the media in the country, including the most popular sites on the Internet. Three titans, Comcast, AOL and Time Warner, own 40 percent of households with cable and a single company owns 1200 radio stations.

“With passage of Senator Dorgan’s resolution, Congress will direct the FCC to prevent further consolidation. The Murdochs of the industry argue that further consolidation will offer Americans more media outlets over the Internet, TV, radio and print. But it is still a handful of corporations controlling everything we read, watch, listen to. We urge Congress to take the lead in returning the limits on media cross-ownership to their pre-December rules.”

There are a lot of things that are wrong with the media in this country. Much of it is dominated by the lowest common denominator, as your typical Hannity & Colmes episode will show (not to mention Nancy Grace). The nightly news can’t give more than a 30 second treatment to any topic more weighty than a kitten rescued from a tree. And as Jefferson once said, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” To say that the average American is ill-informed would be a compliment, as most are not informed at all.

The question then follows; what do we do about it? To answer that question, though, requires us to answer quite a few more. We must ask whether or not the proposed solution will actually solve the problem. In this case, will the proposed restriction on mergers improve the quality of information presented to the American public in any meaningful way? Then, we must ask about the unintended consequences of the proposed solution, to ensure that the cure won’t be worse than the disease.

Inherent in both of these questions is a trap. The idea here is that we want to make the situation better. “Better” is a subjective term, and what I view as better may not be what you view as better. The trap is whether it is morally legitimate for the we– defined as 50%+1– to take away the rights of the other 49%. Or, to put it in terms even the ACLU might understand, exactly what situation makes it legitimate for the majority to curtail the civil liberties of the minority?

Judging all of these questions, I doubt that reducing freedom would result in a more diverse media landscape. I think back to the days of the American beer market after Prohibition. A diverse market in the realm of 2000 breweries nationwide, due to government policy, dropped to under 200 (and by the 1970’s, under 100). It took the legalization of homebrewing in 1978– Jimmy Carter’s greatest achievement, IMHO– to revitalize the movement. It was purely government getting out of the way that opened the doors to the America of 2008, where there are roughly 1500 breweries nationwide, a number which is growing every year. Bland macro American lagers were replaced by microbrewed beers which push the limits of brewing in every way.

Look at the American media market. Where is it least diverse? Areas of the spectrum where Congress must regulate heavily: network television and mainstream radio. Because these areas are so heavily regulated, and the cost of entry is so high, the media must be as bland as possible for fear of losing their privileged (and lucrative for advertisers) slot. Where is more diversity found? Cable, satellite radio, and the internet– less regulated media! The rise of libertarianism online, up to and including the incredible response surrounding the Ron Paul campaign, is but one example of what these changes may bring. And many of these markets, such as the internet, are still in their infancy. The long-term impact is not yet completely understood.

But even beyond the question of efficacy is the question of propriety. Even if the outcome were to be judged “better” by a majority of Americans, does that justify the curtailing of rights to achieve the outcome? Morally, I would say no, but that point will likely be debated by many utilitarians. Legally, though, the Constitution would suggest that this curtailment would still be improper. Constitutionally, the government has not been delegated the power to engage in these actions. In fact, the founding fathers believed such freedoms as speech and association to be so important that they explicitly protected them from infringement by the government.

We’ve come a long way since 1787, and nobody listens to that old-fashioned document, but you’d think the ACLU at least would understand such issues, since they fight against censorship and for liberties on a daily basis. I guess capitalism isn’t a liberty they understand or agree with.

Hat Tip: Radley Balko, who let his ACLU membership subside due to this issue.

The People of Yavapai County, Their District Attorney, and Their Sherriff Cordially Invite Serial Killers To Hunt On Their Land

If you are a serial killer who is looking for human prey, you can find some very nice hunting grounds Yapavai County in Arizona. At night, you will be able to force any car you want to stop in a deserted spot at your whim – all you have to do is put some blue flashing lights and a siren on your car and act like a sherrifs deputy..

That is because the sherriff’s office has announced that it is willing to use deadly force to stop motorists on highways even if they are in fear for their safety and are unsure whether the person signaling tha they should pull over is a police officer or not.

And, yesterday, a jury in the county gave its stamp of approval, convicting Dibor Roberts of felony flight and resisting arrest after she failed to pull over on a dark highway:

On Cornville Road, well before the populated area, Sheriff’s Sergeant Jeff Newnum apparently tired of waiting for Roberts to reach a settled area. While he was, in fact, a police officer, he now proceeded to justify every fear an American may have about rogue cops. He raced his cruiser in front of Roberts’s car, forcing her off the road. He then smashed her driver’s-side window with his baton and grabbed a cellphone she was using to check his identity. Accounts vary at this point. While police deny it, the press has reported that Newnum dragged Roberts from her vehicle, threw her to the ground, and handcuffed her while driving his knee into her back.

The sheriff argued that Mrs Roberts should have known that the vehicle signaling her was a police cruiser because it was “fully marked”. I doubt this; I don’t think markings will be visible on a dark road when the only illumination is provided by bright blue lights flashing in rapid and slightly disorienting pattern. Nor is the sheriff troubled by the way the traffic stop was effected. In fact, he praised the officer’s actions, claiming that the officer did the stop “by the book”.

So, it seems that the law enforcement community in Yapavai county is adamant: if someone signals a car driving on a dark county road in the middle of the night and orders them to pull over, they should do it, or face a potentially lethal car crash. They should not arm themselves after they stop, because then the officer is authorized to shoot the driver. Rather they should pull over and meekly await the orders of whomever owns the car with the flashing blue lights. And, if they are lucky, it will be a police officer and not a Ted Bundy who knocks on their window.

H/T J.D. Tucille of the Disloyal opposition

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.

Did the FBI Just Admit That Drug Dealers Are Victims?

Last week some ex LAPD officers were convicted in Federal Court.  These thugs had been convicted of conducting numerous home invasions, violently battering the people they found there and tossing the homes for illegal drugs which they then fenced.

The FBI, understandably proud of its role in apprehending these criminals, has issued the following press release:

Evidence presented at the plea hearings and the January 2008 trial of co-conspirators William and Joseph Ferguson revealed that Palomares and Loaiza were members of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that committed over 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Los Angeles area between early 1999 and June of 2001. Palomares was the ringleader of this conspiracy, which included other law enforcement officers as well as drug dealers. The robberies generally were committed after the group received information that a particular location was involved in illegal drug-trafficking. The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying badges who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were restrained, threatened or assaulted during the search. These assaults included firing a stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons and putting a gun in the mouth of a victim. When the group stole drugs, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs, then split the profits from these sales among the group.

In all, 17 defendants, including law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections, have been convicted of federal crimes in connection with the conspiracy. Co-defendant Joseph Ferguson was sentenced to 97 months in prison on May 5, 2008.

“ These defendants, who were sworn to serve and protect the people of Los Angeles, went from enforcing the law to breaking the law,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute those who cross that line.”

“ With brazen disregard for the safety of those he was victimizing, Ruben Palomares repeatedly violated the sanctity of the law he was sworn to uphold,” said Thomas P. O’Brien, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

Reading this press release, I can’t help but notice that the FBI referred to the people who had drugs stolen from their home as ‘victims’.  But why?  After all, all the actions the corrupt policemen took during their home invasions would have been quite legal had they been executing a warrant.   The only difference in their actions were that they a) didn’t arrest the inhabitants for drug posession, b) they sold the drugs.

It is clear that the people whom these corrupt policemen robbed were treated better than they would have been had the policemen been conducting an official counter-narcotics operation.  The inescapable conclusion:  if the drug dealers these police robbed were ‘victims’, then all of those who are arrested for drug dealing and drug possession must be considered victims too.

Hat Tip:  The Agitator

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.

In Favor Of The Electoral College

Why do I like the electoral college?

Because living in California, these people aren’t canceling out my vote.

Remember, those of you who worship at the altar of democracy, these people are actually allowed to vote. Hannitized, every last one of them.

It’s about individual rights, people, not about democracy. The former is an end, the latter is a means. And that means– with voters like these– doesn’t always [or even usually] lead to increased freedom and individual rights.

Bob Barr On The California Gay Marriage Decision

Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Bob Barr released the following statement about yesterday’s ruling from the California Supreme Court on gay marriage:

“Regardless of whether one supports or opposes same sex marriage, the decision to recognize such unions or not ought to be a power each state exercises on its own, rather than imposition of a one-size-fits-all mandate by the federal government (as would be required by a Federal Marriage Amendment which has been previously proposed and considered by the Congress). The decision today by the Supreme Court of California properly reflects this fundamental principle of federalism on which our nation was founded.

“Indeed, the primary reason for which I authored the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 was to ensure that each state remained free to determine for its citizens the basis on which marriage would be recognized within its borders, and not be forced to adopt a definition of marriage contrary to its views by another state. The decision in California is an illustration of how this principle of states’ powers should work.”

Constitutionally speaking, of course, Barr is entirely correct. If states like New York, New Jersey, and California want to legalize gay marriage, they should be allowed to do so. The problem with the DOMA, though, is that it would seem to be a direct violation of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. With very limited exceptions, states are required to recognize the validly passed laws of their sister states, including laws about issues like marriage, adoption, and inheritance.

If lesbian couple legally married in New Jersey moves to, say, South Carolina because of a job change, does this mean they wouldn’t be entitled to same benefits as any other married couple, or that they wouldn’t be treated as a married couple if one of them happened to die while living in South Carolina ?

More importantly, though, Federalism simply doesn’t mean the same thing that it meant before the Civil War. The passage of the 14th Amendment, and the Supreme Court case law that has grown from that Amendment, forever changed the relationship between the people, the states, and the Federal Government, and one of the things that changed is the idea that you don’t lose your rights as an American citizen simply because you move from one state to another.

Barr’s position isn’t per se wrong. It’s just incomplete. Which is more than I can say for guys like John McCain.

ICE Sending Drugs Out Of The Country — Inside Deportees

Our government sure has a strange take on drugs. If you want to take them to get high, or to improve sports performance, or to dull the pain of debilitating diseases, you deserve to be put in jail. But if they’re trying to make someone malleable and complacent, such as schoolchildren, drugs are great!

And, sadly, if they just want you to shut up and get on a plane, they’ll inject you with all manner of dangerous psychoactive medications, just to make their own jobs easier:

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the “pre-flight cocktail,” as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.

Such episodes are among more than 250 cases The Washington Post has identified in which the government has, without medical reason, given drugs meant to treat serious psychiatric disorders to people it has shipped out of the United States since 2003 — the year the Bush administration handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security’s new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.

Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.

By “extra doses” they’re referring to doses several multiples the dose given to people with severe psychotic mental illnesses. Done without a court order, with no apparent need, by people who have greater incentive to keep a deportee quiet than keep him mentally well. Like much of what you see with government, arbitrary power is awarded to people who have little accountability and no incentive to use it wisely.

The United States– a nation which prides itself on its adherence to individual rights– has recently been forced to engage in debates of whether it’s okay to torture enemies, and now whether it’s humane to inject [usually] non-violent illegal immigrants with psychoactive drugs in order to shut them up. And then they have the gall to refer to their intravenous concoction by the euphemism “pre-flight cocktail.” I’ll bet if you try to buy this cocktail in an airport bar, it won’t be on the menu.

There’s a word for this: hubris. Those who would engage in or sanction behavior like this must believe that they are above the law, or that they are the law. They believe that while they wish to control others, they are above the need for control. And, when pressed, you’d likely get most of them to defend their actions as necessary or justified, even if unlawful and immoral.

Thankfully, there has been enough public response to this practice that it is now at least officially forbidden. But at least one known case exists since the policy change to suggest that it hasn’t completely ceased:

His record offers contradictory evidence about whether there was psychiatric justification for the drugs he got, though it seems to suggest that there was not. A one-page “patient summary” for Ayoub says “Med/Psych Alert Documents: None.” His medical escort log labels him a mental health case and says he had a “depressed mood” and an “anxiety state.”

A handwritten note in his escort file, from a psychiatrist who saw him at the Elizabeth center, first says Ayoub was not likely to endanger himself or anyone else — then, lower on the same page, says he might. On the next page of the file is another note, this one written two days before his flight, from the psychiatrist in charge of aviation medicine. It says that Ayoub’s case is a “behavioral escort,” not a psychiatric one, and that the nurse “is only to give medications to the patient if he agrees to take them. He will only use involuntary treatment if the patient is at imminent risk of hurting himself or others.”

That is not what happened.

“Detainee tearful and wringing hands,” his medical log begins. An hour later, it says: “Detainee increasingly agitated and resisting clothing change. Detainee is now crying and screaming” at two guards. A nurse at the Elizabeth detention center slid two milligrams of the anti-anxiety drug, Ativan, into his left shoulder.

Immigration officials said his deportation was “consistent” with the June policy that allows medication only when a detainee “may be a risk to himself or others.”

“I was feeling my head was leaving my body,” Ayoub remembers. “I was losing control over my body.” He was groggy but awake when he arrived with guards and the nurse at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and boarded the nonstop flight to Egypt.

Before the plane took off, he remembers, he called over a flight attendant and “asked them to tell the pilot I didn’t want to leave.” The nurse stuck a needle into his right arm this time. That injection put him to sleep.

The records are relatively ambiguous on whether this sedation was necessary. I’d say that a “depressed mood” and “anxiety state” are probably consistent with being forcibly removed from the country you’ve chosen as home and sent back against your will. The description of “crying and screaming” is more severe. After the Kathryn Johnston event, though, I’m not necessarily trusting in the official report. At the very least, the second injection seems much less necessary.

The government gave us the “This is your brain on drugs” advertisement, but they jump to the use of chemical restraints when mechanical restraint would probably be much more humane. It’s clear to me that they simply don’t want to listen to these deportees on an overseas flight, and that the drugs are more about the government’s well-being than the deportees’. This practice is inhumane, morally wrong, and fails to live up to the ideals upon which this nation was founded.

Hat Tip: The Agitator

A Victory In The War Against The Food Police

Chicago, city of broad shoulders and big steaks, has repealed its ban against fois gras:

Chicagoans can feast on foie gras once more. The Chicago City Council just repealed the ban on its sale that it put in place two years ago.

Monica Davey, the Times’s Chicago bureau chief, says the ban has been a source of embarrassment for the city and the repeal comes as residents have accused officials of trying to micromanage people’s lives, with talk of prohibiting smoking even outside along the lakefront and eliminating transfats from restaurants.

No other American city has prohibited foie gras’ sale, but California has passed a law banning it as of 2012.

The Chicago council’s vote was 37-6, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Web site.

In bringing the measure to the floor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, never a supporter of the ban, ignored pleas from the ban’s sponsor, Alderman Joe Moore, who, The Tribune said, warned his colleagues that, “Tomorrow it could happen to you.”

What “it” was wasn’t clear.

This is why I love Chicago, and America.

Farmers Struggling Despite High Corn Prices

With record-high corn prices, and plenty of subsidy money floating around, an interesting thing is happening. Less farmers are growing corn!

Why? Because the inputs used in growing corn are rising in price even more quickly:

The amount of corn planted in the U.S. is expected to dip this year. Rice acreage in California, which sells as much as half its crop overseas, is predicted to increase by only a small amount. Instead, farmers are planting cheaper-to-grow wheat and soy.

They say the reason is simple. The cost of planting some crops is rising as fast as their prices, and sometimes faster, leaving little incentive to increase production of some foods that remain in high demand around the world.

Farmers typically plant their crops once a year and not all of them cost the same to produce. Both corn and rice, for example, require more fertilizer to grow and fuel for farmers to tend than other crops. As the prices of those supplies rise faster than the prices of some commodities, farmers are shying away from some expensive crops.

This, of course, came as a bit of a shock to me. I never realized that corn was so resource-intensive to grow. So much so that the cost of growing corn makes it barely sustainable, even with the subsidies and record prices caused by high demand.

But that raises another question. If corn is a very resource-intensive crop for us to grow, why in hell would we want to use it as a fuel source?!

Quote Of The Day: Imperial Presidency Edition

Gene Healy from his new book, The Cult Of The Presidency:

The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. He—or she—is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.

This messianic campaign rhetoric merely reflects what the office has evolved into after decades of public clamoring. The vision of the president as national guardian and spiritual redeemer is so ubiquitous it goes virtually unnoticed. Americans, left, right, and other, think of the “commander in chief” as a superhero, responsible for swooping to the rescue when danger strikes. And with great responsibility comes great power.

It’s difficult for 21st-century Americans to imagine things any other way. The United States appears stuck with an imperial presidency, an office that concentrates enormous power in the hands of whichever professional politician manages to claw his way to the top. Americans appear deeply ambivalent about the results, alternately cursing the king and pining for Camelot. But executive power will continue to grow, and threats to civil liberties increase, until citizens reconsider the incentives we have given to a post that started out so humble.

As Healy notes, it wasn’t supposed to be this way and we’ve only got ourselves to blame for the way things have turned out.

Open Thread: Who’s Worse For President

Which Presidential candidate is worse for liberty, John McCain or Barack Obama?

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.

The Revolution: Reviewed

Glenn Reynolds reviews Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto:

The main shortcoming in Paul’s book, as with his candidacy, is in the follow through, the transition from critique to action. Although he does include a chapter entitled “The Revolution,” about reducing the size of government, it’s a pretty skimpy plan. Were we to see a Ron Paul Administration, with a House and Senate made up of, well, Ron Pauls, it might have a chance of succeeding, though even so he’s a bit timid in places – proposing a freeze on the budgets of cabinet departments instead of their outright abolition, for example, despite noting that only State, Defense, and Justice have clear constitutional mandates. But given the unlikelihood of a Paul Administration, and the even greater unlikelihood of a Paul Congress, his policy prescriptions aren’t likely to bear fruit. But those who want to see liberty progress right here and right now will look in vain for suggestions on what they might do, right here and right now, to make progress.

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and today’s monster government didn’t spring up overnight. It was the result of incremental expansion. Given that we’re not likely to see an opportunity to downsize the federal government overnight, or even in a single Presidential term, those of libertarian inclinations might well look to incremental approaches to reining in Big Government. They will be well advised, however, to look elsewhere than Revolution: A Manifesto. Still, if Fabian Libertarianism is to have a future, it will owe much to the consciousness-raising of the Paul campaign. Socialist candidate Eugene Debs, after all, never got elected President either, but within a few decades much of his platform was adopted by the Democratic Party. May Paul enjoy similar influence on the future of national politics.

Reynolds also points out the difference between Paul and those libertarian Republicans who did not rally to his cause:

Paul and I are both libertarians, but of different varieties. Paul is an old-fashioned Rothbardian. I’m more of a Heinleinian libertarian and we, like the Randian libertarians, tend to view national defense as more important than the Rothbardians do. Paul’s view, essentially, is that if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us. I’m not particularly persuaded by this. First, even during the minimal-government era of Thomas Jefferson we wound up at war with the Barbary Pirates (in many ways, the spiritual antecedents of today’s Islamic terrorists). And second, Paul is not an isolationist – he favors much more commercial and cultural engagement with foreign countries, something which, if experience is any guide, is as likely to anger Islamic fundamentalists and other varieties of terrorists and tyrants as is the establishment of foreign bases.

All in all, though, it is a fairly positive review, even though I probably agree more with Reynolds on foreign policy than I do with Paul.

I’ve got my own copy on the way from Amazon at some point this month — thanks to an apparent “book bomb” by his supporters, Paul’s book is currently on back order — and I’ll have a review of my own up after I’ve read it.

Bob Barr Announces Presidential Run

As expected, former Congressman Bob Barr, announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for President today:

(CNN) – Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr formally jumped into the White House race Monday as a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.

Barr, the onetime darling of conservatives who led the impeachment fight against former President Bill Clinton, said he is running because voters want a choice beyond the two political parties.

“They believe that America has more and better to offer than what the current political situation is serving up to us,” he said Monday at the National Press Club in Washington. “The reason for that is very simple, they believe in America as I believe in America. We believe in an America that is not and should not be and should never be driven by fear as current policies on behalf of both parties are in this country.”

Barr, 59, represented Georgia’s 7th congressional district from 1995-2003, and became an increasingly vocal critic of President Bush, especially over the president’s support of the Patriot Act. He formally left the Republican Party in 2006.

The next step is the LP Convention in Denver next week where Barr faces what looks to be somewhat of an uphill fight against party purists.

Update: Reason’s David Weigel attended the event:

The smallish room Bob Barr booked for his presidential announcement was overflowing with journalists. I’ve seen every Ron Paul 2008 event held at the venue, and they never drew this sort of interest: There were, I think, four working reporters at the press conference announcing the haul from the first momeybomb. But Barr’s announcement drew live reporters from the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post (even if it was the famously snarky “Sketch” author Dana Milbank). Barr foreign policy pal Doug Bandow stood by him at the podium, and foreign policy maven Jim Bovard sat in the audience.


Is Barr picking up the Ron Paul vote? He acrobatically avoided tying his campaign to Paul, but I talked to a few familiar Paulites in the audience. Ron Paul Rider Michael Maresco, who staged a 60-day bike ride across the country to support Paul, shook hands with Barr then told me he would back him. Brad Jansen, a ubiquitous DC organizer for Paul and manager of one of the Ron Paul Republicans’ campaigns for the House (Vern McKinley, in the DC exurbs), talked to Barr about writing a follow-up to his 2002 Liberty article defending him against attacks by the then-leadership of the LP.

This sounds more and more like it could be a very interesting campaign

H/T: Jason Pye

Barack Obama On The Drug War

Don’t count anything other than the audacity of hype when it comes to the War On (Some) Drugs:

As president, I would use the bully pulpit of my office to warn Americans about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs, and I would put greater resources into enforcement of existing drug laws. I would also convene a summit of the commissioners of the professional sports leagues, as well as university presidents, to explore options for decreasing the use of these drugs.

So much for anything new, huh ?

H/T: Freedom Democrats

Question Of The Day: Time To Invade Burma ?

Time Magazine asks the question:

That’s why it’s time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma. Some observers, including former USAID director Andrew Natsios, have called on the U.S. to unilaterally begin air drops to the Burmese people regardless of what the junta says. The Bush Administration has so far rejected the idea — “I can’t imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday — but it’s not without precedent: as Natsios pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid without the host government’s consent in places like Bosnia and Sudan.

A coercive humanitarian intervention would be complicated and costly. During the 2004 tsunami, some 24 U.S. ships and 16,000 troops were deployed in countries across the region; the mission cost the U.S. $5 million a day. Ultimately, the U.S. pledged nearly $900 million to tsunami relief. (By contrast, it has offered just $3.25 million to Burma.) But the risks would be greater this time: the Burmese government’s xenophobia and insecurity make them prone to view U.S. troops — or worse, foreign relief workers — as hostile forces. (Remember Black Hawk Down?) Even if the U.S. and its allies made clear that their actions were strictly for humanitarian purposes, it’s unlikely the junta would believe them. “You have to think it through — do you want to secure an area of the country by military force? What kinds of potential security risks would that create?” says Egelend. “I can’t imagine any humanitarian organization wanting to shoot their way in with food.”

Not only is it hard to imagine, it’s hard to imagine how it could succeed without thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of innocent Burmese being victimized, most likely by their own government.

Let’s face it, the Burmese junta is so unpopular that any move to move in on their territory to help people is unlikely to arouse all that much international condemnation.

The problem is, what do you do after that ?

Delivering the aid and seeing that it gets to the people who need it is one thing. Then comes rebuilding, and that means a near-permanent presence in a country that very few people know anything about.

As with most international interventions for “humanitarian” reasons (Somalia anyone ?), military action in Burma is likely to lead to even more problems than we would be trying to solve.

Why Libertarians Never Get Taken Seriously, Exhibit A

Via Third Party Watch, here’s a rather bizarre comment from Mary Ruwart, one of the candidates for the LP’s Presidential nomination:

For years, myself and other libertarian candidates have pointed out that “when guns are banned, only criminals will have guns.” The shift in popular perception has come about primarily because courageous Libertarian candidates are willing to teach the American public about the benefits of liberty, even at the cost of being “slimed” by the media. I am proud to be counted among those candidates, proud to be saving lives, especially the lives of our children.

Today, other bans, such as the ones against child pornography, are touted as panaceas to “save the children.” Like drug prohibition and the ban on firearms, these bans backfire, harming the very innocents they are intended to help. Anyone who believes in liberty can see the pattern. Bans and prohibitions drive vices underground, where participants have no legal recourse when they experience exploitation.

Bans make criminals out of 17-year-olds having consensual sex with 15-year-olds, because the younger partner is presumed too immature to make an informed decision. These draconian laws destroy the lives of our young people by making them carry the label of “sex offender” for the rest of their lives. Yet as late as the last century, it was not at all unusual for American boys and girls to marry and start families in their early teens!

Bans based on arbitrary age limits aren’t needed to protect those too young to make informed decisions about sexual conduct. Pre-pubescent children, for example, don’t have the physical or emotional maturity to even understand what sex is all about. When an adult engages in sexual conduct with a young child, we don’t need a law specifying an age limit in order to convict those adults of rape. All we need to do is show a jury that the child wasn’t competent to consent.

Yea, that’s just what the Libertarian Party needs. They’ve been known as the drug legalization party for years. Now, Ruwart is suggesting that they sign on to policy prescriptions that we brand them as the party who wants to legalize child pornography and sex with children.

There are legitimate issues regarding age of consent laws as they apply to 17 year olds, but they don’t need to be part of a Presidential campaign or a Political Party platform.

If the LP nominates Ruwart, they’ll be even more irrelevant in 2008 than they have been in the past.

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