Monthly Archives: August 2008

Is Palin a reformer and fiscal conservative?

One thing I am hearing right now is that Sarah Palin is a fiscal conservative. The Club for Growth released a statement on a potential Palin VP candidacy that praises her stance on earmarks and support for opening ANWR.

Fighting earmarks and opening ANWR are important, but they are only half the battle.

When the Alaska Creamery Board decided to close the state-owned Matanuska Maid Dairy, she objected. She couldn’t fire Creamery Board members, so she fired members of the Alaska Agriculture Board who in turn replaced Creamery Board members. The Matanuska Maid Dairy remained open, jacked up milk prices and eventually closed anyway after substantial losses. Only then did Palin believe that it should be sold to a private company. Unfortunately, the state received no bids for the diary and taxpayers were stuck with a loss.

John McCain has been critical of Barack Obama’s plan for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, correctly citing that it would hurt potential oil exploration in the United States and increase dependence on foreign oil. Criticism should be point toward Sarah Palin as well.

Palin signed a windfall profits tax into law last year that has taken $10 billion from oil companies. Part of the plan, as conservative blog Hot Air noted earlier this month, is very similar to a plan pushed by Barack Obama:

Palin’s plan looks similar in concept to Barack Obama’s plan. The state gave Alaskans $1200 checks from oil revenues as a one-time bonus to pay for increased fuel prices, a move Palin pushed. That echoes the Obama plan to send one-time rebates to taxpayers, funded by similar levies on oil companies.

However, the results in Alaska should warn the rest of the country about pursuing this policy. Already oil companies have stopped drilling on state lands, thanks to the tax burden Alaska imposes. It should be cheaper to drill and extract from these areas, but the oil companies have decided to focus their investment instead on the Gulf, where the costs and risks would normally be higher. In Alaska, the government takes 75% of the price on a barrel of oil at current prices, which gives them no incentive to work there.

Then there is ethics. She has made a name for herself as a reformer. Palin demanded answers from and openly criticized Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens when he was indicted. She was right to do so. As far as I’m concerned, Stevens is a crook for more things that what he was indicted for. It turns out that she may have ethics issues of her own.

Walt Monegan, former Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner, claims that he was pressured by Palin and individuals close to her pressured him to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, who happens to be Palin’s former brother-in-law. Monegan was eventually fired by Palin:

Monegan said phone calls and questions from the Palin administration and the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, about trooper Mike Wooten started shortly after Monegan was hired and continued up to one or two months ago.

The governor herself also had a brief conversation with him about Wooten in February, Monegan said.

The new assertions from Monegan, who has been mostly silent on his abrupt firing July 11, conflict with what the Republican governor said earlier in the week. She said she never put pressure on the commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband and no one from her office had complained about Wooten. She has also said replacing Monegan with Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp had nothing to do with Wooten. She has offered little explanation for the dismissal.
[…]
Monegan said he still isn’t sure why he was fired but thought that Wooten could be part of it. “I don’t know that it’s all of it. … I worked at the pleasure of the governor,” he said.

I’m sure more will come out about Palin in the coming months. I don’t know why conservatives are jumping up and down about Palin. She doesn’t seem all that great. She may support transparent government, but that does not make someone a fiscal conservative.

Note: Jason Pye is on the staff of Libertarian Presidential nominee Bob Barr.

Bob Barr: The Lone Candidate in the Lone Star State

As with most third party campaigns, the Barr/Root campaign has had an uphill battle to make the ballot in certain states. In Texas, however, Bob Barr is the only presidential candidate on the ballot. The McCain and Obama campaigns have failed to meet the August 26th deadline to file the necessary paperwork and are not even listed as possible write-in candidates.

Bob Barr’s campaign manager, Russ Verney, doesn’t for a second believe that Texas will uphold its law to keep McCain and Obama off the ballot:

“We know all about deadlines,” says Verney. “We are up against them constantly in our fight to get on the ballot across the nation. When we miss deadlines, we get no second chances. This is a great example of how unreasonable deadlines chill democracy.”

“Republicans and Democrats make certain that third party candidates are held to ballot access laws, no matter how absurd or unreasonable,” says Verney. “Therefore, Republicans and Democrats should be held to the same standards.”

In another press release, Verney elaborated more on this Texas two-step around the state law:

“According to Texas Election Code § 192.031 , a political party is allowed to have their candidates on the ballot if “the names of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president” are submitted before “5 p.m. of the 70th day before” the presidential election.

Given that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party nominated a candidate before Aug. 26, it would be impossible for either party to file under Texas law.

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office claims that both parties “filed something” on time, despite the fact that neither party had nominated a candidate by the deadline as required by Texas law.

“We agree that unreasonably early deadlines are absurd,” says Verney. “We’ve run into them in states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Maine during our fight for ballot access across the nation. But if third parties are required to adhere to the law, then we expect the same for the candidates of any other party. Maybe this will show Republicans and Democrats what it is like to be on the wrong side of ballot access laws.”

It doesn’t take a Harvard law degree to know that the Barr/Root campaign has a legitimate case here. If we were truly governed by the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men then there is no question that Bob Barr should be the only choice on the Texas ballot (I sincerely hope that the Barr/Root campaign challenges the Texas Secretary of State Office and/or the McCain and Obama campaigns in court if only to make a point and perhaps grab some headlines).

Upon reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps a good solution to improve informed voting would be to require all candidates for all offices to be write-in candidates. This would mean that in order to vote, the voter would at least have to know the name of his/her preferred candidate. If the candidates have campaigned effectively, then their supporters should have no problem writing their names next to the office.* This would at least disenfranchise the most illiterate and most ignorant individuals from inflicting their illiteracy and ignorance on the rest of us.

» Read more

Obama And The Libertarians

Reason’s Steve Chapman lists some reasons why libertarians should not panic if Barack Obama becomes President:

He’s liberal, but not that liberal. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards—even when it exposed him to charges that he didn’t support the holy grail of universal health care.

Obama did pander to the left’s phobia about globalization by villainizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as soon as he had the nomination locked up, he confessed to Fortune magazine that his NAFTA rhetoric had been “overheated and amplified.”

Organized labor howled about “corporate influence” when Obama hired Jason Furman as his chief economic adviser. Among Furman’s sins is his longtime association with Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed President Clinton to emphasize deficit reduction rather than big new spending programs.

He’s open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama “likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research.” Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama’s advisers, told the Times, “I’ve never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows.”

That would be a change not only from more doctrinaire liberals but also from the Bush administration, which has never been exactly obsessed with real-world data. If Obama were a true believer, he wouldn’t care so much about evidence.

Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe says, “Ideologues don’t need that information, or want it, because they know what they want to do.” Ask yourself: Is there any conceivable evidence that would cause George W. Bush to question the wisdom of tax cuts?

He’s not enchanted with the big-government model. On health care, Obama opposed Clinton’s proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide. He balked when she said all adjustable mortgage rates should be frozen for five years—with Obama’s campaign quoting an expert who said, accurately, that it would be “disastrous.”

He’s far less suspicious of the operations of markets than most people in his party. And when was the last time a Democratic nominee openly worried about corporate tax burdens? Furman has said that if some loopholes can be closed, Obama “would like to cut the corporate tax rate.”

Chapman does raise some good points, and some of the dire predictions coming from Republicans these days about Obama remind me of the things that were said about Bill Clinton when he was running for President in 1992. Yes, things looked bad at the beginning when he tried to ram Hillary-care down our throats, but once that failed he moderated significantly and actually became the Democratic Leadership Council-type President that some thought he would be. For the most part, the Clinton years weren’t any worse than the last eight years of George W. Bush, and there’s some reason to argue that, for liberty, the Bush years have actually been worse.

Will the same thing happen with Obama ?

My Thoughts On The Convention

On a Purdue football message board, one of the off-topic threads asked what we thought of the Democratic National Convention. My reply:

I hear Obama himself is speaking on Thursday, right?

I think NC State @ South Carolina will be far more compelling viewing…

As with most things when it comes to politics, the convention will be about as authentic to what will actually be done in Washington as the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is to the life of an average peasant in a Shanghai slum.

As I’ve said before, I absolutely hate politics and want nothing whatsoever to do with it. The only reason I blog about politics is that– despite my wishes to be left alone– politicians seem to believe they have the right to tell me what to do and how to live.

They may have the power to do so, but the last thing I want to do is actually take part in it. So I’ll be tuned into ESPN on Thursday, rather than watching with glowing adoration as St. Obama tells us how he will solve all our problems.

Biden And Pay For Play

First, a disclaimer. I’m not singling out Joe Biden for the below piece for any reason other than that he’s now become a vice-presidential candidate. I firmly believe that situations like the below are quite common in our government, at all levels. That being said, this one is particularly conspicuous.

Joe Biden, breaking ranks with many Democratic senators (and his running mate, Obama) at the time, voted in favor of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, widely favored by the banks and credit-card companies.

A principled move by a maverick willing to buck the party line? Perhaps, but as we follow Occam’s razor, petty corruption seems more likely:

A son of presumed Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported bankruptcy legislation promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign said Biden helped forge a bipartisan compromise on the law, which makes it harder for consumers to obtain bankruptcy protection in the courts.

MBNA’s consulting payments to Hunter Biden, first reported by the New York Times, followed his departure in 2001 from the company, where he had been an executive.

MBNA employees have given more than $200,000 to Biden’s Senate campaigns over the last two decades, making donors working for the credit card company the senator’s largest source of campaign money.

Sounds like something I’d expect from the Chicago/Daley political machine. Perhaps that’s why Obama chose Biden? Nah, it’s just a matter of how the system works– i.e. the system’s goal is to perpetuate itself, not to enact the best policies for us.

Libertarians Who Don’t Respect Property Rights

A blogger at Lew Rockwell.com decries the notion that private organizations have the right to make their own rules:

Homeowners’ associations can be filled with hordes of power mongering, petty, little tyrants who love to play Big Bureaucrat and run the lives of everyone else. In Texas – of all places – there is an HOA that will not allow your Hillbilly Cadillac in the driveway. Because it’s too unsightly. Yeah, you know the rules when you move in. But still, non-libertarian people yearn to play the roles of authoritarian bullies who can’t wait to use a bunch of silly and domineering “rules” to control others.

But, you see, there’s a perfectly reasonable libertarian answer to this non-existent problem:

POA’s are entirely a creation of contract. Groups of homeowners come together and form an organization that will accomplish certain goals. Typically, this includes maintaining some standard rules of esthetics for the community, contracting for trash removal, and maintaining property that is owned by the POA members in common rather than by any one person.

When you buy a house that is part of a POA, you agree to certain rules and regulations. These rules can be as mundane as what day you put your trash can out or what color you can paint or front door. Or, they can be as rigid as telling you that you cannot put a sign of any kind in your front yard. In fact, if your front yard is actually POA property, which is true of many townhouse communities here in Northern Virginia, then the property really isn’t yours anyway.

(…)

If you don’t like the rules that a particular POA has then you have several options. For one thing, you don’t have to move there to begin with. In Virginia, sellers are legally required to give buyers a copy of the POA rules and buyers are given an opportunity to review those rules and back out of the contract without penalty. If you’re in a POA and you don’t like the rules, or how they are being enforced then get involved in your community and get the rules changed.

And, most of all, don’t complain when the rules you agreed to take a turn you don’t agree with.

Joe Biden And Liberty

Both The Club For Growth and The Cato Institute are out today with analyses of Joe Biden’s position on economic issues of importance to libertarians and, as you might suspect, it’s not good.

First from Cato on the issue of international trade:

Here are the highlights and lowlights of Biden’s voting record on trade:

On the positive side from a free trade perspective, he voted consistently to maintain normal trade relations with China, including permanent NTR in 2000; for the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1993; for the Uruguay Round Agreements Act in 1994; for the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996; for fast-track trade promotion authority in 1998; to defund enforcement of the travel ban to Cuba; to cut sugar production subsidies; and in favor of the Morocco and Australian free trade agreements in 2004.

On the negative side for those who support the freedom to trade, Biden voted for steel import quotas in 1999; for the 2002 and 2008 protective and subsidy laden farm bills; against trade promotion authority in 2002; against the Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Dominican Republic-Central American FTAs; in favor of the Byrd amendment directing anti-dumping booty to complaining companies; in favor of imposing steep tariffs on imports from China to force changes in that country’s currency regime; and in favor of screening of 100 percent income shipping containers by 2012.

For a senator who prides himself on his foreign policy experience, Biden’s record shows great ambivalence about American participation in the global economy.

The Club for Growth, meanwhile, takes a look at Biden’s positions on a number of economic issues:

“Over his thirty-five years in Washington, Senator Biden has been a reflexive liberal on every single economic issue,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Whether the issue is taxes, spending, regulation, or school choice, Senator Biden has voted consistently for more taxes, more spending, more government, and less freedom and choice. Taxpayers can expect more of the same from the Obama-Biden ticket—more government, less prosperity.”

A few examples:

Joe Biden on Taxes:

  • Voted for President Clinton’s tax hike (RC #247, 1993)
  • Voted against repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (RC #261, 1999)
  • Voted against eliminating the marriage penalty (RC #79, 2001)
  • Voted against the 2001 tax cuts (RC# 170, 2001)
  • Voted against repealing the Death Tax (RC #151, 2002) (RC #109, 2007)
  • Voted against a repeal of the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits (RC #94, 2003)
  • Voted against the 2003 Bush tax cuts (RC #196, 2003)
  • Voted for a 50% windfall profits tax on oil profits (RC #331, 2005)
  • Voted against extending the 2001 tax cuts (RC #118, 2006) (RC #107, 2007)

Joe Biden on Spending:

  • Voted for the Farm Bill in 2002 and 2008 (RC #103, 2002) (RC #130, 2008)
  • Voted in favor of the Bridge to Nowhere (RC #262, 2005)
  • Voted against capping spending (RC #286, 2005)
  • Voted to kill a resolution stating a moral obligation to offset new spending with spending cuts (RC #140, 2007)
  • Voted for the expanded SCHIP bill (RC #307, 2007)
  • Voted against an earmark moratorium (RC #75, 2008)
  • Voted to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill (RC #140, 2008)
  • Was declared Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste in January 2002

(…)

Joe Biden on Regulation:

  • Voted for the burdensome Sarbanes-Oxley legislation (RC #192, 2002)
  • Voted against exempting small businesses from Sarbanes-Oxley (RC #139, 2007)
  • Voted for a minimum wage hike (RC #257, 2005)
  • Voted for the “card check” bill—stripping workers of their right to a secret ballot when voting to form a union (RC #227, 2007)
  • Voted to kill the Davis Bacon waiver (RC #334, 2007)

Joe Biden on School Choice:

  • Voted against a vouchers program for DC schools (RC #260, 1997)
  • Voted against school choice for low-income earners (RC #179, 2001)

(…)

Joe Biden on Political Free Speech:

  • Voted for McCain-Feingold (RC #64, 2001)
  • Not surprising for a liberal Democrat, of course, but yet another indication that there really isn’t anything about an Obama/Biden Administration that libertarians should look forward to.

    Three words on Obamassiah and Biden

    Gross

    Tactical

    Error

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

    Denver Admits That War On Drugs Wastes Police Resources

    There’s some interesting news coming out of Denver as the Democratic National Convention approaches.

    Apparently, the Denver Police are being urged to look the other way and not enforce the city’s law against marijuana possesion while the convention is taking place:

    DENVER – A city drug panel has voted to urge police to refrain from arresting adults for marijuana possession during next week’s Democratic National Convention, but the cops aren’t necessarily on board.

    Lt. Ernie Martinez, the police department’s representative on the panel, said police, bracing for potentially tens of thousands of protesters during the Aug. 25-28 convention, would have more pressing duties than rounding up pot smokers.

    At the same time, he said, authorities wouldn’t ignore blatant flouting of the law. “If something occurs in front of us, we’re going to act,” he said.

    (…)

    Mounted police patrol Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. Thousands of Democrats, protesters and media will attend the Democratic National Convention. (Associated Press)

    A Democratic National Committee banner flies Thursday outside the Pepsi Center in Denver. Protesters will be fenced in at a designated protest area in the vicinity of the Pepsi Center. (Christian Fuchs/The Washington Times)

    Mason Tvert, a panel member and pot-legalization activist, Thursday delivered a copy of the panel’s recommendation to Mr. Hickenlooper and police Chief Gerry Whitman, saying that “we expect police to abide by this very logical recommendation.”

    “If police expect the taxpayers to cover their $1.2 million in overtime during the DNC, it is only fair that they respect the laws adopted by those taxpayers,” said Mr. Tvert, leader of Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation. “There will be plenty for police to do during the DNC aside from arresting or citing adults who are simply making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol.”

    More importantly, the Denver Police will have enough on their hands dealing with a security situation unlike anything they’ve ever faced, why should they waste resources worrying about people who choose to injest a drug no more harmful than a bottle of alcohol ?

    Strange Bedfellows To Say The Least

    Ron Paul endorses Alaska Congressman Don Young (R., Bridge To Nowhere):

    Former Republican presidential contender Ron Paul has endorsed Don Young in his bid to win an 18th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Paul, the 72-year-old congressman from Texas whose maverick presidential bid drew wide support in Alaska, sent out a letter to his supporters here urging them to vote for Young.

    “Don and I have served together in Congress for many years, and I consider him a friend,” Paul wrote in the letter. “Don has been an outspoken voice against environmental extremists over the years and has strongly opposed the types of federal regulatory overreach advocated in the name of environmentalism.”

    Paul and Young are a bit of an odd couple. Paul is a fiscal conservative; Young believes in earmarking federal dollars for Alaska wherever possible. Paul opposes the Iraq war; Young supports it.

    And Young is being opposed by a guy who sounds a heck of a lot better than the King of Pork.

    But, then again, Congressman Paul hasn’t really acted like he thought earmarks were a bad idea either.

    Freedom Democrats isn’t pleased about this at all:

    Ron Paul is very quickly burning any and all credibility he has as a figurehead of the small government movement within the Republican Party. He’s backing a pork-barrel and Mike Huckabee-endorsed Republican over a small government conservative, Sean Parnell, backed by the Club for Growth. Almost all of the scenarios discussed here at Freedom Democrats for the resurgence of true small government conservatives depended on an alliance of sorts between the Club for Growth and the Ron Paul Revolution. Now, we instead have growing signs of an alliance between Mike Huckabee’s Christian conservatives followers and the Ron Paul Revolution. This is sham limited government conservatism. We’ll get a party that will continue its social, cultural, and religious intolerance despite cries of “FREEDOM!” at the top of their lungs.

    I’ve read elsewhere that Ron Paul has generally refused to endorse any candidate running against an incumbent Republican Congressman, even ones that describe themselves as “Ron Paul Republicans.”

    Frankly, I don’t understand the logic behind it.

    H/T: Club For Growth

    TSA Agent Who Endangered 9 Aircraft Won’t Do Prison Time

    A few weeks ago, a man damaged the Total Air Temperature sensors on 9 aircraft. These sensors are critical to the airspeed gage, without them, a pilot can get an inaccurately low or high airspeed reading.. An inaccurate airspeed indication can cause a pilot to go unexpectedly into a stall. To understand the seriousness of this condition, one should recall that the famous Chicago DC-10 crash in 1979 was the result of the plane unexpectedly stalling, in that case because a hydraulic failure had changed the wing’s shape without the pilots knowledge.

    The man who did this damage did not do it willfully. Mistaking the sensors for a ladder, he climbed up them in his zeal to test how well the aircraft were secured against burglars.

    If I had done this, I would be facing many years in jail, charged with various felonies under the statutes governing terroristic threats to aircraft. However, the man who did this will not face jail time. He worked for the TSA, the sworn enemy of the American Shoe Lace Manufacturers Society, which heroically consumes tens of thousands of man hours daily in highly intricate, stylized, and futile security theater. The Aero News Net article is worth reading in full:

    [N]ine American Eagle regional jets were grounded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday.
    Citing sources within the aviation industry, ABC News reports an overzealous TSA employee attempted to gain access to the parked aircraft by climbing up the fuselage… reportedly using the Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes mounted to the planes’ noses as handholds.
    “The brilliant employees used an instrument located just below the cockpit window that is critical to the operation of the onboard computers,” one pilot wrote on an American Eagle internet forum. “They decided this instrument, the TAT probe, would be adequate to use as a ladder.”
    Officials with American Eagle confirmed to ANN the problem was discovered by maintenance personnel, who inspected the planes Tuesday morning… and questioned why the TAT probes all gave similar error indications.
    One Eagle pilot says had the pilots not been so attentive, the damaged probes could have caused problems inflight. TSA agents “are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk,” the pilot wrote on the forum.
    Grounding the planes to replace the TAT probes affected about 40 flights, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances. “We think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told ABCNews.com.
    TSA conducts routine spot inspections of aircraft parked at commercial airports, according to agency spokesman Elio Montenegro. “Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac,” Montenegro said, adding the inspector was attempting to determine whether someone could break into the parked planes.
    Pilots respond that agents are only allowed to check for unlocked cabin doors… a clear security risk, that could indeed compromise security. Indeed, regional airline Mesa Air Group notes “48 percent of all TSA investigations involving Mesa Air Group involve a failure to maintain area/aircraft security.”
    It’s unclear whether that duty also allows an inspector to paw around an aircraft, however.

    H/T: 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.

    Quote Of The Day — Libertarians for Commies Edition

    This time, it’s an incredibly bizarre dispatch from the land of paleo-libertarianism:

    There is a case to be made for Deng Xiaoping, who launched the biggest, fastest increase in prosperity and freedom in the history of the human race, and brought the Chinese people back into the world economy, to their great benefit and ours.

    Yea, as long as you ignore the political oppression, lack of freedom of speech, lack of freedom of the press. suppression of religious beliefs, murder of political dissidents, and that little untidy affair in Tiananmen Square awhile back.

    And, oh yeah, Mussolini made the trains run on on time.

    The quote, by the way, is from Lew Rockwell. One time — perhaps still — buddy of Ron Paul, and one of the reasons why I sometimes think that libertarians will never really be taken seriously until we purge ourselves of the idiots.

    Why Democracy And Individual Liberty Usually Aren’t Compatible

    Sometimes, the wisdom of crowds is as bad as the insanity of a dictator:

    Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary, but they draw the line at imposing that same requirement on the Internet. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say leave radio and TV alone, too.

    (…)

    Fifty-seven percent (57%) say the government should not require websites and blog sites that offer political commentary to present opposing viewpoints. But 31% believe the Internet sites should be forced to balance their commentary

    If the First Amendment were put to a popular vote today, I doubt that it would get a majority.

    Government Reefer Madness Update: Lynch Receives 100 Year Sentence

    This is an update to a post I wrote in late June. Maybe its time to propose some sort of “fully informed jury” legislation and demand a return to federalism?

    Barack Obama: Starting Forced Volunteerism Early

    If you want to go see Barack Obama speak on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, you’ll have to agree to be the guinea pig for his first exercise in forced volunteerism:

    Some of those hoping to wrangle a seat for Barack Obama’s speech were told this week they have to put in six hours of volunteer work for his campaign by Friday to have a shot at a ticket.

    And that ruffled at least a few feathers.

    “My whole reason why I’m so mad about it is because Democrats need to act like Democrats,” said Heather Kreider, a working mother from Centennial.

    “Democrats work for a living, and they have to work and take care of their families. And they say these are open to those in the community, so they shouldn’t ask people to drop everything in their lives for this,” Kreider said Tuesday.

    “It’s not fair. It’s elitist. And they need to practice what they’re preaching,” she added,

    Doing the volunteer work only makes someone eligible for a ticket and doesn’t guarantee one, according to the phone message from the campaign.

    (…)

    People asked to volunteer are those in line for “all star” tickets that will put them closer to the stage and are being contacted first, said Stephanie Mueller, campaign spokeswoman. Applicants who didn’t offer to volunteer will be contacted later this week, she said.

    But Kreider said she is certain she didn’t hit the “volunteer” box on the online application.

    Still, Kreider got a message telling her that she had to do six hours of volunteer work by Friday if she wanted a chance at a ticket. Kreider said she will not do the work.

    “Absolutely not,” she said. “Now it’s pure principal. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter, and this is literally my first touch with the Obama campaign. And it’s just disappointing.”

    You come on now, you can’t tell me you’re surprised.

    After all, Michelle told us months ago that Barack Obama would require us to work.

    Welcome to Obama Nation, my friends.

    Barr Weighs in on No-Knock Raids

    I didn’t see the press release from the Bob Barr campaign when I wrote yesterday’s post so I thought I would pass along some of his thoughts on the issue today. The case Barr is specifically referring to is the recent raid in Berwyn Heights, Maryland. Here are a few excerpts:

    “Absent exigent circumstances, not present here, so-called no-knock raids are an affront to the Constitution,” explains Barr. “So is a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy by the police. Yet the Prince George’s police have done this before—last fall they invaded a house at the wrong address and shot the family dog. All Americans are at risk when the police behave this way. Just ask yourself what might happen if a suspicious package is delivered to your home and the cops bust in,” says Barr.

    “But there is an even larger point. Law enforcement agencies have become more arrogant and less accountable in cases other than those involving drugs. Most people are aware of well-publicized examples like Waco and Ruby Ridge, but similar abuses are common across the country, though they usually receive little or no public notice,” notes Barr. “We all want police to do their jobs well, but part of doing their job well is respecting the people’s constitutional liberties.”

    “As president I will ensure that federal law enforcement agencies set a good example for the rest of the country,” says Barr. “In a Barr administration, government officials will never forget that it is a free people they are protecting.”

    It’s nice to see a presidential candidate address this issue. Clearly, the phenomenon of no-knock raids isn’t on John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s radar at this time.

    Forgot Your ID? Welcome To The Watch List

    Back in June, the TSA decided that you were no longer allowed to fly without ID, even if you submit to a more strenuous search process. At the time, though, there was a loophole. Assuming you had lost or forgotten your ID, and were “cooperative” in assisting screeners to assess your identity, you would still be allowed to fly.

    Many of us thought this was a gaping loophole, because it wouldn’t be very hard to tell the screener that you’d forgotten your ID, show him a Blockbuster Video rental card, and be on your merry way.

    I guess not, though. They went even farther than the old program:

    Fliers without ID placed on TSA list

    The Transportation Security Administration has collected records on thousands of passengers who went to airport checkpoints without identification, adding them to a database of people who violated security laws or were questioned for suspicious behavior.

    The TSA began storing the information in late June, tracking many people who said they had forgotten their driver’s license or passport at home. The database has 16,500 records of such people and is open to law enforcement agencies, according to the TSA.

    Asked about the program, TSA chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday that the information helps track potential terrorists who may be “probing the system” by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.

    The article goes on to say that the TSA has apparently reconsidered, and will be expunging those who “simply” have forgotten their ID from the list. Those who are acting “suspiciously”— ominously undefined— will remain on the list, of course, so if you’ve forgotten your ID, you’d better hope that you find a screener who isn’t having a bad day.

    One wonders how a list, such as the terrorist watch list, can reach a million names. When they can add 16,500 merely forgetful people over the course of a month and a half, though, it ceases to be a mystery. You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Kip, you idiot

    The Olympics And Nationalism… Plus Doug Stanhope

    There’s a lot of hoopla and hullabaloo over the politicization of the Olympics, including the fact that it’s held in a country that is horrendously restrictive of social freedoms.

    But there’s another aspect that’s largely ignored. There is a certain nationalism that follows the Olympics, which is wholly unjustified. As Americans, we are expected to celebrate the accomplishments of American athletes as if they are our own– as if their accomplishments bring glory to America rather than to the athletes themselves. The whole nation-glorification aspect reminds me more of a McCain campaign rally.

    Tonight, the American women’s gymnastics team was bested by the Chinese in the team competition, while the American men’s relay swimming team absolutely destroyed a world record on the way to their own gold medal in that competition. Should I feel pride, as an American, that our men’s swimming team did so well? Should I feel shame, as an American, that our gymnastics team was beaten by the athletes of a nation whose government is deplorable on a level that we Americans are nearly unable to comprehend?

    No. All of this faux-nationalistic-pride is bullshit. I don’t share in any of the wins, nor in any of the defeats, of the American Olympic athletes. I celebrate those Americans who have excelled in these Games, just as I also celebrate those non-Americans who have excelled in these games.

    The Olympics is a competition that pits the best of the best, from around the world, in feats that the rest of us can simply ogle as if they’re super-human. We should celebrate the athletes that medal in these games, whether they’re American, Chinese, Russian, Kenyan, Indian, Chilean, or from any other nation in the world. This is a competition of the best of the best, and we should be celebrating the best, not some faux nationalism of athletes who we have no connection with outside of an arbitrary accident of sharing borders.

    Celebrate those Americans and non-Americans who medal at the games, but understand that their accomplishments are not your accomplishments. As Doug Stanhope said:

    You didn’t medal anywhere. Why should you care if some American who you have never met– and will never meet– beats some foreign athlete who you will never meet?

    A Tale of Two Drug Raids

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For those who wore the badge, they could do no wrong. For the “badge-nots,” they could do no right.

    I only wish this was a work of fiction but it is not. When it comes to drug raids (often no-knock raids), suspects (whether guilty or innocent) are treated with a different standard when a life is taken by mistake. Cory Maye was convicted for defending his home whenever the slain intruder turned out to be Officer Ron Jones who was serving a warrant.

    But what happens when the police shoot the wrong person?

    The AP reported on August 5, 2008 that Sgt. Joseph Chavalia was found “not guilty” on counts of negligent homicide and negligent assault which resulted in the death of Tarika Wilson and the loss of a finger of her year-old son. Wilson was carrying her son and was unarmed.

    Wilson’s boyfriend was the target of the raid as he was a suspected drug dealer.

    The AP article Officers cheer police shooting verdict in Lima* demonstrates this double standard and is ripe for a thorough fisking.

    A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

    Is the police union advocating a “shoot now, ask questions later” policy? If this is the lesson the Lima Police Department is getting from this verdict, then I am very frightened for the residents of Lima (or residents anywhere in the U.S. for that matter). I thought that the police were supposed to identify their target before shooting; this would necessarily require some hesitation.

    Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

    If police officers are afraid of being in this situation here’s an idea: how about not raiding a person’s home whenever there is no immediate threat of danger to others? (such as a hostage situation). Also, before police officers “react in the line of fire” there ought to be “a line of fire.” In this instance, no shots were ever fired by anyone other than the police.

    Jurors on Monday acquitted Sgt. Joseph Chavalia on charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault in the death of Tarika Wilson seven months ago. Her year-old son also was injured.

    Compare the charges against Sgt. Joseph Chavalia versus the charges against Cory Maye**. For the police officer, the death penalty or life in prison wasn’t even on the table. Had Chavalia been convicted on both counts, he would have served a maximum of eight months in jail. For Cory Maye (a civilian), a person who just as Sgt. Chavalia did, shot someone who he thought was a threat when he pulled the trigger, received the death penalty!***

    According to the prosecution in Maye’s case, an individual cannot claim self defense unless s/he has identified the target. Here’s an excerpt from the State’s closing argument in the case:

    “If you take everything he [Cory Maye] said as being true, he’s at least guilty of murder. He just shoots in the direction of the noise without looking, without calling out, without doing anything. I submit to you that’s totally unreasonable. But if you take what he says to be true, he’s at the very least guilty of murder.”

    When a citizen “just shoots” “without looking” its murder but when a police officer shoots because s/he is “reacting in the line of fire” its “Oh well, shit happens” (as his/her fellow police officer cheer when the verdict reads “not guilty.”)

    The article continues:

    Chavalia had testified that he thought his life was in danger when he fired the shots. He said he saw a shadow coming from behind the partially open bedroom door and heard gunshots that he thought were aimed at him.

    It turned out that Wilson didn’t have a weapon and that the gunfire Chavalia heard was coming from downstairs, where officers shot two charging pit bulls.

    I wonder what would happen if a citizen shot a police dog if s/he were threatened?

    Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh repeatedly pointed out during the trial that Wilson was shot even though she didn’t have a gun.

    But jurors were told by visiting Judge Richard Knepper during jury instructions that they could not consider the fact that she was unarmed because that was known only after the shooting.

    Citing a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set guidelines for use of force by police, the jurors were told they could only judge Chavalia’s actions based on what he was aware of when he fired into the bedroom where Wilson was with her six children.

    Once again: one standard for the police and one for the citizen. If the Judge in Cory Maye’s case had given similar instructions to that jury, we probably wouldn’t even know Cory Maye’s name.

    “It was an important distinction and one that had to be upheld,” said Michael Watkins, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Lima.

    “If the rules are changed, officers are going to react later,” Watkins said. “You’re going to have them hesitating, and there are more who are going to be injured or killed.”

    Ugh. What can I say that I haven’t already? All I am asking is that the rules are the same for the citizen as the police. Is that really too much to ask?

    During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

    “Thank God it wasn’t me there and every officer feels the same way,” said James Scanlon, who has been with the Columbus police since 1978.

    Watkins, who joined the Lima department a year before Chavalia in 1976, said he understands why Chavalia shot after hearing the gunfire.

    “I knew there had to be more to it,” he said. “Joe isn’t a trigger happy officer.”

    And I am sure that those who shoot police officers attempting to defend their homes aren’t trigger happy either. It seems to me that it doesn’t much matter if the intruder is a police officer or a violent criminal busting down your door. Either way, your life is in grave danger.

    The verdict further angered Wilson’s family and others in Lima’s black community.

    “The message I got out of all this is that it’s OK for police to go and kill in a drug raid,” said Arnold Manley, pastor of Pilgrim Rescue Missionary Baptist Church.

    That message couldn’t be clearer if it was up in neon lights in Times Square.

    In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Toledo, Wilson’s mother said police could have waited until the woman and her children were out of the house to try and arrest Wilson’s boyfriend, Anthony Terry, the target of the raid.

    No they couldn’t. That would make too much sense. If they would have chosen a more peaceful method, they wouldn’t have been able to wear their spiffy paramilitary SWAT gear.

    The shooting on Jan. 4 led to protests about how police treat minorities in the city where one in four residents is black. Chavalia is white and Wilson was black.

    Chavalia’s lead attorney, Bill Kluge, said he thinks the only reason the officer was charged was because of the reaction within the community.

    I’m not quite sure what to do with that. I’m not one to play the race card but how in the hell did Chavalia get a jury in 2008 without a single black person serving?

    “Had this case waited two or three months going to the grand jury, it might have been different,” he said.

    I know that the public has a short attention span but this is insulting. The citizens of Lima are outraged because of this double standard I’ve described here.

    Chavalia’s career with the city’s police department is essentially over despite the verdict, Kluge said. He would not say what the officer planned to do next.

    I should hope so! Whatever Chavalia decides to do next, it shouldn’t have anything at all to do with law enforcement.

    Related by others:

    Reason TV’s Drew Carey Project “Mississippi Drug War Blues

    The Agitator “Police Militarization

    » Read more

    Mindless Rule-Driven Bureaucracy In Action

    Blogger Megan McArdle has a problem. 16 years ago, in college at the age of 19, she was caught drinking underage in a bar in Pennsylvania, arrested, and convicted. At the time, she was a college student, without a driver’s license, and thus had no license to suspend. Since then, she’s gone on to live a productive and meaningful life.

    But her past has caught up with her…

    While consuming my one (1) beer, I was apprehended by agents of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. They called my parents, fined me, and made me attend a class on the horrors of underaged drinking (did you realize that drinking can lead to uncontrollable vomiting?) It was during that class, with the errors of my ways now readily apparent, that I made a pledge to myself to quit underaged drinking with all due speed. And on January 29th, 1994, I honored that pledge.

    I thought I had put all this behind me. Indeed, I was so informed, when I completed my State of Pennsylvania Mandatory Alcohol Education Class; provided I didn’t reoffend, they said, the record would be expunged. We might consider the matter closed, and never speak of it again. With time, and perhaps a name change and a relocation to a town across the country, I might hope to live down my shame and become a contributing member of society once again.

    Alas, they never told the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that it was over. And thus, it is not over. I went to apply for a District of Columbia driver’s license this morning, only to be informed that I cannot, because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania wants to suspend my driver’s license.

    The problem, you see, is that at the time of my conviction, I did not have a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Driver’s License. Indeed, I had no driver’s license at all, being one of those benighted city people who get their first driver’s license at the age of 23. The laws of the State of Pennsylvania, however, say that the Department of Transportation is entitled to suspend the driver’s license of anyone arrested for underaged drinking. And the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is, apparently, determined to exercise this privilege. Thus, the spectacle of a 35 year old woman being informed that she is about to have her driver’s license suspended for underaged drinking.

    I’d love to offer some witty, snarky barb on this, but having knowledge of the soul-sucking bureaucracy that is the DMV, I can only offer my condolences.

    A few months ago, I ordered personalized license plates for my wife. She’s starting a new business, and the plates have the name of the business. The ordering process was pretty simple, a small fee, and the knowledge that we’d have to wait 6-8 weeks for them to be delivered to the local DMV office for pick-up.

    Then the fun began. We received the notice that the plates had arrived. My wife went to go pick them up. This should be a simple swap, as they’re already paid for and all she needs to do is remove the old plates (which I’d done for her the evening before), and hand them to a clerk for the new ones, which I planned to affix that evening when I got home from the office. So she grabbed our toddler son, stood in line, got her number, waited for her number to be called, and was then informed that she couldn’t pick up the plates… The owner of the car (me) had to be the one to do that. Well, some pleading [and crying] later, the lady behind the counter relented and was willing to offer the plates.

    That’s when it got bad. My wife, unbeknownst to me, had allowed the insurance on her car to lapse. That puts us in violation of California law. Okay, mea culpa on that one— not that I care about violations of California law, as I could give two shits about their laws— because I don’t want the risk of my wife and child driving around uninsured. So they give my wife the plates (without registration sticker), along with a piece of paper saying the registration is suspended.

    Now it’s crunch time. Given that my wife has a business to create, I decided I had better take over the insurance. So I immediately (within minutes of getting off the phone with her) add her car to my policy, obtain the proof of insurance document, and realize I’m going to need to burn my lunch hour the next day to straighten this out.

    I have the documentation from the insurance company, picked up the documents my wife received from the DMV, I’m the owner of the car, and although I’ll have personal issues with paying any fees due to reinstating the registration, the fee is low enough that I’m not going to get worked up over it. Given that the DMV is the responsible organization, and they’re absolutely useless to deal with online, I figure that the best place to get this fixed is at the DMV itself. I have all my ducks in a row, they’re the party I must grovel before to appease the bureaucrats, and so over there I head…

    After waiting in line, getting a claim check, waiting in a seat for my number in called, then waiting in line again at the window that was supposedly open, I’m informed that I cannot straighten this out at the DMV. Why would I think that I could do something like this at the DMV office? After all, it says clearly on the paperwork that my wife gave me that I should be calling the “California Vehicle Registration Financial Responsibility Program” to handle this.

    I guess the DMV isn’t capable of conducting DMV work; they need an additional bureaucracy that is only available by phone in order to do their jobs. So I have to call them on the phone, only to find out that my insurance company has already informed them of my new insurance. Yet, I need to pay $14 over the phone to reinstate the registration, and then all is well.

    Or not quite well. They can’t send me my tags through the mail. That would be too easy. Thus, I need to go back to the DMV (at least 72 hours after calling them, since apparently the DMV’s computer systems are 35 years old and just that slow) in order pick up the tags. Do I chance sending my wife to pick up the tags, since she doesn’t have a job requiring she be there from 8 to 5 every day? Not at all, because I’m the registered owner. Do I go to the CA DMV myself? Well, that’s difficult to do when I’m in the middle of three straight weeks of business travel, and typing this from a hotel room in Minneapolis.

    So my wife has a properly-registered, properly-insured car, which is probably in violation of about 10 laws for her to be operating because it doesn’t have the pretty little sticker on the plates. I can only imagine what will happen if she’s pulled over in between now and the time I can get to the DMV, and the hell of hells that will cause.

    Granted, I’m not facing the same license suspension as Megan McArdle. Her situation is both more ludicrous and more intrusive. But one must ask oneself– in exchange for all these hoops to jump through, all this paperwork one must compile, and the constant dealings with surly DMV employees who don’t give a crap whether they do their job well, has this made California’s roads any safer? No, it has not.

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