Monthly Archives: May 2009

Why Collectivism “works”, but doesn’t work.

Generally speaking, when talking with a relatively reasonable and intelligent leftists about politics, economics (which are the same thing to them), econometrics, and social philosophy (again, they can’t be separated in leftist theology); the “question” will arise “If socialism is so bad, why does it work in families, and villages? It works there, so it should work everywhere.”

That isn’t so much a question, as argumentum inquisitum (aka “begs the question”), but let’s take up the challenge anyway; as the answer is simple, fundamental, and absolutely vital to understanding microeconomics, and how it interacts with societal level macroeconomics.

Collectivism (of any variety) does not work on scales larger than a village, because people will ALWAYS respond to their perceived interests and incentives.


Let me repeat that one more time:

People will always, over time and absent interference, respond to their perceived interest and incentive.

People may (in fact, very frequently do) mispercieve their interest, or may choose a poor course of action in their properly (or improperly) perceived interests, but they will ALWAYS respond to them.

In a family, the incentive and interest are VERY strong, genetically, socially, societally, emotionally, and spiritually; to ensure the prosperity and well being of the family unit equal to or ahead of ones self.

We can see what happens to families where this is not so among the majority of members; or is not so among the “strongest” members (the “leaders” of the family). These families rapidly degenerate into an unhealthy mess of force, fraud, manipulation, pain, and dysfunction.

This is also what happens in society as a whole when collectivist ideology is enforced on it.

One should note, there is no such thing as a naturally occurring voluntary collectivist order above the small tribal group. At larger scales, collectivism must always be enforced on the whole, because it is against the interest of many individuals; until such time as a dependent class is formed which will create an artificial interest, causing that class to act in that interest to enforce collectivism on the independent individuals.

As I said, people will ALWAYS act in their perceived interest. Even in collectivism; which is supposedly communitarian in nature.

In society as a whole, and specifically in societies larger than familial, clan, village, or small tribal level; self interest is a considerably stronger incentive and interest than the interest of society.

Communitarian ideals can generally work scaled up to village size, or even small tribes; but the bigger the unit gets, in general, the weaker the cohesion; unless there is another binding force (such as tribalism, or at least ethnic solidarity).

Also, the free rider problem, which may be one or two individuals within a family, becomes a serious drag on resources even at the village size. It becomes insupportable above the scale of a large tribe or small state.

These village size units work best when the village is itself a competing interest against other villages, or groups of villages united by a common characteristic which creates a cohesive identity.

We call this tribalism; and it allows for progress to a certain point, but is also a natural restraint on it; in that tribalism encourages the violent breakdown of civil culture in conflict with other tribes.

In fact, almost all of the greatest evils perpetrated within the confines of society (as opposed to evils outside of a society such as serial killers, etc…) are the result of violent tribal conflict; including the wars in the middle east and Africa (all of them).

All forms of collectivism fail to recognize or account for the inherent competitive, and striving nature of man; and generally fail to account for his inherent xenophobia as well (yes, certain individuals or small groups may suppress those characteristics, but man as a whole is man; unchanging and vicious from prehistory to this minute. We just have better tools to kill each other with, faster, and on a larger scale now).

Thus, aside from its structural deficiencies, inefficiency, and moral evil; socialism is antithetical to the natural social nature and structure of man (contrary to the assertions of socialists that it is in fact derived from the nature of man, or is scientifically and historically inevitable. Both logic and history show this construction to be elegant, but falacious).

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

Does Rick Perry think that NCLB preceded the 10th Amendment?

I’m getting pretty sick and tired of hearing about Texas Governor Rick Perry being described as some sort of libertarian Messiah or hero of the 1oth Amendment. If Perry has a libertarian bone in his body, it’s one he obtained through the use of eminent domainThis paragraph clearly outlines his dedication to small government:

Early in his term as governor Perry worked to reform Texas health care and make it more accessible and instituted the SCHIP program designed to insure 500,000 children. He increased health funding by $6 billion. Some of these programs have faced funding problems in recent years. He also increased school funding prior to the 2002 election, creating new scholarship programs to help needy children in Texas, including $300 million for the Texas GRANT Scholarship Program. Some $9 billion was allocated to Texas public schools, colleges, and universities and combined with a new emphasis on accountability for both teachers and students.

With respect to the 10th Amendment, he must have just dusted off a copy.  Simply compare this official release to this one promoting his buddy George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind.

In my  opinion, the only difference between Perry and his buddy John Cornyn is that Perry is bright enough to realize he has to pander for support.  Cornyn doesn’t even seem that smart.

Presenting the Latest Nominees for the Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor

For going above and beyond the call of duty, I herby nominate these three members of L.A.’s finest to receive the Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor. As clearly shown in the footage below, the first officer bravely kicked the suspect in the head after he had surrendered. The second officer also deserves to be recognized for his efforts in protecting the community for punching the disoriented man as a precautionary measure. Last but not least, the third officer also deserves this distinguished honor for his dog handling skills to have the dog bite the suspect!

Clearly, these men are all heroes! While they may not quite live up to the high standard set by Ramos and Compean (not one member of the trio fired his weapon at the suspect after the surrender), we can be sure that the LAPD is quite proud that its reputation is still intact.

The Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor is an honor presented by The Badge Worshippers and Law Enforcement Bootlickers of America

Open Thread Question of the Day: To Whom or What Do You Pledge Your Allegiance?

I was listening to the local talk show host on my way to work this morning and the topic was the ongoing saga surrounding the auto makers. This particular talk show host is a very pro-union “buy American” (and therefore anti-free trade) kind of guy in the mold of Lou Dobbs. As I pulled into my parking space, he posed 2 questions 1.) To whom or what do YOU pledge your allegiance and 2.) To whom or what do these multi-national corporations pledge their allegiance?

My response was an immediate “to myself and to my family, but certainly not the federal government of the US!” (for many of the same reasons that tarran so eloquently explained). I’m quite certain that this is not a response this talk show host would appreciate. I’m also quite certain that in his view, these corporations are supposed to “provide American jobs” no matter how costly and no matter how much the federal government punishes them with taxes and regulations. To suggest that a business should make its first loyalty to pursuing profits for shareholders would be heretical! These populist propagandists ask such questions of these businesses but fail to ask the question of government “to whom or what does Washington pledge its allegiance?” (Hint: it certainly isn’t to free market principles or liberty).

After thinking about the question a little longer, I concluded that my allegiances are as follows: myself*, my family, and the defense of the principles of life, liberty, property and justice for all**.

Now I pose this question to you, the reader: To whom or what do you pledge your allegiance?

» Read more

Regulation Is About Competition, Not Safety

Just a little Friday afternoon food for thought, c/o the Mises Institute. One would initially think that FAA rules mandating the retirement of pilots at age 65 (age 60 as recently as 2007) would be based upon the safety of passengers — but one would be wrong:

Flashback to 1959. The airline industry is on the cusp of its fifth decade, but there is a problem facing younger pilots who want to enter it. The old-timers just won’t retire, and this frustrates potential entrants with much flying experience and training, thanks to military service in World War II, Korea, and elsewhere. The result is a sort of malinvestment in human capital, with many men trained to be pilots without private-sector jobs to justify the training.

What is a young, aspiring pilot to do? Well, he and his peers could make their presence and skills known to the airlines, signaling that the labor market had changed and that it would be possible to hire new pilots at lower wages. Not only would some airlines opt for the lower-priced laborers, thus lowering the airlines’ reservation price required to provide flights to consumers, some owners of capital might invest in new airlines, thus increasing consumer choice, industry output, and create a downward pressure on prices.

Such would be the market solution, coordinated by changes in relative prices, and it would be peaceful, characterized by voluntary interaction and compromise by the parties involved. Unfortunately, there was another option, requiring the pilot to join a pilots union to lobby the federal government to enact rules forcing existing pilots to retire at age 60. All the union needed was a lobbying presence and some sympathetic regulators at the FAA.

Guess which option was chosen? It seems that in 1959, the aspiring pilots found a sympathetic ear in C.R. Smith, the then-president of American Airlines who also wanted to ground his older pilots. The industry was switching to jet engines, and Smith wanted to freeload off of the tax-supported training with those engines many of the younger pilots received in the military. So Smith instructed his lobbyists in Washington to rewrite FAA rules to force retirement at 60, and in December of 1959, an FAA administrator named Elwood R. Quesada simply authorized them. In January of 1961, Quesada retired from the FAA and immediately joined the board of directors of American Airlines. The retirement age rule has been in effect for almost 50 years.

Now, I’m not going to claim that the retirement rule is a bad rule, nor am I going to claim that it has made passengers any more or less safe. I simply don’t have any real data to back up such a claim. But I find it more than a little bit upsetting — if not surprising — that such a rule would be made purely on the basis of interest group politics, and not primarily for safety.

Hat Tip: Coyote Blog

Liberty + Libations = ???


The Tun Tavern hosted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress

What do you get when you mix alcohol with the politics of freedom? An argument can be made that we owe our Republic not only to a lot of bright and brave people, but also to a lot of booze.

In order to bring out freedom fighter in all of us, as well as to provide some networking opportunities and just plain fun, Liberty on the Rocks provides an opportunity for libertarians to plan alcohol-related events in their own communities.  I’ve just placed the first Birmingham event on the calendar, so we’ll see how it works.

We’ll have a special treat at our first event, as Jason Talley, Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller of the Motorhome Diaries will be there.  For those not following the story, here’s an overview of their recent encounter with the police in Mississippi.  I’m sure that hearing Jason and Pete describe their experiences will prove quite interesting.

We’re also meeting at the the J.Clyde, which has been very supportive of the Free the Hops legislation we’ve been working so hard on in Alabama.

America is in trouble, so perhaps it’s time to invoke the spirit of the Green Dragon.  Perhaps it’s time for you to start planning a libertarian social event in your area.

Obama’s Against Deficit Spending?

Just who is he trying to fool?

President Barack Obama, calling current deficit spending “unsustainable,” warned of skyrocketing interest rates for consumers if the U.S. continues to finance government by borrowing from other countries.

“We can’t keep on just borrowing from China,” Obama said at a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, outside Albuquerque. “We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt.”

Holders of U.S. debt will eventually “get tired” of buying it, causing interest rates on everything from auto loans to home mortgages to increase, Obama said. “It will have a dampening effect on our economy.”

There’s only one way this is a coherent statement, because he’s obviously not against spending obscene amounts of money.

So if he’s going to stop deficit spending, but he’s not going to cut spending, that leaves one option. Taxes. Get ready.

Hat Tip: QandO

The Nanny State vs. The Family, 2009 Edition

Out in Minnesota, there’s a case pending that tests the limits of individual rights, religious liberty, and the state’s role in “protecting” children.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge is expected to decide whether a family can refuse chemotherapy for a 13-year-boy’s cancer and treat him with natural medicine, even though doctors say it’s effectively a death sentence.

With chemotherapy, Daniel Hauser has a 90 percent chance of surviving his Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his cancer doctor. And without it?

“It is almost certain that he will die,” said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. Bostrom, who diagnosed the disease, is an ally of the legal effort in southwestern Minnesota’s Brown County to make Hauser submit to chemotherapy even though he and his parents believe it’s potentially more harmful than the cancer itself.

District Judge John Rodenberg was expected to rule Friday on Brown County’s motion.

Bostrom said Daniel’s chance of survival without chemotherapy is about 5 percent. Nevertheless, parents Colleen and Anthony Hauser are supporting what they say is their son’s decision to instead treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments favored by the Nemenhah Band. The Missouri-based religious group believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.

This case is similar to one that made headlines here in Virginia, and around the country three years ago when a Chesapeake County Judge was faced with deciding whether then 16 year-old Abraham Cherrix, who was suffering form the same form of cancer as Daniel Hauser, should be forced to undergo chemotherapy. After a Court fight that lasted nearly two months, the case was settled and Cherrix was ultimately permitted to refuse the undergo chemotherapy. His case, however, led to a change in Virginia law which gives children the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment after they reach the age of 14.

Of course, Abraham’s Law, as it came to be called as it made it’s way through the Virginia Legislature, wouldn’t really apply in Hauser’s case since he’s under 14, and it’s age that is one of the major factors that distinguishes this case from the Cherrix case. Is a 13 year old really mature enough to understand the implications of a decisions that could very well result in his death ? Is he really making the decision on his own, or is he being influenced by his parent’s rather unorthodox religious beliefs:

The Hausers, who are Roman Catholic, have eight children. Colleen Hauser told the New Ulm Journal newspaper that the family’s Catholicism and adherence to the Nemenhah Band are not in conflict, and said she has treated illness with natural remedies her entire life.

Nemenhah was founded in the 1990s by Philip Cloudpiler Landis, who said Thursday that he was one-fourth American Indian. Nemenhah adherents are asked to pay $250 to be members. “We’re non-dogmatic, a very universal faith,” Landis said.

Landis said he founded the faith after facing his diagnosis of a cancer similar to Daniel Hauser. He said he treated it with diet choices, visits to a sweat lodge and other natural remedies. Landis also once served four months in prison in Idaho for fraud related to advocating natural remedies.

So, the Hauser case seems to be a much closer call that the Cherrix case was, but I think the default position should be the same as the one I stated when I first heard the name Abraham Cherrix:

It seems pretty clear to me, though, that the state has little, if any, right to interfere in what is essentially a private decision for the Cherrix family, and specifically for Abraham. Who is the state social worker to say that his decision is wrong ? As someone who has witnessed first-hand what happens to someone on chemotherapy, its pretty clear that modern cancer therapy is often based on the hope that the chemicals being pumped into the patient will kill the cancer cells before killing the patient. The side effects are visible, painful, and often permanent. Abraham has been through one round of chemotherapy already and, apparently it didn’t work. If he chooses not to subject himself to that again, and his parents support that, that decision should be respected.

Yes, Abraham is 16 and technically a minor, but if its clear that his decision is really his, then what right does the government have to stick a needle in his arm and pump toxic chemicals into his body ? None that I can see.

Replace Abraham’s name with Danie’ls, and I think those words apply just as strongly in this case. The state has no right to force someone to put chemicals in their body, not even a child.

And what ever happened to Abraham Cherrix ? Well, after initially appearing to suffer a setback in 2007, he turned 18 in June of last year showing no signs of the Hodgkin’s Disease that had been ravaging his body for years.

Update @ 4:15pm: The judge hearing Daniel’s case has issued his decision and has ruled that Daniel must undergo the chemotherapy treatments.

C/P: Below The Beltway

Libertarians arrested in Mississippi — probably for being libertarians

Talley: "Here is a photo of the arrest."

Talley: "Here is a photo of the arrest."

Some of my friends were just arrested in Mississippi.  Here’s a description of why they’re traveling across the country:

The Motorhome Diaries is the story of three friends who took to the road in April 2009 to search for freedom in America. Along the way the friends — Jason, Pete and Tom — interact with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints at college campuses, homes, businesses and organizations that are united by one thing: increasing individual freedom and responsibility and decreasing the scope of government.

Here’s the best and lastest info about the arrest  (follow the comment thread for updates):

It went down this morning in Jones County, MS. Jason Talley posted this to MHD’s Twitter:

“We are in Jones County MS and @adammueller has been arrested for filming cops after they pulled us over.”

Later, other posts to Jason’s facebook page revealed they were all arrested. After asking for details and hearing nothing, I called the Jones County Jail at 601-649-7502 and confirmed they have all been imprisoned.

Adam Mueller – Disorderly Conduct and Disobeying an Officer
Pete Eyre – Possession of a Beer in a Dry County
Jason Talley – Disorderly Conduct, Disobeying, and Resisting Arrest

The bureaucrats at the jail think they will be arraigned tomorrow…

They were scheduled to be in Nashville tonight, but the good folks in Tennessee aren’t going to let their arrest go to waste.  Here’s a Facebook message I received:

Subject: Bring your stash of bail $ tonight…

Greetings everyone!

Sorry to disappoint, but the Motorhome Diaries boys won’t be joining us tonight. They are held up in Mississippi…in jail. That’s right. Ironic that they are traveling across American searching for liberty and are arrested for filming a traffic stop? Yes, it is. Read more here:;

Please don’t let this discourage you from joining us at Mafi’s tonight. We have to figure out how to help them – sounds like they’re being arraigned tomorrow. Allison Gibbs (Campaign for Liberty) is on her way now to bail them out, and they do need money. Mafi’s gives us a 2 for 1 special on drafts, so maybe you can use the money you’re saving for bail??????

See you tonight at 7!

Jason and I have worked together on a variety of issues (the latest being Fr33Agents) over the years.  I’m speculating at this moment that he was arrested for respectfully asserting his legal rights.  I know his style and I also know Mississippi cops.  They probably mixed like oil and water.

The guys are supposed to be in Alabama next week and I was looking forward to seeing them  — now even more.  I’ll update this post as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Here’s one of Pete Eyre’s previous encounters with the police.

: From Twitter:

All 3 are coming out¡!@jdtalley @peteeyre @ammueller! All under 1000! Now we have to get marv!

UPDATE III: Jason tweets:

The #MHD crew has been released from Jones County jail. I was pepper sprayed and choked for refusing to give ID.

UPDATE IV: It’s interesting that Jones County is notorious for KKK activity. It isn’t not all that far from Prentiss, Mississippi.  Those who followed the Cory Maye story which Radley Balko broke have probably already figured out the real probable cause: simply being a libertarian in Mississippi.  In Alabama, we like Mississippi because it keeps us from being number 50 on a lot of lists.

UPDATE V: Pete Eyre has a while lot of additional details here.

Alabama’s hops are almost free

I’ve been writing about a bill in Alabama to Free the Hops.  The bill just passed the Alabama Senate and is heading to the Governor’s office to be signed into law.  Here’s the relevant news update:

The bill passed the Senate 22-9 and now goes to the governor. If signed, retailers would be allowed the sale of certain gourmet and imported beers in Alabama. Free the Hops, an organization which lobbied for the bill, says the beverages cost an average of $5 to $6 a bottle.

The bill came up for consideration earlier in the session but was filibustered by state Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, who cited his personal opposition to alcohol consumption in blocking the legislation. Erwin was not in the Senate chamber for Thursday’s vote; however, the Senate approved the bill by using a previous vote total. Erwin was on that roll as voting aye.

I’m not sure why Erwin left the Senate floor, as he’d threatened to filibuster this bill to the very end.  That someone voted “aye” for him leaves a smile on my face.  Here’s the next (hopefully final) step in the process:

We need to do everything we can to encourage the Governor to either sign our bill. That’s why we’re asking everyone in the state who values personal freedom and who thinks the Alabama government should stop telling us which beers are ok to drink and which ones we can’t handle to contact Governor Riley immediately. By phone, fax, or email, whatever works best for you.

We’ve even had one of his former staffers give us some tips on how best to go about this:

The volume of letters and phone calls that he receives on a particular issue is reported to him every morning, and he takes them seriously. … A couple quick points:

  • They have a pretty sophisticated constituent database, so multiple calls/mail from the same person won’t accomplish much. They report to him the number of persons, not the number of communications.
  • Any arguments that sounds like something the gambling folks would say should be avoided (”People go over state lines to do it anyway…”). You don’t want to equate yourself with those guys in his mind.
  • Arguments about personal liberty and economic development will probably have more sway.
    Pointing out the surrounding states that allow it will also be helpful. The fact that GA, NC, SC, and WV have passed these bills in the past couple years is persuasive.

Just keep it short and to the point.  Let him know you support the bill and why.

Here’s contact information for the Governor’s office:

Switchboard:  (334) 242-7100
Fax:  (334) 353-0004
Email form:

Don’t hesitate!  We haven’t come this far only to suffer a veto now.  Make sure Gov. Riley knows the people of Alabama want him to sign HB373 into law.
Thank you to everyone who has gotten us to this point.  Time to seal the deal.

For folks in Alabama, the party tonight is going in Birmingham at the J. Clyde.

Why Do We Keep Believing Them?

Men (and women) who physically abuse their spouses often express remorse afterwards. “Come Back Baby, I won’t hit you anymore” they say. And puzzlingly, their battered spouses often say yes, even though this latest offer is probably just as unlikely to be true as the previous 600 offers. To those of us observing such a relationship from the outside it is often a bewildering experience; we can’t understand why a person would trust a serial liar and leave themselves vulnerable to yet another attack. Many of us even look down on the victim; after all, we would never allow someone to take advantage of us in this way!

If you think about it, though, this bravado is probably wrong. The victims of this abuse are human beings just like me or you, dear reader. Why wouldn’t you react in ways similar to these chronic victims? You are not so different! You behave this way towards an organization that is incredibly abusive, that bullies you at every turn, that is far more controlling than most abusive spouses, whose officers not only lie often, but know that they are making promises that they have no intention of keeping. I am speaking of the state, a barbaric organized crime gang that take advantage of you at every turn, and then demands that you thank them for it.

A typical promise made by the state and the lying lyers who people it is that a) they need expanded powers to provide some service effectively, and that b) they will never abuse them, never, ever, ever, cross their hearts and hope to die. Typically the ink hasn’t had time to dry before the promise is broken. I will ignore the many examples of this phenomenon with regards to how Native Americans were betrayed by the U.S. government in favor of looking at seatbelt laws.

Those of us who are older than 30 remember a time when it was legally permissible to drive a car while unbelted to the seat. State by state, proponents of seatbelt laws held campaigns to require people by law to wear a seat-belt. Almost universally the campaigners promised that the law would be such that police wouldn’t peer into our cars and pull us over if we weren’t wearing them. It would be a secondary offense, we were assured, an additional ticket given to those pulled over for genuine moving violations. Today, that assurance lies in tatters. In most states the police can pull you over if they think you aren’t wearing a seat-belt. “Click it or ticket” is the new mantra.

Let’s move past a little thing like seat-belt laws. Instead, let’s look at something more substantial. Remember the promises of that vile traitor, George Bush, when he ran for office in 2000? Remember “a humble foreign policy” and “restoring the rule of law”? How about his promises to execute a spendthrift fiscal policy? What did he do once he got in office? Tried to foment a war with China, fomented a war with Iraq, expanded medicare, attempted to nationalize the stock market, failed, then did it again successfully using a crisis as an excuse. How many of you who voted for George Bush in 2000 would have voted for him had he run on a platform promising to do what he actually did? It’s safe to say that President Al Gore would have had an easy run to victory had candidate George Bush run an honest campaign. Had Barack Obama vowed to continue the war in Iraq and expand the war in Afghanistan while shoveling corporate welfare at the investment banks that his treasury secretary had worked at, President McCain would be enjoying his run as a 21st century reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt.

From Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the Great Depression to the Collapse of the Housing Bubble, government officials, and the elites whom they serve have been hyping or generating crises which they then use as an excuse to impoverish us. And we, like a battered wife who fears what will happen to her should her man leave her, let them.

George Bush abused us. Barack Obama is abusing us right now. In two years, some people will announce that they want to be president and will do right by us. If elected, they will turn out to be abusers too. It does not matter whether they wave posters of Donkeys, Elephants, Rainbows or whatever the mascot the Libertarian Party likes to wave around; in the end they will hurt you.

Our only hope for ending the abuse is to kick the bums out! And by that I mean it is time to dissolve our governments. I call upon all of you to support constitutional amendments to dissolve not only the U.S. government, but your state governments as well. De-incorporate your towns. Teach your children to hate the flag, not salute it.

Make these predators earn an honest living for a change. Sitting around hoping that they will turn over a new leaf is about as futile as hoping a leopard will change its spots. It’s not going to happen. Politicians and civil “servants” (so-called) only stop their abuse only when they are deprived of their offices.

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.

Drug Czar Calls For End To “War On Drugs”

It’s too early to tell if it’s a semantic change or a major step in the right direction, but these comments from President Obama’s “Drug Czar” are encouraging:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting “a war on drugs,” a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

Mr. Kerlikowske’s comments are a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate — and likely more controversial — stance on the nation’s drug problems. Prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach.

And the result of that has been that we have more people in prison than any other nation on Earth, with large numbers of them being there for actions that would not be crimes at all but-for the fact that some drugs are illegal.

While Kerlijowske’s statements do need to be backed up with actual changes in drug policy before I’ll take them seriously, at least one advocate of drug legalization is taking this as a good sign:

Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization of medical marijuana, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about Mr. Kerlikowske. “The analogy we have is this is like turning around an ocean liner,” he said. “What’s important is the damn thing is beginning to turn.”

Let’s hope so.

Boy Scout Training: “Put him on his face and put a knee in his back”

Boy Scouts
From the “Not The Onion” files comes a tale that I can’t even believe, much less figure out how to respond to. Is this really what the Boy Scouts are becoming?

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”

One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked “the discipline of the program,” which was something he said his life was lacking. “I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed,” he said.

Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.

“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”

There is so much wrong here that I don’t know where to start. Maybe putting a 15-year-old into a bulletproof vest and running him through a course where his goal is to take down “active shooters” is one problem, since — you know — that’s such a HUGE part of the average cop’s day, would be a problem. Radley Balko, in his excellent work over at The Agitator, regularly points out the problematic aspects of training our police to be excitedly enacting para-military fantasies. There’s a fundamental difference between “to protect and serve” and seeing every person on the street as a potential “active shooter”.

When I was a kid, “troop leader” didn’t involve fatigues and a bulletproof vest.

But hey, this is the Boy Scouts, so it’s still a family-friendly environment:

Just as there are soccer moms, there are Explorers dads, who attend the competitions, man the hamburger grill and donate their land for the simulated marijuana field raids.

So don’t worry, fellas… You can avoid the humdrum days spent in your cubicle as a CPA or marketing nitwit by living vicariously through your kids, as they storm terrorist strongholds in Omaha, stem the illegal alien tide in California, or make the world safe from marijuana. Folks like Kathryn Johnston and Angel Raich are evil and must be stopped, and you need to bring train the next generation to bring the necessary firepower to handle them.

Hat Tip: Radley Balko

The Liberty Papers Now Available For Amazon Kindle

For those of you on the front end of the technology curve, you now have a new way to receive your daily TLP fix — The Liberty Papers – Kindle Edition. Amazon is expanding their Kindle blogs offering, and we were able to get ourselves in early.

Now is where I’d usually give you all the stories about how amazing the Kindle is, and how incredible it makes my life — but I don’t have one yet. I’m still waffling on whether to drop nearly $500 on a Kindle DX, so if there are any Kindle users out there, feel free to tell me about how incredibly awesome and life-changing it is in the comments section.

Finally, there’s one aspect that I know will bring up questions — the price. Before you get on my case about it, this is set by Amazon. If you don’t think the TLP Kindle version, considering that you can get this content here for free, is worth $1.99, I won’t be offended if you don’t purchase it. If it had been my decision, I would have set the price at “free” or “tiny”. But this is Amazon’s call, and I hope over time they’ll drop it down to a more reasonable level. But if you do decide to pay the $1.99, I thank you, as this blog is not free for us to operate, and it will help to offset some of our hosting costs.

DHS Pulls Report On “Right-Wing Extremism”

It was just a little over a month ago that our own Stephen Gordon was among the first to break the story about a Department of Homeland of Security report that appeared to label most conservatives and libertarians in the country as “extremists.”

Now, the Washington Times reports that DHS has officially pulled the report:

A contentious “Rightwing Extremism” report that warned of military veterans as possible recruits for terrorist attacks against the U.S. was not authorized, has been withdrawn and is being rewritten, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Capitol Hill lawmakers.

“The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed,” Ms. Napolitano told the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

“The report is no longer out there,” she said. “An employee sent it out without authorization.”

The report was shared with state and local law enforcement officials nationwide via the department’s internal Web site on April 7, angering Republican lawmakers and military veterans who said it unfairly stereotyped veterans.

Ms. Napolitano did not say when the report was taken off the “intel Web site” and all Homeland Security Department Web sites, but she said it is in the process of being “replaced or redone in a much more useful and much more precise fashion.”

Of course, that doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not the report reflects official thinking inside DHS as to what the difference is between a terrorist and a political protester.

Carrie Prejean Is Wrong About Her Rights

During the press conference the other day where Donald Trump announced that Carrie Prejean would not lose her title as Miss California, the new heroine of social conservatives everywhere had this to say:

“I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so,” an emotional Prejean said at a news conference. “This should not happen in America. It undermines the constitutional rights for which my grandfather fought for (in World War Two).

As Chris Moody notes, however, Prejean completely misunderstands, or deliberately mis-states, the nature of the rights that her grandfather fought for:

Sorry, Carrie, no constitutional rights were undermined here. To be sure, the government was not involved in any way. You were not censored by a state or by the strong arm of any coercive power. You were ridiculed and attacked by a free people who, yes, were brutal to your character, your religion and your family. But again, no rights were violated.

You agreed to a contract, you were honest, and your views were criticized. You took a national stand on religious principles, and someone legally pointed out that you’re not perfect by bringing up your past. They called you a hypocrite, even though you’re just human. They tried to discredit you, and showed the world a few pictures you might not have wanted anyone to see.

But if your constitutional rights really were undermined, you never would have been able to take those pictures in the first place. Your career as a model would be a crime against the state; your participation in a beauty pageant would have been outlawed; and you would have been thrown in prison for your ideas about gay marriage.

But none of that happened. So please don’t make this about a problem of rights infringement. You fought a voluntary battle for your beliefs and this is the outcome.

Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

See ? There’s nothing in there that says that Prejean, or anyone else, can speak out on an issue of public concern but that people who disagree with her can’t criticize her, or use evidence from her past to point out what some might consider a hypocritical appeal to her supposed Christianity.

Carrie Prejean has the right to speak out without fear of punishment from the state, that’s exactly what happened, and that’s the only right she was entitled to.

So, let’s stop talking about this now, okay ?

O/P: Below The Beltway

Obama Administration Setting Compensation — For Non-TARP Banks

I’ve said I was going to write a post — one that I’ve been thinking about since Obama’s 100-day mark — on how much worse his Presidency has been than I feared. I expected him to be a typical Democrat in the mold of a Clinton. I expected him to be a typical politician. I knew he’d be a tax-and-spender, and ramp up on regulation, but he’s taken things to a whole new level.

But he has shown in a little over 100 days that he’s ideologically in line with FDR when it comes to the power of government, and he’s determined not to “let a good crisis go to waste.” So it was with resigned dismay that I read this:

The Obama administration has begun serious talks about how it can change compensation practices across the financial-services industry, including at companies that did not receive federal bailout money, according to people familiar with the matter.

The initiative, which is in its early stages, is part of an ambitious and likely controversial effort to broadly address the way financial companies pay employees and executives, including an attempt to more closely align pay with long-term performance.

Among ideas being discussed are Fed rules that would curb banks’ ability to pay employees in a way that would threaten the “safety and soundness” of the bank — such as paying loan officers for the volume of business they do, not the quality. The administration is also discussing issuing “best practices” to guide firms in structuring pay.

This is a pure, naked, power grab. They want to claim that the compensation packages threaten the health of the wider economy (when things like over-leverage were the real culprits) and thus don’t want to simply limit compensation for those who took government funds — they want to regulate it all.

Remember the sea change in government authority, attitudes, and impact on the economy that followed the Great Depression and the New Deal? Well, folks, you’re watching the sequel. And I don’t see any way to stop it.

Hat Tip: Cafe Hayek (where Russ Roberts is simply left speechless by this)

A suggested mea maxima culpa for Republican leaders

While hanging out on Twitter earlier today, I made this observation: “American voters will not take the GOP seriously until they make some sincere and MAJOR mea culpas.”

This got me to thinking about what it would take for me to start taking the Republican Party more seriously.  My initial observation is that I’m suddenly taken much more seriously by conservatives at the grassroots level.  A lot of these folks are equally upset with the senior leadership in the GOP.  The problems seems to be at the top.  Here’s the example du jour:

For the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s recruitment list for 2010 reads like a roster of some of the party’s best-known RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and squishes — the derisive terms applied to centrists by movement conservatives.

The party’s top choice for Florida’s open Senate seat is popular Gov. Charlie Crist, who raised eyebrows earlier this year with his vigorous advocacy of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package — he even went so far as to appear with Obama at a Florida rally in February. In Connecticut, the national GOP has lobbied former Rep. Rob Simmons — who holds a higher lifetime rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action group than Specter does — to challenge Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

Then there’s last week’s example:

Republican House Whip Eric Cantor has just announced the formation of the National Council for a New America, which is described as “a forward-looking, grassroots caucus intended to bring together Congressional leaders with a national panel of experts.”

In reality, the National Council for a New America looks like another top-down organization which will be conducting forums and town hall meetings to push an agenda which looks just like the same-old agenda we’ve been seeing from Republicans.

The Republican leadership has had plenty of chances.  2006 election results should have been a clear kick upside the head.  After the 2008 results came in, it was time to start CPR.  And now they are going back to the same old practices which put them in this boat in the first place.

For the Republican Party to survive, the grassroots are going to have to take over the GOP or Republican leaders will need to learn a new vocabulary very quickly. This vocabulary will require a lot more than simply saying “I’m sorry.” It will have to be a serious and heartfelt apology to the American people.  If I was tasked to write an apology speech for some senior elected Republican, it might go something like this:

I come before you today to ask — no, to beg — for your forgiveness.

For years, I’ve disregarded my priorities and placed being in power ahead of my duty to you and to the Constitution of the United States.

For years, I’ve been voting for bloated budgets and increased deficit spending because I placed party loyalty above fiscal stewardship.

For years, I’ve been listening to lobbyists, as opposed to my you, my constituents.

For years, I’ve disregarded the Tenth Amendment and placed undo burdens on the states.

For years, I’ve voted for law after law which invades personal privacy and stifles individual liberty.

For years, I’ve placed my personal social agenda above the basic concepts of federalism and the Republic.  Especially with my vote on the Internet Gambling Ban and the Terri Schiavo case, I was truly wrong.

When President Bush wanted a bailout package, I succumbed to pressure and voted for it.  There is no excuse for this deplorable action of mine.

When Senator McCain won the presidential nomination, I stood with him on the campaign trail.  There is no excuse for this deplorable action of mine.

There is no apology I can make which will begin to make up for the financial and freedom losses you have suffered due to my irresponsibility.  I can only humbly ask your forgiveness and for your help to bring this country back on track again.

There is no excuse for many of my votes and actions since the Republican Revolution.  However, I’ve been reading a lot and talking with some very bright people over the last few months.   I’ve read about laissez-faire economic policy, the true free market.  I’ve read our founding fathers and learned why they wrote the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation the way they did.  I’ve read about natural law and libertarian theory.  I now carry a copy of the Constitution with me — and consult it before voting on any questionable bill.  I no longer vote on any bill which I haven’t first read.

I’ve sold your rights down the river, but I’m willing to do everything I can to buy back your freedom. I promise that I’ll work much harder than I ever have in the past to restore as much of your money and as many of your rights as possible.  It’s the very least I should do.

I know you will be watching each and every one of my votes between now and Election Day, as well you should.  I’d like to announce that the door to my office is once again open to the public. I hope you will take the time to call, e-mail or stop by to tell me how I’m doing.

While I may not deserve it, I’m now on the road to recovery.  With your help, America can be, too.

The only problem is that the speech would be coming from my keyboard — not from the heart of the RINO who would be delivering it.

The Limits of Campaign Finance Law Abridgement of the First Amendment Tested in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

During the 2008 presidential campaign, an organization called Citizens United produced an anti-Hillary documentary called “Hillary: the Movie.” The movie was available on pay-per-view cable channels until the FEC pulled the plug claiming that the broadcast violated campaign finance law. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

During oral arguments, the government’s attorney revealed that campaign finance law as currently written could be interpreted to restrict not only documentaries such as “Hillary” but any other political speech “broadcast” during a campaign. A banned “broadcast” could include a store advertising the sale of candidate dolls, toys, or action figures. Even if the advertisement makes no direct endorsements nor advocates the defeat of a candidate, the mere mention of a candidate’s name or likeness would violate current election law.

But surely books would be safe…right?

Not if the book is “broadcast” on a device such as a Kindle, says the government’s attorney. While the FEC believes “dead tree editions” are currently safe from FEC regulation, former Chief of Staff and Council of the FEC Allison Hayward, says that such regulations could be imposed if congress brought such an interpretation into the law.

In the very beginning of the video below, Steve Simpson, Senior Attorney for the Institute for Justice says something which bears repeating here because he captures exactly the First Amendment problems found in current campaign finance law:

“The problem is not too much money in politics; the problem is too much power in government. Government regulates everything and of course, people want to affect the course of the government. So the campaign finance reformers ultimately what they want to prevent is that. It’s the ability to affect the course of our government; it’s the ability to affect which way people vote. That’s the dirty little secret of campaign finance law. They don’t just want to control money, they want to control speech.”

I would like to believe that free speech will ultimately prevail in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, but given SCOTUS’s history, ruling on the side of the Constitution is by no means sure thing. I also can’t help but wonder how an Obama appointed Justice would rule if this case was before him or her. Which side would receive the most “empathy,” the federal government or a private organization or individual citizen? We already know that such a judge would not be considering “abstract legal theories” such as entailed in the First Amendment.

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