Monthly Archives: May 2009

Overeducated Redneck

One of the things that has always amazed (and amused, and irritated) me, is the willingness of those on the left to dismiss me, and those of my political bent, as racists, hicks, ignorant, rednecks (as if those things were synonymous) etc…

Any time I’ve written about the evils of collectivism, how firearms are as important to freedom as speech, how political correctness is as damaging to freedom as any other form of censorship, how liberal and leftists ideas just don’t work (no matter how well intentioned they are), how islamofascism… or any other kind of fascism for that matter… are anathema to liberty and the well being of a people… Like clockwork there they are calling me an ignorant, racist, redneck (and it’s always those three together for some reason).

Well first thing, I’m generally certain that I’m considerably more intelligent, educated, and informed than those calling me ignorant (and for that matter, they are almost certainly racists whether they realize it or not; and I am definitely not; but that’s another post entirely); but that doesn’t address the point I want to make here.

To these people, redneck is an insult. So is “cowboy” for that matter, or really anything to do with rural America or “country”.

This is of course another form of class warfare, and identity politics. By calling me a redneck, they believe they are dismissing me, my ideas, my opinions, and the facts I present; as not credible, irrelevant, or below them.

Well… to me, call me a redneck, and that’s a compliment. They didn’t intend it that way, but it is.

To their conception, all intelligent, educated, perceptive people must surely agree with them; and anyone who doesn’t follow their false faith of transnational progressivism must therefore be either stupid, evil, or ignorant (or some combination of the three); i.e. a “Redneck” as they see it.

This is especially amusing to me, as given my minarchist libertarian views, some on the far right would consider me just as evil for not following THEIR faith of coerced morality through the force of government.

Of course on its face calling me a redneck would seem ridiculous. By the leftists own expectations, I should be “one of them”.

I was born and raised in and around Boston Massachusetts (with a side trip into Northern New Hampshire. I live in Arizona now, by choice and circumstance). I lived there until I was 16; attending a public school in theory, but most of my education was from a special “gifted” students program called “ACE”, which stood for Accelerated Cognitive Education.

In the ACE program, I started taking 8th grade level classes in 3rd grade, with private tutors and at local private schools. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I had completed most of the first two years worth of general education college courses at local colleges.

I graduated high school at 16; and from there I went on to two degrees at a small private engineering college.

My family are typical Boston Irish. A mix of blue collar, government employees, teachers, cops, firemen, tradesmen, and of course politicians. Most of them are either union democrats, or straight liberals (though surprisingly the politicians in the family were mostly Republicans).

So, as I said, by all their expectations, I should be one of them (and the fact that I’m not seems to drive some of them to even greater lengths of apoplectic rage).

The difference is all in the decisions I made for myself.

I decided to leave home at 16, because my home environment was bad; but I did it going to college. I made something of myself, though I hasten to say a college education is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to do so. My younger brother, in the same environment and with similar native intelligence, decided to suck off the government teat, and became a small time drug dealer.

I decided to join the Air Force; which has changed me more than any other experience in my life but fatherhood. I credit my grandfather, the Air Force, and my kids, for making me who I am.

I decided to travel around the world, and expand my horizons along with my knowledge. I’ve had the great good fortune to visit all 50 American states, and 40 someodd countries (I say someodd, because some of them aren’t countries anymore, and some are two or more countries now).

I decided to take the opportunities that came my way, and when they weren’t coming, to make them; taking risks, sometimes failing, sometimes getting ahead, but always learning.

I decided to learn every damn thing I could to get by, and get ahead. I learned computers, AND carpentry; mechanical engineering, AND auto mechanics.

I decided to take responsibility for myself, and to do for myself and my family, in every way that I could.

And guess what?

Those decisions have made me into a redneck, and I’m proud of it.

You know what being a redneck means to me?

It means being independent.

It means knowing how to fix things when they break.

It means not being helpless outside the modern urban island.

It means knowing the difference between right and wrong; and knowing how to apply my best judgment.

It means knowing that there are things more important than my own comfort and my own skin; and that those things are worth fighting, and dying for.

I’ve chosen to surround myself with others like me; and let me tell you, there are a heck of a lot of us out there.

We’re black, white, asian, hispanic; Bostonian, New Yorker, Texan, Alabaman, even Californian. We’re college educated, and self educated. We’re rural and urban. It’s never really been about where you’re from, or who you were born to; it’s always been about the decisions you make.

The decision to reject the collective, for the individual. The decision to be in charge of your own life. The decision to live the way you believe is right.

So hell yeah, I’m a redneck, and proud of it.

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

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Quote Of The Day

Posted in its entirety, with apologies to Lexington, because it’s short and wouldn’t make sense otherwise:

A harrowing tale from a taxi driver this morning. An immigrant from Pakistan, he spent the past twenty years building up a successful limousine business in New York City, ferrying Masters of the Universe around.

He was living the American Dream, managing more than a hundred cars, but the recession destroyed his business in the blink of an eye, and he is now back in an entry-level job, driving a cab. He told me that many of his former colleagues have moved down to Washington, DC. “New York is finished. Washington is where the future is”.

Welcome to America, comrade.

Please help Alabamians tweet the hops free

This is a request for a moment of online activism from folks in the freedom movement to help us Free the Hops. Right now, a bill to allow for the legal purchase and consumption of gourmet beers is being held up by one Bible-thumpin’ State Senator in Alabama.  He’s bragging about his filibuster of the bill on Twitter and we’re planning to use Twitter to communicate our desire that he end his filibuster.

He’s not returning phone calls or e-mails on the topic, so it’s time to try a new technology to make our voices heard.  Even if you aren’t from Alabama, we’d could use your help. All we’re asking for is a tweet or two.  The full details of the bill status and Twitter strategy are here.

Even if you don’t drink beer in Alabama, you probably know or love someone who does and it will only take a few seconds of your time.  Thanks.

UPDATE: Although Twitter is extremely slow tonight, you can track the results here.  There’s some pretty snark coming in now.

UPDATE II: We now have a theme song.  To explain, the name of the Senator in question is Hank Erwin.

I Demand A Paper Trail!

Because if I can’t trust the machines, I’m going to have to count the C2H5OH molecules myself!

Minnesota may be forced to drop thousands of driving-while-impaired cases and change the way it prosecutes others in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling Thursday, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed.

The state’s highest court ruled that defendants in drunken-driving cases have the right to make prosecutors turn over the computer “source code” that runs the Intoxilyzer breath-testing device to determine whether the device’s results are reliable.

But there’s a problem: Prosecutors can’t turn over the code because they don’t have it.

The Kentucky company that makes the Intoxilyzer says the code is a trade secret and has refused to release it, thus complicating DWI prosecutions.

Now, as an electrical engineer who works for a company that deals with government (or usually contractors whose end customer is the government), I run into issues like this quite a bit. In some cases (such as any life-support medical device or flight-critical avionics) the source code is actually required for certification, because the regulators step through code line-by-line to make sure things are truly deterministic.

Is this an issue in a breathalyzer? I’d say almost certainly not.

But I also see how damaging it is for people who get a single drunk-driving (which in many cases — due to the 0.08 limit now in most states — the drivers aren’t materially “impaired”) offense on their record. The financial implications can often be $2,500 to $10,000, not counting the higher insurance. It can often affect jobs. One of my old neighbors worked for a regional restaurant chain, and once relayed a joke when the subject came up: “What do you call a district manager who gets a DUI? A store manager.” Simply put, their insurance wouldn’t allow them to employ someone with a DUI on their record in any capacity where they might be required to drive (or use a company car, which was the case there) as a major portion of their work.

So is this a technicality? Yes. Is it likely that if the defense gets a hold of the source code, they’ll be able to prove that the device is unreliable? Probably not. But will it keep the state of Minnesota from dramatically adversely affecting the lives of quite a few drivers who are driving responsibly, carefully, and just a shade over the legal limit? I hope so.

Something for the left to think about regarding hate crime laws

As a libertarian, I find Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx’s comment that Matthew Shepard’s death was a “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills” as reprehensible as anyone on the left ever could.  Although she’s now apologized for the remark, she’s yet another good example of why the Republican Party continues to lose elections.

However, some of the well-meaning arguments used by the left regarding hate crime legislation make no sense to me, either.  Most of my progressive friends are fairly bright people — and they are certainly smart enough to know that they probably won’t control Congress and the White House forever.  It seems that the progressive movement is promoting a slippery-slope issue which will ultimately be used to target the left side of the aisle should the social conservatives ever take over.

When the Department of Homeland Security report branding of most people on the right as potential terrorist threats was made public, I had a difficult time being sympathetic to those who applauded President Bush’s egregious abuse of executive power and blatant disregard for civil liberties.  Now that the worm has turned on them, a lot of conservatives are once again concerned about more than one of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  Their problem is similar to the same general slippery-slope the left is currently creating with the hate crime legislation soon to hit the Senate floor.

“Personal bias in officers or prosecution is absolutely indicative of what’s going to happen sometimes,” said Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, on The Rachel Maddow Show the other night. “Not always, but sometimes.”

While it isn’t the point that Ms. Shepard was trying to make, she brings up a very valid topic.  Personal and political bias will happen as a matter of public policy should extreme social conservatives manage to gain political control. Imagine a President Mike Huckabee, Vice President Rick Santorum, Attorney General John Yoo, and Senator Ralph Reed.

If you don’t think social conservatives will do everything they can to define those in opposition to their agenda as hate-mongers, think again.  They already call folks opposed to the Iraq War or the Patriot Act part of the “Hate America” crowd.  With control of Congress and the White House, it would be easy to expand the definition of hate crime to suit their purposes.

Next, imagine that some gay guy murders some straight person. While he admitted some dislike for straight people in his confession, there is still doubt in the minds of some intelligent and reasonable people about his true intent.  What is established is that the police found evidence that the suspect had participated in local Pride parades and his personal library contains works by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde and Gore Vidal.

If you don’t think social conservatives would use ownership of books like these as evidence, think again.  If you don’t think the right is capable of stretching a legal definition to suit their own purposes, I’ll suggest that you go ask John Yoo about his definition of torture.

If the intent of the left is to provide some level of federal oversight to crimes ignored at the local level, please do the right thing and amend the Constitution if you don’t feel that the 14th Amendment provides enough protection in these sorts of cases.

By creating and now expanding hate crime laws, the left is unwittedly drawing the papers with which they’ll later be prosecuted.

100 Cocktails To You, Sir.

Any serious fan of college football should be reading Every Day Should Be Saturday on a regular basis. Of course, if you claim you’re the former, and you’re not already doing the latter, I declare you’re no fan at all.

What does this have to do with libertarian politics? Usually, nothing. But it seems that Congress has turned their ire on the BCS. I by no means believe that the BCS system is the best way to crown a champion in any sport, but if there’s one thing I hate, it’s Congressional meddling into something I enjoy. It never ends well.

So what brings me back to EDSBS? Well, they’ve verbally waterboarded Joe Barton, one of the ringleaders of this idiocy:

Joe Barton, don’t forget that if you’re going to compare the BCS to communism, you must remember the important bit about Communism only turning a profit in the key departments of dead body production, grotesque architectural feats, and fantastically bombastic national anthems. College football has two out of the three, and if it’s a night game in Baton Rouge, it actually has all three, but that’s besides the point. Communism doesn’t make money, it wastes it on things like badass parades, unkillable Spetznaz units, kickass train stations, legions of firm-thighed womanflesh for the politburo types and national heroes, exploding nuclear power plants, cannons that fire attack bears, impractically large nuclear weapons.

Barton then went on to criticize the BCS for acting based solely on greed, solidifying Barton’s status as one of American’s boldest leaders in fighting the brave fight against both coherence and any elemental understanding of economics whatsoever.

I’d venture to say that college football also has its share of unkillable spetznaz units and firm-thighed womanflesh, but that yes, the profitability definitely is a clear difference from communism.
» Read more

It’s about time to start using the “n” word

No. No! NO! NO! Hell, NO!

There, I’ve said it, and it would do the GOP a lot of good if more Republicans would say it, too.  Voters in early polls did say it to Arlen Specter, who’s now busy boohooin at CNN about the “one vote, the stimulus package vote, [where he] was ostracized.”

Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of senior GOP-types still don’t get it.

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.

As an example, their proposed national security agenda seems little different from the Bush Doctrine most Americans despise:

The threats posed to our nation are more varied and evolving more than perhaps at any other time in our history. Modern communications, technology and the proliferation of weapons of all types have empowered our enemies and those who support them. Our national security policy must reflect these realities while allowing us to maintain technological superiority, support the most well-trained and well-equipped military in the world and have the intelligence capabilities to uncover and prevent attacks before they occur.

Their plans for the economy, healthcare, education and energy don’t look any different, either.

Adding insult to injury, one of their top five policy experts is going to be John McCain.

The Washington Post reports:

At a pizza restaurant in Arlington, where they officially unveiled the National Council for a New America, party leaders attempted to portray Republicans as sensitive to the concerns of average Americans and to shake off the “Party of No” label that Democrats have tried to affix to the GOP.

America could use a lot more “no” these days, not less.  While one doesn’t expect Republicans to be moral enough to take a moral stand on an issue like torture, they could at least be saying no to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts, no auto bailouts, no to bank bailouts, no to TARP funding, no to stimulus packages, no to deficit spending.

Instead, the same guy who endorsed a bailout and brought us McCain-Feingold is going to once again be cheerleading for the “yes” crowd.

If the GOP leadership wants to continue to say “yes” to big-government, they can expect the voters to tell them “no”, just like they did to Arlen Specter.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

From UPI (emphasis added):

Newt Gingrich has angered some members of the U.S. Republican National Committee by telling them on national TV that they have big egos.

The former speaker of the House and architect of the Contract With America was responding to a question about a resolution to limit Republican Chairman Michael Steele‘s ability to spend committee funds. Steele, Gingrich said in an interview recorded on C-Span, “probably has not yet learned the art of massaging the egos of RNC members.”

“Newt needs to take a breath,” David Norcross, an RNC member from New Jersey and backer of the resolution, told CNN.

Neither Gingrich nor the RNC get it, despite successive GOP losses. I’ll suggest a simple strategy that seems far too complicated for them: Get back to the basics of limited government.

John Monds: A credible Libertarian candidate

Website bio:

John Monds is a 1983 graduate of J.M. Tate High School in Gonzalez, Florida and a 1987 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia where he received his Bachelors degree in Banking and Finance. John married his wife, Dr. Kathaleena Edward Monds, in 1998 and has four children: Akintunde, Cazembe, Halima and Malik.

Monds earned the 2002 Superior Service Award and the 2003 Omega Man of the Year Award – both from the Mu Beta Beta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. In 2003 he earned the Superior Service Award from the aforementioned fraternity’s state organization. In 2005 he was named Man of the Year by the Grady County NAACP.

In his capacity as a member and currently President of the Grady County NAACP, Monds has held financial literacy classes for the Holder Park Summer Program, helped implement the Freedom Day Health Fair and advocated for citizens who believed they had been treated unjustly. He is a twenty year member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and has held various leadership positions on the local and state level including President of the Mu Beta Beta chapter. Monds also serves on the Grady County Planning Commission, Grady County Habitat for Humanity board, the Libertarian Party of Georgia Executive Committee and the Grady County Fine Arts Project.

Last year, Monds received 1,076,726 votes for 33.4% of the vote for the Georgia Public Service Commission District 1 seat.

Keep up with the Monds campaign on Twitter here.  Keep up with all sorts of libertarian goodness on Twitter here.

And the Republican Party still can’t figure out why they keep losing elections…

hankFor some time, the national libertarian community has been paying attention to the Free the Hops movement in Alabama.  A brief overview provides:

Of the Top 100 beers of the World at BeerAdvocate.com, a renowned beer review site, 98 cannot be sold in this state. Why is our choice so limited?

Currently, Alabama is one of only three states in the country that limits alcohol by volume (ABV) for beer to only 6%, and the only state that limits beer containers to a size of no more than 1 pint (16 ounces).

Free The Hops drafted the Gourmet Beer Bill to modify existing laws to allow more specialty and gourmet beers in Alabama. Specifically, the Gourmet Beer Bill would raise the limit on ABV in beer to just below that of wine. Free The Hops presented the Gourmet Beer Bill to the Alabama Legislature in 2006 and 2007 and has presented it again for 2008.

Right now, the bill is being held up by one authoritarian imbecile in the State Senate.  Here’s the scoop:

Republican State Senator Hank Erwin has been an outspoken opponent of this bill.  Instead of letting it go to a vote, he places his moral code above the legislative process. Erwin has been filibustering the bill and plans to continue until this legislative season ends.

Erwin’s strange views on morality have already placed him in the national spotlight.

“New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness,” wrote Erwin about why Hurricane Katrina hit. “It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God.”

According to stories I’m hearing today, Senator Morality doesn’t mind breaking his word when it gives him political leverage.  Two reliable sources close to the Free the Hops effort have relayed pretty much the same story to me.  According to them, a Free the Hops lobbyist approached Erwin about not filibustering the bill.  Erwin had a gun rights bill he was pushing and a deal was cut: Erwin wouldn’t filibuster the gourmet beer bill if the lobbyist would support the gun bill.

As I hear it, the lobbyist did push hard for the gun bill, but it failed anyway.  Now Erwin isn’t holding up to his end of the bargain.

Not that I’m suggesting that anyone give Senator Erwin a call at his home number of (205) 620-0116 or pop him an e-mail at senatorerwin@aol.com, but I just did.  While I’m still riled up over the issue, I do feel a bit calmer after completing the call.

Erwin is such a joke that I reserved a special place for him in my recent lineup of dumbass Alabama politicians.   However, the joke could be on Alabama, as Erwin has recently announced his intention to run for Lt. Governor in 2010.  I don’t think he’ll win, as I know too many Republicans who’d cross party lines to vote against him.  This video clearly indicates how loved he is even in his home district.

Photo courtesy of The Birmingham Free Press

Chrysler Bankruptcy: What Are The Workers Owed?

The news of the day is that Chrysler’s creditors have rejected the government’s pittance offering for what they’re owed in the prepackaged bankruptcy, and Obama is pissed. After all, he’s put together what he thinks to be a fair and equitable solution, and those unpatriotic assholes unfeeling greedy bastards creditors dared to defy him.

I have to tell you some did not. In particular, a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout. They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting. I don’t stand with them. I stand with Chrysler’s employees and their families and communities. I stand with Chrysler’s management, its dealers, and its suppliers. I stand with the millions of Americans who own and want to buy Chrysler cars. I don’t stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices.

So what’s happening as a result? Misinformation and misdirection, much like the worries about what would happen to GM (and their suppliers) in a bankruptcy. I assume you remember that, of course: the bankruptcy of GM would result in the loss of millions of jobs as the ripple effect of a vanishing company would take down suppliers, dealers, and the rest of the nation. After all, a bankruptcy would liquidate GM and they’d go completely out of business, right?? Or maybe not. It’s an argument that Warren Meyer at the excellent Coyote Blog has blasted to smithereens on numerous occasions.

But yet the argument resurfaces, today coming from Ezra Klein (with help) on the fate of the workers’ pensions in this bankruptcy:

In it, he described a hypothetical restructuring, and argued that you needed to think of both the workers and the bondholders as having made the equivalent of “loans” to the company. The difference was that the bondholder had settled on clear terms. They could end the relationship at any time by selling the bond on the open market. Labor’s “loan,” however, could not be cashed out. If the company failed to honor future obligations to workers, the money was, for labor, simply lost. Bloom explained:

They worked a lifetime and deferred a significant amount of current compensation in exchange for the company’s promise that, upon their retirement, they would be paid a fixed stream of cash and provided with help with their medical bills. Then, without their knowledge or consent, the company chose to not set aside enough money to honor that promise. In effect, the company borrowed money from them without even discussing the terms of the loan….So what we have is a bunch of old men and widows being forced to lend the company, for whom they worked a lifetime, some portion of the value of their pension and their health care. This loan was made on terms on which they have no input and they have no ability to liquidate their position.

Labor, in other words, has no ability to liquidate. The hedge funds do. And in the case of Chrysler, the workers have seen their position brutally and quickly reduced, with very little input from them. The hedge fund, conversely, refused to liquidate their own position, and demanded ever more favorable terms from the government. And Obama, it seems, quickly grew to judge their position repellent.

Those people who have lived in a defined-benefit world have a contractual promise of certain benefits if they complete a certain term of service. For those who have completed that term of service and are already owed a pension, they may get screwed in a bankruptcy. Those who have partially completed their service, in that static union world, are still expecting to receive something back for their service. Part of the compensation, known going in, is that at the end of your work career you will have a pension to live out through old age.

So the argument is pretty simple. In a bankruptcy, all those pensioners get screwed because their company didn’t adequately fund the pension to meet their obligations. Thus, giving money to bondholders instead of pensioners is unfair. The argument is simple, but it’s also bullshit.

The defined benefit world is already on the way out. Many unionized corporations have already been obliterated by the defined benefit model, because large corporate managers, much like politicians, are often willing to promise to pay something tomorrow if it means they don’t have to make a tough decision today. Thus, the pensions grow bloated, the corporation becomes uncompetitive, and eventually goes bankrupt.

With this model on the way out, though, there is already a secondary method for dealing with this issue. It’s the same method that many states use to weather unemployment — insurance. Specifically, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a government enterprise that charges insurance premiums to pension programs in order to protect the pensioners in case of a bankruptcy or other pension program cancellation.

So if the government’s proposed prepackaged bankruptcy fails, what happens to the pensions in the case of a standard bankruptcy proceeding?

At this point, nothing. The government agency that oversees pensions, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., said it’s closely watching Chrysler’s pensions. Through a bankruptcy, a company could try to dump its pension obligation on the government. If that happens, pensions would not be wiped out, but capped, with younger retirees most likely to face larger reductions. The PBGC said it will work with Chrysler and other stakeholders to “ensure continuation of the pension plans.”

They may, like the bondholders, take a haircut on their pensions. But they won’t simply evaporate.

The bondholders aren’t waiting for another government bailout; they’re waiting for a standard bankruptcy proceeding. They (who I understand are mostly secured creditors) know that they have a position of strength here as bondholders. They buy bonds with less potential return than equities, but because they’re buying debt secured by the assets of the company, they will receive a preferred position in any standard bankruptcy proceeding. They’re sure to lose money, but they went into bond ownership with the understanding that the risk as a secured creditor is less than the risk as an equity holder.

Bankruptcy is a well-known and well-understood process. Obama is trying to change the game for political reasons, in order to protect an interest group [unions] which has been supportive of him in the past. We shouldn’t let the red herring of pensioners get in the way of understanding what is going on here.

No Secession, No Legitimacy!

Many Republicans, having discovered that Bush’s policies are tyrannical, are making noises about wanting out of the fascist state that they were cheering on a few months ago. While we may wonder why it took the trivial matter of having people who have the letter D appended to their names on news reports executing Bush’s policies to open their eyes, we must welcome the fact that they are dimly becoming aware of how thoroughly their leaders had betrayed their country and are looking for ways to undo the damage these leaders wrought.

Some Republicans have even endorsed secession! This is keeping with American tradition that started the first time the idealogical ancestors of the Republican party – the Federalists – lost an election for the Presidency. In that case the merchants of New England threatened secession since Tomas Jefferson’s policies of trade embargoes with foreign markets were crippling them. Since then threats of seccession have been a regular part of the political landscape.

Often the threats of secession are not taken seriously… usually the benefits of leaving the union are not sufficiently great to attract many supporters, and thus the powers-that-be can ignore the movements completely.

Today, though, the Democrats and political leadership are reacting in horror at the reemergence of threat American phenomenon – their dreams of social engineering will go up in smoke if the masses have the option to escape! And many people who should know better are agreeing with them.

People make three arguments against secession:
1)That it is illegal
2)That it is immoral
3)That it is unwise

Let us examine these arguments. » Read more

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.

Cato scholar on SCOTUS appointments

Ilya Shapiro from the Cato Institute dives into the names of possible replacements for Justice David Souter:

[Obama] is under great pressure to appoint a woman, and the three leading female candidates are new Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood. Kagan would be an almost-certain pick a year from now, but having been just confirmed to be the so-called Tenth Justice, she might be seen as too green for elevation. Sotomayor — because she is Hispanic and despite a mixed judicial record — was the odds-on favorite until the Court took up the employment discrimination case of Ricci v. DeStefano (argued just last week), an appeal of a bizarre opinion Sotomayor joined that denied the claims of firefighters who had been passed over for promotion because of their race. That leaves Wood, a renowned authority on antitrust, international trade, and federal civil procedure, whose age (58) suggests that this is likely the last vacancy for which she will be considered. Wood offers a seriousness of purpose and no ideological ax to grind, and is thus the best nominee supporters of constitutionalism and the rule of law can hope for at this time.

The Huffington Post has the shortlist of possible nominees, including Leah Ward Sears (who is from my home state of Georgia).

I guess it’s too much to ask for Janice Rogers Brown.

Justice Souter To Retire In June, Let The Fireworks Begin

Two weeks ago, we started hearing rumors that Supreme Court Justice David Souter would be retiring at the end of the current term.

Last night, those rumors were confirmed:

WASHINGTON — Justice David H. Souter plans to retire at the end of the term in June, giving President Obama his first appointment to the Supreme Court, four people informed about the decision said Thursday night.

Justice Souter, who was appointed in 1990 by a Republican president, the first George Bush, but became one of the most reliable members of the court’s liberal wing, has grown increasingly sour on Washington and intends to return to his home state, New Hampshire, according to the people briefed on his plans. One official said the decision might be announced as early as Friday.

The departure will open the first seat for a Democratic president to fill in 15 years and could prove a test of Mr. Obama’s plans for reshaping the nation’s judiciary. Confirmation battles for the Supreme Court in recent years have proved to be intensely partisan and divisive moments in Washington, but Mr. Obama has more leeway than his predecessors because his party holds such a strong majority in the Senate.

On that note, the Legal Times Blog has this early take on who might be on Obama’s short list:

During the presidential campaign in 2007, Obama made that point when he said, “Sometimes we’re only looking at academics or people who’ve been in the [lower courts]. If we can find people who have life experience and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that’s the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court.”

That said, most of the names that have been mentioned as possible Obama nominees do have judicial or academic experience. Some of those names:

— Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic female who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

— Elena Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School who is less than two months into her tenure as the first female U.S. solicitor general.

— Harold Koh, the former Yale Law School dean and an Asian-American, whose nomination as State Department legal adviser is pending.

— Kathleen Sullivan, the former Stanford Law School dean and a partner in the New York office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges.

— Diane Wood, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

— Kim Wardlaw, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who is Hispanic.

— Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a former assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights who is African-American.

The conventional wisdom is that Souter’s retirement isn’t that big a deal because his replacement is unlikely to change the ideological balance of the Court, but Ilya Somin points out that this isn’t necessarily the case:

It ignores the fact that the newly appointed justice will likely serve for many years to come, during which time the composition of the rest of the Court will change. Today, the average Supreme Court justice serves for over 26 years. Over such a lengthy tenure, there is likely to be turnover among the other justices, and the current appointee’s ideology may have a major impact on the balance of power over the long run even if its immediate effect is insignificant.

For example, let’s assume that Justice Souter’s replacement always votes exactly as Souter himself would have. So long as the rest of the Court remains the same as today, nothing will change. However, if Obama is then able to replace even one of the five more conservative justices, the balance of power would become very different than it would have been had Souter been replaced by a more conservative justice than himself. What would have been a 5-4 conservative majority will become a 5-4 liberal one. Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, is 73 and could eventually be replaced by a liberal Obama appointee – especially if Obama wins reelection in 2012. Moreover, Souter’s replacement will likely serve for decades to come. So Scalia’s possible replacement by an Obama appointee is just one of many events that could happen during the tenure of Souter’s successor that could make his or her ideology extremely important.

Somin is, of course, correct that, in the long term, the Justice that replaces Souter will have some impact on the Court, but, as a I noted when discussing the initial Souter retirement rumors two weeks ago, the short-term is an entirely different story:

Souter isn’t the only Justice who could be close to retirement. John Paul Stevens is 88 and has been on the Supreme Court for 34 years; although he was appointed by a Republican he has drifted to the left of the Court ever since and would likely be more comfortable having his replacement named by a Democrat. Additionally Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 76 and has recently not been in good health.

Of course, all three of these Justices could resign this year and their replacements would not have any real impact on the balance of the Court. The truly significant resignations would come from Anthony Kennedy, who is 73, and Antonin Scalia, who is 73.

Nonetheless, it’s entirely likely that Barack Obama will have the opportunity to name two or three new Supreme Court Justices before his first term is over.

And if he’s re-elected in 2012, there could be two or even three more on top of that. In the long run, that will be what really matters.

C/P: Below The Beltway

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