Monthly Archives: June 2009

Quote Of The Day

On John Edwards’ sex tape, the understatement of the day:

While he was unpacking, Young discovered a videocassette, according to the book pitch. Hunter had been hired by the Edwards campaign to videotape the candidate’s movements, but this one is said to have shown him taking positions that weren’t on his official platform.

I don’t suppose any of the positions, then, were of him bending the taxpayers over for a reaming — because that pretty much was his entire official platform.

H/T: Doug

Public Schools and the Public Option

Imagine a private school where students sat in a math class for weeks misbehaving and learning nothing. Imagine that school gets on TV news because the administrators suspended the young lady who blew the whistle by taking a cell phone video and giving it to her mom who confronted them. Do you think that school would have enough students to start the next school year?

Well, this happened at a public high school in the SF Bay Area:

A freshman at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California says that’s just what she had to endure in algebra as her classmates went wild.

“People smoking marijuana in the classroom. They smoke cigarettes.” Arielle said. “There was one kid who peed in a bottle and threw it across the room.”

Clayton Valley High School is a public high school, and I have no doubt that it will open with just as many students next year as it did this year. When parents pay for an education, they absolutely will not tolerate a school run like Clayton Valley HS. When the state provides an education for free, a vast majority of parents will generally take what they can get and call it good enough. They might picket and protest for improvement, but they won’t take their kids out of the school.

What does this have to do with health care? The public option being created as part of “ObamaCare” is rather similar to public schools, in that it is designed to undercut private health insurance on the basis of price:

The Lewin Group crunched the numbers through their health care model and found that premiums for the public option plan would be 30 to 40 percent lower than private plans.

A price difference of that magnitude would lead employers to throw their employees into the ObamaCare option:

Overall, the Lewin Group estimates that if Medicare reimbursement rates are imposed, the number of Americans with private health insurance would decline by almost 120 million, leaving only 50 million Americans in the private insurance market.

That would leave approximately 15% of the population in non-government health care, just slightly more than the percentage of students that go to private school. At that point, ObamaCare will have similar monopoly power to the public schools. I expect abuses and incompetence similar to that captured by Arielle Moore at Clayton Valley High when the public option achieves its monopoly power. The scary difference is that instead of not learning algebra, the people who have to suffer that abuse and incompetence will be missing out on life-saving medical treatments.

A human life is too important to waste on government health care.

Update: John Calfee compares ObamaCare to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the WSJ. Yet another sterling example of how we don’t want our health care managed.

Petty Meddlers Face Jackboot

Homeowners’ Associations are one of life’s little sour tastes of government. Petty meddling nannies who tell you that you can’t do X, or that you must do Y, in order to keep the neighborhood “uniform” or somesuch. Sadly, it’s also a microcosm for most peoples’ reactions to government. When it’s a neighbor doing something they don’t like, they scour the by-laws for a way to run off to the HOA board of directors to get a nice little note sent to the neighbor. But when it’s their own behavior scrutinized, they think the HOA board of directors is an intolerable PITA.

So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of HOA’s, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in watching them get their hands slapped… But I still can’t support this (via Ezra Klein — hence calling this “good” — on Waxman-Markey):

Lots of small tweaks were added in the past day or two. And some of them were good! Rep. Dennis Cardoza, for instance, added a smart amendment to discourage neighborhood associations from prohibiting solar panels of aesthetic grounds.

So, they can tell you not to paint your door green, but they can’t stop you from filling your roof with a solar array the size of a tennis court.

I have a coworker facing this issue right now. He lives in Newport Beach, CA, and his HOA has some waterfront homes. One of his neighbors with oceanfront (cliff, not sand) is planning to put solar panels down the face of the cliff to electrically heat his pool. This, of course, is California. There are environmental laws, and the HOA doesn’t want to see this happen either. But being California, they ALREADY have laws that stop the HOA or anyone else (including the Greens) from interfering, because solar energy takes precedence. Now it sounds like this will extend nationwide.

This is one of those issues that gets thorny for libertarians. It comes down to property rights, but the question of what legitimate hindrances can be placed on the owners by HOA’s. After all, an HOA is a contract that a buyer of a house willingly enters into. But it doesn’t seem to me like an issue in which Congress has any right to intervene.

As a renter who is waiting for the complete collapse of the market before I buy a home, I know that I may be faced with a tough decision regarding my purchase based upon whether or not I’ll choose a neighborhood with an HOA, and whether the existence of an HOA is enough to dissuade me from the house we otherwise find desirable. But I know what I don’t want, and that is for Congress to be the one telling my HOA what it can or cannot do.

I have to give the man some credit

I happen to live in Arizonas 5th congressional district; and am currently represented in the house by Harry Mitchell.

Congressman Mitchell and I disagree about a lot of things. Abortion, social security and government health care, school choice and education policy, many economic issues, government intervention and regulations in general, and the overall wisdom of his party leadership and the DNC…

However, I have to give the man some credit. He has generally been good on energy policy, and on guns since he came to congress (as a local politician his record on guns was mixed). He was also against the auto industry bailout, against TARP, and especially against the unconstitutional TARP bonus tax. He’s even reasonable on national security issues, and veterans affairs.

I believe he has ably represented the interests of his district within the congress; and bucked the leadership when he thought it was best for the district (if perhaps not bucking them enough outside of issues of direct interest to the district).

Today, he voted against his leadership; choosing to vote for the greater good of Arizona, and of the nation; against the Waxman cap and trade bill.

Unfortunately, we all lost in that vote; but senate leaders are already saying it’s dead on their floor… so we’ll see.

Last week, and again this morning, I urged congressman Mitchell by telephone to both his offices, and by email, to vote against the bill; as it was against the interest of both the district, and the nation. This evening, having found out how he voted, and reading his statement on the issue, I called to thank him.

We may disagree with our elected representatives, we may have voted for the other guy, we may think they are the wrong person to be in that chair; but once they are there, they are OUR representatives. The peoples representatives.

Letting them know how you feel about something, how important it is to you, what benefit or harm it will do you personally; it works. It may not seem so much of the time, but most congressmen really do care about what the people of their districts think; if for no other reason that it improves their chances for reelection.

So participate. Let them know. After all, it can’t hurt; and it just might make a difference.

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

Where Is This Rally Headed?

As I’ve mentioned before, I sometimes question my allegiance to the belief that we’re in the midst of a bear market rally. Part of this is due to the constant media affinity for “green shoots”, and the fact that in many ways, the “second derivative” is actually improving…

But I don’t think the fundamentals are really there, given the financial debt/credit fueled nature of the boom that led to this.

So, it brings a question. Is there historical basis for a rally extending this long after a major shock? And I’d say yes:

chartoftheday20090626

At least one data point on that chart is up and to the right of the current rally. “But that’s only one point!” Yes, it is. It also bears one similarity to the current point — it was the first rally after the initial crash.

I think there’s more to come. And with every new day government encroachment on the market, I become more and more sure of that fact.

Liberty Rock Friday: …And Justice for All by Metallica

This song somehow seems appropriate in marking the end of another term of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Metallica
…And Justice for All
…And Justice for All (1988)
justice

Songwriters: Hammett, Kirk L; Hetfield, James Alan; Ulrich, Lars

Halls of Justice Painted Green
Money Talking
Power Wolves Beset Your Door
Hear Them Stalking
Soon You’ll Please Their Appetite
They Devour
Hammer of Justice Crushes You
Overpower

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price You Pay
Nothing Can Save You

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Apathy Their Stepping Stone
So Unfeeling
Hidden Deep Animosity
So Deceiving
Through Your Eyes Their Light Burns
Hoping to Find
Inquisition Sinking You
With Prying Minds

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price You Pay
Nothing Can Save You

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Lady Justice Has Been Raped
Truth Assassin
Rolls of Red Tape Seal Your Lips
Now You’re Done in
Their Money Tips Her Scales Again
Make Your Deal
Just What Is Truth? I Cannot Tell
Cannot Feel

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price We Pay
Nothing Can Save Us

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Quote(s) Of The Day

One this short, you’d think I was taking it out of context. And if anyone can find justification I’m doing so, let me know. But I just don’t see any way this comment is defensible under any circumstances:

I know that most readers of NRO, like myself, believe completely in creativity and democratic power of the market.

More nonsensical nonsense is rarely spoken. Democracy is majority rule. Democracy is 50%+1 of the viewing public deciding that Jon & Kate Plus 8 is the best show on TV, and all channels immediately moving to a Jon & Kate marathon. Democracy is absolutely, without any qualification, a horrendously wrong way to describe a market.

A market is essentially the situation where no matter what you want, how bizarre or against the grain of “democratic sensibilities”, if you’re willing to pay dearly enough someone will provide the service/product you desire. Case in point? There are actual real, live hitmen. If you have enough money and want it badly enough, somebody will kill another person for you. I don’t see anything democratic about that*.

In fact, the discussion in question is a discussion about a building that the owners want to replace but the elites have decided is too artistically worthy to be demolished. It is, of course, a perfect example of democracy TRAMPLING on a market.

Even worse? She follows it up with this:

But, at the same time, I do not think that the market should be the sole determiner of what we do with our built environment. If that were the case, we would have long ago converted The Mall into parking and the Capitol and White House into loft condominiums.

Maybe it’s just me, but she seems to be saying that like it’s a bad thing? It was enough after the founding to place Washington DC in a fetid swamp — it helped to ensure a short legislative session. But then technologists had to go and invent air-conditioning, ensuring our elected officials could oppress us year-round.

I think if you really want to see what government should do, let Congress meet in Cheyenne Mountain** along with the President. Keep them underground. Isolate them from the echo-chamber of big-government sycophants willing to bend over backwards to gain access to power.

With the advent of air conditioning, DC could be a nice place. Why do we let our government hoard that prime real estate?

Hat Tip: Mises Economics Blog
» Read more

ObamaCare: 21st century gerrymandering?

It’s a rare day that I don’t read some story about President Obama punishing some financial institutionauto manufacturer or responsible party for not playing along with his political agenda.  It’s fairly common knowledge that the elderly are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. While the main stream media seems ignorant of the fact, common sense dictates any insurance or public health care program will try to control costs by limiting the services and products available to patients. We now know how Obama feels about rationing health care for the elderly. As Matthew Vadum puts it:

So, old people: screw you. In the future Uncle Sam will put you on an ice floe and let you float away to your heavenly reward. It gives new meaning to the Latin phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” (In English, How sweet and glorious it is to die for one’s country.)

“If it’s my family member, it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care, ” President Obama said Wednesday night in response to being asked if he would allow his family members to have their health care options limited by government.

“We’re not going to solve every single one of these very difficult decisions at end of life,” Obama said while evading another answer on end-of-life care. “Ultimately that’s going to be between physicians and patients.”

He failed to mention that he would be the one controlling the purse strings available to the physicians and patients he mentioned.

Tying this all together, we know that end-of-life medical care costs are disproportionately high, the government already rations health care to the elderly and will be forced to do more of it should they take over a greater portion of the industry, Obama rewards his friends and punishes his enemies — and that the elderly are more likely to vote Republican than younger people.

Not that I’m suggesting that Obama would try to control the outcome of future elections by rationing health care options, but think about it. Reward some favored constituency here and punish some disfavored one there, especially if Paul is a Democrat and Peter is a Republican.  And the easiest target of all for health care rationing would be senior citizens who tend to vote Republican.

SCOTUS Returns to Sanity in School Strip Search Case

It seems that most of the time the U.S. Supreme Court is divided 5-4 on what should be very basic Constitutional principles (such was the case I wrote about in my most recent post). But once in awhile, SCOTUS does the unthinkable and actually upholds the Constitution. In Safford Unified School District #1 et. al. v. Redding, the court ruled 8-1 that the school district had violated then 13 year-old Savana Redding’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

Reuters Reports:

“Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution,” Justice David Souter wrote for the court majority.

The school’s policy prohibits the use, possession or sale of any drug on school grounds, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. A week before the search, a student became sick after taking pills from a classmate and said certain students were bringing drugs to school.

Following an assistant principal’s orders, a school nurse had Redding remove her clothes, move her bra to the side and pull her underwear out, exposing her breasts and pelvic area, to see if she was hiding any ibuprofen pills.

[…]

Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the part of the ruling that Redding’s privacy rights had been violated.

Thomas said the ruling “grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess the measures that these officials take to maintain discipline in their schools and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge.”

While the court agreed that the school district violated Redding’s privacy rights, only Justices Ginsburg and Stevens believed the school administrators should be held liable; the remaining Justices believed that prior to this ruling, the law had not been clearly established.

The ACLU attorney Adam Wolf who represented Redding was also quoted in the article saying: “Today’s ruling affirms that schools are not constitutional dead zones. Savana … is pleased that other students will not have to go through the trauma that she experienced.”

I think we sometimes forget that public school teachers and administrators are actually agents of the government. At times, schools have become “constitutional dead zones” but we should always remember that government agents of all kinds should be expected to respect legitimate rights of students. If the school administrators had good reason to believe that Redding had contraband, they could apply for a search warrant and allow the proper authorities to conduct the search.

Quote Of The Day

Reason’s Jacob Sullum on Sonia Sotomayor:

This inconsistency is not exactly encouraging, but even if Sotomayor chooses sides by flipping a coin she might still turn out better (or at least no worse) than David Souter, and Obama easily could have chosen someone more consistently bad.

I don’t expect much good from Sotomayor, or would have from anyone Obama had selected. Obama does not have an interpretation of the Constitution that I support, and thus I would expect his judicial appointees to consider the limits the Constitution places on government just as “pliable” as he does.

So if she turns out to be better than I expect — an understandably low bar to be set — I’ll take it.

30,000th Comment

This evening, we had our 30,000th comment here on the Liberty Papers.

On behalf of all of us who post here, I’d like to thank you, our audience, for your feedback, arguments, discussions, and explanations.

You, our readers, are why we write.

Thanks for reading.

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.

SCOTUS: No Constitutional Right for DNA Testing Post-Conviction

Last week in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District et. al. v. Osborne the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that convicts have no Constitutional right to DNA testing even if such testing would conclusively determine the guilt or innocence of the convict. In this particular case, William Osborne was willing to pay for the DNA test at his own expense but the DA’s office refused to allow Osborne to have access to the sample. Roberts, writing for the court’s majority joined by Thomas, and Scalia, ruled against Osborne because of lack of legal precedents and that Osborne did not avail himself of the available evidence and technological advances at the time of trial. Alito with Kennedy joining wrote a concurring opinion in which Alito worried that allowing Osborne to have access to his DNA sample would flood the criminal justice system with demands that more DNA evidence be preserved. Both opinions stressed that the domain for making guidelines for DNA preservation and testing would better be handled by state legislatures rather than the federal courts.

First, some excerpts from Justice Roberts:

A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man. At trial, the defendant is presumed innocent and may demand that the government prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. But “[o]nce a defendant has been afforded a fair trial and convicted of the offense for which he was charged, the presumption of innocence disappears.” Herrera v. Collins, 506 U. S. 390, 399 (1993). “Given a valid conviction, the criminal defendant has been constitutionally deprived of his liberty.” Dumschat, supra, at 464 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). (p. 15)

Osborne seeks access to state evidence so that he can apply new DNA-testing technology that might prove him innocent. There is no long history of such a right, and “[t]he mere novelty of such a claim is reason enough to doubt that ‘substantive due process’ sustains it.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 303 (1993). (p. 19)

Establishing a freestanding right to access DNA evidence for testing would force us to act as policy makers, and our substantive-due-process rulemaking authority would not only have to cover the right of access but a myriad of other issues. We would soon have to decide if there is a constitutional obligation to preserve forensic evidence that might later be tested. Cf. Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U. S. 51, 56–58 (1988). If so, for how long? Would it be different for different types of evidence? Would the State also have some obligation to gather such evidence in the first place? How much, and when? No doubt there would be a miscellany of other minor directives. See, e.g., Harvey v. Horan, 285 F. 3d 298, 300–301 (CA4 2002) (Wilkinson, C. J., concurring in denial of rehearing).

In this case, the evidence has already been gathered and preserved, but if we extend substantive due process to this area, these questions would be before us in short order, and it is hard to imagine what tools federal courts would use to answer them. At the end of the day, there is no reason to suppose that their answers to these questions would be any better than those of state courts and legislatures, and good reason to suspect the opposite. See Collins, supra, at 125; Glucksberg, supra, at 720.” (p. 20 & 21)

I think Roberts is making this issue more complicated than necessary. As he points out, the evidence has been preserved. There is no need to get into “policy making” to say that the DA must allow Osborne access to the sample that the DA physically possesses. And even if the presumption of innocence disappears and the burden of proof falls on Osborne to prove his innocence, how can he possibly attempt to do so without having the sample?

Now an except from Alito:

Respondent was convicted for a brutal sexual assault. At trial, the defense declined to have DNA testing done on a semen sample found at the scene of the crime. Defense counsel explained that this decision was made based on fear that the testing would provide further evidence of respondent’s guilt. After conviction, in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain parole, respondent confessed in detail to the crime. Now, respondent claims that he has a federal constitutional right to test the sample and that he can go directly to federal court to obtain this relief without giving the Alaska courts a full opportunity to consider his claim […]

[…]

[E]ven though respondent did not exhaust his state remedies, his claim may be rejected on the merits, see §2254(b)(2), because a defendant who declines the opportunity to perform DNA testing at trial for tactical reasons has no constitutional right to perform such testing after conviction.” (p. 1 & 2)

Stevens in his dissent (joined by Ginsburg and Breyer; Souter filed a concurring opinion) responded to the majority opinion as follows:

The State of Alaska possesses physical evidence that, if tested, will conclusively establish whether respondent William Osborne committed rape and attempted murder. If he did, justice has been served by his conviction and sentence. If not, Osborne has needlessly spent decades behind bars while the true culprit has not been brought to justice. The DNA test Osborne seeks is a simple one, its cost modest, and its results uniquely precise. Yet for reasons the State has been unable or unwilling to articulate, it refuses to allow Osborne to test the evidence at his own expense and to thereby ascertain the truth once and for all. (p. 1)

The liberty protected by the Due Process Clause is not a creation of the Bill of Rights. Indeed, our Nation has long recognized that the liberty safeguarded by the Constitution has far deeper roots. See Declaration of Independence¶2 (holding it self-evident that “all men are. . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among which are “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”);see also Meachum v. Fano, 427 U. S. 215, 230 (1976) (STEVENS, J., dissenting). The “most elemental” of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause is “the interest in being free from physical detention by one’s own government.” Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 529 (2004) (plurality opinion); see Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U. S. 71, 80 (1992) (“Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause”).

Although a valid criminal conviction justifies punitive detention, it does not entirely eliminate the liberty interests of convicted persons. For while a prisoner’s “rights may be diminished by the needs and exigencies of the institutional environment[,] . . . [t]here is no iron curtain drawn between the Constitution and the prisons of this country.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U. S. 539, 555–556 (1974); Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U. S. 223, 228–229 (2001) (“[I]ncarceration does not divest prisoners of all constitutional protections”). Our cases have recognized protected interests in a variety of post conviction contexts, extending substantive constitutional protections to state prisoners on the premise that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires States to respect certain fundamental liberties in the post conviction context. See, e.g., Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U. S. 401, 407 (p. 7 & 8)

Wow, if I didn’t know any better, I would think Stevens was of a libertarian or Lockean ideology because I think he is spot on in this case. There are times whenever “judicial activism” is necessary whenever state legislatures fail to uphold due process and other Constitutional protections.

Stevens continues:

The fact that nearly all the States have now recognized some post conviction right to DNA evidence makes it more, not less, appropriate to recognize a limited federal right to such evidence in cases where litigants are unfairly barred from obtaining relief in state court. (p. 9)

Throughout the course of state and federal litigation, the State has failed to provide any concrete reason for denying Osborne the DNA testing he seeks, and none is apparent. Because Osborne has offered to pay for the tests, cost is not a factor. And as the State now concedes, there is no reason to doubt that such testing would provide conclusive confirmation of Osborne’s guilt or revelation of his innocence.7 In the courts below, the State refused to provide an explanation for its refusal to permit testing of the evidence, see Brief for Respondent 33, and in this Court, its explanation has been, at best, unclear. Insofar as the State has articulated any reason at all, it appears to be a generalized interest in protecting the finality of the judgment of conviction from any possible future attacks. See Brief for Petitioners 18, 50.8 (p. 11)

In other words, if the state properly convicted the right person, what is the state so afraid of?

It seems to me obvious that if a wrongly convicted person were to produce proof of his actual innocence, no state interest would be sufficient to justify his continued punitive detention. If such proof can be readily obtained without imposing a significant burden on the State, a refusal to provide access to such evidence is wholly unjustified. (p. 13)

It’s really is too bad that Stevens’ opinion did not carry the day. It’s also too bad that Osborne was the test case for this very important issue (Osborne is not what most might consider a sympathetic person; even if he was proven innocent of these charges, he faces other charges unrelated to this case). It doesn’t seem right that the Supreme Court would allow the state to withhold exculpatory evidence which would lead to the truth. Isn’t getting to the truth the point of our criminal justice system?

Trust, blogs, and the FTC?

So, the FTC is coming after bloggers who make money and don’t adequately disclose it:

New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers – as well as the companies that compensate them – for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

It would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer – and getting commissions for any sales from it – would be enough to trigger oversight.

The Federal Government is the least trustworthy enterprise in the United States. Its leaders and representatives work solely for the benefit of the enterprise, circumventing its own rules and all standards of decency and honesty whenever they deem it necessary. Heck, just this week I received a bill–with penalties and interest–for a tax balance I paid before April 15. Really, how can Washington have any moral standing on this one?

Quote Of The Day

The Sheriff whose deputies raided Berwyn Heights, MD mayor Cheye Calvo’s house predictably doesn’t think they did anything wrong. He said a lot of pretty despicable things in that article, but this one really bothers me:

“I’m sorry for the loss of their family pets,” Jackson said. “But this is the unfortunate result of the scourge of drugs in our community. Lost in this whole incident was the criminal element. . . . In the sense that we kept these drugs from reaching our streets, this operation was a success.”

What criminal element? The mayor? His wife? His elderly mother-in-law? The two labrador retrievers they shot?

Did they suspect Calvo was a drug-runner? Obviously not, because they ALREADY knew the drugs were intended (from an on-going investigation) for a false drop.

If there’s a criminal element, don’t you think it might be the guys, dressed in black, who busted down the door of a law-abiding citizen, terrorized his family, and shot his dogs? All without even a cursory investigation to see if they’d done anything wrong other than having their own address on a package that even the cops weren’t sure was intended for them?

This isn’t the result of the scourge of drugs or the criminal element. This is the result of shoddy police work. This Sheriff should be ashamed of his wanton disregard for logic and humanity.

BB&T One Of First To Return TARP Funds

BB&T, a regional southern bank, is a bit of a darling of the libertarian movement. After Kelo, they made it bank policy to not lend money towards projects utilizing eminent domain. Co-contributor Jason Pye suggested a desire to open an account there after BB&T began donating money to UNC-Greensboro to found a pro-capitalism and pro-markets program that is founded in morality as well as economics.

It was sad, of course, when I reported late last year that BB&T had decided to take TARP money. I pointed out that if the rules have changed and the government’s picking winners and losers, it’s possible that they had a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to take the money. But I was still sad.

So I’m much happier to see that BB&T is leading the charge to pay back the TARP funds. There are many banks who I believe are simply trying to get out of TARP due to the additional regulation imposed by the government, but BB&T’s previous commitment to principle is enough to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was done in earnest.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit’N’Run

This is Government

According to the Iranian government, the person dying below was a terrorist. No doubt all the people walking around her in apparent unconcern for there were fellow terrorists, and the people she was terrorizing were outside camera range.

She is being called Neda. The person who uploaded the video to Youtube claims that he was nearly half a mile away from the demonstrations when a sharpshooter shot a teenage girl standing nearby with her father. Within a few seconds, she was dead, her eyes turn to the camera before being obscured by the pools blood that pour out of her mouth and nose.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

Many people are arguing that this is the sort of thing that democracy is supposed to prevent. Of course, democracies also shoot people opposed to the government’s policies.

Why? because government, at its heart, is an organization that uses force to get its way. It is incapable of limiting its violence to socially beneficial causes like apprehending murderers. At some point, it points a gun at a group of people and demands they submit, and anyone who refuses gets a bullet.

This is government. Over there or over here, it is the same; the few exploit the many, and they are ready to use beatings, kidnappings and murder to get their way.

So who are the real terrorists?

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.

Symbolic Victories Are Often Real Losses

Judging from his statements and the note he left in his car, James von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Museum believing that he was about to strike a blow against Jewish world hegemony and Federal gun-control.  Even by his twisted standards, his actions were counterproductive. His plan was to massacre people visiting and working at the holocaust museum, and to symbolically harm Jews, whom he believed were looting non-Jewish people through their control of the government and the financial industry among others.

Let us examine, though, the effects of von Brunn’s attack.  He murdered a security guard, Stephen T. Johns (who, it should be noted, had courteously opened the door let in the man who would murder him).  Within hours, the security guards who shot von Brunn down were rightly being lionized, and by extension, the entire apparatus of security-guards-cum-metal-detectors that have come to characterize the modern U.S.   People started agitating for further limitations on weapons ownership, freedom of speech and against organizations that agitate for freeing people from government oversight.  There was a massive outpouring of sympathy for Jews.  Two days after von Brunn’s attack, about the time doctors were concluding that he would survive his wounds, the Holocaust museum was open for business. No doubt within a week they will have hired Stephen Johns’ replacement.

In other words, from von Brunn’s perspective he lost: he suffered life threatening wounds, incited in people a hatred of his movement, shot an easily replaced, ‘expendable’ guard and shut a museum down for one day while giving it lots of free publicity.

Much as we libertarians abhor murderous savages like von Brunn, we should take note of the effects of his attack.  His attack is one of many that all demonstrate an important rule of resistance against the state.  Like John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry,  the assassination of McKinley, and countless other acts of symbolic violence, von Brunn’s attack discredited his movement and increased sympathy for his opponents.

Hardly a month goes by without some fellow libertarian radical posting a comment to the effect that the second amendment is what protects the other rights supposedly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, or writing cliched statements containing the phrase “ballot box, soap box, ammo box”.  In the 2008 primary season, Ron Paul supporters reveled in their symbolic victory after they chased Rudy Giuliani off the weather-deck of a ferry.

While such chest-thumping is very satisfying, and satisfies a psychological need to feel powerful, it  is usually a losing strategy;  any action that swings sympathy towards our opponents will make us weaker.  The psychology of crowds is fairly well understood.  Crowds hate the weak.  Paradoxically, crowds also envy the powerful. They want security and to live free of fear and uncertainty.  They don’t care about philosophy, and their conception of justice and morality is a crude, instinctual one that is the product of human evolution.

Turning the mob in a pro-freedom direction requires a combination of the following:

  • Inciting in people a hatred and contempt of the political classes and the bureaucrat and police who do their bidding.
  • Making people aware of how badly the political classes are ripping them off.
  • Developing institutions that perform social functions that do not use coercion to acquire resources.
  • Encouraging people to rely on themselves and those institutions.

Most violent/semi-violent protests incite in people a fear of the protestors.  The people then turn to the government to protect them from the scary protestors.  When the protests or political actions or symbolic acts of vandalism don’t accomplish any meaningful change, the net result is a stronger, more powerful government that has been given permission to suppress the movement that the symbolic act was meant to promote.

Successful protest movements like the black civil rights movement succeeded precisely because the symbolic acts encouraged people to identify with the protesters.  When the police set german shepherds on black people walking in orderly columns, the people seeing the images and video saw the police as the dangerous mob and the protesters as being the civilized, non-threatening party to the conflict.

It is very important that we who advocate for freedom keep this in mind; disorderly or scary behavior turns people against us.  Freedom is civilized. Commerce is peaceful. Free markets are bountiful.  Let us  allow the government an uncontested claim on the mantle of civilization-threatening barbarity it has worked so hard to earn.

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.

I Don’t Ask Congress To Applaud Iranian Protesters, But I’ll Do It Myself

Congress has voted to condemn the actions of the Iranian government, and as Reason points out, Ron Paul in typical contrarian fashion is the sole “no” vote:

I rise in reluctant opposition to H Res 560, which condemns the Iranian government for its recent actions during the unrest in that country. While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about “condemning” the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives. I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little. And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran.

I applaud Ron Paul for taking his usual principled stand. Our Congress does not need to be spending their time issuing Resolutions toothless moralistic statements about America, much less other countries. Even if I were to retreat from my cautious anarchist tendencies and accept that Congress actually deserves real responsibilities, that responsibility is to legislate, not preach.

But a part of those anarchist tendencies is Heinlein’s rational anarchy. All actions are ultimately morally within the hands of individuals. Immaterial of laws or society, it is the individual who is morally responsible for acting rightly or wrongly.

So I don’t ask Congress to speak on Iran. Taking a chance to personalize H Res 560, let me do it myself:

Resolved, That Brad Warbiany —

  1. expresses his support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;
  2. condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and
  3. affirms the universality of individual rights and considers any government which infringes upon those individual rights to be illegitimate.

Iran is at a very important point. In a mere matter of hours, this may come to a head. The mullahs have signaled that they will resort to violence with a call that any who continue protesting “will be held responsible for the consequences and chaos.” Many people in Iran have said that they’re going to protest anyway.

As I write this in California, it is 10:15 AM in Iran. Much will happen in the next few hours. To those Iranians who are not sure what will happen next, I can only wish you safety and success. I’m not sure you’ll have the former, but if you don’t I at least hope you achieve the latter.

Or Else We Will Be Very, Very Angry With You!

Apparently the UN has said it has the right to stop any North Korean ship suspected of smuggling arms. Or, not really… We have the right to ASK them to stop. And if they don’t stop, they will be in deep trouble with the UN. How deep? They might be angry and write a letter pass a resolution!

Caution: Language NSFW

As Bruce from QandO asks:

Reading this carefully, it seems the UN has authorized them to “query” a NoKo ship and ask to inspect it. NoKo can say “no”. If NoKo says no, we can demand they go to the nearest port for inspection. But again, all the NoKo ship has to do is say “no” and that ends it. Result: Strong report sent to UN. Sounds more like punishment for those who have to fill out the report to the UN than NoKo.

Where else in the universe are such steps considered “tough” besides the UN?

So you’re on notice, Kim Jong Il. Instruct your ships to stop when asked. If you don’t, we will be very, very angry with you.

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