Monthly Archives: May 2010

There Is No Such Thing As “State’s Rights”

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Stephen Green has an excellent column this week at Pajamas Media where he cautions his fellow libertarians to stay away from the siren call of the “state’s rights” movement:

We need to give up this notion of “states’ rights.” First of all, it’s in bad taste. The phrase used to be code for “Jim Crow.” And while I’m certain that’s not true for 99% of us, we can — and should — do better than to emulate vile racists. Secondly, however, “states’ rights” is a misnomer. It’s an impossible thing. It doesn’t exist, and shouldn’t.

Let me explain.

I remember reading once somewhere that:

All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

In other words, individuals have rights, and governments are instituted with powers to protect those rights, and are (or ought to be) restricted from abusing them.

With me so far? Individuals have rights; governments have powers.

As Green goes on to point out, the ongoing tension between the state and Federal governments was instituted to protect individual liberty not to give some amorphous entity called a “state” rights over it’s citizens. In fact, the Constitution specifically provides the Federal Government with the power to step in when the states step over the line:

One of the tensions that exists between Washington and the states is that Washington has the duty — the power — to “guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” And when a particular state government discriminates against 20, 30, 40% of its citizens, then it’s no stretch to argue that that state no longer enjoys a republican form of government. At least not how republicanism is properly understood in this country.

More importantly, we fought a war that pretty much resolved the issue of state’s rights, and afterwords passed an amendment that significantly altered the relationship between the states and the federal government. Whatever the “rights” of the states may have been before the ratification of the 14th Amendment, they were significantly cut back by it’s adoption. So it is pointless to talk about the 10th Amendment in a vacuum as if the 14th Amendment doesn’t exist.

Green closes out with the most important point:

States don’t have rights. Individuals do. It’s time we went about the business of restoring those rights, without alienating a huge constituency which suffered too long without them.

Indeed.

Quote Of The Day

The NYT has a story today about a student racking up a crushing amount of student debt to earn a degree at NYU, blaming everyone except the student for allowing her to build up that debt.

Of course, I have some serious blame for the lenders too, when I realize exactly what they were investing in.

She recently received a raise and now makes $22 an hour working for a photographer. It’s the highest salary she’s earned since graduating with an interdisciplinary degree in religious and women’s studies.

Even if she eventually can pay off all this debt, all I can say is: what a waste of 4 years and $100K.

The Conscience Of A Phony Libertarian: Wayne Allyn Root And The Decline Of The Libertarian Party

If the only book on libertarianism that you ever read was Wayne Allyn Root’s The Conscience of a Libertarian, then you’d be compelled to conclude that the most important liberty issues facing America are internet gambling, tax cuts for small businesses, and home schooling. That’s because Root, a former Republican who became the Libertarian Party’s Vice-Presidential nominee in 2008, seems to devote far more space to those policy areas than to others that most libertarians that I know care about, such as civil liberties, the war on drugs,and the national security state. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Root spends far more time talking about himself, and why only he is capable of making the Libertarian Party competitive, than he does about these issues, or about what it really means to be a libertarian.

That’s understandable, though, because this is quite obviously a campaign book designed to bolster Root’s bid for the 2012 LP Presidential nomination, and because Root is not much of a libertarian.

Like many Republicans, conservatives, and “Constitutionalists,” Root blindly worships the Constitution to the point where “state’s rights” take on more importance than individual liberty. For example, he suggests early on at page 18 (in my copy at least) that individual states should have the “right” to decide issues like abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, online gaming, assisted suicide, and drug use. This may be a perfectly correct Constitutional position, it is not, however, a libertarian position. To a libertarian, state interference in an individual’s life is wrong whether it happens at the federal, state, or local level, and a law saying that someone can’t ingest a certain substance is wrong regardless of whether or not the Tenth Amendment authorizes it.

Another example occurs on page 75, where he says that the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, where the Court struck down state laws barring interracial marriages, was the wrong decision. Instead, he says, the Court “should have declared that government had no right to license marriage at all.” I happen to agree with the idea that marriage and the state should be separated, but this reaction to the Loving decision strikes me as bizarre, not the least because the Court never would have done what Root proposes because none of the litigants in the case were asking it to do that. Loving was decided correctly, why is it so hard to say that ?

On page 222, Root demonstrates yet another deviation from libertarianism when he discusses immigration and says; “We must secure our borders and bring illegal immigration to a screeching halt. How? By protecting our borders with all those troops we will bring home from … around the globe.” Militarizing the border ? Hardly a libertarian position, but definately a Republican one.

On page 257, he endorses the debunked claims of the anti-vaccination crowd: “I believe that our national epidemic of autism and ADHD has a definite connection to the large-scale vaccinations required of our young children.” There is, of course, no evidence to support this claim but I suppose that if Root were the nominee in 2012 the LP would get Jenny McCarthy’s vote. This is a minor issue, and not really “libertarian,” but the last thing the LP needs to do is associate with someone who believes in pseudo-science.

The final strange passage that I’ll reference here is on page 29, where Root discusses his reasons for leaving the Republican Party (mostly because they wanted to ban online poker), and says, “nothing made my decision clearer than the morning of October 19, 2008, when I heard the remarkable announcement that General Colin Powell was endorsing Barack Obama for President of the United States… I was finally completely at peace with my decision to leave the Republican Party…” This was nearly five months after he had been nominated to run on the Libertarian ticket; had not made his mind up about the GOP at that point ?

After reading this book, and based on my previous experiences of watching Root during his various appearances on cable television, I am left with the over all impression of someone who is a cross between a televangelist and a used car salesman. The one thing that he seemed most concerned with is his own self-promotion, and I question his commitment to the ideas of the party that he proposes to represent.  I will give Root credit for being energetic, but libertarian he’s not.

SCOTUS will Hear Hank Skinner’s Case but Might Not Make the Final Decision

Yesterday SCOTUS decided they will hear Hank Skinner’s case; arguments will likely be heard sometime next year. However, even if Skinner ‘wins,’ SCOTUS is unlikely to decide once and for all if convicts have a Constitutional right to challenge their convictions if exculpatory evidence becomes available post-conviction. Legal experts say that the most Skinner can hope for is a SCOTUS ruling which would allow a lower court to make the decision which would likely lead to one appeal after another and potentially find its way back to SCOTUS.

Brandi Grissom writing for The Texas Tribune explains the long road ahead if SCOTUS rules in Skinner’s favor:

Even if the court agreed that Skinner can request DNA testing under federal civil rights law, Hoffmann said, it’s unlikely the courts would rule that he has a constitutional right to prove he was actually innocent. The Supreme Court has never ruled that the Constitution spells out such a right. It’s likely that Skinner’s case or a similar one would make its way back to the Supreme Court and eventually force the court to face that question. If the court were to answer it affirmatively, Hoffmann said, it could start a flood of litigation from inmates claiming innocence. That, in turn, could raise a myriad of questions about how the justice system operates and really “gum up the works,” he said. “They really don’t want to kind of bite the bullet and recognize this as a federal constitutional right.”

Allowing DNA requests under federal civil rights law would also bring the Supreme Court closer to a larger question that Blackburn and Hoffmann said the elite jurists have carefully avoided: whether inmates have a constitutional right to prove they are actually innocent. With the rise of DNA science, the question looms large in cases such as Skinner’s, in which testable evidence exists that the jury never heard. Currently, federal innocence claims are primarily based on deprivation of an inmate’s constitutional right to due process — things like shoddy representation or biased juries. There is no legal remedy for convicted criminals who claim the jury just got it wrong, even though their rights were properly protected at trial, Hoffmann said.

“Whether they’re actually innocent or not is kind of a legal irrelevancy once the jury has spoken its version of the truth,” Hoffmann said. “Basically, our legal system is constructed in such a way that that’s the end of it.”

I’m not a lawyer and would never claim to be but a criminal justice system in which judges and lawyers can say that actual proven innocence is ‘legally irrelevant’ is surly a criminal justice system that is broken – particularly when an individual’s life is on the line.

This is why I do not trust the government to kill in my name. There is a legal definition for taking the life of an innocent* person: homicide.

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Why I Don’t Listen To Jenny McCarthy — Or the CDC

The journalist responsible for the original uproar about the MMR vaccine and autism has been shown to have produced very shoddy research, and widely discredited. He was even recently banned from the practice of medicine in the UK. This has, of course, not quieted the debate. In fact, it’s gotten even worse, with his vaccine supporters claiming the science is settled, and vaccine opponents acting as if this is all a big cover-up.

The problem with this debate, for most people, is that they don’t have the training to actually view the real research and make an informed decision. They’re trying to decide whether to listen to their usual source of information, an emotionally-charged celebrity (Jenny McCarthy) or to trust the authorities, who just naturally have that stink of “they must be hiding something” about them. Add a dash of humanity’s propensity to swallow conspiracy theories, and nobody knows what to believe.

As a parent, I decided it was my job to educate myself and make the decision for my kids, regardless of what the CDC said. Nothing is riskless. It is my job to weigh the risk of vaccinating against the risk of not vaccinating, both for specific vaccines, for the age of administration of those vaccines, even to the level of possibly discriminating against brands of vaccine based upon ingredient levels (you may laugh, but I have asked my pediatrician which brand they use).

Some anti-vaccine folks in my extended family supplied me with the crackpot books they’ve read (i.e. books where the author was denouncing the entire germ theory of disease as bogus), and it was clear reading these that the authors had an axe to grind. A book written from an ideological perspective is not necessarily a disqualification, but books where the ideology trumps the science are out of the question.

I ended up on a book published by my kid’s pediatrician. I chose it because it seemed to honestly and neutrally discuss the relative diseases guarded against, the ingredients of the vaccines in question, and the safety record of the vaccine. The author supports vaccination, but it was clear that he did his level best to offer the evidence without bias, separate from his own recommendations pro/con on each vaccine.

I ended up choosing the vaccine schedule that I put my kids through based on that information — i.e. a cost/benefit analysis of the likelihood my child might contract the disease in question, the severity of the disease if he did catch it, and the relative risks of the vaccine in relation to the above.

As an example, I chose that my children get the polio vaccine. While it’s a rare disease, it’s a particularly nasty disease, and the vaccine is one of the safest available. I also chose to get vaccines such as HiB and Rotavirus, because they’re relatively harmful diseases, particularly in infancy, and also diseases that my kids aren’t that unlikely to contract.

On the other hand, I chose against MMR. While measles, mumps, and rubella are common, they’re also typically mild diseases. The vaccine has a higher prevalence of adverse reactions than most, and there is a worry that some of the vaccines for “mild” diseases can lead to complications later in life, with a more virulent and dangerous form of a disease affecting the individual in adulthood. Thus I didn’t believe taking risks to protect my kids from diseases that seemed relatively innocuous in most kids made a lot of sense, especially since the long-term effect is unknown. I had the same rationale for the chickenpox vaccine.

I also opted for a more spread-out vaccine regimen (i.e. not necessarily later in life, but more visits and less shots per visit), because I think the likelihood of an adverse reaction may be increased when you subject a body to the stress of several vaccines at once.

This, of course, is done with the unique attributes of my family taken into account. It’s a low-risk household, with the kids breast-fed until 12 months, no day care, and not a huge amount of interaction with hordes of other youth. Further, they’re well-nourished and healthy kids, so I feel they’d be far better than “average” at weathering the storm of a disease like measles or chickenpox. This, of course, also makes them less likely to have an severe adverse reaction to a vaccine, so it affects the risk/benefit of vaccinating just as much as not vaccinating.

I know that this decision is my responsibility as a parent. I know that I am weighing some risks against others, and that there’s a chance that things could go wrong. It is because of that responsibility that I read 3 books cover-to-cover on the subject, discarding two of them as trash and settling on one that I thought trustworthy before making my decisions. At the end of the day, I feel like I made the best decision I could, given the evidence I had, and I and my family are going to be the ones who have to live with the consequences, right or wrong. That’s a heady weight, and one that most parents probably don’t want to bear. But that’s the responsibility that comes with raising a child.

The problem will come when the kids need to go to school. The schools typically demand that you’re current with all or most of the vaccines on the CDC schedule. Most public schools will allow you to let your unvaccinated child attend if you claim a philosophical objection to vaccinations. It’s a major hassle, but they do allow it. The problem for me is that I don’t have a philosophical objection to vaccination (especially as an atheist — no religious reasons for me). One of the pieces of evidence against a philosophical objection is to give your child any vaccines — i.e. my piecemeal approach is not philosophical.

I do have a philosophical objection to bureaucratic one-size fits all government mandates, though, and thus I don’t accept that the government should be the one demanding that I follow their cost-benefit analysis for “most” kids when it doesn’t fit my family’s particular situation. My philosophical objection is being forced to take risks with my children that the CDC wants me to take, when I’ve evaluated the research myself and I disagree. That objection, though, is less well accepted in California than Scientology.
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Contra Rand Paul: The Libertarian And Constitutional Case For The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

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Made by several of the most prominent libertarian scholars out there:

“I think Rand Paul is wrong about the Civil Rights Act,” libertarian Cato Institute scholar Brink Lindsey wrote in an e-mail. “As a general matter, people should be free to deal or not deal with others as they choose. And that means we discriminate against those we choose not to deal with. In marrying one person, we discriminate against all others. Businesses can discriminate against potential employees who don’t meet hiring qualifications, and they can discriminate against potential customers who don’t observe a dress code (no shirt, no shoes, no service). Rand Paul is appealing to the general principle of freedom of association, and that general principle is a good one.

“But it has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression,” Lindsey said.

“Paul’s grievous error is to ignore the larger context in which individual private decisions to exclude blacks were made. In my view, at least, truly individual, idiosyncratic discrimination ought to be legally permitted; for example, the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld ought to be free to deny soup to anybody no matter how crazy his reasons (they didn’t ask nicely, they mispronounced the soup, etc.). But the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t like that — not even close.”

“To be against Title II in 1964 would be to be brain-dead to the underlying realities of how this world works,” said professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago. “In 1964, every major public accommodation that operated a nationwide business was in favor of being forced to admit minorities.” National chains, he explained, feared desegregating in the South without the backing of the federal government because they feared boycotts, retribution and outright violence.

The problem with the Civil Rights Act, Epstein explained, is “when you say, this is such a wonderful idea, let’s carry it over to disability. At this point, you create nightmares of the first order” in terms of problematic government bureaucracies and baseless lawsuits.

“We have to start with some historical context,” e-mailed George Mason Law professor David Bernstein, who is also a blogger at The Volokh Conspiracy. “If segregation and discrimination in the Jim Crow South was simply a matter of law, federal legislation that would have overturned Jim Crow laws would have sufficed. But, in fact, it involved the equivalent of a white supremacist cartel, enforced not just by overt government regulation like segregation laws, but also by the implicit threat of private violence and harassment of anyone who challenged the racist status quo.”

“Therefore, to break the Jim Crow cartel, there were only two options: (1) a federal law invalidating Jim Crow laws, along with a massive federal takeover of local government by the federal government to prevent violence and extralegal harassment of those who chose to integrate; or (2) a federal law banning discrimination by private parties, so that violence and harassment would generally be pointless. If, like me, you believe that it was morally essential to break the Jim Crow cartel, option 2 was the lesser of two evils. I therefore would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” Bernstein concluded.

As I’ve been thinking about this issue since yesterday, I think this is about where I stand on this issue. I stand by what I said when this controversy first broke in that I believe, at least in the abstract, that people should be free to do business or not do business with whoever they want, for whatever reason they want. Additionally, I’m entirely uncomfortable with the tortured reasoning in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States and Katzenbach v. McClung, where the Commerce Clause was twisted beyond all rational meaning to justify Title II of the Act.

Instead of engaging in intellectual jujitsu, and doing several harm to concepts such as Federalism and limited government in the process, however, the Supreme Court did have another option; they could have revisited the horribly mistaken decision in The Slaughterhouse Cases:

When it was ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment added several revolutionary new provisions to the Constitution, barring states from violating the “privileges or immunities” of citizens, or taking anyone’s life, liberty or property without “due process of law,” or depriving people of the “equal protection of the laws.” But the first time it heard a case under that amendment — in the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases — the Supreme Court basically erased the privileges or immunities clause, dramatically limiting the way the federal government would protect people against wrongful acts by state officials.

That case began when Louisiana passed a law forbidding butchers from slaughtering cattle anywhere in New Orleans except a single, privately owned facility. The beef industry was big business in New Orleans, and the new law put hundreds of butchers out of business overnight. The butchers sued, arguing that the law violated their right to earn a living without unreasonable government interference. Judges had recognized that right as far back as 1602, when England’s highest court declared government-created monopolies illegal under the Magna Carta. The right to earn an honest living came to be recognized as one of the fundamental rights — or “privileges and immunities” — in the common law.

Yet in Slaughterhouse, the Court ruled against the butchers, holding, 5-4, that despite the new amendment’s language, federal courts would not guarantee traditional rights against interference by states. With only minor exceptions, the Court declared, those rights were “left to the State governments for security and protection.”

The decision’s ramifications were profound. In the years after the Civil War, Americans — particularly in the South — needed protection against abusive state legislatures. That was the protection the privileges or immunities clause promised, and that the Slaughterhouse decision eliminated. During the next decade, federal authorities abandoned Reconstruction efforts to protect former slaves, and black Americans were condemned to another century of segregation and oppression.

Ten years later in The Civil Rights Cases, the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which would have essentially accomplished the same thing that Title II of the 1964 Act did eighty-nine years later and in the process essentially gutted another part of the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause. At that time, the sole dissenter, John Marshall Harlan made a prescient observation:

Today it is the colored race which is denied, by corporations and individuals wielding public authority, rights fundamental in their freedom and citizenship. At some future time, it may be that some other race will fall under the ban of race discrimination. If the constitutional amendments be enforced according to the intent with which, as I conceive, they were adopted, there cannot be, in this republic, any class of human beings in practical subjection to another class with power in the latter to dole out to the former just such privileges as they may choose to grant. The supreme law of the land has decreed that no authority shall be exercised in this country upon the basis of discrimination, in respect of civil rights, against freemen and citizens because of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude. To that decree — for the due enforcement of which, by appropriate legislation, Congress has been invested with express power — everyone must bow, whatever may have been, or whatever now are, his individual views as to the wisdom or policy either of the recent changes in the fundamental law or of the legislation which has been enacted to give them effect.

But for a different outcome in The Slaughterhouse Cases and The Civil Rights Cases, the entire system of mandated racial segregation known as Jim Crow would have been under direct legal assault at the time of it’s birth.

It’s also worth noting that Plessy v. Ferguson involved a Louisiana law that was designed to prevent the Pullman Company from offering equal seating options to blacks. That, in fact, was the entire purpose of Jim Crow laws. Even if, for example, the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina had wanted to serve the four black college students who sat down at their lunch counter on February 1, 1960, the laws in place at the time told them that they couldn’t. Racial segregation in the South wasn’t a product of the free market, it was the product of a state imposing racial prejudices under the threat of criminal prosecution. For that reason alone, it was a violation of the 14th Amendment and the Federal Government was entirely justified in trying to bring it down.

Now, none of this means that racism didn’t exist in the South. Obviously it did, otherwise Jim Crow never would have been imposed in the first place. However, by passing these laws it’s fairly clear what that the intent of the Southern legislatures was to prevent the newly freed blacks from participating in the economic life of the South by denying them access to jobs, business opportunities, and trade while at the same time denying them access to the polls so that they wouldn’t be able to have their voice heard at the state capital. At the same time, it prevented other whites, as well as businesses from other parts of the country, from any efforts to break down the walls of segregation.

Even though the arguments that were used to justify the Constitutionality of the Act involved tortured reasoning under the Commerce Clause, the results would have been the same had the Supreme Court not so blatantly ignored the plain intent of the 14th Amendment so many years ago. So, yes, I think that Rand Paul’s criticisms of Title II are correct in some sense, and that the question of how far government should be permitted to regulate private affairs is an issue that needs to be debated more closely. That said, it’s fairly clear that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was proper, and that it’s long past time that the Privileges and Immunities Clause was given it’s full force and effect.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Comment of the Day: The ‘Why Politics Sucks’ Edition

Re: Rand Paul Under Attack from the Left for his ‘Lunch Counter Libertarianism’

This is why politics sucks. When you actually consider what the significance of Paul’s very nuanced view on this is and then juxtapose over what his potential duties as Senator would be, you quickly come to the correct conclusion that this matter means absolutely nothing.

He will be voting on budgets, taxes, appropriations and so on. And yet, while we can debate whether or not it is good or wise or prudent to have so much money and influence voted on in DC (I am opposed), the fact that such a decision about who should be qualified to do all this voting on behalf of the citizens of KY would be seriously and deliberately dumbed down to this irrelevant gotcha argument about civil rights and federal power is just frightening and simply further proof to how bad this process is.

Comment by John V — May 20, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

I think John V did a better job of making this point than I did. What Rachel Maddow was trying to do was use this gotcha play straight out of the Left’s playbook. Anyone who has libertarian leanings who wishes to run for office should be advised that because you have these leanings, you will be asked about your thoughts on the Civil Rights Act, particularly the title that deals with private businesses.

When I watched this interview, at first I was frustrated that Dr. Paul didn’t go into a more detailed explanation of this position that I admit is out of the mainstream* of modern political thought. Why did he keep going back to the gun argument** and why did he focus so much on the other nine titles that he, Maddow, and probably most who have libertarian leanings agree upon?

While I still believe Dr. Paul could have made a more persuasive argument or explained his position better, it has since occurred to me why he chose to respond as he did: he didn’t want to give his opponents too many sound bytes that could be used for attack ads.

Paul’s opponents, if they haven’t already, are busy producing negative campaign ads showing segregated lunch counters and juxtaposing his worst picture they can find next to Bull Connor’s. They will no doubt make the claim that Rand Paul wants to ‘turn back the clock’ on civil rights even though he has repeatedly said that the matter has been settled and that he would do no such thing***.

Rather than have an honest debate about this particular point, this kind of manipulation is what the debate is going to be reduced to.

John V is quite correct: This is why politics suck.

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Who Defends 40% Taxation?

Saw this (original comic by Wuerker of Politico) at The Big Picture:

My question… In what world is it fair that any entity stakes a forcible claim to 40% of your income? It doesn’t matter that the number was higher in the past, the number is simply too high.

Again, that number is 40%!

You go to work, you work your ass off for a 10 hour day (as most people in this income group do), and at the end of the day 4 of the 10 hours you worked were for the government? For every $100 you earn, the feds take $40 (not counting social security, medicare, state income and/or sales taxes, fees, etc).

40%?!?!?! The recommended portions of your income to put towards HOUSING EXPENSES is 28%. You’re expected to spend far more of your income on your government than on your own house? Absurd!

We can debate the use of the word “socialism” all we want. But I think if every payday someone had to cut a check for 40% of their income just to feed the gaping mouths in Washington, the very idea of 40% tax rates would start a revolution. But instead, we have people explaining it away and waving us off because the rates used to be higher.

Rand Paul Under Attack from the Left for his ‘Lunch Counter Libertarianism’

Now that Dr. Rand Paul easily dispatched the big government establishment Republican candidate Trey Grayson in the Kentucky senate primary, the Left is already on the attack. Rachel Maddow had Dr. Paul on her show regarding some comments he made concerning the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The issue: the notion that the federal government should not force private businesses to adopt anti-discriminatory practices.

In response to The Rachel Maddow Show interview, Jake Berliner for The Huffington Post writes:

Pretty much everyone is rightfully offended by this sentiment. The question of whether or not it is an overreach of government to desegregate lunch counters is long settled. What still exists is the sort of economic libertarianism that drives one to Paul’s conclusion.

Paul’s beliefs about constrained government – one so limited that it can’t enforce basic rules that serve the good of society – translate on the economic front into a free market responsible for virtually everything. In this case – theoretically – if the market was not amenable to segregated lunch-counters, people would stop buying food at segregated diners, and the hidden hand would have cured racism.

Whether or not the market ‘cures racism’ is not the point, Mr. Berliner. Yes, I believe that most Americans in 2010 would not patronize a business that would refuse service to someone based on race but this is really a freedom of choice and freedom of association issue.

Berliner continues:

But the fact is that, as America enjoys its place as the one true global superpower, we no longer have the luxury of a government that sits idly by and allows the free market to solve every problem, whether of civil rights or economic prosperity.

How the hell would you know? When was the last time we truly had a ‘government that sits idly by’? Government screws up civil rights progress and the economy but non-existent lassie faire policies receive all the blame. This is hardly a ‘fact’ sir.

While competition and markets have been key to allowing the innovation that has driven American prosperity, so too have crucial pieces of government investments. From decisions over two centuries to build a world-class Navy capable of allowing the U.S. to be a titan of global commerce, to Eisenhower’s National Highways, to the creation the Internet, to preventing a second Great Depression, key, responsible government actions have not only not impinged on our economic freedoms, they have enabled the prosperity that has made us not just free, but truly great.

There is just so much wrong with that paragraph I don’t know where to begin but the basic point I think Mr. Berliner is trying to make is that its government rather than entrepreneurs that makes America great.

As Dr. Paul rightly pointed out in the Rachel Maddow interview, most of the Civil Rights Act dealt with racist policies of the government – the very government that Mr. Berliner, Rachel Maddow, and others from the Left thinks is so wonderful. It was government which was responsible for allowing slavery to exist, the ethnic cleansing and removal of the Native Americans, the internment of American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry, and racial segregation of government schools, buses, and other public spaces, just to name a few examples.

If government is supposed to be our moral compass, why then are we surprised when private actors do such things as segregate lunch counters when government has already said such a practice is acceptable?

Attacks from the Left towards libertarian philosophy and those who champion it should not come as any surprise and is nothing new; ask those who supported Barry Goldwater. Rand Paul presents a threat the Left isn’t used to: principle.

The Left can easily defeat the logic of the typical Neo-Conservative or Social Conservative because of the inconsistency of his or her principles (i.e. in favor of some liberties but not others). But when people are introduced to the rights of Life, Liberty, and Property, these are quite simple, consistent concepts to grasp.

If the people of this country ever wake up and realize there are more choices besides the Left and the Right, individuals such as Dr. Rand Paul are quite dangerous indeed.

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William F. Buckley, Jr. Would Be Proud

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William F. Buckley Jr. is famous for once having said:

“I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”

If he were still around today, I’m sure he’d get some enjoyment out of the fact that a plurality of Americans agree with him:

Tuesday’s primaries were more proof of the anti-incumbency mood felt in many parts of the nation, and a new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that many voters continue to feel a randomly selected sample of people from the phone book could do a better job than their elected representatives in Congress.

The latest national telephone survey of Likely Voters finds that 41% say a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. Almost as many (38%) disagree, however, and another 20% are undecided.

These findings show little change from early January and early September 2009. However, the number of voters who feel a random selection could do better is up eight points from early
October 2008
, just before the presidential election.

Honestly, it couldn’t be any worse, could it ?

Quote Of The Day

Pretty much sums up one of the main problems with modern democracy:

In a widely quoted book entitled The End of History, Francis Fukuyama wrote about the intellectual and practical triumph of democracy as a system of government. No further political paradigm shifts would be required. Democracy was the omega end point of the historical process of human sociopolitical evolution. Great reading, perfect for the 1990s when American triumphalism and the Washington Consensus reigned supreme. But Fukuyama seems to have overlooked the tendency of modern democracies with universal suffrage to glacially move towards bankruptcy by promising their voters entitlements that these governments cannot afford.

Democracy is the rule of the popular, not necessarily the just. And voting yourself goodies from yourself the public purse will always be popular.

Racial Tensions Explode in CA

Racial clashes have sprung up in Northern California, and without the expected suspects:

At least four high-profile attacks involving blacks and Asians have occurred since January in San Francisco and Oakland, including the beating death of Tian Sheng Yu, 59, last month. Two 18-year-old men have been charged with the murder.

Rongshi Chen, 64, was assaulted last fall in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley by a pair of men Chen could only identify as “young and black”. They kicked his ribs, broke his collarbone and made off with $200, credit cards and Chen’s identification. No one caught the attackers.

When I lived in Berkeley a while back, I moved in to a sublet where my roommates were predominantly Asian. Growing up a good liberal in Seattle, I didn’t have any stereotypes and was very open to them. In return, I got treated like a second-class citizen with all of them giving me stares and ignoring me. The landlord even refused to take my rent money and wouldn’t answer my requests to see my mail. He evicted me with a bunch of made-up claims, saying that I had failed to pay rent and literally threatening me with violence if I didn’t leave.

Once I got out of that scary situation, I told the police. They said they’d keep tabs on it but said I didn’t have enough for an arrest or anything like that.

I think stories like  mine and the one above go to show that racism is a recurring facet of human society, not caused by whites in the south, reclusive Asians or angry blacks but what I believe is our shared tribal nature with primates.

Rand Paul Wins Kentucky Republican Senate Primary

The votes are still being counted, but so far it looks like Rand Paul’s margin of victory will be huge:

WASHINGTON — Political novice Rand Paul rode support from tea party activists to victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, delivering a jolt to the GOP establishment and providing fresh evidence of widespread voter discontent in a turbulent midterm election season.

Paul had 59 percent of the vote — with returns counted from 29 percent of the precincts — to 37 percent for Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had been recruited to run by the state’s dominant Republican, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congratulations Rand !

Howard Zinn was the Worst the Left has to offer

Howard Zinn passed at the beginning of this year, and I will admit part of me was saddened at his passing. My mother owned his People’s History of the United States, and my fellow students at college seemed to adore his work. My best friend is a Zinn fanatic, bringing him up nearly every time politics comes up.

Now that months have passed since he died, the second-hand positive notions are gone and the real nature of Zinn’s career can be assessed. Reason wrote an appropriate article following his passing, concluding that Zinn was “a master of agitprop, not history.”

The absolute worst of Zinn came on his deplorable misinformation regarding the totalitarian state in Cuba and the rise of political Islam, both of which placed Zinn on the wrong side of history. That Zinn’s nonsense is regularly repeated by fairly intelligent people is sad phenomenon, indeed. From Reason:

Just how poor is Zinn’s history? After hearing of his death, I opened one of his books to a random page (Failure to Quit, p. 118) and was informed that there was “no evidence” that Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya was behind the 1986 bombing of La Belle Discotheque in Berlin. Whatever one thinks of the Reagan administration’s response, it is flat wrong, bordering on dishonest, to argue that the plot wasn’t masterminded in Tripoli. Nor is it correct to write that the American government, which funded the Afghan mujahadeen in the 1980s, “train[ed] Osama bin Laden,” a myth conclusively debunked by Washington Post correspondent Steve Coll in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Ghost Wars.

Of Cuba, the reader of A People’s History is told that upon taking power, “Castro moved to set up a nationwide system of education, of housing, of land distribution to landless peasants.” Castro’s vast network of gulags and the spasm of “revolutionary justice” that sent thousands to prison or the executioners wall is left unmentioned. This is unsurprising, I suppose, when one considers that Zinn recently told an interviewer “you have to admire Cuba for being undaunted by this colossus of the North and holding fast to its ideals and to Socialism….Cuba is one of those places in the world where we can see hope for the future. With its very meager resources Cuba gives free health care and free education to everybody. Cuba supports culture, supports dance and music and theatre.”

Zinn’s movement leftism never gained nuance, even on his deathbed. His very last interview was with Playboy, in which he talked about America’s economy:

PLAYBOY: So what can the average American do?

ZINN: Not much alone, individually. The only time citizens can do anything is if they organize, if they create a movement, if they act collectively, if they join their strengths. The trade union movement, of course, is an example of that. The trade union movement is weak, and the trade union movement needs to become stronger. Citizens need to organize in such a way that they can present the members of Congress with demands and say, “We are going to vote for you if you listen to us,” or “We’re not going to vote for you if you don’t listen to us.” In other words, people have to organize to create a citizens movement. We have to think about the 1930s as a model; people organized in the face of economic crisis—organized into tenants’ movements and unemployment councils and of course they organized a new trade union movement, the CIO. So we need people to organize. Of course, this is not easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Because it’s not easy the tendency is to throw up your hands and not do anything, but we have to start at some point, and the starting point is people getting together with other people and creating organizations. For instance, people can get together to stop evictions. Neighbors can get together. This is something that can be done at a local level. This was done in the 1930s when neighbors got together to stop the evictions of people who weren’t able to pay their rent and the 1930s were full of such incidents. Tenants’ councils had been formed and when people were evicted from their tenements, their neighbors gathered and put their furniture back in the house.

That sort of nonsense about collective action being the only means of change is just that: nonsense. George Orwell alienated many of his friends on the left, who he made in his criticism of colonialism and fascism, by taking on Stalinism in Animal Farm and 1984. Malcolm X was murdered by his former friends at the Nation of Islam when he revealed the hypocrisy of its leader, Elijah Mohammed, and renounced extremism in favor of racial reconciliation. Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by employing within his own factories. The list goes on, as does the list of those who were manipulated due to their unwavering allegiance to a collective of any kind. Fresh-behind-the-ears college students who take Zinn’s words to be the truth run the risk of becoming exactly what Zinn was: a tool of propaganda.

Wayne Allyn Root Backtracks On Participating In Birther “Trial” Of President Obama

As I noted on Sunday, Wayne Allyn Root had announced his participation in a “trial” of President Obama led by Rev. James Manning, a noted birther and virulent Obama critic. Late yesterday, Root issued a statement saying that he had decided not to participate in the event:

I had a chance today for the first time to read about the highlights of the first day of the “Obama trial.” I found myself uncomfortable being involved or associated in any way with the wild charges, claims and conspiracy theories that have been publicly aired by this mock trial. I believe these wild charges and claims actually damage any future legitimate opportunity to question President Obama’s background. This forum has an agenda and I have come to the conclusion it is not my agenda. I called Pastor Manning personally this morning to explain why I’ve decided not to participate. He understood completely. We wished each other well.

I believe any association with this trial would discredit the opportunity to have a fair, open and balanced discussion or debate in the future. I want to be part of any such future opportunity. I have much to say about President Obama, and many questions about his past and present actions, but I’m more comfortable airing them in a mainstream media forum. More importantly, I’d rather spend my time discussing, debating and questioning Mr. Obama’s current policies that I believe are toxic to America, the U.S. economy and capitalism, than spending my time debating his past. I’d rather spend my valuable time in the media on educating voters about the dramatic expansion of government under Obama; the nonstop violations of the Constitution; the deadly expansion of deficit and national debt; the political payoffs disguised as stimulus and bailouts; the lack of transparency of this administration; Obama’s pro union agenda at all costs- no matter what damage is done to the economy. All of these are far more important to America’s future than Obama’s past. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future direction of this country away from Obama’s dangerous agenda- if we are not distracted by wild claims and conspiracy theories.

I’ve got to agree with Jason Pye, that this sounds mostly like Root got caught doing something stupid and is now trying to backtrack like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Jason also makes another point:

The Libertarian Party at the national level is broken. It has been for some time. Whenever we gain a sliver of success we tend to do something in another area that messes it up.

Jason has a lot more experience with internal LP politics than I do, but he’s absolutely right, and it’s something I’ve seen for years now, and it really started with the internal squabbling that erupted after the 1980 Presidential campaign, which still stands as the high watermark for Libertarian candidates nationally.

It seems pretty clear to me that Root, who seems more interested in self-promotion than much of anything else based on my observations of the man, would represent another one of those mistakes.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Rand Paul’s Kentucky Tea Party

rand paul yard sign-2

Of all the races that will come to an end to tomorrow night, the one that may be the most interesting is the Republican Senate Primary in Kentucky, where the race has essentially become a proxy for the battle between the Establishment GOP and the Tea Party Movement:

FLORENCE, Ky. — Rand Paul grabbed a microphone, climbed onto a short brick wall and told a gathering crowd of supporters to brace for an Election Day uprising on Tuesday.

“There’s a Tea Party tidal wave coming. It’s already hit Utah and it’s coming to Kentucky,” Mr. Paul said, delivering a confident pep talk here in the closing hours of the Republican primary for a United States Senate seat. “The day of reckoning is coming. We cannot elect the same old politicians without getting the same old mess.”

If his confidence is borne out by victory, it would mark one of the most important moments yet for the Tea Party, the anti-Washington, anti-big government movement that was partially inspired by the quixotic 2008 presidential race of his father, Representative Ron Paul of Texas.

Establishment Republicans — including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Chamber of Commerce — have united in opposition to Mr. Paul, but optimism was diminishing that their candidate, Trey Grayson, could prevail.

The Paul-Grayson race has been fairly interesting to watch, if only because of the manner in which it’s laid bare the differences between the establishment GOP and the Tea Parties. Grayson, Kentucky’s Secretary of State and a long-time Republican activist, has received support from Washington Republicans like Dick Cheney and Mitch McConnell. On the other hand Rand Paul, a Lexington, KY eye surgeon who’s main involvement in politics prior to today was during his father’s campaigns, has garnered the support of Senators Jim DeMint and the retiring Jim Bunning. Most recently, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson took the unusual step of switching his endorsement from Grayson to Paul after revealing that an unnamed party, later identified as Mitch McConnell, had been misleading Dobson about Paul’s views on abortion.

Despite the establishment attacks, Paul has maintained a consistent lead in the polls, and, based on where the race stands with one last day of campaigning to go, looks poised to score a decisive victory tomorrow night. Trey Greyson, meanwhile, has taken the rather unusual (for a Republican at least) step of attacking Fox News in the final hours of the campaign:

By frequently putting Rand Paul, the son of Ron Paul and Grayson’s opponent, on its air, Grayson says the network has all but endorsed Paul and given him an easy way to tout his candidacy without actually meeting Kentucky voters in person.

“I’ve been on Fox News once, on a live feed on one of the shows, and I was told I was to expect a certain line of questioning, and I was given a different line of questioning,” Grayson said. Referring to Rand Paul, Grayson said, “He’s on all of the time.”

“His dad had these phenomenal contacts, so … he’s on Fox News every couple of weeks with softballs,” said Grayson. Imitating an anchor’s voice, Grayson said the questions are softballs such as, “Rand, tell us about health care, you’re a doctor. Rand, tell us about the tea party.”

When a politician starts saying things like that, especially when there are only a few hours to go before voting starts, you can pretty much conclude that they’ve seen the last of the internal polls and they’re pretty sure they’re going to lose.

As for Paul himself, we’re likely to be hearing much more from him after Tuesday night. There’s still a General Election campaign to get through in November, of course, but the odds of a Republican losing in statewide race Kentucky in a year that seems destined to be good for Republicans in general seem pretty darn low to say the least. In the meantime, other Republicans might be interesting in figuring out how he’s accomplished the seeming impossible:

The political genius of Paul is his ability to cultivate a narrative that speaks to all strains of the Tea Party movement at once. After all, the libertarian purists who loved Ron Paul’s dissident truth-telling are not natural allies of the Limbaugh Dittoheads who dismissed him as an eccentric. He sings his libertarianism in the key of Glenn Beck – and he is writing a Republican playbook for the tea party era, turning grassroots energy into electoral power. Now, less than a week before the primary, polls show Paul’s lead over Grayson approaching 20 points. He also leads both of his potential Democratic challengers in the general election polling

It’s the kind of fusion that Republicans in other states will need to create if they’re going to prevail as well, and it all started in Kentucky.

Modern Jurisprudence is PROFOUNDLY Broken

Two contrasting stories out of the Supreme Court today, that bring home the fact that jurisprudence in this country is profoundly… hopefully not irreparably… broken.

First, from the New York Times:

NO MORE LIFE SENTENCES FOR MINORS WHO HAVEN’T MURDERED…. In yet another 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said this morning that incarcerated minors can’t receive life sentences if they haven’t killed anyone.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.

The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

“The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. “This the Eighth Amendment does not permit.”

The Eighth Amendment, of course, prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts also sided with the minority, though he agreed with the majority on the specific case of Terrance Graham’s fate.

In Justice Kennedy’s majority ruling, he made note of the “global consensus” against life-sentences for youths who haven’t committed murder. The sentence will likely enrage the far-right, which tends to throw a fit when justices take note of international developments.

In a concurrence, Stevens, joined by Ginsburg and Sotomayor, threw an elbow at one of their colleagues: “While Justice Thomas would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old … Court wisely rejects his static approach to the law. Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so.”

and in a complete reversal of logic, this judgement:

AP: High Court: ‘Sexually Dangerous’ Can Be Kept in Prison

WASHINGTON (May 17) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered “sexually dangerous” after their prison terms are complete.

The high court reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered “sexually dangerous.”

“The statute is a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.

President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.

The act, named after the son of “America’s Most Wanted” television host John Walsh, was challenged by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Their confinement was supposed to end more than two years ago, but prison officials said there would be a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released.

A fifth man who also was part of the legal challenge was charged with child sex abuse, but declared incompetent to stand trial.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled last year that Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the government to hold indefinitely people who are considered “sexually dangerous.”

But “we conclude that the Constitution grants Congress legislative power sufficient to enact” this law, Breyer said.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying Congress can only pass laws that deal with the federal powers listed in the Constitution.

Nothing in the Constitution “expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal government with such a power,” Thomas said.

Thomas was joined in part on his dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia.

It seems clear to me, that both of these decisions are examples where justices are deciding a case based on what they want to do and finding a way to justify it, rather than a considered opinion of the law and the constitution.

In the first case, the majority came to what I believe is the right decision on constitutional ground, but for what appear to be the wrong reasons. The minority on the other hand are supporting an unconstitutional practice, based on pragmatic considerations.

In the second case, the majority supported a CLEARLY unconstitutional practice for pragmatic reasons; and the minority dissented based on the constitution.

Both cases however, highlight a major problem with our “justice system” today: We can’t deal effectively with our criminals, our prisoners, or our prisons.

There are many reasons for this of course, but what it comes down to, is that there are too many crimes, too many criminals, and too little honesty in how we deal with either.

Both of these cases are about recidivism. The plain fact is, more than 40% of people who go to prison, go back. More than 60% who go to prison for violent crimes go back. More than 80% who go to prison for sex crimes go back.

There have been a number of attempts at dealing with these difficult facts; none of them effective, and most of them unconstitutional.

In the case of the criminals under 18 being imprisoned for life because of sentence enhancements… The problem here isn’t that it’s a 17 year old in prison for life for something other than rape or murder… Its that “sentence enhancements” even exist at all.

Firstly, I think the whole “global consensus” thing is not only irrelevant, but dangerous and unconstitutional (interpretation of American law should ONLY be based on the Constitution, and the constitutions of the several states)

Yes, the law evolves, and yes it is influenced by changing moral standards, which is influenced by world culture.

When we wrote our constitution, it was in large part based on principles inherent in English common law; as was the early constitutional scholarship and interpretation until we built up our own body of case law. The goes further back to the greeks, romans, even the Assyrians. Certain basic principles of law and justice are universal; or have filtered up through from the earliest formalized conceptions of both rights, and laws.

However, it is important that case law be consistent with the written constitution; and that any case law which is not be ignored in interpretation of future cases, and hopefully be reversed.

If the American people want to change their constitutions, they can. There is a mechanism for that. Until they do, there should be no other arbiter for American law than the constitution.

One of the fundamental principles of jurisprudence is that the law should be knowable, and predictable; not arbitrary and capricious. One should not need to follow “evolving moral standards” and case law in other countries, to know whether one is violating the law.

In a system where ignorance of the law is no defense, the law must be written and knowable. The fact that in todays world it is not; is not an indication that we have evolved morally, it is an indication that modern jurisprudence is profoundly broken.

All that said however I agree that the law in question should have been struck down, just for a different reason.

I believe that “sentence enhancement” conditions are themselves a bad thing. They are invalid and unconstitutional as far as I am concerned. A crime is a crime, and one should be punished the same way for the same crime, as everyone else.

Certainly, there can be special circumstances, but they shouldn’t increase punishment; a maximum punishment should be set, and that’s it. There should be discretion for judges to reduce sentences, but not to increase them. Three strikes laws, hate crime enhancements, all of them need to go.

The problem that three strikes laws are intended to solve (high recidivism rates), is more properly addressed by longer or more harsh initial sentences, combined with better rehabilitation and reintegration efforts, and a better running of our penal system.

In the second case, we again have an issue of inappropriate sentencing.

Genuine sexual predators (rapists, molestors etc..) need to be put away for life without parole, or they need to die (though I have grave reservations about the death penalty). Either way, they need to be permanently removed from society.

For some reason, we treat sex crimes as far less serious than major property crimes, or other violent crimes; as if rape were not every bit as serious as attempted murder (believe me, it is).

Some things require ultimate sanction, and serious sex crimes are among those things.

On the other hand though, we now classify the most piddling things as sex crimes. Right now, we have hundreds of 18 and 19 year old young men in prison around this country, for having consensual sex with their 17 year old girlfriends (somehow, we almost never imprison older young women for sex with teenage boys). We make people register as sex offenders for having consensual sex in the back of their cars in a parking lot…

Which just reinforces the point: We’re broken both ways. We are far too harsh on one side, and far too lenient on the other; and just plain broken all the way around, because a sentence doesn’t mean what it says it means.

The very idea that a state official can simply decide you are too dangerous to be let out of prison, EVEN THOUGH YOUR JUDICIAL SENTENCE IS OVER… It’s disgusting. It’s abhorrent to the very nature of our country, and our constitution.

Three strikes laws, sentence enhancements, sex crime laws… All are seriously broke; because they are attempting to deal with practical problems, in an impossible way. You can’t achieve the goals they’re trying to achieve, with the techniques and tools they are using.

We’re broken. We need to fix it. We need to protect society from real criminals, real dangerous people, real evil people; and we need to provide a strong incentive for the “casual criminal” (and we are all “Casual Criminals” now). But we need to do it, without destroying what it means to be American.

In order to do this, we must first reduce our prison population, not by releasing the truly dangerous; but by DRAMATICALLY slashing the amount of people we imprison (both today, and in the future).

The first thing we need to acknowledge, is that the so called “war on drugs” has not only failed, but was wrongly conceived in the first place.

Imprisoning people for drug use simply does not achieve the goals it is intended to achieve. It doesn’t reduce drug use at all. It doesn’t reduce crime at all, in fact it increases it. It turns people who might otherwise be productive… or at least LESS of a drag on our society; into total dependents. It frequently makes them into “harder” criminals.

It just doesn’t work.

Frankly, I think we should entirely decriminalize drug use and possession; even if we choose to maintain prohibition on importation, sales, and distribution.

Then there is the question of the proliferation of felonies… Damn near everything is a felony these days. Two students in Virgina were charged with felonies last year for THROWING SNOW BALLS. Schoolchildren have been charge with felonies for drawing pictures with guns in them…

Felonies are supposed to be reserved for “high crimes”. Those things which must be punished by long term removal from society.

Does anyone really believe it is necessary to send someone to prison for two years, for serving hotdogs wrapped with bacon out of a cart (yes, that is a felony in several jurisdictions in this country).

The fact is, we classify far too many things as felonies, which simply should not be. We need to eliminate most of those felonies.

What it comes down to, is that we should reclassify most non-violent felonies as misdemeanors, and eliminate custodial sentences for them; substituting EXTREMELY HIGH fines, and supervised restricted release (ankle bracelets etc…).

Combined, that would reduce our prison population by more than three quarters immediately (the drug changes alone would cover 60%). This would allow us to deal with the remainder of that population more appropriately. More harshly for those who need it, and with a higher focus on rehabilitation for those who are willing to make the effort.

Importantly, it would allow us to eliminate early release for those who have not made serious and genuine rehabilitation efforts; allowing prison officials and judges to exercise discretion appropriately.

Perhaps when we no longer have to be so concerned about overcrowding, and inappropriate early releases, and imprisoning those who should not be; we can restore some sanity to the system as a whole.

But that’s all related to the practical issue.. The pragamatic justice as it were..

The bigger issue here, is that under todays conception of jurisprudence, it is impossible to know or understand whether you are breaking the law or not. Whether your crime is a felony or not. Exactly what that crime might be, or what the punishment for it might be.

That isn’t law, or justice; and it isn’t what our country is supposed to be.

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

But I Thought This Was The [Secret] Plan?

Sometimes this gets tiring. I’m getting a bit sick of showing that bad consequences, entirely foreseeable (and possibly planned) and predicted, are coming to fruition — and the power-brokers in Washington have the gall to actually act appaled?

The great mystery surrounding the historic health care bill is how the corporations that provide coverage for most Americans — coverage they know and prize — will react to the new law’s radically different regime of subsidies, penalties, and taxes. Now, we’re getting a remarkable inside look at the options AT&T, Deere, and other big companies are weighing to deal with the new legislation.

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

Of course, the pols in Washington didn’t want this to come to light too quickly:

In the days after President Obama signed the bill on March 24, a number of companies announced big write downs due to some fiscal changes it ushered in. The legislation eliminated a company’s right to deduct the federal retiree drug-benefit subsidy from their corporate taxes. That reduced projected revenue. As a result, AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) took well-publicized charges of around $1 billion.

The request yielded 1,100 pages of documents from four major employers: AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar and Deere (DE, Fortune 500). No sooner did the Democrats on the Energy Committee read them than they abruptly cancelled the hearings. On April 14, the Committee’s majority staff issued a memo stating that the write downs were “proper and in accordance with SEC rules.” The committee also stated that the memos took a generally sunny view of the new legislation. The documents, said the Democrats’ memo, show that “the overall impact of health reform on large employers could be beneficial.”

Nowhere in the five-page report did the majority staff mention that not one, but all four companies, were weighing the costs and benefits of dropping their coverage.

An optimist — or a rube — would suggest that this is an unintended consequence of the legislation. That, after all, all of their cost estimates were based on employers largely keeping their employees on their own plans. And, after all, this bill was but a small move to cover those who were uncovered, not an attempt to overtake the American health care system in toto. That’s what they said, right?

Many said that the goal of the legislators was to get employers to toss their employees onto the exchanges, but it was denied. So why is it that rather than string these employers up in front of Congress, vilifying them for being uncaring profit-whores who would throw their employees on the hands of the government exchanges, Waxman swept this under the rug and canceled the hearings?

Could it be that these discussions weren’t the unplanned, unintended consequences of the legislation? That maybe this really was the intent?

H/T: David Henderson @ EconLog

A Succinct Take On Immigration

As someone whose great-grandparents were the ones who dropped everything they knew, hopped on a boat to cross an ocean to an entirely new continent, and built an entirely new life in the freedom of America, I’m somewhat blessed. So I share TJIC’s thoughts here. What I’d never considered is exactly what it would take for me to leave America — when you live here, “greener pastures” don’t seem to exist. So this little thought experiment is very interesting:

To imagine the delta in life and happiness that a Mexican can achieve by sneaking into the US and consensually trading labor for cash with a willing adult citizen, we can’t merely picture ourselves sneaking into some fictional Richistan in order to earn 2x or 3x our salary.

…because we’re all (and by that I mean the software engineers, the lawyers, and the starving musicians reading this blog) at the point in the income curve (largely because we had the good luck to be born in the US) where an additional dollar of income doesn’t mean much. Heck, even a doubling of income doesn’t mean much to us – most of our basic wants have been satisfied.

Instead, we have to imagine something comparable in benefit to what a Mexican sneaking over here achieves. A 200 year lifespan, guaranteed happiness for our children, or long and healthy life for our pets, a long, vigorous and healthy old age for our parents – that’s perhaps the equivalent.

What would you do to make sure that you, your parents, and your children lived hapilly for 200 years?

I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate for a second to sneak into a country that prides itself on its immigration, and which has a ton of work that needs doing, and has a ton of employers who are willing to pay me.

Neither would I. So how could I possibly begrudge those who come here for a comparative increase in standard-of-living to the thought experiment above?

Quote Of The Day

From TJIC:

In short, 1 American out of a million obeys every single law they are aware of.

The vast majority of us first consider whether a law is necessary and moral, and if it is not, we then do a cost benefit comparison, and follow they law only if we want to.

Most will deny that, of course, but in less than two minutes you can find, at the VERY least, traffic laws they’ve knowingly broken. In fact, nearly half have toked up.

It’s amazing, in fact, how many laws are “for thee and not for me.”

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