Monthly Archives: December 2011

California Has Problems, And They’re All Kim Kardashian’s Fault

There are plenty of folks saying today that while California might be — on its own — in the top 10 largest economies in the world, our political system far more closely resembles that of Greece. High spending and an inability to live within our means despite some of the highest taxes in the nation.

Thankfully, the fine folks at the “Restoring California Coalition” have decided to throw their weight behind the solution: the Millionaires Tax! And additional tax of 3% of income on taxable income over $1M, and of 5% on taxable income over $2M. (I’d point out that this would raise STATE tax brackets in those cases to 13.55% and 15.55%, respectively, well beyond any other state).

And of course, they’ve chosen as their poster child for the tax a representative sample of the average California high earner:

Now, I’ve got little love for Kim Kardashian. I fail to understand how someone has parlayed — as Joel McHale of The Soup is so fond of saying — a big ass and a sex tape into a fashion/fame empire. In fact, it’s not even a big ass and a sex tape that were the key; a lot of women probably have those. It’s more that she’s the offspring of a famous lawyer… A lawyer who was only famous because a major athlete/actor allegedly brutally murdered his wife and her boyfriend.

Any world where Kim Kardashian can be said to “deserve” her fame is a bit sketchy to me. In fact, my thoughts on her are oddly similar to those of Wil Wheaton:

That said, though, I don’t hate Kim Kardashian. I don’t know Kim Kardashian. While her onscreen persona is a bit vapid and useless, she’s obviously smart enough to have parlayed her fame into more fame and more money. She at least figured out the cardinal rule of fame: strike hard while the iron is hot. I don’t believe that we, as a society, should punish her because bored housewives find some escapist fantasy following the Kardashian family’s latest doings. And further, I don’t believe that we should, as a society, use her as the public scapegoat as a representative sample of “the rich” when she’s nothing of the sort.

The real “rich” that will be hurt by this tax are businessmen, and as much as the left scoffs at the idea of “job creators”, anyone in this state who has worked for a startup sees the reality: most of those businesses wouldn’t exist without the blood and sweat of the guys at the top — who often forego income, sleep, time with family and stability for years to build a company that eventually rewards them quite handsomely.

But even worse in this analysis is the fact that California has tried a Millionaires Tax rather recently, and the results weren’t exactly as planned:

In 2004, voters narrowly approved Proposition 63, the Mental Heath Services Act (MHSA), which imposed an additional 1% tax on personal income above $1 million. The funds generated from this “millionaire’s tax” were intended to expand county mental health programs. Taxpayer and business groups opposed the measure for a couple of obvious reasons. First, California is already a high tax, high spending state that didn’t need any more revenue. Second, as we predicted, Prop 63 would exacerbate California’s income tax volatility.

Although the final vote for Proposition 63 was tallied more than four years ago, evidence suggests that California’s most wealthy have continued to vote on this measure — with their feet. A recent survey from TNS Research, an international business research firm, found the California counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego had the 1st, 4th and 6th highest number of millionaires in the country. However, even as the national population of millionaire households grew by 5.9% in 2007, Los Angeles County lost about 7000 of these households. Orange and San Diego Counties lost millionaire households as well.

So the net result was that the millionaires left. Further, this tax intended to improve county mental health programs largely had trouble spending the money. The above article (a tad outdated from 2008, to be sure) pointed out that the calls at the time were to pull the unspent $2B+ and allow it to be reallocated to general revenues.

This is bad policy, and it will only work to damage the California economy at a time when we’re already reeling from the housing bust. Following that by making Kim Kardashian the poster child for your movement is cheap and opportunistic, which might not be so objectionable if she represented the “average” California millionaire — but she doesn’t. Of course, I can’t claim it’s a bad tactic — given the moron voters in this state, it might actually work.

California has problems. Those problems require hard solutions, but instead we have people here who think we can simply paper over it by soaking the rich. After all, they just need to pay their “fair share”*.
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Rest in Peace: Siobhan Reynolds

On Saturday Dec 24th, an important voice in the cause of freedom was silenced. Siobhan Reynolds, founder of the Pain Relief Network, tireless foe of the monsters promoting the War on (Some) Drugs, and the financially ruined victim of secret court proceedings that outrage the conscience and will rightly be held in infamy in coming years, was killed in a plane crash.

I can think of no finer eulogy than the one given by Radley Balko on The Agitator:

There aren’t very many people who can claim that they personally changed the public debate about an issue. Reynolds could. Before her crusade, no one was really talking about the under-treatment of pain. The media was still wrapped up in scare stories about “accidental addiction” to prescription painkillers and telling dramatic (and sometimes false) tales about patients whose lazy doctors got them hooked on Oxycontin. Reynolds toured the country to point out that, in fact, the real problem is that pain patients are suffering, particularly chronic pain patients. After Reynolds, the major newsweeklies, the New York Times, and a number of other national media outlets were asking if the DEA’s war on pain doctors had gone too far. …

She was tireless. I often thought she was a bit too idealistic, or at least that she set her goals to high. She told me once that she wouldn’t consider her work done until the Supreme Court declared the Controlled Substances Act unconstitutional. …

Reynolds started winning. She deserves a good deal of the credit for getting Richard Paey out of prison. She got sentences overturned, and got other doctors acquitted. …

Of course, the government doesn’t like a rabble rouser. It becomes especially wary of rabble rousers who begin to have some success. And so as Reynolds’ advocacy began to move the ball and get real results, the government bit back. When Reynolds began a campaign on behalf of Kansas physician Stephen Schneider, who had been indicted for overprescribing painkillers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Treadway launched a shameless and blatantly vindictive attack on free speech. Treadway opened a criminal investigation into Reynolds and her organization, likening Reynolds’ advocacy to obstruction of justice. Treadway then issued a sweeping subpoena for all email correspondence, phone records, and other documents that, had Reynolds complied, would have been the end of her organization. …

So Reynolds fought the subpoena, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And she lost. Not only did she lose, but the government, with compliance from the federal courts, kept the entire fight secret. The briefs for the case are secret. The judges’ rulings are secret. Reynolds was barred from sharing the briefs she filed with the press. Perversely, Treadway had used the very grand jury secrecy intended to protect the accused to not only take down Reynolds and her organization, but to protect herself from any public scrutiny for doing so. …

Despite all that, the last time I spoke with Reynolds, she working on plans to start a new advocacy group for pain patients. She was an unwearying, unwavering activist for personal freedom.

And she died fighting. Rest in peace.

Read the whole thing.

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.

GRANDMA GOT INDEFINITELY DETAINED (A VERY TSA CHRISTMAS)

Lyrics:

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
You could say she had a right to counsel
but some folks in the Congress disagree

she was flying home to our house
when she got checked by TSA
thought she might be Abdulmutallab
when they looked at her X-ray

Her hair had recently been colored
she paid cash for her Christmas gifts
two things apparently the Congress
says just might make you a terrorist

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
you could claim there’s no right to due process
but check the 5th amendment and you’ll see

they say they need to have these powers
to help protect this free country
but if it takes these steps to do so
what is it we are protecting?

Now she’s an enemy combatant
as if that makes any sense
the only thing that she’s combating
is her unpredictable incontinence

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
trying to come visit Christmas Eve
they took her rights in order to…protect rights..
the most genius plan ever in history

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
never made it home on Christmas day
she always wanted to live in Miami
at least now she’s 90 miles away

It’s not about “Elites” or “Idiots”…

Over the past few years, there has been a constant drumbeat from “progressives” (and even some non-lefties) that conservative anti-elitism is effectively “anti-science”, “anti-education”, “pro-stupidity” etc…

This is partially in response to the fact that many conservatives use the terms “elitist” or “the elite” (in the political and social context, not in the context of achievement… though that distinction is lost on leftists) as a pejorative.

Their basic comment comes down to “Well, if you don’t want intelligent, well educated people running things who would you rather run them, idiots?”

Thus, completely missing the point.

Conservatives and libertarians aren’t against smart well educated people; in fact many of us ARE smart, well educated people.

…We’re against people who want to run things.

This idea is so utterly foreign to the leftist mind, that they literally cannot conceive it, or believe it.

You see, to a conservative or libertarian, it’s inherently obvious… axiomatic even:

The world runs better, when everyone runs their own lives, and their own business, with as little interference as possible; save that which is absolutely necessary for the common good, or to prevent harm to others.

No government official or lawmaker can know more about your life, or your business, than you do; therefore, they cannot run your life or you business as well as you can.

No matter how smart, or well educated they may be, and no matter how many of them there are; they will always be working with less information then you have. Their information will always be less current. They will always have less experience in dealing with the conditions unique to your life and your business.

Since no-one can run your life as well as you can; no-one should.


Note: Economists call the idea that if you’re just “smart enough” “well educated enough” etc… you can make everything run right, the “perfect information fallacy”. If you could have perfect information (that is all information about all conditions and factors that could possibly effect the outcome of a decision) and perfect reason (that is, the ability to analyze all factors correctly at all times), then you could make perfect decisions. However, it is impossible to have perfect information in a complex system (never mind perfect reason) thus all decisions will necessarily be imperfect. This is the primary reason why communism or socialism… or in fact any kind of “managed economy” could never possibly work on a large scale; even if every person participating in that economy were a perfect communist, acting only for the benefit of the collective.

To a leftist, that is simply ridiculous… Impossible even. Someone has to be running things. It simply cannot be any other way.

You have to understand, leftists fundamentally and fully believe, that nothing (or at least nothing good) can possibly happen, without “someone running things”. No matter how “free” or “unregulated” something may appear to be, in reality, there is always someone behind it, really in control, and making sure it goes the way they want it to; favoring some parties and punishing others; exploiting some for the benefit of others.

Note: Conversely, this also means that whenever anything happens, it’s because of the person in charge. Everything good that happens is to their credit, and everything bad that happpens is their fault.

It’s called the “daddy” philosophy of government.

As with all leftist ideas, the basic principle of the daddy government is based on what children learn during kindergarten. All money, power, control, and guidance comes from “the people in charge”, like your daddy, or your teachers.

Daddy has authority, and money. From that money, he gives you your food, housing, education, medical care etc… With that authority, he sets rules, rewards you with things when you do well at what he says you should do well at; and punishes you for doing badly, for doing things he doesn’t want you to do, or for not doing the things he thinks you should do.

When you need something, daddy makes sure you get it. When you want something, you ask daddy, and if he thinks you should have it, he gives it to you.

Daddy enforces “fairness”. Daddy makes sure you share, and play well with others. Daddy protects you from the bad people hurting you, or taking advantage of you. When things are bad, daddy will make them all better.

I should note, some people prefer to call this the “mommy” philosophy of government… which may be closer to appropriate, given most leftists have no idea what a father is , or what they are good for anyway.

When you’re five years old, daddy controls the entire world; and there’s nothing daddy can’t do.

Leftists have never really advanced in economic, social, or moral maturity beyond that point. They believe that the world continues to work that way as you grow up; only instead of daddy, the one in charge is “government”.

In fact, they not only believe it’s the way it should work, they believe it simply IS the way it works, and there can be no other possible way.

Since there is no other possible way, and someone has to be controlling things; it’s absolutely critical that we get the smartest, best educated, most “elite” people to be in charge. If you’re against that, it must be because you want someone in charge who is going to favor you.

Or rather, because they have such a low opinion of the “common man”, they believe that “the people” themselves are idiots, being deceived by the people who secretly want to control everything. The people who want to control everything have convinced the “common man” of the lie of the “free market”, and of “equal opportunity” and “the American dream”. They’re all just lies the secret controllers tell the “common man”, so that the controllers can rig things to favor themselves, and their cronies. Those people are anti-elitist, anti education, pro-stupidity, and want idiots to run things, because they can then secretly control the idiots for their own benefit.

Note the assumption there that anyone who is smart and well educated MUST know that the leftists are right; therefore anyone who disagrees with them is either stupid, or evil.

This isn’t some far out conspiracy theory by the way; this is exactly what leftists think was behind the Bush presidency. Not only do they freely and publicly admit it, they write books and make movies about it.

They completely miss the point.

They don’t understand that conservatives and libertarians have a completely different idea about what government is, and what it should do.

They don’t understand…

We don’t want idiots running things….

We don’t want ANYONE running things.

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

Quote of the Day: Isolationism Edition

Jacob Sullum @ Reason writes:

Reporters routinely describe Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as “isolationist” because he opposes the promiscuous use of military force. This is like calling him a recluse because he tries to avoid fistfights.

The implicit assumption that violence is the only way to interact with the world reflects the oddly circumscribed nature of foreign policy debates in mainstream American politics. It shows why Paul’s perspective is desperately needed in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Gov. Johnson to Drop Out of G.O.P. Contest and Make LP Run; G.O.P. Establishment Fears Prospect of Paul Victory in Iowa

Libertarian leaning candidates Gary Johnson and Ron Paul are stirring up some trouble for the G.O.P. Gov. Johnson has apparently had enough of the Gary Johnson Rule and his treatment from the establishment. According to Politico Johnson will switch his party registration to the Libertarian Party and make an announcement that he will run for that party’s nomination.

Gary Johnson will quit the Republican primaries and seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead, POLITICO has learned.

The former two-term New Mexico governor, whose campaign for the GOP nomination never caught fire, will make the announcement at a press conference in Santa Fe on Dec. 28. Johnson state directors will be informed of his plans on a campaign conference call Tuesday night, a Johnson campaign source told POLITICO.

[…]

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico conducted Dec. 10-12, Johnson as a Libertarian candidate could impact the vote in his home state.

PPP found Johnson would draw between 26 and 30 percent of GOP votes, between 12 and 16 percent of Democratic votes and win independents, in a race with either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee.

As for Ron Paul, the establishment G.O.P. is getting very frightened at the prospect of his possible victory in Iowa:

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

[…]

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”

If Ron Paul puts an end to this ridiculous caucus system where certain states like Iowa and New Hampshire gets special consideration over the rest of the states, then I say that in itself is a good thing. Referring back to the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” it now appears that Paul is now in the second and third stage because the establishment can no longer ignore him, his support, or his message.

This doesn’t mean the establishment won’t try. The article continues:

Leading Republicans, looking to put the best possible frame on a Paul victory, are already testing out a message for what they’ll say if the 76-year-old Texas congressman is triumphant.

The short version: Ignore him.

“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad.

“If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”

Go ahead and ignore Ron Paul Gov. Branstad. Ignore him all the way to the White House.

Right wing talk radio, when not ignoring Paul, fight him by framing his supporters as a bunch of wackos. The long knives are coming out. When they aren’t mischaracterizing his sensible foreign policy they now go to the newsletter issue to try to scare away possible supporters. Funny, this wasn’t a topic of conversation until very recently. That’s the price of being a front runner I suppose.

I would only hope that those who are considering supporting Paul on the basis of the newsletter controversy to ask themselves the following question: “Is Ron Paul a racist and does he support the contents of the newsletters?”

If the answer is yes, then by all means don’t vote for Ron Paul.

Paul has disavowed the contents of the newsletters on numerous occasions. While I’m not completely satisfied with how he has handled the newsletter issue, I take him at his word. I don’t think he is a racist. I would even go as far to say that life for people of color would be much improved under a Paul administration than under the Obama administration. For starters, Paul would end the war on (some) drugs and would most likely pardon all non-violent drug offenders – regardless of race.

This is just the beginning. As Paul’s poll numbers raise, buckle up…it’s going to be a rough ride.

Quote of the Day

Radley Balko, on the late Christopher Hitchens:

The only time I drank with Hitchens… he entertained us with dirty limericks. But the guy’s vocabulary and syntax were so beyond me, I really only know they were dirty because he said so.

In the hyper-partisan political world in which we live, there are some people who take themselves so seriously that even the idea of sitting down for beers with someone who holds beliefs ideologically widely-divergent from ones own is anathema. For the life of me, I can’t understand those people.

I have nothing to say about Hitchens. I haven’t been lucky enough to read much of his work as of yet, know little of his politics, and generally have only seen him a handful of times on TV interviews. The little I know suggests that I’d strongly agree with him in places, and strongly disagree with him in others. Yet it is the praise above of folks like Radley that make me sorry to say that with his passing, I’ll never get the chance to meet him.

Quote of the Day: Bill of Rights 220th Anniversary Edition

December 15, 2011 marks the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights – at least what is left of them. Anthony Gregory’s article at The Huffington Post runs through the list of violations of these precious rights from the Adams administration’s Alien and Sedition acts all the way to the present day violations of the Bush/Obama years via the war on terror. I encourage everyone to read the whole article and reflect on what these rights mean to you on this Bill of Rights Day. If you read nothing else from the article, at least read Gregory’s conclusion:

Clearly, we fall far short from having Bill of Rights that we adhere to and that was designed for our future posterity over 220 years ago. In the end, it is public opinion that most restrains political power — not words on paper, not judges, not politicians’ promises. A population that is not decidedly and passionately against violations of their liberties will see their rights stripped away. If we want to have a Bill of Rights Day worth celebrating, we must demand that officials at all levels respect our freedoms — and not let the government get away with abusing them.

Gregory is right: preserving the Bill of Rights ultimately rests with all of us.

Polls Show Encouraging Signs in the Cause of Liberty

Just yesterday, the Libertarian Party celebrated its 40th Anniversary. In that time, no LP presidential candidate has come close to winning and few have won any office higher than at the city or county level. As someone who would like America to return to a much freer and prosperous place, it’s very easy to become discouraged. But is it possible that perhaps maybe more of our fellow citizens are finally coming around to our way of thinking? Can Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and other libertarian leaning Republicans win the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party?

According to a Gallup Poll released yesterday, 64% of a sample of 1,012 adults they polled said that “big government was the biggest threat to the country in the future” compared to 26% who said big business, and 10% who said big labor was the biggest threat. Surprisingly (to me at least), it was those who identified themselves as Democrats, who had the greatest increase in adopting this view, up 16% from the poll Gallup took in 2009, 48% now say big government is the biggest threat. What is even more remarkable is this increase happened while their guy is in the Oval Office.

Gallup’s bottom line conclusion from the poll:

Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government are near record-high levels. The Occupy Wall Street movement, focused on “fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations,” has drawn much attention and a large following. Still, the majority of Americans do not view big business as the greatest threat to the country when asked to choose among big business, big government, and big labor. In fact, Americans’ concerns about big business have declined significantly since 2009.

Additionally, while Occupy Wall Street isn’t necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party. Republicans, independents, and now close to half of Democrats are more concerned about the threat of big government than that coming from big business.

Music to my Libertarian ears!

On the presidential campaign front, here’s another nugget of encouraging news in a recent PPP poll in Iowa: Newt Gingrich 22%, Ron Paul 21%, Mitt Romney 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Perhaps Gov. Gary Johnson holds the key to Ron Paul closing the gap in Iowa (and perhaps elsewhere). Gov. Johnson has been publicly flirting with the idea of dropping the GOP like a bad habit and running for the Libertarian Party nomination for some time now (hey, if the Republican establishment wants to treat him like a 3rd party candidate, maybe he should become a 3rd party candidate). As much as I hate to say it, the establishment has prevailed against Johnson and his supporters in this stage of the campaign. The time has come IMHO for Johnson supporters to encourage the governor to drop out of the Republican primary contest and throw his full support behind Ron Paul (while gearing up for the LP contest in the event Paul doesn’t get the GOP nomination).

Now that I am firmly 100% in the Ron Paul camp, a word of warning: the GOP establishment isn’t taking too kindly to Ron Paul’s recent success. It’s going to get nasty the more success he has (and the more nasty the attacks become, the more we know his message is resonating). Here’s one example of what I mean.

If Ron Paul can somehow overcome the establishment and win the nomination, perhaps some of the Democrats and independents who aren’t too thrilled with Obama’s atrocious civil liberties record can help put Paul into the Whitehouse. Not an easy task to be sure but probably our best (probably only) hope of slaying the dragon of big government and restoring liberty to America.

***UPDATE***
I somehow missed this story but apparently, Gov. Johnson has requested that his name be removed from Michigan primary ballot (his request was denied).

Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, had been running as a Republican, but was denied access to most of the party’s televised debates and recently announced he would seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead.

Johnson’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was unclear how Johnson’s decision would affect his effort to qualify as a Libertarian. Gendreau said Michigan law prohibits a candidate whose name appears on a primary ballot, and fails to win the nomination, to appear under another party banner in the general election.

Quote Of The Day

Julian Sanchez on security theater:

Security theater, then, isn’t only—or even primarily—about making us feel safer. It’s about making us feel we wouldn’t be safe without it. The more we submit to intrusive monitoring, the more convinced we become that the intrusions are an absolute necessity. To think otherwise is to face the demeaning possibility that we have been stripped, probed, and made to jump through hoops all this time for no good reason at all. The longer we pay the costs—in time, privacy, and dignity no less than tax dollars—the more convinced we become that we must be buying something worth the price.

If we don’t need pornoscanners, it makes each traveler bad about surrendering their dignity and freedom to go through pornoscanners. Therefore, we must need pornoscanners. QED.

Book Review: Resonance, by Chris Dolley

By science fiction standards, I’m not exactly an SF buff. A decent amount of the fiction I read might fall into the genre, but identifying many names beyond Neal Stephenson or Robert A. Heinlein calls up blanks. But again I was bitten by the Amazon Kindle $2.99 price point, picked up Chris Dolley’s Resonance on a recommendation, and was very happy I did.

This being a review aimed at people who haven’t read the book, I’m going to avoid spoilers. This makes things difficult in SF, of course. So I’ll set the stage without getting too deep.

Graham Smith is an odd fellow. He’s quiet, behaves in a nearly-mute fashion, and his level of living via routine makes OCD look like a hobby. He keeps notes in his pockets, in his house, and anywhere else he knows he’s going to be reminding him of where he works and where he lives. He does this to keep those things from “unraveling”, his word for when they suddenly and inexplicably change. One day he may live in a house on a certain street; the next he might live elsewhere. One day a coworker might be married; the next she’s single. All this without explanation or even acknoledgement that the world’s changed.

This life seems to work for him until he meets Annelise Mercado, a woman trying to save him from a company who wants him dead. She upends his world in short order. But can he keep her from unraveling?

From there, the book delves into its plot in full force, and since I’m avoiding spoilers, I can’t go any further.

Overall, the book’s two main credits are pace and cohesion. I was surprised when checking Amazon’s page for the paperback to find that the book is over 500 pages — it reads much quicker. The advantage of setting your book in contemporary London over a typical SF novel is that you don’t need to spend a couple hundred pages on worldbuilding, and you can head straight to plot. With much SF (and I’m thinking here of Stephenson’s Anathem), you spend so much time trying to figure out the world that you’re in that you find it distracting from the story. Cohesively, the book also avoids one of the main problems I’ve found in a lot of SF, the reliance on the deus ex machina ending (again, Anathem). I really got the sense that Dolley had his central thesis of the book and its ending planned out before he started writing, and managed to build his plot logically and deliberately to its conclusion.

Now why am I posting this review on a libertarian blog? Well, partly because entirely outside of libertarianism, I’ve learned enough about the readers of this site to know that good SF novels are always appreciated. But there is a slight tinge of the story hanging on corporate/government relations. While that portion of the story isn’t exactly imbued with a libertarian message, it’s certainly interesting to anyone who watches the continued interplay, whether cooperative or competitive, between corporations and government.

Resonance was a well-done novel. I’d gladly recommend it at standard paperback prices. But it’s another argument for the Kindle $2.99 price point. I probably wouldn’t have bought it on the whim that I did at standard prices, and I would have been missing out on a great read. So while I’d recommend it at standard paperback prices, it’s a veritable steal at $2.99. Check it out if you get a chance.

Institute for Justice’s Bone Marrow Donor Compensation Legal Challenge Prevails

Here’s a follow up to a story I linked back in 2009 concerning the Institute for Justice’s legal challenge to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and the act’s applicability to bone marrow transplants. This is very good news for the roughly 3,000 Americans who die every year while waiting to find a bone marrow match:

Arlington, Va.—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a unanimous opinion granting victory to cancer patients and their supporters from across the nation in a landmark constitutional challenge brought against the U.S. Attorney General. The lawsuit, filed by the Institute for Justice on behalf of cancer patients, their families, an internationally renowned marrow-transplant surgeon, and a California nonprofit group, seeks to allow individuals to create a pilot program that would encourage more bone-marrow donations by offering modest compensation—such as a scholarship or housing allowance—to donors. The program had been blocked by a federal law, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), which makes compensating donors of these renewable cells a major felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Under today’s decision, this pilot program will be perfectly legal, provided the donated cells are taken from a donor’s bloodstream rather than the hip. (Approximately 70 percent of all bone marrow donations are offered through the arm in a manner similar to donating whole blood.) Now, as a result of this legal victory, not only will the pilot programs the plaintiffs looked to create be considered legal, but any form of compensation for marrow donors would be legal within the boundaries of the Ninth Circuit, which includes California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and various other U.S. territories.

[…]

Rowes concluded, “This case isn’t about medicine; everyone agrees that bone marrow transplants save lives. This case is about whether individuals can make choices about compensating someone or receiving compensation for making a bone marrow donation without the government stopping them.”

National Defense Authorization Act Passes Complete With Indefinite Detention Provisions

Despite some valiant efforts of a handful of senators, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 passed by an astonishing 93-7 vote. Earlier today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein offered yet another amendment to the bill that would have limited the military’s jurisdiction to detain suspects captured outside the U.S.; the amendment failed by a narrower 55-45 margin.

In the first video below, Mark Kirk (R-IL) in his floor speech explains how Sections 1031 and 1032 violate the principles of the Bill of Rights by reading the applicable amendments. Sen. Kirk makes some geography based distinctions in determining whether U.S. citizens have due process rights (which I disagree with; geography should not matter) but otherwise does a great job of explaining to his fellow senators why keeping these sections in the bill is a terrible mistake.

Though he voted against the offending sections of the bill, Sen. Kirk ultimately voted with the majority in supporting the overall legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the other hand supported neither. Paul’s floor speech is equally compelling and perhaps even more chilling than that of Kirk’s. Could you find yourself an innocent victim of this bill? Do you have any missing fingers? Do you have more than a seven day supply of food? How many firearms do you own and if so what kind of ammunition do you use? Depending on your answers to these questions, it’s possible that you could find yourself detained, perhaps at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, indefinitely with very little legal recourse according to Sen. Paul.

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The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Back in the 2010 mid-term election, Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan ran as a Libertarian against Sen. John McCain for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Sadly, McCain easily won the election and Nolan died several weeks after the election and just two days before his 67th birthday.

During his debate with Sen. McCain, Nolan warned voters of what he called a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill which McCain co-sponsored called S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” This bill would authorize indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Nolan was so outraged by this bill he said that this was one reason he decided to run against Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain brushed off Nolan’s comments saying that Nolan “may be a little bit biased.”

Fast forward just over a year later, Sen. McCain has sponsored another piece of legislation hidden in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 that is very similar. One of the more concerning aspects of the bill is Section 1031:

SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.

(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be `covered persons’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

The next section, Section 1032 adds some confusing language as to whether American citizens can truly be held indefinitely:

SEC. 1032. REQUIREMENT FOR MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Custody Pending Disposition Under Law of War-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined–
(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
(3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR- For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in section 1031(c), except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consistent with the requirements of section 1033.
(4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY- The Secretary of Defense may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens-
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the ACLU points out that the language contained in Section 1032 only applies to Section 1032. To put it another way, according to Section 1031 U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely and even sent to another country without the normal civil liberties protections guaranteed in the Fifth, Sixth, and possibly Eighth Amendments.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced Amendment No. 1107 to the bill that would have mitigated much of the civil liberties concerns found in 1031 but it was soundly defeated by a 61-37 vote. Only two Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted in favor of the Udall amendment.

Now the vote for the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 is set for today, December 1, 2011. There isn’t much time left to stop this horribly unconstitutional bill from being passed.

This being said, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if these sections are still in place when it hits his desk. I’m not quite sure how the president can say on one hand he can send drones to kill American citizens while on the other say he opposes indefinite detention of American citizens but a veto would be the correct response regardless.

President Obama might well veto this bill but I have no confidence that any of the Republican challengers would veto similar legislation in the future save Gary Johnson (who is sadly very much a long shot at this point), Ron Paul, or perhaps Jon Huntsman.

We can now see that David Nolan’s concerns he expressed in the 2010 debate were well founded after all.