Category Archives: Equal Protection

Eminent Domain, Alabama Style

Speaking of the Cato Institute’s new video telling the story behind Suzette Kelo’s legal fight against the City of New London, I’ve been working on a website for a new grassroots organization in Alabama hoping to promote “the property rights of all Alabamians, regardless of race or financial status.”

In Alabama, it is generally the poorest of our citizens who are victimized and intimidated in similar situations to what happened in New London, CT.  Working with state legislators and the Alabama Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, we have reasonable hopes of being able to make a difference in the lives of people touched by corporate and government land grabs.

Right now, we are highlighting on two cases and working on two distinct pieces of legislation.  One issue deals with the highly publicized (many thanks to Neal Boortz and the Institute for Justice on this one) case of a Wal-Mart landgrab in Alabaster, AL:

In 2003, Alabaster, Alabama, a small bustling community south of Birmingham, garnered national attention through their efforts to seize property for the construction of a Wal-Mart shopping center. Ownership of the property was predominately poor and black. When national attention focused on the private property seizure, other avenues of securing the property for Wal-Mart prevailed. The procedure, while legal, would, by those familiar with the circumstances, deem the chain of events and the ensuing aftermath unethical by all standards. In the video Elizabeth Swain, her daughter, and granddaughter tell the story from the beginning to the end.

Click the link above to watch some touching video regarding the Alabaster issue.

Another issue never hit the national news, but it is just as disturbing.

Evergreen Baptist Church overlooks I-65 between Birmingham and Gardendale, Alabama. The Church was required to surrender its property through eminent domain for road construction. The Church agreed to a property swap with the State Department of Transportation. The Church at its old location was serviced with water, gas and electricity – all modern conveniences. Before construction began on the new Church building, Rev. Smith contacted the Birmingham Water Works to ensure that water would be available. With the Water Works assurance, construction was begun. When construction reached ¾ completion, it was disclosed that the Birmingham Water Works would require $80,000.00 to install a new water main. The Church, consisting of a small congregation, could not afford the demands of the Water Works. Two years have passed and the inequity in the land swap has not been resolved. The Church pleads for a just and appropriate public outcry.

Again, click the link for related video footage.

We’ve got two pieces of proposed legislation and an upcoming press conference dealing with these sorts of issues.  There is also an upcoming Civil Rights Commission Panel which will focus on racial minorities afflicted by these sorts of abuses of power.  The Alabama Advisory Committee is currently chaired by Dr. David Bieto, a name familiar to many libertarians and conservatives out there.

The site is still under construction, but feel free to sign up on our e-mail list if you’d like to keep track of what were are up to.  Also, if anyone wishes to donate some time to help with site graphics, please let me know.

In Alabama, some of us feel that protection from eminent domain abuse should apply as equally to people living below the poverty line and people of color as it does in the more affluent neighborhoods in the state.

Nader Scores Big Court Victory for Third Party Candidates

It’s not often that I sing the praises of unsafe-at-any-speed Ralph Nader, but his recent legal victory is worthy of such praises.

LOS ANGELES, March 9 /PRNewswire/ — In a significant move for open-election laws, the U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an attempt to overturn a federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that the state of Arizona could not require independent presidential candidates to register earlier than candidates affiliated with major political parties.

Arizona’s petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court had been closely watched after 13 other states supported Arizona’s bid to have the High Court hear the case. The federal civil rights case, originally filed in Arizona federal district court, stems from Nader’s 2004 presidency bid.

Ralph Nader had challenged the deadline, contending it violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and political association. Lead Attorney Robert Barnes of the Bernhoft Law Firm represented Nader before the Ninth Circuit, which overturned the district court and unanimously declared the Arizona law unconstitutional. Nader’s Bernhoft Law legal team successfully argued that requiring independent candidates to register by June was unfair when the two major political parties did not hold their conventions until the fall.

Perhaps as just as important was the other aspect of Nader’s challenge was the lower court striking down the provision in Arizona law which required petition circulators to be registered to vote within the state. Paul Jacob and others can now circulate petitions to any state government without fear of being put in jail. What a concept!

A Few Thoughts About the Ryan Fredrick Case

The long and short of the case is that three days after his home was broken into, Fredrick fatally shot an intruder who turned out to be a police officer. Fredrick promptly surrendered to the police once he realized the intruders were in-fact a SWAT team serving a warrant (a very small amount of marijuana was found in Fredrick’s home). The jury considered several charges including capital murder but ultimately decided Fredrick’s actions amounted to voluntary manslaughter and recommended a 10 year sentence.

Rather than rehashing the Ryan Fredrick case here, I would encourage readers to read the coverage by Hamptonroads.com , Tidewater Liberty and Radley Balko .

The police department did not believe the sentence to be harsh enough:

For the Shivers family and the Police Department, the verdict did not provide closure.

“Closure?” said Jack Crimmins, president of the Chesapeake Coalition of Police. “There’s no closure.”

“Their verdict today has jeopardized the lives of police officers,” Crimmins said. “I think the jury failed. They failed the community. You’ve got a man involved in an illegal enterprise, the police come to his house, and he takes the matter into his own hands.”

Funny that Crimmins chose the term “illegal enterprise.” This description is more appropriate for the way this police department chose to circumvent the Fourth Amendment by allowing a known criminal to break into Fredrick’s home to obtain probable cause to search the home in the first place! Most of the case made against Fredrick was from testimony of jailhouse snitches and informants of very questionable character.

And this notion about a homeowner who “takes the matter into his own hands” when someone breaks into his home is especially infuriating. Mr. Crimmins, it’s called the castle doctrine , perhaps you’ve heard of this concept? It’s not exactly new.

When a civilian makes a mistake and kills a police officer, it’s almost always assumed that s/he must “pay the price” but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? When a police officer makes a mistake and kills a civilian, the badge worshipers and law enforcement boot lickers come up with a statement like this:

A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

[…]

During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

So when a civilian believes his or her life is in danger, he or she must be certain of who s/he is targeting but when a police officer believes s/he is in danger, s/he can “shoot now and ask questions later”? What’s particularly galling about this is that in statements in both cases, the lives of law enforcement are of paramount concern as the lives of civilians is of little or no concern.

This is but another illustration of how the government has the one power the rest of us don’t: the monopoly of the use of force to accomplish its goals. The War on (Some) Drugs is a means to an (impossible) end (eradication of banned drugs). If non-violent individuals are killed in the process, its considered collateral damage. The War on (Some) Drugs must be won at all costs!

With respect to Ryan Fredrick, his fate is in the hands of a judge (the judge will decide whether or not to impose the jury’s recommended sentence), but what now? How can we prevent these tragedies from happening? Tide Water Libertarian Party has offered some excellent suggestions:

In the months since the tragic death of Det. Jarrod Shivers in the course of serving a search warrant at the home of Ryan Frederick, many questions have arisen regarding procedures of the Chesapeake Police Department. These questions have gone unanswered by the department. The Tidewater Libertarian Party asserts that because all powers granted government to use force on the behalf of the people reside ultimately with the people, it is unacceptable for the agents of government force, the police, to deny the people explanations for their actions when there are legitimate questions as to whether that force has been used with due caution and within the powers granted by the people through our Constitution and law.

• The tragic and avoidable death of a law enforcement officer.

• The use of Confidential Informants is an unfortunate necessity in criminal investigations, and particularly so in drug cases, but we question whether it is good public policy to request or issue search warrants based on the unsupported and unsworn allegations of Confidential Informants without some corroboration through independent investigation.

• Forcible entries in serving search warrants are acceptable police practice only when there is evidence subject to rapid destruction, hostages are in peril, or known, armed, and dangerous criminals are judged to be most safely taken by surprise. The recent trial of Chesapeake resident Ryan Frederick has revealed such forced entries to be the standard practice in serving all drug search warrants in Chesapeake. The Chesapeake Police Department has provided no acceptable explanation for choosing an exceptionally dangerous method of serving a warrant on a citizen with no criminal record over numerous safer and more Constitutionally acceptable methods.

• We are further concerned by the lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the Chesapeake Police leadership regarding what policy changes might be made to avoid future tragedy. Because we believe the police have taken the position that they need not explain their actions to the public, we hold this that is unacceptable in a free society.

This is the City of Chesapeake, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. The police are answerable to the people, not only to themselves. Our military and our police are subject to civilian control and review. Citizens are owed the truth. The proper first level of that oversight is through our local elected representatives on city council.

We understand that it may be necessary to withhold some tactical policy from the public at large for the protection of police officers, but what information can and cannot be made public is properly the choice of civilian authority, with expert guidance, and not that of those being overseen.

The Tidewater Libertarian Party therefore requests the City of Chesapeake establish a citizen review board consisting of trustworthy citizens chosen by council, but with no connection to the Police Department or city government, to investigate this matter. This citizen review board should have full access to all evidence, record, reviews, and testimony, and report to the City Council, and ultimately, with council approval of sensitive content, to the public, in order to restore the lost trust of the citizens in our police department and to ensure that our police officers and citizens are no longer placed in unnecessary danger.

I would also like to offer at least one other suggestion: cameras. Each SWAT team member should have a camera attached to his/her helmet. This would provide invaluable insight to a sequence of events and would help ensure that the police follow procedures properly. Police vehicles have cameras installed on dashboards, there is no good reason why cameras should not be used for knock and no knock raids.

Unfortunately, I fully expect to learn of many more of these tragedies before any such reforms are made.

The Absurdity of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The first bill that Obama signed into law is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  The bill is designed to plug “holes” in the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the American’s with Disabilities Act, namely in the requirement that people sue within 180 days of the unlawful discrimination occurring.

The very premise of this law should warn people that the law is a bad one; usually victims are aware that they have been victimized, which is clearly not the case with the actions the law seeks to criminalize.  This law  attempts to protect  people who arbitrarily, possibly years after the fact, decide that a contract they accepted was suddenly unacceptable.

Good laws, ones that attempt to criminalize acts which harm or injure a victim don’t need such a clause.  A victim of assault and battery, for example, will become immediately aware that he or she has been attacked.  A person who is the victim of fraud can pinpoint when the other party failed do to satisfy their contractual obligations.    While on occasion, it may take years for the fraud to manifest itself, inevitably, the victim becomes aware of the fraud and can point to the contractual violation that took place.

The case of Lilly Ledbetter, after whom the law was named, shows the absurdity of the law very plainly.  Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear.  Over the course of many years, they offered her an employment contract that paid her far less than contracts made with men performing the same or similar duties.  At the time, she voluntarily accepted the contracts, clearly meaning that she thought the salary was an acceptable payment for her services.  As she neared retirement, she became aware of the fact that male coworkers were paid more generously and sued on the grounds that she was the victim of unlawful discrimination.

Interestingly, had Lilly Ledbetter’s male coworkers been paid salaries that were approximately equal to hers, under the law she would not be a victim.  This highlights the bizarre nature of discrimination law.  Compare this law to laws governing assault.  If a person assaults someone, how many other people were assaulted, how consistently the attacker assaults people he comes in contact with are absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether or not a crime has been committed.  Under such a rubric, we could argue that Ted Bundy wasn’t really a murderer, after all he killed nearly every woman he picked up, thereby not unfairly signaling out any one of his victims for unusually harsh treatment.

Odds are that any person, at some point in their lives, will regret some contract they entered into willingly that seemed like a good idea beforehand.  The notion that the law can punish the other party after the fact for fulfilling the terms of an agreement that was freely entered is dangerous; it assumes that society is improved by making the legal system more arbitrary and capricious.

The authors of this law claim that it will improve commerce by making commercial transactions more orderly.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  This law makes the decision to employ members of protective classes to be quite perilous.   Under this law, a person can work for a company for decades, and then turn around an sue the company for discrimination and be awarded decades of back pay.  It will, if anything, make businesses more reluctant to hire women, minorities, disabled or gays or any of the other protected groups that the law seeks to protect.

The law is also unconstitutional, not only because it depends on an incorrectly expansive reading of the General Welfare clause, but also because the law appears to be retroactive (to me anyway).

While I applaud the goals of the law, to expand the options available to women, minorities, the disabled etc, this law is very counterproductive.  The bargaining power of workers is enhanced when they can more easily switch jobs and employers have to compete for the labor they hire.  When the government intervenes in the labor market by making employing certain people more risky, they are in effect making those laborers less attractive to people who are considering buying their labor services.   In short, this law will hurt women, hurt minorities, hurt the disabled, etc.  It is, in short, an own goal.

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.

Change Libertarians Can Believe In?

There’s no secret that most of the Obama Administration agenda is at odds with the Lockean rights of life, liberty, and property at almost every turn. Obama’s views on freedom are more along the lines of FDR’s so-called “Four Freedoms”. As disturbing as this agenda is, I thought it would be important to identify policies which actually do promote liberty based on the more traditional Lockean model.

These agenda items are the only ones I can at this point say I am comfortable with. There are probably more items I could support but without knowing the details of many of Obama’s policies, I’m hesitant to do so (mostly due to his reliance on doublespeak, i.e. redefining welfare as tax cuts). The two most promising policies I have found so far are in the areas of civil rights and ethics.

Civil Rights:

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities Between Crack and Powder-Based Cocaine

Expand the use of drug courts for first-time non-violent drug offenders

Equal Rights for LGBT couples

Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act

Repeal “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell”

Ethics:

A More Open and Transparent Federal Government (complete with searchable internet databases)

“Sunlight Before Signing” – Five days for the general public to review “non-emergency”* legislation before bills are signed into law.

The Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act – A law which would name names of legislators and the earmarks they request, require written justification for the earmark, and require 72 hours for the full senate to review and approve the earmark.

Make all White House Regulatory Communications Public and Release Presidential Records

Protect Whistleblowers

Eliminate Inefficient Government Programs and Slash Earmarks**

Libertarians, myself included, may be disappointed that these libertarian friendly policies do not go nearly far enough. Having said that, I do believe we should encourage these changes even if they are mere baby steps in the right direction.
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Bush Caves, Commutes Sentences for Ramos and Compean

Well, maybe I should say he partially caved. With less than 24 hours left in his presidency, Bush decided to commute Ramos and Compean’s sentences rather than granting full pardons.

The Associated Press reports that the president chose to commute their sentences because he agreed with the court’s finding that the men broke the law but also believed the mandatory minimum sentences were too harsh. They had “suffered enough” from temporarily losing their freedom, their jobs and their reputations. Ramos and Compean’s prison terms will expire on March 20th but will be required to pay their fines and their three-year supervised release term will also remain in effect.

For the reasons I have previously stated, I am very disappointed that President Bush commuted the sentences of these two men. Ramos and Compean deserve to be in prison for at least a decade. It seems to me that President Bush gave in to the pressure to satisfy the last 20% of Americans who otherwise actually approve of how he has governed over the last 8 years.

Having said that, I am pleased that Ramos and Compean’s crimes will remain on their records and am hopeful that neither will ever have the ability to work in law enforcement on any level in the future. Of course there is always the possibility that they will have their own talk shows on talk radio or Fox News Channel.

Let’s just hope that others in law enforcement don’t get the idea that they can shoot first but be forgiven later if the suspect happens to be a criminal.

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned

As the Bush era comes to a close, the list of last minute pardon requests are growing. Perhaps the loudest demand for pardon comes (mostly) from Conservatives who are angry that President Bush has not acted to pardon two Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Those who demand the pardon claim that the agents were railroaded by an “overzealous” U.S. Attorney for “just doing their jobs” when the agents fired 15 shots, one of which hit a fleeing “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. If you Google “Ramos and Compean” you will find an endless number of articles which make some variation of this argument.

If this were a case of two Border Patrol Agents “just doing their jobs” acting in self defense, then I too would be demanding a pardon for these men. Inconvenient facts which are left out of almost all of these articles point to exactly why Ramos and Compean should NOT be pardoned. A January 29, 2007 article written by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review (not what I would consider a left-leaning or open borders type publication) offers a compelling counterpoint challenging the heroic and mythical image being bandied about of the two Border Patrol Agents:

The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.

More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender. This jibed not only with Aldrete-Davila’s account but with that of another Border Patrol agent. Compean opted not to take surrender, not to place the smuggler under arrest so he could be prosecuted.

On that score, for those over-heatedly analogizing the border to a battlefield, it is worth noting that even under the law of war, quarter must be given when it is sought. Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

It was only after the surrender attempt that Ramos opened fire as the unarmed smuggler neared the border. Defending his decision to bring the case, U.S. attorney Sutton later explained: “Border Patrol training allows for the use of deadly force when an agent reasonably fears imminent bodily injury or death. An agent is not permitted to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.” The fact that Aldrete-Davila was a drug-dealer — something the agents may have suspected but had not yet confirmed at the time they were shooting at him — did not justify the responsive use of potentially deadly force under standard law-enforcement rules of engagement.

Even Ramos and Compean’s supporters acknowledge that the agents shot at a fleeing suspect rather than a suspect trying to cause injury or death. Do they really want to make every law enforcement officer in the country judge, jury, and executioner and grant the right to use lethal force against a fleeing supect*? After all, forcing law enforcement to obey the law makes their jobs “more difficult”!

McCarthy continues to perhaps the most damning part of Ramos and Compean’s actions – the cover-up:

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Whaaaat? But I thought this “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” was a threat to national security? If the agents’ actions were justified, why would they not arrest the suspect and why would they feel the need to cover-up their actions? Were they afraid that the “overzealous” Sutton had an axe to grind against the Border Patrol?

Toward the beginning of his article, McCarthy points out that Sutton had an impressive record of prosecuting coyotes and drug smugglers and supporting the efforts of the Border Patrol. There have even been other cases on Sutton’s watch where agents used lethal force which resulted in fatalities. Because these agents responded appropriately in these cases – using deadly force when there were legitimate threats to the lives of others on the part of the suspects, Sutton’s office did not pursue charges.

On January 17, 2007, Sutton published a press release on official U.S. Department of Justice Letterhead in an attempt to separate “Myth vs. Reality” regarding this case. Within this document contains perhaps the best argument for why the president should not pardon these men:

These agents were found guilty by a unanimous jury in a United States District Court after a trial that lasted more than two and a half weeks.

The two agents were represented by experienced and aggressive trial attorneys, both of whom vigorously challenged the Government’s evidence through cross examination.

Both agents told their stories from the witness stand and had full opportunities to explain their version of events and to offer their own evidence. The jury heard everything including the defendants’ claims of self defense. The problem for Agents Compean and Ramos is that the jury did not believe their stories because they were not true.

Being government agents, Ramos and Compean probably received a better legal defense than the average criminal defendant. They had their day in court and they lost. Their legal team appealed the convictions and they lost again. This is hardly the miscarriage of justice that the pro pardon people would have us believe; this is an example of the system actually working the way it’s supposed to!

Ramos and Compean’s supporters do have at least a couple of somewhat legitimate gripes though. One being the length of the sentences (11 and 12 years) and the other being use of testimony on the part of a criminal who has something to gain (in this case, Aldrete-Davila himself). But these complaints should not be directed at Sutton or the trial judge.

The blame for the length of the sentence belongs properly to the mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by congress which requires a ten year sentence for unlawful discharge of a firearm while committing a crime (this ten year sentence is in addition to whatever other crimes the defendant is convicted of). While I believe that the sentences are appropriate in this case, I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle. Judges should have the discretion to decide the appropriate punishment not a one-size-fits-all penalty regardless of any unique circumstances in a unique event.

And allowing Aldrete-Dalvia to testify against Ramos and Compean with full immunity? This is standard operating procedure. Prosecutors use informants who have a motive to testify against defendants every day in this country. Why should we be surprised that Sutton would use Aldrete-Dalvia as his star witness? If this approach is appropriate for the average defendant then it is certainly appropriate when those sworn to serve and protect abuse the public’s trust.

But don’t expect Conservatives to start demanding a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws nor expect them to consider criminal justice reform. To them this case is not about two rogue law enforcement agents but about immigration and drug policy. The facts do not matter because the guys with the badges are always the good guys and their judgment is better than due process of law.

Certainly there are many miscarriages of justice which could be rectified with a presidential pardon (*cough* *cough* Cory Maye *cough* *cough*) but the case of Ramos and Compean is not such a case…no matter where one stands on immigration and drug policy. Hopefully neither President Bush nor President-Elect Barack Obama will give in to the mindless demands of this misguided and vocal mob.

***CORRECTION***

Quincy pointed out that the president cannot pardon individuals who have been convicted of crimes in violation of state or local laws but only federal laws. Cory Maye was found guilty under Mississippi law, not federal law. My understanding has always been that the president could pardon anyone for committing any crime in the U.S.

A careful reading of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, however; seems to say otherwise:

[The president] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

I also decided to do some additional research on the topic of presidential pardons to determine if the phrase “against the United States” applied to state and local law. HowStuffWorks? has a very informative article which explains how presidential pardons work. In chapter 5 “What a Pardon Does Not Do” I found my answer:

One limitation is that a pardon cannot be issued for a crime that has not yet been committed. Pardons also don’t affect civil cases, or state or local cases. Pardons are meant to dismiss sentences stemming from affronts to the United States through the breaking of laws.

Unfortunately, this means that Quincy is right: the president couldn’t pardon Cory Maye even if he wanted to.

* Think about it: if you surrendered to law enforcement and one of the officers try to hit you with the butt of a shotgun, do you think you might try to run away?

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and “gays” have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

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I’m Not Saying… I’m Just Insinuating.

I’m sure one has nothing to do with the other:

Wikipedia: In October 2008, Cuban started Bailoutsleuth.com as a grassroots, online portal for oversight over the US government 700 billion dollar “bailout” of financial institutions.

And today:

Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban charged with insider trading

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, was charged Monday by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading.

According to the SEC, Cuban sold 600,000 shares of Internet search company Mamma.com in June 2004 using non-public information. Cuban is accused of calling his broker and instructing him to sell all of his stock from the Mamma.com after receiving confidential information from the company.

The SEC said Cuban knew the stock price was about to fall.

I’m sure there was no revenge involved. It must be just a coincidence, an accident of timing. Right?

Justice Department: Indicting Spitzer is Not in the “Public Interest”

Last March New York governor Eliot Spitzer resigned because of his involvement in a prostitution scandal. This is all well and good; I was among many others who called for Spitzer to resign. But should his resignation from office be enough? I think not.

Apparently federal prosecutors disagree.

Washington Post, November 7, 2008

Former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer will not face criminal charges for his role in a prostitution scandal that drove him from office this year, prosecutors announced yesterday.

Investigators for the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered no evidence that Spitzer had misused public or campaign money to pay women employed by the Emperors Club VIP, a high-priced New York prostitution ring.

Justice Department guidelines disfavor indictments against clients of prostitution rings, even those who transport women across state lines to have sex in violation of the Mann Act. Spitzer acknowledged making payments to the service, which amounted to “acceptance of responsibility for his conduct,” said Michael J. Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“We have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

What “public interest” is ever served by prosecuting an individual who makes a peaceful business transaction with another consenting adult? But as long as there are vice squads throughout the country investigating and arresting individuals who happen not to be in positions of power who participate in activities such as prostitution, it seems to me that our public servants should be held to at least the same standard if not a higher standard.

And if the Justice Department “disfavors” indicting Johns who violate the Mann Act, this suggests to me that government officials can pick and choose the laws they wish to enforce and against whom they will enforce them (which does not surprise me).

So much for the rule of law!

I disagree with the Justice Department; there most certainly is a public interest being served when hypocrites in positions of power like Eliot Spitzer are treated like any other citizen of this country.

Stevens Convicted

40 years of corruption down the drain. Might as well have joined the f’in Peace Corps:

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that threatened to end the 40-year career of Alaska’s political patriarch in disgrace.

The verdict, coming barely a week before Election Day, increased Stevens’ difficulty in winning what already was a difficult race against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Stevens, 84, was convicted of all the felony charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating last week.

The senator showed no emotion as the jury foreman said “guilty” seven times. After the verdicts, Stevens sat in his chair and stared at the ceiling as attorney Brendan Sullivan put his arm around him.

Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count when he is sentenced, but under federal guidelines he is likely to receive much less prison time, if any. The judge originally scheduled sentencing for Jan. 26 but then changed his mind and did not immediately set a date.

What federal guidelines allow him to be convicted of multiple felonies and not face prison time? Is that the “you get billions in earmarks for my state, I’ll scratch your back” sort of guideline?

Extremism In The Defense Of Liberty Is No Vice

Steve Chapman, writing for Reason, pontificates on California’s Proposition 8, the question of whether gays in California should be officially allowed the right to marry. California already grants legal recognition to same-sex civil unions, but a recent court decision expanded that to open the name “marriage” to those agreements. Chapman suggests that such a decision should be made by the people, not the courts.

I personally believe that the state should get out of the “marriage” business for everyone, and only sanction civil unions. Leave the marriage business to the churches, where it rightfully belongs:

The idea, which I fully agree with, is that marriage is a religious concept, that happens to bear the same name as a legal concept. Most of the uproar over the gay marriage issue is based upon the contention that it will somehow damage the “sanctity of marriage”. This claim underscores the fact that church and state have become much more intertwined on the issue of marriage than is needed. We would be much better off if the government never broached the subject of marriage, and instead gave any consenting adults who wanted one a “civil union”.

But the situation being what it is, I would rather that we offer fully equal rights to everyone. Left unanswered, then, is whether there are acceptable and unacceptable methods for achieving such liberties. Chapman argues that doing so by judicial fiat is less acceptable than by the ballot box.

To say that gays should have access to civil unions rather than marriage could mean society regards them as unworthy of true matrimony. Or it could mean society sees same-sex unions not as worse or better than marriage but simply different, and thus properly designated by another name.

But the question before California voters is not whether the court correctly interpreted the equal protection clause of the state constitution. It is whether gay couples should be deprived of the right to marry that they gained a few months ago. And the best course would be the one spurned by the Supreme Court: to let the new policy remain in effect long enough to judge its value.

Barry Goldwater once said that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” I agree in this case. While it would be wonderful to wait for public opinion to be sure to offer equality to all, sometimes that is not possible. I’d rather take victories for liberty where we can get them, whether officially sanctioned by public vote or not.

Here in California, thankfully, the voters may actually reach the pro-liberty conclusion. If so, it will be a watershed moment. As a large state, California tends to lead the rest of the nation in many ways (some better than others), and for this to pass would be a major victory for civil liberties. But if it loses, it will be a sad day as the public stands athwart the tide of history in in favor of bigotry.

Unfortunately, as of midnight last night I have officially missed the window to register to vote in California. So my disgust with McCain, Obama, Boxer, and Feinstein will preclude me from exercising a vote against Prop 8. I only hope that it won’t matter on Nov 5.

Bob Barr: The Lone Candidate in the Lone Star State

As with most third party campaigns, the Barr/Root campaign has had an uphill battle to make the ballot in certain states. In Texas, however, Bob Barr is the only presidential candidate on the ballot. The McCain and Obama campaigns have failed to meet the August 26th deadline to file the necessary paperwork and are not even listed as possible write-in candidates.

Bob Barr’s campaign manager, Russ Verney, doesn’t for a second believe that Texas will uphold its law to keep McCain and Obama off the ballot:

“We know all about deadlines,” says Verney. “We are up against them constantly in our fight to get on the ballot across the nation. When we miss deadlines, we get no second chances. This is a great example of how unreasonable deadlines chill democracy.”

“Republicans and Democrats make certain that third party candidates are held to ballot access laws, no matter how absurd or unreasonable,” says Verney. “Therefore, Republicans and Democrats should be held to the same standards.”

In another press release, Verney elaborated more on this Texas two-step around the state law:

“According to Texas Election Code § 192.031 , a political party is allowed to have their candidates on the ballot if “the names of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president” are submitted before “5 p.m. of the 70th day before” the presidential election.

Given that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party nominated a candidate before Aug. 26, it would be impossible for either party to file under Texas law.

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office claims that both parties “filed something” on time, despite the fact that neither party had nominated a candidate by the deadline as required by Texas law.

“We agree that unreasonably early deadlines are absurd,” says Verney. “We’ve run into them in states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Maine during our fight for ballot access across the nation. But if third parties are required to adhere to the law, then we expect the same for the candidates of any other party. Maybe this will show Republicans and Democrats what it is like to be on the wrong side of ballot access laws.”

It doesn’t take a Harvard law degree to know that the Barr/Root campaign has a legitimate case here. If we were truly governed by the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men then there is no question that Bob Barr should be the only choice on the Texas ballot (I sincerely hope that the Barr/Root campaign challenges the Texas Secretary of State Office and/or the McCain and Obama campaigns in court if only to make a point and perhaps grab some headlines).

Upon reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps a good solution to improve informed voting would be to require all candidates for all offices to be write-in candidates. This would mean that in order to vote, the voter would at least have to know the name of his/her preferred candidate. If the candidates have campaigned effectively, then their supporters should have no problem writing their names next to the office.* This would at least disenfranchise the most illiterate and most ignorant individuals from inflicting their illiteracy and ignorance on the rest of us.

» Read more

Above The Law

As many of you (especially those here in California) are aware, there is a new law, effective yesterday (July 1) requiring handsfree devices for anyone using a cellphone while driving. I could offer plenty of libertarian arguments against this regulation, and I’m sure we could all have a long debate about ownership of the roads and whether it makes sense.

But I saw something today that just made the point moot. Driving around in traffic heavy San Diego, I saw a cop rolling down the street with a cell phone up to his ear, yapping away. Had I had a cellphone camera, I would have snapped a shot of this, but unfortunately it happened too quickly for a reaction from me.

Apparently, what’s good for the gander is not good for some specific geese. Or, put more succinctly, some geese are more equal than others.

A Human Right, A Civil Right: Fundamental, Pre-existing, Strictly Scrutinized, Universal, and Incorporated

This morning, I’m noting a lot of ill informed …or perhaps just informed by misunderstanding of the text… opinions and statements regarding the historic Heller ruling on the scope and applicability of the 2nd amendment.

This of course is unsurprising when many people of varying levels of knowledge about law, history, and firearms have just a short time to digest a 90 page majority opinion and another 70 pages of dissents and cites.

In the table below, I’ve selected out the critical passages, and highlighted some of those I consider most instructive or important (bold for important, red for critical).

Briefly, I need to specifically address some points:

1. Incorporation: Scalia makes it clear in his majority opinion that the second amendment is a fundamental right, that must be treated the same as other fundamental rights such as the first amendment. He specifically notes it in respect to the 14th amendment NUMEROUS times. This decision will be applied universally within the domain of the court, and should be considered controlling upon the states (this is clarified in the later references by the way).

2. Universality: This decision applies to all within the jurisdiction of the court. Excepting prohibited persons (and there is a clear definition under federal law of who those persons are by the way), all individuals under the jurisdiction of U.S. law, have the right to keep and bear arms.

3. Scrutiny:
Again, this issue is clear. Though in the opinion itself Scalia does not explicitly state that second amendment issues should be reviewed with strict scrutiny, this is made clear in the text by equating the 2nd amendment with the first, 4th, 14th etc… Further, Scalia explicitly dismisses Stevens call for a “balance of interests” standard of medium scrutiny. This is in effect strict scrutiny, with certain well defined exceptions (such as for felons, the insane, and weapons of mass destruction).

4. Class III (machine guns and other): This one is mixed. Although the majority expresses that some restrictions are permissible, it also explicitly denies outright bans. It is clear that weapons that are in the common usage and available to citizens, are protected. That includes machine guns (machine guns are not illegal for the general public to own, they are just very expensive and tightly restricted). Although Scalia points out that Miller said it was OK to ban short barreled shotguns, he also noted that the decision is flawed, because it only took judicial notice of what was presented to the court, and the original apellant (Miller, though technically he was the respondent for the appeal to the supremes) never presented a case (he died before the date set for arguments, and his attorney didn’t bother to show up).

Based on my reading, I would say that the current law prohibiting the new manufacture of machine guns for civilian sale after May of 1986 (actually that’s not what it says, but that is how the ATF chose to interpret it) is out; after some long and difficult litigation. However, the door is open for other laws restricting such weapons, fi properly written to pass constitutional scrutiny.

This of course applies to other weapon types specifically targeted for bans; for example the requirement that all weapons imported into the United States have a “sporting purpose”, and that certain shotguns are considered “destructive devices” simply by arbitrary features; are also disallowed (again with the caveat that new laws could be written to pass a constitutional standard).

5. Scope: I think it is clear, though it will require significant litigation to hash out details; that no outright ban on any type of weapon (including machine guns as currently construed), excepting weapons of mass destruction, can stand muster. This means that all state “Assault weapons bans” will be struck down… eventually; along with magazine capacity bans, hollowpoint bullet bans etc… (though likely the ban on “armor piercing” handgun ammunition will continue).

I also think it is clear that there is significant room for licensing programs, and standards (including standards for weapons features and functionality)to be set, so long as the requirements for licensing are not discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious, or onerous. Of course, again, that is going to require years of litigation to define better.

I do think that clearly this means the end of Chicago gun laws, and most likely the radical reformation of laws in Massachusetts, New York, California, Hawaii, and New Jersey.

I should note that this does not mean universal “shall issue” concealed carry, but it almost certainly DOES mean that all states which allow concealed carry must allow it on a “shall issue” basis; using those standards as a guideline. Unless someone is a prohibited person, as spelled out under law since 1968, you MUST license them (presuming licensing exists).

Additionally, I believe this actually DOES set a requirement for lawful OPEN carry throughout the country; in that self defense is a recognized lawful, and traditional purpose of the bearing of arms.

And of course, this ruling does specifically allow for the restriction of carry of firearms in some ways, and some locations. As Scalia repeatedly says, no constitutionally protected rights are absolute (under the law).

Finally, any legislation that does not EXPLICITLY violate the above prohibitions, but would have the effect of doing so, is certainly disallowed. This means that standards for licensing, firearms design, dealer sale regulations etc… cannot be set so as to constitute an effective ban, or an onerous burden.

Now we just need to spend the next 15 years suing to define what constitutes an onerous burden.

Summary of Impact:
So you can’t ban guns, or any particular types of guns; you can’t keep anyone not a prohibited person from buying, owning, keeping, bearing, and using guns for all lawful purposes (including self defense); you can license and set standards for guns to be sold, and for persons to purchase, own, keep, and bear them; but those standards cannot be discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious, or onerous.

Oh and of course, that doesn’t get into the halo effect this has on other cases dealing with fundamental rights issues (remember how many times they state that this is simply protecting a pre-existing right).

Excerpts from the text of the majority decision:

Held:

1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a
firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for
traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home…

… 2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.
It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any
manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed
weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment
or state analogues.

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those
“in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition
of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
Pp. 54–56.

3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to
self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.

The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.

Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, prohibition—in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster.

Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and
is hence unconstitutional.

Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement.

Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

Affirmed..


* * *
We turn first to the meaning of the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment provides: A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the
right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
infringed.”

In interpreting this text, we are guided by the
principle that “The Constitution was written to be understood
by the voters; its words and phrases were used in
their normal and ordinary as distinguished from technical
meaning.”

Normal meaning may of course include an idiomatic
meaning, but it excludes secret or technical meanings that
would not have been known to ordinary citizens in the
founding generation.

* * *

“Right of the People.” The first salient feature of
the operative clause is that it codifies a “right of the people.”

The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights
use the phrase “right of the people” two other times, in the
First Amendment’s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and in
the Fourth Amendment’s Search-and-Seizure Clause. The
Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology (“The
enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall
not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by
the people”). All three of these instances unambiguously
refer to individual rights, not “collective” rights, or rights
that may be exercised only through participation in some
corporate body…

…This contrasts markedly with the phrase “the militia” in
the prefatory clause. As we will describe below, the “militia”
in colonial America consisted of a subset of “the people”—
those who were male, able bodied, and within a
certain age range.

Reading the Second Amendment as
protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an
organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative
clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the
people.”

We start therefore with a strong presumption that the
Second Amendment right is exercised individually and
belongs to all Americans.

* * *

… in the course of analyzing the meaning of
“carries a firearm” in a federal criminal statute, JUSTICE
GINSBURG wrote that “[s]urely a most familiar meaning is,
as the Constitution’s Second Amendment . . . indicate[s]:
‘wear, bear, or carry . . . upon the person or in the clothing
or in a pocket, for the purpose . . . of being armed and
ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict
with another person.’ ”

We think that JUSTICE GINSBURG accurately captured the
natural meaning of “bear arms.” Although the phrase
implies that the carrying of the weapon is for the purpose
of “offensive or defensive action,” it in no way connotes
participation in a structured military organization.

* * *

Putting all of these textual elements together,
we find that they guarantee the individual right to
possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation
.

This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background
of the Second Amendment.

We look to this because it has always been widely understood
that the Second Amendment, like the First and
Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right.

The very text of the Second Amendment implicitly recognizes
the pre-existence of the right and declares only that it
“shall not be infringed.” As we said in United States v.
Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 553 (1876), “This is not a right
granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner
dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The
Second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed”

* * *

There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text
and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an
individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the
right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment’s
right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v.
Williams, 553 U. S. ___ (2008). Thus, we do not read the
Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry
arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read
the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to
speak for any purpose.

* * *

We reach the question, then: Does the preface fit with
an operative clause that creates an individual right to
keep and bear arms? It fits perfectly, once one knows the
history that the founding generation knew and that we
have described above.

That history showed that the way
tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the ablebodied
men was not by banning the militia but simply by
taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or
standing army to suppress political opponents. This is
what had occurred in England that prompted codification
of the right to have arms in the English Bill of Rights.

The debate with respect to the right to keep and bear
arms, as with other guarantees in the Bill of Rights, was
not over whether it was desirable (all agreed that it was)
but over whether it needed to be codified in the Constitution.

* * *

We may as well consider at this point (for we will have
to consider eventually) what types of weapons Miller
permits.

Read in isolation, Miller’s phrase “part of ordinary
military equipment” could mean that only those
weapons useful in warfare are protected. That would be a
startling reading of the opinion, since it would mean that
the National Firearms Act’s restrictions on machineguns
(not challenged in Miller) might be unconstitutional,
machineguns being useful in warfare in 1939.

We think that Miller’s “ordinary military equipment” language must
be read in tandem with what comes after: “[O]rdinarily
when called for [militia] service [able-bodied] men were
expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves
and of the kind in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at
179. The traditional militia was formed from a pool of
men bringing arms “in common use at the time” for lawful
purposes like self-defense. “In the colonial and revolutionary
war era, [small-arms] weapons used by militiamen
and weapons used in defense of person and home were one
and the same.”

As for the “hundreds of judges,” who have relied on the
view of the Second Amendment JUSTICE STEVENS claims we endorsed in
Miller: If so, they overread Miller. And their erroneous reliance upon
an uncontested and virtually unreasoned case cannot nullify the
reliance of millions of Americans (as our historical analysis has shown) upon the true meaning of the right to keep and bear arms.

In any event, it should not be thought that the cases decided by these judges
would necessarily have come out differently under a proper interpretation
of the right.

The amendment’s operative clause furthers the purpose announced
in its preface. We therefore read Miller to say
only that the Second Amendment does not protect those
weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens
for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns
.

* * *

It should be unsurprising that such a significant
matter has been for so long judicially unresolved.
For most of our history, the Bill of Rights was not thought
applicable to the States, and the Federal Government did
not significantly regulate the possession of firearms by
law-abiding citizens.

Other provisions of the Bill of Rights
have similarly remained unilluminated for lengthy periods.
This Court first held a law to violate the First
Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech in 1931,
almost 150 years after the Amendment was ratified, see
Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U. S. 697 (1931), and
it was not until after World War II that we held a law

invalid under the Establishment Clause, see Illinois ex rel.
McCollum v. Board of Ed. of School Dist. No. 71, Champaign
Cty., 333 U. S. 203 (1948).

Even a question as basic
as the scope of proscribable libel was not addressed by this
Court until 1964, nearly two centuries after the founding.
See New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254 (1964).

It is demonstrably not true that, as JUSTICE STEVENS
claims, post, at 41–42, “for most of our history, the invalidity
of Second-Amendment-based objections to firearms
regulations has been well settled and uncontroversial.”
For most of our history the question did not present itself.

* * *

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second
Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through
the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely
explained that the right was not a right to keep and
carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever
and for whatever purpose…

…Although we do not undertake an
exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the
Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be
taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the
possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or
laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places
such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing
conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale ofarms.26
We also recognize another important limitation on the
right to keep and carry arms.

Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those
“in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think
that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition
of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual
weapons.”

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful
in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be
banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely
detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said,
the conception of the militia at the time of the Second
Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens
capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of
lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia
duty.

It may well be true today that a militia, to be as
effective as militias in the 18th century, would require
sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at
large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small
arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and
tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited
the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the
protected right cannot change our interpretation of the amendment

* * *

We turn finally to the law at issue here.

As we have
said, the law totally bans handgun possession in the home.
It also requires that any lawful firearm in the home be
disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, rendering
it inoperable. As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate,
the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the
Second Amendment right.
The handgun ban amounts to a
prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly
chosen by American society for that lawful purpose.

The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the
need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute.

Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied
to enumerated constitutional rights,27 banning from the home “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,” 478 F. 3d, at 400, would fail constitutional muster….

… See also State v. Reid, 1 Ala. 612, 616–617 (1840) (“A
statute which, under the pretence of regulating, amounts
to a destruction of the right, or which requires arms to be
so borne as to render them wholly useless for the purpose
of defence, would be clearly unconstitutional”).

It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible
to ban the possession of handguns so long as the
possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. It
is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American
people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential
self-defense weapon.

There are many reasons that a
citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier
to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency;
it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by
an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upperbody
strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed
at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the
police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.

* * *

After an exhaustive discussion of the arguments for and against
gun control, JUSTICE BREYER arrives at his interest balanced
answer: because handgun violence is a problem,
because the law is limited to an urban area, and because
there were somewhat similar restrictions in the founding
period (a false proposition that we have already discussed),
the interest-balancing inquiry results in the
constitutionality of the handgun ban. QED

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right
whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding
“interest-balancing” approach. The very enumeration of
the right takes out of the hands of government—even the
Third Branch of Government—the power to decide on a
case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting
upon.

A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments
of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all.

Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they
were understood to have when the people adopted them,
whether or not future legislatures or (yes)even future
judges think that scope too broad.

We would not apply an “interest-balancing” approach to the prohibition
of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie. See
National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U. S. 43
(1977) (per curiam).

The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee
that the people ratified,which included exceptions for
obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets,
but not for the expression of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views.

The Second Amendment is no different.

Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing
by the people—which JUSTICE BREYER would now conduct for them anew.
And whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely
elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding,
responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and
home.

* * *

In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun
possession in the home violates the Second Amendment,
as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm
in the home operable for the purpose of immediate
self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified
from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District
must permit him to register his handgun and must
issue him a license to carry it in the home.

* * *

We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this
country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the
many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun
ownership is a solution.

The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety
of tools for combating that problem, including some measures
regulating handguns,see supra, at 54–55, and n. 26.
But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily
takes certain policy choices off the table.
These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held
and used for self-defense in the home.

Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment
is outmoded in a society where our standing army is
the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces
provide personal security, and where gun violence is a
serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is
not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to
pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

–It is so ordered.

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

Menino’s Homeopathic Solution to Gun Violence

This week Boston’s Mayor Menino testified before the Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns. He had this to say:

We share a common disdain for what we have seen happen in our cities, to our residents and to our police officers as a result of illegal guns. So, we signed a statement of principles and agreed to work together to take illegal guns out of our cities.

….

Fighting crime is a top priority for all mayors – and fighting crime means fighting illegal guns. The stakes could not be higher. Fatal shootings of police officers increased 33 percent last year. I know that every mayor in this country will do whatever it takes to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our cities safe.

So now, the voices of mayors are echoed by elected leaders and law enforcement officials from every part of America – and we’re making progress. Our numbers are growing, our mission could not be more timely and our message couldn’t be more clear: We need to stem the flow of illegal guns in our cities now.
Together, we will continue to work for common sense measures to fight illegal gun trafficking

His testimony was awfully short on the specifics on what problems “illegal guns” pose, other than claiming that they are behind an increase in shootings of police officers. Instead he lovingly details the growing number of government officials who are in favor of making the population increasingly dependent on them for protection.

In fact, the main complaint contained within his testimony seems to be that the work of the police is made more difficult by the prevalence of black marketeers importing guns illegally from areas where they can be legally manufactured and sold to ones where they cannot be legally imported and sold. But, his conclusions, that a Fugitive-Slave-Law style crackdown by the federal Government would somehow make the city of Boston safer is unbelievably wrong headed.

Assumption 1: A police monopoly on guns will make people safer:

This is, of course ridiculous. The police can take minutes or hours to respond to an attack in progress. The police are also under no legal obligation to respond at all. Restricting the supply of firearms makes defense of property increasingly expensive. While the wealthy can afford to hire security guards licensed by the state, or can convince political leaders to assign them special police details, those who are too poor, or lack political connections are left increasingly vulnerable.

Assumption 2: A reduction in the availability of guns will make criminals significantly less dangerous:

This is, again, ridiculous. The bank robbers who unsuccessfully attempted to rob a bank in California using AK-47’s are very rare exceptions to the rule that most crimes can be as easily committed with a knife as with a gun. A criminal carrying out an attack has the initiative; he chooses when and where he attacks and who his victim is. He is quite capable of altering his plans should the tools he has to work with be limited only to knives or base-ball bats. The ban makes the criminal more dangerous; firearms historically have favored defenders over attackers. There is a great deal of truth behind the saying God may have created men equal, but it was Samuel Colt who made ‘em equal.

Assumption 3: A meaningful reduction in the availability of guns is even possible:

Total bans on any good in wide demand, such as alcohol or cocaine or salt will result in smuggling. Nothing save setting up checkpoints on every road into Massachusetts and searching every car carefully will keep guns from flowing into the state. Unlike cocaine or whiskey, a gun gives off no chemical traces of its presence. Tape it to the underside of a car, and you can get it through any checkpoint.

Furthermore, any clever person can build simple yet effective weapons given a rudimentary machine shop. Even if a total ban on imports was possible, the measures required to prevent machine shops from producing firearms in quantities sufficient for a crime wave would be unenforceable.

Mayor Menino cited a figure of ~<500 illegal guns being associated by police with various crimes. 7 smuggling rings, smuggling in 15 guns a month each could easily supply this sort of demand. Hell 20 machine shops could easily make 10 guns a month to produce over 2000 guns a year if need be.

Nor will Mayor Menino ever be able to get rid of gun manufacture all-together. The demand for legal guns for his police force is sufficient to ensure that factories will be churning out a large quantity of fire-arms. Some of these will be diverted into the black market as surely as nuclear missile guidance systems ending up in Taiwan.

“What is not seen”

Mayor Menino does not want to outlaw guns. Rather what he wants to do is outlaw anyone but the police from having them. He views the guns as making violence in the city worse and as a hazard to the police. But by focusing on the firearms he is avoiding the questions he really should be asking:

Why are people resolving disputes by shooting at each other? Why are the police being threatened?

The answer to these questions is not a pleasant one to the politicians of Boston or Massachusetts, so they avoid asking them.

The short answer is that by writing and enforcing draconian economic and moral laws such as onerous labor laws, blue laws and drug laws, the politicians of Massachusetts are making it difficult for people to live their lives legally. The police are not seen as benefactors but as yet another street gang preying on the weak. The lack of legal business opportunities drive people to seek illegal occupations. While some of these illegal occupations are honorable (drug dealing, prostitution), many are dishonorable (burglary, mugging).

When people view the police as an enemy, and the courts as a predatory system, they naturally ignore them for resolving disputes. When business ventures are illegal, the participants are much more likely to settle disputes violently than via a system of arbitration.

What Mayor Menino seeks to do is to isolate the people of Boston from alternatives to dealing with the police. In effect he is behaving like an abusive boy-friend who tries to isolate his girlfriend from other people. Rather than improving the relationship between the citizenry and the government, these attempts will only increase the gulf between them. Any crackdown on the illegal gun trade will inevitably harm innocent people who are either in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who are deprived of a means to defend themselves. It will empower criminals to more brazen acts of thievery and mayhem. It will, in effect worsen most of the engines that drive criminality.

Until he recognizes that the political policies he and his circle support which are the root cause of the violence directed by the people subject to his rule towards each other and towards the police, nothing good will come of his advocacy and his actions.

It is time for the political classes of Massachusetts to stop treating the citizenry as children at best and as beasts to be exploited at worst. If they were serious about reducing the level of violence and the misery in Boston they would stop wasting time on trying to shore up a monopoly on defensive services on behalf of the police, give up their expensive hoplohobia-mongering propaganda campaigns, and would instead focus their attention to eliminating the laws purposed for economic and social engineering.

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.

A Personal View of the DC VS. Heller Oral Arguments

I watched/listened to the oral arguments in DC vs. Heller this morning, and in my view (solely based on my knowledge of the justices, and the questions and arguments raised today; which is always iffy) we’re looking at a mixed bag.

Well, first the good news. It seems clear that the entirety of the court, even Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg, agree that the second amendment protects a pre-existing individual right right to keep and bear arms.

The rest of the question gets a bit thornier however.

Clearly, the position of the courts is, and has always been; that all rights protected by the constitution are, under some circumstances, subject to regulation or restriction. I can for example say whatever I want in the privacy of my home, or make any criticism of the government that I want, but I cannot publish malicious lies about someone. Preventing libel, is a reasonable restriction on the first amendment, and is a compelling interest of the state.

Given this historical and legal basis, folks who say “What part of ‘Shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand” are just being silly (and often offensive, threatening, etc… etc…).

At this point, it seems clear that all of the justices believe that some regulation is reasonably allowed under the second amendment. The question then devolves down to “what is a reasonable restriction”… therein lies the rub.

DC presented the position that not only was there not an individual right; but that even if there were, that local legislatures had nearly unlimited power to regulate such rights (in fact, their lawyer suggest that they had plenary authority, a position flatly rejected by the court).

Walter Dellenger, who argued the case for DC, was absolutely DESTROYED by all the justices during questioning. Even the liberal justices tore him to pieces. It was clear he was disingenuous in his arguments, and presented no clear or coherent logic, justification, or defense of their positions. Even Ginsburg and Breyer, who nominally support strict regulation of firearms, seemed unswayed and unimpressed.

Paul Clement, the Solicitor general of the U.S., argued a “middle road” standard; presenting very strong arguments for the individual right position, which seemed to impress the justices. He was much weaker on his other contention however that reasonable restriction and a broad standard of review were necessary to protect the public interest in regulating firearms; specifically citing machine guns and “plastic guns designed to get through metal detectors” (a fantasy commonly used by gun banners to scare people into agreeing to bans in principle).

Alan Gura, the chief council for Heller, was very strong on presenting the individual rights position; but was very weak and unfocused in his arguments on the position of what constitutes reasonable regulation, and why. I think he was expecting most of the challenge to come from the “individual rights” argument, and not as much from the ‘reasonable regulation” argument. Though he was certainly prepared with facts and citations (his knowledge of 300+ year old statutes and precedent in both American and English common law was impressive), his arguments lacked coherent structure or flow.

For example, Justice Breyer repeatedly asked questions to the effect of “do the 80,000 deaths per year by handguns in the united states constitute a basis for reasonable regulation, or can they be considered in crafting such regulation?”. Were Gura prepared to argue the basis of reasonable regulation, his response should have been something along the lines of “We contend that crime rates are neither affected by, nor relevant to, the lawful possession and use of arms; and that regulation and restriction of the use of arms by law abiding citizens does not serve the compelling interest of the state in preserving public safety”. Instead he made vague arguments about reasonable standards of review etc… etc…

Dellenger in fact seized on this waffling about standards, to suggest during his rebuttal that if the court specified a strict standard of review (something they seemed inclined towards), that it would result in hundreds of judges around the country determining what was and was not protected by the second amendment, on an individual case by case basis.

So, as I said, a mixed bag.

Kennedy, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas all clearly believe (both from questioning in this case, and in previous opinions and writing) in a strongly protected INDIVIDUAL right to self defense, and to keep and bear arms. It also seems clear that they support a strict standard of review for legislation; and a very limited scope for legitimate regulation.

Surprisingly, it also seems that Souter and Ginsburg agree that there is a right to self defense, AND that there should be a strict standard of review; however it seems they believe in a broader scope for legitimate regulation.

Stevens and Breyer, although they both seem to believe there IS an individual right, also seem to believe that very strong regulations or perhaps bans, are acceptable.

My prediction… that’s a tough one…

I think that we will see an absolute affirmation of the individual right to keep and bear arms, and that this right includes explicitly the right to self defense. In fact I think we may see some language to the effect of “for all lawful purposes, including hunting, sporting uses, and self defense”.

I also think we will see a strict standard for review, and application of that standard to the entire United States, including the states individually (under the 14th amendment and equal protection clause), rather than limiting the scope to D.C. or to the federal government only.

What I really have no prediction on, is what standard of “reasonable regulation” they might promote.

What seems clear, is that the entire court believes that US V. Miller (one of the few cases directly addressing the second amendment), and the standards it presents, are deficient. Scalia, Alito, Breyer, and Ginsburg all made comments to that effect. What that means for the future though… I think its anyones guess really.

I think we have a good shot at striking down all total bans on any gun, or even any class of gun, excepting perhaps machine guns and destructive devices. I believe they may explicitly approve of some licensing provisions provided that the licensing standard is non discriminatory. I believe that they would explicitly approve of regulations that restricted the rights of felons and minors.

I have no real read though on what their take is on the legitimacy of state and local regulations, such as trigger lock requirements, ammo bans, safe storage requirements, etc… I’m sure they will rule that state and local regulation are acceptable, but what standard of “reasonable regulation” will apply… who knows?

As it is though, under any possible construal of “reasonable regulation”; I would expect that the majority of the gun laws in California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Hawaii; would be in whole or in part, struck down.

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

The National DNA Database

Britain has long been a bellwether for what is coming to the United States. First it was smoking bans, soon it will likely be national health care. And shortly to follow will probably be a federal DNA database.

What will follow that? The inevitable stories of DNA database abuses:

IT IS an object lesson in the unwisdom of shopping your nearest and dearest after an argument. In 2001 Michael Marper was arrested after his partner complained of harassment; the couple were later reconciled and the case was dropped. But in the meantime Mr Marper had to give police a sample of his DNA—which is still sitting in Britain’s DNA database, along with 4.5m others. That collection, already the world’s largest, covers 7% of the population (and 40% of black men). It is still growing, boosted by samples taken from all those arrested for a wide range of offences and kept even if they are never charged.

Since this lovers’ tiff, Mr Marper and a teenager known as “S”, who was tried for attempted robbery and acquitted, have spent much time trying to get their records removed from the database. In 2004 the House of Lords rejected their claim that the retention was discriminatory and infringed their rights to privacy.

A case can be made that one forfeits one rights when committing a crime, and thus after that point they may lose their right to DNA privacy. But in the eyes of the law, one hasn’t “committed” a crime until one is convicted of committing a crime. This is a simple case where individuals who have not been proven to have done anything wrong are having their privacy violated by the state, in case they might do something wrong in the future.

And they’re not alone. At the moment, their case is under appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, and if they are successful, as many as a million DNA samples might need to be purged from the database. But the Europeans may not be likely to view DNA privacy as an “essential” liberty. After all, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear, right?

What will it take to see a federal DNA database on our shores? Probably one skillful politician to demagogue the threat of terrorism, despite the fact that a DNA database wouldn’t do anything to stop terrorism. But if it works* for Britain, it’ll probably work here, right?
» Read more

The Consequences When Government Tries To Do A Good Thing&#153

I think we can all agree that gender equality is a Good Thing&#153. I think we can all agree that there should not be any barriers, legal or otherwise, to women reaching the highest levels of the workforce. And I think we can mostly, if not all, agree that the “old boy’s club”, to the extent that it exists, harms our economy by making it much harder for qualified women to reach that level of a company.

The real question, then, is what to do about it. Personally, I’m more of a “let the market sort it out” type. After all, we’ve seen a sea change on this issue in just my lifetime, and anyone who still harbors thoughts that business is just a “man’s game” should keep his guard up before Oprah owns his ass. Norway, though, has taken a different tack. Not content to let the market sort it out, they’ve mandated that 40% of the countries seats on Boards of Directors be held by women. Unfortunately, though, they’ve put the cart before the horse, and simply crowned a few of the countries top business women:

Before the law was proposed, about 7% of board members in Norway were female, according to the Centre for Corporate Diversity. The number has since jumped to 36%. That is far higher than the average of 9% for big companies across Europe—11% for Britain’s FTSE 100—or America’s 15% for the Fortune 500. Norway’s stock exchange and its main business lobby oppose the law, as do many businessmen. “I am against quotas for women or men as a matter of principle,” says Sverre Munck, head of international operations at Schibsted, a media firm. “Board members of public companies should be chosen solely on the basis of merit and experience,” he says. Several firms have even given up their public status in order to escape the new law.

Companies have had to recruit about 1,000 women in four years. Many complain that it has been difficult to find experienced candidates. Because of this, some of the best women have collected as many as 25-35 directorships each, and are known in Norwegian business circles as the “golden skirts”. One reason for the scarcity is that there are fairly few women in management in Norwegian companies—they occupy around 15% of senior positions. It has been particularly hard for firms in the oil, technology and financial industries to find women with enough experience. DNO, for instance, an oil and gas firm that operates in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere, found women it was happy with last November, but their expertise is in finance and human resources, not oil, says Helge Eide, DNO’s president. “However, we retain sufficient oil and gas experience in the men on our board,” he adds.

When government tries to do something “good”, they end up bringing in unintended consequences and ill effects that they often seem surprised to find. In this case, much like Sarbanes-Oxley, it has caused many companies to go private. And rather than leveling the playing field for all women, it has simply elevated a few specific women to a level where they sit on so many boards that their efforts must be spread too thin to have any real effect.

What is also interesting here is the difference between allowing the market to sort it out, and not. America tends to have relatively low business regulation in comparison to Europe, where the barrier to entry for a public company is tremendous. Thus, America’s more free market offers more opportunity for women to start public companies and to prove their mettle in the business world. As the story points out, this has resulted in about 15% of Board of Directors at American Fortune 500 companies to be women, with Britian, Europe, and Norway (pre-mandate) lagging behind.

This is a perfect example of government attempting to fix a problem through mandate, when all they have done is masked the problem. America lets the market sort this out, and women hold more top-level positions than other industrialized nations. It proves what we free-market advocates have long stated: the free-market isn’t simply the most efficient distributor of capital, it is also one of the most equal and fair systems for distributing opportunity.

Author Of The Ron Paul Newsletter Outed?

After speaking with multiple sources (many of them off-the-record) and going through a publishing history, Reason Magazine has added weight to the suspicions of many on who was responsible for the Ron Paul newsletter…current Ron Paul advisor Lew Rockwell.  From the tone of the article nobody else seems to come close as a prime suspect, except anarcho-capitalist icon Murray Rothbard (who is now dead and unavailable for comment).  Rockwell’s denied the allegations but there don’t appear to be a swarm of people coming to his defense.  Of course, we’ll never know for certain unless the guilty party does step forward or someone provides evidence to point him out, but it seems pretty clear that Rockwell had some significant level of involvement with the newsletter (he benefited financially from it according to Reason) and as such if Ron Paul expects libertarians to believe he had nothing to do with the sentiments in those newsletters when one of the chief beneficiaries of that newsletter is still one of his key advisors I think he’s got some explaining to do…something more convincing than the “I have no clue what was going on because I’m an incompetent manager” defense.

And to the commenter on an earlier thread who claimed that Murray Rothbard was very capable of writing some of the more offensive things in the newsletter, based on what I read in the Reason article you were right and I was wrong.  Kudos for being able to recognize the stench.

I Can’t Think Of A Catchy Title

I suppose the best way to describe myself would be to say that I have a problem with authority. I’ve always disliked when people told me what to do, even as a young child, and I’ve always preferred to find my own path through life and make my own decisions, even if it occasionally went against the conventional wisdom and sometimes worked to my short-term disadvantage. My dad said I inherited it from him, but that I’ve taken it to a whole new level. When I was young I wanted to be a journalist, until I got to college and realized that journalism was less about the search for objective truth than it was about writing the stories that best suited your employer’s interests, whether they were true or not (which didn’t sit well with me at all). So I drifted aimlessly through a couple of years of college as an indifferent (often drunk) student, unsure of what to do with myself until one of my fraternity brothers gave me a copy of “The Fountainhead” and I got hooked on the ideas that success and a refusal to conform to societal standards were not mutally exclusive, and that the greatest evil in the world was society and government’s failure to recognize or accept individuality and individual freedom as a strength, not a weakness. So I threw myself into studying politics and history, worked in a few political campaigns after college, had some success, and thought about doing a career in politics until I realized that most of the people I knew who had never had a career outside of politics had no comprehension of how the real world actually worked and tended to make a lot of bad, self-absorbed decisions that rarely helped the people they claimed to be representing.

That didn’t sit well with me either, so I decided to put any thoughts of going into politics on hold until I’d actually had a life and possibly a real career, and I spent the next couple of years drifting between a series of random yet educational jobs (debt collector, deliveryman, computer salesman, repo man, dairy worker) that taught me the value of hard work, personal responsibility and the financial benefits of dining at Taco John’s on Tuesday nights (2 tacos for a buck) when money got tight.

After awhile, however, the desire to see the world (and the need for a more consistent and slightly larger paycheck) convinced me to join the Army, where I spent ten years traveling around the world on the government dime working as an intelligence analyst. I generally enjoyed my time in the military, despite the aforementioned problem with authority (which wasn’t as much of an issue in the military as many people might think it would be), and I got to see that the decisions our political leaders make were sometimes frivolous, often ill-informed, and always had unforeseen repercussions down the road…especially on the soldiers tasked with implementing those decisions. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my 10 years in the military doing jobs I enjoyed, traveling to countries that I always wanted to see (Scotland is the greatest place in the world to hang out, Afghanistan is very underrated) and working with people I liked and respected, until I finally decided that at 35 it was time to move into a job where I didn’t have the threat of relocation lying over my head every two or three years, where I didn’t have to worry about my friends being blown up, and where I didn’t have to work in any capacity for George W. Bush.

I work now for a financial company in Kansas where I’m responsible for overseeing, pricing and maintaining farms, commercial and residential properties, mineral assets, insurance policies, annuities, etc. In my spare time I like to read books on economics, history, and politics (I’m preparing to tackle Murray Rothbard’s “Man, Economy & State” and Von Mises’ “Human Action”…should take me about a year at the rate I’m currently finishing books), watch movies, and destroy posers on “Halo 3″ (where I’m signed in under “UCrawford” for anyone interested in taking a shot at me some time). I used to play rugby until age, inconsistent conditioning, and a string of gradually worsening injuries finally convinced me to quit. I’m a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks in general and their basketball and football programs in particular and I’m also a devoted fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. I’m also fond of going online and debating/picking fights with people on the merits of the philosophy of individual freedom…sometimes to the point of being an asshole (but hopefully a reasonably well-informed asshole). I’ve been a big fan of The Liberty Papers ever since finding it online, I respect the body of work they’ve put out, and I’m honored that Brad Warbiany invited me to join his jolly band of freedom fighters. So cheers, Brad, and to everyone else I look forward to reaching consensus or locking horns with you in the near future.

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