Category Archives: The Contributors

TBD Names Doug Mataconis Among “The 51 D.C. Journalists with the Most Klout”

Liberty Papers contributor Doug Mataconis has been named by a D.C. website called TBD as one of “The 51 D.C. Journalists with the Most Klout.”

According to the website the criteria for making this distinguished list is as follows:

If Twitter is a popularity contest, then Klout is the judge. Using an algorithm that factors “true reach,” “amplification,” and “network impact,” the website assigns every tweep a score, on a scale of 1 to 100. It’s not perfect, but nonetheless, here’s how Klout scored notable members of D.C.’s press corps.

Doug made the list at number 46 with a score of 74. This is what the site had to say about Doug:

Doug Mataconis: 74
“Lawyer, libertarian, Yankee fan. Very Opinionated, ‘Hell bound sinner,’ blogger.” Sample tweet: “OMG the extent to which these people don’t understand what Senate Reconciliation means is incredible #EconDebate.” Followers: 5,456


In addition to writing here* at The Liberty Papers, Doug is a contributor to Outside the Beltway, writes at his own blog called Below the Beltway, and as mentioned above, very active on Twitter with an impressive following.

On behalf of all of us here at The Liberty Papers, congratulations Doug!

» Read more

Policing the Right Way: A Positive Personal Encounter with a Highway Patrolman

Many of my detractors may assume that I am someone who encounters the police on a regular basis since I am very critical of bad cops. The truth is personal encounters with the police are very rare for me; it’s very rare that I get pulled over and I haven’t had the cops called on me since I was in my early 20’s.

Well, my streak of not getting pulled over came to an end last Thursday. I was driving to my mother-in-law’s house when I saw the dreaded flashing lights in my rearview mirror. As I pulled over having no idea why I was being stopped, I started thinking about the “10 Rules for Dealing with Police.”
With my window rolled down and my hands on the steering wheel (always a good idea to keep your hands where the police can see them) the highway patrolman asked why I thought he pulled me over. I shrugged and patiently waited to hear his response.

So why did I get pulled over? I didn’t have a license plate on my front bumper. The bracket for my front plate had broken off some months ago. When he told me his reason for pulling me over, I pointed to the plate that I had put just inside the front windshield. From there the patrolman explained that by Colorado law, the plate has to be attached to the front of the vehicle because sometimes the plate falls off in hit-and-run collisions (a plate left at the scene makes it very easy to identify the vehicle’s owner).

I have lived in three states, one of which does not even require a front plate at all (at least when I lived there). I wasn’t sure exactly what the Colorado law was so I took the gamble that placing the plate on the dash would be good enough. It wasn’t.

Of course there’s the old expression: “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law.” The patrolman was well within his rights to write a citation but he chose to give me a verbal warning instead. A verbal warning and something else: a business card with his name and badge number.

The patrolman handed me the business card and said that I could call the number on the card to make a comment about the stop whether good or bad.

“When did they start doing this?” I wondered. I was taken aback. What kind of comments would I leave if I actually called the number?

As I reflected on this, on balance I thought the patrolman did his job well. Though he could have written the citation, he decided to inform me instead of punish me. For my part, I followed rule #1 (Always be calm and cool) and was very respectful (again, this may surprise my detractors that I wasn’t being snarky toward the patrolman. It probably helped that my wife answered the one question that annoyed me: “Where you folks headed?”). In following this first rule, I didn’t need to worry about the other nine.

But the thing that impressed me the most about this encounter with an officer of the law was the business card. Apparently the Colorado DPS actually cares about how well their patrolmen do their jobs! How refreshing! This in a time of police scandals, use of unnecessary force, and “professional courtesy” that has plagued the Denver Police Department and departments across the country.

What the business card policy (?) says to me is that yes, the police work for me. It’s a statement that recognizes that the job of the police it to serve and protect me: their customer, their boss, the person who pays his salary.

This is how the police should do their jobs and I hope this is something we will see more of more generally.

TLP Contributor Stephen Gordon Injured In Car Accident

Via Jason Pye, I’m passing along news that many of you may already be aware of:

Stephen Gordon, a very good friend of mine and fellow libertarian, was involved in a serious car accident on Tuesday evening in his hometown of Hartselle, Alabama. From what I’ve been told, a truck crossed over into his lane and hit him head on, causing his car to flip. In addition to Steve’s lungs collapsing, he suffered broken ribs and a broken ankle. He was airlifted to a hospital in Huntsville and is in critical, but stable condition. The good news is his prognosis is positive.

I know I speak for everyone at The Liberty Papers when I say that we pass along our thoughts and prayers for Steve’s recovery.

Eyewitness Misidentification: Revisiting a Previous Discussion

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $310 – 62% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

With that out of the way, now I will turn your attention to the topic at hand: Eyewitness Misidentification.

Back almost three years ago to the day, I wrote a post about Troy Davis who had his death row appeal denied despite seven eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies (this case is still winding its way through the courts; here is an update on where the case stands today). As is often the case whether here at The Liberty Papers or at other blogs, the discussion that followed my post was actually a great deal more interesting than the post itself IMHO. Jeff Molby, a person who comments on a somewhat regular basis, really got the discussion going with several Liberty Papers contributors and readers.

The part of the post that Jeff believed to be “misleading” was the following statement I took from The Innocence Project webpage that dealt with the role eyewitness misidentification plays in wrongful convictions:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.

This was Jeff’s response:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

That’s a misleading stat. The relevant stat would be the percentage of convictions based on eyewitness identification that were later overturned due to DNA testing.

Comment by Jeff Molby — March 17, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

Perhaps the reason Jeff found the quote was misleading was my fault rather than The Innocence Project’s. The page that I took the quote from goes into greater detail complete with links for further reading. From my reading of their material, it seems to me that the statistics they are dealing with are from their now 266 exonerations. As the discussion unfolded, this forced me to do some additional research outside of The Innocence Project [Thanks a lot Jeff : ) ] to see if I could find more data to support –or refute The Innocence Project’s claim. Fellow contributor and lawyer by trade, Doug Mataconis also weighed in with his thought about the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

The highlights from this discussion are below the fold.
» Read more

5 Years Of The Liberty Papers

5 years ago today, Eric introduced The Liberty Papers to the world. A blog that was once a general “classical liberal” home has significantly expanded, as those of us writing here have grown and changed. When the doors first opened, we generally followed a Constitutionalist small-l libertarian mindset in general, and as Eric pointed out, were not anarcho-capitalists or neolibertarians. Since, I think we’ve grown to span the range from anarchist to RLC-style Republican writing. Some contributors, for various reasons, have moved on. Some new folks have joined us in those 5 years. Through it all, though, we’ve worked hard to be a consistent voice in favor of liberty in all its forms.

In 5 years, we’ve written nearly 4,000 posts, had almost 33,000 comments, and have crossed the traffic thresholds of 1.5M unique visits and 2M page views. If you had told me personally back in 2005 that some of the posts I’d written would have reached as many people as they have, I’m not sure I’d have believed it. We’ve had contributors interviewed on cable news networks, had traffic spikes (described below) as we broke a major story picked up by both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and in general have either elated or enraged people on all sides of the aisle. Even more importantly, though, from meeting many of our contributors and from interacting with them over 5 years, I believe that everything that we’ve done at this site has been from the heart. We’re not about deference to conventional wisdom or spewing the party line — at various points I’ve seen almost every contributor to this site willing to slaughter the sacred cow if he thought it had to be done. Our readers won’t always agree with us — hell, we contributors don’t always agree with each other — but I know that intellectual honesty is never sacrificed. That fact itself has generated a great deal of respect from me for everyone who writes here, and I hope it has done so for those of you who visit as well.

Eric, the founder of The Liberty Papers, was able to get an exception to his no-blogging policy and sent along this message:

5 years, what a cool thing that is! I remember how upset I was by Kelo and how I felt the need to respond. I started the Life, Liberty and Property group (does it still exist?), I encouraged all of my friends online to have a new Tea Party (I’m pretty sure I was the original Tea Partier) and I started The Liberty Papers. Boy, this has gone way beyond what I thought it would do. This group has broken news stories, helped influence politics, been the lead item on Google News lord knows how many times and some how managed to keep going in the face of blog fatigue.

I am very pleased that they put my post in their top posts of all time, but when I compare to some of the other folks that write here, I feel fairly lucky and rather humbled. I regret not being able to participate in this effort and all the other online efforts around liberty, smaller government and more individualism. But I made some choices about my career that ended up with employer desired limits on what I can say and write publicly.

I’m looking foward to 5 more years ……. and perhaps one or two anonymous comments when the urge strikes!

So how does a blog such as this celebrate a milestone like this? We thought the way to remember 5 years is to highlight the best of those 5 years. Over the past few weeks, we’ve worked as a group to catalog some of the top posts we’ve written, and then balloted them off to build up a top-10 list. I’ve presented that below, and suggest you take a look there and through the archives. I’d also like to open the comments to contributors and commenters alike. Do you have a specific memory of something that’s occurred here, or a post you really enjoyed? Feel free to offer your thoughts.

It’s been a good five years. Many times through the past five years, we’ve talked about fulfilling one of Eric’s promises in this opening post — to take longer-form writing and expand it into more permanent articles called “Liberty Papers”. In generating the posts making up our internal ballot, we’ve done the hard work and identified most of the posts which fit that criteria. While I can’t say that I was able to devote the necessary time to actually have that ready by this anniversary, it’s on the way.

Top 10 Liberty Papers posts of the last 5 years:

#1. The Sovereign Individual – Eric: When Eric first developed the idea of this site and offered contributor spots to those of us in the wake of the Kelo ruling, one may ask why we’d have joined the site. This essay is an example of the writing and the depth of thought that convinced us all to follow behind Eric. Due to his own career aspirations (holding a job with too much public visibility to present controversial opinion) he had to cease blogging, and I hope you read this essay and realize that the general fight for liberty is worse off for his absence. Of all the posts in our balloting, this one is the only to achieve unanimous votes for inclusion.

#2. The Case Against an Article V Constitutional Convention – Doug Mataconis: Those of us in favor of liberty often look at our Constitution, see the way that it has slowly been eviscerated by the ever-wider interpretation of its clauses, and wonder whether we might be able to “plug the holes” in the document. Doug points out, powerfully yet pragmatically, why the conditions that led to even the imperfect document we have no longer exist. He points out all the reasons that simply demanding change is likely to result in something worse than we have today, and nothing like libertarians might expect.

#3. The Politics of Liberty – Chris: If you’re looking for a logical foundation for basically 90% of libertarian or classical liberal thought, you’re not going to do much better than this piece. One of the things that has always impressed me about Chris’ writing and thinking is his ability to boil complex issues down to their roots, and explain them from those roots up. His posts can sometimes be very long, but that is due to necessity — you can’t write a foundation for all libertarian thought in 800 words. Unlike me, though, he wastes very little space.

#4. Liberty and Racial Discrimination: Responding to David Duke – tarran: Running up to the 2008 election, Ron Paul was a lightning rod for racial tension. Much was due to his own tone-deafness on the subject, and much was due to many unsavory elements of society finding his room within his stances for economic liberty to fit their own discrimination. Because of this, many people associate Ron Paul’s libertarian leanings (and libertarianism in general) with being an apologist for racism and discrimination. tarran wades into the depths of controversy to defend libertarianism and destroy some arguments of David Duke.

#5. The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing – Stephen Littau: The statue of the goddess of justice is often depicted blindfolded, with scales and a sword. The scales denote impartiality, the sword signifies the punishment, and the blindfold suggests that the facts shall be weighed without consideration to he who presents them. As we all, know, the practice does not live up to the ideal. Juries are swayed by appeal to authority, by character rather than evidentiary consideration, and by the fact that often the state can easily out-spend and out-defend their argument. Cases that should be tried in a court of law are tried in the court of public opinion, and the question of a “fair trial” stretches the limit of fair. Stephen blows the doors off the prosecution-friendly system we have, and even — note my previous statements about sacred cows — suggests that our civil liberties are better served by furnishing through public funds access to the same level of experts & attorneys for the defense as for the state. When the cost of error is stealing years of a man’s life, I find it hard to disagree.

#6. You Should Want What I Want – Quincy: Much of politics is simply human biology and social evolution run on a massive scale. We’re simple tribal creatures, trapped in our own minds and our own biases. Some people think that those who don’t share those biases are depraved and immoral. We call those people conservatives. Some people want to enshrine those biases into law. We call those people leftists [okay, and some conservatives]. Quincy lays out the basis for these people, while arguing why their impulses to ban everything in sight are completely incorrect, immoral, and incompatible with human individualism.

#7. Homeland Security document targets most conservatives and libertarians in the country – Stephen Gordon: I mentioned above the point at which we broke news catching the notice of both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and this is the post in question. DHS released a report basically claiming that everyone with a distrust of federal power, believing in limited government or states rights, and/or a fan of Ron Paul, might just be a domestic terrorist. No, I’m not exaggerating. Read it, and you’ll see why it was probably the highest traffic day we’ve ever had.

#8. On Tea Parties and Republican hypocrisy – Jason Pye: The Tea Party movement exploded on the scene in early 2009, and drew a lot of compliment and a lot of criticism across the ‘sphere — we offered both here. Both our compliments and our criticism did include the same point, as suggested by Jason in the post: “The involvement of politically polarizing figures will ruin and destroy the credibility of a good movement.” Jason’s post came early in the Tea Party movement, and yet with folks like Palin and Huckabee seizing “leadership” of the movement, it seems that he has been proven correct.

#9. Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism – Brad Warbiany: One of the hardest political subjects to grasp is economics, largely due to constantly misused terminology. This post simply and directly defines the terms and explains how they’re misused.

#10. Libertarianism and Democracy (pt 1), Libertarianism and Utilitarianism (pt 2) – Brad Warbiany: These two posts became a bit of a two-part series based upon comments, but at this point they still fit together quite nicely. The first post of this pair is a response to a leftist who complained that libertarianism is anti-democratic. In short, one is a moral system and the other is a political system, making the statement in itself nonsensical. The second post compares libertarianism to utilitarianism, which is much more apt as both are moral systems. Those who support socialism often [misguidedly] do so for utilitarian ends. Crowing to them about liberty accomplishes little, because they are working from different first principles. Showing them that socialism isn’t the best utilitarian system is a much better tactic.

Honorable Mentions:

The below two posts advanced far enough in the voting to merit mention, falling just short of the above:

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned – Stephen Littau: In the waning days of the Bush administration, conservatives argued a pardon for two Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant in the back while he fled resisting arrest, and then covered it up. Stephen pointed out quite well that even if the facts those advocating pardon suggested (that the fleeing immigrant was a drug smuggler), a pardon was STILL not warranted.

An Open Letter To Neal Boortz – Jason Pye: Neal Boortz, a prominent libertarian/Republican radio host and advocate of the FairTax, was actively pushing for Mike Huckabee in the 2008 elections. He did this, one must think, because of Huck’s support for the FairTax, as having listened to Boortz quite a bit, the two agree on very little else. Jason Pye, in intense detail, explained all the reasons why Mike Huckabee is and should be anathema to libertarians. Replete with enough supporting links to crash Internet Explorer (sorry, bad example, that’s not saying much), I think that this post is one that should be kept around in the run-up to 2012, when Huck may return.

That wraps it up. As mentioned, feel free to post your memories of the last five years down below in the comments.

1 2 3 4 5 6 15