Friday, July 31, 2009

President Obama passes a critical test: recognition of judicial authority

If I am going to bash his administration for what I think it does wrong, then I have to acknowledge when it rises to the challenge.

Recently, when a Federal judge ordered a Gitmo detainee freed, I said that now was the time to find out if we were a nation of laws, and if the Obama administration would react like Andrew Jackson or follow the law.


Reporting from Washington — Avoiding a showdown with a federal judge, the Obama administration agreed Wednesday to release from Guantanamo Bay an Afghan prisoner who was captured as a teenager and held nearly seven years for allegedly throwing a grenade at U.S. soldiers.

The government said it would "promptly release" Mohammed Jawad, now 23, and send him to Afghanistan -- but only after it sent a required notification to Congress explaining whether his release would pose a risk to national security. That will take 22 days, the administration said.

They followed the law. This is a good sign, but only a start.

This is simply the definition of DUMB....

.... on so many levels that I don't even want to think about it.

Comment rescue: Delaware's only progressive think-tank

In the rather bizarre brew-haha over the nature of the Caesar Rodney Institute, this comment got made by one of the many anonymous commenters at Delawareliberal demanding that Charlie Copeland out all the pseudonymous bloggers at Resolute Determination:

There is only one progressive think tank in Delaware that I am aware of and it is truly non partisan, based on good government practices, that is:

The link is actually to the organization that calls itself Delaware Unified Civic/Political Association. It is important to note that this site does not appear to have undergone any changes in many months; I could be wrong about this, but there are no listed updates, no new topics, no new research, and everything looks exactly as it did when I consulted the site more than a year ago when writing a post on the proposed DE Single-payer health plan.

The site says that the organization intends to file for IRS designation, 501 (4) (C), and intends to be a non-partisan effort.

I want to be very careful here with what I say next. The only two individuals listed as associated with the site are Dr. Floyd McDowell and Elizabeth Allen. I disagree completely with both of them on single-payer health care, but I also have a lot of respect for many other positions that both of them have taken on different issues. Liz is a semi-regular commenter here: sometimes she berates me on health care, while other times she agrees with me on finance and foreign policy. At other times, however, she is pretty far off into conspiracy land (sorry, Liz, got to call them as I see them).

I have no idea if Dr. McDowell ever reads this blog, but I know Dana Garrett is a friend of his, and that Dana stops by frequently. So I want to be clear on all that, and to treat both of these individuals with respect.

Here are my two points:

1) DUC/PA is not a think-tank by any accepted definition of the word. At best it seems to be--from the website, which is the only thing I can judge--a semi-moribund issues repository of a citizen lobbying group. There's nothing wrong with this--Dr. McDowell and Liz continue to lobby on behalf of their programs and more power to them--but a think-tank is an organization that conducts ongoing research, writes regular policy reports, and attempts to stay current on the issues that matter. DUC/PA does none of these things.

2) DUC/PA is not non-partisan in any meaningful sense of the word. While the authors say they want to convince legislators of any party to accept their views, they are advocating a pretty straight-down-the-line progressive social agenda that would appeal primarily to liberal Democrats, and they present no information whatsoever that might contradict any of their positions. I want to be clear: I have absolutely no problem with that. But it is not non-partisan except in such a narrow technical sense that anybody who presents any legislative proposal--no matter how liberal or conservative--and says she wants support from both parties (but sees no room for negotiation on the details)--could be considered non-partisan.

The nature of our current political system, folks, is that think-tanks and advocacy groups today are partisan: The Center for American Progress is liberal, Heritage is conservative, Cato is libertarian, etc. etc. etc. There are very few sources left that could in any way be considered disinterested any more, which is one of the problems with our national dialogue.

Which brings me back to the comment at DL:

There is only one progressive think tank in Delaware that I am aware of and it is truly non partisan, based on good government practices, that is:

It's just wrong.

Personally, I would argue that the Caesar Rodney Institute is not (at least not yet) a think-tank, either, even if it is trying to acquire some of the attributes. For all that you may disdain Heritage, or CAP, or Cato, at least those think-tanks generally tried to employ credentialed if usually quite partisan scholars and academics along with the ideologues.

Which is why they have been so successful, first for the GOP and more lately for the Dems.

CRI does show me any serious academics or policy experts from anywhere, so there is no reason to think it is anything more than a partisan lobbying effort attempting to influence political discourse in favor of conservative economic/political causes--or, with a bit more glitz on its website and some more money behind it, a mirror image of what DUC/PA originally set out to be.

And I suspect that after the novelty wears off, it will be quoted in the WNJ about as frequently as DUC/PA is.

Both are fair game practices, and unless somebody can prove that something illegal is being done with campaign funds, I don't give a rat's butt whether Charile Copeland is using it to subsidize his campaign team between elections or not--though I should note he has unequivocally denied either giving CRI money or influencing its board, hires, or subject matter.

Even if he's stretching the truth, in the same State with the incredible revolving Thurman Adams campaign fund, the Nancy Wagner husband employment agency, the Orlando George legacy seat on the Big Head committee, and the "I'll support John Atkins no matter which party he pledges or how many times he's caught driving drunk" fan club, I'm actually supposed to get worked up about this?

Some folks who take their anonymous, sanctimonious selves way too seriously need to get a life.

Waiting for the unauthorized biography of El Somnabulo

The Earth is not flat and there are no non-partisan think tanks.

From the Center for Defense Information to the Center for American Progress, from Heritage to the Urban Institute, think-tanks exist to influence public policy, and--by defintion--you should always take into account the ideological bias and potential funding sources of any organization that purports to be publishing research reports or policy studies intended to shape public opinion or legislative priorities.

A lot of our liberal/progressive friends have severe underwear bunching problems over the fact that the Caesar Rodney Institute doesn't use the word conservative on its home page [even though terms like free-market, rule of law, individual liberty and other key code words appear right up front. The CRI even discloses its association with the State Policy Network openly; anybody who knows anything about the funding and political leanings of American think tanks should know that this means we are dealing with a conservative enterprise--no need for an expose.

But the issue of who is funding CRI and its association with Charlie Copeland has come up, with this amazing offer from Delawareliberal's El Somnabulo:

El Somnambulo finds himself in such a circumstance today. His insistence on openness and transparency is so profound, and Charlie Copeland’s failure to provide such openness and transparency is so…transparent, that ‘bulo is prepared to part with his most prized possession.

The Beast Who Slumbers is prepared to go much further than that. Not only will he publicly unmask, but he will reveal his civilian identity. He’ll even go further. He’ll permit Copeland to write an unauthorized bio of ‘bulo or, if Copeland prefers, Copeland will be free to select whomever he wants to write it–El Burrito Junior, Monsignor Lavelle, a ‘moonlighting flak’ from the Caesar Rodney Institute, or any other Mindless Mignonette (Greenville spelling) he might prefer. And DL will print it, word-for-word.

In exchange, all Copeland has to do is fully and completely answer the following questions HERE at Delaware Liberal (most of you have seen these questions before, but none of you have yet seen them answered by Copeland):

What's interesting about this is that Copeland has already unequivocally answered all of 'bulo's initial questions, presented here as pairs so that you can judge for yourself [questions from here; answers from here]"


Are you supporting CRI in any financial capacity and, if so, to what extent?


I have not given anything to CRI and am unaware of any significant gift by any family member to CRI (although their charitable donations are their own — I don’t ask and they don’t tell). I have never asked any family member to give any money to CRI, either.


What role did you play, and do you continue to play, in the choice of staff and/or board positions for the CRI?


I have had no involvement in the set up of the Board, the selection of employees, or the selection of areas into which they are doing research, I think that it is great and am very supportive.


If you are involved in CRI, why have you chosen not to provide the same transparency to your role as you demand of state government, for example?


[Answered by denial of involvement in previous two questions.]

'bulo added one additional question:

What involvement, if any, do staff and/or members and/or others affiliated with the Caesar Rodney Institute have in the creation of content and/or research for your Resolute Determination blog?

Copeland has not, to date, answered this lone question. I don't think, however, that this question is one for which an answer can legitimately be asked in a blogging community that has declared (and in the case of el Somnabulo whined about it) that the worst possible sin is the outing of a blogger. El Somnabulo regularly blogs based on supposed inside information, the source of which he/she does not disclose, along with his/her own identity.

It is, of course, possible that Charlie Copeland is lying, and if El Somnabulo or anyone else has proof of that they should now step forward and nail him, as his responses were all unambiguous.

Absent that evidence, however, it seems time for El Somnabulo to come forward with a few biographical details.

Just don't hold your breath.

Disclaimer: I don't work with or for CRI; don't have a high opinion of the work they have thus far produced; don't agree with their faux free-market approach; and think Charlie's blog is pretty much filled with drivel and GOP talking points rather than anything useful or informative.

But if you are going to make charges and demand answers, then when you get them you need to provide the evidence that the answers you got are wrong, or else you need to STFU and do what you promised.

Comment rescue: Government by blackmail

Tyler recently posted on the Federal government's intent to withhold highway funds from States unless they pass legislation making driving while texting illegal. This is, of course, the same mechanism that the Feds used to force States to lower speed limits in the 1970s and to make failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense over the past decade.

Progressives, with Dana Garrett standing in as our exemplar today, think this is exactly what government should be doing:

I read that texting while driving is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. If the Feds said to states who had no laws against drunk driving "No bucks until you pass such laws," then I'd say Amen because those states are acting against the public interest. Therefore, if texting is just as dangerous as drving drunk, then I think the Feds making this condition is a great idea.

This is my response:

Let's unpack the consequences of your position, Dana.

Federal highway funds pay for multiple safety-related issues on State roadways, from improved crash barriers to sobriety check points.

It is therefore your position that if a State disagrees with the Federal government over the propriety of safety measure X that an enlightened response is to refuse to fund all other safety measures?

Yep. That's enlightened paternalism from the progressive state, all right: government by blackmail.

Dana offered this rejoinder:

"It is therefore your position that if a State disagrees with the Federal government over the propriety of safety measure X that an enlightened response is to refuse to fund all other safety measures"

States disagree w/ an established fact? Your use of "disagree" is a monument to liberal hermeneutics. They might as well disagree that jumping off tall buildings is bad for your health. [Followed by two citations on studies showing driving while texting is dangerous.]

This difference of opinion needs to be unpacked, because it highlights a major distinction between progressives and libertarians [who actually agree on lots of issues].

When it comes to issues of safety, progressives generally take an ends justify the means approach, and consider it acceptable for the Federal government to demand compliance with specific regulations even if the Feds do so by threatening to make conditions even more unsafe.

Don't agree with the Feds on speed limits, seat belts, or driving while texting? Then the Feds will remove all money for better guard rails, repaving dangerous roads, installing new stoplights, conducting DUI checkpoint....

According to progressives, this is perfectly acceptable as long as their cause represents an established fact, usually pontificated with the bland assurance that science has spoken and only the irrational would dispute these demands, therefore justifying placing other citizens at increased risk.

But the first question should be: is the science by which the Feds make these decisions so immaculate and disinterested?

And the answer is: not really. Decisions about what to study, who funds the studies, and how the recommendations are made are the dirty little secrets of the whole process. Let's take the example of seat belt use on school buses, which only two States (New York and New Jersey) mandate.

Here's the kind of arguments that a major industry lobbying group has used to keep States [much less the Federal government] from passing laws to require seat belts on school buses:

Seat belts are of no value in the majority of fatal accidents.

More children are killed around school buses -- walking to and from the school bus stop -- than inside school buses.

No data proves conclusively that seat belts reduce fatalities or injuries on school buses.

School buses are specifically designed with safety in mind. They are heavier and experience less crash force than smaller cars and trucks.

School buses also have high padded seats specifically design to absorb impact.

There is no guarantee that once installed students will use seatbelts. Studies have shown that mixed and improper use of seat belts can increase the risk of injuries.

There is concern that seat belts could be used as weapons to strike or choke other passengers.

Money proposed for seat belt installation could be better spent on other safety measures.

[Obviously the folks who worry that school children will beat each other do death with the buckles have met my children, but I digress.]

Look at the quality of these arguments. Because more children get injured walking to the bus stop we shouldn't make them safer on the bus? No data proves that seat bealts reduce fatalities or injuries? Improper use of seat belts could increase injuries? Some lobbying group, huh?

Except that, uh, these are not the talking points of an industry lobbying group, they are the talking points of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Or consider that insurance company studies have repeatedly found that eating while driving is just as distracting and dangerous as drunk driving or [by implication] cell phone usage? Why hasn't the NHTSA demanded that eating while driving be made a primary offense?

The real answer is that the decision of which actions will be considered for Federal implementation is rarely an immaculate scientifie process, but a political process.

Besides, there is already on the books in virtually every State a law that covers cell phone usage at the wheel: inattentive driving.

But that's not sufficient for many of our progressive friends, who want to go even farther: banning the possession of a switched-on cell phone in the passenger compartment of any vehicle--not just those being operated by the driver.

This sort of behavior has two consequences: (1) it increases risks for other people; and (2) it encourages the government to use blackmail in situations that are hardly life and death.

1) Let's try a thought experiment. Delaware misses the deadline for passing a Driving While Texting law. The Feds withhold money for fixing guardrails on Route 1. Because the guardrails are not replaced, a mother driving loses control on the ice, and--swerving off the road--smashes through a barrier that was never replaced, rolls her car, and kills both children in the back seat. Is the Federal government justified in increasing her risks while driving in order to force Delaware to pass specific pieces of legislation? Progressive say Yes. Of course they don't fund any studies to examine the increased risks created via government by blackmail.

2) Recently the Federal Department of Education has followed suit with the NHTSA by threatening to withhold millions in Federal education funds from States that don't keep testing statistics in a manner that satisfies the educrats. For example, in California, where students are already suffering from massive budget cuts, the Feds are now demanding that the State change its laws on teacher assessments or the Department of Education will take even more money away from inner-city children, children who do not speak English fluently, students with special needs.

This is ethical progressive behavior on the part of the State, right progressives? You don't do exactly what we want, and we will penalize your students by starving your schools of money....

Notice how the argument slips from the Feds preventing harm [texting while driving] to the Feds merely enforcing what it considers to be a comparative advantage [certain forms of teacher evaluation], and doing both through blackmail.

There are, to my mind, legitimate reasons for Federal intervention in certain activities by the State: States trying to circumvent the US Constitution to deny voting rights based on exra-constitutional and non-constitutional laws comes to mind as one example. States subverting due process laws would be another.

But the idea that the Federal government should be empowered to increase the risks for other drivers or for school children in order to enforce compliance with its mandates is where Libertarians draw a line that Progressives apparently do not even see.

This is the quotation placed in the mouth of H. G. Wells in the movie Time After Time:

The first man to raise a fist is the man who has run out of ideas.

Pretty much describes government tactics in insuring compliance with its wishes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A time to find out if we are a government of laws: Federal judge orders Gitmo prisoner freed

From the ACLU:

WASHINGTON – A federal judge today ordered the government to release Guantánamo detainee and American Civil Liberties Union client Mohammed Jawad, who has been illegally detained by the U.S. for almost seven years. The Afghan government has indicated that it is prepared to receive Jawad immediately and unconditionally. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle gave the Justice Department until August 21 to release Jawad from Guantánamo and transfer him to the custody of the Afghan government.

Judge Huvelle also ordered the Justice Department to inform Congress of its plans for returning Jawad to Afghanistan by August 6, and to produce a report on the status of his repatriation by August 24.

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and one of Jawad's lawyers in his habeas corpus case:

"Judge Huvelle made clear that Mr. Jawad has been illegally detained and the government has no credible evidence to continue holding him. We are pleased that the Justice Department has expressed a commitment to getting him home so that this nightmare of abuse and injustice can finally come to an end."

Now the question becomes, "Will the Feds comply," or like President Andrew Jackson was supposed to have said, will the Obama administration respond, "Judge Huvelle has made her ruling; now let's see her enforce it."

I am really, really, REALLY hoping that we're going to find out that the US Constitution means something to our government here.

RC Gnostic kicks ass--and so does the ACLU

H/t Big Bend Bikers for Freedom:

Whoever thought that ordering a pizza would turn into a session of end-of-life counseling?

Redwaterlilly, Mike Protack, and the Ganges River...

... all revolve around a particular issue in my somewhat fevered mind.

I have a colleague who has done considerable world traveling. He is a teacher, who considers himself a naturalist (in the Darwinian sense) and an anthropologist, and who fervently believes that religious and ethnic strife will destoy the human race.

About a decade back he spent six weeks in India. He happened one day to come upon a 90+ year old Hindu "holy man" who begins each day by wading naked into the Ganges River and swimming and drinking without worrying about the feces and other detritus floating along on the current.

My friend passionately explained germ theory and all the health hazards to the mystic who had been performing this ritual for the past seven decades. He expalined that continuous exposure to pathogens and microbes and parasites would inevitably lead to disease, infection, and death.

My friend was genuinely unable to figure out why the Indian holy man did not immediately change his ways and stop bathing daily in the Ganges River, now that modern scientific truth had been explained to him.

I bet you all know somebody like my friend.

Redwaterlilly recently posted about the Delawareliberal post on Republican/conservative bloggers visiting an avowedly liberal/progressive website; in her posts she specifically mentions perennial GOP candidate Mike Protack:

One of my favorite reads, Delaware Liberal, is receiving a large amount of comments from right wingers and Republicans. At times those commenter’s have the audacity to complain about the liberal view of the authors — well, it’s Delaware LIBERAL after all, isn’t it? Those idiots, like Mike Protack, really are annoying. Do they think that their replies on liberal blogs will change anybody from being a liberal to becoming conservative? Since Protack’s posts are mostly just full of talking points or incoherent, I don’t think he will succeed in it. It’s sort of like having straight people coming to my blog and trying to convince me to become straight — not going to happen — ever.

Even if you happen to be a conservative or a Republican, you have to admit that few if any of Mike Protack's posts at DL could ever be characterized as an attempt to engage. Mostly they are lectures, one-hit expositions on the failure of liberal thought that appear to be lifted direct from one of his websites [can't say that for certain because I have moral scruples that prevent me from clicking through to find out]. By contrast, regular conservative commenters at DL (RWR. Anoni, Mike W., etc.) at least attempt to take part in the dialogue.

But I guess I have to wonder why.

I see the same thing here, and I suspect most every political blogger does. After all, whether you are Delawaredem or David Anderson or Hube, you would not be blogging at all if you did not possess strong political convictions. Yet people persistently pop into a liberal, or a conservative, or a libertarian blog and drop a one-liner that they are just as convinced as my friend wading hip-deep in Ganges sewage will immediately change my whole perspective on life and politics, bringing me to my knees in a blinding epiphany.

As Redwaterlilly says--for me, for David Anderson, for Delawaredem, for Dana Garrett: not going to happen.

This is not so say that real, even harsh disagreement is not legitimate and fun and an inherent part of the spectacle of blogging. When folks like Dana, Hube, DD, David Anderson or others take the time to excoriate one of my positions in the comments, or to fire back from their own blogs, that's the great fun. When regular critics/commenters like A1 or tom (from entirely different perspectives) castigate me for a weaker than usual argument, it is mutually enjoyable intellectual fencing.

What's a great strength of the Delaware blogosphere (as opposed to the South Carolina blogopshere where my friend Waldo writes) is that we all do engage each other directly rather than talk completely past each other. As such, I think I read a great deal more detailed progressive arguments than the average libertarian, and my progressive/liberal friends spend more time grappling with [or at least ridiculing] libertarian ideas that most liberals would ever contemplate.

But the one-line commenters who think they are all going to change some of us are like my friends in the Ganges River: blissfully unaware that piously quoting their own orthodoxy while standing hip-deep in water turned brown from the turds floating in it is not going to change anybody's mind.

A Delaware Libertarian exclusive: Interview with Libertarian State Senate candidate Wendy Jones

Although I have explained my disagreement with Libertarian 19th District State Senate candidate Wendy Jones regarding childhood immunizations, I also believe strongly [contra Barbie] that people should know exactly what a candidate stands for--particularly Libertarian candidates. So I sent Wendy five questions and requested responses. Here they are:

1. At least one blogger has suggested that in the 19th District Senate race there are really four conservatives running. She says this from the perspective of being an LGBT citizen who does not see anyone in the field addressing the issues that concern her. What do Libertarians (in general) and you (in particular) offer such an individual that is distinct from the Democrat-Republican status quo?

Firstly, while I am a hard-line Libertarian, I am also a member of the alternative community & have an alternative relationship. Before I can address the concerns of anyone in that community, I first have to hear from them. Anybody questioning my stance on the topics which I have addressed already have to first realize just where these questions are coming from and to whom I was addressing. The venues so far have been in the SCCOR meeting in the Oak Orchard VFW & the Crossroads Community church. Both venues have been strongly right-leaning as well as christian-fundamentalist. While risking sounding simplistic and over-generalizing, also noting that there were certainly others from different groups there, my responses have been to questions from those two main groups of voters.

One must also keep in mind as to what office I'm running -- I'm running to represent the citizens (hopefully most of whom will be voting, for me!) in District 19 in Sussex Co. The questions I've answered so far, and will probably be answering this afternoon (Wednesday) at 5:PM on 92.7FM and again on this Saturday 7:AM, same station/site, as well as 93.5FM tomorrow after 7:AM (Thursday) will most probably be from the same area. If anyone has additional concerns which might allow me to elucidate on additional topics, now's your chance. I'll also be participating in the Candidate's Debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters, Thursday evening @ 7:PM at the Sussex Co. Council Chambers on The Circle, in Georgetown, Sussex Co. DE. There is a link on our website where anyone may click into both the audio & video of the proceedings. It is my understanding that all four candidates will be present; it will be the first and only time to my knowledge that Polly "Adams" Mervine has decided to make herself available in a public debate.

I'm also planning on being available to meet-n-greet at the Smith's family Restaurant & the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Dept. Chicken BBQ, both in Greenville, both Friday & Saturday. If there is a specific time & place where anyone would like me to meet, either personally or publically, please contact either myself or my campaign manager, Brian Shields, either through this address, my home ph# 302-684-5373, or my cell# 302-682-2061. I'll let Brian decide whether he wants his cell# publicized. I see it as my duty. One of us will get back to anyone who contacts us ASAP.

Regarding the last point, what do I & the Libertarians have to offer that is distinct from the Dem-Rep status-quo, both I & the Libertarian philosophy stand for less government & more individual responsibility. The Reps would have "Big Brother" abuse the government's function by restricting/dictating such civil & religious issues, specifically SB121, for instance. It is both my & the general Libertarian stance that it is not the government's place to interfere & intrude upon the rights of consenting adults to contract (which is what marriage basically is) within the sanctity of their home (& church, whichever that may be, or not, if that is their choice). Of course, it is neither the government's function to interfere with the citizen's rights of freedom of association & to do business.

On the other hand, the Dems would have "Big Brother & the Nanny State" play "Robbin' Hood" & interfere with those who are trying to make use of their entrepreneurial skills & willingness to take chances in order to make & run a business for themselves & their families. The Constitution guarantees equal opportunity, not equal results. Those who, for one reason or another, cannot do as well can be helped much more positively & efficiently by private charities rather than by the present system of equalizing poverty.

The sticking point comes in when one or another specific group calls upon "Big Brother & the Nanny State" to intercede on their behalf when they perceive they are being injured in some way. Instead of accepting the responsibility of taking action themselves & making their own lives better, they would have the government force their own views & attitudes upon others. This is as much a crime as what originated the problem, & makes matters only worse. And, once one or more particular groups are singled out for special consideration, then what do we do with all the others we've left out? The only solution is to give everyone the same special consideration & ban all discrimination, which is really a "thought crime". Now, do you see just how complicated this gets, & where this is going? While we're at it, why don't we just ban all crime, & all evil while we're at it? Thoughts & attitudes are changed by deeds, not my force or law.

The solution is to vote with your dollar & the ballot box & your feet. Associate with people who like you, who want to do business with you, who value you as a person & who are willing to join together to boycott and/or vote together, or, even run for office themselves? How's that for a positive solution? Calling in "Big Brother & the Nanny State" to do what is really your own responsibility is actually the worst thing that you can do... because then you have handed your power (& responsibility) over to a faceless, self-serving entity that is just as likely to be turned against you tomorrow. Thoughts & attitudes cannot be legislated. The best solution is to earn one's place in society & gain that respect. Never forget, a government big enough to give you everything you want is also strong enough to take everything you have. And it will, just as the "other side" bends its ear too!

2. If you win the 19th District Senate race, you will become a party of one in the General Assembly. As such, how will you effectively represent the interests of your constituents?

I regard the challenge of performing this duty most seriously -- and it will be my honor I hold in exchange. It will be my duty to represent those citizens of the 19th district, but I will also not work to try to maneuver "pork-barrel" projects described in an unequal or unfair share in relation to the other districts around mine. I will do as much as I possibly can while still being honest & transparent to them as well as myself. No backdoor games or deals, & promoting & supporting the use & expansion of petition & referendum so that specific issues can be addressed directly by those directly affected. I will not play games with tricks like "desk-drawer vetos" & will do everything possible to have legislation written & understandable so that each citizen can have the opportunity to read & understand it, & not in such volumes that they simply cannot be read in time & are too often rushed through in late-night sessions without even being read. It is also my goal of being accessible to each & every citizen to be able to have a direct connection as to what may be of most concern to them.

3. Everyone in Delaware has watched the trainwreck that is the 2009 State budget. Everyone knows it will get worse next year. What perspectives and specific proposals do you bring to the table to deal with the State's fiscal situation?

As it has been said, Delaware doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. There are many jobs that can be done more efficiently & effectively by using Delaware-based private businesses competing by a sealed-bid process. The prevailing-wage law needs to be ditched. The huge burden placed upon our healthcare system by undocumented immigrants can be addressed by utilizing & expanding the existing enforcement framework & expanding enforcement officersas required, & funded by increasing the fines for any businesses caught violating current employment & immigration laws. We also need to minimize the tax burden on both current & prospective businesses in order to allow for them to move into DE & expand. Minimizing the size & involvement of government on all levels while encouraging private Delaware-based businesses to complete to replace the services that the State already does. We have state-owned golf courses, marinas & a helicopter which it has no business owning. They should be sold to benefit the budget & their use be replaced by the same private-competition process mentioned above. Getting more ideas & input from the citizens will bring an untold pertinent & effective solutions to the table as well.

4. Explain Del Pointe to readers in the rest of the universe, and explain your position on it.

Del Pointe is basically a DE state-sponsored, huge multi-gaming racino complex proposed in the Millsboro general area. Citizens in that area are outraged because not only does it conflict with their religious sentiments, it will prey upon those who can least afford it. Also, it will present a huge new competitive element to the already existing infrastructure & private businesses, & be subject to the strong effects of cronyism & special interests. It is also basically an unhealthy practice to draw almost 50% of its income from the most vulnerable families in the area. For those who still want to gamble, there are already gaming facilities available a relatively short drive to the north. Plus, diversifying the types of games to include those of skill & thought (vs. simple slot machines) will give the gamers a fighting chance & promote active thought.

5. Delaware is among one of the highest spenders, per capita, on public school education, and yet our test=2 0scores are consistently mediocre (despite some recent small advances). As Senator from the 19th District, what will be your position on the best way to improve public education in the First State.

I am a strong supporter of a school voucher program. Parents have the right to choose what type & quality of school their children attend, whether it be public, parochial, charter, private or homeschool. Parents should have more influence as to what their children are taught & will be strongly encouraged to get more personally & actively involved. Parents should only pay for the type of school, & the number of children, which they are using. Those with no children in the school system should not be taxed.

And Wendy's closing comments

My apologies for the delayed response, Steve, but I have been swamped. You did, indeed, have some hardball questions. Thank you for allowing me the latitude to answering them!

I look fwd to hearing from any who might still have questions & encourage anyone interested to listen to the Candidate's Debate this evening 7:PM either at the Sussex Co. Council Chambers in Georgetown or through the link-click (once for video & once for audio) through our campaign website Also, don't forget your one last chance to call into 92.7 this Saturday 7:AM & also meet me as I've mentioned above if there are any concerns which I might have inadvertantly left unaddressed.

The one last thought I want to leave you with:

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten! If you like what has been happening, & want more of the same, just keep doing the same thing. If you want a real, new, innovative opportunity for an honest, personal, Constitutionally-based representative, I'm really the only choice there is. Unless, of course, you choose not to vote at all, & then you won't have any right to complain.

So, Empower Yourselves! Activate Yourselves! Legalize Yourselves! Get out & VOTE FOR ME on Monday, August 3rd!

Yours, In Liberty,

Gwendolyn "Wendy" Jones,
Libertarian Candidate for Sussex Co. Senate District 19

I'd like to thank Wendy--especially after I just wrote a post very critical of her--for responding to these questions. You may not like her positions, but at least you now know them. That's a hell of a lot more than can be said for some of the competition.

Wendy Jones and school-age immunizations: a post I wish I did not have to write

Caught in the tender clutches of United Airlines returning from Colorado I did not see the following comment at Delawareliberal by Libertarian 19th District State Senate candidate Wendy Jones until late last night--too late to make any reasoned response before falling asleep.

Here is the part that Wendy wrote which is most problematic for me:

“polio” – can you be sure it’s just polio if it’s the State that mandates it? Should it perhaps be a better idea that educating on the pros & cons rather than sticking a needle willy-nilly into your child filled with whatever they decide to tell you is in it? What if, through viral gene replacement technology, for instance, thought patterns & personalities could (& even might be) changed to eliminate “undesirables”, for instance, & ensure a dull, compliant populace? Mandated by the State?

These statements are troubling for a variety of reasons. For the sake of intellectual consistency I need to parse them out, despite the fact [perhaps especially because of the fact] that Wendy is running as the Libertarian candidate in this election.

1) The level of paranoia approaches birther/9-11 truther saturation. You can have abstract arguments over the government's role in mandating public health measures like vaccinations or the wisdom of particular vaccines ala anthrax [as I will discuss in point two], but the idea that can you be sure it's just polio if it's the State that mandates it? Not sure about Wendy, but while the State mandates these immunizations, the vaccines themselves are produced by private companies and in general administered by your own pediatrician's office. Having worked for a military unit that was responsible for administering vaccinations to soldiers, I have been personally responsible for quality control and batch testing for vaccines. When dealing with conspiracies, you always need to ask yourself, What would I have to believe in order for this to be true?

In this case I would have to believe that to inject my children with chemicals through viral gene replacement technology, for instance, thought patterns & personalities could (& even might be) changed to eliminate “undesirables”, for instance, & ensure a dull, compliant populace? that virtually every pediatrician and public health care worker in America had been either duped or co-opted into the conspiracy, and that the government has so penetrated virtually all pharmaceutical companies to the point where it can not only require them to produce something other than polio vaccine labeled as polio vaccine, but also has managed to completely suppress any whistle-blowers from talking about it for decades.

Is the State capable doing dire medical things to people? Of course it is. The Tuskegee Syphillis experiment and the US Army LSD experiments in the early 1960s are prime examples. But those examples are also instructive: small groups of people working in secrecy against the larger policies of the government, and whose misdeeds were found out pretty quickly because of their ineptitude. The Army officers conducting the LSD experiments, for example, actually took movies of the troops they had unwittingly dosed with hallucinogens and showed them openly at a variety of training occasions. The perpetrators of the Tuskegee experiment actually submitted their results to refereed journals.

The common threads in these conspiracies are small scale and incompetence. For a Libertarian, who generally holds government actions to be awkward and incompetent unless otherwise proven, suspecting the government of such a massive intricate conspiracy to inject public school students with gene therapies as yet unknown to mainstream science is--I am sorry to say--simply loonie tunes.

2) Should the government have the authority to mandate vaccinations as a public health matter? Here I follow Libertarian philosopher Tal Scriven, who proposes a four-point checklist for whether or not the State should have the power to prohibit or mandate any particular actions, such as universal vaccination of school children. [Note: what you will read below is my plain-English paraphrase of Scriven's rather more difficult academic writing; you can read the original here]:

1. The law must be clearly and unambiguously written.

2. The law must be universally publicized.

3. The law must prohibit an action (or an inaction) that can be demonstrated to pose serious harm to individuals.

4. The law may not be enacted if either (a) the pleasure (or good) associated with the action/inaction outweighs the harm; or (b) if prohibiting such actions/inactions creates a greater harm than leaving it alone.

Scriven describe harm in a pretty narrow fashion, as Harm should include not only physical pain but also death and severe psychological suffering.

Let's think about vaccinations then:

1. You can't go to public schools without being vaccinated against common, massively infectious diseases.

2. Yeah, it's universally publicized.

3. The failure to vaccinate has a well-documented consequence of public health risks not just to individuals but to whole populations.

4. Does the good associated with this law outweight the harm it could potentially cause?

Ah, number four--there's the potential rub, leading to number three:

3) What are the public health implications [positive and negative] of universal vaccinations? Positive: prevention or limitation of widespread infectious diseases like the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s. Negative: some tiny percentage of those vaccinated will have moderate to serious to life-threatening reactions even to modern vaccines, and large numbers of people believe [erroneously, the experts tell us] that large-scale vaccination is causally linked to autism. Urban legends aside, the science on the autism/vaccination non-linkage is pretty clear and unambiguous (and shared by medical authorities in other countries who have no association with our government).

But what about the .0001% of people who will have a severe enough reaction to be life-threatening? Can a Libertarian justify a government mandate that places a person at any level of risk they would not, as individuals, choose to accept for themselves? The answer, for me, lies in Scriven's fourth requirement, about the relationship between harm and inaction.

Here's the rub: in a society in which there are no universal immunizations my children have a much MUCH higher risk of death or life-threatening harm from mass infectious diseases than they do from the tiny percentage chance that they will react badly to a vaccine. Moreover, the government in taking the universal action of requiring immunizations of all children is not transferring wealth or selectively benefitting any population; instead, in an originalist Constitutional sense, the government is promoting the general welfare.

As a Libertarian and Constitutionalist, I think therefore that immunizations for major infectious diseases as a prerequisite for entering the school system represents a legitimate State power. That does not mean the State should get to vaccinate you against anything, or that people shouldn't be skeptical until a scientific consensus emerges, but that limited public health measures are consistent with Libertarian thought.

Which is going to subject me to shitloads of criticism from a number of my anarcho-capitalist and severely minarchist friends.... But it will not be the first time for that.

So all of this comes back to Wendy Jones and Delaware's 19th State Senate race. Her position on vaccinations is--as I have said above--unfortunately, loonie tunes from my perspective. I cannot credit it as a serious policy position, and it raises disquieting questions about her understanding of science and the Libertarian perspective of public policy.

On the other hand, all of us (including Polly ADAMSADAMSADAMS Mervine's husband) have our own individual weird beliefs, such as the idea that the 19th District's Senator should vote based on Mennonite theological concerns about sexuality. [It sort of tells me that the talent pool in the district is shallow enough to be safe for non-swimmers.] Like Redwaterlilly I am beginning to feel like the district has a race between four social conservatives [even though I do think RWL does a disservice to Wendy's positions on LGBT questions.]

Fortunately, no Delaware State Senator is going to have the ability to vote upon or eliminate immunization programs for school children. [And, no, Dana, before you ask, I do not equate cold-blooded public health decisions with paternalism.]

And I really do believe that yet another nepotist Democrat or socially conservative GOPer [even if running as an IPoD] is not healthy for Delaware's economic future, so that Wendy sitting in Dover voting No, no, no is probably preferrable [Ron Paul has made a fortune as "Dr. No"] to the alternatives, I have to pull back from any unequivocal endorsement of my own party's candidate, not that my endorsement or lack of it matters one whit in a district in which I do not live and cannot vote...

But if I expect Dems and GOPers to confront strange behavior in their own parties, I have to be honest enough to do so within my own movement.

Nanny Goes Federal to Ban Text Messaging While Driving

The Democrat nannies are on the loose, run amok, busting out the time-worn federal funds withholding extortion to hammer the states into compliance with their latest federal fetish to control our daily habits and activities.

Is there no end to the mass control freak mentality of this ilk? What's next? Mandating cars have ignition shutoff sensors triggered by use of a mobile device inside the vehicle?

Hell, why all makes sense in service to sating nanny's whims, so nanny can make use all feel safe and happy (and nanny's helpers nicely bloated with traffic fine revenues, btw).

Lawmakers want ban on texting while driving

The Associated Press - Wed., July 29, 2009

WASHINGTON - Democratic lawmakers called for states to ban texting while driving or face cuts in highway funds, citing the need to reduce driver distraction and potential highway deaths and injuries.

"When drivers have their eyes on their cell phones instead of the road, the results can be dangerous and even deadly," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who unveiled the legislation Wednesday with Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal.

Some critics have questioned whether the laws could be enforced, whether there is enough data to warrant such bans, or if reckless driving statutes already cover texting behind the wheel.

Steve Largent, a former Oklahoma congressman who leads CTIA — The Wireless Association, said his organization supports "state legislative remedies to solve this issue. But simply passing a law will not change behavior. We also need to educate new and experienced drivers on the dangers of taking their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel."

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies, said it does not doubt the dangers of texting and driving but does not support a ban because it would be difficult to enforce.

"Highway safety laws are only effective if they can be enforced and if the public believes they will be ticketed for not complying. To date, that has not been the case with many cell phone restrictions," said Vernon Betkey, the highway safety association's chairman.

The sheer irresponsibility of these people is breathtaking...threatening to endanger potentially 1,000,000's of motorists by denying traffic infrastructure funds (taken from the states in the first place to be doled back out by federal overseers) to maintain roads (interstate highways for starters), in order to punish the "states" (i.e. endanger every motorist using roads in those states) that dare refuse to have their traffic safety laws dictated from on-high by the likes of Chuckie Schumer (AH-NY)...

I guess the integrity of the nation's transportation infrastructure (that they argue is so neglected) isn't as important to nanny Schumer et al as asserting ham-fisted nit-picky control over the actions of every last motorist in the United States, based on little more than the extremely-rare exceptions, with little or no conclusive proof that the "problem" prompting such control is even an actual problem.

But alas, THINK OF THE CHILDREN! (All 300 million of us).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dana Garett on Libertarians and Paternalism: A Disappointing Start

I had much higher hopes for the quality of analysis that Dana Garrett would bring to his series on Libertarians than the current installment merits. In it, Dana indulges himself in creating (without sources or direct attribution) straw-man libertarians who think parents have the right to deny their children life-saving medical treatment.

My detailed comments and Tyler's have already been registered at the site.

Here's a suggestion that Dana probably won't take (I already offered it once): why not start with a genuine attempt to understand the libertarian philosophy from the perspective of the zero-aggression/no force or fraud principle that is one of the few principles held by virtually all libertarians? If you can't take the time to prove you understand that well enough to critique it rationally, then you can't really make a case that you have any understanding of modern libertarian philosophy.

But then, understanding Libertarianism isn't actually the point of this series, is it, Dana?

What you've really decided to do is to unmask libertarians as irrational fetishists....

Let me ask you, Dana, in all candor, if you are being as diligently honest in your attempt to portray my belief system as you credited me when I wrote I like Dana, but here's why I won't be a Social Democrat in February 2008, and to which you responded:

Bravo! You got it. That's what I believe mostly. I have just a few quibbles here & there, but you are so much on target that to mention them would be to cavil.

Brilliance in a Nutshell : Tyler Cowen Edition

'Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch interviews Tyler Cowen, the prolific George Mason University economics professor, popular blogger, New York Times columnist, and author of the brand new Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World.'

Seriously, Cowen has wonderful perspective and great insight. Really interesting thoughts on autism and "ADD", among other things.

Nuts in a Nutshell : Krugman Edition

Money quote : "Maybe stuff will turn up. Maybe there'll be anotherrrrrrrr.....stimulus package...uh, ya know...there'll be more stuff...."

(Is that the technical term for whatever you're talking about, Perfesser? "$tuff"?)

My A** This Country Is Left-Liberal...

And neither the 2008 nor Obama's election changed a damn thing in this regard.

From some hardcore 'wingnut' polling data (Source : CBS/NY Times)...

Question : How would you describe your views on most political matters? Generally do you think of yourself as liberal, moderate, or conservative?

(Click on image for clearer view)

It's Like Watching A Graph of the World Slowly Waking Up to Horrible Reality...

With a whole bunch of dupes now battling messiah hangover....

Libertarians and the Delaware blogosphere: You know you're making headway when they develop talking points to use against you

I was going to do this as a top ten list, but could not decide on which one was absolutely either (a) the dumbest or (b) the most hypocritical.

Recently both Dana Garrett of Delaware Watch and jason of Delawareliberal have decided to turn their attention to Libertarians. This is a good thing, despite the biased nature of the coverage, because it indicates that they are now having to deal with Libertarian ideas as the primary opposition philosophy rather than the strange rantings of the Lawn Jockey Caucus of the Old Confederacy and Buffalo Commons Party (the political entity formerly known as the GOP). This has brought a whole host of other local commenters out to try their hand at stupid put-down lines for Libertarians.

It's worth a trip through the tripe to take a look at just what passes for political discourse in Delaware these days.

We'll start with the one-liners and work up to jason and Dana.


The problem with the Libertarian Party is they can’t agree on what they stand for. Ask 100 Libertarians to define Libertarianism and you’ll receive 100 different answers. I’m still confused.

This is pretty good coming from a Democrat whose party includes both Dennis Kucinich and Max Baucus, Henry Waxman and Tom Carper. There is the germ of a real issue here, as I have written before. There is no Democrat nor any Republican philosophy, only parties. And what holds them together is the urge to elect more Democrats and more Republicans, pretty much regardless of the ideological bent of the individual candidate. Thus the Delaware Democrats trumpet their progressivism, but depended for years on the likes of Thurman Adams to hold their majority in the State Senate, as he killed on liberal bill after another. Now they've nominated Polly [my husband speaks for me because I'm a Barbie doll with no opinions] ADAMSADAMSADAMS Mervine to replace Daddy. Pretty much the only issue-oriented question Polly has answered is that she opposes discrimination protection for Delaware's LGBT community because all those nasty Mennonites in her district won't let her have another opinion.

So what ideology drives Democrats? Pretty much seems to be power for Democrats. The Libertarian mistake has been to name a party after a philosophy rather than choose some high-sounding meaningless pseudo-patriotic title which actually commits them to nothing.

Von Cracker:

Libertarianism = Utopian fantasy.

All ideologies, VC, if seeking 100% adoption of their ideals, represent utopian fantasies. The concept of a representative democracy with essentiall universal suffrage was considered, for centuries, to be a utopian fantasy in Europe until the Americans did it. Want a utopian fantasy? How about the current liberal fantasy that we can simply spend multiples of our entire GDP by printing money, provide stimulus and health care for everyone, and never actually have to pay for it? Or the GOP fantasy that we can keep women in back alleys looking for abortions on coat-hangers, gays inside closets, and funnel all our tax dollars to faith-based charities.

See? It's only a utopian fantasy when you are criticizing somebody else's agenda. When you're supporting a President who employs dozens of high-powered lobbyists in key positions [but says he isn't], compares same-sex marriage to child abuse [but says he is pro-LGBT], and finds endless excuses to increase the military and fight additional foreign wars, your idea of utopian is bound to be a bit biased.

Then there's jason (1):

Where the eff were you Libertarians when George Bush was blowing up shit will nilly, establishing the department of homeland security, saying illegal wire taps were great, getting rid of habeas corpus, adding billions to the national debt, and trying to legislate morality?

Gee, jason, as you admitted on 24 April 2009, the national Libertarian Party opposed every single one of these issues, at a time when large numbers of your beloved Democrats were (a) voting for the Patriot Act; (b) voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq; (c) voting for telecom immunity in the wiretapping issues; (d) spending bazillions of dollars we didn't have; and (e) legislating morality. Unfortunately, jason, you have the infantile fantasy that what you don't notice didn't happen. Works great when you are four years old, but most people have to grow out of it.

Then there's jason (2):

I was paying attention the entire Bush maladministration and I never heard a peep from local or national libertarians. Somebody find me a libertarian site that was prominently anti-Bush. Just one. I beg of you.

OK jason, we won't count this site, because I have only been posting since November 2007. You want one--just one?--try Knappster. Try the national Libertarian Party website. Try Outright Libertarians. Try Next Free Voice.

Oh, sorry, that's four. I shouldn't use big numbers with the numerically challenged.

There's jason (3):

Either the is no real Libertarian Party or you guys seriously suck. Or, you know what? You are really Republicans, but are sick of being looked at funny so now you call yourselves Libertarians. Same wingnut bullshit, new package. That’s probably it.

Let's not ask jason to discuss structural barriers to ballot access for third parties, in which his Democrats collude with their arch-enemies the GOPers to insure that nobody else can even get candidates on the ballot while taking millions of dollars in Federal tax money to support their own campaigns.

There is an accidental kernel of truth in jason's statement (stopped clocks and all that): Libertarians used to be one of the three legs of the GOP back between Buckley (late 50's), Goldwater (60's), and Reagan (80's), but the social conservatives essentially gave us the boot in the 1990s. Oh, and jason, like there are both pro- and anti-abortion rights Democrats (a few) there are also pro- and anti-abortion rights Libertarians. Like there are leftist and centrist Democrats, there are left-Libertarians and right-Libertarians. But in your simplistic world, there is no such thing as a political spectrum within a party, which is why Delaware is represented by that amazingly liberal Tom Carper, huh?

All of the foregoing commenter quotations are from here.

Then there is Dana Garrett's critique of Libertarians, which is too extensive to handle in one go, so I will just start with his concerns about seat belts and helmets:

Debates about budget hikes are very important and honest differences can surround them. But seat-belt laws and, let me add, motorcycle helmet laws?

This is something I don't get about Libertarians. They seem to think that almost any government intrusion is ipso facto bad. That virtually none are beneficial. But surely that seat belts and motorcycle helmets save lives and people from serious injury is uncontroversial to any rational person. I have even heard Libertarians argue to the point of shouting that laws requiring the use of car seats for children were a serious assault on their liberty as parents. Imagine that. Because they hold personal liberty in extremis (as a fetish, in my view), they would willingly let many children risk death and serious injury, children which could be saved by a law only intended to protect them. I think that is bizarre.

Notice, please, that Dana starts by assuming his own political viewpoint [Government should have a primary role in keeping us safe from our own bad decisions] is a universal, and therefore unquestionable, value. To oppose this value makes one, by definition, irrational. And to grind in that point, Dana uses the anecdotal detail, I have even heard Libertarians argue to the point of shouting to imply that because some people with a particular viewpoint argue in a certain way, anybody who shares their philosophy must be irrational.

But let's take his central point: But surely that seat belts and motorcycle helmets save lives and people from serious injury is uncontroversial to any rational person.

In other words, Dana is arguing that it is the State and not the individual which should decide for all individuals what is and what is not appropriate risk-taking. I'll address seat-belt laws, but since I don't ride a motorcycle I will convert that one into mandatory bicycle helmet laws just to be able to use personal examples.

Seat belts: I use my seat belt. I make my children use seat belts. I did so long before the State got around to mandating it. Of course, the State doesn't mandate seat belts for school children riding in government-owned school buses because that would be too expensive. Nor does the State look at the fact that government-mandated airbags in cars increase the fatality rates for smaller adults in the front seats of most vehicles. Nor does the State actually mandate a three-point restraint system in seat belts (based on that used in aircraft) which is known to be far safer than the current shoulder-and-lap belt system now used in American cars. Why? Because the State, in this case, is not a paternalistic, disinterested guardian of the public safety, it is a political process for making deals with special interest groups. And because an individual state like Delaware might decide not to make seat belt usage a primary offense, the Federal government gets its way by threatening to remove highway funds necessary to regrade roads, build guard-rails, or install traffic lights at dangerous intersections.

So point one is that none of these laws are immaculate conceptions of a protective government: they are exercises in State power over individual decision-making.

Point two is that Libertarians do reject the State's power to define risk-taking for individuals. Just last week I allowed my thirteen-year-old son to go rock-climbing in Colorado, hanging by his fingers from mountain ledges over 200 feet above the ground. He was wearing protective gear--the best protective gear I could afford--and working with an expert instructor. But, you know what? Hundreds of rock climbers fall and get injured or die every year even with all the precautions. Certainly the State should step and tell me that my son is not allowed to rock climb. Or ski. Or motocross. Or that my daughter should not be allowed to step into a soccer goal as the keeper wearing only shin guards when she spends a large part of every game diving under the cleats of the opposing players and crashing into metal goal posts.

I make my children wear seat belts because I think it is the right thing to do. The fact that the State wants to coerce me into doing it does not stop me or make me do it.

But from the time they turned twelve I have knowingly flouted the law that requires them to wear bicycle helmets. At age twelve we made the determination that for riding around the neighborhood (as opposed to racing, riding on the highway, or mountain biking) that our children were old enough to make the appropriate decisions about their biking safety. Don't agree with me? Then make your own kids wear their helmets, and I won't try to stop you--unlike Senator Margaret Rose Henry who thinks that even people old enough to have drivers' licenses should have to wear bike helmets under penalty of law.

I have no objection to the State attempting to convince anybody to do the right thing other than I resent my tax dollars being spent on government propaganda. Give people the stats on trans-fats, on smoking, on mountain-climbing, on neck injuries in football games, on sunscreen....

And then STFU and let people make their own decisions.

What is amazing is that civilization has not come to an end with people making their own decisions about safety and risk-taking in the past 5,000 years. Yes: a lot of good people have made choices that left them incapacitated or dead. And a lot of others have gone on to conquer risks and achieved great things that they otherwise might never have attempted had your nanny state been successful in regimenting them into cocoons.

While we're at it, we should probably cancel the Olympic Games and most sports programs except yoga, since there really isn't any way to make downhill skiing into a safe exercise. Hit a damn tree and I don't care what kind of protective gear you are wearing, your time is up.

Is that making a fetish out of indiidual liberty, as Dana likes to say? At first I didn't like the term, but now I'm OK with it.

I would rather make a fetish out of personal liberty than a fetish out of nanny state regulations intended to keep everyone safe from anything more dangerous than a paper cut.

I would rather make a fetish out of personal liberty than a fetish out the idea that only my particular views on what constitutes legitimate political differences of opinions is the only rational viewpoint.

The irony of all this attention to Libertarians is this: all of you criticizing the Libertarian philosophy have libertarian urges that you so zealously protect in your own life. You demand the freedom to make your own decisions, because your own particular case is special.

You're just unwilling to extend the same level of freedom to your fellow citizens.

Wendy Jones: Attracting even more attention....

... probably because she's got the courage to point out the obvious.

The WNJ runs a story on the failure of Democratic candidate Barbie [Polly Adams Mervine, as channeled by her husband and other stand-ins] failing to show up for debates, and it's not Republican Joe Booth but Wendy Jones, Libertarian State Senate candidate in Delaware's 19th District, who steps to the plate:

"At the risk of being a little critical, I'd say it was bordering on arrogant and irresponsible for her not to appear," said Libertarian candidate Wendy Jones, who attended last week's forum despite having undergone back surgery a few days prior. "I can only guess that maybe she's hoping to ride in on her daddy's coattails to office."

Meanwhile, Independent Political Report runs its third story on the Wendy Jones candidacy, and--locally--Delawareliberal blogger jason is apparently so embarrassed by his Go Wendy Jones! endorsement that he has to pen a ridiculous post condemning Libertarians that contradicts his own words from three months ago.

Maybe jason would care to explain how having his own party nominating a woman afraid to answer questions on the issues except through her husband is an indicator that his own party does not suck.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Foot in Mouth Disease regarding Libertarians at Delawareliberal

Another indication that libertarian thought--real libertarian though as opposed to the faux libertarianism of birther Republicans--is starting to worry our liberal and progressive friends: they are paying attention to us.

I've already highlighted the series on Libertarians that Dana Garrett has promised at Delaware Watch, but this next one is too funny to miss.

jason at Delawareliberal now has a post up: Everybody is a Libertarian All of a Sudden:

What a bunch of Johnny Come Latelys losers.

Where the eff were you Libertarians when George Bush was blowing up shit will nilly, establishing the department of homeland security, saying illegal wire taps were great, getting rid of habeas corpus, adding billions to the national debt, and trying to legislate morality? You have your panties in a knot over every little thing Obama does because, “holy shit the slippery slope is gonna git-cha!” (paraphrase)

But Bush, bought the country a ticket to Libertarian Hell and set up a tea party there for eight long years, and you guys were like little church mice, because OH GOD THE TERRORISTS!!

What a joke your pathetic movement is.

I was paying attention the entire Bush maladministration and I never heard a peep from local or national libertarians. Somebody find me a libertarian site that was prominently anti-Bush. Just one. I beg of you.

Either the is no real Libertarian Party or you guys seriously suck. Or, you know what? You are really Republicans, but are sick of being looked at funny so now you call yourselves Libertarians. Same wingnut bullshit, new package. That’s probably it.

The only problem is that jason has already previously admitted, just three months ago, that Libertarians have been opposed to constitutional violations.

Here's the interchange between jason and me on 24 April 2009 that I just quoted back to him:

You have an incredibly short memory for your own embarrassments.

On 24 April you wrote:

You know Steve your indignation is hilarious. I don’t know how many times I thought, “Well this Bush outrage, at long last will get the libertarians stirred up,”

Only to hear crickets.

I responded:

Your standard and your response are ridiculous.

Hube is not a libertarian, as far as I know.

And it’s pretty difficult for you to hold me responsible for “not speaking out” prior to November 2007 when I started a blog precisely to speak out about that and other issues. Before that, you’d have had to come to my classes, or read articles in homeland security circles, to find me speaking out on a regular basis.

The fact that I didn’t choose to join your little blogfest until November 2007 doesn’t equate with moral or intellectual silence. It only equates with the poverty of your intellectual world view: only what you happen to hear has any relevance.

FYI: as I have proven to you on multiple occasions, if you go back and check the archives of the national LP website, you will find that libertarians have been consistently against the trashing of the constitution since they first opposed the original Patriot Act. Did you? And if so, where can we read about it from 2001-2002?

And you then replied

Sorry Steve. Just checked out that page you mentioned. I guess I took your party’s utter impotence for acquiescence.

To anticipate your next point, I know that the Democrats were pretty impotent throughout as well.

The whole interchange can be found here:

So you can either allow your original apology of three months ago to ride, or you can create a new one. Either way, you really should check your own notes from time to time before you start to spew.

The reason that jason is so--ah--forgetful is that actual Libertarian thought is probably the greatest single obstacle to the entire statist agenda of the Obama administration, and to the hypocritical judicial and foreign policy positions that administration has taken that are either indistinguishable from or extend beyond old Bush abuses.

jason doesn't ever talk about the Obama administration position that it can indefinitely detain people who have been found not guilty by the courts.

jason doesn't ever talk about the Obama administration position that it could execute some Gitmo detainees without trial.

jason doesn't ever talk about the army of lobbyists employed by the Obama administration, the preferred position of Goldman Sachs, the continued move to use the 3rd Infantry Division for domestic police work, or the DOJ equating same-sex marriage with child abuse.

jason prefers to trot out his little Libertarian envy rap, because he stopped complaining about constitutional and civil liberties abuses just as soon as a Democrat got elected

Monday, July 27, 2009

Those Crazy Conspiracist libertarians.....errr, excuse me, Democrat & Republican House Members...Expose Goldman Sachs and Demand Answers....

[I hope they don't hold their breaths waiting for a rational (or any) explanation for Goldman Sachs' special little singular arrangement.]

Dear Chairman Bernanke:

In the fall, Goldman Sachs secured access to government funding by converting from an investment bank into an ordinary bank. Despite this shift, the CFO of the company, David Viniar, said last week that the company is continuing to operate as if it were still a high-risk investment bank: "Our model really never changed," he noted in a quote to Bloomberg. "We've said very consistently that our business model remained the same."

This statement seems accurate. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve granted a temporary exemption to Goldman Sachs from standard bank holding company Market Risk Rules, allowing the company to continue operating as if it were an investment bank. The company and its employees have taken full advantage of its new government subsidies, and the retained ability to bet big. In its most recent quarter, Goldman Sachs earned high profits of $2.7 billion on revenues of $13.76 billion, with 78 percent of this revenue derived from high-risk trading and principal investments. It paid out much of this revenue in compensation, setting aside a record $772,858 for each employee at an annualized rate. The company's own measurement of risk, its Value-at-Risk model, recently showed potential trading losses at $245 million a day, up from $184 million last May.

Despite its exemption from bank holding company regulations, Goldman Sachs has access to taxpayer subsidies, including FDIC-backed bonds, TARP money (since repaid), counterparty payments funneled through AIG, and an implicit backstop from the taxpayer that allowed a public equity offering in a queasy market. The only difference between Goldman Sachs today and Goldman Sachs last year is that today, the company is officially gambling with government money. This is the very definition of "heads we win, tails the taxpayers lose."

It is worth noting that there sometimes might be good reasons to grant temporary regulatory exemptions, considering that companies cannot instantly change their business model. Still, given Goldman Sachs's last quarter results and public statements that it is not changing its business model, we are worried that the company is using its regulatory freedom to evade capital requirements and take outsized risks with taxpayers on the hook for losses.

With this in mind, our questions are as follows:

1) In the letter granting a regulatory exemption to Goldman Sachs, you stated that the SEC-approved VaR models it is now using are sufficiently conservative for the transition period to bank holding company. Please justify this statement.

2) If Goldman Sachs were required to adhere to standard Market Risk Rules imposed by the Federal Reserve on ordinary bank holding companies, how would its capital requirements differ from the current regulatory regime?

3) What is the difference in exposure to the taxpayer between these two regulatory regimes?

4) What is the difference in total risk to the portfolio between these two regulatory regimes?

5) Goldman Sachs stated that "As of June 26, 2009, total capital was $254.05 billion, consisting of $62.81 billion in total shareholders' equity (common shareholders' equity of $55.86 billion and preferred stock of $6.96 billion) and $191.24 billion in unsecured long-term borrowings." As a percentage of capital, that's a lot of long-term unsecured debt. Is any of this coming from the Government? In this last quarter, how much capital has Goldman Sachs received from the Federal Reserve and other government facilities such as FDIC-guaranteed debt, either directly or indirectly?

6) Many risk-management experts, most notably best-selling author Nassim Taleb, note that VaR models can dramatically understate risk. What is your overall view of Taleb's argument, and of the utility of Value-at-Risk models as regulatory tools?

As we work through legislative conversations regarding systemic risk, these questions are taking on increased significance. We appreciate your time and the efforts you are making to explain the actions of the Federal Reserve to Congress, and to taxpayers.


Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)

Brad Miller (D-N.C.)

Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)

Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Tom Perriello (D-Va.)

Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.)

Walter Jones (R-N.C.)


Less than 4 years ago....

Bernanke: There's No Housing Bubble to Go Bust
Fed Nominee Has Said 'Cooling' Won't Hurt

By Nell Henderson - Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Ben S. Bernanke does not think the national housing boom is a bubble that is about to burst, he indicated to Congress last week, just a few days before President Bush nominated him to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

U.S. house prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years, noted Bernanke, currently chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, in testimony to Congress's Joint Economic Committee. But these increases, he said, "largely reflect strong economic fundamentals," such as strong growth in jobs, incomes and the number of new households....

Many economists argue that house prices have risen too far too fast in many markets, forming a bubble that could rapidly collapse and trigger an economic downturn, as overinflated stock prices did at the turn of the century. Some analysts have warned that even a flattening of house prices might cause a slump -- posing the first serious challenge to whoever succeeds Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan after he steps down Jan. 31.

Bernanke's testimony suggests that he does not share such concerns, and that he believes the economy could weather a housing slowdown....

Bernanke believes "the Fed's job is to protect the economy, not to protect individual asset prices," said William Dudley, chief economist for Goldman Sachs U.S. Economics Research.

That view mirrors Greenspan's. He and Bernanke have both said it is unrealistic to expect the Fed to identify a bubble in stock or real estate prices as it is inflating, or to be able to pop it without hurting the economy. Instead, the Fed should stand ready to mop up the economic aftermath of a bubble..."

...and wipe the derriere of Goldman Sachs with Federal Reserve Notes charged to the American taxpayer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is Health Care America's New Political Third Rail?

It used to be that any attempt to so much as breath a whiff about reforming, changing, or even discussing reform or change of "Social Security", the massive Ponzi-scheme social welfare entitlement system set up by the Democrat Party a half century ago, meant something near political suicide, at least amongst the American government, political, and media establishments.

Social Security has never been reformed, because it can never really be fixed. It is a fundamental failure that is openly-acknowledged as utterly unsustainable no matter how much money the welfare statists print and throw down the tube to sustain it. It's demise is inevitable, but hopefully not as just another casualty of the total collapse of our economic system under the weight of Leviathan's bottomless bloat.

The hysterical, fear-mongering decades-running sandbag defense of this scam of a ruse of 'security' in elder years, brought to you by our efficient, benevolent federal overseers, was a potent force for many years.

But has the wider public now gained an intuitive understanding from this runaway trainwreck of a system that letting the camel's nose under the tent on issues of such broad and deep impact on the country will soon follow with the whole hungry camel lodged in your living room?

I think so. I think we are seeing the latest exercise in the reality that attempting to impose "health care reform" on America by federal government fiat is the new third rail American politics.

It is fitting that instead of this third rail shocking those who would reduce or end government's control over a broad social good (such as by halting an unsustainable federal dole of across-the-board old-age financial entitlement, deceptively dubbed "Social Security"), instead it is administering rapid political jolts those who seek political control over the even broader and more endemic social good of health care.

Bill Clinton got instant karma, in political terms, for manipulation, monomaniacal arrogance, and partisan warfare as tools to make the federal government the omnipotent force in our country's health care "system". Clinton's hubris and unwelcome paternalistic excess cost his party their 40-year run controlling 1/2 or all of the United States Congress, before he had even reached 2 years in office.

I was lucky enough in January 1995 to be sitting on the floor of the House amidst the new Republican majority when Clinton announced the end to big government's "era", in his State of the Union address. Ashame that new Republican majority didn't hold him to it, before devolving into their own federal power binge under the autocrat Bush....leading to their recent political demise.

But the worm can turn fast in political terms....if opponents repeat or, better, magnify their mistakes. Barack Obama looks to be headed on that same 1st-term Clinton trajectory, but with even more gusto.....grasping that third rail, locked arm-in-arm with his and his party's entire identity and credibility at stake.

We'll see if the GOP and the broad range of other (non-political) forces marshaling against the ObamaCare Nightmare will repeat the same mistakes as the last beneficiaries of the public's punishment of the last unitary Democrat majority and their mania to assert federal control over something as profound as the health of each and every citizen in the land.

I hope the forces of limited, accountable government finally have the day and win out over the welfare statists, trite central planners and their legion of enablers cocooned inside the D.C. beltway.

Dana Garrett of Delaware Watch plans a series of posts on Libertarians...

... and I welcome it [read my comment at the end of his inaugural post].

I don't expect Dana to like a lot of what he finds about Libertarians, but I do expect he will subject the philosophy and its political incarnation to some serious scrutiny. That's good.

I intend to link to each of the posts as he publishes them, because I suspect very few Libertarians will make his progressive-liberal blog regular reading (which is a shame, because as much as we disagree we are good friends and learn a lot from each other).

A point of personal privilege, however: I suspect Dana will ruffle a lot of your feathers with his opinions. If you want to take issue with him on the issues, or the accuracy of his interpretations, feel free... he's a big guy and can stand up for himself.

If, however, you feel the need merely to rant about being mischaracterized by someone you consider a Statist progressive, please do it here rather than there. I'm posting his links on this issue so that we can learn about and from him hopefully learning about and from us, not so he can be inundated with people abusing him. Capeesh?