Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two thoughts (and only two) on the Bradley Manning conviction

1.  The judge had little or no choice in this verdict.  It was quite predictable.  "Jury nullification" is not an option for trial officers under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  In fact, I'd argue that the judge has been, so far, as lenient as it was possible to be, and sent a significant message in declining to find Manning guilty of providing aid to the enemy.

2. I can't figure out how to triangulate the public reaction to this verdict against the public reaction to the Zimmermann verdict.  In its own way the Manning trial outcome has the potential to be just as divisive as the Florida shooting, but the lines seem to fall much differently.  I've seen people who think Zimmermann was a hero both condemn and praise Manning; likewise with people who believe Zimmermann got away with murder.  Strangely, I find it a hopeful sign that we don't always divide along the same lines.

Monday, July 29, 2013

10 reasons to believe Delaware is a police state

10.  "Universal" background checks for person-to-person firearms exchanges are constituted so that current and retired police officers are exempted from this scrutiny, even though there is ample reason to believe that law enforcement officers (including the retired) commit suicide more often, are prone to domestic violence, suffer high rates of alcoholism/depression, and are resistant to seeking help for mental illness.

9.  Those semi-universal background checks can be examined by law enforcement agents any time, without probable cause, without a warrant.

8.  Red-light traffic cameras turn out (as Libertarians predicted) to be all about raising revenue, and not so much about traffic safety (which seems to be exactly what Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Louis Schiliro ordered).

7.  The Wilmington Police Department has an incredibly high usage of tazers to subdue suspects (a fact that is only reported about when somebody dies after being tazed and the WPD spokesman says there is no story here, move along folks).

6.  Our police departments don't run their DUI checkpoints according to their own policies, and get away with it until a good attorney (not a good newspaper) calls them out for it.  [Now what they will do is rewrite the policies, because--guess what?--nobody else has to approve them!]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

RIP Bill Morris (1920-2013): Founder of the Libertarian Party of Delaware

William E. "Bill" Morris
Founder of the LPD
1920-2013
William E. "Bill" Morris passed away on 25 July 2013, apparently from complications from pneumonia.

Bill was the founder of the Libertarian Party of Delaware in 1975, and stayed actively engaged in what he considered an ongoing battle for freedom until just a few months before his death.

Those of us who knew Bill will remember him first and foremost as a gentleman and a gentle man.  I cannot recall him ever speaking an intemperate word about another human being, though he could be merciless in arguing against what he considered stupid positions, laws, or policies.

Here's what I specifically recall about Bill from knowing him during the last decade of his life:

(1) When Bill ran for US Senate in 2004 he shared a debate stage in Dover with Tom Carper and whichever sacrificial Republican (some guy named Bill Roth) was up that year.  Carper, who never takes chances, ignored Bill through most of the debate, but then turned in the last few seconds and asked him how he felt about being the representative of a party that wanted to take all restrictions off of pornography.  Never missing a beat, Bill told him that he guessed he felt the same way that Carper did about representing a party born to support the institution of slavery.

(2) Bill was the person who got the Libertarian Party of Delaware to sponsor some DELDOT miles of clean-up along the highway.  Bill believed it not only gave the party some exposure, but that Libertarians couldn't be activists for a voluntary society without volunteering for society when the chance came up.

(3) Bill's passion during the last few years was arguing climate change.  Trained as a chemical engineer and having worked at Exxon and DuPont in petrochemicals, Bill felt that most of the research he was seeing was garbage, not based on sound science.  He would travel anywhere his health allowed at the drop of a hat to talk or debate about climate change.  (Again, however:  the gentleman.  He would mock an opponent's position, but he would never stoop to mocking an opponent.)

I'm sure that others, like Tom or Brad, have more memories of Bill, and I hope they will share them in the comments section.

At the 2012 State Convention of the Libertarian Party of Delaware, William E. Morris was honored with an award for the founding of the LPD and over 35 years of faithful advocacy for the cause of liberty.

I will miss Bill deeply; at the last New Castle County LPD meeting he was able to attend (earlier this year), I suspect that he finally felt that the years were catching up to him.  He took me out to his car after the meeting, gave me several books, and told me to keep getting more people involved.

"We can't ever quit," Bill said.

And he never did.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Delaware's police track you (even if you are not a criminal)

The Automated License
Plate Reader (vehicle mounted)
The ACLU recently published You are being tracked:  How license plate readers are being used to record Americans' movements, in which the proliferation of ALPRs [Automated License Plate Readers] among law enforcement agencies nationwide is discussed:

The implementation of automatic license plate readers poses serious privacy and other civil liberties threats.  More and more cameras, longer retention periods, and widespread sharing allow law enforcement agents to assemble the individual pieces of where we have been over time into a single, high-resolution image of our lives.  The knowledge that one is subject to constant monitoring can chill the exercise of our cherished rights to free speech and association. Databases of license plate reader information create opportunities for institutional abuse, such as using them to identify protest attendees merely because these individuals have exercised their First Amendment-protected right to free speech.
You can and should read the entire ACLU report (or at least the summary article here), but today's subject is what is happening in Delaware, and how law enforcement agencies are skirting both the Freedom of Information Act, but also the law in order to (a) maintain a massive surveillance effort that extends to tracking the movements of law-abiding citizens; and (b) shares that information with multiple partners (both public and private) across the region and that nation.

The primary sources for this report are the responses of the New Castle County PD and the Delaware State Police, sent in mid-2012 in response to ACLU FOIA requests.  You can find the URLs for these documents in the ACLU report, but I will warn you that they are marred by the addition of superfluous spaces in several places, and that you have to fiddle with them for awhile to make them work (or you can just use my links, which I have corrected).

Start with the New Castle County PD, which informed the ACLU on 31 August 2012 of the following:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's official: Dems and GOPers come together to eliminate the US Constitution

From HuffPo:

So I have some great news folks! The Republicans and the Democrats in Congress and the White House FINALLY came together and agreed on something. This is HUGE. These guys disagree on EVERYTHING! Getting them to see eye-to-eye is like getting the Jews and the Palestinians to do a trust fall together. Or getting Eskimos and polar bears to play Jenga. 
I'm referring to the bill H.R. 347 that was signed by President Obama the other day, passed unanimously in the Senate, and 388-3 in the House. That's nearly EVERY SINGLE lawmaker. The last time they agreed that closely on something, it was a bill raising monthly Congressional pay to include a box of Ding Dongs, two erotic cakes featuring Bonanza star Pernell Roberts, and a gentle yet inquisitive prostate exam every Tuesday. 
What did this magical universally-loved bill say? Well some are calling it the anti-Occupy law and it allows the government to bring charges against Americans involved in many kinds of political protest at any location the secret service, quote, "is or will be temporarily visiting." So basically if the government wants to shut down a protest, they just send a secret service officer down there to scratch his balls, and then they can start putting people in jail for a year or more.
See, like the 2nd Amendment only applies to muskets, the 1st Amendment only applies to people in white-powdered wigs who all died 200 years ago.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Government gone nuts: three head-scratchers from today's WNJ

First, what's wrong with this picture?

Top state officials begin meetings today to discuss options to buoy Delaware’s casinos in the face of growing regional competition. 
The meetings begin less than a month after lawmakers approved an $8 million casino bailout to cover higher anticipated costs to vendors who provide slot machines for Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway and Casino. 
Delaware Finance Secretary Tom Cook will chair the board. Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, also is a member. Both are members of Gov. Jack Markell’s Cabinet. 
Six state lawmakers, including Democratic House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, will serve on the committee, as well as a representative of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. The committee will meet for six months and report back to the General Assembly by January. 
Casino executives, who do not have a seat on the task force, are expected to continue lobbying state lawmakers to lower their tax rates.
Uh, gee, guys ... why shouldn't there be meetings in the board rooms of Delaware's casinos as these privately owned businesses figure out how to survive on their own?  Given the size of Delaware and the ability of other states in the region to get into the act it was never an intelligent decision to stake such a large percentage of the state budget on gambling receipts.  It had to come to an end.

If we really need a government task force on this topic, how about one on finding the revenue source to support the government during the next ten years as the casinos go slowly under (and all of them will, except Dover Downs?

And why would we put Cook and Levin, the geniuses who brought us Fisker and tens of millions in corporate welfare to multi-billion-dollar companies like Kraft or City?

Next, there's this:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Interviewing Louis J. Schiliro, DE Homeland Security Czar

Louis J. Schiliro, our
Homeland Security czar
The whole interview actually took place about a year ago in Security Management, the PR blog for ASIS International, which does puff pieces on "security professionals." But you would never have read it--because you weren't supposed to.

But since this is hardly investigative journalism, I thought it would be instructive to provide a little context on the things that Mr. Schiliro, Delaware's Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security DOES and DOES not say.

For example, when asked the question, "What assets and threats make the state unique?" Mr. Schiliro [who has presided over a gigantic mushrooming of the state Homeland Security budget since 2009], admitted that the chief terrorist threat to Delaware is ... snow and rain:
We have a small state, but many of the same issues that the larger states do, just in terms of the things that we need to plan and prepare for. As it stands right now the issues that we spend the most time on are weather-related. We are a coastal state, with hurricane issues and nor’easters that hit the state have been issues. DEMA spends a fair amount of time on that. As you know last winter we got hit pretty heavily by some of the snow storms, so that takes up a lot of our time just in terms of preparation and anticipation of those kinds of issues.
I figure that this looking has to
be worth at least $10 mill, right?
This is followed by the incredibly pro-active:
But also we’re in the shadows of a nuclear plant in New Jersey. We spend a lot of time looking at that. 
I thought it would be nice to have a visual of our Homeland Security apparatus, for which we spend millions and millions each year, looking at the nuke plants across the Bay.

There.  I feel safer already.

OK, to be fair [not that I'm trying to be], Mr. Schiliro cites other potential terrorist threats:

When progressives make libertarian arguments and the WNJ censors itself

Today's story in the WNJ that Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Governor Markell all oppose the reinstatement of anything resembling Glass-Steagall on our "too big to fail" banks is pretty damn predictable.

Those corporations bought and paid for these individuals a long time ago, and though Coons managed to keep his image of an actual liberal/progressive for longer than Carper and Markell, as they in the investment world:  Sooner or later, there will always be a margin call ...

Curiously, however, the WNJ has scrubbed the following paragraph from its current online edition of the story:
Returning to Glass-Steagall would go further, but the legislation doesn't have much support in Delaware, where banks employ thousands and are powerful contributors to political campaigns.

It is, however, at least a little silver lining to find cassandra m of Delawareliberal in a rare fit of spouting libertarian economics in response:
There is little doubt that markets and banking would have been worse without TARP and the various other programs that used taxpayer funds to bolster the balance sheets of these banks. But the pain would have been short and sharp; the economic pain may have been shorter; and certainly the free market would have worked. Importantly, banks would have it built into their DNA that they own their own risk taking. Now they think taxpayers do.
One thing I can always agree with an intelligent progressive like cassandra is that the State has no business privatizing profit while it socializes loss.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just give this 54 seconds ...

Delaware's Fusion Center [DIAC]: More on Big Brother

Sometimes we all laugh (a bit nervously perhaps) at the idea that Google eventually wants to have access to every piece of information on Earth.

We should not be laughing, however, at the intention of the Delaware Information Analysis Center (1575 McKee Road, Dover) to eventually have access to every piece of information about Delaware.

It is a lot closer to happening than you think.

For example, as I have covered here before, the DIAC offered a mobile app available for you to download that would allow you to report the "suspicious" behavior of your friends and neighbors in realtime, but which also did oh so much more:
After installation of the app, the fusion center can manipulate the camera application on a phone whenever it is running, allowing it "at any time to collect images the camera is seeing." The app can also tell the fusion center exactly where you are at all times, because by downloading it you've given it permission to monitor your GPS location through your phone. 
--snip-- 
But that's not all. The Delaware fusion center can monitor the metadata for all incoming and outgoing calls on phones that contain the snitch application. Google says the operators "can determine the phone number and serial number of [the] phone, whether a call is active, the number that call is connected to and the like." Just like your location information, who you talk to reveals a lot about you.
This app may have been withdrawn from active circulation as it is not mentioned on the DIAC website.   But the existence of this app is indicative of the method of operations employed by our own fusion center to provide itself the capability to spy on our citizens.

(PS as you might suspect, the DIAC website plants an inordinate number of cookies on your computer when you visit it, so if you do you would certainly want to take the step of immediately expunging cookies from your browser thereafter.)

What information does DIAC collect?  That's difficult to tell, because the DIAC privacy policy (which is, ironically, more designed to protect DIAC's privacy, not yours) allows it to lie to you:

Friday, July 19, 2013

GOP gubernatorial candidate in Va leading the right flank in the war on women ... and men ...

... by actively campaigning to re-institute the Old Dominion's anti-sodomy law that makes oral or anal sex between consenting adult a felony ...

Ken Cuccinelli, the current VA Attorney General, claims that it's all for the children and the need to have this law to protect them from sexual predators.

He's apparently not bright enough to figure out how to write a law that criminalizes sex acts with minors without turning amorous adults into felons.

Or else he really does think the State should be in your bedroom.

Yes, Virginia (and Delaware), there really IS a difference between Libertarians and Republicans.

Where Jack Markell gets his ideas

... from President Barack Obama, who has found the only way to cut the world's largest "defense" budget without cutting any weapon systems or deployments ...

He'll just cut the health benefits for active and retired troops, while maintaining them for unionized civilian DoD employees. 

Military personnel would see their annual Tricare premiums increase anywhere from 30 - 78 percent in the first year, followed by sharply increased premiums "ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels."
"According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048," Gertz wrote.
Active duty military personnel would also see an increased cost for pharmaceuticals, and the incentive to use less expensive generic drugs would be gone.
See? Markell over five years has (a) never proposed a raise for state employees; (b) has trimmed their health care and retirement benefits; and (c) has done so while maintaining tens of millions per annum in welfare for multi-billion-dollar corporations.

No wonder he thinks that Obama might want him in his cabinet.

On DSU the News Journal inverts chronology to give itself a pat on the back

My guess is that yesterday's refusal by DSU senior official to give the News Journal comments on its story about felon-dean Freddy Asinor rankled the reporters quite a bit.

But you really have to love the slick inversion of chronology that takes place in today's story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The wrong response to Jenny McCarthy

I have been watching and listening to the ABC/The View/Jenny McCarthy hysteria both nationally and in Delaware.

I don't have to link to it, because unless you live in a cave and don't have wireless you know that ABC has been royally roasted for putting Jenny McCarthy on The View to replace Elizabeth Hasselback because apparently when she gets on the air millions of impressionable parents will cease vaccinating their children and we will be overrun by The Walking Dead ...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The "Promoting Charter-District Collaboration Task Force": a lesson in Delaware politics

So we are now filling the newest education task force, and I am pleased to see Representative Paul Baumbach on the committee (although one wonders if he counter-balances Senator Dave Sokola).

But the task force itself gives me the opportunity to address the fact that in Delaware you have to have an organization to get ahead:
Let's first notice that you cannot apply directly to be on this task force.  You must be appointed by an "authority"--that is, a specific special interest group recognized by the Delaware government.

Most of these organizations have extensive and known agendas, and can be counted upon to use their opportunities to appoint to add the usual suspects and avoid anyone with really divergent ideas.

For example:  don't look for DSEA to appoint Mike Matthews, for the Chief School Officers Association to appoint Dr. Freeman Williams, or for the Delaware School Boards Association to appoint Harrie Ellen Minnehan.

Also, don't look for any parents on the task force (where, one wonders, is the DE PTA?), or any students, or even any representatives from higher education.

Here's why it is often very difficult to get anything important done in Delaware:  we love stakeholders.

Set up a meeting, and somebody will remind you that "we need to get all the stakeholders involved."

And, inevitably, the only stakeholders who matter will be the representatives of special interest organizations.

Here's where most of the critics of "education reform" go wrong:  we haven't organized the Delaware School/Community Partnership, the Delaware Association of Parents with Low SES students, the Delaware Alliance for Alternative Assessment, or even the Delaware Marching and Chowder Society for the Educationally Skeptical.

(And unfortunately, blogs don't count.)


Belief in God as a graduation requirement in Arizona?

Now THIS is a great GOP plan for winning the culture wars.

Yep:  we'll just keep them damn atheists from getting diplomas with a "So help me, God" loyalty oath.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sadly, it is time to put Ted Kaufman out to pasture

I like Ted Kaufman--hardly ever agree with him, but I have always admired his integrity and his intellectual consistency.

Until today.

The horrible whitewashing of the Obama administration's surveillance programs is not just unbecoming for a man of Kaufman's credentials and experience, but could most hopefully be taken as a sign of early dementia (and least charitably taken as a sign he's been bought off).

Here is Kaufman on surveillance and the FISA court, with the realities he chooses to gloss over provided in between:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Don't mess with Texas ... women

Libertarians differ over abortion; I fall into the camp that supports women's abortion rights (I refuse to use the ridiculous weasel terms "pro choice" and "pro life).

But there are libertarians who hold that abortion is murder, and that therefore its prevention is one of the few legitimate usages of state power, and we manage to co-exist.

However, there is NOTHING remotely libertarian about what Texas passed yesterday.  Instead, we have the Texas GOP using the power of the state to coerce women into specific decisions.  You want to make abortion illegal--fine, go for it.  But for the State to tell women which clinics they can patronize based on the thin fantasy that they are insuring better quality medical care is simple (and, yes, I'm going there) another facet of the conservative war on women.

My position is pretty simple:  women have the right to choose their own medical care and procedures, period.  Whether it is abortion, home birth, breast implants, life-threatening or cosmetic, if women are not free to make their own medical decisions without state intervention, they are not free.

(That said, I am strongly in favor gathering all the information you can about potential procedures and practitioners, the risks, etc.  But while I advise that, it's your body and your level of acceptable risk that counts, not mine.)

Somehow I do not see Texas women letting their menfolk off the hook for this one, and I hope the Libertarian Party of Texas, which contains a lot of my friends and some very savvy political opportunists.

Libertarians, Rand Paul, the Civil War, neo-Confederates, and why none of this matters

What you think you know about the significance of this
photo of elderly US and CS veterans is very likely as
wrong as what you think you know about Civil War
history, at least if you haven't read David Blight or
John Coski or Ervin Jordan, and instead depend on
Thomas DiLorenzo or Paul Krugman for your history.
Now that Paul Krugman has felt compelled to attack "libertarian populism" (which is his own particular formulation and absolutely nothing to do with libertarians, just sayin'), it is evident that a lot of people are worried about the influence of ideas that just a few years back they dismissed as lacking any traction at all.

Krugman, of course, is attempting to pile on to the Rand Paul/Jack Hunter "controversy," and the attempt not just to tar the Kentucky Senator (who may or may not be sort of a libertarian depending on who you talk to) with neo-Confederate leanings, but to claim that Libertarians will never shake their neo-Confederate ties.

This is, of course, a clever coded way of saying that Libertarian theory as well as every Libertarian (to include our "small-L" libertarian cousins) is racist.  Some are more urbane about it than others, but deep down we are all willing to court racists to get into power:
That’s not say to say that the Pauls are racists themselves, but rather that they’re beholden to a constituency who is. Libertarianism is, right now, a very small movement very much on the political margins. The neo-Confederates continue to make up a significant portion of the libertarian movement (if not its intellectual ranks)...
This is pure bunk (oddly, what Krugman calls the 'libertarian populism' he made up) for several reasons, and at the risk of taking too long I will lay them out for you:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

News Journal comes out in favor of grade inflation, diploma mills for state universities

At least, that's what you will get if you tie state aid to graduation rates.

Want to see UD and DSU hit graduation rates of over 90%?

Tell them that the more students they push through, the more money you will give them.

Brilliant.

And what they will then tell me as the professor is to give everybody As and Bs if you want to still have a job.

Oh--and for complete idiocy--this editorial started out complaining that there were TOO MANY college graduates as it is.

Capitalism--Delaware style

... because I like my picture better than theirs.

I'm beginning to understand this gun control thing

I believe I've been going about this the wrong way.

It is obviously important that the mentally ill (or even just the mentally queasy) be kept away from guns.  It's not just for the violence that they might do to other people, but also what injury they might do to themselves.

So that's why Delaware legislators passed "universal" background checks and tried to pass a bill to keep firearms away from people with signs of mental illness.

Now, let's suppose there was a definable sub-population of Americans--say about 1,000,000 people--who had the following characteristics:

1.  They attempted or committed suicide at more than twice the national average.

2.  About 23-25% of them were known to have serious drinking problems.

3.  They have a history of higher than average domestic abuse rates.

4.  They tend to be involved in shooting fatalities at a rate as much as ten times higher than even highly urban populations.

5.  As a group they are highly resistant to seeking any treatment for mental health issues.

6.  100% of them own handguns; a high percentage own multiple weapons with high-capacity magazines.

I would bet that, given these facts, many Delaware legislators would favor crafting a new law to make it more difficult for these folks to purchase or own a firearm.

Except that I'd be wrong.

You see, our lawmakers carved a specific exemption in the "universal" background checks to give these individuals access to firearms with no such checks, and did not even consider them as a group in the mental health legislation.

They're police officers and retired police officers.

And you can read about their mental health issues (for a start) here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Maybe "pistol" Pete Schwarzkopf should think about dealing with access to guns considering the mental health, suicide, alcohol, and domestic violence problems in the law enforcement community before he starts going after other folks.

Headline of the day


Soccer Referee Killed And Quartered By Fans In Brazil After Fatally Stabbing Player: POLICE

This is tacky, politically incorrect, and definitely NSFW ...

On the other hand, this is also the funniest and most depraved thing you will read all week.

But only because you have to watch THIS, not read it.

Yes, occasionally it does come out that I am a really sick puppy.

Warning: if blatantly sexual humor is offensive to you, don't click these links.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Disarming Delaware: one step at a time

Although only one major piece of gun control legislation (SB 35; universal background checks) actually passed the General Assembly this year, and--of course--advocates of "common sense gun laws" said they were not attempting to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, the truth is somewhat different.

The truth is that we are in the midst of a conscious effort to chill the atmosphere for legitimate gun owners in Delaware until we reach the point where there will be no legitimate gun ownership in the state.

Consider the following three exhibits from this week's news:

Exhibit 1:  Wal-Mart stops selling firearms in Delaware.  Why?  Because SB 35 would have required the Sporting Goods departments of Wal-Mart to conduct third-party background checks even for people not purchasing a gun from the store, and the ambiguity of the law led Wal-Mart's liability attorneys to conclude that people wanting to trade or sell guns privately might well reach the conclusion that they had to bring the gun in question in with them.  Wal-Mart therefore decided, thanks to the liability issues inherent in SB 35, to get out of the firearms business.

So, congratulations, "common sense gun law" advocate:  today there are about seven fewer retailers in the State from which people can buy guns.  I have spoken to several people who own gun shops--they were pretty sure this would happen.  In the short run they are happy about it because it narrows the competitive field in their favor.  In the long run, however, they are worried that future limitations will threaten their own businesses.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

We spend little enough time consciously thinking about how to live ...

... so it is no wonder we spend almost no time thinking about how to die.

I have parents in their eighties and children who could be in an accident any day--just like yours.

Spend ten minutes with this article, and then perhaps an hour thinking about the unthinkable.

Today.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nobody cares.

It's not like he's actually running our non-existent foreign policy, anyway.

The picture that proves Secretary of State John Kerry HAS been out on his boat while Egypt plunges into chaos - after his spokesman denied he had been sailing in Nantucket

Germany's elimination of cultural pluralism in education: coming to America?

It is not so much the fact that home schooling is illegal in Germany, or even that home schooling is illegal in Germany based on a Nazi-era law (1938), but the rational for its illegality that is troubling:

In 2003, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, its highest court, reaffirmed the government’s authority to compel attendance in state- run schools and held that the state’s interest in ensuring access to adequate education outweighed the parents’ interest in choosing how to educate their children.
Oddly the German court defended its decision as strengthening cultural plurality:
The general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area. Integration does not only require that the majority of the population does not exclude religious or ideological minorities, but, in fact, that these minorities do not segregate themselves and that they do not close themselves off to a dialogue with dissenters and people of other beliefs. Dialogue with such minorities is an enrichment for an open pluralistic society. The learning and practicing of this in the sense of experienced tolerance is an important lesson right from the elementary school stage. The presence of a broad spectrum of convictions in a classroom can sustainably develop the ability of all pupils in being tolerant and exercising the dialogue that is a basic requirement of democratic decision-making process.”
This is a part of a larger issue; there are advocates (almost entirely representatives of governments, not people) in the UN for outlawing home schooling in general, just as there are those (both in the UN and the US) determined to protect the practice:

Moreover, there is a movement to end homeschooling in United Nations member countries on the theory that a child’s right to educa- tion may be vindicated only by compulsory education in traditional schools outside the home. By the same token, there is also a movement to recognize the right of parents to choose the appropriate form of schooling for their children. The issue has also concerned U.S. policymakers; the Georgia and Tennessee state legislatures have passed resolutions expressing disapproval of the German compulsory education laws.
And it is interesting to note that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an accurate representation of these countervailing ideas.  Compare items 1 and 3 in Article 26:

Article 26.
  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

As an American I fall directly into the category of believing that the parents' "prior right" to choose their child's education should be determinative.

I therefore find it remarkably disturbing that the Obama administration seems hell-bent on denying political asylum to a family of German home schoolers who have seen their children rounded up by police and "escorted" involuntarily to public schools.

We have not seen the last of this argument:

In February 2008 the Second Dis- trict Court of Appeals in Los Angeles handed down a surprising decision upholding the constitutionality of a state statute prohibiting ho- meschooling for children between the ages of six and eighteen unless their parents possess teaching credentials. Within six months, how- ever, the same court reversed, holding that as long as parents declare their home to be a private school, they may teach their children even without teaching credentials.
 The fact that the original decision was made is more significant than the subsequent reversal.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Listening to the sausage being made in the General Assembly

During the, ah, Special Session of the Delaware Senate in the wee hours of the morning I listened to two items of interest.

The first was interesting because of the substance:  I was hoping that HB 194, the bill to raise penalties on non-certified non-nurse midwives, would fail.  In that debate, when Senator Karen Petersen brought up the Canadian study published in 2009 (which tracked over 13,000 births at home and in hospitals), either Senator Hall-Long or her witness (it was impossible to tell from the audio), simply lied about the study.  She (I could tell that much from the audio) blandly told Senator Petersen that the Canadian study had only involved nurse midwives, not non-nurse wives.

In point of fact, exactly the opposite was true.  But Senator Petersen lacked the full data on the study right at that moment, and the measure passed, at least in part because somebody simply stood up and lied about the facts of the case.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Because Franz Kafka is in charge of government surveillance

Too painful and too true to be funny:

Today Senator Karen Petersen, Corey Marshall-Steele, and others got married in Delaware


Yesterday, while the General Assembly was in session and we were all focused on the fate of our particular favorites (or un-favorites) among the flurry of legislation, couples all over Delaware were counting down the hours to get to the day they had waited for ... often for years or decades.

The Libertarian Party of Delaware applauds the expansion of human freedom wherever it occurs, but today it occurred here in Delaware.

And, oh, although it's not in keeping with the tone of the rest of this post, here's a message for the psychos from Westboro Baptist after the break ...

General Assembly wrap-up for Libertarians: good news & bad from the midnight session

Good news:  the badly flawed HB 88 did not come back for reconsideration.  Word had it that Beau Biden was working Senator Marshall really hard for a reconsideration, but he didn't get it.

The AG did get his bail bond constitutional amendment, however.  That's not good news for a lot of poor people in Delaware.

Unfortunately, the very last thing that the Senate did at about 12.40 AM was to pass HB 194 that creates stiffer penalties for what one bureaucrat witness called "rogue" non-nurse midwives.

She and Senator Hall-Long had to lie to get the bill passed, however.  After Senator Dave Lawson stood up and shared that he and his ten siblings were born at home under the management of a midwife, Senator Karen Petersen made a brave effort to bring some science into the room.

I had written Senator Petersen and clued her in about the Canadian study that showed the risk of birth by midwife was no more dangerous than birth in a hospital, and led to few complications, statistically.

Senator Petersen made good use of that study, and seemed to be changing some minds, but unfortunately I did not specify for her that the Canadian midwives in the study were registered non-nurse midwives, and so when the bureaucrat flat out lied and claimed they weren't, Karen didn't have the ammunition she needed.  She then abstained from the vote, which the natural birth movement and Libertarians should appreciate.

Both I and Jennifer of Momma Trauma followed up with Petersen and Lawson immediately after the passage of this ridiculous bill.  We will be lobbying them to write a new bill that exempts non-nurse midwives from the onerous requirement for a formal agreement with a OB/gyn that nobody will sign because it skyrockets their malpractice insurance.

I'm tired now:  more details tomorrow morning.