Saturday, May 31, 2008

A small example.

One of the new Liberpublican types in the formerly libetarian Libertarian Party has been rather irrate with me. He doesn't like my essay concerning about what I saw in Denver. He was upset that I said the LP really doesn't deserve the term "the party of principle". This Liberpublican, Bruce Cohen, was a Root supporter by the way. He doesn't like the phrase "party of principle" and says it is just "a slogan made up for a promo" and that he is not "a defining statment" and is "insulting to outsiders and probably a mistake to use." I agree it's a mistake to use -- it's false advertising. 

However, Mr. Cohen uses this "insulting" "slogan" on his own website. So I replied: "So 'party of principle' is a mistake to use. I suggest you take it off your own website then since you clearly think it is a mistake and just a slogan with no meaning." Mr. Cohen replied: "I don't have the words 'party of principle" on my own website."  

Normally I would left this in the comments section but I can't post scree captures there. So I had to post it here. You will see that Mr. Cohen is clearly not being truthful with the readers here. As this screen capture of his website clearly shows he does use the term "party of principle" very prominently on his own website. He is telling porkies to my readers. Not only does this appear on his site, contrary to his own claim, but it appears on every page of his site. 

I don't see why he would make such a big deal of the "slogan" and then turn around falsely claim he doesn't use the slogan himself. At the very least I would have thought that before claiming it wasn't there that he would have the intelligence to go and remove it from his site first. Of course it may be that he doesn't know what it is on his own site. But then I would have thought he'd have gone and checked it out before insisting he doesn't use this term which he finds insulting. I personally don't find "the party of principle" insulting. These day, at best, I find it to be false advertising.  


Smells like a Republican.

For the record, I had nothing to do with this video. It seems a lot of people have similar views to my own.

By the way, the New York Times had a short piece by Francis Clines regarding the amazing transformation of Bob Barr from family values zealot to alleged libertarian. Mr. Clines seems as baffled as I do by the miraculous transformation. Mr. Clines writes wickedly:

There are stranger things in politics than Mr. Barr’s metamorphosis, but few more enjoyable to witness for the sheer opportunism that underpins the careers of all manner of politicians from one end of the philosophical spectrum to the other.

Ouch! That had to hurt. But then, the truth often does.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Armed killer brought down by would be victim.

Earlier this week I was in the region of Winnemucca, Nevada. I went through the city but didn’t stop there. But I did stop nearby and saw a local newspaper with an article about a shooting in a local bar. Three people were killed. I didn’t have time to stop to read the paper, but I did notice the headline. Only now have I had a chance to look a little closer at the incident.

According to KTVN-Reno, from a AP wire story, three men “were fatally shot and two other people were injured”. They believe the incident was another in a “long-standing feud between several local families”.

One man entered the bar and shot two other men to death. No police were present. According to a police statement the killer “stopped and according to witnesses reloaded his high capacity handgun and began shooting again.”

At this point a patron of the bar responded. The Reno resident “produced a concealed handgun and proceeded to fire upon” the killer “who succumbed to his wounds.” In other words the bastard was killed. “The Reno resident was in possession of a valid Concealed Carry Permit issued through the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.”

Witnesses confirmed the incident and the Reno man was released by police, with no charges filed, because his action amounted to justifiable homicide.

To recap: one man pulls a gun and kills two members from a family with whom he is feuding. He reloads his weapons and again begin firing in a crowded bar, with 300 patrons present at the time. A Reno resident who was in the bar at the time pulls his concealed weapon and fires on the gunman killing him and putting an immediate end to the shooting spree before any police had a chance to respond.

So consider the same incident but without the Reno man present to put a stop to the shooting spree. Or consider a scenario where he was disarmed and unable to return fire on the killer. The police statement does not say how long after this it was before they responded to the incident. But even if it were less than a minute the number of additional victims could have been substantial.

Once again we see proof that when an armed killer shoots on a large gathering of people the fact that one of them is also armed, and able to return fire can put the incident to a quick end.

I have highlighted numerous such cases in the past. The gun control crowd argue that such shooting would escalate the number of dead. Oddly they show no case where that happened. In all the cases I have found, where armed victims were able to return fire on the killer in a crowded situation, the results were a termination of the killing spree not an escalation. Arming would-be victims saves lives.

Of course the gun control crowd will add the two victims to the list of those killed. But there is no way to keep track of how many lives were saved. We simply don’t know what would have happened had one victim not resisted. It is possible that the gunman, who was clearly not finished firing on the crowd, might have continued on for sometime and simply have failed to shoot anyone else, possible but unlikely. It is also possible that he could have killed another dozen people before the police arrived. What is likely is that there would have been further victims. How many more is not possible for us to know. And for that reason we can never get an accurate total for the lives saved because some victims offer armed resistance.

What we do know is killers who meet armed resistance have a hard time taking the lives of more innocent victims. We know they are often stopped cold in their tracks, often surrender immediately or are killed by their victim, or become so caught up in defending themselves from attack that they don’t have time to seek further unarmed victims. What we do know is that lives are saved even if we can never know how many.

We have no reason to believe making the bar a "gun free" zone would have stopped the killer. It might have encouraged him. What such legislation might do, however, is prevent any patron from putting an end to the killing as happened in this cae.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A strange encounter in Denver.

A strange encounter took place at the LP convention that I wanted to mention. My impression of the Reform Caucus has not been very high. I was sympathetic with some efforts to reform how libertarian ideas are presented. I am not sympathetic with the presentation of non-libertarian ideas no matter how successful that may be. Nor am I sympathetic with any libertarian who explicitly endorses measures which expand the role of the state or diminish individual liberty in any way.

My impression from Denver was that a lot of the so-called “Reformers” were merely Republicans wanting to strip away anything that was likely to offend conservatives. They weren’t trying to change how libertarian ideas were presented but trying to replace libertarian views with conservative ones.

But I assumed they were basically Republican-lite types, anxious to be no more radical than a moderately conservative GOP congressman. And that is why my discussion with the individual who was running the Reform Caucus booth was such a surprise.

As we chatted, rather amiably I should add, he revealed that he is not just a member of the Libertarian Party but also a member of the extremist Constitution Party. This party is openly theocratic. He claims that some of them are working to make it less so for the same reasons that they wish to make the LP less libertarian.

For sometime I have seen various comments on different sites by certain activists pushing the idea of a merger between these two parties. And when Stephen Gordon, the sleazy manipulator for Bob Barr within the LP, opened his “Third Party Watch” site it was heavy with coverage of the Constitution Party. Certain paleolibertarian sites have also been pushing the Constitution Party.

Exactly how would such a merger be possible? Each party would have to abandon what makes it unique. The Constitutionalists would have to abandon their theocratic tendencies and the Libertarians would have to abandon their social liberalism. They could keep their free market tendencies and their non-interventionism. But the LP would have to cease being libertarian. What this would mean is that the LP would be converted into a paleoconservative party.

I don’t think the Reformers and the paleolibertarians are necessarily working in concert. Nor do I think they necessarily share one another’s goals. Certainly some Reformers would be horrified by the Barr/Root ticket as would some paleolibertarians. But as I see it, as the Reformers have removed the “radical” planks they disliked from the platform, they have made it easier and easier for the radical Right to stage precisely the sort of coup that was witnessed in Denver.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Libertarian Party 1972 - 2008: Rest in Peace.

It is with a heavy heart that I report the death of the Libertarian Party. It was only 36 years old—far too young to die. And while there is some dispute over whether the death was self-inflicted or murder, the death itself was tragic and sad.

Once billed as “The Party of Principle” those principles were sold down the river. On Sunday, May 25, 2008 the principles were abandoned, and the party was last seen gasping for air
before expiring.

This author watched 30 years of his life pass before his eyes -- wasted. Having been a candidate and supporter of the party since 1978 what I saw ended any respect I had left for the LP.

Far Right Republican congressman Bob Barr was nominated for president and the loudmouthed, huckster, Wayne Root, an “odds maker” from Las Vegas, traded with Barr in order to become his running mate. They brought to the LP the sort of backroom deal-making once only seen in the larger, corrupt parties.

It is true that the principles did not die easily, however. On the first ballot conservative Barr was leading Mary Ruwart by just one vote. On the second ballot it was dead even. On the third vote Ruwart was in the lead. And then the “behind-the-scenes” deal of the two neocon infiltrators was announced.

Root, who had sworn he would never take the vice presidential made clear that he doesn’t necessarily mean what he says at all. He got up and announced that he was endorsing Bob Barr. In return Root said that he would be Barr’s vice presidential candidate and in four years time he was promised the top slot by Barr—as if Barr had any authority to make such a promise.

Realize that neither man is a libertarian, both are conservatives. Both endorse foreign interventionism. Root gave $1,000 to the campaign of Joe Leiberman and Barr gave around $100,000 to Republican Right-wing candidates. Almost all of those candidates were on the far Right of the party and advocates of war. The people Barr has supported, for the most part, were the absolute worst among the Republicans—those least likely to respect libertarian principles.

The antiwar Libertarians were duped by both men who had convenient conversions to new positions more satisfying to the delegates. Root entered the campaign a war-mongering hawk. When he ran into trouble with party members he suddenly saw the light and announced a new position.

Barr seemed to hold to his conservative principles. Only two weeks ago he adamantly said he was opposed to ending the war on drugs. Nothing he said this weekend actually changed that but Barr answered questions in ways that made it appear he had. He talked about the failure of the war on drugs for a long time and then said the federal government should get out of the drug war. Of course, he merely wanted the individual states to wage the drug war instead. That part was barely mentioned, making it appear he was more opposed to the drug war than he is.

When Barr arrived in Denver he found a large percentage of delegates sporting anti-Barr buttons —something never before seen at an LP convention. And he had to make some concessions. So he had one of those last second, dramatic conversions. Previously Barr was openly and viciously antigay and he authored one of the most discriminatory pieces of antigay legislation around, the Defense of Marriage Act.

Barr had tried to placate the delegates by pretending that his law was magically libertarian in reality. No one believed him.

Just a few hours before the big vote Barr suddenly announced that he had seen the light and changed his mind on gay marriage. He now said his legislation was bad and he realized he was hurting gay people needlessly and he was sorry. Personally I found him as sincere as a horny teenage boy telling his date that he really loves her and, “of course, I’ll still respect you in the morning.” Often the girl concedes because she wants to believe the promise. And many delegates in Denver wanted to believe the promise as well. I suspect what they will find is that Barr doesn’t actually love them, he used them, and as soon as he can replace them with his fellow conservatives they will find out exactly how screwed they were.

Barr had brought in his own people to Denver, people previously not affiliated with the Libertarian Party. Like him they were conservative Republicans looking for a vehicle to use. And the LP, with its ballot status in numerous states is a prime target for plundering. We have to remember that these dogmatic Rightists have one goal in mind and it isn’t the promotion of libertarianism.

They want to defeat John McCain. While there is little to say in favor of McCain the Far Right doesn’t perceive him as one of their own. He is not theocratic enough, authoritarian enough, or vicious enough to satisfy them. They want to take votes from McCain. And how will they do that? By arguing that McCain is not a “true conservative” and that Barr is. And exactly how will that be sold to the public? Barr will have to campaign, not as a libertarian, but as a Far Right conservative.

How did this revolting coup take place? There are three reasons.

First, over the years the party has recruited from the Right. While the party should have recruited from the Left as well, it didn’t. The party drifted further and further away from libertarian principles as time went by. As more and more conservatives joined the party it attracted more conservatives and turned off those on the moderate Left. To placate these Right-wingers some dubious characters raped the party platform. Many planks were removed or watered down.

Second, some party members just felt that “winning” recognition was more important than seeing the values of liberty spread. The party was started by people wanting to use it to push for liberty. The party was the means to an end. But these desperate individuals reversed things. The party was the end in itself. The goal wasn’t promoting liberty but holding power. They thought that losing an election was worse than losing their principles. Bob Barr took them to the mountaintop and showed them the baubles that politics can offer and they were seduced.

Third, and worse, the party was intentionally betrayed by a cabal of individuals who were mainly associated with the LP National Committee and the LP office staff.

Barr was brought into the party by a bevy of Right-wing, often religiously-motivated, individuals. They first had to raise Barr’s status in the party. They arranged for the national committee member from Georgia to step down from his seat and then had Barr appointed to replace him. So this “new libertarian” suddenly became a national officer almost the same day he joined.

During this time Barr used Right-wing mailing lists to raise $4 million for his political action committee. Very little of that went to candidates, most of it was eaten up by “expenses.” Of the money that was given to candidates, the vast majority went to Far Right Republicans, many of whom used it to campaign against Libertarian candidates. But a tiny percentage of that money, well under one percent, or $12,000, went to the Libertarian Party National Committee. It didn’t go to candidates but to the national committee on which Barr was serving. Apparently that tiny amount was all that was necessary.

Some national committee members started working to stage a conservative coup and they wanted Barr as their candidate. This was done in cahoots with party staff, none of whom had any business engaging in such matters.

One cigar-chomping Right-winger, Stephen Gordon, started a web site, Third Party Watch, which was regularly promoting Barr. Gordon ended up being a paid staff member of the Barr campaign. Before that, he was a staff member at the LP national office.

And it was at this site that the first inklings of a Barr-Root secret agreement, to purge the party , began. When Mary Ruwar announced she was running, both campaigns knew they were in trouble and started to attack Ruwart. They found it quite easy to make it sound as if she was promoting pedophilia. Ruwart has written that children "who willing participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well..." which implies precisely what her opponents say it means. Ruwart contends she was being taken out of context but the context didn't help her case that much.

The man who appears to be the most likely suspect for the attack campaign is Aaron Starr, a Root campaign supporter and a member of the national committee. Starr certainly worked with Root’s campaign manager to get this smear out. It was first spread through the Barr-affiliated Third Party Watch site. Then Root’s managers used material supplied by Starr at the Indiana LP convention to attack Ruwart directly.

After Third Party Watch pushed the attack for a couple of days, the executive director of the party, Shane Corey, without any authorization to do so, put out a press release which was meant to pour gasoline on the fire. Corey misused his office to announce a new party position -- a joint federal-state task force to go after pedophilia. That such activity is already against the law was ignored. That it is entirely a state matter, constitutionally speaking, was also ignored. Corey was basically calling for the federal government to take on a new, unconstitutional power for itself. But the purpose of the press release was to make it appear that the national Libertarian Party was distancing itself from Ruwart. [Nothing said here should be construed as an endorsement for Ruwart, who has proven herself, to this blogger at least, to be vicious and dishonest.]

Many libertarians were upset, especially since Corey had ignored all the proper channels and unilaterally announced a policy decision without an authority to do so. He resigned his position. But don’t feel sorry for him either. He had another position already in the waiting. This reporter has to clarify the exact position but let us say that he was either working directly for Mr. Barr or working for someone very close to Barr, Richard Viguerie. Mr. Viguerie, is a Far Right conservative who was looking to take control of a third party for some time now. And this time it seems he got what he wanted.

In addition, Viguerie suddenly turned up as a last minute speaker at the Denver convention. When I asked around as to why someone who is as unlibertarian as Viguerie was a last minute speaker I was told it was done at Barr’s request. Why only Barr was allowed to appoint speakers at the convention was never answered.

That was not the end either. Remember Stephen Gordon of Third Party Watch. Gordon used his contacts from his time in the LP office to start a libertarian e-mail list company which was then used to promote Barr directly to Libertarians. In addition he started his web site, Third Party Watch for almost nothing. That was the site used to promote Barr and attack Ruwart. And what I’ve now heard is that Gordon “sold” this web site. The man handing Gordon the money supposedly is Richard Viguerie. I wonder if the going price for such betrayal is still 20 pieces of silver. Either way I’d like to know how much money Mr. Gordon got out of Barr and Viguerie. Add that to the $12,000 “contribution” to the LP Nat-Com and we’d have some idea of what it costs to buy a political party.

In addition it seems the national convention was practically run by Barr people. A Republican was brought in to moderate the candidate’s debate—apparently a Libertarian wasn’t good enough. And individuals who were given prominent roles in the convention just happened to be individuals who were also picked to nominate Barr for the office. So after they were given added “importance” by being paraded before the delegates, they ended up giving nominating speeches on behalf of Barr. I am sure they will say it was a coincidence.

Various committees were packed with the “reformers”, all of whom had been working to strip the party platform of measures offensive to conservatives. They not only ended up raping the platform but then making up the Fifth Column supporting Barr at the convention. It seems that being a Barr supporter was enough to give one a prominent role at the cone deck in favor of Barr of course. Perhaps it was all a coincidence?

But, of course, the joint Barr-Root attack of Mary Ruwart, was also a coincidence. No doubt the Root endorsement of Barr was a coincidence as well—perhaps a fluke.

Many in the party were shocked and horrified at what happened. These reformed “libertarians”, many of whom were just recently in the Republican Party, were taking over. Long-time party activists were angry and felt that a coup had been purposely staged. Unity in the party was threatened and some suggested that the vice presidential slot should go to a principled libertarian.

Ruwart did not want to share a ticket with a non-libertarian. Steve Kubby, a previous presidential candidate, who had endorsed Ruwart, said he would accept the VP slot. Ruwart’s delegates were in favor. The delegates who had worked for Senator Mike Gravel also came on board. And the first vote was close. Even many Barr voters thought it would be a good gesture and a way of keeping some actual libertarians in the Libertarian Party.

Barr would have none of it. He got up and made a speech, making it clear that he would not accept anyone but his fellow neocon, Wayne Allen Root. Barr was not interested in a unified party. He was interested in a total coup. That is what his Nat-Com allies wanted, that is what his friends in the national office wanted, and that is what they got. Barr had enough trouble from real libertarians and wanted them gone. One “reformer” had announced on his blog that the goal was to drive out of the party all “anarchists”. Of course by anarchist he meant anyone with a consistent libertarian view -- as opposed to conservatives.

The reality is that Libertarian Party had one thing of value to the Far Right. It likely will hold ballot status in about 48 states. It has little in actual assets, but ballot status in that many states can cost millions of dollars. Barr, Viguiere and the Benedict Arnolds in the Nat-Com, like Starr, wanted that asset for themselves. And they got it -- at least they have it for the moment.

Many of the state affiliates have a large amount of discretion over candidates they will list. It is possible that the many states which supported neither Barr nor Root could refuse them local ballot status. Some are discussing complete disaffiliation.

Some states didn’t give either Root or Barr any support at all. For instance, Root’s home state, Nevada, shut him out completely. Not only wouldn’t they vote for Root but they didn’t even want him as a delegate. Even though he doesn’t live there Root was voting with the California delegation, a delegation where Starr had a lot of influence. Perhaps he arranged for Root to vote as a California delegate. However Root got there, it didn’t seem anyone was interested in finding out why Root’s own state wanted nothing to do with him.

A lot of angry libertarians are looking for ways to take the party back from this interlopers and traitors. I don’t know how successful they will be. Barr’s campaign will attract more intolerant, interventionist, conservatives like himself to the party. The more of them that join the party the more unlikely it will be that libertarians will have any influence in their own party.

Over the next couple of years the real indicator will be the party platform. To prepare for the coup the so-called Reform Caucus had been working to denude the platform of anything that conservatives would find offensive. In other words they wanted a Republican platform. The previous position of support for freedom of choice in abortion was watered down to say almost nothing. One sign of the Right-wing coup will be when that plank becomes explicitly anti-choice.

A second plank that I suspect will be targeted by the Barr-Root cabal will be that of immigration. Both men will start sounding like the Minutemen and other xenophobic Republicans.

Third, expect to see more planks referring to “state’s rights”. Issues like drugs and gay equality will get replaced with calls for allowing the states to have whatever policy they want on this -- regardless of how oppressive. Libertarians previously favored ending the war on drugs and favored full equality for gays before the law. Both those issues will go down the drain. Instead, the planks won’t call for either, but will merely say these are state matters -- and the libertarian position will be replaced by this conservative interpretation.

The best indication that the LP deserves its death is that it was incapable of having a decent candidate. Root and Barr were both disgusting and Ruwart, who would have secured the nomination if Barr hadn't, is flaky and untrustworthy, in spite of her well-acted saccharin tone of voice. This lack of any decent candidate for the nomination indicates the party has fallen a long way since Ed Clark was the LP presidential candidate.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Following the Barr money trail.

The Atlanta Constitution-Journal has an interesting article about the Right-wing ex-Congressman from Georgia: Bob Barr. As you no doubt know, if you have read this blog. Barr is currently trying to pretend he is a libertarian in order to secure the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. As a lifelong libertarian I’d rather vote for pond scum.

We have previously discussed how “libertarian” Barr has been raising funds which he donated to conservative Republicans, many of whom were running against Libertarian candidates -- so much for his loyalty to the new party he joined. But the Constitution-Journal now raises some serious questions about the money Mr. Barr has been raising from Republican donors. It looks to as if Mr. Barr is running a major scam. That is how it looks to me but then you know what I think of this man.

The Atlanta paper starts out with how Barr is raising funds as a “conservative”. Remember when he shows up at Libertarian events he says he is really a libertarian. Is Mr. Barr lying to Republicans or is he lying to Libertarians. A conservative and a libertarian are not the same thing. Never have been, never will be. So when Barr fund raises to finance conservative campaigns is is showing the world that he is NO libertarian. Now if some of the Barr pimps in the LP would figure this out the party would be in better shape.

The Constitution-Journal notes that since 2003 Barr’s little Political Action Committee has taken in $4.3 million dollars. To quote the film character Jerry McQuire: “Show me the money.” Always show me the money. What happened with it.

Barr gave $110,000 to conservative Republicans running for national office and $81,875 to local conservatives running for office. He gave $12,000 to the National Committee of the LP but nothing to Libertarian candidates. The candidate who got the most money from Barr’s fund raising appeal was Barr himself. He got $10,000. Now this interesting. Barr is raising money for “conservatives” and the biggest donation goes to himself. Barr also used the PAC to pay for him giving speeches in different places. And his son collected $41,000 in salary from Barr’s PAC. Some money also went to fly Barr's most recent wife to an event as well -- perhaps it was when he was promoting his "one man-one woman" marriage concept and discussing why gays are a threat to society.

But what is crystal clear is that of the money raised only about 5% actually went to any candidates. The rest was eaten up by the PAC itself. Would Barr run a presidential campaign the same way he runs his PAC? If so then expect that if he raised $2 million in campaign funds that only about $100,000 would actually be spent on the election. The rest would go to expenses to raise funds. In fact, if he spent the same way, his son would get $1 for every $5 spent on the election.

The Constitution-Journal did try to ask Mr. Barr about what appears to be deceptive fund raising and poor management but told them, “I won’t be cross-examined.”

I’m not saying I want him to spend the money more wisely either. After all Barr is rather Right-wing and very much opposed to libertarian thinking. The people he funded are not the good guys. They are big government, theocratically inclined Republicans. And I guess I’m glad that Barr is wasting most of the funds he raises in order to raise more funds to pay for more fund raising. I certainly don’t want the Statist on the Barr donation list to get more money. But remember that if Barr somehow manages to bamboozle enough Libertarian Party delegates into thinking he is a libertarian and ought to be the LP presidential candidate then he’ll get his hands on the party mailing list as well.

There is already a shortage of funds for good libertarian causes (FEE, ISIL, CATO, Reason, etc). We certainly don’t need a con man like Barr sinking his teeth into the LP fund-raising list and exploiting the same way he has ripped off Republicans.

NOTICE: This blog may be a little quite for the next few days as I leave for Denver for the Libertarian Party convention. Certainly, in my private capacity, I will doing my damn best to see to it that conservative cretins like Barr and Root are not nominated by the Party. If they are then I might have to wear a suicide vest to closing session. : ) I hear they are the chic rage these days. My problem is, where do I find shoes to match?


Imaginary crimes can land you in jail.

The Supreme Court has upheld a new law that politicians call a “tough, new law on child pornography”. So what is wrong, or right, with that?

The first question is: What does this law do that dozens of other laws of a similar nature didn’t do? Ever since the Supreme Court decision in Ferber v. New York, a quarter of a century ago, there has been no first amendment protection for child porn. The material is already illegal and the law doesn’t make it “more” illegal. Since the law already protects children then precisely why do politicians keep passing new laws which purport to do the same thing?

The best answer I can give is that they have two motivations. One is that they know no one is in favor of hurting children. And they know that people get upset when the harm of children is brought up. So they like to bring it up and then promise how they “will do something” about it. That they have been “doing something” about it for decades is not mentioned. And that the “something” they are doing really doesn’t add any more protection is ignored as well. The whole purpose of such campaigns is not to protect the children but to win support for the politicians.

The second reason for this continual parade of legislation on the very same issue is that each new law gives the state further methods to promote censorship. But the target is not child porn which is already totally illegal. The actual target is adult erotica which does not involve children.

The new law criminalizes more than child porn -- which is already illegal. It criminalizes the assumption, appearance or belief that something is child porn. It specifically targets the individual who “advertises, promotes, presents, distributes or solicits . . . any material or purported material in a manner that reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe” that the material is child porn.

Notice how widely that the law is written. A person can be arrested as a child pornographer is something they produce causes “another to believe” that it is child porn. It doesn’t actually have to be child porn at all. All it has to do is give someone, somewhere, the impression that it might be.

What is illegal here is anything that “causes” another person to draw a conclusion. It makes producers of erotica potentially responsible for the assumptions of others. And since the material itself need not even exist, or actually contain illegal images of actual children, the fact that no child pornography may exist is not a defense. They have found a way to criminalize the possession of child porn without the defendant actually having to possess any child porn. What is illegal is not what they produce but the fact that their production caused someone else to perceive it as a child porn.

I contend that we won’t see any actual children being protected by this law. What we will see is that a lot of Religious-Right prosecutors in various parts of the country will use the law to harass adult shops and producers of erotica -- and by that I mean legal erotica.

Notice that the crime is anyone who “advertises, promotes, presents, distributes or solicits” material that “reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe” that it is child porn. So District Attorney Billy Bob Biblebeater prosecutes local erotica outlets for selling Girls Gone Wild. His argument is that the term “girls” implies underaged females. And that is the formal definition of the term. It means “female child” or “young, immature woman”.

The erotica shop owner can contend that he never thought the title implied that it involved children. But Mr. Biblebeater can note that the title alone “intended to cause another to believe” that it did. The shop owner can argue that the product never included any children at all. But that is no longer a defense since the crime is not related to whether the material actually contains children or not. The absence of any child pornography is no longer a defense for violating laws on child pornography.

Ever since Nabokov penned his novel the name Lolita has been synonymous for a underage temptress. Is having a character in the film name Lolita enough for a conviction? Does the name alone intend “to cause another to believe” that the character is underaged and therefore illegal?

In 1971 Wakefield Poole’s gay erotic film Boys in the Sand opened in New York City and became an instant success. Poole earned his investment back almost in the first hour of release alone. No one in film was underage and it the advertising clearly implied it was about an adult male. But was the use of “boys” in the title an indication of an intention to market the film as child porn? If one person, seeing the ad thought it was, and went to the film believing he would see young boys in the film, would Poole have been guilty of a crime under this new law?

Would a particular costume in the film, or plot line be sufficient to get one arrested for child porn. Would a character dressed like a school girl or school boy be a crime under this law even if the actual actor was of legal age? Would shaved genitals, something some adults have done for years, be a crime under this law just because it could give another person the impression that the shaved actor is prepubescent even if the actor is not?

This idea of intending to cause others to believe something is so nebulous that you can’t really get a grasp on it. Obviously if someone says: “I got some child porn for sale” that would be a crime even if they had nothing of the sort. Merely implying they had it would be a criminal offense. But what boundaries are there to this law to prevent it from being used by pro-censorship prosecutors who merely want to harass adult material?

Imagine a traffic cop with a similar loop hole. He could go to court and get someone convicted with this statement: “Your honor, the defendant actually never went over the speed limit. But he was driving a flashy red sports car. When I saw him he revved his engine and did speed up, though he stayed under the speed limit. But he caused me to believe that he was speeding. Therefore he violated the law on speeding.”

What the law does is offer the censorship crowd opportunities. They can scour every film, advertisement, plot line, or appearance for anything that causes them to imagine that the item might involve someone underage. Since the person no longer has to actually be underage they have a blank check to use when and were they want. Even if they lose the cases they can bankrupt the people they prosecute. Yet not one single child would be protected, who wasn’t already protected by the law. This law doesn’t give real children additional protection. But it does give protection to non-existent, imaginary children. And it provides opportunity to the would-be censors. When we consider the kind of people who have been put on the Court by Mr. Bush we can’t look to them to rectify this problem -- especially since they were the ones that have put their stamp of approval on the law.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

In a cause that will triumph.

It must have seemed, at numerous points, that the American Revolution was going to fail. Certainly the men who gathered in Philadelphia to sign the treasonous Declaration of Independence pledged their very lives to the cause -- realizing that failure could bring about their execution. Their goal was both simple, profound and difficult.

Simply put, it was independence for the colonies, profound because it was rooted into the philosophical premises of classical liberalism, and difficult because this ragtag bunch of “farmers” were standing up to one of the greatest military forces of their day. It must have surprised many when they won.

For almost all of human history the idea that one human being could “own” another as a piece of property was widely accepted. It was sanctioned by both church and state. The Bible itself supported the institution, offering rules for how to treat slaves but never suggesting their freedom.

A tiny radical fringe started demanding “abolition”. There was no compromise with these people. They were not satisfied with restrictions on slavery. They wanted it abolished, entirely, completely, without exception. How does one even talk to people who refuse to be “reasonable” ?

In 1838 a group of liberals got together to form an organization that would demand free markets and free trade. They did not wish to reform the English tariff system, they wished to abolish it.

One of the leading reformers, businessman Richard Cobden was elected to parliament in 1841. Socialists, and the landlords who benefited from protectionism, both attacked him.

Cobden, and his co-conspirator, Richard Bright had little going for them except for the rightness of their cause. Not only were these radical liberals promoting free markets but they pushed for a reduction in England’s war making abilities. They were peace advocates as well. They were accused of being utopians, unwilling to recognize reality or to compromise.

Cobden’s radical positions were attacked from all sides. Harriet Martineau, in her History of the Peace, wrote that “he was not treated in the House with the courtesy usually accorded to a new member....” Cobden didn’t care. Instead he launched a strong attack on Prime Minister Pee,l to the fury of the House and the Prime Minister. But it was Peel who eventually surrendered to the arguments of Cobden, not the other way around.

The Corn Laws were eventually repealed and Peel said the man responsible was the uncompromising Cobden. Peel said:

I have no wish to rob any person of the credit which is justly due to him for them. But I may say that neither the gentlemen sitting on the benches opposite, nor myself, nor the gentlemen sitting round me—I say that neither of us are the parties who are strictly entitled to the merit. There has been a combination of parties, and that combination of parties together with the influence of the Government, has led to the ultimate success of the measures. But, Sir, there is a name which ought to be associated with the success of these measures: it is not the name of the noble Lord, the member for London, neither is it my name. Sir, the name which ought to be, and which will be associated with the success of these measures is the name of a man who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has advocated their cause with untiring energy, and by appeals to reason, expressed by an eloquence, the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadorned—the name which ought to be and will be associated with the success of these measures is the name of Richard Cobden. Without scruple, Sir, I attribute the success of these measures to him.

In these incidents the goals varied. Some wanted political independence. Others wanted reforms that were considered impossible; not only that, but they were seeking reforms that overturned established political systems and tradition. Their demands were radical and often faced impossible odds. Yet they clung to their ideals and pushed for them. .

The causes that they promoted were radical but right, controversial but compassionate, unacceptable but unavoidable. Some of them won their battles quickly, others took much longer. In many cases the original visionaries who dreamed of change did not live to see the dream become reality. In spite of that the dreams did become reality.

In each case activists were derided, persecuted, often imprisoned, sometimes killed. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to a cause deemed hopeless but one destined to triumph. And they did so without compromise.

It was the purity of their vision that proved to be their strongest rampart. The equivocation of their opponents, the lack of moral clarity in their opposition, proved to be the demise of unjust and immoral policies, laws and traditions.

In First Corinthians, Paul wrote: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” The movements discussed here won their battles. When they sounded the trumpet it was loud, and crisp, and clear. There was no equivocation, no compromise, no promise of victory. Yet victory was theirs.

The abolitionists did not call for reducing slavery, but for ending it. The American Revolutionaries did not seek to be ruled by an Earl in place of a king -- they sought independence. Richard Cobden did not call for reform but for repeal.

Today, many libertarians, so-called, argue that we must cloud our vision, or at the very least, hide it. They argue it is far better to nominate candidates who are less statist than the incumbents but not so “radical” as to scare people. They offer the American public a “me-too” political philosophy. They want to turn the Libertarian Party into a jobs machine for fourth rate politicians. They want to substitute electoral victory for freedom.

They seem to have forgotten that the Libertarian Party was founded with the prime purpose of promoting liberty. Electoral victories, while welcomed, were not the main goal. Such victories, we always knew, would be few and far between. But they were not our purpose. At best, they would be a means to the goal, but never the goal itself.

Today the Libertarian Party seems infested with individuals who have turned the means into an end. They are so anxious to achieve positions that they abandon principles, forgetting that the principles were the goal and positions merely a means to achieving it. Lord Acton warned that power corrupts. These “libertarians” seem to have shown that even the mere illusion of power corrupts.

Victory over oppression and tyranny can not be won by adopting oppressive and tyrannical positions. A drowning man needs oxygen not a different kind of water.

If the Libertarian Party continues down the disastrous road laid out by these Republican-lite types it will cease to have any justification for its existence. Milton Friedman liked to remind Libertarians that their victory would be achieved at the hands of others. Their purpose, he said, was to continue to make the moral case for freedom when others have dropped the torch of liberty. Only through the continual agitation of the radical, moral view does an idea that is outside the mainstream eventually become an acceptable alternative to the equivocating, compromising holders of office. Friedman repeatedly noted that the socialists in America won their victories, not by having their candidates elected, but by having their ideas stolen.

Socialists saw their ideas put into place because they held their ideas on principle -- wrong , but still firmly held and uncompromisingly promoted. The “reform” type of libertarians don’t want the Libertarian torch held high for all to see. At best they want it dimmed to show the public that Libertarians really aren’t that different after all.

However, the value of the Libertarian Party is entirely found in its differences not in its similarities. The abolitionists did not win because they were like the slavers but because they were their polar opposites. Richard Cobden faced down the most powerful politician in England, raked him over the coals, and in the end, won his mind, his respect and his thanks.

Compromise gives comfort to the tyrannical. It tells them that their values are right. After all, if even the libertarians, accept statist premises then control, and regulation and restriction is practical and desirable. The reform types that want the Bob Barrs or the Wayne Allen Roots, are people who would have the trumpet sound an uncertain sound.

What compelled so many people to pledge so much to the Libertarian Party was never the promise of electing fourth rate politicians to office. These people were inspired by the vision of freedom. As Proverbs says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

And what is true for people is true for parties. Without the libertarian vision there is no libertarian party. There may be a shell with the same name but it will not be a libertarian party no matter what it calls itself. Without a vision the party will truly perish. If even the “Libertarians” are not willing to stand up for liberty then liberty, for the first time, would truly be a lost cause. It is when the darkness seems most likely to envelope and suffocate the candle that its light is most needed.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Three strikes. You're Out!!!

Our friends at the Cato Institute are wondering about why it is that some so-called Libertarians are supporting Bob Barr for president. Trade specialist Dan Griswold notes that when "on international trade Barr is no libertarian."

The conservative ex-Congressman from Georgia has a voting record, of course. He was actually presented with votes which impacted the ability of Americans of trade with others. While in office Barr "voted on 24 major bills and amendments affecting the freedom of Americas to trade and invest in the global economy. He voted in favor of lower trade barriers only four times, voting in favor of higher trade barriers 20 times."

Griswold suggests that Barr "needs to explain to delegates why he voted so consistently to impose of maintain high tariff duties on products millions of Americans buy everyday..." I also think that the Barr Brigade needs to explain to LP members exactly why they shouldn't be tarred and feathered.

Let's tally things up. Barr is bad on the war on drugs. Barr is an anti-gay bigot who pushed through laws making gays second class citizens. Barr is still a interventionist on foreign policy. Barr has continued to advocate international welfare (foreign aid). Barr is unwilling to say when the US should get out of Iraq. Barr is bad on free trade.

There are three major areas of libertarian political theory. Libertarians support free markets/free trade. Barr is bad on free trade. Libertarians support equality before the law, Barr doesn't. Libertarians support legalizing drugs. Barr wants a more efficient war on drugs. Libertarians are against foreign interventionism. Barr just wants a different mix of foreign interventionism. As I see it he has major flaws on free markets, social tolerance and a pro-peace foreign policy. What every happend to "three strikes you're out!"

The demons of stupidity.

As expected the Theopublican Party is going into a frenzy about the California Supreme Court ruling.

Tom Feeney, a Republican Congressvermin from Florida, whined that “unelected judges have irresponsibly decided to legislate from the bench and overturn the will of the people.”

Poor Mr. Feeny seems unaware that California Supreme Court justices, while originally appointed to office, have to be confirmed by the voters. California voters have confirmed every single member of the state Supreme Court. All seven received the support of between 70% and 75% of the voters. I doubt Mr. Feeny did that well.

Right-wing pundit Hugh Hewett had a fit saying this was a “judicial putsch” which was attacking the “representative nature of the California state government”.

OOPS, once again these Right-wingers shoot off their mouths without checking the facts. Twice the California legislature has voted to legalize gay marriage. Twice Republican governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed the measure. Each time he said he did so because he was waiting for the courts to rule on the matter. He is now appealing to voters to support the Court and says he would oppose any repeal efforts.

There are three branches in government: legislative, judicial and executive. In California the legislature supported gay marriage, the highest judicial branch has done so now, and the executive, Gov. Schwarzenegger, has voiced his own support. That seems to be all three branches on the same page.

Another Theopublican moron, Senator Jim DeMinit of South Carolina attacked the ruling saying it was an example of “elitist liberal judges” imposing “tyranny” on the people. Of the seven judges on the California Supreme Court six of them were appointed by Republicans.

Someone once said that it is better to remain quite and have people assume you are fool than to open your mouth and confirm it.

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This is good -- and this is funny.

The California Supreme Court has said that a ban on gay marriage is not kosher. The state constitution guarantees equal protection under the law and this equality was denied by the ban. The court had been considered somewhat conservative so the ruling was not assured.

The ban was immediately denounced by Catholic bishops -- perhaps because age restrictions would still apply as they are equally enforced (even for altar boys). Governor Schwarzenegger said that he would oppose any attempts to overturn the ruling. Conservatives were foaming at the mouth of course. And they immediately started threatening to overturn the measure through a referendum.

But I think that would be a disaster for them. Let us recount a few facts from recent years. One is that when religion-addicts in Massachusetts tried to overturn the measure they had a major problem. After a few of years of gay couples marrying none of the apocalyptic results predicted by the Bible-beaters actually came to pass. Worse yet a lot of people got used to the idea. Even conservatives in the legislature started switching sides on the issue. By the time the signatures were collected to force the legislature to consider a referendum the tide had turned.

Supporters of the referendum had lost their seats in local elections, and with the numbers who had changed their minds, the anti-gay crusaders suddenly found they were in a decided minority. Then the Right-wing loonies tried to push a referendum in Arizona, the Goldwater state, to ban gay marriage. Voters rejected the ban.

Polls have shown that a majority of Californians are comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. If I were these sheet-wearing morons I'd squash the referendum idea immediately. A win would be hard going for them, very hard. And a lose in the most populous state of the union would be a major setback. They are better off pretending that the court is "attacking the will of the people" than proving that the people have moved on while the Christianists are still in the Dark Ages.

I'm almost tempted to sign a petition to put the damn thing on the ballot just because I think the it would lose, gay marriage would be affirmed, and a vote doing so in California would be a major blow to the Theopublicans. They simply can't afford to lose a popular vote on the issue and I think they will.

The Theopublicans knew the tide was turning against them. That is precisely why they tried to enshrine anti-gay bigotry in state constitution's. They wanted a dam which would prevent gay marriage. But those amendments are a temporary wall at best.

Even young Christians aren't lining up with the old farts in the pulpits anymore -- not on this issue. And the young in general are not sure why the presence of gay people sends some adults into a frenzy. (Freud might have some theories but I won't elaborate.)

As a sign of how much trouble gay marriage bans would have in California even the judge who wrote the dissent against the measure started her dissent stating that she wants California to legalize gay marriage herself.

Another problem for the opponents of gay marriage is that are a dying breed -- literally. It tends to be old people who get most hysterical about the issue not the young. And old voters tend to die more than young voters. And young voters who get older tend not to change their views that much as they age. So with each generation the numbers upset by the matter shrinks. It was the same when the Religious-Right predicted disasters if interracial marriage was allowed.

One sign of this shift can be found in that quintessential American television show -- the soaps. Every one of the soaps was losing viewers under the age of 34 -- every one but one. The one in question was As the World Turns. A year ago the soap added a gay plot line of the relationship between Luke and Noah. In one show they kissed and the fundamentalists had fits. The American Family Association wanted a boycott. Ratings went up. More and more young viewers started watching the show. At this point the network found they had another problem. Viewers were getting pissed off that the couple were at arms-length for episode after episode. They started webesites with countdowns of how long it had been since the two had kissed. For the record it was 211 days. Well the drought is over and young viewers have turned a show that was considered for the older crowd into a new young fad.

Now the fundies and farts might claim that Hollywood is cramming that down the throats of the viewers (a phrase they use often in such issues to the snickers of many). But Hollywood can "cram" all they want but they can't force people to watch. And the increase in popularity with the show indicates that a lot of people are no longer as mired in the 14th century as some Georgia tent revivalist.

So what is the funny aspect in this? Anti-gay Bob Barr jumped in and made a statement. Barr is pretending to be a libertarian in order to convince the Libertarian Party to nominate him president. He is the author of the odious Defense of Marriage Act. Barr now pretends "the primary reason for which I authored the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 was to ensure that each state remained free to determine for its citizens the basis on which marriage would be recognized within its borders..." Of course they were already free to do that. So his measure didn't change that at all. The only real change he pushed through was to impose a federal definition of marriage which explicitly denied rights to gay couples in any federal matter.

So even if a US citizen in California legally marries his or her foreign partner the Feds will still deport the partner. Under Barr's law there is no possibility of recognizing the marriage when it comes to immigration. Gee, Bob, what a sweetie you are!

I am not at all convinced that the individual states have the right to violate equal protection before the law. Apparently Mr. Barr would have been just peachy with Virginia cops when they broke into the bedroom of the Lovings, the incident that lead to the Supreme Court overturning bans on interracial marriages. So carting people off to jail for being legally married, as the Lovings were, would be a proper function of government in the world of Bob Barr.

Barr is in trouble when it comes to seeking the Libertarian Party nomination. Some in the party are happy to abandon all principles in order to attract more votes. They are even willing to run non-libertarians as the spokesman for what purports to be a libertarian party. But quite a few Libertarians are no feeling comfortable with the move. There is a backlash against the neo-con and theo-con Republicans who have infiltrated seeking to promote themselves at the expense of the party. Only time will tell what they will do.

Libertarians might want to take some advice from Mark Twain. Twain wrote to William Dean Howell, in 1884, "A man's first duty is to his own conscience & honor——the Party & the country come second to that, & never first... the only necessary thing to do, as I understand it, is that a man shall keep himself clean, (by withholding his vote for an improper man), even though the Party & the country go to destruction in consequence."

Photo: the famous kiss from As the World Turns. If you missed the story of Noah and Luke fans have all the clips at Youtube. So far the network is smart in not demanding they be pulled down. It is the Youtube clips that sent them all those young viewers that are boosting their ratings and advertising dollars.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rob the poor to subsidize the wealthy.

The New York Times has a piece on how spiralling petrol prices are sending some commuters to government mass transit programs. What it inadvertently does is also show us what is the problem with such mass transit programs.

Basically the argument is that mass transit “are seeing standing-room only crowds”. One transit bureaucrat brags: “In almost every transit system I talk to, we’re seeing very high rates of growth in the last few months.”

Old transit systems see only a minor increase, perhaps 5 percent. But the new systems that are seeing larger increases.

Here in Denver, for example, ridership was up 8 percent in the first three months of the year compared with last year, despite a fare increase in January and a slowing economy, which usually means fewer commuters. Several routes on the system have reached capacity, particularly at rush hour, for the first time.

The paper notes that all around the country the high petrol prices are pushing up ridership.

So how does this expose the problem?

Even with large increases in riders these systems are losing money every day. The paper notes: “Typically, mass transit systems rely on fares to cover about a third of their costs, so they depend on sales taxes and other government funding.”

In other words one third of the actual cost of riding mass transit is paid by the commuter and the other two-thirds is paid by people who don’t commute. And even with increases in ridership some services are seeing shortfalls increase.

The reason for the increase is that rely on taxes to pay the bill. And in some places tax revenue is falling due to the economic slowdown.

But think about the system of subsidies and taxes. And think about the typical system of transit.

I think San Francisco is fairly typical and I know the system fairly well so I will use it as an example. The Bay Area Rapid Transit system basically is a series of train lines that run from the bedroom communities to the financial district of San Francisco. Of course, along the way they run through other areas. But the feed is to and from the financial district. Similarly the Loop in Chicago is the center of interest for mass transit.

I rode the trains to Chicago when I worked at the Merchandise Mart building and lived in the suburbs. So I know that system as well. And here is what I know. Commuters on these lines often held fairly well paying jobs in the city centers. Let us give an example that the New York Times uses.

“Michael Brewer, an accountant who had always driven the 36-mile trip to downtown Houston from the suburb of West Belford, said he had been thinking about switching to the bus for the last two years. The final straw came when he put $100 of gas into his Pontiac over four days a couple of weeks ago.”

An accountant can easily between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. Of course many of the people commuting to the financial districts of the various cities earn a lot more than that.

Here is the question. If the transits systems only charge commuters one-third of the actual cost who pays the other two-thirds? And how does the earning power of the taxpayers compare with that of the recipients of government generosity?

One of the great secrets of the American political system of redistribution of wealth that the political process tends to redistribute wealth up the ladder not down.

When I commuted in Chicago my commute was subsidized. I rode in from the well-to-do suburbs with lots of people who were earning a hell of lot more money than I did. At that time the gas tax was used to help subsidize the mass transit system. And what studies found was that those commuters who drove to work, and hence paid the subsidies, earned far less than those commuters who used mass transit. Working class people subsidize the comfortable train rides of workers from the financial district.

And the subsidies are very generous indeed. The Department of Transportation looked at subsidies and taxes in transit over a twelve year period (1990 to 2002) and found that mass transit commuters received subsidies of $118 per 1,000 passenger miles. For every 1,000 passenger miles of automobile commuters they lost money. That is the services they received were less than what they paid for in taxes.

The Times article says that the favorite way of funding such subsidies are sales taxes. Yet sales taxes are very regressive and impact the living standard of poor people far more than it does wealthy people. I am not saying that there are no poor people who benefit from such systems. Obviously some do. But the systems primarily feed wealth suburbanites to good-paying jobs in the city center and home again.

Where did he lower-income workers go? It usually isn’t the city center or financial districts. The factories, plants, steel mills and the like are not well served by mass transit. My grandparents lived near the steel mill because that was why my grandfather could get to work.

Certainly in the large cities one can take mass transit to almost any part of the city -- if you have a lot of patience and time. Take BART again as an example. I can catch a train to the city, during the day, within 15 minutes of arriving at the station, at the worst. I’m guaranteed a seat as well. By the time it gets to the poorer areas there simply are no seats and it is standing room only. At most I have a very short wait and a comfortable ride. But I also lived in the city itself at one point and there were times when I had to go to the poor areas of the city. One business I dealt with had a warehouse in the poorest area of the city. Transit to the warehouse was almost non-existent.

Typically as you move to the less wealth areas of the city the number of transfers one has to take increases. Instead of waiting 5 or 10 minutes for a comfortable train, in a protected station, these commuters stand on the corner, exposed to rain, snow and any foul weather and they wait. They can wait up to 30 minutes for a bus to arrive which then takes them to another bus stop where they often have to repeat the process with another bus.

As one who took buses frequently when I lived in the city I also know that frequently I ended up walking. Even knowing the bus schedule didn’t help. Too often the bus that was schedule for 10:15 just never showed. The people most inconvenienced by mass transit are the poorest people, the ones hurt most by the taxes used to subsidize the rides. They get the least amount of service in virtually all the systems.

Yet the poor continue to pay through sales taxes so that wealthy workers from the financial district have a comfortable ride to the city.

The poor end up driving. And they end up driving, when they can, because the service they get is unreliable. But if they need to be at work at 8:30 they can’t afford to have a bus show up 40 minutes late. I know that when I go over to the BART station for a ride that even if one train doesn’t show up when it is supposed to that another will be there within 15 minutes maximum. I also know that when the buses screw up it can delay someone as much as an hour. So what ends up a minor inconvenience for the wealthy becomes a major problem for the working poor.

Nor should we forget that in many areas the mass transit doesn’t service the areas where the working poor actually work. If I think back to Chicago the big mills and refineries that hired the average working sod were in places like the East Side (many people don’t know Chicago even had an East Side), Whiting, East Chicago, Hammond and Gary. But mass transit didn’t go there.

Generally when it comes to the State figure that the political process tends to reward wealth and influence. Poor people have no wealth and damn little influence. And that is why I argue that wealth and rights tend to get distributed up the wealth ladder and not down it. Poor people or the working poor tend to subsidize the middle classes and the middle classes tend to subsidize the wealthy.

In politics it is the Archer Daniels Midlands and Halliburtons who end up at the top of food chain. And when well-meaning reformers try to change the system by increasing State power what they end up doing is giving another means by which the poor are plundered to benefit the wealthy.

From the beginning liberals, by which I mean classical liberals, understood this. The great free market advocates of Richard Cobden and John Bright saw how government regulation was starving the poor and subsidizing the landed aristocracy of England. The first great working people’s movement was the one that pushed the repeal of the infamous Corn Laws and instituted free trade in grains. The net result was that the poor benefited and the rump of England’s feudal lords lost out.

Just move forward a few years from that to the Progressive Era in the United States and you will see example after example where the wealth special interest groups pushed for new regulations that limited competition. That guaranteed them profits and higher prices. Once again the poor ended up subsidizing the wealthy. But the wealthy had allies in that campaign -- so called “progressives” and “socialists” who foolishly believed that expanded State power meant the plutocracy would lose power. Yet the plutocrats have always thrived on the expansion of state power. It is by deregulation and limited state power that competition is encouraged and that hurts the old aristocracy and helps the poor.

If you assume that government is a Robin Hood that robs the poor to feed the rich you will be right more often than you are wrong. In the real world Robin Hood works for the Sheriff.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bob Barr lies about libertarians while funding Republicans.

Right-wing bigot Bob Barr continues his campaign of lying to the public as to what it means to be a libertarian. This time the Village Voice questioned Barr’s bigoted anti-gay legislation and asked him how he justifies his statist legislation with seeking the Libertarian nomination. Barr answers by lying about what libertarianism is about.

He says that the positions he took in Congress, to strip gay couple of any rights at the federal level, “was based on the principle of federalism.” There are two aspects to his disgusting legislation. One said that no state need have to recognize the rights of gay couples to marry. The other mandated that no federal agency is allowed to grant any rights to gay couples that it grants to straight couples.

He continually downplays the aspect of his legislation that actually had an impact -- stripping gay couples of any rights in regards to anything federal -- including the right to have their life partners immigrate to live with them. Barr’s law demands that gay couples be treated as second class citizens in their own country. That is bigotry, raw and plain. And it is not even federalism, it was the imposition of bigotry into the federal legal code. It was an open attack on gay couples and it is not forgiveable since Barr himself sees nothing wrong with being a bigot.

Next Barr twists libertarianism by saying that his bigoted law is “a fundamentally sound, libertarian-oriented position on federalism.” Barr might be excused for being wrong simply because he has no idea what libertarianism is about. After all he is not now a libertarian and never has been.

Libertarianism has position about the rights of individuals in relationship to one another. It also have positions about rights of individuals in relation to the government or the state. But libertarianism per se says nothing, absolutely nothing, about the relationship of one government agency toward another.

A libertarian might be a federalist or might not be. But what a libertarian does say is that no government has the right to violate the rights of individuals. That includes the fifty states. Barr’s position is that the states do have that right. That is conservative, power-politics. That is statism. That is another form of the “divine right” theory of political entities--be they the king or the legislature--to regulate the lives of people.

Barr’s position is merely that he prefers to have a different level of government violating rights. The Libertarian view is that no level of government ought to violate rights. Barr’s view is not a variant of the libertarian view -- it is the polar opposite of the libertarian view.

Libertarians might argue over whether or not the state should exist at all. And they might argue over what form government should take if it did exist. But you can’t be a libertarian and say that government has the right to violate individual liberty and rights. Barr is not defending individual rights. He is defending the power of specific government entities to violate rights. He is an advocate of state power, just as Hillary or Bush or Obama is. His difference is merely over which state entity weilds that power. Libertarians argue that no state agency, at any level, is morally permitted to violate the rights of individuals. Barr does not share that view.

Barr gives a little spiel about how since 9/11 he has reconsidered his position on “government control in certain areas”. What he has basically said, however, is that he wants that control transferred to the states. He is not against the war on drugs. He has made that clear. He wants states enforcing drug laws and has actually argued that this will be more efficient.

What is a more efficient war on drugs? Or more precisely what is a more efficient war on drug users? Would it be more arrests? More no-knock dawn raids? More people in prison? This alone makes it clear that Bob Barr is a fraud.

At the same time Barr is pretending to be a big Libertarian he is channeling funds to Republican candidates around the country. How many libertarians know that? Barr is actually helping fund Republican candidates running against Libertarian candidates.

While Libertarians in states like Montana, Florida, Colorado, Alabama, Connecticut, Oregon, Pennsylvannia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Georgia, Minnesota, Idaho, Arizona, Virginia, South Carolina, Nebreska, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio have been working to try and build a Libertarian Party there, Bob Barr has been sending cash to their opponents. He has been donating money to campaigns aimed to influence voters to NOT vote Libertarian but Republican instead.

And many of the recipients of Barr’s cash are the most Right-wing, anti-individual liberty type of Theopublicans you can imagine. Many of them are Southern Christianists associated with the Religious Right. This includes people who repeatedly take anti-libertarian views on the major issues. Barr continues to fund Big Government Republican candidates while asking Libertarians to fund him.

Barr says he is a Libertarian and a libertarian. His views show he is not a libertarian. And his continual support of Big Government Republican candidates in 19 states shows he is not a Libertarian either.

Photo: As a reminder of Barr's ugly politics I illustrate this article with the photo of him speaking to a conference of white supremacists and anti-semites. What a lovely campaign photo for the Libertarian Party to use if they nominate him. Should I wear my sheets to the party convention?

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Monsters, hobgoblins and the threat to our children.

A few weeks back I was again waiting in a terminal at the airport for a flight. I found a quiet spot and was working on the lap top. I was near the large windows that fill the lounges at airports.

As I was working a mother and her small daughter came through. I am horrible at guessing ages but the child seemed around 3 or 4 years of age. She was old enough to talk incessantly and she wanted to run around.

The girl ran to one of the windows, just about ten feet from her mother. For one second the mother lost track of the child and suddenly went into panic mode. I mean she was most clearly in a real panic and screamed for her daughter. The girl turned and looked at her fear-stricken mother. At this point the mother say the girl was literally just a few feet away happily looking out the window.

So what does the mother do? She immediately starts terrifying the child. She went into a lecture about how evil people are just waiting to kidnap the girl and hurt her. She lectured her sternly about how she must never step away from “mommy” because the “bad men” will “hurt her” if she does. Personally I felt like slapping her. I couldn’t comprehend her need to literally terrify this child with rubbish like that.

Why is it rubbish? Aren’t there some “bad men” out there who would “hurt” the child?

Of course there are and thankfully there are damn few of them. A child can drown in a few inches of waters yet mothers allow children to take baths and play in wading pools. Something like 250 children, under the age of five, drown in the United States annually. This is around five times as many as are killed by an abductor.

The odds of winning the lottery are greater than the odds of your child being abducted. And if the child is abducted the first suspect, based on the odds, is a noncustodial parent not a stranger.

What about strangers molesting the child? Sure it happens just not very often. The typical molestation case does not involve a stranger. If a child is molested the first place to look is at the home. The most likely suspect is a male living in the home, usually not directly related to the child. Typically this is the child’s stepfather or the mother’s boyfriend.

What ever dangers you think lurk outside the home, and there are some, are greater inside the home. A child is more likely to be killed by a parent than be a stranger. Unnerving perhaps, but true.

Yet parents, or the substitute-parents called politicians, continue to terrify children (and many adults) with threats that are simply unreal. Every day tens of millions of children play unsupervised by their parents without being kidnapped, raped, molested or murdered. A few dozen per year are hurt by strangers. Driving with your kids on a vacation is more dangerous. You are more likely to be involved in an accident that will kill your child than having a stranger abduct and murder them. Yes, in a very real sense you, as a mother or father, are more dangerous to your child than is the typical stranger.

But even parents aren’t that much of a threat. In any one year very few parents actually kill, intentionally or accidentally, their own child. Base on the facts I’m confused as to why so many people join into these panics about some minuscule threat. One may take normal precautions but to dwell on such fears over and over again is just pathological.

It is good for a child to wear a seat belt -- adults too. But if a child took two minutes to secure the belt, instead of doing it instantly, no sane mother would start a gruesome lecture of how some terrible accident could mangle the child’s body in those two minutes. Parents do put kids in the bath and leave the room for a few seconds. They don’t usually find themselves gripped with fear in those few seconds. If they did they would need some therapy. They know that the risk is very, very, very tiny -- almost non-existent.

But this “stranger danger” thing has parents acting like terrified children in the dark, fearful that the bogeyman is underneath their bed preparing to get them. For the sake of your own sanity somebody needs to turn on the lights and get these insane parents to actually look under the bed and see that the monster is not there.

I blogged about one such panic recently in England where nutty school officials wiped out the faces of all the children in school photos lest on-line predators use them to target kids.

Now I see that animated characters are being used in the UK to warn children, many barely able to use a computer, of the dangers of on-line child molesters lurking and just waiting to carry them off. The computer and the internet are supposedly the new danger to children. Of course politicians are ready to solve this “problem” as long as we allow them to monitor our computers, invade our privacy, track our internet usage, and generally spy on us. After all -- it’s for the kids. Right -- sure it is, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’m selling cheap this week.

How dangerous are on-line predators? Just take the real threat of predators and reduce it to almost nothing. The reality is that there is almost no threat of on-line predators. Your kid is more likely to be hit by lightening than lured by an on-line predator.

Bureaucrats and politicians love to scare the bejeesus out of you in order to get you to concede new powers to them. One way that they do this is to play fast and loose with words. If I talk about a child most people envision some prepubescent kid full of life and curiosity. When the bureaucrats talk about they often mean fully grown individuals who could be days away from being legally an adult.

For instance, you might remember how the gun control crowd wept about the innocent children killed by handguns every year. They want you to think of five year old children accidentally killing themselves. In reality the typical victim is a teenager, often a gang member, involved in drug dealing and other gang activities. He is often a fully grown individual who is capable of inflicting great harm on others and is often killed while attempting to do so.

When we hear of on-line predators luring away children away children we think of some pedophile offering candy to a eight-year-old in exchange for sex. That just doesn’t happen. I’m not saying it can’t happen just that it doesn’t happen.

Studies have been done of “child victims” of such on-line sexuality. And what was discovered is that almost none of them were prepubescent children. The typical “victim” was a teenager, often one who was looking for some sexual experience and found the internet to be an easy way of finding it.

One such case was actually in the British press recently. A teenage boy wanted to have sex with another male. He set out to do it intentionally. He used the internet to meet an adult male and then the boy lied to his mother as to where he was going. He packed an overnight kit, including his toothbrush and set off to lose his virginity. Having succeeded he returned home the next morning very proud of himself, so proud he stupidly bragged to his mother. The man was arrested and sentenced to jail. The internet was used but it was the teenager soliciting the adult not the other way around.

This analysis is verified by a study “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims” Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention” which appeared in American Psychologist. A press release from the publication noted that most “victims” “see these relationships as romances or sexual adventures” not as attempted kidnappings or molestations.

This study was based on actual interviews with the “children” and with law enforcement to determine the specifics of the case. And Janis Wolak, lead author, warns us: “The things that we hear and fear and the things that actually occur may not be the same.”

Instead of tricking “children” so they can be kidnapped and raped the adults arrested have tended to be quite open about their interest in a sexual relationship. They are on-line looking for sex and say so. And the study found that: “In most of the cases, the victims are aware that they are talking online with adults.”

What they found, when investigating the real cases, was nothing like what parents imagine. Only 5 percent of adults pretended they were teenagers themselves, most were open about being adults. About three-quarters of the “victims” continued to see the adult repeatedly. And almost all the alleged victims, who went to meet the adult were "expecting to engage in sexual activity." Such interactions were very rarely violent, or involved stalking or abductions. In other words almost all these case of “children being stalked” were actually sexually mature teenagers wanting sexual relationships and seeking them out on-line. The idea of children being lured by pedophiles on-line is just not realistic.

I can understand that parents are worried about their kids. Parents who never worry actually worry me. But this natural fear is being exploited by unscrupulous politicians, special interest groups and bureaucrats. The truly slimy in politics immediately turn to stoking up fears about “the children” in order to win points for themselves.

When someone is trying to scare you about something or someone, and they use children to do so, you can almost always assume that they are not interested in the child at all. Such individuals are almost always scoundrels with ulterior motives that are purely or primarily self-serving. The typical “child-saver” is usually interested in profit or power or both.

As long as the populace allows themselves to be terrified by the imaginary hobgoblins of the political classes then the would-be nannies of the world will be continually creating such monsters for their terror campaigns. One of my favorite books is H.L. Mencken’s Notes on Democracy. In it Mencken discussed the role of fear in modern politics. If you took the following quote of Mencken’s literally, and applied it to virtually every worrisome issue of the day, the odds are that it would apply far more often than not.

Politics under democracy consists almost wholly of the discovery, chase and scotching of bugaboos. The statesman becomes, in the last analysis, a mere witch-hunter, a glorified smeller and snooper, eternally chanting "Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum!" It has been so in the United States since the earliest days. The whole history of the country has been a history of melodramatic pursuits of horrendous monsters, most of them imaginary: the red-coats, the Hessians, the monocrats, again the red-coats, the Bank, the Catholics, Simon Legree, the Slave Power, Jeff Davis, Mormonism, Wall Street, the rum demon, John Bull, the hell hounds of plutocracy, the trusts, General Weyler, Pancho Villa, German spies, hyphenates, the Kaiser, Bolshevism. The list might be lengthened indefinitely; a complete chronicle of the Republic could be written in terms of it, and without omitting a single important episode.

The next time some rogue tries to use your children to scare you it would be best to give him the boot. Not only will you feel better for doing so but chances are that your child will be much safer as well.

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