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Howling Dog
Power User
Posts: 392

« Reply #50 on: May 15, 2005, 05:24:39 PM »

Woof Buzwardo, While i find this conversation mildly amusing, it is rather obvious that your WAY too much for me.

So in closing this conversation please allow me a suggestion or two. If your concerned about carry too much weed and being sent to prison for it. The next time you pick up your quarter pound of weed (112grams) ask your dealer to short you a couple of grams and dont weigh the baggie just to be sure your under weight. That way if you happend to get busted at least you wont end up in prison over it wink

Since you seem to champion the cause of reforming Americas drug laws, I can onley assume that this is important to you. I would suggest you possibly align yourself with the folks from norml, they have been doing this for quite a number of years, and allow me to wish you GOOD LUCK!!

In closing also let me wish you good luck in staying out of prison for something you believe in!

Howling Dog
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #51 on: May 16, 2005, 07:44:39 AM »

Tom sez:

In closing also let me wish you good luck in staying out of prison for something you believe in!

My misspent youth is a couple decades behind me so I don't expect to occupy a cell anytime soon. Unless dissing government policy becomes a crime, in which case I'll doubtless be invited to join a very long line.
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #52 on: August 09, 2005, 12:19:02 PM »

Pretty interesting, and disturbing, take on the tobacco settlement. Who needs those pesky legislative and constitutional follyswaddles anyway?

August 09, 2005, 8:05 a.m.
To the Ashtray of History
Taking aim at a greedy government mess.

By Christine Hall

Was this what was promised? Billions of dollars later and more than six years after the tobacco settlement was signed, American taxpayers and consumers deserve an answer. But they won't like it.
Back in the 1990s, state attorneys general sued "Big Tobacco" claiming that tobacco companies had lied about the health risks of smoking and run up state Medicaid costs in treating sick smokers over the years. Eventually, the tobacco companies decided to settle the state lawsuits for $246 billion. In the years since the signing of that settlement ? in reality, a permanent sales tax ? it's clear who are the winners and losers.

State governments did well. They won a staggering sum of money, to be doled out by tobacco companies over just the first 25 years, with payments continuing in perpetuity. States have so far spent most of the money on a wide range of programs unrelated to treating sick smokers or reducing smoking rates, according to an annual report by the General Accounting Office. The particulars can be unseemly. Kentucky, for example, reportedly spent $271,750 for improving the prawn industry, while North Carolina spent $100,000 on "motorsports research."

State attorneys general also came out winners. They discovered a new tool for growing their own power. Now, instead of waiting around for the legislature to raise taxes or pass new laws regulating industries, attorneys general can do it all themselves. As New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has since demonstrated, often all it takes is indictment-by-press conference, and pretty soon he has a settlement that puts (who else?) the attorney general in charge of regulating the industry.

Trial lawyers did well by the tobacco settlement, too. The trial bar was slated to get an estimated $13 billion, which for some worked out to $7,716 per hour, according to legal scholar Robert Levy, assuming the lawyers worked 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for 42 months. Trial lawyers reinvested a lot of the money in political campaigns and developing new litigation campaigns.

Big tobacco companies, as it turned out, did quite well by the settlement. They raised cigarette prices beyond the actual settlement costs and gained the states as partners in a cartel to hamstring competitors. Small tobacco companies that were never part of the state lawsuits or the multi-state settlement were required to make annual escrow payments to the states. Then, when the upstarts did better than expected and carved into the market share enjoyed by the majors ? and state revenue ? states responded by passing laws raising taxes, er, escrow payments. "All states have an interest in reducing ... sales [by non-settlement companies] in every state," Vermont's attorney general admonished his peers in 2003.

So where does that leave taxpayers, consumers, small businesses, and anyone concerned about unchecked government power? Holding the bag. Yet, despite the massive, unprecedented transfer of wealth and ambitious new regulatory regime unleashed by the tobacco settlement, it was all negotiated in a backroom deal. No legislator voted on it, no small businesses were consulted, and no taxpayer had a chance to lobby against the tax increases.

And the agreement, which was entered into by 46 state attorneys general, never gained the approval of Congress, an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits a state from entering into an agreement or compact with another state without the consent of Congress.

Looking at the tobacco settlement, one begins to understand what the Founding Fathers feared when they wrote the Compact Clause. That's why the Competitive Enterprise Institute launched a lawsuit on August 2 challenging the tobacco settlement: to end such abuse of power and restore one essential constitutional check on government greed.

? Christine Hall is communications director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. To read more about CEI's challenge to the tobacco settlement, visit
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #53 on: September 04, 2005, 07:57:08 PM »

Lessons of smaller states

By Richard W. Rahn
Published September 4, 2005
    Why is this cold, rainy land with its stark volcanic landscape, without much in the way of natural resources, one of the wealthiest places on Earth?
    Small states, in the past, were most often poorer on a per capital income basis than large states, but in the last half-century many have become much richer then their large neighbors. Among the wealthiest places on the planet, in addition to the United States, we now find Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Denmark and Ireland, none with many natural resources.
    In a just-concluded meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Iceland, some leaders of small states that have developed very successful economies met with some of the worlds' leading free-market economists and policy institute professionals, partly to discuss what lessons the rest of the world can learn from these small states. Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia, was the principle architect of his country's remarkable economic transformation from impoverished vassal of the Soviet Union into one of the world's freest (No. 4 in the world according to the 2005 Index of Economic Freedom) and most dynamic economies. Mr. Laar said he succeeded by following the teachings of Nobel Prize-winning economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman.
    After obtaining freedom 15 years ago, Estonia rapidly moved to establish a rule of law, protect private property and create a sound currency. Estonia removed most price controls, discarded useless regulations, privatized most state-owned enterprises and established a free-trade regime. The result has been the largest percentage increase in real per capita incomes of any of the former communist states.
    Estonia has now moved on to create the world's first "e-government": Most government operations are on the Internet, and in electronic form. By moving away from bureaucrat paper, Estonis reduced corruption and cost and created much more transparency and accountability. All proposed laws are placed on the Internet before passage so any citizen can review and comment before they are voted upon.
    Former Iceland Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister David Oddsson detailed how he took a typical, economically stagnate, Scandinavian socialist welfare state and turned it into an economic tiger by privatizing state industries, freeing labor markets, and reforming the financial structure. Iceland has been engaged in a massive tax reduction (for instance, the corporate tax rate has been cut from 50 to only 18 percent, and the inheritance tax to a maximum 5 percent). Yet government revenues have steadily increased because of the resulting economic dynamism, and the national debt has fallen from 50 percent of gross domestic product to only 15 percent.
    One of their greatest success stories was moving from a pay-as-you-go social security system (like that of the U.S.) to a combination of a limited means-tested government system with a private inheritable system, giving Iceland one of the strongest and soundest systems in the world.
    Professor Victoria Curzon-Price of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and president of the Mont Pelerin Society argued Switzerland has succeeded because (with the exception of farming) it is mostly a free-trade nation, with strong fiscal and tax competition between cantons. Switzerland is a voluntary, direct democracy, federal contractual state made up of a couple dozen cantons divided on linguistic and religious lines and more than 3,000 communes -- i.e., small towns.
    Having most government power at local levels reduces friction among the various groups that make up Switzerland. It allows the people to decide if they wish to live in a commune with a large government and relatively high taxes, like Geneva, or in a low- tax, limited-government jurisdiction.
    In her brief for the Swiss system, Professor Curzon-Price argued "the splitting of political units into tiny elements" provides a "huge gain in terms of the legitimacy of the state." And, "a state obtains obedience in one of three ways: repression, bribery and consent. Most modern democratic states end up using, and abusing, the second of these (with the political class bribing marginal voters to maintain power)." Repression and bribery are costly, but neither is needed if the government can obtain the willing consent of the governed, which is best obtained by direct democracy within small political units.
    The lesson is that large states can obtain the economic gains small states have made by freeing up their economies. They also can gain greater democratic legitimacy and a more satisfied electorate by devolving power to states and localities.
    Richard W. Rahn is director general of the Center for Global Economic Growth, a project of the FreedomWorks Foundation.
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #54 on: September 20, 2005, 02:25:25 PM »


Will the New National ID Track Your Movements?
by James Plummer
Printable Format

James Plummer is the policy director for the Liberty Coalition.

By the end of September virtually unaccountable bureaucrats inside the Department of Homeland Security will likely have decided whether the new de facto national ID card will broadcast your sensitive identification information wherever you go?Minority Report style.

This comes as a result of the REAL ID Act. REAL ID was signed into law in May. As a result of negotiations over the intelligence-reform bill passed last December, the law had been attached to the first ?must-pass? bill of 2005, which turned out to be ?emergency? spending for the Iraq war. Thus a vote against this national ID would have been spun as a vote ?against the troops? as well.

REAL ID gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the sole right to issue ?design requirements? for driver?s licenses, needing only to ?consult? (that is, ignore) state officials and the Department of Transportation. Though the official publication of the design requirements is still some months off, DHS is expected to make an internal decision on one of those requirements, regarding ?machine-readable technology? standards, by early fall. And there is a lot of pressure on DHS from the surveillance-technology industry to make radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchips the required machine-readable technology.

The REAL ID Act repealed a provision in the intelligence-reform bill to assemble a committee of state officials, privacy watchdogs, and federal officials to set standards for state driver?s licenses. As a result, those moderating voices of federalism, privacy, and common sense have now been silenced. One of those voices, the National Conference of State Legislatures, has conservatively estimated compliance costs at up to $750 million initially and $75 million annually thereafter?just another expense to be passed on to the taxpayer for the ?privilege? of driving or flying with a national ID card.

States that don?t go along with the new standards will find that their citizens cannot use their state driver?s licenses for federal identification. That means the Transportation Security Administration won?t let Americans with noncompliant driver?s licenses board airplanes, unless perhaps they have a passport?which themselves are scheduled to have RFID soon.

RFID technology in an identification card consists of an embedded microchip and antenna that broadcasts identity information, decodable by specially designed readers. On an identifying document such as a driver?s license, RFID is an unnecessary, dangerous technology in today?s information-rich world. RFID-enabled identity cards can broadcast identifying information to persons and institutions without the knowledge or consent of the license holder. That information, such as a name, birth date, identification number, or even digital photo, could then be cross-referenced through commercial and government databases to gain increasingly sensitive identity information on the individual.

That kind of technology on essentially mandatory government documents can lead to identity fraud, endangering the victim?s finances, privacy, and even physical safety.

RFID technology could also enable tracking of individuals, as the chip broadcasts the cardholder?s presence to each reader he passes. No matter how secure the RFID protocols allegedly are, broadcasting one?s presence to a series of readers leaves a record of one?s place and time. That information can be taken by hidden readers just about anywhere an American goes?a political meeting, a gun show, a place of worship. It is an open invitation to stalkers and thieves, as well as government agents who regard constitutional proscriptions on search and surveillance as obstacles rather than as American principles.

Advocates of the technology often claim RFID can be set to only broadcast a limited distance, such as a few centimeters. But as security expert Bruce Schneier has pointed out, ?This is a spectacularly na?ve claim. All wireless protocols can work at much longer ranges than specified. In tests, RFID chips have been read by receivers 20 meters away. Improvements in technology are inevitable.?

There is no significant security benefit in mandating that driver?s licenses and/or identification cards carry an RFID chip. There are, however, significant risks to security and privacy. If an RFID reader must purportedly be within a few centimeters of the identification card, there is no logical reason not to close the security loop and require the card make contact with the reader.

Tri-National ID

Some quick background: The original version of the REAL ID Act would have had every state join into something called the ?Driver License Agreement,? which would have included states of Mexico and provinces of Canada as well, creating a de facto tri-national ID card. Although that provision was removed from the final legislation after protests by privacy advocates, there is a danger that RFID standards in particular could easily be integrated into international identification schemes. The United Nations? International Civilian Aviation Organization (ICAO) is pushing for standardized RFID on the passports of every nation. The U.S. State Department has already announced plans to include RFID in passports in the near future, with standards based on ICAO recommendations. And meanwhile, the British government?s plans for a national ID card include ICAO RFID standards.

Could DHS be seriously considering turning state driver?s licenses into national ID cards, essentially internal passports based on UN standards? It seems they may indeed be headed that way.

As Americans learn more about RFID technology, they are rightly concerned about these dangers. The California Assembly is considering a bill to ban RFID from state identification documents for at least three years as security questions are studied. The Montana House of Representatives has already passed a bill opting out of any nationalized ID standards. Montana legislators were concerned that such a system would endanger the privacy of that state?s citizens. If DHS adopts mandatory RFID for driver?s licenses, those concerns would be proven valid.

If the Department of Homeland Security takes personal security and privacy, not to mention constitutional values, at all seriously, it will reject RFID or any kind of contactless reading technology as appropriate for driver?s licenses ? the new de facto national identification cards
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #55 on: September 22, 2005, 08:33:55 AM »

Frankly, I don't have the time to follow this important issue of the Eminent Domain and the vile KELSO decision from the Supreme Court as closely as I  would like, but for anyone so inclined:


I get email updates through the Castle Coalition. Hope it helps,

Thank you to all who attended and submitted testimony for the Senate committee hearing on the eminent domain legislation!

Here is just one of the many news clips on the events yesterday:

For the time being, there is video available of yesterday's press conference and Senate hearing on eminent domain:
Fox News:,2933,112935,00.html Click on Questioning Eminent Domain on the right side of the page

C-SPAN: Click on Senate Judiciary Cmte. Hearing on Eminent Domain

Also, all the hearing testimony is available online at:

You can still submit testimony to the Senate to Dimple Gupta with the Judiciary Committee:

Best wishes,
Steven Anderson, Castle Coalition Coordinator
Elizabeth Moser, Outreach Coordinator
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #56 on: October 01, 2005, 02:13:55 AM »

September 30, 2005, 4:09 p.m.
Living Constitution, R.I.P.
I know what I learned this summer.

By Curt Levey

Democratic senators claim not to have learned much from the recent confirmation hearings for (now) Chief Justice John Roberts. I, on the other hand, learned a lot by listening to those senators. An analysis of their rhetoric reveals trends in constitutional interpretation and evolution that are sure to influence the looming battle over the president's second Supreme Court nominee.

Observation #1: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Judicial activism? has long been a label conservatives use to describe liberal court decisions that seemingly elevate judges? personal views above statutory and constitutional law. The Roberts hearings confirm that the term has now become a favorite invective of Democrats. Senator Ted Kennedy accused Roberts of being an "aggressive activist." Wisconsin?s senator Herb Kohl decried "judicial activists [who] have used [conservative judicial] philosophy to limit our rights and freedoms." And Senator Chuck Schumer labeled Justices Scalia and Thomas as "activist judges" on par with liberal luminary justices Marshall and Brennan.
Many of my right-of-center colleagues found it maddening to watch those senators borrow the judicial activism charge and use it against conservative paragons of judicial restraint. But it's unlikely the Democrats are fooling anybody. Their real concern is that Roberts won?t be activist enough to see the constitutional penumbras and emanations that support Roe v. Wade and, perhaps, a constitutional right to gay marriage.

Democrats? appropriation of the activist allegation should be viewed as evidence that proponents of judicial restraint are making headway. It is an implicit admission that this critique of liberal jurisprudence has proved effective. Moreover, the Democrats? reliance on a ?so are you? argument indicates the absence of a defensible judicial philosophy on the Left. And, like former segregationists embracing civil rights, liberals? calls for judicial restraint ? no matter how insincere ? are a sign that the times have changed for the better.

Observation #2: Living Constitution Dead at 70?
Closely related to judicial activism is the concept of a "living Constitution," one whose principles and interpretations evolve to reflect the changing values of society. While liberals have traditionally embraced the living Constitution, conservative legal thinkers abhor it. They see it as nothing more than an excuse for judges inventing law ? like the Supreme Court's Miranda warnings and the "right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, [and] of the universe."
Given the dependence of the liberal judicial agenda on a living Constitution, it is telling that the term and its equivalents were used only once by a Democratic senator during the Judiciary Committee's five days of hearings and voting. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate reports a similar abandonment in the literature. One can only conclude that liberals now feel the need to distance themselves from the concept. Deprived of the unabashed support of its biggest fans, the living Constitution?s best days are likely behind it.

May the living Constitution rest in peace. The concept is utterly without meaning as a legal standard and, instead, is a recipe for unrestrained judicial power. Because the Constitution is a contract between the people and their government, its modification should require the consent of the parties to the agreement. Thus, a living Constitution can be analogized to an automobile lease agreement that the car dealer feels free to modify as his notions of a fair deal evolve.

Observation #3: Don't Say the "A" Word

The classic defense of the living Constitution is that the Framers could not peer 200 years into the future. But the Framers were well aware of that limitation. Thus, they provided us with a democratic method of constitutional evolution, the amendment process, which has proved to be brilliantly effective. Constitutional amendments are responsible for the greatest achievements of our legal system in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the elimination of slavery and the enfranchisement of African Americans and women.
And yet, throughout the Judiciary Committee's proceedings, not a single senator discussed the amendment process except to say that that it was difficult or should be infrequent. This inattention to the Framers? intended method of constitutional evolution is paralleled by the period since 1971, during which there has not been a single substantive constitutional amendment. Compare that to the previous hundred years, which saw about a dozen pivotal amendments.

The Amendment process ? requiring approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states ? is an arduous one, as the Framers intended. But that cannot fully explain senators? disinterest in it. After all, the process is no more difficult than in the heyday of constitutional amendments, and more than 80 percent of the amendments that have been approved by Congress have also been ratified by the states.

The real answer lies in the ascendancy, in recent decades, of a tempting alternative to constitutional amendments, namely the living Constitution and judicial activism. In this age of quick fixes, the amendment process is viewed as too cumbersome by politicians and impatient interest groups. Most significantly, amendments require a solid democratic consensus. That makes them unattractive to the intellectual elite ? in Congress, the courts, law schools, and think tanks ? whose ?evolving values? are often out of sync with those of the larger populace. A living Constitution is seductive exactly because it is undemocratic.

But the tide may have turned. The rhetoric of the Roberts hearings suggests that the political viability of judicial activism is waning. Renewed attention to constitutional amendments cannot be far behind. The battle for a humbler approach to the Constitution is hardly over, but the signs are encouraging.

? Curt. Levey, an attorney specializing in constitutional law and civil rights, was the director of legal and public Affairs at the Center for Individual Rights from 1998 to 2004.
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #57 on: October 11, 2005, 11:41:00 AM »

Forwarded to me by a friend:

I know that Rockwell is way too strident for many of you, but I am posting this piece for one reason -- it is an incredible compilation of control-freak behaviors during this disaster. The problem with FEMA is not so much their incompetence as their possessive bureaucratic tendencies that often prevented anyone from helping people in need. If they were merely incompetent, this disaster would have been handled far better.
If this is the way bureaucrats behave, do we really want them "solving" our retirement problem, our health care problem, ... or even "protecting" us from terrorists? This story is enough to give anyone pause ... I would think. But maybe I am wrong about that.
Katrina and Socialist Central Planning
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
[Posted on Monday, October 10, 2005]

Watching the Capitol Hill hearings on what went wrong after Hurricane Katrina provided a glimpse of what it must have been like in the Politburo in the 1950s. The Soviet bureaucrats would gather with the party officials and factory managers to figure out why grain production was down or why shop shelves were empty or why the bread lines were ever longer and the quality ever worse.

They gathered under the conviction that they had a workable system that was being rendered unworkable because of the incompetence of certain key players in the chain of command. No one was permitted to say that the command system itself was the problem; this would too contrary to the prevailing political ethos. Instead, they had to place blame on someone, as if all problems could be reduced to issues of obedience. It was always a scramble. Whoever was finally said to be at fault faced certain ruin.

To be sure, there was plenty of blame to go around. With rats in a maze, there is a sense in which they are all responsible for not having found the exit. If those rats could also organize into a hierarchy of control and hold trials, it would surely produce quite a show with many victims. But at the end of the day, the rats would be no closer to getting out of the maze. And so it was in the US Congress: the hearings produced a great show with no results that will make a difference for our future.

The Soviet system had to fully unravel before it became permissible to state what it used to be a crime even to think: you can't manage an economy. You can make every demand, issue a million commands, exhaust every financial resource in the state's account, elevate some people and demote others, dress up in a military costume and make grand pronouncements from a glorified pedestal, cut off fingers, toes, and heads, but in the end, you can't make the economy perform in a way that serves the people unless you let market forces work.

Not just the Soviets had to learn this. Authoritarian regimes from the beginning of time have attempted to defy the laws of economics, step on the interests of the merchant class, control and redirect the wishes of consumers and entrepreneurs, bend and kick prices and wages this way and that, and inhibit trade in every way. But they cannot finally overpower the driving desire on the part of people to control their own fate and not be subject to the slavery that is collectivism of all colors, whether red, green, or brown.

Someday, the US managers of crises will have to realize this same point. But for now, they are like Soviet bureaucrats scrambling to make an unworkable system function, and creating a scene that is as farcical as it is tragic.

Consider first how the much-glorified Department of Homeland Security responded to the Katrina crisis. There is a mysterious missing day between the time the hurricane hit and the levees broke and flooded New Orleans. During this strange Monday, August 29 ? a day in which there was a window of opportunity to prevent the meltdown of civilization ? why didn't federal officials respond or even pretend to respond?

The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, said that he read in the Tuesday morning newspaper that, according to the headline, "New Orleans Dodged the Bullet." So, to his mind, there was nothing to do. This was his testimony. This is not exactly an awe-inspiring admission, but it speaks to a truth that few are willing to admit: government officials live normal lives. They do not partake of the mind of God. They get their news just like you and me. And they have far less information than the body of knowledge generated by the signaling process of the market economy and the private sector.

We might even say that they are in effect sub-normal in intelligence, because government officials stand outside of society, cut off from normal channels of information that the rest of us take for granted. They are isolated from markets and the regular pressures of life. They are not owners of what they control, and have no real stake in the value of their product. They are surrounded by some of the most peculiar people in the world, namely lifetime bureaucrats, power-mad politicians, and lobbyists on the make. This is their world and this is what they know.

Now, they enjoy the illusion of being better informed than the rest of us, so it would never occur to a high official to surf Google News to find out what is really going on. Thus was it apparently beyond the capacity of FEMA to find out that the National Weather Service had issued a flood warning soon after the hurricane hit. The National Weather Service in turn was only reporting what many private local media outlets were saying.

Certainly the municipal government of New Orleans got the message. It issued a warning to residents, and then all the officials packed up their stuff and headed to Baton Rouge. I suppose that this was the plan that the bureaucrats came up with after having received a $500,000 federal grant in 1997 to design a comprehensive plan for evacuation. Half a million dollars later, they agreed what the plan should be. Two words: let's go!

Now, we can learn from observing this. It is always the case that the government's first interest in a crisis is the protection of itself. The public interest is way down the list. Government employees have no ancient code that requires them to go down with the ship. The seafaring captain might feel disgrace if he lost his crew and passengers but returned safely to shore, but the government bureaucrat would see this as nothing but rational self-interest at work. From their point of view, public service is not a suicide pact.

If this is so, are we wise to expect government service at times of crisis? Well, here is where it gets complicated. They always promise that they will take care of us. On the day the Hurricane hit, for example, President Bush made the following announcement: "For those of you who are concerned about whether or not we're prepared to help, don't be. We are. We're in place. We've got equipment in place, supplies in place. And once the ? once we're able to assess the damage, we'll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas."

Well, given the calamity that followed, this statement by Bush might as well have been a Soviet propaganda poster about the glorious future of socialism.

If the only response by government were to turn and run, they could be accused of hypocrisy, but it would be better than the alternative of bad government that stayed to ruin the work that markets and private individuals do.

As the Hurricane approached, for example, Mr. Bush, along with nearly every office holder in the entire region, immediately announced that there would be no tolerance of so-called price gouging. What is and what is not gouging remain undefined by law, but there are still criminal penalties attached to doing it. If you raise your prices to the point where you attract a complaint, there is a good chance that you will be thrashed as a gouger.

And yet, we have to ask ourselves what the purpose of a price is. It is a signaling device that allows market players, including both producers and consumers, to adjust their economic behavior in light of supply and demand. If supply remains the same and demand rises, the price too will have to rise so the market can clear properly. Otherwise there will be shortages and surpluses that will prove to be a benefit to no one. William Anderson has called gouging rules a form of back-door price control, and he is right. They create victims, encourage economic dislocations, and foster black markets.

One might think that a Republican administration would understand this, but reflect on the fact that Iraq still has very strict price controls on gasoline, controls that were instituted by the US after Saddam was overthrown. Don't think for a minute that it is beyond the capacity of the Bush administration to do what the Nixon administration did, which was to believe that the laws of markets can be overridden by regulatory force.

Anti-gouging laws, to the extent they are obeyed, will create shortages. But in telling the sad tale of Katrina, I would like to begin not with a case of shortage, but with a strange case of surplus.

One week after the hurricane, FEMA ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to buy 211 million pounds of ice from IAP Worldwide Services of Florida. Trucking companies were notified of a grand opportunity since the government was paying the bills for delivery, and the dispatchers sent out the word. There is no space to explore the workings of IAP Worldwide, but I will observe that the company, which exists solely to get paid by your tax dollars as a federal contractor, has a new CEO who most recently held the position of vice president of national security programs for the notorious Kellogg Brown and Root. His name is David Swindle.

But back to the story of the ensuing chaos. One trucker picked up ice in Greenville, Pennsylvania, and was told to drive it to Carthage, Missouri. When he arrived in Carthage, he was told by a FEMA official to go to Montgomery, Alabama. After a day and a half sitting in Montgomery, he was told to go to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, after which he was sent to Selma, Alabama, after which he was sent to Emporia, Virginia, where he stayed for a week burning fuel, until he was sent to North Carolina, and finally to Fremont, Nebraska, where he dropped the ice in a government storage unit. That's 4,000 miles over two weeks.

This was hardly the only case.

The news media chronicled the stories of these truckers. A truck full of ice was sent from Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian, Mississippi, then to Barksdale Base in Louisiana, then to Columbia, South Carolina, and finally to Cumberland, Maryland, where he waited for six days before being sent to Bettendorf, Iowa, where the ice was unloaded. Another truck was sent from Wisconsin to Missouri to Selma to Memphis, before finally dropping off the ice in a storage unit.

Do you know how many drivers were enlisted in this incredible charade? 4,000. No one knows for sure how much ice ever got through or how much good it did, if any.

In one of the first incidents reported of what was to be two weeks of catastrophe, a group of volunteer fire fighters from Houston came to New Orleans wanting to help. They were told to wait. They waited 48 hours and were ordered to go back. A group of doctors from Maryland tried to get in but FEMA sent them on to the Red Cross, which said it could do nothing without the approval of federal health officials.

After the New Orleans mayor made a call for firefighters to come help, hundreds of volunteers were sent to Atlanta, where they were put in a conference room at the Sheraton hotel and subjected to seminars on sexual harassment and other bureaucratic matters. They were then told that their job would be to distribute flyers with a message on it: call 1-800-621-FEMA. Many or even most of these well-trained people caught on to the racket and left town. Those who stuck it out and headed for Louisiana were aghast that their first assignment was not to fight fires, which had been raging for a week, but to escort President Bush on his TV-laden tour of the area.

You can see all the photos on

In fact, FEMA refused offers of help of all sorts, mainly because of issues of control. FEMA declined helped from Amtrak in evacuating people from New Orleans. The Chicago municipal government was trying to send volunteers from the fire department, police department, and hospitals. FEMA said no. The same happened to New Mexico, whose governor volunteered equipment and personnel.

FEMA prevented Wal-Mart from delivering three tank trucks of water, and the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It even cut the communications lines for Jefferson Parish. The local sheriff ending up posting armed guards to protect the restored lines from FEMA ? an interesting model that many communities around the country would do well to imitate in the future.

A chief medical officer for a large ambulance company says he was unable to find helicopters to pick up dying patients at the Superdome. He walked outside and discovered that two helicopters, donated by an oil services company, had been ordered to wait in the parking lot. Morticians attempted to donate their help. But FEMA said absolutely not, on grounds that they were not officially certified by FEMA to perform such services, so the bodies of the dead piled higher.

As for the National Guard, for days it would not allow reporters into the superdome where tens of thousands were trapped. People were hungry and thirsty, but the National Guard would not allow the Red Cross to deliver any food.

Here is the astounding statement from the spokesperson of the Red Cross: "The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans? Right now access is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities?. We cannot get into New Orleans against their orders."

The Salvation Army attempted to rescue two of its own officers trapped in a building and on dialysis. They rented three boats for a rescue. But they were not allowed through, though to be fair the Salvation Army did not specifically name the government as at fault, but it did point out that all private efforts were running into similar kinds of obstacles, so the message was clear.

Meanwhile, the USS Bataan, a floating hospital for 600 patients, that had ridden out the storm, was still sitting empty by the third day, not permitted to do its job.

An astounding case of ineptness comes to us from the case of three Duke University students who drove to New Orleans to help but were turned away by the National Guard. They had seen the news and knew that they could help, and wondered why they should be pushed around by bureaucrats. Being college sophomores, they took a risk. They forged press credentials, with fake IDs and shirts and the works. They went back and adopted a haughty tone. The National Guard waved them through.

Then the students drove to the Convention Center. There they found thousands of sick, hungry, thirsty, and dying people in desperate need. They found a man who had welts all over his body. He was in a tree covered with fire ants as the waters rose, and there he stayed there being bitten repeatedly for up to 24 hours.

The boys picked him up along with three others and drove them to a Baton Rouge hospital. They made another trip there and back with more people before they began to become frightened of what the government might do to them. On one return trip, they observed 150 empty buses driving the other way ? and they have a video to prove it.

One can only express astonishment at how the government treated the tens of thousands of people that it had herded like cattle into large public spaces. For reasons that are still unclear, the government couldn't get its act together on transporting them out even as the people themselves were forbidden to leave. Once the central planners decided to move all these people from the Superdome to the Astrodome, no means of transport arrived, even as aerial photos showed miles and miles of public buses available.

Indeed, the first bus to reach Houston was not driven or approved by the government. It was commandeered by 20-year-old named Jabbar Gibson, who drove it from the floods and picked up as many people as he could and drove all the way to Houston, a 13-hours drive! He beat the government's system by a day. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of people who had been shoved into the Superdome on Sunday, before the floods came, were still suffering in that massive calamity by Friday and Saturday.

Perhaps the most astounding case of incompetence has received the least attention. It relates to a 500-boat flotilla stretching over 5 miles that left for New Orleans from Acadiana Mall in Lafayette. It involved 1,000 people who had hoped to rescue hospital patients and take them to safety. It consisted of private boaters, fishermen, hunters, and others who had spent their entire lives navigating the waterways of Louisiana.

Once this caravan arrived, they were turned away by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, now being run by FEMA. All five hundred boats were ordered out.

After pleading, some people were told that they could take the boats to a rescue operation launch site. They reported that at this site, there were 200 agents of the government standing around doing absolutely nothing even as people were dying in hospitals and thousands were desperate to get out. After three hours, even these few boats were told to go away.

Now, President Bush has been criticized for being out to lunch on all of this. Indeed, some staff members put together a DVD of the evening news coverage for him to watch on Air Force One, which was the only way they could get him to understand the depth of the crisis. The purpose of the action was not so much to help people, of course, but rather to stop the meltdown of the president's reputation.

Now, President Bush has been criticized for being out to lunch on all of this. Indeed, some staff members put together a DVD of the evening news coverage for him to watch on Air Force One, which was the only way they could get him to understand the depth of the crisis. The purpose of the action was not so much to help people, of course, but rather to stop the meltdown of the president?s reputation.

In fact, by the time he actually arrived in Louisiana, food and medicine deliveries, such as they were, had to be halted on order of the White House, to make room for the presidential caravan.

Then there was the matter of the government's proposed cash gifts to the victims of Katrina. Most FEMA employees knew nothing about it when their phones and offices were mauled by people demanding their cash. FEMA's website registration for victims required Internet Explorer 6.0 and could not work with any other browser. Of course this is somewhat academic, since most of the victims had no computer access at all. But those who called the number were often told to go online to register. Most of the time, people couldn't get through on the phone or online.

In one particularly interesting detail, Katrina triggered the first use of the Department of Homeland Security's great accomplishment since it was created after 9-11: the National Response Plan, a 426-page central plan for dealing with a crisis on the level of the post-Katrina floods. Here is how the government describes it:

"The National Response Plan establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. The plan incorporates best practices and procedures from incident management disciplines ? homeland security, emergency management, law enforcement, firefighting, public works, public health, responder and recovery worker health and safety, emergency medical services, and the private sector ? and integrates them into a unified structure. It forms the bases of how the federal government coordinates with state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector during incidents."

What happened to the National Response Plan after the floods? It remained what it always was: a colorful PDF download, a thick book on the management shelves, an item in the Government Printing Office catalog, bird-cage liner, and many other things. One thing it was not was a national response plan that did all those glorious things listed above. As with all these plans from time immemorial, it was a dead letter.

As for the National Guard, it did what the military does best: it started harassing the residents. Working with the police, it began to enforce an order for everyone to evacuate. As the New York Times summarized the order: "no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind."

The National Guard allowed themselves to be videotaped going from house to house, and mansion to mansion, knocking down doors, searching for weapons, handcuffing owners and humiliating them. They called them the "holdouts," a phrase out of Baghdad.

One storm trooper ? that's a pretty good name for them ? was asked whether he would shoot residents if they resisted. Yes, he said. He added, "It's surreal. You never expect to do this in your own country."

The police also broke into the offices of a heroic little company in New Orleans that did not flee. Its name is DirectNIC, an Internet Service Provider, and it was staffed by friends of the Mises Institute. Through careful preparations, good generators, lots of fuel, and vast amounts of courage, this company kept providing internet service throughout. For several days after the flooding, it was the only source of information coming out of New Orleans. They had a camera on the streets below, and ventured out to take pictures of the scenes. They were first to report the looting, the explosions, the fires, and to chronicle the craziness. They became so good at acquiring fuel that they military actually came to them for diesel.

Millions were logging into their feed, and for four of the most critical days the Mises Institute actually provided the group with an external server in order to make their broadcasts possible. They were showing what the mainstream media would not show and could not show. But late one night, there was a pounding at the door. The National Guard had seen lights in the window and demanded to know what was going on in this room. Though these young people had already been interviewed on MSNBC, Fox, and were the talk of the blogosphere, the troops knew nothing about them. Astounded and confused at what they saw, the troops allowed their pictures to be taken and went on their way.

I've provided a look at some of the terrible failures by the government ? not only failing to do what it claims it will do, but actively working to prevent others from helping out. The cost to human life and prosperity is incalculable. But, one might say, at least the government is generous now in preparing to spend perhaps $250 billion to clean up and reconstruct what was destroyed.

But who will get this money and where will it go? Cynics could not be more correct: the first companies to receive the money were our old friend Kellogg Brown and Root, a current client of President Bush's former campaign manager and former head of FEMA. KBR is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Dick Cheney. Another winner is Bechtel, whose former head is now in charge of Bush's Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The top rebuilding priority: repairing government military bases in Louisiana and Mississippi.

If you work for one of these companies, you will do very well by this aid. As for the victims, everyone knows that what rebuilding they do will come from their own savings. You can expect no assistance from this monstrosity that taxes and controls you relentlessly on the pretext that it will protect you and care for you when no one else will.

Fortunately for people who lived in flooded areas, they did not face the crisis alone. The private commercial sector, along with thousands of religious charities, was there to help. Indeed, John Tierney of the New York Times was one of the few mainstream journalists to note that Wal-Mart improved its image after Katrina. Its stores in the disaster-stricken areas still carried generators in areas. Wal-Mart trucks rode into to areas immediately following the hurricane and gave away chain saws, boots, sheets, and clothes for shelters, plus water and ice. It alone had prepared for emergency with its own emergency operations center.

Chris Westley further noted that Wal-Mart gave $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals, and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers. After comparing FEMA's failures with Wal-Mart's successes, he concluded that the government emergency management ought to be abolished.

Tierney, meanwhile, drew the wrong conclusion. He says that the Wal-Mart CEO "is the kind of leader we need to oversee the tens or hundreds of billions that Washington will be spending on the Gulf Coast. Scott could insist on low everyday prices while still leaving the area as well prepared for the next disaster as Wal-Mart was for Katrina."

In fact, if Lee Scott were given a government job, it would only be a matter of time before he became just another Michael Brown, the disgraced former FEMA head. This isn't a matter of character. It is a matter of the maze in which you find yourself ? the one made by the market so that it has large exit signs, or the one that is government's, that is, the one with no exits at all.

As Walter Block, Mark Thornton, and many others have shown, it was not the storm as such that did the damage, but the failure of the government levees. Combined with the levees-only river management strategy of the Army Corps of Engineers, the floods were a disaster waiting to happen. Just imagine if the town were private like your home or car. Insurance companies would have taken a huge role in risk assessment, not only charging more for higher risk but insisting on management strategies that reduce risk and rewarding those who adopt those strategies with better premiums. This works on the same principles as you home owners' insurance, which combines rules and incentives to reduce the likelihood of losses.

Government insurance, however, makes us less cautious and more willing to take risks. It prices coverage from losses far too low and creates an environment where disasters like flooding are waiting to happen. With programs like subsidized flood insurance, government is like a bad mother who pays her children to run with scissors.

Government ownership is even worse because there are no signaling systems in operation at all. It was also government that created a false sense of security for people in New Orleans, who were led to believe that the levees would hold and pumps would work. And when the floods finally did come, they were told the government would be there to manage the crisis.

But the government cannot manage crisis, as the response to Katrina demonstrated. The local government fled. The state government was dithering. And the federal government actively worked to prevent good things from happening. The thousands and millions of acts of private heroism that took place after Katrina occurred despite the government and not because of it.

And yet what lessons does the political culture want us to take from this? It is the same lessons we are instructed to learn after NASA spends and spends and still can't seem to make a reliable space shuttle. We are told that NASA needs more money. The public schools absorb many times more ? thousands times more ? in resources than private schools, and still can't perform well. So we are told that they need more money.

The federal government spends trillions over years to "protect" the country and can't fend off a handful of malcontents with an agenda. And so we are told that the government needs to start several new wars and erect a massive new bureaucracy and put sections of the country under martial law at the slightest sign of trouble.

So too, Congress can allocate a trillion dollars to fix every levee, fully preventing the last catastrophe, but not the next one. The real problem is the same in all these cases, not insufficient resources but public ownership and management.

Public ownership has encouraged people to adopt a negligent attitude toward even such obvious risks. Private developers and owners, in contrast, demand to know every possible scenario as a way to protect their property. But public owners have no real stake in the outcome and lack the economic capacity to calibrate resource allocation to risk assessment. In other words, the government manages irresponsibly and incompetently.

Actually, it was Mr. Bush who said one of the most sensible things, on September 2, 2005: "If you want to help, if you're listening to this broadcast, contribute cash to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross?. They're on the front lines providing help to the people who need help."

But it was two weeks later when his other instincts kicked in and he delivered a very different message, one that is deeply alarming. He said: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces ? the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."

Interesting that his beloved military was not there at a moment's notice. It now cites its own failures as the great excuse to expand its powers. So the government will spend the next several years preparing for another Katrina that will never come, just as it spent the last several years preparing for another 9-11 that will never come. The next crisis will be something completely unexpected, and once again the government will fail. But we will be left with a government with some very bad habits, among which are declarations of martial law, mandatory evacuations, gun and price controls, and other totalitarian ways.

And given that that this is a Republican administration with its own internal culture, and its attachment to military means, we get what can only be described as the continuation of the fascist track: the militarization of the country under its own armed forces.

So far as I know, this passing remark by Mr. Bush has provoked no commentary in the national press. Commentators in the organized conservative movement have displayed an appalling deference to administration's priorities, with National Review consistently arguing for more spending and militarization, Rush Limbaugh calling for price gougers to be strung up, and even some free-market friends calling for billions to rebuild New Orleans as a way of showing terrorists that we won't let the weather get in the way of progress. On the last point, I kid you not.

Conservatives have been especially bad on tolerating egregious uses of the military. We need to reflect on what it means to have the military take over in the event of crisis. What kind of ideology promotes such things, and looks the other way when it happens? I think I know, and it serves as a reminder that not all threats to freedom come from the Left.

A clue comes from the neo-Nazi novel called the Turner Diaries, sometimes cited as the motivating force for the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building, which ends in what the author regards as a political utopia. After a world war that exterminates all non-whites, a military regime takes over the United States and centrally plans the economy under permanent martial law. All food and water are distributed on military trucks, all production takes place on a planned basis, and the merchant class is required to obey or be shot.

The author describes this race-based national socialism as if it is a system with an inherent appeal to the reader, and perhaps there are people economically ignorant enough and full of enough loathing for humanity and freedom to regard it as attractive. I do know that in our own times there are people waiting in the wings who long for power and who are drawn to the ideal of a militarized society and a centrally managed economy. Some call themselves conservatives, and they are as much a threat to civilization as those who call themselves liberals.

But let me end with several notes of optimism. The first is implied in all that I said above. The government cannot actually do what it promises, and there is a way in which we can only be thankful for that. It cannot succeed in managing a central plan. Its plans will always fail. The government tries to use its failures as an excuse for more power, but with every failure comes a substantial degree of public humiliation for the public sector, and that humiliation can provide a basis for the undoing of government authority.

Some people say that a loss of government authority will mean the breakdown of civilization. Actually it will create the preconditions for the reestablishment of civilization, and in a state of freedom that can happen very quickly. The aftermath of Katrina illustrated in a million individual acts of charity and enterprise that people can manage their affairs, even amidst the chaos.

The calamity following Katrina was an egregious display, one that gave the federal government a black eye. The Democrats will continue to use this to harm the Republicans, which is fine by me, but it is not just Mr. Bush that is suffering, but the whole apparatus of central planning by decree from above. A government that cannot manage a crisis should not be trusted to manage anything at all. Thanks to Katrina and its dreadful aftermath, I think it's fair to say that the age of not trusting government has returned with a vengeance.

It took decades for the rot to give way underneath the Soviet apparatus of central planning. But eventually the implausibility of the entire project was no longer possible to deny. It gave way under an intellectual reaction against the whole of socialism. We are seeing something like that take place today, as government fails in Iraq and New Orleans and in every place around the country and the world where it causes problems and creates no solutions.

The age of confident central planning is behind us. Right now, the state is just trying to keep its head above water. If freedom is to have a future, the time will come when it will sink to an ignoble end, and we will wonder how we ever believed in this myth called government crisis management.

The advocates of freedom and the partisans of private enterprise will be there with the intellectual equivalent of flotillas, barges, buses, helicopters, and the whole apparatus necessary to rescue liberty from every attempt to kill it. And when our City on a Hill comes to be, it will be privately built to withstand any flood.
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Posts: 784

« Reply #58 on: October 18, 2005, 05:45:40 PM »

Is Your Printer Spying On You?

Help EFF Watch the Watchers

Update, October 13th
Learn to decode Xerox DocuColor tracking dots using our guide - or use our decoding program to decode them.
Imagine that every time you printed a document, it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer - and potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of "Alias," right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn't fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters, the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent, an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you're using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what's worse, there are no laws to prevent abuse.

The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups, including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate, it's not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.

Yet there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of your printer manufacturer currently protects you (if indeed such a policy exists). And no law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

With no laws on the books, there's nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason, EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how - a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy. And we could use your help.

In the preliminary research paper linked below, we explain what we've observed so far, briefly explore the privacy implications, and ask you to print and send us test sheets from your color laser printer and/or a color laser printer at your local print shop. That way, we can watch the watchers and ensure that your privacy isn't compromised in ways that harm your fundamental consitutional rights.

In addition to documenting what printers are revealing, EFF has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and we will keep you updated on what we discover. In the meantime, we urge you to participate and pass the word along about this research project. Thank you for your support!

More information

White paper: "Investigating Machine Identification Code Technology in Color Laser Printers"
Directions for printing test sheets
FOIA request
DocuColor Tracking Dot Decoding Guide
List of printers that do or do not print tracking dots
Andrew "bunnie" Huang's research on printer watermarking, including a modified scanner that scans only in blue

Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents PCWorld, 2005
Dutch Track Counterfeits Via Printer Serial Numbers. PCWorld, 2004
FBI Is Keeping Documents on ACLU and Other Peaceful Groups ACLU, 2005
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #59 on: October 23, 2005, 10:20:45 PM »


A Weapon Prone To Abuse

--Brenda Grantland, Esq., F.E.A.R. Chronicles, Vol. 1 No. 2,
(June, 1992)

For years the Justice Department has been lobbying Congress
for expansion of its forfeiture powers, for broader definitions of
property subject to forfeiture, and for procedures which give the
government greater and greater advantages over claimants. Their
lobbying has produced the current statutes, which put the burden of
proof on the claimant, make claimants pay in advance the
government's costs of forfeiture proceedings, and in all other
ways imaginable put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice in favor
of the government and to the detriment of the claimant.

The feds have used their powers to the fullest, declaring
"ZERO TOLERANCE" to be their policy. Zero Tolerance means no
sympathy for innocent owners of ships -- such as the Monkey
Business (of Gary Hart fame) or Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute's floating lab that surveyed the ruins of the Titanic --
when a crew member is found by raiding customs agents to be in
possession of personal use quantities of drugs.

Zero tolerance also means parents, grandparents, spouses,
friends, business partners, finance companies, landlords and all
manner of unsuspecting people get caught up in forfeiture
proceedings because of something someone else did which is beyond
their control.

Although the statutes are supposed to protect innocent third
parties -- according to the hype the Justice department is feeding
us -- in reality innocent people are losing property as often as

These overbroad powers give law enforcement the unlimited
discretion to destroy the financial lives of innocent citizens, to
take away from them their status achieved over a lifetime of hard
work and "upward mobility."

These overbroad powers are often used to discriminate between
the powerful and the powerless. As a prime example of this,
consider the case of Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Ohta of
Hartford, Connecticut -- the Iron Matron of forfeiture. As head of
her office's asset forfeiture unit she was ruthless and extremely
successful, with her unit netting more than $26 million since 1986.
According to the Hartford Courant, "Ohta's aggressive pursuit of
these asset forfeiture cases has won her national recognition in
the ranks of federal prosecutors, and she frequently lectures them
on how to apply the law." (3-22-92).

As head of her unit, Ohta mercilessly pursued Zero Tolerance,
making innocent parents and grandparents pay for the wrongdoings of
their offspring. The Hartford Courant reported that on several
occasions Ms. Ohta argued that "people should know what goes on in
their own homes." (3-22-92).

Presumably Ohta knew what was going on in her own home when
her son Miki began using and selling drugs.

The Hartford Courant reported that the first incident happened
in 1989 when Miki allegedly sold marijuana to an undercover
informant from his parents' home. Miki had another scrape with the
law in December 1991, when he was arrested for allegedly selling 50
"hits" of LSD from his parents' car on September 3, 1991, and for
possession of marijuana when stopped by police, again in his
parents' car, on September 29, 1991. In the September 29 incident,
his companion was allegedly in possession of two "hits" of LSD.

Was Mrs. Ohta's property forfeited? No.

As a result of relentless pursuit of this issue by the
Hartford Courant, and an article by the Connecticut Law Tribune,
the ironies of this situation did not escape public notice. The
U.S. Attorney's Office transferred Leslie Ohta to another unit, at
least temporarily.

In the end, however, the U.S. Attorney's Office decided that
forfeiture of Ohta's property would be "inappropriate".

Most of the forfeiture defense attorneys interviewed by the
Hartford Courant agreed that Ohta's assets should not be forfeited
-- not because she was a well-connected flag-waving forfeiture-
winning Assistant U.S. Attorney, but because, in principle, neither
she nor any of the innocent people she so hypocritically forfeited
property from should be punished for the actions of their children,
grandchildren or acquaintances.

I agree except for the double standard. If the people
prosecuting these forfeiture laws are held to the same standard as
the people they have prosecuted, either Leslie Ohta's house and car
should be forfeited or the government should be forced to give back
the property it took from other innocent parents, grandparents and
third parties. This should include all the innocent victims in the
country since the main Justice Department gave the blessing to
excuse Ohta for her son's crimes.

We want to follow up on this and make sure justice is done.
Please write us if you have any information about Ohta cases or
other Zero Tolerance victims. Send us your opinion (or share it
through the computer bulletin board) on whether Mrs. Ohta's
treatment should also be the standard for forfeiture victims not
employed by the Justice Department. If you want to share your
thoughts with the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office, write U.S.
Attorney Albert Dabrowski, Esq., 450 Main Street, Room 328,
Hartford, CT 06103, or you can write Leslie Ohta herself at 2273
Hebron Ave., Glastonbury, CT.


Source articles:

The Hartford Courant and Connecticut Law Tribune news
clippings relied upon for this editorial are available for computer
download through ICSBBS under the filename OHTAW.ZIP OR OHTAA.ZIP.
They are: Rule Lawyer Upholds Might Focus On Her, Lynne Tuohy,
Hartford Courant staff writer, 3-22-92; Feds Reorder House As
Forfeitures Hit Home, Andrew Houlding, Connecticut Law Tribune, 3-
23-92; Let Innocent People Keep Assets; Toss Out Unjust Rules,
Denis Horgan, Hartford Courant Columnist, 3-25-92; Haunted By the
Law She Enforced, editorial Hartford Courant, 4-29-92; Prosecutor
Won't Lose Property in Son's Drug Arrest, Lynne Tuohy, Hartford
Courant staff writer, 4-23-92.
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #60 on: November 07, 2005, 12:16:50 AM »

FBI Patriot Act Plan Concerns Lawmakers

WASHINGTON - Lawmakers expressed concern Sunday that the FBI was aggressively pushing the powers of the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act to access private phone and financial records of ordinary people.

"We should be looking at that very closely," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It appears to me that this is, if not abused, being close to abused."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed, saying the government's expanded power highlights the risks of balancing national security against individual rights.

"It does point up how dangerous this can be," said Hagel, who appeared with Biden on ABC's "This Week."

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters allowing the investigations each year, a hundred-fold increase over historic norms, The Washington Post reported Sunday, quoting unnamed government sources.

The security letters, which were first used in the 1970s, allow access to people's phone and e-mail records, as well as financial data and the Internet sites they surf. The 2001 Patriot Act removed the requirement that the records sought be those of someone under suspicion.

As a result, FBI agents can review the digital records of a citizen as long as the bureau can certify that the person's records are "relevant" to a terrorist investigation.

Calling the recent growth in the number of letters a "stunner," Biden said, "Thirty thousand seems like an awful, awful stretch to me."

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Sunday that he could not immediately confirm or dispute the 30,000 figure, but he said the power to use the security letters was justified.

"The Department of Justice inspector general in August 2005 found no civil rights violations with respect to the Patriot Act," he said.

Issued by the FBI without review by a judge, the letters are used to obtain electronic records from "electronic communications service providers." Such providers include Internet service companies but also universities, public interest organizations and almost all libraries, because most provide access to the Internet.

Last September in an ACLU lawsuit, a federal judge in New York struck down this provision as unconstitutional on grounds that it restrains free speech and bars or deters judicial challenges to government searches.

That ruling has been suspended pending an appeal to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a hearing last week the court suggested it might require the government to permit libraries, major corporations and other groups to challenge FBI demands for records.

The Patriot Act provision involving national security letters was enacted permanently in 2001, so it was not part of Congress' debate last summer over extending some Patriot Act provisions.

As the Dec. 31 deadline has approached for Congress to renew provisions of the act, the House and Senate have voted to make noncompliance with a national security letter a criminal offense.

Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the expanded use of security letters was a "clear concern" and that information gathered on citizens should be destroyed if it does not lead to a criminal charge.

Coburn said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he "certainly will" take steps to ensure that the documents are destroyed immediately.

A message left with the ACLU was not immediately returned on Sunday.
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #61 on: December 01, 2005, 11:24:45 AM »

December 01, 2005, 8:23 a.m.
Wishing Drug-Warrior Thinking
No, the U.S. is not winning a battle vs. Coke.

By Ted Galen Carpenter

If you had received a dollar every time a U.S. government official announced that victory was near at hand in the war on drugs, you would be a rich person. The latest "turning point" proclamation came on November 16 when the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy cited evidence that Washington had achieved a breakthrough in the fight to staunch the flow of cocaine coming into the United States.

What caused this burst of optimism? The street price of cocaine rose 19 percent to $170 per gram between February and November 2005. White House officials contend the price increase indicates a shortage of cocaine, thus validating Washington's $4 billion effort to wipe out drug crops in Colombia through aerial spraying. In addition to the price spike, officials assert that the purity of cocaine on America's streets has declined 15 percent ? another sign, they say, that supply is dwindling. "These numbers confirm that the levels of interdiction, the levels of eradication, have reduced the availability of cocaine in the United States," White House drug czar John P. Walters boasted. "The policy is working."

Yet the government's own data suggest that such optimism is overblown. For the past twelve years, street prices of cocaine have fluctuated between $120 and $190 per gram. Clearly, a price of $170 is well within that "normal" range. Indeed, the price of cocaine has fluctuated 19 percent or more ? both up and down ? many times during the twelve-year period. The latest fluctuation is nothing to get excited about.

If one examines the price trend over a longer period, the "achievement" is even less impressive. During the early 1980s, cocaine sold for more than $500 per gram. The long-term trend has clearly been toward lower prices, suggesting that the supply of cocaine has become more plentiful. As Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Lindesmith Center's Drug Policy Foundation, notes: "A small blip upward after so many years of decline in price and increase in purity is essentially meaningless."

Other statistics, including some from the federal government itself, cast doubt on the argument that the cocaine supply coming out of South America is being squeezed in any significant manner. Earlier this year, even after reporting that 336,000 acres of coca plants (the raw ingredient for cocaine) had been eradicated through spraying in 2004, the White House conceded that the amount of coca across Colombia had remained "statistically unchanged" from 2003. The news out of Bolivia and Peru, two other major sources of cocaine, was even worse: According to a United Nations report issued in June 2005, coca cultivation in Peru was up 14 percent from the previous year. In Bolivia it was up 17 percent.

Worst of all, even if by some miracle the supply-side campaign against cocaine (and other drugs) succeeded, it would be a dubious achievement. Let's say cocaine prices returned to the levels of the early 1980s. The inevitable result would be that people who have a cocaine addiction would be driven to commit even more crimes than they do today to support their habit. That would not enhance the peace and safety of America's cities.

The reality is that a supply-side strategy of drug prohibition cannot produce a worthwhile result. If it fails and drug supplies remain plentiful, it is a waste of time and money. If it "succeeds" and creates a supply shortage and a resulting price spike, it drives addicts into lives of greater and greater criminal behavior. One would be hard-pressed to come up with a better definition of an inherently bankrupt policy.

John Walters may boast about the latest alleged triumph in the war on drugs all he wishes. But at best, it is nothing more than a minor, temporary, and dubious achievement in an unwinnable war.

? Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of seven books on international affairs, including Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America.
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« Reply #62 on: December 22, 2005, 01:31:09 AM »

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey

From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 22 December 2005

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.
Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.
The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.
Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.
Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.
But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for years.
The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form the basis of a sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at the heart of an operation designed to drive criminals off the road.
In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled opportunities to gather intelligence data on the movements and associations of organised gangs and terrorist suspects whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.
The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the spending of ?24m this year on equipment.
More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.
Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.
"Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the car's index plates will be read as well," said Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the Acpo steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).
"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.
The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes "You're not necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's moving with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.
According to a strategy document drawn up by Acpo, the national data centre in Hendon will be at the heart of a surveillance operation that should deny criminals the use of the roads.
"The intention is to create a comprehensive ANPR camera and reader infrastructure across the country to stop displacement of crime from area to area and to allow a comprehensive picture of vehicle movements to be captured," the Acpo strategy says.
"This development forms the basis of a 24/7 vehicle movement database that will revolutionise arrest, intelligence and crime investigation opportunities on a national basis," it says.
Mr Whiteley said MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly there are values for this in counter-terrorism," he said.
"The security services will use it for purposes that I frankly don't have access to. It's part of public protection. If the security services did not have access to this, we'd be negligent."

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.
Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.
The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.
Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.
Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.
But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for years.
The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form the basis of a sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at the heart of an operation designed to drive criminals off the road.
In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled opportunities to gather intelligence data on the movements and associations of organised gangs and terrorist suspects whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.
The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the spending of ?24m this year on equipment.
More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.

Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.
"Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the car's index plates will be read as well," said Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the Acpo steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).
"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.
The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes "You're not necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's moving with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.
According to a strategy document drawn up by Acpo, the national data centre in Hendon will be at the heart of a surveillance operation that should deny criminals the use of the roads.
"The intention is to create a comprehensive ANPR camera and reader infrastructure across the country to stop displacement of crime from area to area and to allow a comprehensive picture of vehicle movements to be captured," the Acpo strategy says.
"This development forms the basis of a 24/7 vehicle movement database that will revolutionise arrest, intelligence and crime investigation opportunities on a national basis," it says.
Mr Whiteley said MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly there are values for this in counter-terrorism," he said.
"The security services will use it for purposes that I frankly don't have access to. It's part of public protection. If the security services did not have access to this, we'd be negligent."
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« Reply #63 on: January 17, 2006, 09:24:30 PM »

How the Grinch Stole Nanotech and More
by Michael S. Rozeff

When Richard Feynman gave a visionary talk in 1959 entitled "There?s Plenty of Room at the Bottom," the renowned physicist set out the idea of molecular nanotechnology. He spoke of reducing 24 million book volumes to a cube only 0.02 inches wide. He spoke of atomic-level machines producing other such machines. He spoke of creating molecules atom by atom. None of his visions violated the laws of physics. All were feasible. If big technical problems could be overcome, the practical uses would be phenomenal.

Feynman talked about discovery "just for the fun of it." He talked about "some kind of high school competition." If it took an economic incentive to "excite you to do it," he?d give "$1,000 to the first guy who can" reduce a page by 1/25,000 so that it could be read by an electron microscope. Feynman was sane to think of high school students making breakthroughs. He was sane to think of discovery for the fun of it, coming in first, or a minor prize. Feynman?s still big. It?s the times that have grown small.

Feynman didn?t mention the government. He had just resigned from the National Academy of Sciences (set up by an Act of Congress in 1863) because of its elitism. Earlier, concerned that Hitler would develop the atomic bomb first, he had worked on the Manhattan Project. In 1986 he disapproved of the cover-up politics of the commission investigating the Challenger accident. On television, he gave a simple demonstration of how the vehicle?s O-rings had failed. This took some O-ring material, a glass of ice water, and a clamp. It didn?t require federal funding.

As a schoolboy Feynman learned science by reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. At home he set up a lab. He taught himself elementary math. Feynman?s IQ was reportedly between 124 and 137, not at the so-called genius level. He thought intensely about important problems. He knew physics. He knew the great works and theories. Yet he also knew that to generate new ideas, his own ideas, he had to question and disregard, even not know, what everybody else was doing. He had to follow his own instincts. He knew how to nurture his own creativity. This counted for a great deal. It still does.

In his talk, Feynman didn?t mention the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF is a government agency that distributes tax dollars to universities for research. It began in 1951 with a $200,000 budget (in today?s dollars). This grew to $39 million in 1957 and leaped to $133 million when the Russians placed Sputnik in orbit. Feynman was someone very special who kept asking "why" until he found an interesting problem. Intense curiosity drove him, not money. His self-motivated puzzle-solving began years before the NSF started.

Feynman was no libertarian, but he had a healthy skepticism of government. He did very important work without the support of grants. Being a theoretical physicist, he could not help but use the products of experiments supported with government money. He knew that government money corrupted scientific work and objectivity. Concerning the Challenger he wrote:

"Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers."

In a 1974 commencement speech, he put it this way:

"So I have just one wish for you ? the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom."

In a 1963 lecture published in the book, The Meaning of It All, he wrote:

"No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race."

Federal money does not produce Feynmans. It points them in unproductive directions. Today the NSF pays out $5.5 billion a year, which is one-fifth of what the Federal government pays to colleges and universities. Total federal research spending runs upwards of $75 billion, perhaps 20?30 percent of the total throughout the U.S.

Decades after Feynman?s talk, the NSF and many government agencies have dug their claws deeply into nanotechnology and science. Conventional wisdom makes this support out to be critical for the economy. A Rand report reads: "The positive impact of research and development (?R&D?) investments of the federal government on the U.S. economy is widely recognized by experts and is credited with underpinning much of the nation?s economic growth during the 20th century." The Soviet Union made the same false claim. GNP grew and people stayed poor.

Growth in GNP is not the same as individual well-being. Investments in pyramids, space centers, moon voyages, and nuclear arsenals do not equate to greater happiness, progress in human well-being, or even take-home pay. The truth is the opposite of what the Rand report says. Force, taxes, subsidies, bureaucracies, races to get grant money, academic castles with moats, gold-plated laboratories, and distorted incentives ? none of these are progressive institutions. Freedom is the condition that encourages more ideas, more valuable ideas, more useful ideas. Only freedom can encourage the expression of thoughts and actions that an individual values and that give value and meaning to others. The motivations that stimulate an individual to produce valuable ideas or actions are highly various, very diverse, deeply buried inside people, and hard to discern by the person himself or others. Outsize government grants and free lunches paid for by taxpayers divert and distort these motivations. They undermine creativity and value creation. They corrupt individuals and steer them away from themselves. They channel thought and activity into pathways that give outsize gains to a few and losses to many. Like any robbery, they harm the victim and the robber produces nothing productive.

The universities who receive scientific research money glamorize it as necessary to economic progress. Babies, red wine, word processors, the internet, dreams, recreation, art, and physical activity also affect growth. Shall taxpayers subsidize all of these and more? No one really knows what a statistic like economic growth means or is worth. Still less does anyone know the value of any item in adding to this statistic. No one is in a position to measure human happiness and rearrange taxes and subsidies to increase it. The effort to do so can only decrease happiness.
One may believe that humans are engaging in too little scientific thinking. After all, one is entitled to one?s illusions of knowledge. That is what it is, because there is surely no way to know how much scientific thinking is going on inside people?s heads and surely no way to measure the value of such thinking. To act on such a flimsy proposition and subsidize particular lines of scientific thought is sheer folly. If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that subsidizing research projects retards well-being. It directly robs the taxpayers. They are made unable to express their preferences except through a collective and complex political process that is inferior to individual choice. The tax-funding insulates the chosen projects from accountability. It reduces the need to produce something of value that people will pay for voluntarily. University bureaucracies insulate science research from consumers and businesses. The scientific community?s answer to some of these objections is that to filter out poor projects and ideas, government grants are mediated and blind-refereed by panels of expert scientists. This may be so, but since they do not face the risks of an accepted project?s failure and since they do not value its cost as taxpayers might, this "objective" process does not get rid of the system?s ills.

Scientific research is like any other factor that goes into producing a good. It has a cost and a marginal value product. Left alone, it faces market discipline. Government interference with the markets for knowledge makes us worse off.

President Clinton set the nanotech invaders in motion. On January 21, 2000, a White House press release announced the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Clinton requested a $227 million budget, up from $123 million in the prior year. He named six government agencies as beneficiaries. Later more piled on. This year?s NNI budget is up to $1 billion. Many states have added more. Private sector investment exceeds that of the Federal government, but the federal and state nanotech invaders are pressing forward, aided and abetted by a science lobby.

Clinton twisted Feynman?s clear and accessible vision into a "new frontier" needing tax money. The press release read: "This initiative establishes Grand Challenges to fund interdisciplinary research and education teams, including centers and networks, that work for major, long-term objectives." The Federal Grinch again stole Christmas. He became a fake Santa Claus speaking bureaucratese and writing checks to scientists and their students.

The press release told who?d receive the invoices. The taxpayer will pay for large amounts of university research. The taxpayer will subsidize the costs of training new scientists. The taxpayer will keep paying for decades.

It might take 20 or more years to achieve the research goals, the release opined. This "is precisely why there is an important role for the Federal government," it argued. Ridiculous! If the payoffs of nanotech are that big, then even if they are 20 years off, there is an incentive to research them now. If not, then the research can wait. Resources are limited. Scientists and entrepreneurs may wish to pursue more pressing demands.
Feynman, foreseeing big payoffs, confidently expected bright young scientists to attack the problems and solve them. He also counted on the drives present in human nature. In contrast, the White House fretted about goals that were so far, far off that no one would want to work out the problems on his own. In this view, there were no such things as dedicated or curious scientists, no profit-oriented businesses, and no entrepreneurs. Government must force taxpayers to pay for scientific thought. Government must coordinate team efforts. Government must recruit and pay experts to make the nanotech revolution happen.
Strange that the press release failed to mention the other benefits of subsidies: government control, government growth, dependency of science on government, an image of government progressiveness, attracting voters, and money flowing to universities and scientists.
Danton said "L?audace; toujours l?audace!" Our government has the incredible audacity to suggest that without federal subsidies, nanotechnology will not progress scientifically and technically. Businesses are already proving this false, but government?s false advertising is endemic. Government steals from the taxpayer to set up scientific bureaucracies. It meddles. It stifles, distorts and retards the natural scientific process with infusions of federal money and direction. It absorbs science into government and undermines its ethos. It tampers with a valuable social enterprise and risks wrecking it. But none of this is enough. The government also must deplore the ability of science to act on its own. The government must advertise itself as the savior of scientific progress.

Scientific minds make discoveries and advances for their own reasons and motivations. The reasons are as varied as human beings are. They can be mystical, religious, oddball, deranged, monetary, playful, emotional, or inquiring. Scientists should be let alone, to play or work as they please, to work on basic or applied problems as they please. They should not be diverted or dammed up like a river. When a person works on a problem he chooses in his own way, there is no telling what the outcome will be. The free mind works in mysterious ways. It is common to work on one problem and be led into quite another. Serendipity occurs. Accidental discoveries occur.

Critics of the NNI observe that it is not even supporting Feynman?s vision of molecular nanotechnology (MNT):

"Despite this controversy, the Feynman vision of MNT continues to inspire students and researchers around the world, and the public increasingly expects MNT as part of their future. However, based on false arguments, the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has rejected MNT, thwarting students and crippling research. This is unfortunate, because research in pursuit of MNT offers fruitful areas for scientific discovery and practical application. It is time to reverse this obstructive policy, opening the door to progress toward understanding, developing, and guiding this revolutionary technology."

Unfortunately, government has the bucks to buy and pay for minds. Government can induce them to build nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Government can suck them into programs to land on the moon or Pluto. Government can direct research in directions it chooses. But who benefits and how much is lost? We have lost untold benefits of inquiry and science by forcing tax money into weapons and rocket development. We have shunted aside what scientists might be curious about or what individuals might truly value. We lose by force-feeding nanotech research. If government stays out of nanotech, entrepreneurs will still develop those new technologies and scientific advances that pay. There will be more and better science. Less capital will be wasted on pyramid-type projects with low or negative returns.

The government is placing bets on the unknown future of nanotechnology. This is the job of risk-taking scientists and entrepreneurs. Businesses know how to form research consortia. They can set up research labs and fund joint ventures. They will do more if government will get rid of capital gains taxes and stop worrying about anti-trust. They will do an appropriate amount of evaluation of risk if the justice system will handle liability issues properly. A company should be responsible for damages it causes and not be responsible for damages it does not cause. Liabilities should not be shifted to taxpayers. Once government gets into the act, private decisions get distorted. Private companies then have an incentive to lobby for federally funded research in order to benefit from the "free" discoveries.

In today?s tech industries, the best brains have trouble divining what consumers will value. They are currently competing over entertainment in the living room or on the streets. Apple guessed at iPod and won. Microsoft is guessing at Xbox 360. Tech investing is no place for government bureaucrats. Governments tax, subsidize and regulate. Tech R&D belongs to a different world.

Subsidized nanotech research makes us worse off. It ignores what we value individually. It ignores risk. It ignores the time value of money and costs of capital. Just as we have government-produced surpluses of food grains, nuclear weapons, missiles, wars, airport inspectors, people in poverty, bureaucrats, regulators, laws, ethanol, and paper money, we will have nanotech-engineered products that people would not willingly pay the unsubsidized price for. If coal workers were subsidized as scientists are, there?d be more coal companies, coal mines and cheaper coal, but taxpayers would have less money to spend on fuels they prefer and everything else. They?d end up worse off. Nanotech subsidies, if not entirely wasted on fruitless research, will end up with nanotech-produced products that do not pay their way.

At present there exist 45 university centers devoted solely to nanotech: four under NASA?s wing, 11 under the National Institutes of Health, 29 more under NSF, and three more under the DOD. These all obtain major research funding from the Federal government, sometimes supplemented by corporate sponsors. The universities rake off significant funds for overhead. The federal grants often help to support graduate students. This system of government support for science and universities is entrenched. It got a boost from the success of the Manhattan Project. Its modern history began with the promotion efforts of Vannevar Bush as early as 1940 for the National Defense Research Committee and later for government-funded research support in general. Its older history begins with the Morrill Act of 1862 that began land grant colleges.
Universities lobby their states and the Federal government, quite successfully. For example, the 1982 Bayh-Dole Act transferred invention rights to universities. While taxpayers pay the bills, individual researchers and universities capitalize on the research, thereby compounding the felony.

The working subcommittee of the NNI has produced a 120-page document titled "Nanotechnology: Societal Implications ? Maximizing Benefits for Humanity." The NNI money is attracting not only physical but also social scientists. They want subsidies for their research on the social impacts of nanotechnology. Some want something far more dangerous than that. They want to control innovation every step of the way. In their own bloated and ornate language, here are a few items on their current wish list.

"...the government should support the implementation of training programs to equip underutilized scientists and engineers with nanotechnology-related skills."

"Federal support should be provided for K-12 curriculum development and educational programs on nanotechnology awareness..."

"It is also recommended that substantial investment be made to explore yet unanswered research questions related to the implications of nanotechnology on national security..."

"Investment in the National Nanotechnology Initiative must be sufficient, both in a broad range of research to advance the technology and in studies on the societal implications, so that the people of the world will gain the maximum benefit."

"Although there was disagreement over our ability to predict either future advances in nanotechnology or their societal implications, workshop participants generally agreed that the government should fund research to identify potential implications to the extent that such can be determined. Furthermore, the government should attempt to facilitate beneficial impacts and to mitigate negative impacts where they might be expected to emerge."

"The government should review research aimed at understanding the human health and environmental consequences of nanomaterials and adjust funding as necessary to address areas where more information is needed."

"The government should review the adequacy of the current regulatory environment for nanomaterials..."

"Increased capabilities and funding should be developed for conducting science and technology studies in educational contexts, in industrial contexts, and among the public. Workforce development should be undertaken across the full spectrum of job roles, not just among research scientists."

"The National Nanotechnology Initiative will proactively fund R&D for new nanoscale capabilities to ensure the maximum improvement of the quality of life at both the individual and societal levels. At the global as well as local levels, we must act wisely to improve the sustainability of the world around us. Four key areas are food, water, energy, and preservation of the environment."

"In order to preserve the environment, we must use nanotechnology to remediate air and water pollution, produce systems and materials that contribute to reducing resource consumption and waste production,..."
"...national security should consider the ease with which information is transferred, particularly in the academic environment...Collaborative networks in the sciences have expanded in size and grown increasingly international. Research is needed on the magnitude of the risk this relatively free exchange of ideas has on U.S. competitiveness and security."

"We need to anticipate and guide change in order to design the future of our choice, not just one of our making. We want society to be prepared for, though not necessarily control, the results of far-reaching research."

"There is a broad consensus that rational management of the innovation process, including nanotechnology innovation, must involve a variety of stakeholders beyond the scientific community, including representatives of the general public. The wide range of interests in society must provide value-based inputs that can be used to balance economic development needs with those of human health, the environment, and, more broadly, the quality of life."

Social scientists armed with the State?s power pose a great danger to society, more so than NSF subsidies. Judging from their rhetoric, there are those who are totalitarian elitists. They want to control the human being the way that a lion tamer controls the big cats. They view human beings as state resources. Humans for them exist to be trained, indoctrinated, manipulated, drugged if need be, and prepared for an occupation. Human endeavor for them is something to be rationalized, managed, measured, maximized, and controlled ? by the social scientists. Public policy and society ? formed and ruled by social scientists ? take precedence over the individual. Their ideal world has no spontaneous order and no market and price processes. Society and humans are mechanisms one controls. They cover their tracks by adopting popular themes of democracy. They espouse themes of environmentalism, safety, health, and public rationality. They use these as wedges to justify and rationalize what they really want ? social control.

We can hope that the development of nanotech and the private economy are so widespread as to be uncontrollable. We can hope that the government de facto ignores and does not enforce its many laws that can impact nanotech. We can hope that the thirst of the public for better living through nanotechnology will override the efforts of the Federal Grinch to steal nanotech. We can hope that the corps of expert grinches who wish to ride herd on nanotech will be satisfied with their money, rhetoric, and reports and leave the rest of society alone.

Hopes will not be enough. The grinches can throw plenty of sand in the gears. They have infiltrated any number of government agencies such as the EPA. They have comfortable bases in most universities in the land. They have the public?s high regard. Intellectuals and media speak in their favor. They have stolen a large slice of science. They did not steal the microcomputer, the computer chip, and the internet; but they won?t give up trying. They?d like to steal nanotech, and some of them wish to steal social life in its entirety, from birth to death.

January 17, 2006
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.
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« Reply #64 on: January 26, 2006, 01:43:32 AM »,70051-0.html?tw=wn_tophead_2
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« Reply #65 on: February 04, 2006, 05:57:54 PM »
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« Reply #66 on: February 21, 2006, 06:43:41 AM »

States review eminent domain
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

More than 30 state legislatures are considering limits on the power of local governments to condemn private property and transfer it to real estate developers to spur economic growth.
Lawmakers are responding to a Supreme Court ruling in June that permitted eminent domain powers to be used in New London, Conn., to confiscate waterfront homes to build an office complex and condominiums. The 5-4 ruling prompted property rights advocates to take their case to state legislatures.

Five states enacted small changes last year, but most legislatures were not in session after the court ruling.

"This is the crucial year for the eminent domain issue," says Larry Morandi, who tracks eminent domain legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Bills to restrict eminent domain have moved forward in Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and several other states, but none has become law yet. In New Mexico, the state Senate and House both approved limits, but the bill died when the legislature adjourned before giving final approval.

Eminent domain is the power of government to take private property for "public use" if the owner is fairly compensated. It has been used to build roads, schools and utility lines. Cities also have used it to transfer property from unwilling sellers to developers who want to build shopping malls, offices or other projects. Baltimore's Inner Harbor and New York's Times Square were revamped by eminent domain.

   Legislatures' strategies  
Explicit bans. Some bills would ban the use of eminent domain for economic development. Others would do so indirectly by stating when it can be used and leaving commercial development off the list.

Narrower rules. Many states are considering making it harder for cities to declare a neighborhood "blighted" just for economic development.

Economic penalties. New York and Indiana are among states considering making eminent domain more expensive. The government would have to pay 25% or 50% above market value when it confiscates a property for commercial development.  
After the Supreme Court decision, legislatures in Alabama, Texas, Delaware, Michigan and Ohio took modest steps to restrict eminent domain. Michigan approved a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Ohio approved a one-year moratorium on eminent domain for economic development. Congress also is considering restrictions. (Related story: Ohio town tests eminent domain)

"There's been an explosion of outrage by people across the country and across the political spectrum about what can be done under eminent domain," says Scott Bullock of the Institute of Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

Last month, Charlotte-based BB&T, the nation's ninth-largest bank, announced it would not lend money to developers who used eminent domain to acquire property. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public agency headed by the governor, announced last month that it would no longer use eminent domain for economic development.

Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, says state legislatures should not rush to act because careful study would show that abuses are rare. "We all feel sympathetic for someone who is losing a home," he says. "But we also have to consider the faces of people of all income levels who benefit from the job creation these projects bring."
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« Reply #67 on: February 22, 2006, 04:39:57 AM »

All praise Prof. Alan Dershowitz
By Tony Blankley
February 22, 2006

Next week a vastly important book will be published: "Preemption, A Knife That Cuts Both Ways" by Alan Dershowitz. Yes, that Alan Dershowitz: the very liberal civil libertarian, anti-capital punishment Harvard Law School professor. And but for my lack of his legal scholarship, there is nary a sentence in the book that I ? a very conservative editor of The Washington Times and former press secretary to Newt Gingrich ? couldn't have written.
    The premise of his book is that in this age of terror, there is a potential need for such devices as profiling, preventive detention, anticipatory mass inoculation, prior restraint of dangerous speech, targeted extrajudicial executions of terrorists and preemptive military action, including full-scale preventive war.
    In his own words, from his introduction: "The shift from responding to past events to preventing future harms is part of one of the most significant but unnoticed trends in the world today. It challenges our traditional reliance on a model of human behavior that presupposes a rational person capable of being deterred by the threat of punishment. The classic theory of deterrence postulates a calculating evildoer who can evaluate the cost-benefits of proposed actions and will act ? and forbear from acting ? on the basis of these calculations. It also presupposes society's ability (and willingness) to withstand the blows we seek to deter and to use the visible punishment of those blows as threats capable of deterring future harms. These assumptions are now being widely questioned as the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of suicide terrorists becomes more realistic and as our ability to deter such harms by classic rational cost-benefit threats and promises becomes less realistic."
    Yet, such policies conflict with traditional concepts of civil liberties, human rights, criminal justice, national security, foreign policy and international law. He shrewdly observes that historically, nations ? including democracies ? have resorted to such deviations from law and custom out of necessity, but that it has all been ad hoc, secret or deceptive.
    Mr. Dershowitz argues that now, rather, we need to begin to develop an honest jurisprudence of prevention to legally regulate such mechanisms. It is better, he argues, to democratically decide now, before the next disaster, this new jurisprudence ? the rules by which we will take these necessary actions.
    To see the difference between traditional Anglo-American criminal jurisprudence and his proposed jurisprudence of prevention, he raises the great maxim of criminal law: better that 10 guilty go free, than one innocent be wrongly convicted. That principle led our law to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt before conviction in criminal trials. Most of us agree with that standard.
    But then Mr. Dershowitz updates the maxim thusly: "Is it better for ten possibly preventable terrorist attacks to occur than for one possibly innocent suspect to be preventively detained?" I would hunch that most people would not be willing to accept ten September 11 attacks (30,000 dead) in order to protect one innocent suspect from being locked up and questioned for a while.
    Is it possible to go beyond such gut instincts and ad hoc decision making during a crises, and begin to develop a thoughtful set of standards for conduct in this dangerous new world? I don't know.
    As Mr. Dershowitz observes, a jurisprudence develops slowly in response to generations, centuries of adjudicated events. But to the extent we recognize the need for it and start thinking systematically, to that extent we won't be completely held hostage to the whim and discretion of a few men at moments of extreme stress.
    At the minimum, an early effort at a jurisprudence of prevention would at least help in defining events. Consider the long and fruitless recent debate about the imminence of the danger from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the current debate on Iran's possible nuclear weapons. Under traditional international law standards they are both classic non-imminent threat situations: "early stage acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by a state presumed to be hostile."
    But as Mr. Dershowitz points out, while the threat itself is not imminent, "the opportunity to prevent the threat will soon pass." Once they have the weapons it is too late.
    Or, a low price in innocent casualties might soon pass. For instance, in 1981 when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear site at Osirak, if it had waited much longer the site would have been "radioactively hot" and massive innocent civilian casualties would have been incurred from radioactive releases. It is simply not enough anymore to say a country violates the norm by acting in its ultimate, but not imminent, self-defense. We need new standards for a new age.
    The new realities of unacceptable risk require new ? and lower ? standards of certainty before defensive action is permitted.
    As we develop a jurisprudence of prevention, we increase the chance of justice and rationality being a bigger part of such crisis decisions that our presidents will be facing for the foreseeable future.
    Mr. Dershowitz's sound, practical scholarship is commendable. But what I find heartening is the political fact that a prominent scholar of the left has finally entered into a constructive conversation about how to manage our inevitably dangerous WMD/terrorist-infested future.
    If such as Mr. Dershowitz and I can find common ground, there should be space there for a multitude. And from that common ground can grow a common plan for a common victory.
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« Reply #68 on: February 26, 2006, 10:28:45 PM »

Musings About the Drug War
Do you favor decriminalizing marijuana, cocaine and the like?

Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Economist Milton Friedman predicted in Newsweek nearly 34 years ago that Richard Nixon's ambitious "global war against drugs" would be a failure. Much evidence today suggests that he was right. But the war rages on with little mainstream challenge of its basic weapon, prohibition.
To be sure, Mr. Friedman wasn't the only critic. William Buckley's National Review declared a decade ago that the U.S. had "lost" the drug war, bolstering its case with testimony from the likes of Joseph D. McNamara, a former police chief in Kansas City, Mo., and San Jose, Calif. But today discussion of the war's depressing cost-benefit ratio is being mainly conducted in the blogosphere, where the tone is predominantly libertarian. In the broader polity, support for the great Nixon crusade remains sufficiently strong to discourage effective counterattacks.

In broaching this subject, I offer the usual disclaimer. One beer before dinner is sufficient to my mind-bending needs. I've never sampled any of the no-no stuff and have no desire to do so. So let's proceed to discuss this emotion-laden issue as objectively as possible.

The drug war has become costly, with some $50 billion in direct outlays by all levels of government, and much higher indirect costs, such as the expanded prison system to house half a million drug-law offenders and the burdens on the court system. Civil rights sometimes are infringed. One sharply rising expense is for efforts to interdict illegal drug shipments into the U.S., which is budgeted at $1.4 billion this fiscal year, up 41% from two years ago.

That reflects government's tendency to throw more money at a program that isn't working. Not only have the various efforts not stopped the flow but they have begun to create friction with countries the U.S. would prefer to have as friends.

As the Journal's Mary O'Grady has written, a good case can be made that U.S.-sponsored efforts to eradicate coca crops in Latin America are winning converts among Latin peasants to the anti-American causes of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Their friend Evo Morales was just elected president of Bolivia mainly by the peasant following he won by opposing a U.S.-backed coca-eradication program. Colombia's huge cocaine business still thrives despite U.S. combative efforts, supporting, among others, leftist guerrillas.

More seriously, Mexico is being destabilized by drug gangs warring over access to the lucrative U.S. market. A wave of killings of officials and journalists in places like Nuevo Laredo and Acapulco is reminiscent of the 1930s Prohibition-era crime waves in Al Capone's Chicago and the Purple Gang's Detroit. In Afghanistan, al Qaeda and the Taliban are proselytizing opium-poppy growers by saying that the U.S. is their enemy. The claim, unlike many they use, has the merit of being true.

Milton Friedman saw the problem. To the extent that authorities curtail supplies of marijuana, cocaine and heroin coming into the rich U.S. market, the retail price of these substances goes up, making the trade immensely profitable--tax-free, of course. The more the U.S. spends on interdiction, the more incentive it creates for taking the risk of running drugs.

In 1933, the U.S. finally gave up on the 13-year prohibition of alcohol--a drug that is by some measures more intoxicating and dangerous to health than marijuana. That effort to alter human behavior left a legacy of corruption, criminality, and deaths and blindness from the drinking of bad booze. America's use of alcohol went up after repeal but no serious person today suggests a repeat of the alcohol experiment. Yet prohibition is still being attempted, at great expense, for the small portion of the population--perhaps little more than 5%--who habitually use proscribed drugs.

Mind-altering drugs do of course cause problems. Their use contributes to crime, automobile accidents, work-force dropouts and family breakups. But the most common contributor to these social problems is not the illegal substances. It is alcohol. Society copes by punishing drunken misbehavior, offering rehabilitation programs and warning youths of the dangers. Most Americans drink moderately, however, creating no problems either for themselves or society.

Education can be an antidote for self-abuse. When it was finally proved that cigarettes were a health risk, smoking by young people dropped off and many started lecturing their parents about that bad habit. LSD came and then went after its dangers became evident. Heroin's addictive and debilitative powers are well-known enough to limit its use to a small population. Private educational programs about the risks of drug abuse have spread throughout the country with good effect.

Some doctors argue that the use of some drugs is too limited. Marijuana can help control nausea after chemotherapy, relieve multiple-sclerosis pain and help patients whose appetites have been lowered to a danger level by AIDS. Morphine, some say, is used too sparingly for easing the terrible pain of terminally ill cancer patients. It is argued that pot and cocaine use by inner-city youths is a self-prescribed medicine for the depression and despair that haunts their existence. Doctors prescribe Prozac for the same problems of the middle class.

So what's the alternative? An army of government employees now makes a living from the drug laws and has a rather conflictive interest in claiming both that the drug laws are working and that more money is needed. The challenge is issued: Do you favor legalization? In fact, most drugs are legal, including alcohol, tobacco and coffee and the great array of modern, life-saving drugs administered by doctors. To be precise, the question should be do you favor legalization or decriminalization of the sale and use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines?

A large percentage of Americans will probably say no, mainly because they are law-abiding people who maintain high moral and ethical standards and don't want to surrender to a small minority that flouts the laws, whether in the ghettos of Washington D.C. or Beverly Hills salons. The concern about damaging society's fabric is legitimate. But another question needs to be asked: Is that fabric being damaged now?

Mr. Melloan is deputy editor, international of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.
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« Reply #69 on: February 27, 2006, 10:54:27 PM »


February 27, 2006 - The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Inc. (ANJRPC) announced that it has commenced a lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and one of its police officers for wrongfully arresting and imprisoning for nearly five days a 57-year old Utah man delayed at Newark Airport by a baggage error while traveling from Utah to Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit seeks more than $3 million in damages for civil rights violations and a permanent injunction forcing the Port Authority to follow Federal law on interstate transport of locked, unloaded firearms that have been secured in luggage and declared by law-abiding citizens.

The Utah man, Gregg Revell, a real estate broker and family man with no criminal record and a Utah firearms permit, was flying alone from Salt Lake City, UT to Allentown, PA to retrieve a car he bought and drive it home. He was travelling with a firearm for personal protection. As required by Federal law, the firearm was unloaded, cased, locked and inside his luggage when he declared it at check-in in Salt Lake City on March 31, 2005.

Due to an airline-caused baggage error, Mr. Revell missed his connection from Newark to Allentown and had to stay overnight in New Jersey. When he checked in at Newark Airport the next morning to complete his travels, he again declared his firearm, as required by FAA regulations. He was then arrested for possession of a firearm without a New Jersey state license, and imprisoned in Essex County jail for five days until his family arranged bail, which had been initially set unusually high at $15,000 cash (no bond).

But Mr. Revell?s travels were protected by the Firearms Owner Protection Act, a Federal law passed in 1986 to protect law-abiding citizens who travel with firearms. (See 18 U.S.C. ? 926A.) That law trumps state and local gun laws and protects interstate travel with firearms under certain circumstances, all of which were present in Mr. Revell?s case. Several months after the arrest, all charges were withdrawn and the prosecutor?s case administratively dismissed.

"The Port Authority blatantly violated Federal law when it arrested Gregg Revell," said Scott Bach, President of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs and a member of the NRA Board of Directors. "Those charged with enforcing the law have a special responsibility to follow it themselves," Bach continued. "Mr. Revell?s arrest is part of a pattern of similar misconduct by the Port Authority throughout the New York-New Jersey metropolitan areas."

"This lawsuit is intended to send a signal not only to the Port Authority but to every agency and officer responsible for policing our airports and highways: if you violate the rights of law-abiding gun owners, you will be held fully accountable." The lawsuit also names the arresting Port Authority police officer, Scott Erickson, as a defendant.

Once inside Essex County prison, Mr. Revell was subjected to numerous atrocities. He was thrown into a holding cell with 28 inmates, many of whom were admitted murderers and rapists. He endured a repulsive vomit-covered bed and toilet, was denied his blood pressure and migraine medication, innoculated against his will, given inedible food, strip-searched, and left only with his wits to survive.

"I did nothing wrong yet was arrested and subjected to the worst treatment imaginable for almost a week," said Mr. Revell, who has 8 children, 8 grandchildren and has been married for 36 years. "I brought this lawsuit together with the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs because I want to stop this kind of abuse from ever happening again," said Revell. "No one should ever have to experience what I experienced," he said. "I paid the price, but I?m committed to making sure no one else does."
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« Reply #70 on: March 06, 2006, 05:13:33 PM »

It annoys me to no end that the federal govenment regulates toilet tank size and shower head flow rates. Those tidbits and others are bemoaned here.

March 06, 2006, 8:22 a.m.
Toilet Socialism
Can we cut the red-tape crap already?
Deroy Murdock

What is an asthmatic Republican to do?

In yet another GOP contribution to limited government, an advisory committee at the Food and Drug Administration has recommended a ban on Primatene Mist, an over-the-counter asthma spray. This menace to society is propelled by chlorofluorocarbons. CFCs are considered injurious to the ozone layer.

The ozone-friendly FDA suggests that people use CFC-free prescription asthma nebulizers. That?s swell, unless you lack health insurance, pharmaceutical coverage, or the time to see a doctor ? or if you need asthma relief right now.

Primatene is perfect for emergencies. I once suffered an asthma attack while visiting friends in lovely but secluded Bucks County, Pennsylvania. That weekend, I happened to forget my prescription inhaler. Rather than visit a pricey hospital emergency room or locate and awaken a doctor to write a prescription at 11:00 P.M., I had my friends drive me to a drug store where I bought some Primatene for about $12. Yes, I did inhale. And I felt much better.

Now, the Bush administration wants to deny asthmatics that freedom, choice, and comfort. If Primatene?s three million customers routinely emptied their atomizers into the air, this restriction might be ecologically sound. However, as Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst Ben Lieberman says: ?The amounts of CFCs used in these inhalers is so small, it makes sense to exempt them for several more years until comparable alternatives are available.?

?To put people at risk from asthma, in order to address these inconsequential or even imaginary risks to planetary ozone, takes the precautionary principle to unconscionably absurd new levels,? says Paul Driessen, my Atlas Foundation colleague. ?This is a good issue for anyone who favors equal access to affordable health care. This asinine rule would hit poor people hardest, resulting in more frequent, serious, and fatal attacks for them than for upper-crust people, like those who walk the halls of the FDA.?

Alas, this proposed regulation is not alone.

While Republicans deserve credit for cutting taxes, on spending they have earned brickbats. The federal budget just goes up, up, and away, like a not-so-beautiful balloon. Unfortunately, so does regulation.

?This growth in spending naturally means a growth in the regulatory tate,? says Clyde Wayne Crews, a Competitive Enterprise Institute vice president for policy. He notes that the regulation-rich Federal Register has expanded under President Bush from 64,438 pages in 2001 to 73,870 pages in 2005, a 14.6 percent increase. A new Small Business Administration study finds that federal regulations
each year steer America's economy into a $1 trillion headwind.

How, then, could the U.S. economy advance 3.5 percent last year while unemployment now stands at just 4.7 percent?

?Despite those rosy figures,? Crews says, ?industries long saddled with regulations are feeling the pinch; think airlines and the auto industry and pension regulations. The $1 trillion in regulatory costs reflects their (and consumers?) pain, as well as the massive expenses of paperwork, particularly tax compliance. These numbers show that the entrepreneurial sector can create wealth in spite of regulation. That cannot happen forever, not in a country with regulatory costs now well above one third the level of government spending.?

And the new rules keep on coming.

The Federal Communications Commission now wants to impose on cable TV companies something Washington never would force upon restaurants. Consider: I hate pickles. Everyone at my local diner knows to keep them far from anything I order. However, it never occurred to me to ask them to deduct pickles from my bill. Why, then, should the FCC order Time-Warner to subtract the cost of Lifetime Television from my cable-TV package just because I don?t watch it?

This is called ?a la carte pricing.? As customers gravitate toward bigger channels, this idea could jeopardize smaller channels now added into today?s packages. Cable companies should be free, but not compelled, to offer such options. The FCC has outlived its role as sheriff of the three-network town that pre-dated TiVo. Now that people can choose from among broadcast, cable, DVDs, Internet streaming video, satellites, or silence, Uncle Sam should hand back the remote control and ride into the sunset.

On deregulation, the GOP can redeem itself somewhat by revisiting an issue it dropped in 2001. Mandated under the 1992 Energy Policy Act signed by the elder President Bush, 1.6-gallon low-flow toilets have annoyed Americans who prefer the one-flush power of 3.5-gallon traditional toilets. Despite their superior performance, the old toilets are illegal. Amazingly, America now boasts a black market in classic commodes.

Despite ample histrionics during the so-called ?Republican Revolution,? Rep. Joe Knollenberg?s (R., Mich.) bill to repeal the low-flow law languished in committee. This election year, roll-call votes to repeal this regulation should tell Americans whether their senators and representatives favor toilet freedom or toilet socialism.

Here?s an idea: Uncle Sam should retreat from asthmatics? lungs, viewers? cable boxes, and everyone?s toilets. That should give public servants in Washington more time to track and kill terrorists.

? New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.
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« Reply #71 on: March 12, 2006, 10:13:03 AM »

Fine for binning rubbish


A TOWN hall chief today promised to investigate after a man was fined ?50 for throwing his junk mail in a street litter bin.

Baffled Andy Tierney blasted council busybodies over his ?50 litter bin fine, saying: ?I did the right thing.?

He vowed to fight the pompous fixed penalty notice, issued for dumping two junk mail letters.

And today Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council chief executive Steve Atkinson promised the authority would look into whether it had been too officious.

He said he would personally ensure Mr Tierney was spared a fine if his only offence was to throw away two letters.

Mr Atkinson added: ?There is evidence that there was some junk mail in a bag in a litter bin.

?If the evidence does not stack up and we are potentially guilty of
over-reaction then we need to deal with it in the right way.

?If we have over-reacted we will hold our hands up and acknowledge it.?

It accused him of committing ?an offence under Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990?. It continued: ?Domestic refuse from your property was dumped into a street litter bin . . . the fixed penalty is ?50.?

The council classes letters as ?domestic litter?, which should not be dropped in public street bins.

Warehouseman Andy, 24, said: ?How on earth can they fine me for being tidy? It?s absolute madness.

?I could have easily chucked those letters on the ground, but I put them in the bin. What has happened is a joke. The council is barmy.

?I never thought you could be fined for putting rubbish in a bin ? that?s what they?re there for.?

Andy was walking from his front door to his car when his postman handed him the junk mail. He opened both letters as he strolled ? then dumped them in the bin on a lamppost.

But council officials traced him from the addresses on the envelopes and issued the penalty.

The heavy-handed council letter threatened Andy with further action and a conviction if he does not pay within 14 days. But Andy, of Hinckley, Leicestershire, insisted: ?There?s absolutely no way I?m paying up.

?You get fined for chucking rubbish on the ground. You get fined for chucking rubbish in the bin. So what exactly are you supposed to do??

?To me ?domestic refuse? is household stuff like potato peelings and tin cans.

?Besides, those letters didn?t even enter my house.?

Hinckley and Bosworth Council last night DEFENDED their action and denied they were being petty.

A spokesman said: ?A fixed penalty notice is served to people who we believe have committed an offence.

?Our litter bins are there to keep streets tidy, as they enable the public to deposit small amounts of litter. They are not provided for household waste.?

But local councillor Julie Price said: ?It seems very severe. I would prefer it if there was a warning first.? She said she would ask the authority to put warning signs on bins.
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« Reply #72 on: April 17, 2006, 09:24:57 PM »

April 15: America's 6-Billion-Hour Day
Why a mugger is better than the IRS
Jacob Sullum

Since I was planning a two-week trip to Israel this month, I considered applying for an extension of the deadline for filing my income tax return. As will soon become apparent, this was something I'd never done before.

It turns out you can put off doing your taxes for up to six months, but you still have to pay your taxes by April 17. To pay your taxes, however, you have to do your taxes--i.e., run the numbers to determine how much you owe. You could guess, but there's a penalty for guessing wrong.

Then I noticed you can get an automatic two-month extension, with no application or payment required, "if, on the regular due date of your return, you are 'out of the country.'" This is the extension for me, I thought.

I was wrong. Although I would be literally out of the country, I would not be legally "out of the country." Not only is being abroad not enough to place you "out of the country," I discovered, but you can be legally "out of the country" even if you're actually in the U.S. on the filing deadline. I already had a headache, and I hadn't even begun working on my return.

Which reminds me of a riddle: How is a mugger different from the Internal Revenue Service? Both take your money, but the mugger doesn't make you fill out forms.

Every year the Tax Foundation calculates the cost of this added indignity. Since it's hard to put a dollar figure on annoyance and anxiety, the Washington-based think tank sticks to estimating the time involved in keeping records and completing returns: some 6 billion hours in 2005.

The group's analysts multiply these hours by the average hourly compensation for professional tax preparers or, for the share of taxpayers who file their own returns, the average hourly compensation for U.S. workers. The resulting figure represents the cost of complying with the federal income tax, which the Tax Foundation projects will be $279 billion this year.

That amounts to 22 cents for every dollar collected, about the same as in 2005 but up from 14 cents in 1990. And the compliance burden does not include the costs associated with litigating tax disputes, operating the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court, or tax planning aimed at minimizing liability.

Not surprisingly, compliance costs have increased as the tax code has become more complicated. The number of words dealing with income taxes in the Internal Revenue Code and IRS regulations rose nearly tenfold between 1955 and 2005, from 718,000 to more than 7 million.

This complexity not only maddens taxpayers; it undermines the rule of law. When you can ask five different experts the same tax question and get five different answers, even taxpayers who make a good-faith effort to follow the government's instructions cannot be confident they are complying with the law. As a result, they are exposed to legal and financial peril every time they file their returns.

To add insult to injury, the money extracted through this arduous, intimidating process may be spent on the Stanley Theater in Utica, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, or the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Education and Cultural Center in Pittsburgh. These institutions are among the beneficiaries of the spending earmarks cataloged by Citizens Against Government Waste in its latest Congressional Pig Book.

It's true such pork accounts for a small percentage of the federal budget. But here's another way of looking at it: If you pay $10,000 a year in federal income taxes, your entire contribution amounts to just 1 percent of this year's subsidy for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative and 0.07 percent of the money allotted to the International Fund for Ireland, sponsor of the World Toilet Summit. Now you know you were literally correct when you speculated about where your tax dollars were going.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use.

Page printed from:
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« Reply #73 on: July 21, 2006, 05:59:59 PM »

The Cato Institute has a chilling piece regarding SWAT police raids in the US. The summary is as follows:

Americans have long maintained that a man?s
home is his castle and that he has the right to
defend it from unlawful intruders. Unfortun-
ately, that right may be disappearing. Over the
last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing mili-
tarization of its civilian law enforcement, along
with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of
paramilitary police units (most commonly called
Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for rou-
tine police work. The most common use of SWAT
teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usual-
ly with forced, unannounced entry into the

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per
year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting
nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and
wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having
their homes invaded while they?re sleeping, usu-
ally by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units
dressed not as police officers but as soldiers.
These raids bring unnecessary violence and
provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many
of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The
raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly
target the wrong residence. And they have result-
ed in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not
only of drug offenders, but also of police officers,
children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.
This paper presents a history and overview of
the issue of paramilitary drug raids, provides an
extensive catalogue of abuses and mistaken
raids, and offers recommendations for reform.

The whole (long!) white paper can be found at:
Posts: 21

« Reply #74 on: July 21, 2006, 06:54:53 PM »



 I'm with you Dogs on this Civil Liberties business.

 Stick it to them !

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« Reply #75 on: July 21, 2006, 08:23:01 PM »


Unfortunately, cities and PD's see having a SWAT team as a status symbol. They invest heavily in them and then to justify the costs, must use them as often as possible. Whether needed or not.

The problem lies not just in the inappropriate usage of these teams, but also the lack of training, intel, poor planning and safety that their operations neglect. This results in the f*ckups that we read about.  I am not against cities having this capability fkor usage in certain situations of true danger, but not for drug busts, etc., where their is no indication of such threats. My problem with these teams is that to perform the tasks that are necessary, one must train consistently and daily. As it stands today, it is similar to having a cop train once every couple of weeks firing his pistol and is then expected to go to competitive shoots. Ain't going anywhere.

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« Reply #76 on: July 21, 2006, 10:28:06 PM »

The War on Drugs is a clusterf*ck on so many levels-- this is one of them and an important one too.
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Posts: 784

« Reply #77 on: July 25, 2006, 02:55:14 PM »

Top 10 Corporate Welfare Queens
Ranked by FreedomWorks.

These organizations grow fat and rich thanks to special treatment from the federal government. They manipulate the political system to get insider deals, government guarantees, fixed prices and other benefits, paid for by taxpayers and consumers.

10. United States Postal Service (USPS)

The USPS is a monopoly more interested in job protection than efficiency or innovation. Labor costs consume 80% of USPS revenue, while UPS and FedEx spend only 56% and 42% of their revenue on labor, respectively. Reform would allow competition for mailbox and first-class mail service.

9. Maritime Shippers and Unions

The Jones Act mandates that all cargo shipped between U.S. ports?including deep-water shipping to Hawaii and Alaska?must be carried on U.S.-built and flagged vessels. That protectionism costs the economy $1.3 billion a year in higher shipping prices, according to a 1999 study by the International Trade Commission. It?s time to repeal the Jones Act restrictions.

8. National Education Association (NEA)

The ultimate monopoly is America?s K-12 government schools, and the NEA is the gatekeeper that opposes almost any reform. Sheltered from competition, public schools continue to decline despite dramatic increases in per-student spending. States should give all students a voucher that allows them to attend the school of their choice.

7. FreddieMac and FannieMae

These are quasi-government companies that purchase wholesale mortgages, but unlike most investment banks, they get special government loans and are backed by an implicit federal guarantee. If the real estate market tanks today, taxpayers could be on the hook for billions. It?s time for Freddie and Fannie to grow up and cut the cord.

6. Big Sugar

Uncle Sam gives sugar special status and protects growers from competition through import quotas and marketing allotments. A handful of industrial growers dominate the industry and receive more than $1 billion a year in subsidies from rigged prices, according to the GAO. Congress should end sugar?s sweet deal.

5. Big Cotton

U.S. taxpayers and consumers provide billions of dollars to cotton growers through a numbingly complicated array of programs that violate U.S. trade agreements. One company, Allenberg Cotton of Cordova, Tenn., collected more than $186 million from 1995-2004 just in cash payments, according to the Environmental Working Group. Congress should terminate the cotton program.

4. Asbestos lawyers

While trial lawyers of all stripes abuse the legal and political system for personal gain, the asbestos litigation attorneys are a special breed. Runaway asbestos lawsuits have already bankrupted more than 70 American manufacturers, destroying 60,000 jobs and costing billions. Yet most of the litigants aren?t sick. Congress should pass medical criteria legislation to stop asbestos pillaging.

3. Amtrak

Passenger railroads are a failure in America, and the Amtrak monopoly is the reason. Feather-bedding union rules and money-losing routes to nowhere are the hallmarks of this national embarrassment, which burns through more than $1 billion a year from federal taxpayers. Amtrak should be completely privatized and opened to competition.

2. Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NPR/PBS)

Big Bird is on welfare, to the tune of about $347 million a year. While taxpayers foot the bills, Sesame Street?s owners make millions from licensing toys and videos. With massive budget deficits and plenty of new channels on cable and satellite radio, it?s time for Big Bird and his buddies to get off the dole.

1. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)

From ethanol mandates to sugar subsidies, ADM is a case study in corporate welfare. New studies show that it takes more fossil energy to create corn ethanol than the fuel provides, but Congress is doubling the amount we have to buy anyway.
« Reply #78 on: July 25, 2006, 03:36:14 PM »

They manipulate the political system to get insider deals, government guarantees, fixed prices and other benefits, paid for by taxpayers and consumers

Funny, for a second there I thought you were going to list a group of senators and congressmen.....
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Posts: 784

« Reply #79 on: July 27, 2006, 12:53:34 PM »

It would be fun to see what bloggers could do with a resource like this. Budget accountability, what a wild concept.

Fresh Air Fund

By The Editors

For the average citizen, trying to see how the federal government spends money can be a baffling experience. Even journalists and think tankers, who are supposed to specialize in government oversight, have trouble getting a handle on the massive volume of cash that flows from federal coffers. The main reason for this is that there?s currently no system for assimilating, organizing, and releasing information on the hundreds of billions of tax dollars that are spent each year on federal grants and contracts. This lack of disclosure is absurd.

The good news is that the Senate is considering a bill to fix this problem. The even better news is that the bill has drawn bipartisan support. Sponsored by Republican Tom Coburn, and cosponsored by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Rick Santorum, the measure would create a searchable online database of federal grant and contract recipients. The Senate?s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is set to take up the bill today, and supporters believe it will clear the Senate by the end of the year.

Staffers on Capitol Hill are calling the proposed database a ?Google-like tool for federal accountability.? For the first time, it would shed some light on which companies and organizations are receiving federal money, and how much they are getting. A tool like this is a dream come true for budget hawks. Louis Brandeis famously observed that ?sunlight is the best disinfectant? ? and nothing needs disinfecting like the festering federal budget. Many taxpayers would be surprised and disturbed to learn how much of their money drifts quietly away to various questionable causes ? Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, Alaskan bridges to nowhere, and the like. Making this information readily available to the public ? and especially to the diligent denizens of the blogosphere ? would encourage reform.

Many liberals support the creation of this database because they believe in government oversight ? especially for contract recipients like Halliburton ? and they also believe that most taxpayers will only want more government services once they find out more about them. But there is a precedent for this type of oversight tool, and it should encourage optimism among conservative budget-cutters. After the Environmental Working Group created its online farm-subsidies database in 2001, a wave of outrage over the glut of unjustifiable spending began to spread. Members of Congress felt the pressure from watchdog groups and the press, and this significantly changed the terms of the debate in Washington. The Coburn bill promises to have a similar effect.

The idea of a database has been picking up steam on Capitol Hill. The House has already passed a similar proposal by Republicans Tom Davis and Roy Blunt. Their version would create a public database for federal grants but exclude federal contracts. There is some reason to think it might be best to separate contracts and grants into separate databases, to avoid suggesting a false equivalence between the two. Contractors typically go through a competitive-bidding process and then have to provide a service, whereas grant recipients are simply given funding after being deemed worthy by appropriators. In general, however, there is wide agreement in favor of opening up both grants and contracts to more public oversight.

In the Senate, Republican John Ensign is sponsoring an alternative version of the Coburn bill that would create an even more extensive database. It would require recipients of federal grants and contracts to itemize their expenditures, with the aim of allowing even more detailed scrutiny. While the intention behind this bill is admirable, it suffers from impracticality: The disclosure requirements might place an undue burden on many grant and contract recipients, and threaten to erode congressional support.

Passage of a practical database bill would be an important victory in the battle to control federal spending. It would bring about a systematic, strategic advantage ? rather than just an isolated triumph ? for proponents of spending cuts. While it isn?t enough by itself to restore sensible spending to Washington, it would strongly encourage lawmakers to exercise integrity in their oversight of the federal purse. Let the sunlight in.

National Review Online -
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Posts: 784

« Reply #80 on: August 01, 2006, 01:03:52 AM »

Stupid Drug Story of the Week
The mothball menace.
By Jack Shafer

Posted Friday, July 28, 2006, at 6:47 PM ET
Journalists have turned the radar up so high in their coverage of illicit drug use that a pair of migrating Blackburnian warblers would look like a squadron of B-52s if they applied the same scrutiny to the skies.
This week's example of journalistic overkill in the pursuit of a drug story owes its origin to a 400-word letter in the July 27 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Twin Girls With Neurocutaneous Symptoms Caused by Mothball Intoxication," in which three physicians in France solve a medical mystery posed by an 18-year-old patient.
The woman had developed a grotty leg rash over the course of month, possessed an "unsteady gait," and displayed "mental sluggishness," among other symptoms. Her twin sister had the same lesions. During her hospitalization the doctors discovered a stash of mothballs in her room. "It turned out that both sisters had been encouraged by classmates to use mothballs as a recreational drug," the physicians write.

The girls had inhaled the fumes, also know as "huffing" or "bagging," and one ate the balls as well. Doctors discovered the active substance in mothballs, paradichlorobenzene, in the young patient's bloodstream. Putting her on a mothball-free diet, she was noticeably better in two months and recovered completely in six. Her sister recovered, too.
How common is paradichlorobenzene self-intoxication? The doctors discovered only three other cases of it the medical literature, dating back to 1961, 1970, and 1992. From this slim medical anecdote, the world press has created a drug panic. Among the first news organizations to post a sensationalized account of the story was the Reuters wire service, which titled its July 26 report "Teenagers Using Mothballs Get High: Study." Yes, teenagers are using mothballs to get high if two young ladies in Marseille constitute a sufficient population to establish a meaningful medical plural.

The next day, International published a version of the Reuters story under the headline "Teenagers 'Bagging' Mothballs to Get High." Canada's CBC News Web site headlined a derivative account of the story, "Teens Sniffing Mothballs to Get High, Doctors Report." The Aussie press developed a contact high from the story: "Teens Get High on Mothballs," screamed the country's national daily, the Australian. The Melbourne Herald Sun, the Courier Mail, the Sunday Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Daily Telegraph all combine the words "teens" and "mothballs" in their headlines to announce the plague.

Savvy drug scholars have long blamed coverage like this for popularizing relatively unknown intoxicants among teens and others. Edward M. Brecher devotes a chapter to the topic?"How To Launch a Nationwide Drug Panic"?in his landmark book from 1972, Licit and Illicit Drugs.

To be sure, the inhalation of paradichlorobenzene or any hydrocarbon huffers used to get high?glue, gasoline, household cleaners, paint, furniture polish, paint thinner, et al.?poses serious medical dangers. See this fact sheet from Web MD. Yet the press's headlines blew the "mothball menace" completely out of proportion. The only circumspect headline accompanying the story that I found appeared in the Houston Chronicle. "Mothball-Sniffing Underreported, Teens' Doctors Say," it states.
While the hacks were huffing the mothball story into Earth orbit, three news organizations?UPI, Raleigh News & Observer, and the Globe & Mail?remained sober enough to cover new medical findings about the dangers posed by another household hydrocarbon, 1,4-dichlorobenzene. (Since writing this I've learned that they're actually the same compound. See the addendum below.) The chemical was common in some air fresheners and toilet bowl cleaners until 10 years ago and can still be found in some mothball products, the News & Observer reports. The National Institutes of Health's July 27 press release cited its significant study that 1,4-DCB may reduce lung function and exacerbate existing respiratory problems.

What will it take to get Reuters and the rest to report on 1,4-DCB? A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine about two French kids getting sick after eating urinal cakes?

Addendum, 9:24 p.m.: My chemically minded readers tell me that 1,4-dichlorobenzene and paradichlorobenzene are the same compound, which this EPA Web site confirms. Isn't that rich? The press has devoted tons more coverage and interest on two French girls dosing themselves with the chemical than the potentially ill effects experienced by hundreds of millions exposed to it every day. Chem-head and "Press Box" reader Nathan Okerlund shares this sharp observation with me: "It is very strange that something that makes headlines as an intoxicant is ignored as a pollutant."


Today, mothballs. Tomorrow, cedar blocks? Send your predictions to (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)
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« Reply #81 on: August 03, 2006, 07:49:27 PM »

It was demonstrated today at the BlackHat conference.

Grunwald says it took him only two weeks to figure out how to clone the passport chip. Most of that time he spent reading the standards for e-passports that are posted on a website for the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body that developed the standard. He tested the attack on a new European Union German passport, but the method would work on any country's e-passport, since all of them will be adhering to the same ICAO standard.

In a demonstration for Wired News, Grunwald placed his passport on top of an official passport-inspection RFID reader used for border control. He obtained the reader by ordering it from the maker -- Walluf, Germany-based ACG Identification Technologies -- but says someone could easily make their own for about $200 just by adding an antenna to a standard RFID reader.

He then launched a program that border patrol stations use to read the passports -- called Golden Reader Tool and made by secunet Security Networks -- and within four seconds, the data from the passport chip appeared on screen in the Golden Reader template.

Grunwald then prepared a sample blank passport page embedded with an RFID tag by placing it on the reader -- which can also act as a writer -- and burning in the ICAO layout, so that the basic structure of the chip matched that of an official passport.

As the final step, he used a program that he and a partner designed two years ago, called RFDump, to program the new chip with the copied information.

The result was a blank document that looks, to electronic passport readers, like the original passport.
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Posts: 784

« Reply #82 on: August 25, 2006, 11:49:14 AM »

Though not Libertarian per se, I think this piece argues for tools that will underwrite Libertarian beliefs. With that said, I think McGinnis understates the impact of the human penchant for embracing simple fictions rather than complex truths. I think it can also be shown that some interest advocates avoid the light empiricism sheds by embracing complex issues that resist empirical analysis, witness current efforts to use the complexities of climate change toward political ends.

Age of the Empirical

By John O. McGinnis
John O. McGinnis is a professor of law at Northwestern University.

Pundits and politicians alike complain that virulent partisanship and the excessive power of special interests distort modern democracy. As result, it is difficult to elicit the consensus for policies that will promote the public interest. These are not new problems. In the early 1800s, for instance, Federalists and Democratic Republicans clashed sharply and vituperatively, disagreeing on such fundamental issues as whether creating a Bank of the United States was wise. Consensus periods of politics in American history have been few and far between.

But our future politics is more likely to forge consensus than that of the past, because we are on the cusp of a golden age of social science empiricism that will help bring a greater measure of agreement on the consequences of public policy. The richer stream of information generated by empirical discoveries will provide an anchor for good public policy against partisan storms and special-interest disturbances, making it harder for the political process to be manipulated by narrow interests.

Many great social scientists have understood that people are ultimately persuaded more by facts than by abstract theories. That is the reason that Adam Smith filled The Wealth of Nations with a wealth of factual observations to demonstrate the power of his ideas. It remains the case that if supporters of a policy can demonstrate that it leads to greater prosperity, the political battle is often half-won. It is true that facts alone cannot generate values, and thus no empirical evidence by itself can logically mandate support for a specific social policy. Smith?s contemporary, the philosopher David Hume, himself made this clear with his famous ?is-ought distinction.? But politically, most people within modern industrial society adhere to a rather narrow range of values, at least in the economic realm. They favor more prosperity, better education and health care, and other such goods that make for a flourishing life. As to these issues, what is debated is which political program will in fact broadly deliver these goods.

Empiricism has particular power in the United States, where a spirit of pragmatism limits the plausible boundaries of political debate. Republicans try to show that tax cuts will stimulate economic growth, while Democrats argue that the resulting deficits will impede it. Republicans argue that, in the long run, such tax cuts will raise the incomes of all. Democrats tend to disagree. Such consequential arguments are key to persuading the vast middle of American politics. For instance, if the facts show that school choice improves test scores overall, it is unlikely that vague moral claims, like unfairness to teachers, will stop advocates of school choice from making substantial political gains.

Fortunately, we are at the dawn of the greatest age of empiricism the world has ever known. The driving force in the rise of empiricism is the accelerating power of information technology, often referred to as Moore?s law. Moore?s law ? originated by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel ? is the now well-established rule that the number of transistors packed onto an integrated circuit doubles every 18 months. As a result, computer speed and memory have been doubling at approximately the same rates. Such exponential growth will persist for at least another 15 years. Many observers believe that new paradigms will continue the acceleration of computer power in the decades after silicon chip technology is exhausted.

The fruits of Moore?s law will be not only ever fancier gadgets, but also an ever more informed policy calculus. The accelerating power of computers addresses what has always been the Achilles? heel of empiricism ? its need for enormous amounts of data and huge calculating capacity. Pythagoras famously said ?the world is built on the power of numbers.? That is the slogan of empiricists as well, but processing these numbers requires huge computer power. First, the social world must be broken down into numbers that can be calculated, and to deal with matters of any social complexity, that means a lot of numbers. To draw any conclusions, these numbers must then be sliced and diced to test hypotheses about particular social claims, such as the assertion that school choice improves test scores.

But now computers allow more and more facts to be collected and recorded in systematic form, making possible more precise measurements of worldly events. In fact, we can imagine that soon electronic agents will sweep the web to collect data for researchers to use. Greater computer power also permits the construction and implementation of ever more complex equations by which investigators try to exclude the confounding factors always present in the messy social world and thus to reveal the true causes of social phenomena. It also permits methods, like repeated sampling, to produce better error estimates, giving researchers greater confidence in their results. One University of Chicago social scientist is said to have taken the entire summer to run a regression on a mainframe computer 40 years ago. Now researchers can run scores of regressions on their laptops in a few hours. As a result, more empirical papers about social science are written every year, and that trend appears to be accelerating as well.

The resulting rich vein of data and stream of studies analyzing those data will, over time, transform our politics. No matter what the machinations in Washington in a particular week, a new empirical study will likely offer the fruits of some investigation, calculating the effects of a flat tax on economic growth, for example, or of extra school spending on school achievement. The profusion of such work can make a very substantial political difference by changing the information mix in which politics plays out.

Political discussions all have a policy landscape that is shaped by our common knowledge, and it is this common knowledge that empiricists are changing through their discoveries. The effects of any one empirical discovery, to be sure, will be incremental, but the long-run effects of diffusing cumulative empirical knowledge will be enormous. As in science, there will often be good-faith disagreements among different researchers, but, as with other sciences, in the long run empiricists will develop a consensus about the effects of a policy, and that consensus will influence the political world. Greater common knowledge no less than technological innovation is a source of long-term prosperity.

Of course, new facts inimical to their causes will not induce interest groups ? from teachers unions to the automobile trade associations ? to abandon programs that serve their interests at the expense of the public. Nor will the new information change the fact that the public has little incentive to understand the complexities of public policy. Nevertheless, the new information will shift the debate in many areas, little by little, as the results become diffused through elites and the many sources of the modern media. Cumulatively, the information will often force interest groups to give ground.

Two other factors ? themselves a product of our ongoing technological revolutions ? will amplify the power of empiricism. One is the rise of blogs. Blogs help police and expose false studies with which interest groups and partisans may attempt to counter the empirical work that undermines the factual bases of their positions. Academic experts regularly write for blogs and, unlike reporters, are well suited to subject empirical work to searching scrutiny. Recently, for instance, a group of prominent legal scholars has begun a blog wholly devoted to law and empiricism. Such developments will also force empiricists to be more careful and transparent about the discretionary decisions they make, such as their choices of time periods to include in their investigations, because their colleagues will be able to call them to account for misjudgment or bias more easily.

The second development reinforcing empiricism is the rise of information markets. Information markets are sophisticated betting pools that modern information technology has created by making it much easier to gather bets and keep running tallies of the odds that the bets generate. Already, information markets are getting a lot of attention because of their ability to predict current events. For instance, on the eve of the presidential election of 2004, the information market Tradesports predicted the winner of every state correctly. Companies now routinely use them to anticipate which product line will be successful. In the future, individuals may bet on what the growth rate or tax revenue will be, conditional either on the implementation of a specific tax cut or on its absence. Thus, empirical claims about the effects of tax rates will also be tested by those willing to bet on the predictions that flow from them. As the economist Robin Hanson notes, these markets will provide a more democratic check on the empirical claims of experts, making it harder for expert peer review to insulate claims from contestation.


The declining cost of empiricism also promises to transform our universities, because it provides greater incentives to hire empirical investigators in the social sciences. A hundred years ago, armchair speculation was very cheap compared to empiricism, as the cost of the latter enterprise was high, often prohibitively so, in that the available technology rarely delivered any useful results. Thus, it was rational for universities to hire theorists without much interest in comprehensive and statistical inquiry into the social world. But now that the cost of empiricism has fallen, a cascade of empiricists of all kinds ? economists, psychologists, political scientists ? is flowing into our universities and think tanks.

This inflow has several immediate effects, all of them beneficial to a free inquiry that will in turn aid the gathering of facts conducive to consensus politics. First, the hiring of empiricists will tend to decrease any ideological discrimination in academia, because empiricists, whatever their personal politics, will tend to be much more open-minded than their theoretically inclined colleagues. They respect facts themselves and professionally must give a hearing to other empiricists, whatever their views and whatever the results of their empirical investigations. They will also be less prone to discriminate, even in hiring theorists in their social science departments, because empiricists are likely to regard almost all theories as contestable.

Second, the large number of empiricists will create a rich market for empirical work and provide greater incentives to get the facts and models absolutely correct. There are now so many investigators and the computer technology is so pervasive that results are constantly checked. Moreover, the multiple data bases collected in such places as the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research provide a ready resource for the quick debunking of outlandish or mistaken claims. Indeed, I have recently attended faculty workshops where members of the audience have begun checking data and doing alternative analysis on their laptops as the speakers are presenting. The empirical culture, no less than computing itself, will be ubiquitous in the coming years.

The exponential growth in the numbers of empiricists helps resolve another debate as old as that of the Greeks. Platonists are sympathetic to rule by experts and elites. Artistotelians are more receptive to democratic rule. As Aristotle himself puts it in the Politics, ?For the many . . . may be better than the few good, if not regarded individually but collectively, just as a feast to which many contribute is better than a dinner provided out of the single purse.? Expertise in the form of empiricism straddles these two political poles. It is a more democratic expertise in that it is replicable, transparent, and sharable. Moreover, as discussed above, it is disciplined by the information inputs of blogs and information markets. Thus, expert judgments will no longer be those of the few wise persons who rely on authority to impress their conclusions on society. Instead, they will reflect the collective sentiments of the empirical community. To be sure, this is not the same as the entire democratic society. But the number of empiricists is large enough that it will provide many of the virtues of democratic judgments ? the application of many different perspectives to the same problem.

Already, we are beginning to see that the new culture of empiricism is shaping our conversation. We can see both the work of empiricists generally becoming more prominent and the specific empirical work shaping the debate about matters of national importance. On the prominence of empiricists, one has only to note the remarkable celebrity of Steve Levitt of the University of Chicago. His book, Freakonomics, has been on the New York Times best-seller list for more than a year at this writing, and he has been given the prime territory of the New York Times magazine for a weekly column.

The political impact of empiricism is far more pervasive than the efforts of this one prominent and sophisticated scholar. One important point to stress is that many empirical projects do not involve any complex formulas, but rather entail the collecting of data made easier by information technology. An excellent example is the studies that now map the ideologically skewed composition of our universities. From law schools to faculties of arts and sciences, whether measured by party affiliation or campaign contributions, the imbalance between Democrats and Republicans is from five to one to ten to one and occasionally even greater.1

This kind of work demonstrates how empiricism can have influence without generating its own values. The values being assumed here are those implicit in the operations of the academic community itself, which now defends affirmative action on the grounds that faculty and students of different races enrich the educational experience by leading to ?viewpoint diversity.? Accepting that rationale, it would appear that diversity of political viewpoint would be at least as important as diversity of ethnicity to many subjects, including law and most of the social sciences. As a result of the publicity now given to ideological imbalance, administrators have been forced to try to explain how their ideologically monolithic faculties are consistent with their purported educational ideals.


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« Reply #83 on: August 25, 2006, 11:50:15 AM »

Far more important to the future of America is the battle over substantive issues. Empiricism has already created a consensus in some areas, crime being one of the foremost among them. In the 1960s and 70s, the political community was very divided about the basic approach to crime. Some experts then attacked prison sentences as destructive rather than useful and even contended that certain criminal acts, like writing graffiti, should not be considered crimes at all.

But criminologists have turned to empiricism to show the truth of claims previously contested. It turns out that that prison sentences sharply reduce crime, as does the greater presence of police on the streets. Steve Levitt recognized that prison-overcrowding litigation created a natural experiment for testing the extent to which prison sentences reduced crime because the litigation released prisoners for reasons that had nothing to do with crime rates. By looking at the consequences of the prison litigation, he was able to show that for each criminal released from the prison population, the number of crimes will increase by about 15. Jonathan Klick and Alex Tabarrock used a similar natural experiment by using Homeland Security alerts to demonstrate the effectiveness of police. Homeland Security alerts increase the number of police in a given area but are otherwise unrelated to crime rates. Their paper suggests that a 50 percent increase in the number of police reduces crime by approximately 15 percent.

The consensus on crime and punishment not only has created agreement on sentencing policies and police practices in the United States, but also has radiated outward both to related fields and to other nations. It is frequently remarked that the area of constitutional law in which the conservative and liberal blocs show most agreement is criminal law and procedure. Given the effectiveness of prison, liberals are much less likely than they were in the 60s and 70s to insist on expanding rights that will reduce the convictions that lead to prison. In Great Britain, the cross-party consensus is similar. New Labour?s popular slogan is ?tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.?

What empiricism has done for criminological research in the past decade it will do for educational research in the next decade. Scholars are focusing on the factors that make for better educational outputs. The marquee issue is whether greater choice of school will improve outputs. An important study here is by Paul Peterson and William Howell, who look at the test case of school choice programs provided by private philanthropists. Because more students applied to those programs than could be accommodated, Peterson and Howell were able to compare the samples of pupils who went to private schools with those left behind in public schools. They found statistically significant improvement among African Americans who attended the private schools, although the improvement among other groups generally fell short of statistical significance.

Such a study is only the beginning of an empirical conversation. First, as with any scientific study, confidence in its results will grow if they are replicated elsewhere. Moreover, this study raises other questions, such as whether the results are scalable. If African Americans go to private schools in greater number, will the results be reproduced, or was the effect largely the result of bringing relatively few African Americans into a better-performing school culture? Second, will public schools be worse as a result of losing such students, or will they improve because of the greater competition? Researchers are now beginning to study these specific issues. In the meantime, Peterson?s and Howell?s work certainly provides reasons to create more experimental voucher programs, like the one the federal government is initiating with children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Only through larger-scale experiments are we likely to be able to answer the key questions about the beneficence of vouchers.

But though such serious empirical research on school structure has been welcomed, less serious studies come under withering fire from the new and old media. The New York Times provided a front-page story about a study by the American Federation of Teachers that argued the Education Department was covering up the failure of public charter schools ? a failure the aft claimed was apparent from its own data. The aft noted that these data showed that students at charter schools performed worse than those at ordinary public schools. Unfortunately for the aft, however, these raw discrepancies proved nothing because, unlike the work of Peterson and Howell, their researchers did not control for selection bias ? the fact that those who chose charter schools were not a random selection of the student population. Charter schools have often arisen in poor communities with students who are not doing well; thus, even if they improve the outputs of students, these students may still underperform compared to the average student. Blogs and even some of the mainstream media continuously contested the aft analysis for weeks after it was published.

But school choice is not the only matter about educational outputs that is subject to rigorous study. Educational empiricists are looking at the effect of school funding and class size on school performance. As important, they are considering how different kinds of educational programs affect different students so that better programs can be designed at the micro as well as macro levels. Within a decade, we will know a great deal more about what matters in primary and secondary education. These results will influence the shape of education for the next decade until even better data and analysis refine the hypotheses still further.

Some might counter that entrenched forces arrayed against change, like teachers unions or ideologues of some particular stripe, may prevent this work from having transformative influence. This seems unlikely. To be sure, interest groups will resist even reforms with consensus empirical support, but they cannot prevent the empirical results from seeping out from academics through the new media to the large bloc of genuinely independent voters and a not insubstantial number of conscientious politicians. As some jurisdictions adopt better policies and get better results, they will generate more information for change elsewhere.


If empiricism is good for consensus and bad for special-interest and partisan special pleaders, a culture of better-checked empiricism is even better. The most notable victim of fact-checking in recent years was Emory historian Michael Bellesiles, who won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American history with a book claiming that gun ownership was not widespread in colonial America. That claim obviously pleased partisans on one side of the debate about gun control. But James Lindgren, a leading empiricist at my own law school, found that some of his key statistical claims appeared to be based on fabricated evidence. After an investigation by his own university, Bellesiles resigned from his tenured position, and for the first time in its history the Bancroft Prize was withdrawn.

The growing spontaneous order of empiricism is the answer to those who worry that political movements or interest groups can take advantage of the empirical trend by manipulating facts to their advantage. Marxism styled itself scientific, and Marx and Engels did try to support their theories with data. But in their time, the strong culture of replicating the database and calculations underlying theories did not exist. Nor were there powerful statistical tests designed to shed light on social claims from multiple angles. In today?s culture, the factual claims of Marx and Engels would not have withstood the light of empirical scrutiny.

One of the advantages of the empirical approach is that it is not necessarily allied to the narrow view of rational man that dominates many social sciences today. If individuals act for reasons that seem irrational, like valuing something more simply because they own it, empirical methods can test the effects of that behavior on society. Nor is empiricism blind to the importance of values. Indeed, much interesting work has been done on the way religious organizations provide mutual help and raise the incomes of their members. Thus, empiricism is able to cash out the frequent claim of pundits and politicians that values matter; and fortunately, unlike them, it has a neutral metric for establishing which values have what particular effects.

Similarly, in the long run empiricism may be able to narrow the division between the advocates of liberty and the advocates of equity, because empiricists can investigate the extent to which there is a tradeoff between these two great social imperatives. For instance, empirical work has already shown that redistribution policies may create dependence and entrench an underclass, harming equity as well as growth. Empiricists are also considering the long-term effect of tax cuts on both growth and equity.

Of course, empiricism is not going to forge consensus on all issues. Empricists may show that abortions reduce crime or that abortion waiting periods reduce suicides, but these secondary consequences are not going to persuade the great majority of people that abortion is right or that waiting periods should be encouraged. Views about the intrinsic evil of abortion or the beneficence of abortion rights are likely to swamp all empirical considerations. But abortion is an unusual issue in this respect, because it divides citizens on the metaphysical question of when life begins, a subject on which many have strong views but no mechanism for demonstrating to their opponents that they are right. Most issues of our politics are happily not like abortion, where disagreement is fundamental and compromise difficult to imagine.

One might wonder whether the greater consensus on most issues ? particularly economic matters and other areas in which differences revolve around measurable consequences ? may actually increase the salience of intractable moral issues like abortion. Thus, more agreement on more policies may actually generate the political equivalent of the narcissism of small differences, in which individuals overlook the agreements they have to focus even more virulently on the disagreements that remain.

But this danger should not be exaggerated. Empricism has been increasing consensus for some time, yet differences on abortion and other such matters do not appear more virulent than in times past. Moreover, as Adam Smith observed, when religions compete, they have a tendency to become more moderate. Religion in the United States sustains the most important organizations that emphasize the role of values in social life; and as long as they must compete, the rise of consensus politics will intensify, not diminish, that competition, as religious sects will have to offer incentives to attract the many who are influenced by the empiricism all around them. Moreover, groups divided over basic issues of economic and social policy often exploit religious fault lines and other divisions over values to pursue their own partisan agendas. A more substantial policy consensus fostered by empiricism should diminish the impulse for such mischief-making and thus temper clashes over values.

If empiricism is likely to provide a source of consensus and constraint on interest groups in the future, policies that facilitate empirical work will also foster such worthy goals. The first imperative is to make data transparent and accessible, because statistical investigations need data above all. Unfortunately, the government often wants to conceal its operations and hide its failures. But with the rise of empiricism, there are even greater reasons to force what government does in the domestic arena (outside of sensitive national security matters) into the open. The daily activities of government and information about the work of its employees should be posted on the web in machine-readable form. Agencies would do well to follow the lead of Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Chris Cox, who has begun an initiative to both tag electronically the data sec receives and make sure that its future data are displayed in the most readily usable form. If necessary, special agencies should be created to monitor the dissemination and accuracy of such information.

Second, the rise of empiricism makes appropriate decentralization of government even more useful. One of the most powerful investigative tools in social science is to compare how different laws work in different states and nations. Such careful comparisons make manifest the consequences of good and bad policies. But that kind of investigation can work only if policies differ from place to place, and politicians in governments everywhere have an inherent tendency to centralize power because they can exercise more control. There are, of course, many reasons to resist this trend. Decentralization creates a market for governance by allowing different jurisdictions to compete to attract people and investment. It also permits the formulation of diverse policies that meet peoples? diverse preferences.

To all these virtues the rise of empiricism adds another: Decentralization facilitates the empirical investigation of the differing consequences of social policy. We can all learn from the effects of the flat taxes sweeping the Baltic states, but only if the European Union resists calls for tax harmonization. Those interested in fostering consensus and restraining interest groups should be even more insistent on the need for appropriate federalism at home and more resistant to international organizations that will force nations to acquiesce in international mandates about domestic matters.

Another policy imperative for advancing empiricism is to sustain the free flow of information that conveys research in useable form to the public. It goes without saying that any regulation of the blogs should be rejected. Unfortunately, some are already suggesting that blog postings should be considered in some circumstances a contribution to candidates and subject to regulation under the McCain-Feingold act. But it is precisely near elections that those with empirical data and expertise are most needed to critique the policies and platforms of candidates.

More generally, campaign finance regulation of all kinds is a threat to the dynamic of increasing the public?s awareness of new empirical conclusions that should help bring consensus. Although information technology has the potential to improve our knowledge of the social world and policies that will improve it, this same technology makes it harder to get the public to pay attention. When thousands of people were willing to attend the Lincoln-Douglas debates, it was the best show in town. But now politicians compete with hundreds of cable television stations featuring people far more attractive than politicians doing things most citizens find far more interesting.

In this new media landscape, we need more, not less money in politics to keep people informed. Of course, the information will be delivered in sound bites that most intellectuals find aesthetically unappealing, but the alternative to 30-second political ads is not a seminar on politics but a beer commercial or sitcom. And since the beginning of democracy, ideas originally generated by intellectuals have always been transmitted to the body public through simplifications and slogans. Such diffusion and general reception has nevertheless taken place over time and overall has been a force for social progress.


If empiricism helps support a consensus politics today, it is likely to be even more effective in the future. We have already reached the threshold where computers can retain billions of pieces of data and make millions of calculations per second. But computer capacity will continue to increase exponentially, making it scores of times more powerful in the next decade. We can expect the amount of data available to grow exponentially as well, as ever more electronic agents sift and collect data. We may even expect there to be computer programs to assess which empirical conclusions are the best when different empirical analyses conflict. Such computer judgments will have the virtue of even greater impartiality. In short, if the fruits of empiricism are now transforming the political information mix, that mix should become only richer in the coming years.

This accelerating power of empiricism does not guarantee enduring agreement on all aspects of the social policy and political structure. I am not here offering a fact-driven version of Francis Fukuyama?s End of History ? his famous theory that the dialectic of ideological debate will end in agreement on free markets and liberal democracy. Interest groups, future technological discoveries, and forces no one can now predict may create counter pressures for division of the polity. But the growing importance of factual investigation will generate a continuing tailwind for politics based on consensus and facts rather than special interests and special pleading.



1 This is the one area in which I have personally contributed to the empirical literature. See John O. McGinnis, Benjamin Tisdell, and Matthew A. Schwartz, "The Patterns and Implications of Political Contributions by Elite Law School Faculty," Georgetown Law Journal 93:4 (April 2005).
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« Reply #84 on: September 17, 2006, 10:12:56 AM »

The View From Guant?namo
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Published: September 17, 2006
Tirana, Albania

I HAVE been greatly saddened to hear that the Congress of the United States, a country I deeply admire, is considering new laws that would deny prisoners at Guant?namo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court.

I learned my respect for American institutions the hard way. When I was growing up as a Uighur in China, there were no independent courts to review the imprisonment and oppression of people who, like me, peacefully opposed the Communists. But I learned my hardest lesson from the United States: I spent four long years behind the razor wire of its prison in Cuba.

I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America?s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guant?namo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.

It was only the country?s centuries-old commitment to allowing habeas corpus challenges that put that mistake right ? or began to. In May, on the eve of a court hearing in my case, the military relented, and I was sent to Albania along with four other Uighurs. But 12 of my Uighur brothers remain in Guant?namo today. Will they be stranded there forever?

Without my American lawyers and habeas corpus, my situation and that of the other Uighurs would still be a secret. I would be sitting in a metal cage today. Habeas corpus helped me to tell the world that Uighurs are not a threat to the United States or the West, but an ally. Habeas corpus cleared my name ? and most important, it let my family know that I was still alive.

Like my fellow Uighurs, I am a great admirer of the American legal and political systems. I have the utmost respect for the United States Congress. So I respectfully ask American lawmakers to protect habeas corpus and let justice prevail. Continuing to permit habeas rights to the detainees in Guant?namo will not set the guilty free. It will prove to the world that American democracy is safe and well.

I am from East Turkestan on the northwest edge of China. Communist China cynically calls my homeland ?Xinjiang,? which means ?new dominion? or ?new frontier.? My people want only to be treated with respect and dignity. But China uses the American war on terrorism as a pretext to punish those who peacefully dissent from its oppressive policies. They brand as ?terrorism? all political opposition from the Uighurs.

Amnesty International reports that East Turkistan is the only province in China where people may face the death penalty for political offenses. Chinese leaders brag about the number of Uighur political prisoners shot in the head. I was punished for speaking against China?s unjust policies, and I left because of the threat to my life. My search for work and refuge took me from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I heard about the Sept. 11 attacks for the first time in Guant?namo. I was not aware of their magnitude until after my release, when a reporter showed me images online at an Internet cafe in Tirana. It was a terrible thing. But I too was its victim. I would never have experienced the ordeal and humiliation of Guant?namo if this horrific event had not taken place.

I feel great sadness for the families who lost their loved ones on that horrible day five years ago. And I would be sadder still to see the freedom-loving American people walk away from their respect for the rule of law. I want America to be a strong and respected nation in the world. Only then can it continue to be the source of hope for the hopeless ? like my people.

Abu Bakker Qassim was imprisoned at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, from 2002 to May. This article was translated from the Uighur by Nury Turael.

from today's NY Times
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« Reply #85 on: October 04, 2006, 11:57:46 PM »

Doubtless misfiled as it speaks to the antithesis of Libertarianism, so let it serve as a reason why liberty should be embraced.

China's Execution Buses
Updated: 02:16, Thursday October 05, 2006

Sky News has obtained chilling new evidence of mobile execution buses being used by the Chinese government.

It comes less than two years before China hosts the next Olympics - an event it was given after promising to improve its human rights record.

China's penal system is surrounded by a wall of secrecy, but an investigation by Sky's China correspondent Dominic Waghorn found that between 3,500 and 10,000 people are put to death each year.

The volume of executions has meant that China has invented new ways of killing, mobilizing and mechanizing its execution system.

Brochure shows execution buses
A brochure acquired by Sky News reveals details of China's new execution buses now operating across the country.

Fitted with lethal injection equipment they can deliver on the spot executions.

Sky News spoke to a number of people affected by the executions including the family of Nie Shubin who was only 20-years-old when he was wrongly accused of rape and murder.

His mother and sister told how he was held in jail for three years, without being allowed to see his family once.

Sky's Dominic Waghorn
Nie Shuie said: "They never let me see him after his arrest. That continued till the end. I never saw him again before he was executed.

"And nobody told us that he had been executed."

Nie was accused of attacking a woman in this field near his home, but only after his execution did another man confess to the attack.

In an exclusive report earlier this year, Sky News gathered evidence linking China's execution system and its booming organ transplant industry.

Amnesty International says the demand for transplant organs may be driving the high number of executions in China.

Even by official figures more people are executed every year in China than the rest of the world put together.
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« Reply #86 on: October 19, 2006, 07:21:56 PM »


FBI director wants ISPs to track users

Robert Mueller becomes latest Bush administration official to call for ISPs to store customers' data.
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET

Published: October 17, 2006, 4:18 PM PDT

FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday called on Internet service providers to record their customers' online activities, a move that anticipates a fierce debate over privacy and law enforcement in Washington next year.
"Terrorists coordinate their plans cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, as do violent sexual predators prowling chat rooms," Mueller said in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Boston.
ISP snooping time line

In events that were first reported by CNET, Bush administration officials have said Internet providers must keep track of what Americans are doing online.

June 2005: Justice Department officials quietly propose data retention rules.
December 2005: European Parliament votes for data retention of up to two years.
April 14, 2006: Data retention proposals surface in Colorado and the U.S. Congress.
April 20, 2006: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says data retention "must be addressed."
April 28, 2006: Rep. Diana DeGette proposes data retention amendment.
May 16, 2006: Rep. James Sensenbrenner drafts data retention legislation--but backs away from it two days later.
May 26, 2006: Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller meet with Internet and telecommunications companies.
June 27, 2006: Rep. Joe Barton, chair of a House committee, calls new child protection legislation "highest priority."

"All too often, we find that before we can catch these offenders, Internet service providers have unwittingly deleted the very records that would help us identify these offenders and protect future victims," Mueller said. "We must find a balance between the legitimate need for privacy and law enforcement's clear need for access."

The speech to the law enforcement group, which approved a resolution on the topic earlier in the day, echoes other calls from Bush administration officials to force private firms to record information about customers. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for instance, told Congress last month that "this is a national problem that requires federal legislation."

Justice Department officials admit privately that data retention legislation is controversial enough that there wasn't time to ease it through the U.S. Congress before politicians left to campaign for re-election. Instead, the idea is expected to surface in early 2007, and one Democratic politician has already promised legislation.

Law enforcement groups claim that by the time they contact Internet service providers, customers' records may have been deleted in the routine course of business. Industry representatives, however, say that if police respond to tips promptly instead of dawdling, it would be difficult to imagine any investigation that would be imperiled.

It's not clear exactly what a data retention law would require. One proposal would go beyond Internet providers and require registrars, the companies that sell domain names, to maintain records too. And during private meetings with industry officials, FBI and Justice Department representatives have cited the desirability of also forcing search engines to keep logs--a proposal that could gain additional law enforcement support after AOL showed how useful such records could be in investigations.

A representative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said he was not able to provide a copy of the resolution.

Preservation vs. retention

At the moment, Internet service providers typically discard any log file that's no longer required for business reasons such as network monitoring, fraud prevention or billing disputes. Companies do, however, alter that general rule when contacted by police performing an investigation--a practice called data preservation.

A 1996 federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act regulates data preservation. It requires Internet providers to retain any "record" in their possession for 90 days "upon the request of a governmental entity."
Because Internet addresses remain a relatively scarce commodity, ISPs tend to allocate them to customers from a pool based on whether a computer is in use at the time. (Two standard techniques used are the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet.)

In addition, Internet providers are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding that report to the appropriate police agency.

When adopting its data retention rules, the European Parliament approved U.K.-backed requirements saying that communications providers in its 25 member countries--several of which had enacted their own data retention laws already--must retain customer data for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.

The Europe-wide requirement applies to a wide variety of "traffic" and "location" data, including: the identities of the customers' correspondents; the date, time and duration of phone calls, VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls or e-mail messages; and the location of the device used for the communications. But the "content" of the communications is not supposed to be retained. The rules are expected to take effect in 2008.

CNET's Anne Broache contributed to this report.
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« Reply #87 on: October 20, 2006, 08:02:24 PM »

Myths of the Nanny State
by Radley Balko

The late economist Julian Simon was libertarianism's great optimist. Classical liberals are naturally cynical about government and, as Jefferson famously put it, its natural tendency to grow and for liberty to lose ground. The "upside" of libertarianism, however, has always been the philosophy's ability to see the potential in individuals and in people's proclivity to make good decisions about their own well-being and, in the process, better the plight of humankind.

No one put humanity's explosion of wealth and prosperity into better perspective than Simon. Simon's targets were the doom-and-gloom environmentalists and zero-population-growth activists who in the last half of the 20th century peddled dire predictions of the coming cataclysm they said would be wrought by free markets and American consumerism. Using a wealth of economic, demographic, health, and consumer data, Simon showed how capitalism has made us more prosperous, healthier, better educated, longer lived, and generally better off than we've ever been. Furthermore, he demonstrated how prosperity and technology tend to make scarce resources more abundant, not less.

Though Malthusian prophets still pop up from time to time, Simon seems to have largely won that debate. Today's critics of free markets don't invoke Armageddon as their predecessors did. Nor do they declare that prosperity will be our undoing. Rather, today they argue that we simply aren't equipped to handle our freedom and our success. Instead of invoking government to heavily regulate the economy and redistribute wealth, they now argue that we need government to make many of our personal decisions for us, because individual Americans can't be trusted to make them on their own.

The Rise of Parentalism

In a recent paper published in the journal Public Choice, "Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum," Nobel Prize?winning economist James Buchanan composes a new taxonomy of socialist threats to liberty. Buchanan argues that the conventional threats to freedom from managerial socialism (central planning) and distributionist socialism (the welfare state) are today joined by paternalistic socialism and "parental socialism," which Buchanan describes as the willingness among many to allow the government to take control of their lives.

The emerging threat to American liberty today, then, is a combination of these latter two forms of socialism?the desire among some in government to interfere in nearly every aspect of our lives, and the lack of concern on the part of many Americans that this is happening. And while conventional critics of capitalism came primarily from the left, the parentalist-paternalist movement isn't as easily marginalized.

From the left, for example, a new class of critics has emerged under the banner of "public health." True public health is, of course, a perfectly legitimate function of government. The collective nature of the threats posed by highly communicable diseases, for example, makes protection from them a legitimate public good, deliverable by government. Today one might also include the threats posed by biological or chemical terrorism.

But modern "public-health" initiatives have moved well beyond what could reasonably be classified as public goods. Today, government undertakes all sorts of policies in the name of public health that are aimed at regulating personal behavior. It began in the 1970s and 1980s with anti-smoking initiatives and today includes a wide range of programs, including efforts aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, encouraging seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use, regulating diet and lifestyle in the name of curbing obesity, federalizing local issues like speed limits and the minimum drinking age, and generally using the power of the state to regulate away lifestyle risk.

But the American right, which has traditionally claimed to favor limited government, is no better. The Republican-led Congress is attempting to prohibit Internet gambling. That same Congress wants to expand the FCC's regulatory power beyond broadcast television to include cable television and satellite radio. President Bush's Department of Justice has declared prosecuting pornography a "top priority." And of course, the Bush administration has enforced the nation's drug laws with particular vigilance, paying little heed to traditional conservative notions of state sovereignty. The White House has vigorously defended the federal government's authority to regulate medical marijuana, physician-assisted suicide, and prescription painkillers, for example, even in states where voters have explicitly indicated their preference for laxer enforcement. In the case of medical marijuana, White House efforts may have resulted in the final deathknell for federalism.

Though the public health movement seems to have come largely from the left, and the "culture war" crusades against gambling, pornography, pop culture, and drugs largely from the right, it's important to point out that there is significant convergence between the two. Fervent anti-alcohol activists such as former Carter administration official Joseph Califano, for example, are every bit as active in promoting drug prohibition. National Review contributing editor David Frum has called for a "fat tax" on high-calorie foods, joining more left-oriented organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Family values advocates like William Bennett and John DiIulio and Republican Congressmen like Tom Osborne and Frank Wolf have joined with liberal organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in calling for heavy government regulation of alcohol. And there seems to be wide, bipartisan support for a powerful state on issues like continuing the drug war, instituting smoking bans in private bars and restaurants, the aforementioned ban on Internet gambling, and increased government scrutiny over pop culture media such as rap music and violent video games.

On the right, movements like National Review contributor Rod Dreher's "crunchy conservatism" borrow bons mots from Marx in denigrating wealth, consumption, and consumerism. Meanwhile, the left-leaning editorial boards at the Washington Post and New York Times abandoned traditional civil liberties concerns in supporting the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the federal ban on medical marijuana, because a ruling the other way might have adversely affected the federal government's massive regulatory state.

As Reason magazine's Jesse Walker has put it, "There is no party of tolerance in Washington?just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four out of Five Experts Agree."

Progressivism Redux

The lack of a clear ideological affiliation makes today's paternalism-parentalism increasingly resemble the early 20th century's progressive movement. Both are comprised of a motley mix of values crusaders and "nanny staters." Both value the "collective good" over personal choice, precaution over risk, and the community over the individual.

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the public discourse of late has been rife with nostalgia for progressivism. People on the left, having sullied the good word "liberal," now call themselves "progressives." Republicans from George W. Bush, the current president, to Sen. John McCain, who some see as a leading candidate to be the next, have publicly expressed their fondness for Theodore Roosevelt, the first president of the Progressive Era.

New America Foundation fellow Joel Kotkin explicitly called for a return to Progressive Era politics in a Washington Post essay, while Michael Gerson, who served as President Bush's chief speechwriter the last six years, recently named progressive icon William Jennings Bryan one of his personal heroes. Perhaps most bizarrely, the Drug Enforcement Administration has recently taken the position that alcohol prohibition? the crown jewel of Progressive Era reforms, and one of the most catastrophic experiments in American history?was in fact a success.

As Buchanan points out, parentalism and paternalism are at heart merely new forms of socialism. They value community and the collective good over choice and individual freedom. Public policy recommendations aimed at curbing alcoholism or obesity, for example, are rarely aimed at alcoholics or obese people themselves. Rather, they're usually aimed at taming "the environment" of alcohol or obesity, code for the food and alcohol industries. Specific recommendations inevitably target marketing and advertising, the tools free markets use to distribute information.

When policies are aimed at individuals, they're generally redistributionist in nature?sin or vice taxes, for example. Proposals like the "fat tax" tax all users of high-calorie foods, with proceeds going to obesity treatment and prevention programs? meaning they redistribute wealth from people who consume calorie-dense foods responsibly to those who don't.

Which brings us back to Julian Simon. Simon used empirical data to deflate claims that capitalism and industry were making us sick, irreparably damaging the earth, and bringing about the end of humanity. Simon instead showed how free markets and liberal institutions ushered in health, wealth, and longevity unprecedented in the history of man.

The emerging paternalist-parentalistsocialist threat to liberty, then, is in many ways the same old threat dressed up in new clothes. Critics of capitalism and consumerism can no longer credibly predict that free markets will eradicate the world's food supply. So today they argue that the food industry has created a nation of gluttons (which, considering that the bulk of human history has been a struggle against starvation, isn't such a bad problem to have). Of course, only a society prosperous enough to do away with child labor can worry about its children having too much to eat. The proliferation of Internet pornography or online gambling isn't of much concern in countries where less than 5 percent of the population has Internet access.

The "problems" this latest form of socialism attempts to solve, then, are afflictions of prosperity. They're problems much of the world would still consider itself fortunate to have.

It's also not clear that they're really problems at all.

Getting Better All the Time

Consider America's "cultural decay"? something conservatives are fond of invoking. Implicit in calls for government regulation of pornography, obscenity, gambling, alcohol, and the like is the assumption that cable television, pop music, the mainstreaming of pornography, and other cultural pariahs are breaking down America's important social institutions. But there's little data to suggest that's the case. In fact, nearly every social indicator is trending in a direction most of us would consider positive.

Here are just a few examples, culled from government agencies and advocacy groups: Teen pregnancy is at its lowest point since government researchers have been keeping statistics. Juvenile crime has been falling for 20 years (though there was, admittedly, a slight uptick last year). Crimes against children are down. The number of reported rapes has dropped dramatically over the last two decades, even as social stigma against rape victims has subsided. Despite a negligible increase last year, overall crime in the United States has also been in decline for 15 years.

There's more: Divorce is down. Teens are waiting longer to have sex. High school dropout rates are down. Unemployment remains low. And over the past decade, the overall abortion rate has dropped significantly. If Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," Internet porn, and violent video games are indeed inducing a nationwide slouch toward Gomorrah, as conservative icon Robert Bork once put it, it's difficult to discern from those statistics.

What's most intriguing is that all of these trends have been taking place since at least the mid-1990s?a period during which technology has given us more freedom to indulge in sin and vice than ever before, and an era in which Americans have become markedly less judgmental. The last 15 years have seen more tolerance for gay lifestyles, with shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy finding mainstream audiences. The 1990s also saw the rise of the Internet, which has given Americans private, unfettered access to gambling and pornography; enabled the anonymous purchase of alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs; and given even the oddest and most bizarre of subcultures the opportunity to find others just like them, and to create communities. The 1990s also saw the rise of gangsta' rap, violent video games, Howard Stern, and South Park.

In 2004, the conservative magazine City Journal reported on a series of polls showing that when it comes to issues of vice, personal behavior, and morality, Americans aged 30 and under are more conservative than several prior generations. Yet they're also more tolerant of other lifestyles, less judgmental, and heavy consumers of the pop culture conservative opinion leaders tell us is so corrupting.

Interestingly enough, the one statistic that bucks these trends is drug use. Drug use among adults is actually up over the past 20 years. But drug use is one area of personal liberty the government has gotten more aggressive about policing, which suggests that government efforts to control our decisions not only stifle individual freedom, they aren't very effective, either.

But even with drug use, there's some evidence that Americans are behaving responsibly. Though recreational use is up among adults, it's actually down over the same period among people under 18. So while people old enough to make their own decisions about their lives might be more likely to relax with the occasional marijuana cigarette, they're also making more of an effort to steer their kids clear of what are clearly adult activities.

Similarly, empirical data strongly suggests that despite claims from the public health alarmists that obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and any other number of ailments are wreaking a health care catastrophe in America, America is actually healthier than it's ever been.

Life expectancy in the United States reached an all-time high last year. Americans at every age can expect to live longer than ever before. The gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites is closing, too. Heart disease is in sharp decline since the early 1990s, as is stroke. Deaths from and incidence of cancer are also in retreat, including all but one of the 10 types of cancer most associated with obesity. The absolute number of deaths due to cancer also fell by 50,000 in 2004, a remarkable feat considering that America's population continues to grow. Yet these heartening trends have persisted despite the fact that, over the same period, many Americans have put on weight. Certainly, advances in medical technology, improvements in screening and treating diseases, and miracle drugs like statins deserve much of the credit (though it's worth pointing out that many of the same public health groups oppose the very free market aspects of U.S. health care that made these advances possible). No one would argue that excessive obesity is something to strive for. But if America's thickening waistline really were the looming disaster it's made out to be, we should at least be seeing the early signs of the cataclysm. That hasn't happened.

Like the doom-and-gloomers Simon fought, then, there simply isn't much evidence to support the sky-is-falling scenarios offered up by proponents of modern paternalism. Just as Americans are wiser, savvier, and more responsible with their own money than the government is, they also seem to be doing just fine when making their own decisions about virtue, vice, and lifestyle. Of course, even if they weren't, there are philosophical objections to government meddling in personal affairs.

The early 20th century journalist H. L. Mencken, a fierce critic of the original progressives, wrote, "the urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it." That was true last century, when humanity's saviors were central planners who marched much of the developing world into starvation. And it's true today, when our "saviors" want laws, regulations, and government "awareness campaigns" pushing the hand of government into nearly every facet of our lives.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2006 edition of Cato Policy Report
« Last Edit: October 20, 2006, 08:04:19 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #88 on: November 14, 2006, 11:02:40 PM »

November 13, 2006
The Libertarian Effect
Posted by ROSS KAMINSKY | E-Mail This | Permalink | Email RCP

In one closely watched Congressional race (Sodrel v Hill, IN-9) and two critical Senate races (Missouri and Montana), the Republican candidate was defeated by fewer votes than the Libertarian candidate received.

[Note: the last data I could find on the Missouri race still had two of the 3746 precincts to report, so it is possible that statement isn't true for Missouri, but if it is not true it is still very close and does not diminish my point.]

In other words, in these two critical Senate races and if the Republican had gotten the Libertarian's votes, the Republican would have won.

For the rest of this article, please recognize that I am speaking of the small-"l" libertarian, and not the Libertarian Party of the candidates mentioned above. A "libertarian", in the shortest definition I can muster, is someone who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In other words, it is someone who wants the government to perform a very small set of legitimate functions and otherwise leave us alone.

I can hardly contain my glee at seeing this happen after years of hoping it would. And in such dramatic fashion, with such important results. I did not hope it would because I wanted Republicans to lose, but because the Republicans had become corrupted (by which I do not mean corrupt in the typical sense.) They became enamored of power, and believed that they could get away with expanding the size, intrusiveness, and cost of government as long as they had government aim for "conservative" goals rather than liberal ones. This loss, and the way it happened, was the best thing that could have happened for Americans who care about a government focused on limited government and liberty.

No, the Democrats are not that government. They believe in anything but limited government, and they only believe in liberty in one's personal life, but not in one's economic life. In a sense, Democrats believe that the citizens work for the government.

Republicans on the other hand have acted in just the opposite way: they believe in economic liberty and they know we do not work for government. But they do not believe in personal liberty. The failure of the strategery of the Republicans, to focus on "the base" by trotting out social issues such as the South Dakota no-exception abortion ban (which lost, I'm pleased to say) demonstrated two things: First, social issues do not have long coat-tails. Second, the GOP base is fiscal conservatives more than it is social conservatives.

Fiscal conservatives, even more than social conservatives, were the demotivated voting block. Fiscal conservatives who are not socially conservative, i.e. voters who are libertarian even if they don't know it or wouldn't identify themselves that way, were the key swing vote in this election and were the reason that the GOP lost Congress...the Senate in particular.

In a recent study called "The Libertarian Vote", David Boaz (Cato Institute) and David Kirby (America's Future Foundation) discuss the growing number of American libertarians, the growing dissatisfaction among them (including me) with the GOP, and the continuing shift in voting patterns caused by that dissatisfaction. Tuesday held the obvious conclusion of this shift.

The party which went from reforming welfare to banning internet gambling by sticking the ban inside a port security bill, the party which went from Social Security reform to trying to amend the Federal Constitution to prevent gay marriage, the party which went from controlling the size and scope of government to banning horse meat became a party which libertarians and Republicans alike could not stomach.

The Democrats are a disaster, though they probably realize they need to move to the center. The Republicans have just been taught a brutal lesson that they also need to move to the center (on social issues) and back to fundamental principles of our Founders on issues of economics and basic liberties. No party can rely on the unappealing nature of their opponent to be a strong enough motivation to win elections, nor should we let them win if being just a bit better than the other guys is all they aspire to.

What I love about libertarian voters is that they vote on principle, not on party. The GOP might not like it, but politics should not be about blind loyalty if your party has lost its way. So, I disagree with suggestions that libertarians are fickle and unreliable voters. Instead the Republicans became an unreliable party. The Democrats on the other hand are extremely reliable -- they will always raise spending and taxes, get government involved where it doesn't belong. But other than the tax cuts of several years ago, the Republicans have been no different other than choosing different areas of our lives to intrude upon.

I hope that the result of the Libertarian Effect, particularly on the GOP, will be that the next election may provide us an opportunity to replace this batch of Democrat placeholders with Congressmen who not only have read the Constitution, but respect it. Congressmen who understand that Republican voters do not elect politicians to have them impose their (or our) morality on the people, but rather to keep government from interfering in our lives and leaving us, in the immortal words of Milton Friedman, "Free to Choose".
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« Reply #89 on: February 27, 2007, 11:30:14 PM »

Rise of the Radical Libertarians
by Bill Steigerwald (more by this author)
Posted 02/27/2007 ET
Updated 02/27/2007 ET

Individual freedom, property rights, free trade and limited government are not exactly core values of either major party today, but they were the philosophical and political stuff America was founded on. Brian Doherty, a Reason magazine editor, has written “Radicals for Capitalism,” a “freewheeling” history of the post-World War II libertarian movement whose brilliant, principled and always outnumbered thinkers -- lead by icons Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises -- have greatly influenced American politics and public policy. I talked to Doherty Feb. 21 by phone from Los Angeles.

What's a quick synopsis of your book?

Brian Doherty: It tells the personal stories of the philosophers, economists, politicians and think-tankers who have pursued the often thankless task in 20th century America of pushing the ideas of libertarianism -- the radical ideas that actually were at the root of the American founding. The heart of libertarianism is pretty much in the Declaration of Independence -- that human beings have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not the government guarantee of happiness.

Government’s only purpose is to protect those rights and if it does not protect those rights, we have the right to alter or abolish it. In the 20th century, a bunch of people realized, especially post-Roosevelt and the New Deal, that government was indeed violating those rights, left, right and center, and they strove to alter it, mostly through education.

Libertarians have tended to be a pretty intellectual lot. They have economists and novelists as their great leaders. The very first libertarian think tank was called the Foundation for Economic Education. They were focused on education. They believed that if they could explain the benefits of liberty and free markets to people, that the government would then follow. And while you certainly could not say they’ve been victorious, I think the story the book tells shows a lot of very encouraging successes.

Why should anyone not already a libertarian read your book?

Doherty: Because libertarianism, whether you like it or not, actually has become an idea to be reckoned with on the American political landscape. I argue in my book that such prominent Republican figures as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan had a great deal of libertarianism at their heart and that it was the libertarianism in them that actually was most responsible for what people loved about them.

This notion of trusting the people and getting government off people’s back is a very libertarian message. Social movements from home-schooling, the school voucher movement, the medical marijuana movement, the anti-eminent domain movement, the movement to get rid of the draft, the welfare reform of the '90s, which was based to a large degree on the work of libertarian author Charles Murray -- these ideas have had an enormous impact on the policy scene and I would argue that as the “Entitlement State” of the 20th century faces an inevitable collapse because of fiscal realities, libertarian ideas are going to become all the more significant on the American scene in the 21st century.

What’s a brief definition of libertarianism?

Doherty:  The belief that government, if it has any purpose at all -- and there are some libertarians who think it doesn’t -- then that purpose is only to protect its own citizens’ lives and property from direct force and direct attack. The implications of this can get very radical, from no restrictions on peoples’ use of any drug, whether it be for their own personal pleasure or even for medicine; it could mean an end to prescription drug laws. It could mean an end to all of the overseas military commitments the U.S. has been involved in that don’t actually involve defending the actual borders of this country. So while it’s a very Yankee Doodle philosophy, it’s very much rooted in the American founding. It has implications that are very radical -- which is why I put radical in the title of my book.

Is or was America ever a libertarian country?

Doherty: Never in practice. Philosophically, it was extremely libertarian in its founding, but due to the religious and social mores of the time, there were all sorts of restrictions on what people could actually do -- including some vagrancies laws that basically didn’t allow certain people to even walk into certain cities unless they lived there or had jobs.  And of course, the status of blacks and women, which were horrendous in libertarian terms pretty much until the mid 20th century, prevented the political philosophy from functioning in a libertarian way. So no, libertarian remains a cause whose full flowering remains for the future while being rooted in core American ideas. The 19th century, despite popular myth, was not an era of rampant laissez-faire, which I discuss in my book.

Do libertarians have more political power today than 30 years ago?

Doherty: They do, though most of that influence is not through the political party with the word “libertarian” in its name. That party’s done very well for itself as a third party. It’s managed to stick around and grow for over 30 years. It drew over 13 million votes at every electoral level in 2006. It’s done nicely for itself, but the real influence of libertarian ideas has been through the two major parties.

 Bill Clinton’s welfare reform was highly influenced by libertarian Charles Murray’s ideas about welfare in his book “Losing Ground.” Milton Friedman was a great influence on both federal reserve policy regarding inflation in the early ‘80s and in his work on the draft in the Nixon era, but again, done through Republican politicians. So yes, it has been influential, though not necessarily flying the explicitly libertarian banner in doing so.

What was the most surprising or important thing you learned from doing this book?

Doherty: Exactly how despised and outsider these ideas were in the '40s and '50s. I kind of knew it, but I was shocked to find certain details about it. One was the story of Rose Wilder Lane, the great libertarian author and the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books. She was actually investigated by the FBI in the late '40s for daring to write on a postcard, that an officious postmaster read, that she considered Social Security the sort of socialist central control that we were supposed to be fighting against in World War I and World War II.

Of the big five of the libertarian movement -- Von Mises, Hayek, Rand,  Rothbard and Friedman -- who is your favorite?

Doherty: Murray Rothbard, and I’ll tell you why. Rothbard, in one way, was the most distinctly libertarian of the libertarians. He was influenced a lot by both Mises and Rand, not so much by Hayek and Friedman. He brought together Mises’ deep economist’s understanding of why government economic intervention tends to fail and Ayn Rand’s sort of natural rights-based philosophy that argued that it is morally wrong for government to do certain things, whether or not it worked better -- even though it didn’t work better.

Rothbard also took them to sort of the most colorful and radical extremes. He actually was a complete anarchist. Unlike Rand and Mises, he didn’t believe there was any role for government. He wrote so well and was so impassionedly in so many fields -- philosophy, economics and history -- and was so intimately involved at an organizational level with lots of great libertarian institutions, from the Cato Institute to the Institute for Humane Studies to the Foundation of Economic Education. He really had his hands in every aspect of the story, was such a colorful and fun writer, and was so bracing in his radicalism, that I found him the most fun to contemplate of all those figures.

Who has been the most influential American libertarian of the last 100 years?

Doherty: Milton Friedman, unquestionably. His success as a technical economist -- he won the Nobel Prize in 1976 -- was combined with a very great skill in explaining technicalities to a popular audience, which he did in a column in Newsweek from 1966 to 1984, and in popular books in “Capitalism and Freedom” and “Free to Choose” and then the PBS series that “Free to Choose” arose from. Unlike a Rothbard, he didn’t try to bang you over the head with sort of the anarchist radicalism, which helped in him being influential.

As my book tells, he really was the guy who convinced the Nixon-era Gates Commission that an all-volunteer army could work and was directly responsible for the end of the draft in the early '70s. His writings on monetary policy were the key intellectual influence that helped shape Federal Reserve policy in the Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan era that brought the inflation level down to a more manageable level. Those were his two biggest polemical victories and certainly vitally important. He was certainly also the most widely respected of the great libertarian thinkers.

Can or should libertarians save the Republican Party?

Doherty: I don’t know if they can and I don’t know if they should. I’d like to believe that they can. George Bush has taken the Republican Party remarkably far away from any of the libertarianism that was at least somewhat inherent in it through the Goldwater and Reagan eras. If Bush’s flight from libertarian and small-government principles helps lead to a further crushing Republican defeat in 2008, I’d like to believe that that could make the Republican Party go back to limited-government ideas. I’m not confident it will, but I hold out some hope that it might.

In this age of drug wars, the war on Iraq, the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Department -- a lot of very un-libertarian developments -- do you see the glass half full or horribly empty for the future of libertarianism?

Doherty: Half full. The two greatest dangers for the libertarian activists are, strangely enough, optimism and pessimism. A short-term optimism is very dangerous. It can be easy to think that the evils of the state are so severe and the economic troubles they’re creating are so awful that it has to come to an end right now, and that if you don’t see it come to an end in the next election cycle, you get burnt out and think things are hopeless.

Long-term pessimism is also a mistake, because if you look at the general arc of Western Civilization, there really has been enormous progress for the ideas of private property and individual rights at the heart of libertarianism. If libertarians are correct in their assessment of the practical problems that arise from state intervention and things like the massive Entitlement State, we can be confident that these things that can’t go on will stop. If libertarians have done their job right in keeping the ideas of liberty and free markets alive, then those ideas will be there, as everyone from Friedman and Rothbard recognized, for policy makers to pick up on.

Mr. Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
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« Reply #90 on: February 28, 2007, 03:59:06 AM »

Nice read Buz  smiley

Coincidentally enough I ran across a different kind of libertarian thought piece today:


Enforcing Virtue

Is social stigma a threat to liberty, or is it liberty in action?
Cathy Young | March 2007 Print Edition

It's the debate that won't die: the endless face-off between conservatives and libertarians over the tension between liberty and morality.

In his foreword to the 1998 anthology Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative/Libertarian Debate-much of it composed of essays from the 1950s and '60s-editor George W. Carey described it as the main fault line dividing the two philosophies.

In Carey's words, conservatives "believe that shared values, morals, and standards, along with accepted traditions, are necessary for the order and stability of society" and that some restrictions on individual freedom, including censorship, may be needed to preserve this social cohesion. Most libertarians, he continued, share the conservatives' alarm about the "erosion of both public and private virtues" but regard individual liberty as the highest value and free choice as the prerequisite for true virtue.
So far, so good. But beyond rejecting moral enforcement by government, what is the libertarian view of moral and cultural standards upheld by a voluntary social consensus?
Some conservatives accuse libertarians of treating all shared values or conventions with contempt.

Take W. James Antle III, a reporter for The American Spectator (and occasional contributor to Reason) who describes himself as a "conservative-libertarian hybrid." In a May 2003 article in Enter State Right, he pointed to the response to the then-recent flap over virtue czar William Bennett's gambling problem.

Antle acknowledged that Bennett "was an unrepentant drug warrior and leading force for using the federal government to promote traditionalist conservative objectives." But he charged that "libertarian criticism was not limited to Bennett's designs for the state: many were clearly put off by his propensity to judge lifestyles, criticize individual choices and espouse limits on personal appetites."

In a Wall Street Journal article published around the same time, Journal columnist Susan Lee, while basically sympathetic to the libertarian viewpoint, wrote that libertarian tolerance "comes from indifference to moral questions, not from a greater inborn talent to live and let live."

Is that a fair description? Libertarians certainly have been known to criticize and ridicule moralists even when they aren't calling for government coercion-for instance, when they wring their hands over the loss of cultural constraints on sexuality. Of course, such hand wringing is often an inviting target.
Consider a November 2006 rant on the American Spectator website by the blogger Carol Platt Liebau. Liebau lamented our culture's alleged failure to stigmatize the crotch-flashing antics of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, and the alleged message to young girls that such tawdry displays are a path to empowerment.
In fact, Spears' indecent exposure was cruelly mocked by the same gossip outlets that publicized it, and Rosie O'Donnell, hardly a right-wing moralist, pleaded for a cover-up on ABC's The View.

But the merits of specific conservative pleadings aside, is there anything illiberal about an argument for the cultural stigmatization of, say, casual sex?
Does supporting the free speech right to chronicle your sex life or explore your sexual fantasies online mean that you cannot regard such porno-blogging as tacky and narcissistic?
Must you oppose not just state censorship but the social conventions that generally compel such bloggers to conceal their activities from relatives and employers?
Few libertarians, I think, would argue that stigmatization as such is abhorrent. While no libertarian worth the name would support legal prohibitions on hate speech, the overwhelming majority would agree that racist, anti-Semitic, or homophobic slurs should be socially unacceptable, penalized through severe disapproval if not outright ostracism.

To take a less extreme example, many (myself included) would also agree with the mainstream culture's dislike of such voluntary traditionalist initiatives as the Southern Baptists' call for wifely submission.
The question, then, is not whether undesirable conduct should be curbed through social censure. It's which conduct should be seen as undesirable-and on that, self-professed libertarians should be able hold a wide range of opinions.

Within the libertarian milieu, there is a tension between political libertarians, whose chief concern is limiting and reversing the expansion of the state and its powers, and social or cultural libertarians, whose central interest is maximizing individual opportunities and freedom of choice.

For some political libertarians, the centralized government is so unquestionably the greatest enemy that they not only oppose civil rights laws banning private race and gender discrimination but reject the post-Civil War constitutional doctrine that state governments must abide by the Bill of Rights.
(That was the position espoused by the late Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne, who opposed Jim Crow laws but felt they should have been fought on the local level.

State infringements on individual rights, he argued, posed a far smaller danger to liberty than expanded federal power.

Meanwhile, some cultural libertarians are concerned about constraints on individual freedom from government as well as from traditionalist familial, religious, and community institutions-the same civil institutions that conservatives see as necessary for ordered liberty to thrive.

In his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty, F.A. Hayek wrote that his real quarrel with conservatives was not their opposition to drastic change in institutions but their readiness to use government force to curb such change.
To Hayek, moral and cultural standards were the product of spontaneous order emerging from the interplay of economic and social forces, from evolution and experimentation unguided by any central authority.

Yet noncoercive criticism of what some of us deem to be negative social and cultural trends is itself a vital part of that evolution. It's one thing to demand a federal virtue police; it's another to write and market a book about virtue and hope that its lessons will catch on.

As long as the Bill Bennetts of the world are intent on using not just persuasion but force (and public funds) on behalf of their favorite virtues-promoting premarital abstinence through federal programs, banning legal protections for same-sex unions, censoring sexually explicit materials, waging the war on drugs-libertarians can be forgiven for fearing even noncoercive moralizing on their part.

But it's important to remember that cultural progressives have not hesitated to use the government on their side: to promote liberal attitudes toward sexuality and sex roles through public education, say, or to compel landlords to rent to unmarried cohabiting couples even if they have religious objections to such a lifestyle.

The backlash from the social right is directed at such social engineering as well as spontaneous cultural change.

It is also true, of course, that even noncoercive moralizing can be egregiously misguided. If criticism of modern cultural trends is a part of the spontaneous order, so is anti-traditionalist countercriticism.

But this is where libertarian discourse can benefit from a greater variety of viewpoints and a more calibrated approach to social issues.

Just because conservatives are quite wrong (in my opinion) to argue that young women are victimized by sexual freedom doesn't mean that only right-wing killjoys can have misgivings about prepubescent girls parading in T-shirts with vulgar messages and gyrating to music with sexually explicit lyrics.

Just because I think the right is wrong to cling to a family model based on rigid gender roles doesn't mean I'm happy about the growth of single parenthood.

The Hayekian principle that "neither moral nor religious ideals are proper objects of coercion" is one most Americans will readily embrace.

But if libertarians are seen as championing not simply freedom of choice but a rigidly nonjudgmental attitude toward all choices-if we are seen not simply as tolerant but as indifferent to moral questions-then many people who might be sympathetic to liberty will be pushed into the arms of the authoritarians.

Contributing Editor Cathy Young ( is the author of Ceasefire! (Free Press).
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« Reply #91 on: May 21, 2007, 05:16:11 PM »

Press Association Newsfile

The UK's first police "spy drone" took to the skies today.  The remote control helicopter, fitted with CCTV cameras, will be used by officers in Merseyside to track criminals and record anti-social behaviour.  The drone is only a metre wide, weighs less than a bag of sugar, and can record images from a height of 500m.  It was originally used for military reconnaissance but is now being trialled by a mainstream police force.

The spy plane was launched as a senior police officer warned the surveillance society in the UK is eroding civil liberties.

Ian Readhead, deputy chief constable of Hampshire Police, said Britain could face an Orwellian situation with cameras on every street corner.  However, senior officers in Merseyside, who are trialling the drone, said they did not believe it was the next phase in creating a Big Brother society.

Assistant chief constable Simon Byrne said: "People clamour for the feeling of safety which cameras give.

"Obviously there is a point of view that has been expressed but our feedback from the public is anything we can do to fight crime is a good thing.

"There are safeguards in place legally covering the use of CCTV and the higher the level of intrusion, the higher the level of authority needed within the police force to use it. So there is that balance there."

Police said the drone is expected to be operational by June and will be given a three-month trial.

« Reply #92 on: May 22, 2007, 12:13:01 PM »

Not a Bill Moyers fan, but a good interview with Nick Gillespie from last Friday.
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« Reply #93 on: May 26, 2007, 08:26:26 AM »

Critics target drug raid seizures
Police often keep property even absent a conviction

Thursday, December 13, 2001


Before dawn, heavily armed officers stormed Shane Hendrickson's Tacoma home. They busted open the front door, grabbed the self-employed painter and hauled him off to the police station.

There, they grilled him, accusing him of participating in a major pot-growing operation. Hendrickson steadfastly denied it, and hours later, detectives had enough doubts to cut him loose.

   Chris Jones of Woodinville Public Auto Auction prepares a scooter seized in a drug raid for auction. Law enforcement agencies that make property seizures keep 90 percent of auction proceeds. Jeff Larsen / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Click for larger photo
By the time he returned home that day, Oct. 4, Hendrickson's baby-blue 1984 Chevy van -- with Dialed-in Paint Co. stenciled on the sides -- was gone. So were his business papers, including bids for upcoming jobs. And his girlfriend's new computer and all her disks.

In the blink of an eye, Hendrickson, 27, was out of work.

"It just kind of shut me down for a while," he said. "These people think they're above God."

Hendrickson, though, was more fortunate than most. He hasn't been charged with a crime, and, after a month or so, the last of his property was returned -- albeit with a lawyer's help.

In the past decade, drug-related property seizures have skyrocketed in Washington, with annual proceeds raised from auctions statewide jumping from $1.2 million to a record $6.7 million in 2000. That doesn't count forfeitures made by federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the FBI.

In King County last year, authorities seized $2.2 million in drug-related assets. But even though four out of 10 criminal cases either never got off the ground or fell apart, the bulk of the cars, cash, cellular phones, stereos and other goods grabbed from those suspects were never returned, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has found.

One out of five people whose property was seized were never charged with a crime. When people were charged, the cases were dropped about 23 percent of the time, according to records obtained from the state Treasurer's Office and a search of computerized court documents.

Washington's powerful property-seizure law, loudly criticized by defense attorneys and civil rights activists, allows police departments, sheriff's offices and drug task forces to take a suspect's property if authorities believe it was used in connection with a drug crime or purchased with tainted money.

Fears of overzealous law enforcement have spurred a drive to revamp the law -- toughening the legal standard for forfeiture and barring police from taking a person's property until he or she is convicted of a crime.

Backers of Initiative 256, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, must collect 197,734 valid signatures by Jan. 4 in order to put the measure before the 2002 Legislature. Lawmakers can pass I-256 outright or put it on the ballot next November.

Forfeiture money helps fund drug enforcement efforts, which critics call a blatant conflict, driving authorities to seize as much as they can from suspects -- even when there's insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.


"There's a huge financial incentive for police to be taking property," said Jerry Sheehan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington. "That they can do that without any charges ever being brought, let alone any conviction gained, is very troubling."

Legislators adopted modest reforms this year, passing a bill that shifts the burden of proof to police when their seizures are challenged. Law enforcement agencies are also required to pay legal fees if they lose such a challenge. The bill passed only after a tougher measure, similar to the current initiative, failed.

Law enforcement officials say further restrictions would hurt their ability to crack down on drug dealers by choking off some of the money supporting undercover operations.

"We don't want to jump off of the cliff" with an initiative that could effectively end forfeitures in Washington, said Christopher Hurst, a Black Diamond Police Department detective and Democratic state representative. "The answer here really falls somewhere in the middle."

"In reality, money is the engine that drives drug dealers," said Steve Tucker, a King County sheriff's detective who has worked drug cases since 1989. "If you take away the money, it's not only deterrence for new guys, it's stopping repeat offenders. If you dismantle the structure, including the proceeds, they have to start again at ground zero."

But why are so many suspected drug dealers finding their property seized but escaping punishment?

The P-I examined 236 King County cases involving property seizures last year and found that 50 suspects, or 21 percent, were never charged. Of the 186 cases that were prosecuted, 42 (23 percent) dissolved into acquittals or dismissed charges, court records show. There has been no resolution in 19 other cases.

Thus, at least 39 percent of the 236 cases never resulted in convictions, a fact law enforcement officials say isn't surprising.

They say many of the smaller fish turn state's evidence or become informants at the behest of detectives in hopes of busting higher-ranking traffickers. To shield the suspect from liability, the property is often purchased in the name of a different party, a "straw owner," such as a girlfriend. In those cases, the property owner is not the suspected criminal and doesn't get charged.

Even though the criminal cases often crumble, property seizures usually stand up. In the vast majority of cases, people who have property seized never get it back, according to defense attorneys, prosecutors and police.

That's because police have less to prove in taking property than in convicting people of a crime, said Seattle attorney Richard Troberman.

"You are operating under a much lower legal standard, and you are usually not even facing an attorney," he said.

When it comes to challenging property seizures, low-income people don't have the same right to a public defender that they do in the criminal system. Troberman said prosecutors have testified that in about 80 percent of the cases in which people contest the forfeitures, no attorney is present. That's roughly the same percentage of cases the police win, one hearing examiner estimates.

The move to change Washington's law comes in the midst of efforts to reform property-seizure standards nationwide.

After years of failed efforts, Congress last year passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., that toughens the standard for federal forfeitures. And voters in Oregon and Utah passed initiatives last year to change their own laws.

In July, unsatisfied with the legislation passed in Olympia, a coalition of activists -- on the left and the right of the political spectrum -- took matters into their own hands by pushing a citizens initiative. In addition to preventing police from seizing property until a conviction is notched, the Innocent Property Owners Protection Initiative would redirect forfeiture-related proceeds from police to state education and drug-treatment programs.

In a related effort, the ACLU next year plans to introduce a bill to mandate that the state's forfeiture law align itself with a provision in the state constitution that says proceeds derived from forfeitures should be used to fund the state school system.

"There was a purpose in the Bill of Rights," said Erne Lewis, a Libertarian Party activist who is spearheading the initiative effort. "It was to protect individuals and their property. Forfeiture is a weapon, and this is what they'll tell you. 'We use this to get guilty pleas,' they say. Well, so does torture."

A Jeep Cherokee, also seized in a drug raid, was among the items scheduled to be auctioned off in November. Nearly 40 percent of drug cases in which property is seized in King County do not result in a criminal conviction. Jeff Larsen / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Click for larger photo   
Under Washington's law, the agency that seizes the goods gets to keep 90 percent of the proceeds, after a public auction.

The rest goes to a state fund that provides assistance to domestic violence victims, AIDS-infected babies and others. The law states that forfeited property "shall be retained by the seizing law enforcement agency exclusively for the expansion and improvement of controlled substances-related law enforcement activity."

But that's not the way some agencies, which have been slapped by state auditors for misusing seized property, have seen it.

It took 2 1/2 years after concerns were first raised internally for the King County Sheriff's Office to stop allowing employees to use vehicles seized in drug cases. At one point, 21 detectives and officials -- including the budget and accounting director, the legal adviser, a volunteer chaplain and the Asian community liaison -- were driving the cars.

In March 1997, a drug unit sergeant, Dawn Grout, raised the issue in a letter to Frank Adamson, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division, apparently to little effect.

The following February, she sent another memo identifying 16 drug-seized vehicles that she said were still "assigned to non-drug enforcement personnel in direct violation of state law."

The issue was still unresolved in September 1999, when the Auditor's Office concluded after a brief investigation that "some vehicles are not being appropriately used" at the sheriff's office. A short time later, the last of the seized cars were returned to the drug unit.

Sheriff Dave Reichert, who was appointed in March 1997, about four weeks before Grout sent her first memo, said that "when the problem rose to my level, I took care of it. I took the cars away."

Not everyone, including long-time budget and accounting chief Jon McCracken, was happy about losing the cars, Reichert said.

McCracken, who had been driving a 1991 beige Buick Park Avenue sedan, referred calls seeking his comment to sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart.

Urquhart said part of McCracken's job is to handle the accounting of large amounts of money involved in drug seizures and undercover buys.

"We thought it was a legitimate use of a vehicle," Urquhart said, defending McCracken's prior use of the vehicle. "Where do you draw the line? If 25 percent of the activity is drug investigation-related, is that enough?"

When Puyallup police arrested Lance Gloor on a drug charge in December 1999, they practically stripped his house bare. Hundreds of items were seized, ranging from two cars and stereo gear to the 22-year-old maintenance worker's collection of music CDs.

"They cleaned me out," he said.

Gloor later pleaded guilty to growing marijuana and hired a lawyer to try to fight the property seizure. When he went to the police station to press his case, Gloor said, he saw his big-screen TV in the break room. His $2,000 stereo speakers, he was told, were in the office of one of the detectives who made the bust.

Neither the detective, Wayne Spencer, nor Police Chief Rodger Cool returned calls for comment.

For the most part, Gloor prevailed. Craig Adams, legal adviser for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, recommended returning much of Gloor's property, concluding that police went too far.

"I looked at the case, and I didn't think it was a very good one, in terms of search-and-seizure and the like," Adams said. "I said (to police), 'What proof do you have that this is proceeds of drug money?' I don't think there was a whole lot of evidence, quite honestly.

"When they take CDs and stuff, I mean, come on. ... How are you going to prove it was bought with drug money?"

It wasn't the first time Adams has had to tell officials from Pierce County law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff's department, to return seized property.

"I have an obligation to act ethically," he said. "If I don't, I'm dirty."

The Gloor case, however, illustrates how easy it is to cart off a person's belongings and how difficult it can be to get them back.

Two years later, many of Gloor's possessions -- including 150 CDs, a camera, a camcorder, a silver chain, an electronic safe and about $2,000 in small bills -- have still not been returned -- or accounted for.

Police and prosecutors are quick to point out that suspected drug dealers who have property seized are legally entitled to a hearing to try to persuade a hearing examiner to give them back their stuff.

Last year, for example, the King County Sheriff's Office alone seized various items from 155 people, according to state records. Of those cases, 44 people requested hearings to contest the seizures.

But fewer than half ever actually had their hearings, estimated Keith Scully, a deputy prosecutor assigned to the sheriff's office. Some claimants settled their cases before the hearing, he said, and many more simply didn't show up.

Several factors weigh against the claimants. The hearing examiners are often current or retired police officers or prosecutors. And citizens who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in the civil proceeding often have to go up alone against a police attorney.

Shane Hendrickson of Tacoma was lucky enough to be able to avoid going through the hearing process. Tacoma police returned his property after determining that he merely knew people involved in the marijuana-cultivation plot.

Today, Hendrickson is eager to forget the whole episode.

"I just really, really, really want to wash my hands of this and keep going."


P-I reporter Candace Heckman contributed to this report. P-I reporter Sam Skolnik can be reached at 206-467-1039 or

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« Reply #94 on: May 26, 2007, 08:28:47 AM »

second post of the morning:

Drug policy of the Netherlands
The drug policy of the Netherlands is based on 2 principles:

Drug use is a public health issue, not a criminal matter
A distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs exists
It is a pragmatic policy. Most policymakers in the Netherlands believe that if a problem has proved to be unsolvable, it is better to try controlling it instead of continuing to enforce laws with mixed results. By comparison, most other countries take the point of view that drugs are detrimental to society and must therefore be outlawed, even when such policies fail to eliminate drug use. This has caused friction between the Netherlands and other countries, most notably with France and Germany. As of 2004, Belgium seems to be moving toward the Dutch model and a few local German legislators are calling for experiments based on the Dutch model. Switzerland has had long and heated parliamentary debates about whether to follow the Dutch model, but finally decided against it in 2004; currently a ballot initiative is in the works on the question.

Public health
The Dutch drug policy is based on the general principle of self-determination in matters of the body. Specifically, that it is not illegal to hurt yourself; however, you remain liable for the consequences of your actions. Because of this, users are not prosecuted for possession of small quantities of soft drugs ("for personal use"). Driving under the influence of drugs is nevertheless prohibited, as is being under the influence in public (of either alcohol or other drugs), mainly from a public nuisance perspective.

Hard drugs/soft drugs
A distinction is drawn between hard drugs (which bear "unacceptable" risks; e.g. cocaine, heroin, etc.) and soft drugs such as the psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as well as cannabis products: hashish and marijuana (as defined in the Dutch Opium Act). The distinction is drawn on whether the substance is only psychologically addictive (i.e. producing no worse effect than moderate craving when withdrawn) or also physically addictive. One of the main aims of this policy is to separate the markets for soft and hard drugs so that soft drug users are less likely to come into contact with hard drugs. This policy also aims to take the soft drug market out of the hands of the criminals, thus reducing crime.

So-called coffee shops are allowed to sell soft drugs openly, and to keep supplies greater than the amounts allowed by law for personal use, though they are only allowed to sell individual customers the amount allowed for personal use. The coffeeshops' wholesale suppliers, however, are still criminalized. In theory, the limit of the "for personal use" clause is 5 cannabis plants per person for growing, or possession of 5 grams of hashish or marijuana per person. However, to be prosecuted one would need to possess considerably higher quantities than that. An example of a sentence in 2004 for possession of 360 grams: confiscation and a fine of €750. Coffeeshops pay taxes just like any other business, though there are some special exemptions for them, mostly because they cannot show receipts for their supply of marijuana.

Large-scale dealing, production, import and export are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even if this does not supply end users or coffeeshops with more than the allowed amounts. Exactly how coffeeshops get their supplies is rarely investigated, however. What is certain is that coffeeshops do sell cannabis that comes from countries where it is illegal. Large suppliers tend to be criminals motivated by profit who do not make the distinction between hard and soft drugs. Hence, the soft drug policy, by failing to address the issue of supply, has made the Netherlands the main center for hard drug trafficking in Europe. Creating a highly controlled, legal production chain for cannabis to combat this problem has been proposed by a number of Dutch politicians over the last few years. By the end of 2005, the majority of the Dutch Parliament was in favour of an experiment with controlled cultivation and production of cannabis. It is still uncertain when and how this experiment will take place, due to judicial issues.

Cannabis remains a controlled substance in the Netherlands and both possession and production for personal use are still misdemeanors, punishable by fine. Coffee shops are also illegal according to the statutes.

However, a policy of non-enforcement has led to a situation where reliance upon non-enforcement has become common, and because of this the courts have ruled against the government when individual cases were prosecuted.

This is because the Dutch Ministry of Justice applies a gedoogbeleid (policy of tolerance or allowance policy) with regard to soft drugs: an official set of guidelines telling public prosecutors under which circumstances offenders should not be prosecuted. This is a more official version of the common practice in other countries, in which law enforcement sets priorities as to which offenses are important enough to spend limited resources on.

Proponents of gedoogbeleid argue that such a policy offers more consistency in legal protection in practice, than without it. Opponents of the Dutch drug policy either call for full legalization, or argue that laws should penalize morally wrong or decadent behavior, whether this is enforceable or not.

In the Dutch courts, however, it has long been determined that the institutionalized non-enforcement of statutes with well defined limits constitutes de facto decriminalization. The statutes are kept on the books mainly due to international pressure and in adherence with international treaties.

Drug law enforcement
Despite the high priority given by the Dutch government to fighting narcotics trafficking, the Netherlands continue to be an important transit point for drugs entering Europe, a major producer and exporter of amphetamines and other synthetic drugs, and an important consumer of illicit drugs[citation needed]. The export of the synthetic drug ecstasy to the U.S. during 1999 reached unprecedented proportions[citation needed]. The Netherlands' special synthetic drug unit, set up in 1997 to coordinate the fight against designer drugs, appears to be successful[citation needed]. The government has stepped up border controls and intensified cooperation with neighbouring countries.

Although drug use, as opposed to trafficking, is seen primarily as a public health issue, responsibility for drug policy is shared by both the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports, and the Ministry of Justice.

In contrast with most countries' policies, the Dutch policy has yielded positive results in the war against drugs. The Netherlands spends more than €130 million annually on facilities for addicts, of which about fifty percent goes to drug addicts. The Netherlands has extensive demand reduction programs, reaching about ninety percent of the country's 25,000 to 28,000 hard drug users. The number of hard drug addicts has stabilized in the past few years and their average age has risen to 38 years. The number of drug-related deaths in the country remains the lowest in Europe.

On 27 November 2003, the Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner announced that his government was considering rules under which coffeeshops would only be allowed to sell soft drugs to Dutch residents in order to satisfy both European neighbours' concerns about the influx of drugs from the Netherlands, as well as those of Netherlands border town residents unhappy with the influx of "drug tourists" from elsewhere in Europe. As of 2006 nothing has come of this proposal and Dutch coffeehouses still enjoy robust foreign patronage.

Implications of international law
The Netherlands is a party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The 1961 convention prohibits cultivation and trade of naturally-occurring drugs such as cannabis; the 1971 treaty bans the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs such as barbiturates and amphetamines; and the 1988 convention requires states to criminalize illicit drug possession:

Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system, each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence under its domestic law, when committed intentionally, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention, the 1961 Convention as amended or the 1971 Convention.
The International Narcotics Control Board typically interprets this provision to mean that states must prosecute drug possession offenses. The conventions clearly state that controlled substances are to be restricted to scientific and medical uses. However, Cindy Fazey, former Chief of Demand Reduction for the United Nations Drug Control Programme, believes that the treaties have enough ambiguities and loopholes to allow some room to maneuver. In her report entitled The Mechanics and Dynamics of the UN System for International Drug Control, she notes:

Many countries have now decided not to use the full weight of criminal sanctions against people who are in possession of drugs that are for their personal consumption. The Conventions say that there must be an offence under domestic criminal law, it does not say that the law has to be enforced, or that when it is what sanctions should apply. . . . Despite such grey areas latitude is by no means unlimited. The centrality of the principle of limiting narcotic and psychotropic drugs for medical and scientific purposes leaves no room for the legal possibility of recreational use. . . . Nations may currently be pushing the boundaries of the international system, but the pursuit of any action to formally legalize non-medical and non-scientific drug use would require either treaty revision or a complete or partial withdrawal from the current regime.
The Netherlands policy of keeping anti-drug laws on the books while limiting enforcement of certain offenses is carefully designed to reduce harm while still complying with the letter of international drug control treaties. This is necessary in order to avoid criticism from the International Narcotics Board, which historically has taken a dim view of any moves to relax official drug policy. In their annual report, the Board has criticised many governments, including Canada, for permitting the medicinal use of cannabis, Australia for providing injecting rooms and the United Kingdom for proposing to downgrade the classification of cannabis[1], which it has since done.

Recent developments
In 2005, Gerd Leers, mayor of the border city of Maastricht, criticised the current policy as inconsistent, by recording a song with the Dutch punk rock band De Heideroosjes. By allowing possession and retail sales of cannabis, but not cultivation or wholesale, the government creates numerous problems of crime and public safety, he alleges, and therefore he would like to switch to either legalising and regulating production, or to the full repression that his party (CDA) officially advocates. The latter suggestion has widely been interpreted as rhetorical.[2] Leers's comments have garnered support from other local authorities and put the cultivation issue back on the agenda.
Power User
Posts: 9483

« Reply #95 on: May 26, 2007, 06:29:29 PM »

Crafty and all, My two cents of personal experience with the Dutch system.  Amsterdam had a nice reputation for being mostly free of violent crime because of so-called legalization of prostitution and drugs, but I was attacked there while walking down a city street in December 1991.  As the article suggests, hard drugs and trafficking were still illegal and so the associated crime still existed, like anywhere else.  I can only speculate on my attackers, but they were not Dutch.  People there who I told the story to believed them to be "North Africans" and most likely feeding a heroin habit or involved in trafficking.  Short story is that they did not get any money from me, but I did need my head stitched up afterward in a Dutch hospital.  Wish I had been traveling with one of you that day.
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #96 on: May 27, 2007, 08:56:54 AM »

Thank you Doug.

Jumping to a separate topic now:

There is the matter of RFID chips interacting with Wi-Fi technology creating a Brave New World in which where we go is tracked all the time.    angry

This has already begun.  I remember in Spain my rent-a-phone rang.  It was a commercial message-- from a store that I was passing at that moment.  The phone told the phone company where I was at all times, and the phone company had an arrangement with various businesses to call me with advertising when I was near their stores.  shocked  angry angry

I just ran across this practical solution on the WT forum:

"Your cellphone company keeps a GPS log of where the phone has been and when. Some of the newer phones can contact the tower even after you have turned it off (9-1-1 technology, for your safety of course). If you are traveling somewhere that you rather not have someone privy to, then drop it in one of those camera film bags that you can buy at any camera store. The lead-lined ones that protect the film from airport X-rays and such. On or off your phone will disappear as far as their tower created GPS log goes. I have personally tested this with phones available to me.

"CELL = 800-900 MHZ, PCS = 1850-1990 MHZ (at least here in the Southeastern US). These wavelengths do not penetrate water or lead well."

Technological road kill that I am I cannot vouch for this-- is there someone here who can comment?

As for the RFID & Wi Fi, some people say not to worry, the RFID chip can only read for a few feet, others counter that the point is that its LOCATION can be tracked, which is a separate point.  Again, technological roadkill that I am I cannot say, but I am profoundly concerned about the rapidly growing capabilities of these technologies.  Not only are they becoming more and more poweful, but they are also becoming incredibly small
Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #97 on: May 29, 2007, 06:54:23 PM »

Scary implications for us freedom loving civilians  shocked


Scientist: Military Working on Cyborg Spy Moths

Tuesday , May 29, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not-too-distant future, a moth may take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth's entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a "reliable tissue-machine interface."

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts — known from science fiction as cyborgs — has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is involved with the research, said in a speech last week at the University of Southampton in England that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of U.S. military research.

Brooks said that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as just part of its overall research into microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

"This is going to happen," said Brooks. "It's not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply."

"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."

"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."

Brooks has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and is a founder of iRobot, the MIT-derived manufacturer of both Roomba robot floor cleaners and PackBots, military robots used by the Pentagon to defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brooks said that the military would be increasingly reliant on "semi-autonomous" devices, including ones which could fire.

"The DoD has said it wants one-third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there's no doubt their things will become weaponized, so the question comes: Should they be given targeting authority?"

"The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn't," he said, "but perhaps it's time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use."
Debates such as those over stem-cell research would "pale in comparison" to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures — including humans — and machines, Brooks told the Southampton audience.

"Biological engineering is coming," Brooks said. "There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people's retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we're going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes."

"There's going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just ... well, there's going to be a lot of moral debates," he said.

Another iRobot project being developed as part of the U.S. military's "Future Combat Systems" program, Brooks said, was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced "sug-vee"), basically the next generation of the PackBot, one which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment.

The 30-pound device, which can survive a drop of 30 feet onto concrete, has a small "head" with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called "Red Owl" which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

"It's designed to be the troop's eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too," Mr Brooks said.
Frequent Poster
Posts: 75

« Reply #98 on: June 15, 2007, 01:27:23 PM »

C'mon, libertarian doesn't mean anarchist.  It means govt limited to certain functions (e.g. protection of property rights such as copyright in a DVD.)  Our Founding Fathers were libertarians.  In their essence, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were and are libertarian.

There's no mention of "intellectual property" in any of those documents and I don't think it was even recognized until the mid 1800s, so we probably shouldn't mix that one in there with libertarianism or the Founding Fathers.  However, we might note that the FFs did in fact recognize the right to own "human property."

But anyway, I specifically took issue with your use of the term "free market," when you didn't really mean it.  In a truly free market, Kellogg's would be able to sell Frosted Flakes "frosted" with crack and wouldn't have to tell you.  Do you like the current situation where corporations are required by law to list ingredients and nutritional information on food products?  Or is that just another example of "big government" butting into our lives and the labeling should be voluntary?  Should people be able to sell their organs?  What about child labor and workplace safety laws?  More needless government interference?

Yes, I do believe that the FFs were libertarian and I myself subscribe to mostly libertarian principles, believe it or not, but I don't trust corporations as much as you seem to.  You obviously agree on the need for some government regulation, I think we just disagree on the details.

Power User
Posts: 42531

« Reply #99 on: June 15, 2007, 03:28:08 PM »

"I myself subscribe to mostly libertarian principles, believe it or not,"

ROTFLMAO cheesy cheesy cheesy

"but I don't trust corporations as much as you seem to." 

This reminds me of a sign I saw in a store once:  "In God we trust.  Everyone else pays cash."

Theft and fraud are violations of the free market and their prevention is a proper function of government, so your various examples of crack frosted flakes and the like are , , , not on point.  Property is a concept and its definition evolves with time. 

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