Monthly Archives: March 2013

Bradley Manning deserves a medal | Glenn Greenwald

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I think Glenn Greenwald states it succinctly:

Bradley Manning deserves a medal

The prosecution of the whistleblower and alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning is an exercise in intimidation, not justice

Danielle Greene
Bradley Manning supporters demonstrate outside FBI headquarters in Washington. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

After 17 months of pre-trial imprisonment, Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old US army private and accused WikiLeaks source, is finally going to see the inside of a courtroom. This Friday, on an army base in Maryland, the preliminary stage of his military trial will start.

He is accused of leaking to the whistleblowing site hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, war reports, and the now infamous 2007 video showing a US Apache helicopter in Baghdad gunning down civilians and a Reuters journalist. Though it is Manning who is nominally on trial, these proceedings reveal the US government’s fixation with extreme secrecy, covering up its own crimes, and intimidating future whistleblowers.
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Lack of Rational Thought

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Teacher Picket SignsI know it’s hard to convey thought on something the size of a picket sign, but in the case of what’s pictured above, I think it can be done. What the signs above could more accurately say instead are, “I don’t want to have to compete,” and “I want involuntary customers.”

Statements like “vouchers hurt public schools” display a lack of rational thought. What exactly do vouchers do? Well, under typical circumstances in American schooling, a parent choosing to send her child to a private, parochial, or home school must pay twice: once in property taxes for the public school, again in fees for the school the child goes to. What a voucher is intended to do is allow that parent to pay only once for her school of choice. Thus, “vouchers hurt public schools” because they allow someone to forgo paying for something she doesn’t use. If only we all could force others to pay us for nothing in return and then cry foul when they want to stop paying us.

“Kids before corporations” is intended to appeal to people’s knee-jerk and, frankly, dumber sensibilities. “Corporations” is used as a buzz-word meant to conjure images of faceless men in suits whose only desire is to make money. But even if that is the case, what no corporation can do is force you to pay for and use its services and threaten you with jail if you don’t. And yet this us exactly what public schools do. It’s unclear how preventing competition in schooling somehow benefits kids. It is clear, however, how this benefits public school employees.

I’m growing weary of seeing all kinds of illogical and poorly thought out political speech. I can’t help but think that the reason it keeps being produced is that there are large enough groups of people out there who fall for it.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Makes No Sense

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Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

For some reason unknown to me, I received a letter in the mail from Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. I’m not sure how I got on his mailing list. I don’t live in Arizona, I’ve never contributed to any sheriff’s campaign funds, and I’ve never voted for sheriff.

If you don’t know Joe, he is apparently one of the most controversial sheriffs in the Union. I was surprised at the number of controversies listed on his Wikipedia page.

He is particularly well known for his “Tent City,” an addition to the Maricopa County jail where inmates have to live in tents out in the AZ heat. Arpaio betrays his own taste for sadism when he openly describes it as a “concentration camp.” In his defense of it, he compared it to the plight soldiers in Iraq who had to bear the heat and wear body armor yet have committed no crime. But there’s a problem, Joe: a large percentage of people in jail haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial (let alone the fact that many of them are there for victimless crimes). Thus, he fails to live up to his own standards.

So how about this letter? Here is the gist of it:

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A Case Study on Nullification: Marijuana Laws

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I’ve written a few of posts mentioning nullification: Tom Woods on NPR, Tom Woods’ article on anti-nullifiers, and challenging the notion that the Supreme Court ought to have a monopoly on Constitutional interpretation.

Tom Woods wrote the book on this subject and has FAQ.

But the first thing I would like to ask in today’s post is: “How much does it matter that nullification has a Constitutional or historical basis?” The more I think about it, I find that my answer is: “It matters only to the extent that people will accept its use as a method for decentralizing power.” If it were to be shown, beyond a doubt, that nullification is, in fact, unconstitutional, that wouldn’t matter one bit to me in terms of its legitimacy. I took no oath to uphold the Constitution; I was forced under it at birth.

It seems ridiculous that the same people who accept no limits on federal power are often the same ones who declare nullification unconstitutional. But most of what is considered “constitutional law” has nothing to do with the Constitution, but with legal precedents. For example, judicial review is not in the Constitution. It was a precedent set by Marbury v. Madison (1803).  In the same way, why can’t states nullifying federal laws set a precedent? According to the anti-nullifiers’ own logic, nullification would have to be acceptable.

Photo of Mark ThorntonAnd we have several precedents of states doing just that. A recent example is of Washington and Colorado decriminalizing marijuana and Mark Thornton writes a fantastic article about it.

One particularly interesting point he makes is that, in doing this, Washington and Colorado are effectively nullifying a UN Law as well. He says,

In effect, the voters of Colorado and Washington have placed themselves and their states on equal legal footing with both national and international governments. This is important, because, if thanks to nullification, governments have to obtain acceptance, or at least acquiescence from subsidiary governments, rather than just imposing their dictates on them, they are more likely to act in a less threatening and harmful manner.

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Why You Can’t Depend on the Supreme Court to Defend Your Rights

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Playground Basketball

“I’m so glad that my security company has got my back while I crash these boards.”

Let us imagine that you are making a contract with, say, a security company. You can’t defend your property all day, especially when you’re out hustlin’ at the playground basketball court, and you might need some help. Because of the division of labor, you are likely to hire people who have more training in security-related tasks (including the application of violence). This is normal. But would you also sign a contract with that company (or any company) if there is a clause that states that in the event of a dispute, a panel that is part of that company will be the arbitrator in settling said dispute? No. That would be dumb. Yet this is what we are led to believe about the ratifiers of the US Constitution: that they had accepted a legal arrangement in which if there is any disagreement about what the legality of what the federal government does, a branch of the federal government (called the Supreme Court) will decide whether or not it is legal. Or rather, that would be the sensible conclusion one would reach if they are to think of the US Constitution as a social contract (though that idea is destroyed by Spooner). But I don’t recall anyone who has argued against state nullification of federal laws make this claim. It seems ironic that some have made the argument that you won’t find “nullification” in the text of the Constitution, since you won’t find “judicial review” either. Read the rest of this entry

Does Libertarianism Spoil Sports?

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I think a dedication to non-aggression is a wonderful thing and the further that dedication goes the better the world will be.

However, it can be distressing at times to learn how things aren’t as pure and innocent as you once thought they were. This can apply to the major professional and college sport leagues.

Benny from The Sandlot

Benny from “The Sandlot”

From an early age, as many young boys (and girls) do, I have had a fascination with sports; most particularly with baseball early on. I could sympathize with Benny from the classic The Sandlot when it was said that to most of the kids, baseball was a game; to Benny, baseball was life. It actually seemed weird to call it a sport, as it would then be in the same category as certain other activities. To me, it was in a category by itself.

In more current days, I have found myself having a preference for basketball, both to play and observe. I think the biggest reason for my preference of play is simply due to the fact that it is much easier to organize an impromptu basketball match than baseball (which leads me to believe that there ought to be more opportunities for adults to enjoy playing baseball without having to resort to that watered down version called “softball”). As well, following baseball is much harder. There are way more players to keep track of with more frequent movement between minor and major leagues. There are almost twice as many games in a Major League Baseball season as there are in an NBA one, which dilutes their importance. But even with twice as many games, teams will play the same five or so teams in their division repeatedly while inter-league play between the American and National Leagues is relatively uncommon. As well, playoff structure has problems. There definitely could be improvements in how the league works. Read the rest of this entry

The Story of St. Patrick

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You know, I never really even thought of  the story of St. Patrick before seeing this cartoon flannelgraph in a Veggietales video. I thought it was very interesting, and wanted to share it with you.

Though there are obviously creative embellishments, several events within it are concurred on the corresponding Wikipedia page.

Needless to say, I don’t think St. Patrick would find it appropriate that many people celebrate in his name by consuming large amounts of alcohol.

Sheriff Raney Uses Scare Tactics to Get Old Ladies to Give Him Money

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Recently my mother received a message from Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney on behalf of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association. Here is what it says (along with my comments):

I am writing you, Ms. __________…..

….because I believe you are a law-abiding citizen who has worked hard for what you have. I also believe you are fed up with people who violently prey on innocent victims or turn to crime as an easy way to make a living with no responsibility to society.

I find this paragraph highly ironic. If there is any group in society more able to victimize people and steal a living with no responsibility to society, it is government police. Raney has already denied his responsibility to the people who elected him in favor of the unaccountable federal government. Police, unlike those of us who choose to peacefully convince others that our services are worth voluntarily paying for, live off of money taken by force. They cannot be fired; if one tries to do just that, they will be met with violence. Raney needs to look in the mirror, because the enemy he describes is himself. Read the rest of this entry

Logic Fail on NPR

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This video is from a couple of years ago, but I think the subject is still quite relevant today. It is a recording of NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” where Neil Siegel (a Duke Law Professor) and Tom Woods (professor of U.S. history) are guests, discussing the subject of nullification in light of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

At first, I was struck by how poor the arguments were by callers. Then, I noticed how bad the arguments by Professor Siegel were. And finally, I began wondering if they were going to let Tom Woods speak. It was quite frustrating to listen to, and what better place to vent my frustration than the Internet?

@01:22 Neil Siegel expresses that he thinks there are legitimate discussions about limits to federal power but doesn’t like the fact that such discussions often involve talking about nullification or secession. This seems strange to me for a couple of reasons: 1) he says the individual mandate is constitutional because of Congress’ taxing power, and agrees with the decision of the Raich case (where SCOTUS ruled that Congress, under the Interstate Commerce clause, has the power to regulate marijuana that has neither been sold nor crossed state lines) which to me implies he believes that there are no limits to federal power; 2) he doesn’t address how limits to federal power will be enforced. He repeatedly says that nullification is not mentioned in the Constitution and is therefore not legitimate, yet does not acknowledge the fact that neither is judicial review by the US Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry