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Archive for February, 2009

A bit of background about the term, “Liberaltarian”. In December 2006, Brink Lindsey, Cato Institute’s vice president for research, penned an essay in which he posited that Contemporary Conservatism had betrayed its own roots, and no longer truly represented a libertarian worldview. Lindsey went on to muse that liberals had at least, and probably more affinity to true libertarian precepts than the travesty that passes for conservatism presently in America. His essay began with:

The conservative movement–and, with it, the GOP–is in disarray. Specifically, the movement’s “fusionist” alliance between traditionalists and libertarians appears, at long last, to be falling apart. To understand what’s happening, look at the Democratic gains made in previously Republican strongholds on Election Day. In “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, both House seats–as well as control of both houses of the state legislature–flipped from the GOP to the Democratic column. Out in the interior West, Jon Tester squeaked past Conrad Burns in the Montana Senate race, while other Democrats picked up a House seat in Colorado (along with the governorship) and two more in Arizona. These parts of the country are all known for their individualism and suspicion of officialdom–in short, for their libertarian sympathies.

Libertarian disaffection should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP’s rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.

This woeful record cannot simply be blamed on politicians failing to live up to their conservative principles. Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

Brink Lindsey, “Liberaltarians” Cato Institute reprint of an article first published by The New Republic, December 4, 2006

This started up a dialog within some of the libertarian movement; notably at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Reason Magazine. Much of the dialog died down, although Reason Magazine has continued publishing articles. Some of the younger libertarian thinkers also published their thoughts about Liberaltarianism. Will Wilkerson and Julian Sanchez are two fine examples.

Dialog about Liberaltarianism was largely left on the back-burner for close to two years, until recently, when National Review’s Jonah Goldberg started it up again, followed by NRO’s John Hood:

That Jonah Goldberg is considered to be a conservative pundit is direct evidence of contemporary conservatism’s continuing plunge into the dark well of moral relevancy. That the CaponHawk Goldberg has the audacity to pretend he is able to speak for libertarians is personally defamatory to me. At least Goldberg’s inanity started up new dialog about Liberaltarianism. The following are a few links, listed alphabetically, by date:

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“Artist Scott Donahue of Emeryville, Calif., was paid $196,000 by Berkeley’s public arts program to create two large statues, which feature small, artistic medallions that show dogs doing what dogs do best.

“‘Various things,’ Donahue said. ‘Biting each other, chasing each other…. One dog is defecating, two dogs are fornicating.’

All that spending comes with one hell of a dog knot.

I wonder if taxpayers will finally have had enough of being the government’s bitch, or will they be like these fratboys and keep lapping it up? (warning: disgusting)

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Like many libertarians, I’ve come to hold a low opinion of Alan Greenspan. Austrian libertarians loathe him. Objectivists regard him as a traitor. Those who hate the free market alternate between thinking him a genius for allegedly giving us prosperity and saying that the current downturn is the result of his alleged free market ideas.

If he had free market ideas, why do so many free market libertarians despise him so?

But nothing destroys a good hate-fest like pointing out that Greenspan might not have been a traitor at all.

As strange as that may sound to libertarians, Bob Murphy makes that argument.

How could that be? Every act taken by Alan Greenspan has been one that Monetarists and Keynesians would approve of. During the entire eighteen years of his tenure his every act has been anathema to free market proponents.

Perhaps, argues Bob Murphy, Greenspan was motivated by his Objectivist beliefs to act like the perfect unrestrained Keynesian in order to show us that Keynesianism does not work. He was deliberately trying to break the system instead of thinking, as his admirers did during his tenure, that he was trying to find the winning combination that would result in unending prosperity.

In short, his Objectivist beliefs caused him to act like a Keynesian so he could destroy the economy. When the statist say his Objectivist beliefs caused the meltdown, they are right for the wrong reasons. They left out the middle term because that would cause them to doubt their own beliefs.

It’s a hard concept to grasp, because libertarians have spent the last twenty years hating Alan Greenspan. But we have to remember that Objectivists like to demonstrate that they are right. They like object lessons. The trashing of the economy is the San Sebastian Mines writ large.

If Bob Murphy is right that is. Unfortunately if he is there’s no way to find out. Alan Greenspan won’t admit it on this side of the grave.

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Email From Kimberly Wilder. I know Kimberly through writing at Independent Political Report. She is the source of a good chunk of our Green news, although she recently resigned from the Green Party.

(I am not sure it they might extend the deadline. But, ideally, I think people are supposed to sign up today or tomorrow. Thought you might be interested, but also, it would be of great help if you could blog about this/spread the news –tonight???? Thanks for any help. Peace, Kimberly)

Facilitate Change – an NVC program with a focus on social change
facilitatechange.org

Facilitate change is a 9-month Nonviolent Communication Social Change intensive training program in New York. This project-based program includes three residential retreats and weekly gatherings by phone.

Using Nonviolent Communication as a primary activist tool, in Facilitate Change you’ll develop practices to boost the effectiveness of grassroots projects and nonprofit organizations in how they function and achieve their goals.

The Facilitate Change program supports the development of social change leaders and their organizations to create the change they wish to see in the world. By applying the consciousness and skills of compassionate, Nonviolent Communication to social change projects, Facilitate Change fosters “compassion in action” at a personal, group, and international level, taking tangible steps towards creating a world where human needs are peacefully met.

P.S. I have taken a course with Dian who is one of the leaders of this. She is very good. I think that this program would be invaluable for activists. It seems likely to lead to profound discussions about how can people have a politics of change in a new way, with profound listening and profound compassion.

peace, peace, peace, peace
peace, peace, peace, peace
Kimberly Wilder
Long Island, NY

Our family web-site of politics, art and culture:
http://www.onthewilderside.net

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The more you learn about Abraham Lincoln, the more you learn to admire him. He deserves his praise. Today is the two hundredth anniversary of his birth day, February 12, 1809. February 12, 2009, is only twenty-three days after another leader from Illinois stepped into Lincoln’s large shoes.

We all know that Lincoln managed to hold the Union together through victory in a protracted civil war. The standard stories often don’t relate how much that outcome depended on Lincoln’s determination and tenacity. Right up to the fall of 1864, when Atlanta fell, people pressed Lincoln to negotiate with the South to end the war. They even suggested that he retract the Emancipation Proclamation to conciliate the South.

Outcomes of war look inevitable in retrospect, but they don’t look so certain when you still have to fight for them. When we praise Lincoln now, and thank him, we recognize the material part he played to keep the United States one country and all free. The house did not divide and it did stand.

Interestingly, Lincoln’s ambition to lead brought the sectional crisis over slavery to a turning point. The country split because of his election, though Lincoln himself never recognized the separate status of the Confederate states. He regarded the Confederacy’s call to arms as a rebellion that had to be defeated. With wisdom and force of character, he succeeded.

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for the continuation of this great experiment. We may feel somewhat pessimistic about our prospects right now, but we have reasons to be hopeful, too. If Mr. Obama follows your example of leadership, as he wants to do, our hope may have some foundation.

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Syndicated from my weekly column in the Mountaineer Jeffersonian, a weekly paper publication in Morgantown, West Virginia:

A supreme court ruling from mid-January could impact the legality of thousands of police searches each year. At issue is the admissibility of evidence obtained where the possibility of police misconduct or negligence exists. Called the Exclusionary Rule, which is based largely upon the fifth amendment to the constitution, specifically the verbiage that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and that no person “shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” and upon the fourth amendment provisions against unreasonable search and seizure. Thus this supreme court case may in fact be quite landmark in that it has watered down these protections for citizens, allowing for greater lee-way for law enforcement agents to act irresponsibly and still enjoy the “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

The case involved an individual by the name of Bennie Herring, whose home was entered based upon a search warrant in a police database. When the police entered his home, they found drugs and a firearm. Unfortunately, no such warrant for Mr. Herring’s arrest should have existed. It had in fact been withdrawn prior to his arrest. The existence of it in the database was purportedly caused by a database malfunction involving the computer systems of a neighboring county’s police department. Mr. Herring, following his unsuccessful appeal to the supreme court, is now serving a 27 month sentence after being found guilty by a jury in Alabama.

Professor Craig Bradley of Indiana University law school was quoted as saying “It may well be that courts will take this as a green light to ignore police negligence all over the place.” Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in a 5-4 ruling, stated that the exclusionary rule was limited to “deliberate, reckless or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring systemic negligence.” Unfortunately, the existence of errors in law enforcement data is commonplace enough that it could easily be qualified as recurring systemic negligence. According to a 2005 report by the Office of the Inspector General’s audit division in the Department of Justice, the nation’s largest database of potential terrorists included noteworthy amounts of incorrect and incomplete data. A 2006 report from the Social Security Administration went on to document database errors in the Numident database, a system operated by the Department of Homeland Security to enable the identification of individuals by social security number for purposes such as employment eligibility verification and drivers licensing. This report estimated that data for 4.1 percent of the total records could contain errors, impacting the employability of and potentially otherwise inconveniencing 17.8 million US citizens.

Chief Justice Roberts went on to state, “the deterrent effect of suppression must be substantial and outweigh any harm to the justice system,” and that “marginal deterrence does not ‘pay its way.’” He was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. On the other side, Justice Ginsberg wrote for the minority that the majority “underestimates the need for a forceful exclusionary rule and the gravity of record keeping violations.” She was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.

This ruling follows on the heels of a 1995 verdict in which a similar judgment was issued. The case, Arizona v. Evans, dealt with a similar issue wherein a database maintained by the courts had contained erroneous information which led to prosecution. In Arizona v. Evans, the supreme court ruled that erroneous records kept by court officials was an exception to the exclusionary rule. This month’s ruling now extends that exception to records maintained by police and other law enforcement agencies.

Flying in the face of what seems to clearly be an accurate reading of the constitution, this ruling sets a dangerous precedent. There is a long and well-documented history of police misconduct in this country which includes, at times, a willingness to operate outside of what is ethical and legal to obtain a desired result. This ruling will unfortunately create a new loophole which crooked or desperate law enforcement agents will be able to use to obtain results while disrespecting the constitutional protections of citizens against unreasonable searches. If “database errors” can be systematically created in such a way that enables police to enter onto any premises at any time to search for evidence, regardless of whether any such warrant has ever been in actuality granted by a judge, the potential for abuse is tremendous. Defense attorneys representing those accused under such circumstances will likely have no means of investigating whether such a database error was created erroneously or was in fact simply a malfunction of hardware or software. Furthermore, given this ruling, it will be nearly impossible for any citizen to defend themselves against such unconstitutional intrusions of their property.

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