David Kirkpatrick

March 13, 2009

End the “war” on drugs …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:43 pm

and save $77 billion.

March 9, 2009

Rethinking the war on drugs?

It’d be a great idea since the “war” on drugs is an abject failure, costing society in many ways and doing little more than propping up some third world thugs, perpetuating a criminal black market on U.S. soil and bankrolling elements of a police state in the “land of the free.”

It took the Great Depression to end Prohibition of alcohol. Will this economic downturn, certain recession and probable depression do the same for at least some of the current Class C chemicals and plants? There’s already some more than speculation talk about decriminalizing marijuana and reaping tax dollars while saving money on low-level enforcement.

Then you find studies like this that point out the efficacy of current Class C drugs that started out at therapeutic options. I know many psychotherapists were very disappointed when MDMA was completely criminalized in the mid-80s.

The release:

Ecstasy could help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

New research published in Journal of Psychopharmacology

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (March 9th, 2009) – Ecstasy may help suffers of post-traumatic stress learn to deal with their memories more effectively by encouraging a feeling of safety, according to an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology published today by SAGE.

Studies have shown that a type of psychological treatment called exposure therapy – where the patient repeatedly recalls the traumatic experience or is repeatedly exposed to situations that are safe but still trigger their traumatic feelings – can be effective in relieving stress responses in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxious conditions. The therapy works by helping the patient to re-learn the appropriate response to the trigger situation, a process known as extinction learning.

But this approach can take some time, and 40% of patients continue to experience post-traumatic stress even after their treatment. To improve outcomes, scientists have been investigating the use of drug therapies to enhance the effect of exposure therapy, making the result of exposure to the fear trigger easier, faster, and more effective. MDMA (the pharmaceutical version of Ecstasy) is one such drug.

“A goal during exposure therapy for PTSD is to recall distressing experiences while at the same time remaining grounded in the present. Emotional avoidance is the most common obstacle in exposure therapy for PTSD, and high within-session emotional engagement predicts better outcome,” explain authors Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Krebs, who are based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and supported by the Research Council of Norway.

Psychiatrists that have administered MDMA to anxiety patients have noted that it promotes emotional engagement; strengthens the bond between the patient and doctor, known as the therapeutic alliance; decreases emotional avoidance; and improves tolerance for recall and processing of painful memories.

According to Johansen and Krebs, “MDMA [ecstasy] has a combination of pharmacological effects that…could provide a balance of activating emotions while feeling safe and in control.”

They suggest three possible biological reasons why ecstasy could help individuals with PSTD. First, ecstasy is known to increase the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in trust, empathy, and social closeness.

Because people with PTSD often report feeling emotionally disconnected and unable to benefit from the supportive presence of family and friends or therapists – a situation that is likely to contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder – use of ecstasy might also help ameliorate these symptoms, suggest the authors.

“By increasing oxytocin levels, MDMA may strengthen engagement in the therapeutic alliance and facilitate beneficial exposure to interpersonal closeness and mutual trust,” they write.

The second biological explanation for ecstasy’s useful effect is that it acts in two brain regions to inhibit the automatic fear response (mediated by the amygadala) and increase emotional control (mediated by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and therefore permits bearable revisiting of traumatic memories.

Thirdly, ecstasy increases the release of two other hormones, noradrenaline and cortisol, which are known to be essential to trigger emotional learning, including the process that leads to fear extinction, on which therapy for PTSD relies. But, caution the authors, while these compounds enhance extinction learning they may also temporarily increase anxiety in people with PTSD because the hormones are naturally released as part of the body’s response to stress.

Ecstasy combined with psychotherapy is a treatment already being tested in clinical trials to help patients with PTSD. All of these trials have a similar design in which ecstasy or placebo is administered to patients a few times during their therapy sessions as part of a short term course of psychological treatment. According to the Johansen and Krebs, recent preliminary results from two of these randomized controlled trials shows that the therapy might have promise.

“Reduction of avoidance behavior linked to emotions is a common treatment target for all anxiety disorders. MDMA [ecstasy] has a combination of pharmacological effects that, in a therapeutic setting, could provide a balance of activating emotions while feeling safe and in control, as has been described in case reports of MDMA augmented psychotherapy….Future clinical trials could combine MDMA with evidence-based treatment programs for disorders of emotional regulation, such as prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD,” conclude the authors.

 

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How could MDMA (ecstasy) help anxiety disorders? A neurobiological rationale by PØ Johansen and TS Krebs is published today (Monday 9th March 2009) in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. To receive an embargoed copy of the article contact mithu.mukherjee@sagepub.co.uk, t:+44(0)207 3242223. The paper will be free to access online for a limited period from http://jop.sagepub.com/

The Journal of Psychopharmacology is a fully peer-reviewed, international journal that publishes original research and review articles on preclinical and clinical aspects of psychopharmacology. The journal provides an essential forum for researchers and practising clinicians on the effects of drugs on animal and human behavior, and the mechanisms underlying these effects. The Journal of Psychopharmacology is published by SAGE, in Association with British Association for Psychopharmacology

SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepublications.com

Nanny state in action — UK-style

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:33 pm

From the Cato Institute, civil liberties in the UK are withering along with economic prospects.

From the link:

Warning to tourists – it is now illegal to take a photo of a London bobby (policeman). The time-honored tradition of tourists having their pictures taken with London cops is being dealt a silly death blow by those who control the British nanny-state. The British are not only losing their economic prosperity, but their civil liberties as well.

Also from the link:

Civil libertarians on both the left and right are increasingly concerned that Britain is drifting toward becoming a police state. The government has been trying to obtain the right to detain anyone up to 42 days without bringing charges, which would severely undermine the centuries’ old right of habeas corpus. Police monitoring cameras in London are more pervasive than in any other city in the world. Public demonstrations near Parliament and other government buildings are restricted more and more. British libel laws are much more restrictive than those in the United States and have effectively make it increasingly difficult to charge public officials with wrongdoing.

February 26, 2009

Cato Institute’s response to Obama’s congressional address

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:31 pm

Here’s a roundup of responses from the Cato Institute on Obama’s not-the-State-of-the-Union-Address:

Obama Outlines National Plan in First Address to Congress

President Obama’s first address to Congress laid out a laundry list of new spending and provided hints as to what will be contained in the budget — a  so-called “blueprint for America’s future”— he submitted to lawmakers Thursday.

In a new video, Cato Institute scholars offer their analyses of the president’s non-State-of-the-Union Address.

While watching the speech, Cato scholars offered live commentary on Cato’s blog and Twitter feed.

Expanding on his recent article,Obama’s Shock Doctrine,” Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz says that Obama’s speech further proves that his administration is using scare tactics and the financial crisis to further an agenda that will expand the size of government.

President Obama made good on his reputation for giving excellent speeches. He seemed calm and confident. It’s no wonder that instant polls show that most viewers liked it.

That reaction is all part of the guiding strategy of this administration: using a crisis atmosphere to amass more money and power in Washington. There’s a long history of government growth in times of crisis such as wars, natural disasters, or economic shocks. Think of FDR’s revolutionary “first 100 days” or LBJ’s driving through his Great Society programs in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

George W. Bush did it, too, with both the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq after the shock of 9/11. And in so doing, he left his successor both a presidency and a federal government with unprecedented powers, ready to be employed for a different agenda.

For analysis of Obama’s speech, Cato scholars weigh in by topic on the president’s plans for America’s future. 

Free markets=crazy?

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:03 pm

I’m thinking Harvard Law is the one full of the crazy here.

From the  link:

I don’t know whether this belongs in the comic-relief category or the future-threats category, but the Harvard Law School is having a conference to analyze the “free market mindset.” The basic premise of the conference seems to be that people who believe in limited government are psychologically troubled.

The conference schedule features presentations such as “How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community” and “Addicted to Incentives: How the Ideology of Self Interest Can Be Self-Fulfilling.” The most absurd presentation, though, may be the one entitled, “Colossal Failure: The Output Bias of Market Economies.” According to the description, the author argues that the market “delivers excessive levels of consumption.” Damn those entrepreneurs for creating so much wealth!

February 13, 2009

Texas may allow open-carry

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:56 pm

And it’s about time to change that law. Open-carry of handguns — a handgun clearly displayed in a holster — is a great deterrentto crime. You can get a concealed handgun license (CHL) right now, but if you are armed in public without the license you’ll get ticketed.

CHLs have their place and utility, but legal open-carry for registered weapons shouldn’t add any more danger to the public and maybe just a little more safety. I’m betting your everyday jackass isn’t going to do something stupid if someone in the vicinity is openly armed.

Hopefully this bill gets drafted and passed.

From the link:

Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas — are considering legislation that would allow people to carry handguns openly in a holster.

These generally Second Amendment-friendly states are among the last six holdouts against open carrying of guns. Openly carrying handguns is legal in most states, even those that ban concealed firearms. New York and Florida also bar openly carrying handguns.

Also from the link:

• In Texas, Ian McCarthy, a student who chairs the Texas Open Carry Work Group, started the online petition in late 2007. He says a concealed gun is uncomfortable during hot Texas summers, takes longer to draw in self-defense and won’t deter a criminal.

“If a criminal sees you’re armed, he’s not going to mess with you,” McCarthy says.

Texas Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle has asked the state’s legislative council to draft an open-carry bill. She wants to see how other gun-rights bills fare, particularly one to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.”

Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who sponsored the college campus bill, opposes open carry. “I think that’s harkening too far back to the Wild West,” he says.

January 30, 2009

GOP (finally) finds small government roots?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:55 am

I’m Cato’s David Boaz here — how convenient House Republicans suddenly realized they are for small government after acting as anything but for Bush 43. 

Hypocrisy doesn’t look all that great, and it probably won’t play all that great. Trust in this gang is very, very low among small government GOPers and libertarians alike.

From the link:

“Small Government Returns as [Republican] Maxim,” headlines the Washington Post.

The unanimous vote by House Republicans against President Obama’s stimulus plan provided an early indication that the GOP hopes to regain power by becoming the champion of small government, a reputation many felt slipped away during the high-spending Bush years.

But small-government voters may not be persuaded that the GOP has returned to its principles on the basis of one vote against a bill proposed by the other party, which happens to be, in the words of Republican whip Eric Cantor, likely “the largest spending bill in history.”

January 24, 2009

Nanny state in legislation — South Carolina

This’ll never go anywhere and is just political posturing, but it’s still sickening to think a public official would even want to make a point by attempting to gut the First Amendment.

From the link:

State Senator Robert Ford is hoping to outlaw lewd language and is pushing for a bill that would prohibit profanity.

Under the pre-filed bill, profanity could land you in jail for up to 5 years and/or cost you up to $5,000 in fines.

Which words are exactly considered profane is still unclear, but the bill does have a list of qualifications for profanity including words or actions that are lewd, vulgar or indecent in nature.

We spoke to Debra Gammons with the Charleston School of Law about freedom of speech.

She reminds that the First Amendment is not absolute. You cannot say whatever you want whenever you want to.

Courts will usually look at where the words were said and who heard them. Children are usually protected.

Er, Debra you might not want to take that argument to the Supreme Court. Fire in a theater, okay that’s a public safety issue. Salty language at the mall? Not so much. No threat to anyone other than the easily offended. Maybe not too couth, but definitely not criminal.

My first NewMajority post

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:40 am

Here’s my first offering at NewMajority. The site is dedicated to bringing the GOP back around. I’m going to provide an independent voice coming from the “little l” libertarian stance, plus I’m a voter who votes for both parties with no compunction. Exactly the sort of voter the GOP needs to court to start winning elections again.

The site broke the story on Palin’s campaign clothes going undonated and sitting in plastic garbage bags at the RNC headquarters, and it’s funny because the comment section is already populated with the 20%-ers who will likely keep the party out of anything other than local office for a long-time coming.

I think the idea of NewMajority is great and I’m very pleased David Frum, the founder and editor, has given me the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. The site launched on Tuesday and it’s already embroiled in a bit of GOP controversy.

Regular readers of this blog wonder why I’d contribute to a blog dedicated to bringing the GOP back to prominence? It’s simple. I want at least two viable choices and no third party could hope to challenge the Democrats for many years. There’s just no coalition, organization or structure for that fight from any political party other than the Republicans. I also fear the GOP might just go the way of the Know-Nothings if the extreme edge isn’t sanded down a bit.

Given the opportunity, I’ll contribute to a left-leaning blog and challenge that group from the right. For NewMajority I’m doing just that, only from the other direction.

From my first NewMajority post:

Is it possible to be less than conservative on social issues and still be a part of the Republican coalition? Of course it is. Many voters, such as myself, vote GOP for the fiscal conservatism the party has traditionally espoused. The last several years has shaken that somewhat, but fiscal conservatives are not going to bail on the party for the sins of one administration.

Culturally, the public’s focus regarding the Republican Party is on the Religious Right and a series of hot-button topics such as abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. One area that gets very little truck these days is civil liberties – particularly the notion that government ought to stay out of our lives. The notion that the individual knows best in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Civil liberties is one area in which true conservatives and libertarians have been largely in agreement.

January 8, 2009

Health care reform …

… is coming. Let’s hope it’s a decent system.

And that’s an honest hope. Even as a libertarian I recognize the system as it is has broken. Insurance has become a roadblock to the process of medicine, and to a reasonable allocation of money through the process. I’m no fan of regulation, but some order in this house might just be in order.

From the link:

Former Senator Tom Daschle pledged on Thursday to work with lawmakers of both parties in a grass roots, ideology-free campaign to revamp the nation’s struggling health care system.

“We will be guided by evidence and effectiveness, not by ideology,” Mr. Daschle told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after saying that he wanted “to work with each of you” on ways to improve health care for all Americans.

“When it comes to health care, we really are in it together,” Mr. Daschle said, adding that to do nothing — or too little — about the spiraling costs of health care, the growing legions of the uninsured and substandard medical treatment in some areas is simply unacceptable.

December 27, 2008

Buzz for 2009

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

This is what I’ve been hearing here at the end of 2008.

On the economy:

From a trader at a major investment bank — write off 2009. Nobody knows a thing and it won’t get better for another 12 months.

From a businessman — his, or her, hedge fund investment is only down seven percent and he’s happy. Down … in the red … money has been lost …  and he’s happy because his friends are losing ten, 15, 30 percent and he’s in single digits. Think about that.

From a CFO — no bank out there will take $1.25 million. He, or she, is sitting on over a million bucks and no one will take it on in any fashion. For anyone who doesn’t know finance, one and a quarter mil is chump change. Banks used to misplace larger figures and not bat an eye. (Well, that might be rash but I’m sure you get the overall point.)

On libertarian pet causes:

From a somewhat connected freedom lover — Obama will likely decriminalize marijuana. Maybe a second term item.

From the keyboard:

As for me? I plan on having a lot of fun, not worrying about things I can’t affect in any meaningful fashion and bringing my blog readers all the fun/cool/infuriating/needs-to-be-told stuff I come across out there

If you have something that needs adding to the list either comment or hit me at davidkonline@gmail.com.

December 22, 2008

SEC falling down on the job

Of course this comes as no surprise. During his two terms, Bush 43 has actively undermined government at every turn. I enjoy small govenment as much as any libertarian could, but I also value competence (at the very least) for the government we must have.

Heckuva job there, Georgie.

From the link:

Before his downfall in an alleged fraud that may end up costing investors $50 billion, Wall Street money manager Bernard L. Madoff circulated a promotional message extolling his service to clients.

“Customers know that Bernard Madoff has a personal interest in maintaining the unblemished record of value, fair-dealing and high ethical standards that has always been the firm’s hallmark,” Madoff proclaimed in a brochure designed to drum up more business.

The brochure called attention to the high-tech trading side of his business that was supposedly honestly run and legitimate, but it also offers a glimpse of why the Securities and Exchange Commission was unable to stop Madoff in his tracks despite repeated warnings.

As financial markets have grown increasingly complicated _ which was the case with this part of Madoff’s operation _ the SEC has struggled to keep up with the changes.

The circumstance of this relatively tiny bureaucracy _ 3,567 employees including clerical workers _ is that of an agency overwhelmed.

December 11, 2008

The war on drugs and your tax dollars

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:17 am

Hard at work for epic failure. Sadly, this is the typical outcome of any effort by “drug warriors.” “Just Say No!” was a joke from day one — “Don’t Say No!”

“This is your brain on drugs” is a great parody on Robot Chicken today. And who can forget that oldie, but goodie — “Reefer Madness.”

The idiotic “war on drugs” would be a joke except people are are losing their lives and are being incarcerated at ridiculous rates. I’ m not personally a huge fan of drug use, but as a libertarian I completely defend the right for adults to self-medicate in whatever fashion they choose. And I deplore the collusion between law enforcement and legislators to create a a sub-class of criminals out of drug users feeding an ever growing penal system.

Take the black market out of the drug trade and many problems would immediately disappear. Not all by any measure, and new problems would certainly crop up, but what we have right now does not work. Time for a radical change. Couldn’t be any worse.

I’d drink to that.

The release from the link:

Success of anti-meth ads questioned by study

Review recommends campaign be put on hold, pending rigorous research

Washington, DC, December 11, 2008– An independent review investigating the effectiveness of a publicly funded graphic anti-methamphetamine advertising campaign has found that the campaign has been associated with many negative outcomes. The review was published in the December issue of Prevention Science, a peer reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR).

The Montana Meth Project (MMP) was created in 2005 to reduce methamphetamine use in Montana via graphic advertising showing extreme consequences of using meth “just once.” Initially the ad campaign was privately funded, but it has since received millions of dollars in state and federal support as the MMP has promoted the ad campaign as a resounding success to policy makers and the media. Based on the apparent success of the ad campaign in Montana, it has since been implemented in other states including Arizona, Idaho, and Illinois, with more states to follow.

The negative outcomes identified in the review include: following six months exposure to the MMP’s graphic ads, there was a threefold increase in the percentage of teenagers who reported that using meth is not a risky behaviour; teenagers were four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use; teenagers were more likely to report that taking heroin and cocaine is not risky; and up to 50% of teenagers reported that the graphic ads exaggerate the risks of using meth.

The review found that the MMP overlooked these unflattering results when promoting their research findings to policymakers and the media. Instead, the MMP focused on select positive findings.

The author of the review, David Erceg-Hurn, who is currently completing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Western Australia, came across the Meth Project while conducting research on graphic tobacco advertising. There was a mention of the Meth Project in an article he read. Erceg-Hurn followed up on that mention and closely scrutinized the Meth Project’s research reports. He said that it is important for organizations that are funding or considering funding the MMP’s ad campaign to be made aware of all of the MMP’s findings – positive and negative. To date, this has not happened.

Erceg-Hurn also criticized claims that the ad campaign has been responsible for reducing meth use in Montana. “Meth use had been declining for at least six years before the ad campaign commenced, which suggests that factors other than the graphic ads cause reductions in meth use. Another issue is that the launch of the ad campaign coincided with restrictions on the sale of cold and flu medicines commonly used in the production of meth. This means that drug use could be declining due to decreased production of meth, rather than being the result of the ad campaign.”

Erceg-Hurn also pointed out in his review that due to the way the MMP has conducted their research, it is impossible to conclude that the ad campaign had any effect on meth use. To draw such conclusions would require much more rigorous research. This would involve examining two groups of teenagers that were equivalent in terms of drug use, exposing only one group to the graphic ads, and then examining any differences between the groups in their drug use.

The theory underlying the MMP’s ad campaign was also criticized by Erceg-Hurn. “The idea behind the ad campaign is that teenagers take meth because they believe it is socially acceptable, and not risky – and the ads are meant to alter these perceptions. However, this theory is flawed because the Meth Project’s own data shows that 98% of teenagers strongly disapproved of meth use and 97% thought using meth was risky before the campaign started.”

The review also points out that considerable prior research has found that large anti-drug advertising campaigns can be ineffective and sometimes harmful. For example, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion since 1998. A Government Accountability Office report found that the ad campaign has not reduced drug use. The only significant results were in an unfavorable direction – some youths reported an increase in marijuana use upon increased exposure to the campaign.

Erceg-Hurn concluded in his Prevention Science review that based on current evidence, continued public funding and rollout of Montana-style anti-methamphetamine graphic ad campaign programs is inadvisable.

 

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Prevention Science is the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research, an international organization focused on the advancement of science-based prevention programs and policies through empirical research. The membership of the organization includes scientists, practitioners, advocates, administrators and policymakers who are concerned with the prevention of social, physical and mental health problems and the promotion of health, safety and well being.

December 9, 2008

Cato praises Obama’s transparency

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:14 pm

Cato-at-Liberty, the blog of the libertarian Cato Institute, had this to say about Obama’s transition to date.

From the link:

The President-elect’s Change.gov Web site announced a new feature on Friday, called Your Seat at the Table: “The Obama-Biden Transition Team will be hearing from many groups over the next several weeks. On this page, you can track these meetings, view documents provided to the Transition, and leave comments for the team.”

Says a memo from transition head John Podesta, itself posted online, “[A]ny documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on.”

This is a very good start at transparency. John Wonderlich at the Sunlight Foundation wonders what this might look like across the entire executive branch. If the default rule were online disclosure of documents submitted to government agencies, that would make a big change in the conduct of the public’s business.

December 1, 2008

Dreher likes Ron Paul …

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:59 pm

… really, really likes him. Man talk about a day late and a dollar short. Before I dumped my subscription to the Dallas Morning News I regularly read the weak-kneed drivel Dreher puts out. Now it takes a link from some online resource to lead me that way (this time it was the Daily Dish, thanks Sully).

Dreher wants to be a theocrat but lacks the conviction, and clearly he’s no libertarian. So why throw love Paul’s way? Maybe because the rest of the GOP is becoming exposed as a losing option in the voting booth?

At any rate Dreher nominates Paul for the DMN’s Texan of the year.

From the link:

I didn’t vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary (I was a Mike Huckabee man), nor did I write him in on Election Day (I penciled in farmer-poet Wendell Berry). But no Texan this year did more good for conservatism and his country than the congressman from the coast.

Lord knows there was no Republican in the 2008 campaign who talked straighter.

Dr. Paul – he’s a physician – never had a chance, of course. He is too peculiar in his opinions and doesn’t know how to spin like a TV slick. What he had was ideas, integrity and authenticity. On the most critical challenges facing America, Dr. Paul was more right than the well-funded GOP regulars who bigfooted the campaign trail.

His best moment came in a May debate aired on Fox News. Dr. Paul asserted that too much U.S. meddling in the Middle East invites terrorist blowback – a conclusion shared by the 9/11 commission and former CIA bin Laden unit chief Michael Scheuer. Rudy Giuliani pounced, accusing Dr. Paul of trying to blame America for the Sept. 11 attacks.

November 25, 2008

The right wing fights back against the far fringe

After the Palin veep picked proved to be an electoral disaster — and exposed a very ugly theocrat faction that before Bush 43 has always been coddled and marginalized. Now they seem to want blood of some sort. Right now that blood is taking form in the GOP brand. Beaten down, sullied and starting to rend where does the GOP go from here?

Well, there’s a lot of opposition to this electoral suicide. The American Conservative has fought against Bush 43 anti-conservatism for quite a while; a relatively new blog of young conservatives, Culture11, is seeking a new way as well; Taki’s Magazine also has been a fierce critic of Bush 43 politics; and now John Derbyshire of National Review fame has started a new blog, Secular Right.

And coming in January is another new blog by a National Review alum, David Frum. His offering is NewMajority.com and should be a very interesting entry into this moment of conservative/GOP/right wing soul-searching.

I’m very excited about Frum’s site because I’ve been offered the opportunity to blog at the launch. I’ll be coming at this debate from farther left than most I’m sure, offering my take on little “L” libertarianism — quite fiscally conservative and culturally liberal to moderate. I’m betting I ought to expect some very exciting feedback from the more partisan contributors, and especially readers. The challenge is welcome and I’m already planning topics to hit the gate running.

From the NewMajority pre-launch splash page:

NewMajority.com is a new political group blog edited by David Frum, and is scheduled to go live on Inauguration Day, January 18th 2009.

Update — I left Rebuild the Partyout the above list because I didn’t know about it until right now. Actually read about it first on a left wing site — Daily Kos. Looks like there’s going to be a total explosion of critical thought on fixing conservatism in general and the GOP in particular.

I’m still not certain the GOP as a national party is fixable right now. Something new may well arise out of all this intellectual activity and the GOP may become a party of marginal theocrats. Hopefully the theocrats get booted to their own little marginal party and the GOP returns to its small government roots and accepts a live-and-let-live cultural stance. Maybe too much to ask for, though.

November 20, 2008

Hats in hand with dirty knees …

our corporate backbone pleads with the gov’mint for a thin dime.

Sickening.

From the link:

At the very core of the current financial crisis lies the problem of moral hazard.

Moral hazard is the alignment of incentives that encourages the pursuit of short-term gains with scant regard to (or even responsibility for) potential long-term costs.

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and the federal government helped create the moral hazard problem, but they are not focused on correcting it. In fact, some recent actions are making the problem more acute.

Former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr., once said that the role of the Fed was to “take away the punch bowl just as the party got going.” But under the leadership of Alan Greenspan, the Fed not only left the punch bowl on the table, it also spiked the punch.

When equity markets wobbled, the Fed came to the rescue. Yet when he commented on the “irrational exuberance” of the equity markets several years ago, Greenspan admitted no role in creating that exuberance.

More recently Greenspan failed to acknowledge the moral hazard problem in a different context. In his Oct. 23 testimony before Congress, he expressed “shocked disbelief” that self-regulation failed — that financial institutions did not do a better job preventing themselves from getting into trouble.

Greenspan’s shock is itself surprising. He was right to believe that markets could be self-regulating, and he was right to believe that markets should work. What he failed to see, though, was that self-regulation couldn’t work because of the moral hazard that had crept into the way Wall Street operated.

Many of the problems with Wall Street lie with the corporate structure itself. In the idealized world, management should be acting for the benefit of the shareholders, and the shareholders should act through the board of directors to set compensation and power of management.

November 7, 2008

David Frum still making sense …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:49 pm

… out of a dismal GOP cycle. I’ve done some recent blogging on the failings of the Republican Party, even going so far as to seriously suggest the party might be heading down the path to oblivion.

The Libertarian Party is not the answer because of its track record, but as a small “L” libertarian, I’d love to see a serious alternative party — maybe if the GOP turns off enough of the brain trust all of us can get together and create an actual opposition party. I’m guessing the GOP eventually rights the ship, but it’s going to require a sea-change in attitude at this point because the infighting is taking casualties on both sides.

And there’s always questions and recriminations after a beatdown like this Tuesday, but the viciousness seems particularly high in the GOP. Especially the regarding Palin. I honestly can’t believe there is a faction of the party that really thinks she’s the answer and the future. Sure she has charisma — for about ten minutes.

It’s long been a joke that the GOP was a party of redneck crackers (not be mistaken there’s just as many, if not more, in the northeast as in the south) and angry old white men. The joke looks like reality circa 2008. “Joe the Plumber?” That fool and Sarah Palin are the two faces the GOP wants the entire world to see? It’s like a race to the stupid line. “I’m dumber than you!” “No man, I’m dumber than you!”

At any rate, Frum cuts to the chase in the link way up there in the top graf:

But there is another way to reinforce Joe – a path so old and dusty as almost to feel new and unexplored. A generation ago, Republicans were dominant among college graduates. Those days are long gone. Since 1988, Democrats have become more conservative on economics – and Republicans more conservative on social issues. College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. There are more and more college-educated voters.

So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? This will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. It will involve even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarising on social issues.

That’s a future that leaves little room for Sarah Palin – but the only hope for a Republican recovery.

(via Daily Dish)

October 15, 2008

Cato on the financial crisis

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:20 am

If you’re looking for a libertarian take on the ongoing financial crisis, here’s the Cato Institute’s full slate of offerings.

From the link:

Global Financial Crisis

The Cato Institute has been following the crisis in financial markets since the very beginning. From the sub prime crisis to Fannie and Freddie to the $700 billion bailout, the recent financial events have given our analysts and experts plenty to talk and write about. We decided to pull together the op-eds, podcasts, reports, and publications from our scholars on this issue, so all these resources can exist in one place. We hope it’s a useful tool for your research.

September 23, 2008

The libertarian case for Obama and McCain

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:36 am

Reason mag ran two articles outlining the libertarian case for an Obama presidency and a McCain presidency.

The overall conclusion? Neither candidate is ideal, but one is going to win. Which lever should a libertarian choose? And for all those “big L” Libertarians who are going to waste a vote on Bob Barr, well there’s no saving you anyway.

The case for Obama as presented by Terry Michael.

From the link:

For those who recognize that “libertarian Democrat” is no more oxymoronic than “libertarian Republican,” a solid case can be made for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as a Leader of the Free World who won’t take that American Exceptionalism conceit as seriously as “Country First” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Sure, we’ll have to endure four or even eight years of warbling by Barbra Streisand at White House dinners. And I am under no illusions: Obama has more Populist-Progressive than Madisonian inclinations. But, guys and gals, Ms. Wasilla is no less stomach-churning than Babs. And the actual Republican presidential candidate is even more authoritarian than his Progressive hero, Teddy Roosevelt. John McCain is no friend of Friedman.

And in this corner, the case for McCain as presented by Matt Welch.

From the link:

Lord knows, there is a libertarian case to be made against John McCain. Whether it’s his hyper-interventionist foreign policy, disregard for constitutional liberties and individualism, or his up-front opposition to “the ‘leave us alone’ libertarian philosophy that dominated Republican debates in the 1990s,” the 2008 Republican nominee has drawn fire from many free-marketeers through (as the Club for Growth has put it), his “philosophical ambivalence, if not hostility, about limited government and personal freedom.”

But it would be inaccurate at best to claim that a McCain presidency offers zero potential upside for libertarians. After two years of studying the Arizona senator’s habits (and coming to mostly critical conclusions), I can identify seven plausible reasons why a limited-government type might consider voting for the guy, even if I for one won’t. Each reason, as you’ll see, has as least one serious caveat.

September 22, 2008

Salience on the bailout

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:43 am

Andrew Sullivan gets the best email. Here’s part of one he posted from a Daily Dish reader on Bush 43’s proposed financial bailout:

Third, the administration’s proposals continue a process of socializing loss and preserving profits and distributions, many of which were made with full knowledge of the pending losses. When management distributes illusory profits to insiders in full knowledge of a massive loss, this is called a fraudulent conveyance, and in equity proceedings such distributions are routinely recovered for the creditor mass. There should therefore be a careful scrutiny of distributions of profits and bonuses by failed firms.  The bailout we now see may mean effectively that taxpayer money is subsidizing the purchase of macmansions and Bentleys by investment managers who behaved irresponsibly.  How can that happen?  Only in the age of Bush.

I’m not certain how all this came to pass, but George W.’s legacy is somehow going to combine the worst of Republican, and Democrat, political traits.

I’m a huge proponent of divided government, but against my better thoughts I’m voting Obama because the GOP needs a thourough thrashing to start the rethink, flush the christianist fools and get back to some actual “little l” libertarian roots. Otherwise it’s done as reasonable political party in this land.

July 30, 2008

Ron Paul sponsors bill to decriminalize pot

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:47 pm

Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Barney Frank have co-sponsored a bill to decriminalize possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. The “war on drugs” has been such an abject failure, I’m not even going to go into the issues here (for the very lazy who want more, here’s a Google search to get you started.)

It’s not surprising sensible, privacy respecting civil liberties legislation is coming from Ron Paul. The blatant hypocrisy of US drug laws is a joke. i doubt this bill goes anywhere, but I’m pleased Ron Paul’s new found name recognition and political clout with the public translates into actual policy every now and then.

There’s really no libertarian blueprint. That much is clear if you take even a sidelong glance at the big-L Libertarian Party. It’s full of all manner of cranks, malcontents, isolationists, druggies, tax dodgers and then a whole lot of otherwise average people who just want the government to stay out of their way.

I don’t participate in any party activities for a variety of reasons, most importantly I don’t think the Libertarian Party is honestly serious enough to achieve any real policy goals.

Here is a paraphrase of a common joke among party participants — I’ve read this somewhere, but can’t recall where. Maybe on Wendy McElroy’s blog.

(This block quote is just the joke, not a quote from anyone’s blog)

First time Libertarian Party meeting participant, “Oh my god, look at that table of Nazis!”

Old vet, “Yep, there’s always at least one.”

First-timer, “What? Nazis?”

Vet, “Nope, someone who bitches about ‘em.”

Ron Paul is a little bit Libertarian, and quite a bit more libertarian and is the most libertarian congressman, at least publicly. I hope he can translate a wildly successful (given the expectations) presidential bid into real policy results for his ideals.

July 26, 2008

The TSA is a joke

The boondoggle of a national agency that is the Transportation Security Agency, a part of that larger waste of government funds, the Department of Homeland Security, is proving to be quite inept at doing anything but waste the time of, and harass, US travelers.

Now don’t get me wrong, changes needed to be made after 9/11, but there was no reason not to work within the existing framework and effect a solution.

The concept of “homeland security” all sitting under one roof, so to speak, and working hand-in-hand sounded great, but like most bureaucracies, in practice it’s incompetent and a colossal waste of taxpayers money. If this agency had been created under a Democratic administration the GOP would be howling. Since it appeared under the pen and auspices of the Bush 43 regime, GOPers are silent and this is one more reason honest conservatives are ready to bust the party up for its own good.

I’ve blogged about problems with the TSA and Homeland Security (notably here and here) thanks to the careful attention the good people at the Cato Institute pay to this issue.

And then I find this story:

Last spring, shortly after airing a news report that embarrassed the TSAand the Federal Air Marshal Service, CNN’s investigative reporter Drew Griffin was suddenly placed on the TSA’s terrorist watch list. Last week, CNN ran a follow-up piece. Anderson Cooper interviewed Griffin — a reporter who had suddenly moved from telling an important story to being part of it.

The day after the Cooper-Griffin exchange, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas) formally called for a probe into the TSA’s seemingly vengeful act. Jackson Lee asked DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff the following:

“My question is why would Drew Griffin’s name come on the watch list, post-his investigation of TSA?” Jackson Lee said.

“What is the basis of this sudden recognition that Drew Griffin is a terrorist? Are we targeting people because of their critique or criticism?”

Chertoff hedged, saying it was not his “understanding the reporter was put on [the list]” but that Griffin may share a name with someone put on the list.

Which is almost impossible to believe. Unless you are willing to accept that someone else coincidentally named Drew Griffin was discovered to be a terrorist almost seven years after 9/11 but within a week or two of CNN’s March 2008 air date.

To anyone who isn’t trying to finger-plug the sieve in the aviation security wall called TSA, the answer to Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee’s question is quite clearly “yes.” The TSA does target people who critique or criticize the TSA.

And this is what Griffin worked on to cause his “problem” with the TSA. A story covering Jeffrey Denning, a former Dallas SWAT team member and former Federal Air Marshal who detained a man legitimately on the terrorist list and after trying to get higher-ups in the Homeland Security chain to come and process the potential terrorist found the end result very discouraging:

Surely, now that alarm bells have been sounded inside the uppermost echelons of six U.S. federal agencies — DHS, TSA, FAMS, ICE, JTTF, FBI — and with a match hit on a terrorist watch list, Anwar Al-XXXXX would be under intense scrutiny and taken in for further questioning. At least in theory he would be.

Unfortunately, that proved to be only theory.

Denning explained what happened next: “They [i.e., DHS/JTTF and the airport police] couldn’t get an ICE agent to the scene so I was asked to examine [Al-XXXXX’s] travel documents. This struck me as odd because I have no training in examining travel documents. None of the Federal Air Marshals have received training that I’m aware of. Finally word came back from the MOC [Mission Operations Control]. They said, ‘we’ve been waiting on the FBI. We can’t get them to verify. Let him go.’”

Denning followed orders.

Watching Anwar Al-XXXXX pick up his bag and disappear into the throngs of travelers at Reagan National Airport, Denning told me that he thought to himself, “I seriously hope this guy doesn’t show up on the evening news.”

Anwar Al-XXXXX did not show up on the evening news. But Jeffrey Denning did. Last week, CNN aired a three-part piece in print, on TV, and on its blog that focuses on Denning’s witch-hunt-like plight.

July 25, 2008

Nanny state — actually State this time — California style

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:54 pm

Cali gets this post for banning trans fats. Can’t wait to see the next “health” crusade from the government overlords who know better than you or me what to put into our bodies.

Really all the rampant statism all over the US these days is ridiculous. And un-American. Good job, Arnie.

From the link:

 California, a national trendsetter in all matters edible, became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday to phase out their use.

Under the new law, trans fats, long linked to health problems, must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006 — it became fully effective on July 1 — and Philadelphia, Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., have done so as well.

All credit card transactions to be reported to the IRS

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:47 pm

Here’s a disturbing bit of privacy loss that’s not all that publicized. All links are from the blog at RonPaul2008.com, now the site for Paul’s “Campaign for Liberty.”

First the humdrum bit of congressional news:

Yesterday Congress passed a housing bailout bill by a vote of 272 to 152. Here is a typical MSM story about the bill from the LA Times that lauds the importance of these “sweeping measures” that will “stave off foreclosure for 400,000 or more homeowners,” and allow the Treasury to “bolster confidence in Fannie and Freddie” by allowing the government to “temporarily increase its lending” and “buy their stock.” Couched in these terms, it probably sounds good to most Americans.

But there is much that the typical MSM dispatch does not mention (for example, where will the money come from?). For the rest of the story, take 7 minutes to watch Dr. Paul’s video commentary on the bill, which made the front page of Digg in a screaming three hours.

And then comes this odd, and somewhat frightening little tidbit some tax-happy elected official threw in:

  • Finally, buried deep within the bill, and not mentioned in any MSM source that I am aware of, is the provision that every credit card transaction will now be reported to the IRS. How this fits in to the housing crisis is anyone’s guess.
  • Yowzaa. More government creepage. The system really does need blowing up coupled with an effort toward building a new, smaller, better and smarter government — by the people, for the people.

    June 26, 2008

    Police state in action — Fed style

    Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 am

    This is unbelievable. Unless there’s a lot more to this story than the article suggests it seems if you are a US citizen consider your civil liberties threatened, if not nonexistent, until a sane group of individuals (either party will do just fine) can get into the halls of power next January.

    If this activity is common and has become standard operating procedure, the terrorists truly have “won” the last six-plus years. I wonder how a group of dark age fools could wreak such ongoing havoc on the very fabric of the world’s largest, and really only, superpower.

    The Bush 43 regime has been an abject failure on so many levels it’s truly astounding. In 2000 I honestly thought he would be an adequate president, and that might have come to pass had 9/11 not occurred. Of course it seems Cheney and a small group of the ex-Nixon administration neocons had some objectives going into their second tour of the White House that might have been executed with, or without, 9/11. We’ll never know, but man we’re dealing with an awful aftermath of failed policy, government overreach and the absolute gutting of the civil liberties on which our founding fathers placed the utmost importance. 

    From the link:

    Returning from a brief vacation to Germany in February, Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Agents searched Hogan’s luggage and then popped an unexpected question: Was he carrying any digital media cards or drives in his pockets? “Then they told me that they were impounding my laptop,” says Hogan, a freelance investigative reporter whose recent stories have ranged from the origins of the Iraq war to the impact of money in presidential politics.

    Shaken by the encounter, Hogan says he left the airport and examined his bags, finding that the agents had also removed and inspected the memory card from his digital camera. “It was fortunate that I didn’t use that machine for work or I would have had to call up all my sources and tell them that the government had just seized their information,” he said. When customs offered to return the machine nearly two weeks later, Hogan told them to ship it to his lawyer.

     

    The extent of the program to confiscate electronics at customs points is unclear. A hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution hopes to learn more about the extent of the program and safeguards to traveler’s privacy. Lawsuits have also been filed, challenging how the program selects travelers for inspection. Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized. Congressional investigators and plaintiffs involved in lawsuits believe that digital copies?so-called “mirror images” of drives?are sometimes made of materials after they are seized by customs.

    June 25, 2008

    IDs, airports and “security”

    Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:47 am

    Jim Harper at Cato-at-Liberty has a great post pointing out the essential truth behind the policy preventing anyone from flying unless an ID is presented.

    The first graf:

    We’re now learning the meaning of a new policy that Americans can’t “willfully” refuse to show ID at airports. The Consumerist has a write-upof one man’s experience with IDless travel. It turns out they do a background check on you using, among other things, your political affiliation.

    He goes on to point out the TSA’s “system” is easily subverted by anyone with no history of breaking the law. It does provide a burden on the overwhelming majority of travelers who just want to get from point A to point B. Oh, and it has another effect as well. This time on the civil liberties and right to privacy of the traveler. Two US Constitution granted ideals held near and dear by most Americans.

    Harper’s conclusion:

    Identity checks at airports require law-abiding American citizens to give up their privacy, including their political affiliations, with essentially no security benefit.

    June 11, 2008

    More on libertarian seasteading

    Filed under: et.al., Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:35 pm

    I’ve blogged about this subject before, and here’s a take from Cato-at-Liberty by Timothy B. Lee on libertarian seasteading. I think the concept of post-, extra-national libertarian communities is very interesting. My above linked blog post covers Peter Thiels’ investment in the Seasteading Institute. Looks like Tim also thinks this monetary input is a strong factor in this idea’s potential for success.

    From the second link:

    Over at Ars Technica, I have an in-depth discussion of seasteading, an effort by a group of Silicon Valley libertarians to develop technology for living on the open oceans in a cost-effective manner. They argue that government is an industry with excessive barriers to entry, and they aim to change that by creating a turnkey solution for starting your own community.

    History is littered with utopian projects, libertarian and otherwise, that fell far short of their lofty goals. At first glance, the Seasteading Institute looks like just another utopian scheme. But there are at least two reasons to think this one might accomplish more than its predecessors. First, recognizing that it would take many decades to develop a self-sufficient ocean metropolis, Friedman and his partners have chosen to focus largely on short-term engineering challenges. They want to build cheap, durable sea platforms that anyone can purchase. Second, they’ve raised half a million dollars from Peter Thiel, the libertarian entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal and is now a major investor in Facebook. Thiel’s backing will allow them to move beyond the extensive background work they’ve already done and begin the expensive task of actually designing and building their first prototype, which they hope to splash down in San Francisco Bay in the next few years.

    May 30, 2008

    Ron Paul looks for speaking slot at GOP convention

    Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:47 pm

    I blogged about this eventuality way back in early February. Now it looks like Paul is pushing for a slot.

    From the second link:

    And he’ll probably get one. But here’s betting it won’t be in prime-time, early prime, or even afternoon drive…

    May 22, 2008

    Peter Thiel invests in libertarian micronations

    From KurzweilAI.net — I’ve recently blogged about PayPal founder, Peter Thiel. He’s making news again by investing in offshore communities destined to become libertarian strongholds. Pretty cool idea if you ask me …

    Peter Thiel Makes Down Payment on Libertarian Ocean Colonies
    Wired, May 19, 2008

    With a $500,000 donation from PayPal founder Peter Thiel, a Google engineer and a former Sun Microsystems programmer have launched The Seasteading Institute, an organization dedicated to creating experimental ocean communities “with diverse social, political, and legal systems.”


    Artist’s conception of a large seastead based on the spur design (Valdemar Duran)

    The seasteaders want to build their first prototype for a few million dollars, by scaling down and modifying an existing off-shore oil rig design known as a “spar platform.”

     
    Read Original Article>>

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