David Kirkpatrick

July 16, 2010

Jonah Goldberg and cogent arguments …

… are mutually exclusive.

This is a very interesting take at Reason on where libertarianism is heading. It features three essays:

  • (Reason) Contributing Editor Brink Lindsey is vice president for research at the Cato Institute. He writes from the libertarian perspective stating libertarians need a clean break from the conservative political movement.
  • Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Goldberg argues libertarianism should retain and seek out ties to the conservative movement.
  • Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks. He makes the argument the Tea Party movement is a libertarian movement.

It’s a long read for online content, but certainly worth the time if you are interested in libertarianism and are curious how to reconcile today’s political climate in the United States with a fiscally conservative/socially liberal stance.

The extended title refers to Goldberg’s essay. He’s certainly no intellectual heavyweight (or even light middleweight for that matter) and almost exclusively falls back on talking points from up on high and straw men in both his short- and long-form writing. This contribution to Reason did not disappoint on that measure.

To keep this short I’ll just point out one particularly egregious example.

Here’s Goldberg from graf six:

For starters, why should libertarianism be so hostile to culturally conservative values? Isn’t libertarianism about freedom, including the freedom to live conservatively if that’s what people choose?

Er, Jonah, libertarianism is not hostile to conservative values in the least and certainly all people should have the freedom to live conservatively, or not, if they choose. The problem comes when conservative values become the law of the land through bad policy. When this happens all people don’t have the opportunity to live as they choose. Only conservatives are permitted that right.

So it pays to remember, and to be intellectually honest, in recognizing there is a huge difference in being hostile to conservative values and hostile to conservative laws. Libertarians tend to dislike the heavy hand of the state in all spheres of influence. The free market for sure, but just as much in the free mind and body.

Bush 43-era DoJ pursued obscenity cases over national security

Just wow.

From today’s Reason Alert:

Earlier in the trial, we learned the Bush administration actually diverted resources away from national security and onto the Stagliano case. Abowitz says, “After originally working on national security issues, [FBI Special Agent Daniel] Bradley testified, he was transferred to the obscenity desk and assigned to an already open investigation into Stagliano. How’s that for government priorities?”

For more on the actual trial, here’s a Reason article from today.

October 20, 2009

Rhetoric v. reality in the Obama White House

Cato and Reason‘s Julian Sanchez has a great piece on the disconnect between what the Obama administration does, and what it says, in restoring balance to D.C. and ridding our government of some of the Bush administration’s overreach and blatant disregard for civil liberties and personal freedom.

To be fair Obama has been in office a total of nine months with a very full plate, and his administration may well be taking a long view in meeting some of these policy goals. If so, that’s great. In the meantime his feet should be kept to the fire on these issues that led many independent voters to pull the lever for him last year.

From the link:

We know the rules by now, the strange conventions and stilted Kabuki scripts that govern our cartoon facsimile of a national security debate. The Obama administration makes vague, reassuring noises about constraining executive power and protecting civil liberties, but then merrily adopts whatever appalling policy George W. Bush put in place. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed. We’ve watched the formula play out with Guantánamo Bay, torture prosecutions and the invocation of “state secrets.” We appear to be on the verge of doing the same with national security surveillance.

Update — Here’s another post on this article.

May 15, 2009

Matt Welch on Obama and the torture photos

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:12 pm

The Reason magazine editor-in-chief pans the Obama administration move to not release any more torture photos at this time.

From today’s Reason Alert:

President Obama’s Flip-Flop on Torture Photos
President Obama has reversed course and decided not to release another batch of photos showing how prisoners were abused in Iraq. Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch writes,by lacking confidence to air this publicly, the U.S. missed an opportunity to send a powerful message to the world: Not only do we no longer torture (in both word and deed), we take that notion seriously enough to withstand a public relations hit as we fully exhume the ghosts of a dishonorable seven-year policy. In a region of autocratic, torturous governments, I daresay such a message could have surprising resonance among the people alleged to hate us most.”

May 1, 2009

Rogue narcs in Philly

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:59 pm

IF you haven’t been following this story — Reason has been doing a bang-up job on that front — it’s worth the time to hit the link and get all the sordid details. Dirty cops and one more black mark against the war on drugs.

The real question is there will always be bad cops and even entire bad law enforcement units, but where was the oversight? That’s the question Radley Balko asks in this post.

From the link:

Previously (here and here), I blogged about a rogue narcotics unit in Philadelphia that was raiding bodegas on the flimsy excuse that the stores were selling resealable zip-lock bags that could potentially be used by drug dealers. Bodega owners say the cops were cutting the lines to surveillance cameras, then stealing cash, alcohol, cigarettes, and snack food from the stores. The Philadelphia Daily News was able to obtain footage of the cops cutting off one of the cameras during a raid, then inquiring to the store owner about whether the camera feeds went to a computer that was on or off-site.

The lingering question, here, is how this unit was able to operate like this for so long without any oversight. Why wasn’t anyone questioning the use of such aggressive tactics in searches not for drugs, but for no more than an otherwise legal product? Why did no one in the department ask why an “elite” narcotics unit was wasting its time busting immigrant shop owners with no criminal record for selling plastic bags instead of pursuing actual drug distributors?

It’s one thing to have a few rogue cops that, once caught, are fired and—hopefully—criminally charged. It’s a more wide-ranging and serious problem if there are institutional failures in the Philadelphia police department that allowed Officer Jeffrey Cujdic’s scam of terrorizing immigrant shop owners to flourish.

Now, the Daily News has published the results of its review of the search warrants obtained by Cujdik’s unit over the last several years, and the results are troubling. They find a wholesale lack of supervision of Cujdik and his men, even as complaints against them mounted.

January 16, 2009

The sins of Bush 43

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:25 am

Steve Chapman has an excellent article up at Reason on where the Bush 43 years have gone wrong.

Here’s two very telling issues:

The Budget. Bush represented the alleged party of small government, yet under him, federal outlays exploded. During his presidency, spending was up by 70 percent, more than double the increase under Bill Clinton. When Bush arrived, the federal government was running surpluses. Since then—not counting the horrendously expensive financial bailout—the national debt has nearly doubled. You can’t blame Congress for all this: Bush was the first president in 176 years to go an entire term without vetoing a single piece of legislation.

Executive power. Conservatives are supposed to believe in strict limits on government power, but Bush pushed incessantly to expand the prerogatives of the president. He asserted the right to ignore laws banning torture and restricting wiretapping. The Supreme Court found that his imprisonment of captives at Guantanamo Bay violated the Constitution by denying them the right to challenge their detention in court.

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.

July 16, 2008

Fascism on the bookshelf

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:45 pm

Here’s a great set of book reviews from the August/September 2008 print issue of Reason Magazine.

Michael C. Moynihan takes on Naomi Wolf’s The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and finds both quite lacking — particularly Wolf’s effort — and chastises the current habit of pundits, commentators and bloggers throwing the word “fascist” around willy nilly.

Here’s Monyihan’s summation:

That certain modern ideologies contain trace elements of fascism doesn’t mean that they are in any meaningful way fascist, or even pre-fascist (as the Wolfian left would have it). Not every flag-bedecked rally is Nuremberg, not every Guantanamo Bay is Auschwitz, and not every ill-conceived call for redistribution is a sign of corporatism.

It is important, in times of crisis, when an administration invokes the perennial threat of an external enemy, that a citizenry be vigilant in safeguarding civil liberties, in jealously guarding the constitutionality of invoked wartime powers. But when those self-appointed guardians collapse into “Weimar moment” paranoia, not only is the concept of fascism diluted to the point of meaninglessness, but other, more pressing liberty-related issues are subsumed by the hysteria. When both sides see creeping fascism lurking around every bit of political rhetoric and action they disagree with, then the term doesn’t need to be reappropriated or redefined, it needs to be buried.

June 5, 2008

Michelle Obama and “whitey”

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:30 pm

Here’s a link to a pretty good dissection of the rumor going around that there’s some video of Michelle Obama railing against “whitey” at some forum that seems to keep changing venues depending on who’s dispensing this bit of unfounded conjecture.

The conceit is a video exists of Michelle Obama speaking at an unidentified forum as part of a panel including, once again depending on who is dispensing the rumor, possibly the devil himself, and as part of her rant she denounces “whitey” and how caucasians are keeping others down.

I’m certainly not going to say such a video doesn’t exist, but there’s absolutely no proof she ever made such a statement. Barrack has gone on the offensive to tamp down these rumors, and my personal guess is if this video existed in any form it would be on YouTube, Fox News and media outlets sundry by now.

As it stands the “rumor” has percolated since last week and no video has been produced. All the bloggers and talking heads who bring it up can do no better than talk about how someone they know knows someone who’s seen the video in question.

So far, this is a classic urban legend FOAF story — a Friend Of A Friend told me about …

I wouldn’t call this totally debunked, but given it’s overripe nature time-wise with no tangible proof, I’d say it’s a solid 95%+ debunked.

From the first link:

On Monday I blogged about the rumors of a video that shows Michelle Obama making hateful comments about “whitey.” I’m now convinced that Larry Johnson, the blogger who’s done the most to make the rumors public, is spreading misinformation. At the least, he’s been unable to stick to his story.


Until he comes out with a video tape that shows at least one of the many rumored “Michelle speeches,” I think that’s the last we need to hear from Larry Johnson.

Update: Here’s a little debunking from the right over at the Corner —

Why Does the Michelle Obama Tape Rumor Match a 2006 Novel?


Sometimes, this rumor of this alleged tape of Michelle Obama denouncing “whitey” sounds like something out of a clichéd political thriller novel.

Actually, it sounds exactly like something out of a clichéd political thriller novel. Specifically, Stephen Frey’s The Power Broker, published in 2006 by Ballantine Books.

A major plot line of the novel is the presidential campaign of Democrat Jesse Wood, aiming to be the country’s first African American president — “Wood was handsome, smart, charismatic, and being mentioned increasingly often in the press as someone who could unite a twenty-first century America growing more, not less, racially and economically divided.” (p.35)

From later in the post:

Why is a conservative blogger putting this much effort into dispelling a rumor that, on paper at least, would hurt Obama? Because those who prefer a president besides Obama should not go through the summer and fall convinced that a magic-bullet devastating tape is going to appear as an October surprise to save the day.

Also, there are a lot of good reasons to vote against Barack Obama; but what people claim Michelle Obama says on a tape that no one can produce and no one has seen isn’t one of them.



June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley, RIP

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:23 pm

Man, there’s been a spate of entertainment and arts deaths recently — I’ve run multiple RIPs and I certainly haven’t covered most of the significant events.

Bo Diddley, the man with the square guitar and a true rock & roll pioneer, is dead at 79. He’s probably better known for the guitar shape than of his actual music. A great artist and a great innovator. Bo, take your rightful spot in that celestial choir …

From the link:

In the 1950s, Mr. Diddley — along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewisand a few others — helped reshape the sound of popular music worldwide, building it on the templates of blues, southern gospel and rhythm and blues. His original style of R&B influenced generations of musicians. And his Bo Diddley syncopated beat — three strokes/rest/two strokes — became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll.

Update: Here’s a link to a few relevant YouTube clips assembled by Reason’s Jesse Walker.

May 8, 2008

Nanny state in action — the US government

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:25 pm

An interesting story at Reason on the REAL ID. The article comes from a bipartisan Cato Institute event.

From the link (the quotes are from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Montana Senator Jon Tester):

“Outside of the liberty component, outside of the security standpoint, if you care about spending you’d ought to care about REAL ID.”

On the time it’d take to assign people their IDs: “Two hours is a lot of time on earth. You can spend it with friends, you can spend it with family, or you can spend it in a DMV line.”

Sanford rattles off a list of information abuses, like the passport file breaches of the presidential candidates. “One-stop shopping for every computer hacker around the world is not a good idea for our security.”

Tester gets up to speak and tosses down the gauntlet. “When our rights get trampled upon, the terrorists win.”

Tester calls the application of the law-“cringe”-worthy, especially the “arbitrary deadline” that states were given to comply. DHS is “using federal resources to bully states to go with the program.” He points out that full agreement with the Act isn’t mandated until 2017.

“Creating a national ID — make no mistake, that’s what REAL ID is — will create countless opportunities to access our information in a way we have not agreed to.”

May 6, 2008

Reason mag interviews Peter Thiel

Here’s an interesting Reason interview with Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and angel investor of Facebook. They discuss libertarianism, The Singularity and the ongoing progress of science.

From Ronald Baily’s introduction:

I first met Peter Thiel—co-founder of PayPal, angel investor in Facebook, founder of the hedge fund Clarium Capital Management, adviser to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and self-described libertarian—at a party in his San Francisco home last September. Perhaps 100 digerati wandered through Thiel’s sleek Marina District townhouse, chatting amiably over wine and canapés in rooms filled with up-to-the-minute abstract art.

The party launched the second annual Singularity Summit, held at the nearby Palace of Fine Arts during the ensuing two days. The Singularity, a term coined by the science fiction writer Vernor Vinge in 1983, refers to the eventual technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. Just as our model of physics breaks down when it tries to describe the center of a black hole, Vinge observed, our attempts to model the future break down when we try to foresee a world that contains smarter-than-human intelligences. The Singularity Institute takes it for granted that exponentially accelerating information technology will produce such artificial intelligences; its chief goal is to make sure they will be friendly to humans.

In 1987, while studying philosophy at Stanford, Thiel helped found the libertarian/conservative student newspaper The Stanford Review. As a law student at Stanford he was president of the university’s Federalist Society. After working briefly for the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell in New York, Thiel switched to trading derivatives for Credit Suisse Financial. In the mid-1990s, Thiel transformed himself into a venture capitalist and a serial entrepreneur. He returned to California, where he has backed a number of startups. In addition to PayPal and Facebook, Thiel has invested in the social networking site LinkedIn, the search engine company Powerset, and the Web security provider IronPort.

Thiel also joined the culture wars by co-authoring The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford (1996), and was an executive producer for the 2005 feature film Thank You for Smoking, based on Christopher Buckley’s politically incorrect novel of the same name. Besides backing the Singularity Institute, Thiel pledged a $3.5 million matching grant in 2006 to the Methuselah Foundation to support its anti-aging research agenda.

I interviewed Thiel between sessions at the Singularity Summit.

April 8, 2008

Dallas DA Craig Watkins

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:49 am

I’ve posted before about the excellent work being done by the current Dallas district attorney, Craig Watkins. Reason magazine has a great interview with Watkins covering his work with the Texas Innocence Project and his effort to change the way his office goes about its business.

From the second link:

In 2006, Craig Watkins became the first African-American elected district attorney of any county in Texas history. More interestingly, the 40-year-old Watkins was elected in Dallas County, where the DA’s office has long been known for its aggressive prosecution tactics. A former defense attorney, Watkins says the Dallas DA’s office has for too long adopted a damaging “convict at all costs” philosophy, an argument bolstered by a string of wrongful convictions uncovered by the Texas Innocence Project in the months before he was elected. Watkins ran on a reform platform, and pulled out a surprising victory against a more experienced Republican opponent.

After taking office, Watkins dismissed nine top-level prosecutors in the office. Nine others left voluntarily. He established a “Conviction Integrity Unit” to ensure proper prosecutorial procedures, and began working with the Texas Innocence Project to find other cases of possible wrongful conviction. reason Senior Editor Radley Balko recently interviewed Watkins by phone.