From the monthly archives: "January 2014"

policeOn December 19, eight members of Texas’s Burleson County Sheriff’s Department banged open the door of the double-wide trailer rented by 28-year-old Henry Magee and his girlfriend. It was between five and six AM and the deputies, who were there to search for marijuana and stolen weapons, set off at least two flashbang grenades in an attempt to surprise and disorient Magee, their suspect. The leader of the team, Sergeant Adam Sowders, a seven-year veteran of the department, had requested the warrant be “no-knock,” meaning the police could enter the residence without announcing themselves. But it was possibly do to the confusion caused by the sudden entrance of the cops that led to Magee opening fire with a semi-automatic weapon and hitting Sowders. The cop later died, and Magee has been charged with capital murder, which can bring the death penalty in Texas.

The majority of SWAT-style raids on homes in the US—there are more than 100 a day—are over narcotics. It’s unclear how many are no-knock, but the line between and no-knock and announce warrants can be blurry, especially for sleeping residents who may not hear shouts of “police!”According to Dick DeGuerin, the high-profile defense lawyer representing Magee, no-knock warrants are uncommon in Texas because they are dangerous for officers who serve them.

DeGuerin told me that Magee’s girlfriend, who was five months pregnant and “hysterical, screaming, and crying” after the shooting, was forced to lie on her stomach until a female deputy let her turn over. DeGuerin is certain that Magee, whose parents asked him to take their son’s case, “had no idea” who was outside of his door that morning, and Magee thought he was being robbed. According to DeGuerin, Magee yelled “Who is it?” but go no response, then as “the door burst open,” he fired. After the shooting, Magee came out and quickly surrendered.

On Friday, DeGuerin said he hadn’t yet spoken to county District Attorney Julie Renken who filed the charges against his client. (My calls to the Burleson County Sheriff’s Department, the DA, and the county courthouse went unreturned.) He didn’t want to speak to the prospect of Magee’s chances of pleading out or having the charges dropped, but he said that the raid was initiated by a former coworker of Magee’s who had gotten himself into “some deep trouble” with the law and was trying to lessen it by informing.

The rest here.

In what’s left of Newsweek my good pal David Cay Johnston does a fine job of pointing out what Cato and all libertarians and free-market gurus like Milton Friedman have been pointing out for half a century — we don’t have a free market in health care (The Myth of Health Care’s Free Market).

It’s rigged in many many ways. Let’s do some more ‘splaining about why it’s rigged — and why eye care and dentistry don’t have the same crazy price differences and have seen real prices go down over the last 30 years, not up.

Only governments can kill free markets. The current mess we have is largely a result of government intervention, subsidies, excessive regulations, things like the prohibition of midwifery and transplant markets and protections granted to cartels like the doctors, who, unlike the average widget maker or investment counselor, can keep their numbers down and prices up because they are given the power and cover to do so by state licensing boards.

Price competition exists in health care — across national boarders, which is why medical tourism flourishes in India (or in the USA, when Canadians come to get their new knees and hips at the Cleveland Clinic instead of having to wait 14 months for the “free” Canadian system to get around to providing them).

Price competition doesn’t exist within the USA borders because there is no price information shared with consumers (it’s essentially “illegal”), as David pointed out, and because doctors and hospitals collude and pass along the costs (often arbitrary and bloated).

You don’t need to know how to make a car to pick a good one to own; you don’t need to know how to take out your appendix to hire a doctor who can.

But you wouldn’t go into a BMW dealer, order a car without looking at the price tag and tell them to send the bill to your employer or favorite government health care bureaucracy.

Free markets work wonderfully for everything from cars to shoes. Consumers of each have virtually infinite choices in price and quality of both goods.

There is nothing preventing the health care sector from achieving the same efficiencies except the heavy hands and feet of government and the politicians who pretend everyone can get free health care for nothing.

Arguably part of that mighty stream of anti-libertarian pieces coming out of Salon, Alternet, and other left-leaning publications these last few months, Tyler Lopez’s “Libertarian  and gay rights: the party failed to take a stand” article (published at Slate) is a bullshit generalization that leads, inadvertently, to larger questions of the definition of rights and oppression. But it falls wildly short of an honest critique of libertarianism.

Reason’s Brian Doherty has already addressed the piece’s simplicity, noting that the official Libertarian Party was anachronistically gay-friendly at its inception, including their nomination of the gay John Hospers as their first presidential candidate.

In the barely-post-Stonewall era, with homosexuality newly not an official mental illness, the Libertarian Party platform started out advocating for a repeal of all laws that restricted consensual, adult sexual activities. A few years later, as I noted in an October PolicyMic piece, and Doherty also notes, Ralph Reico wrote a long essay that said “the Libertarian Party was born believing in gay rights.” He later noted that the stance for libertarians candidates in 1976 was as follows on gay marriage:

  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.

Not too shady for the ’70s, no? Apparently no.

With that bold beginning, why then, according to Lopez, has the Libertarian Party “failed” on what is arguably the biggest civil rights fight of modern times?  His piece trolls all good libertarians by using a photo of 2008 Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but it doesn’t actually mention him. Which is strange, because the ill-advised selection of would-be President Barr, the author of, if eventual disavow-er of, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), would be a way for Lopez to score points (or, to put it more nicely, to cement his thesis). Lopez, though, begins with the very tenuous critique that the official LP website doesn’t have a whole tab devoted to Gay and Lesbian issues. Never mind that acceptance of gay people is a tenet of the platform, now and forever, the party dropped the ball by not giving the gays a tab.

Lopez goes on to scorn the lack of press releases the party has put out about LGBT, then sarcastically scorns them for trying to portray Democrats as being bad for gays. Well, they’re trying to get voters, just like any party. And is it illegitimate for the LP circa-2010 to have been pragmatically going after Obama for not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or  DOMA? What’s so sinful about them trying to win gay supporters? Isn’t that a good thing?

Having admitted that yes, maybe, a little bit,  the early 70s LP was more pro-gay than was in fashion at the time, Lopez is as plodding as possible in his praise:

Libertarians like to tout the fact that the party supported marriage equality in 1971, when it was founded. Sort of.  In fact, two years after Stonewall, the party’s platform called for the abolishment of “victimless crimes,” which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling. While certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community, the mere acknowledgement of gay people’s existence was an important step forward for an American political party. It’s also true that in the 1990s, the Libertarian Party (having no elected representatives) did join a small handful of Democrats in opposing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite overwhelming public support for both measures. This might seem like a case of talk being cheap, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Plenty of Libertarian candidates take strong positions on gay rights.

Note the subtle implication that to include gay issues with “vices” was to equate them with immorality in the libertarian world. Never mind that many libertarians do not see any of those other “moral failings” as objectively wrong either (some do, but would never presume to do anything but bother you about it). And never mind that 42 percent of people thought gay sex should be illegal in 1977 (dipping much lower into the conservative 1980s). Definitely never mind that gays have been a part of the libertarian movement since forever and particularly at the dawn of the official party.

Nope, Lopez cannot damn with enough faint praise, because, you see, the LP “never left the 1990s.” They care only for the the right to be free from state oppression, not the right to be free from individual discrimination. Lopez also notes that libertarians — some libertarians — would prefer that marriage become a private contract, thereby removing the should government endorse this question all together. This is true for some small government folks, but not all. But even conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck have come around on the minarchist compromise that, namely, if someone is receiving the government perks of marriage, there is no legitimate reason to bar homosexuals from that privilege.

Lopez goes on, into questions of employment discrimination, and he ends on a dishonest note:

Rather than boldly argue for equal rights for everyone, Libertarians have merely argued for the dismantling of everyone’s rights—the right to legal marriage, the right against workplace discrimination, and so on. That’s not liberty; it’s giving the green light to entrenched systemic discrimination. Libertarians could have led on this issue. Instead, they’ve fallen unforgivably far behind.

Again, Lopez could have written, “for a party with a long, impressive history of being accepting towards gays, the choice of Bob Barr in 2008, was regressive and bizarrely socially conservative.” He could have admitted that there was nothing wrong with needling Barack Obama’s spending 16 years pretending to be unsure about gay marriage for political reasons. And Lopez certainly could have used a column inch or two to give props to Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2012 LP presidential candidate who came out for gay marriage while still trying to run as a Republican. But Lopez does none of this.

It’s fine that he believes in a world of positive liberties, where employers cannot discriminate, and where rights are more than just equal protection under the law. But the difference between positive liberties (the right to, say, healthcare, education, anything that requires the labor, time, or money of someone else) and negatives ones (freedom from government restriction on speech, trade, etc.) should be clear even to someone who believes in positive rights, as modern liberals do. You may agree that we, as a society, should all get together and pool our money and give everyone medical care, but you must admit that that mandates a great deal more planning than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law…”

To muddy these warring definitions of rights like is dishonest, because it masks the general definition of a libertarian. Lopez might as well have written “libertarians could have lead the way on gay rights if they became liberals.” He may be disappointed that libertarianism isn’t something else than what it is, but there’s no reason to not give the Party props for solving the first part of his equation — that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals — long before the majority of the political world did. Libertarians didn’t “fall behind” on gay rights, they went down a different path.

Though it sadly didn’t end in Nashville, 2013 at least began there. And other non-chronological highlights of that somewhat rocky year were as follows:

by Jayel Aheram

by Jayel Aheram

  • Visited LA, my glorious city of birth. There I met, then ran amok with, Jayel Aheram. This culminated in the most bad-ass photo of me ever taken, seen at right.
  • Took an Amtrak journey (one way with my Ma, one way by myself) and loved it because A) Trains are a lot of fun, dang it. If only they were economically sensible. And B) Because every kind of cross-country travel feels luxurious when you have taken a Greyhound from Pennsylvania to Montana to California, then back again.
  • Visited a (lefty) Anarchist Book-Fair with anarcho-capitalist Anthony Gregory in San Francisco. Should have written about the contrasts and clashes that resulted.
  • Went to New York City, met Pamela Stubbart who recently wrote this piece for the Daily Caller. She’s pretty neat, that Pam.
  • I also met Andrew Kirell, who is good people and writes good, snarky things for Mediaite. He’s good people, that Andrew, even though I still can’t remember how many ls and rs his name contains without checking.
  • Wrote for VICE, eventually became columnist for VICE
  • Became contributing editor for Antiwar.com, blogged there frustratingly infrequently became I am the worst.
  • Spent summer as D.J. Stagger Lee (it works on so many levels — for once!) with my Old Time (More Or Less) radio show. Loved it. Loved it. Hire me for your radio show.
  • Had Antiwar.com blog post quoted by John Stossel twice, which in context suggested he might just agree with me on the NSA. At least a little.

Stossel argued with me a little.

  • Saw Ralph Stanley and reacted like a 12-year-old meeting Harry Styles, or whomever is now most important in the lives of 12-year-olds.
  • Saw Old Crow Medicine Show be on the radio in Nashville. Ate Prince’s Hot Chicken and shrimp po-boys and again mused on living in that city. Was told, “you look familar” by Critter Fuqua, and responded with far too many exclamation points.

Steve and Critter Fuqua from Old Crow Medicine Show talking history nerd stuff

  • Saw other excellent bands and artists including La Plebe, Pokey LaFarge, Jason Isbell, and the best thing to ever come out of Johnstown, PA, as well as the makers of one of my favorite albums of all time, Endless Mike the and the Beagle Club.
  • Brother began blogging for the Stag Blog, culminating in his under-appreciated classic pretend parable, which can be read here.
  • Did not go to a baseball game for the second year in a row in which I intended to do so. (Yes, 2012 had “go on TV” and “go to a baseball game” on the to-do list, and the former happened, but the latter did not!) However, I did watch at least two entire baseball games on television. New record! Plus I watched Catching Hell, so I have a lot of feelings and opinions about Steve Bartman and that one catcher dude for I think the Red Sox? I forget.
  • Had to reject several invitations to go on an RT show, which was not a good thing, but it still made me feel slightly important.
  • Visited questionable North Carolina military surplus store and fired questionable guns with former Reason intern not named here. (Damn gov’mint.)
  • Read some killer books by Jesse Walker and Radley Balko, then wrote some things about that. I briefly browsed a record store in Pittsburgh with Jesse Walker as well, so that makes me feel pretty cool.
  • Decided to elect J. D. Tuccille king of anarchy.
  • Thought a lot about nuclear war.
  • Saw a very big duck.
  • 10351880233_2e9b255dd0_oI mean, that’s a great duck.