Monday, October 25, 2010

Regarding Henry - The Passing of Professor Henry Karlson

A lot of people in the legal, political, conservative and pro-liberty communities are pausing this evening to remember Professor of Law Emeritus of the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, Henry Karlson. Until a couple of years ago I had never met Professor Karlson or his wife Nancy despite being friends with his daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Chris.

Even though I had never met them, when my own father passed away in early 2009 I received a wonderful message of condolences from Nancy on behalf of her and Henry. It was wonderful to eventually get the opportunity to get acquainted with him by way of some common political interests. Over the years, anytime Professor Karlson's name was mentioned it was always with love and respect and not once did I ever hear an ill word spoken of him. That is a tremendous accomplishment that few people can claim.

Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana posted some wonderful notes about Professor Karlson, so let me just add that I always enjoyed talking with him and it seemed he never stopped sharing his tremendous knowledge with others. The world is a better place because Henry was here and my thoughts this evening are with my good friend Liz and the rest of her family. The bright, wonderful, caring and tenacious person he leaves behind in his daughter and the great love you can always tell is there for her father when she speaks of him is an ongoing testament to this giant among men in Indiana.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Message For Pro-Intervention Conservatives and Liberals

A lot of traditional pro-intervention conservatives and even some liberals don't seem to have much of a problem with America's foreign policy.  Non-interventionist conservatives, libertarians, many liberals, Ron and Rand Paul supporters and others like to point out the problems and repercussions, including what the CIA calls "blowback", that result from having a highly intrusive foreign policy that seeks to promote U.S. hegemony in parts of the globe.

I started to write a piece that focused on our Middle East interventions and finally realized on the third page that I was probably writing a chapter to a potential future book, not a BLOG post. So, let me put it in this perspective and I'm speaking mostly to (supposedly) small government conservatives.

Today, the U.S. apologized for using people in another nation as guinea pigs in unethical medical testing of sexually transmitted diseases. This took place in the 1940s.

In 1953, the U.S. and British overthrew the democratically elected, secular (non religious) government of Iran and replaced that government with a dictator (ref: Operation Ajax). Ultimately, this boiled down to helping British oil interests (the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, today we know it as British Petroleum).

After his failed assassination attempt on Qasim in Iraq (1959), Saddam Hussein became an asset of the CIA and the Ba'ath party was helped to power with the support of the CIA and British MI6.

In the late 70s it is widely believed that the Carter administration turned against the Shah of Iran (whom we had helped to power) because of human rights concerns and this helped his overthrow by the religious (Muslim) conservatives.

In the 1980s the U.S. assisted, funded or otherwise supported both sides of the Iran-Iraq war in which hundreds of thousands of Arabs died. All as part of a strategy to keep both sides weak and unable to develop into stronger nations less likely to be subject to the desires and designs of the West.

We fought a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We can glamorize it all we want with movies like "Charlie Wilson's War", but at the end of the day the Middle East was used repeatedly as a way to play tug of war with the Soviets without actually having to fight them.

The U.S. supports, funds and arms - nearly without question - the state of Israel which a One World Government organization carved out of Palestine and gave to what was then the minority population there. I know how much conservatives love the United Nations and one world government organizations!

The U.S. has a long standing policy of supporting the ruling royal family in Saudi Arabia. This is a country where women cannot vote or drive, where a woman may be killed or harshly punished for being raped and where they still practice amputation as a punishment against criminals. Nary a word is spoken by our government about this. We maintain friendly relations with this country while invading or manipulating the regimes in others in the name of "freedom" or "democracy".

We help fund the military dictatorship in Pakistan.

In the past couple of years the U.S. demanded that Swiss banks turn over their records related to U.S. account holders. Some foreign banks are starting to cease doing business in the U.S. because they, like many of us, don't want to deal with our Internal Revenue Service.

Certainly, all of these sorts of things for which I highlight only a very, very small handful examples cost us lots of money. Especially when we end up sending our brave and honorable soldiers to war to clean up the messes that the upper-class ivy league twits at the CIA get us into. Not sure how one can be "fiscally conservative" and support constant meddling in the affairs of other nations or never-ending states of warfare; but, I digress.

This is my question.

The traditional conservative line is frequently that they want the United States Government to stay out of their lives and their wallets. Does it ever occur to them that the rest of the world wants this too?

Addendum: 2016

After decades of military intervention and proxy war battles in the Middle East we have seen an increased rise in radicalized, violence-prone terrorists either encouraged by, trained, recruited or otherwise supported and weaponized by people with social, economic or religious goals.  It is far to easier to recruit people to a violent cause when all they've known their whole life is violence from bombs being dropped on their countries, foreign military troops occupying their cities and villages and when essentially not having been allowed to become more enlightened from a social, economic and technological growth.

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia want to be the leading power in the Middle East. Religious zealots seek to bring about a one-world government under Islamic Sharia Law.  The existence of Israel and how it came to be in the modern world continues to be a contentious point among many of the people in that part of the world.  We have an entire generation of people growing up overseas with deep resentment of the West for our military interventions and political meddling in their part of the world - interventions that came with soldiers and bombs and meddling that often meant massive and reckless destabilization leading to power vacuums that warlords and terrorist organizations were quick to fill.

While the roots of many of our woes continue to be meddling, intervention and favoritism shown in that region of the world, it is quite possible that today we are now dealing with something that needs to be dealt with differently than than we might have a decade or two ago.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Government Regulation At Work: Why Don't Eyeglasses Cost a Dollar

Something occurred to me at the Dollar Store this week.

The prescription to correct my near-sightedness has finally gotten high enough (but still not THAT high) that it affects my ability to read things close up. So, if I'm wearing my contacts it is difficult, uncomfortable or impossible sometimes to make out the text in a book or examine something close up.

So, I finally broke down and bought a pair of reading glasses so I don't have to keep borrowing Lisa's pink ones to read at night. The glasses were a moderate +1.5 power, they were easily available at the Dollar Tree* for, yep, a whole dollar. Now, interestingly enough, I cannot purchase -1.5 (or the -2.5 I need) glasses for $1.00. I must pay for an optometrist visit, get a prescription, pick out frames, pick out lens or contact options and ultimately I'm out the door for usually between $100 and $200.

Think about this for a minute. In one case I can go to the dollar store, select what works to improve my vision to my satisfaction and it costs me a dollar. In the other, because of government regulations, I have to spend 100 to 200 times that amount to get the others.

I think I might even go back and get a few extra pairs so I always have some handy (keep a pair in my desk, in the bedroom in my laptop bag ... why not?)

Think about this massive cost difference when you consider government's role in health care, insurance or any other industry.

*note: I wanted to look at Dollar General since they support Indy Car driver Sarah Fisher; but, the nearest Dollar General store to me appears to have closed down (even thought it's still listed on their web site). Also, cheap reading glasses at CVS right in front of where the Dollar General used to be were around $16.00 - I didn't buy those.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What is "Panarchy" ??

Somebody sent me a message on Facebook today (feel free to look me up and friend me) asking what "Panarchy" was. Panarchy is an idea that I've become very interested in because it is a concept that provides for open competition between systems of government and taxation. As we all know, when there is no competition for a product that service may be lousy and the price can be high, where else are you going to go?

In the case of government, that is exactly how it is too, "Where else are you going to go?". There also seems to be a lot of confusion, mostly due to misuse of the word, in the media over what "anarchy" is. Below is a slightly edited copy of my very brief and hastily typed response to the Panarchy question and their concern they had about anything that sounds anarchistic.

Anarchy is just a state where each person lives free to interact voluntarily with all others. All things would be private including police and legal systems with open competition and mediation and private third party intermediaries and other mechanisms between them to ensure justice and the protection of each person's natural rights. Anarchy should NOT be confused with "chaos" or "violence" even though those in the media who do not understand the nuance in word selection may try to substitute one for the other. While anarchy may mean no government, it does not mean those functions are not performed or handled in other ways.

Panarchy is an idea that basically allows for open competition between government systems and you would voluntarily align yourself, perhaps contractually, with the one that suits your needs, preferences and values.

Most government systems are basically nothing more than a monopoly on violence, force and theft within the imaginary lines drawn on maps by men. Imagine if a government system you belonged to started charging too much for the services they provide, or started providing services you don't need so you voluntarily de-affiliate and become a citizen of a different system without having to relocate geographically. That way socialists can be (broke) socialists, communists can be communists and free market capitalists can be just that and the different groups need not bother each other with their polices. So long as basic natural and contractual rights and obligations are enforced each system could operate under a very small legal framework with each sub-system augmenting as necessary for their needs.

The overlying mechanism that would make this work and one that I think still makes me prefer panarchy or minarchy instead of anarchy is the idea of that basic legal framework for the protection of individual natural rights. Nobody, not even elected officials or their minions, would be allowed to steal or oppress people without them first having agreed to such by their voluntary association.

Hope this helps. It's an idea that needs more attention and the advent of technology probably makes it more plausible today. There are a lot of potential complications, for example, a company might have to be authorized to do business with citizens of each or any particular system and might be subject to different kinds of restrictions within each population group; but, this is no different than companies doing business in different countries or jurisdictions. Even state laws and regulations vary.
Even if not at the individual level, which is preferable, different cities or towns might opt-in to a specific system of governance. There are lots of things that would need to be examined, and certainly the idea of people or groups of people having those kinds of options scares the heck out of big government apologists of the status quo variety who lack imagination; but, otherwise, you're stuck unless you want to pick up and move, emigrate to another country, potentially lose your voting rights, unseat your family or your career.
Basically, getting rid of government having a monopoly. Competition, like in everything else, would ensure better service and lower prices (taxes are the price way for our government - we know what happens when there is no competition). I've not really considered this idea fully from a practical perspective; but, I think it warrants some thought. But, I caution that when coming up with roadblocks, objections or complications to stop and really think through whatever the issue is and ask, "hmmmm... how might that work in this kind of environment?", "what kind of cooperation between groups would be needed?" and "could it be any worse than what we have now?"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Health Care Bill Restrictions Kill 60 Hospital Projects

The recent so-called "health care reform" bill, which in reality didn't so much reform "health care" as to addressing the high cost of care but in reality was a big government shuffling of the health care "insurance" and "pre-paid care" business is already working to limit the supply of hospitals.

Here are some excerpts from an article at today whose site was most unavailable after The Drudge Report posted a link:

The new health care overhaul law, which promised increased access and efficiency in health care, will prevent doctor-owned hospitals from adding more rooms and more beds, says a group that advocates physician involvement in every aspect of health care delivery.

Physician-owned hospitals are advertised as less bureaucratic and more focused on doctor-patient decision making. However, larger corporate hospitals say doctor-owned facilities discriminate in favor of high-income patients and refer business to themselves.

The new health care rules single out such hospitals, making new physician-owned projects ineligible to receive payments for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Existing doctor-owned hospitals will be grandfathered in to get government funds for patients but must seek permission from the Department of Health and Human Services to expand.

To get the department’s permission, a doctor-owned hospital must be in a county where population growth is 150 percent of the population growth of the state in the last five years; inpatient admissions must be equal to all hospitals located in the county; the bed-occupancy rate must not be greater than the state average, and the hospital must be located in a state where hospital bed capacity is less than the national average.

The rules fall under Title VI, Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The provision is titled “Physician Ownership and Other Transparency – Limitations on Medicare Exceptions to the Prohibition on Certain Physician Referral for Hospitals.”

More than 60 doctor-owned hospitals across the country that were in the development stage will be canceled, said Molly Sandvig, executive director of Physician Hospitals of America (PHA).

The article goes on to talk about nurse to patient ratios, the employment impact of doctor-owned hospitals and how corporatist interests have been working to limit the suppy of them:

The organization says physician-owned hospitals have higher patient satisfaction, greater control over medical decisions for patients and doctor, better quality care and lower costs. Further, physician-owned hospitals have an average 4-1 patient-to-nurse ratio, compared to the national average of 8-1 for general hospitals.

Further, these 260 doctor-owned hospitals in 38 states provide 55,000 jobs, $2.4 billion in payroll and pay $509 million in federal taxes, according to the PHA.

In one ironic aspect, President Barack Obama’s two largest legislative achievements clashed. The Hammond Community Hospital in North Hammond, Ind., got $7 million in bond money from the federal stimulus act in 2009. It will likely be scrapped because of the new rules on physician-owned hospitals, according to the Post-Tribune newspaper in Merrillville, Ind.

Doctor-owned hospitals have long been a target of the American Hospital Association, which represents corporate-owned hospitals as well as non-profit hospitals.
This is the kind of action on the part of government that limits competition and innovation rather than encouraging it. At the same time, if patients took more control of their health care dollars and decisions they might be more apt to shop around. Historically, people have just submitted themselves to the doctor's directions rather than asking if there are any less expensive options. We also have an issue where doctors are limited in which hospitals they may provide services at, this further limits patient choices in ways that may or may not be appropriate but might be understandable from a hospital administration perspective. The problem is that often the doctors can't tell you what the full price will be for any kind of procedure ... hardly anyone ever asks apparently.

In short, the whole health care delivery system needs to overhauled; but, massive government regulation and red tape stand in the way. Instead of getting less red tape, Congress just gave us a bunch more. Once again, taking the country in the wrong direction.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Indiana's HB 1065, the Gun in Your Glove Box and Property Rights

Every once in a while an issue comes up that pits some rights against others. HB 1065, which is legislation the Indiana State House passed and is now awaiting Governor Mitch Daniels' signature is one of those pieces of legislation.

The bill essentially makes it illegal for a business/employer to have a policy against employees bringing firearms, locked in a glove box or otherwise stowed away, onto their property.

Now, at first blush libertarians like myself might hail this legislation as a massive blow in favor of people's right to self defense. But, is this not also a massive blow against private property rights? Let's examine further and without getting tied up in the emotions of the gun issue. We'll also presume that we're addressing things from a natural rights perspective within the confines of Constitutional government (not what passes for the authoritarian government systems we have today).

Let's lay the ground rules first.

1. You have a right to your life, liberty and property.
2. Nobody may deprive you of these rights without your permission.
3. You have the right of voluntary association (you may not be forced to associate with people you do not desire to). Voluntary association and activity is always superior to that which is forced.
4. Government is the negation of liberty and exercises all authority by threat of force or violence.
5. Being on someone's property without their permission is trespassing.
6. The Constitution sets restrictions on what government may do.
7. Any private property owner could set a policy that nobody is allowed to park on their property. Or that only American made cars are allowed or only blue cars or whatever else.

Let's analyze the impact of HB 1065

Currently, an employer may set a policy that says that nobody is allowed to bring a firearm onto their private property, even if it is locked in the glove box of a car. Now, personally, I find this terribly offensive to anyone who has gone through the process and is licensed to carry a firearm or even more offensive to anyone that might be former military. BUT, if the private property owner sets this policy then:

1. It is not the government forcing one side or another to accept anything.

2. Voluntary associations are maintained (you may park elsewhere; petition the property owner for relief; do it anyway and keep your mouth [and glove box] shut; choose to no longer provide labor or professional services to a company, business or property owner that does not share your values)

3. The property owner's sovereign control of their property so long as nobody's rights are involuntarily violated is preserved (you volunteer to the restriction by continuing to park on their property or work there)

4. There is no Constitutional violation because government did not create this restriction, a private property owner did. Just like a private business owner might choose to fire somebody for saying something stupid, offensive or threatening - there is no "free speech" protection in the private sector.

If the government sets a law that requires property owners to allow this then:

1. Association is no longer voluntary. The private property owner must now accept your trespass against their wishes.

2. It reinforces the idea that the government, not property owners, is the final arbiter of what is permissible on your premises. (smoking ban advocates try and pretend that patrons are involuntarily deprived of their right to life by the cigar or cigarette smoke in bars, completely ignoring that people voluntarily walk in and expose themselves or voluntarily work there [SAME LOGIC APPLIES HERE - You believe in private property rights and voluntary association or you do not])

3. An employer might just add a line to their job applications - "Are you licensed to carry a firearm" and start denying employment based on the answer. If gun permit information is available as part of a background check that might also cause an employer pause if they are adamant in ensuring no firearms are on their property [note: payment for a permit to exercise a right is a ridiculous notion but, at least the General Assembly is working to protect that information by making it private via HB 1068]

4. Instead of somebody risking losing a job if discovered, the business owner is now a criminal if they attempt to retain control over their property.

So, while people may momentarily think they've won some kind a "take that you bozo employer I'll bring my gun if'n I wanna" victory, just remember that property owners just got a big, "government is the final arbiter of what you must allow and you'll shut up and take it" from big government sticking its nose where it doesn't belong.

As for me personally, I strongly support the right of people to be prepared to defend themselves but I abhor the idea that government has to tell me what must be allowed on my property. Remember, the 2nd Amendment applies to government restrictions not to private property owners.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Trees

While browsing through some music earlier I was reminded of how much I like the lyrics to Rush's song The Trees. If you've never heard the song or are not familiar with the words, please take a moment to consider it and the message contained within.
There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their please.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Self Defense in City Parks, Washington State Validates Right to Carry and Gun Free Zones Continue to Be Violence Magnets

A female Superior Court judge in King County, Washington has ruled in favor of individuals who sought to end a ban on carrying firearms in city parks.

Judge Catherine Shaffer did not mince words in her order, part of which was handwritten and issued from the bench following an afternoon hearing in her Seattle courtroom.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs have a clear legal or equitable right to carry firearms under the federal and state constitutions,” she ruled.

The judge also noted that the “court finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact on which reasonable minds could differ.”

As some people are aware, Indianapolis Councilor Ed Coleman (Libertarian - At Large) has introduced legislation which would eliminate the unconstitutional city ban on individuals, who have gotten permission from the government by way of a permit to exercise their rights (sarcasm intended), carrying their personal firearms onto city park property. In other words, he has introduced a proposal to restore an individuals right to defend themselves in a way that would align city code with both state and federal law where such restrictions either don't exist or are expiring this month.

Now before the anti-gun folks have a fit, let's consider the following.

You walk up and down city streets and drive all over public roads every day with countless other people who are licensed to carry their firearms and have them on their person or in their vehicles either openly or concealed. The streets are not running red with law abiding citizens shooting each other are they? Do you feel unsafe walking around Monument Circle at lunch time because some of those folks have guns on them? Of course not. Interestingly enough, in some states (like New Hampshire) one can legally "open carry" into the State House (although bureaucrats are trying to play games with it now [see this link and associated video] )!

Where should you feel unsafe? So-called "gun free" zones maybe?

This past week we saw a faculty member at the University of Alabama kill three people and wound others when she was denied tenure. We also saw this month where an elementary school teacher shot other faculty members when he was told he would not have a job next year. We all remember what happened at Columbine or at Virginia Tech. All "gun free zones". Yet, that didn't stop crazy people with criminal intent from taking a gun into those areas and attacking people who were legally (but unconstitutionally perhaps?) denied the choice of defending themselves.

It was great to see the Fraternal Order of Police speak publicly in favor of Mr. Coleman's proposal. Unfortunately, the proposal caught Mayor Greg Ballard (R) off guard and he probably spoke too quickly when suggesting he would veto the proposal if it landed on his desk. There is never a wrong time to restore rights or liberty to the people.

Most conservatives and libertarians would expect Republican officials to fully support this kind of thing if they truly believe in protecting people's natural rights. One can only hope that the Mayor doesn't feel backed into a corner as after careful consideration there would be no reason not to support this except to play silly political games.

There was a rumor that councilor Mike Speedy, who is running for State House this year, has been interested in this kind of proposal in the past but never thought it would get enough support. Now that with the Heller and the Seattle decisions showing courts will support individual rights, there should be no reason other councilors shouldn't jump on as co-sponsors. But, again, political games could trump actually doing the right thing. We'll see.

The important thing to remember is that "gun bans" are "massacre enabling" restrictions and do not protect anyone. You can't protect the sheep from the wolf by making all of the sheep weaker.