Am I a drug paraphernalia-owning domestic terrorist?

No, I’m not. But our government thinks I might be. For I have in my possession a plastic bag with some pipe tobacco in it. That seems innocent enough, but people could also use such a bag for coins, or stamps, or even put their weed in it. From Philadelphia:

In the city’s toughest neighborhoods, narcotics officers routinely bust mini-marts and bodegas for selling tiny ziplock plastic bags.

Police consider the bags to be drug paraphernalia. But many store owners say they bought the bags legally from tobacco wholesalers and other distributors and thought they could sell them.

At issue is whether the buyer is using the bags for drugs or for legitimate items like coins, jewelry, stamps and small amounts of tobacco.

“The question is whether the item is for a legal function or an illegal function,” said Tennessee-based lawyer Robert T. Vaughn, an expert on drug-paraphernalia laws.

To be safe I should probably keep the tobacco in a shoebox or a paper bag. I would hate to have such a suspicious item in my car if a cop pulled me over for sporting a Ron Paul bumper sticker:

A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned.

The Feb. 20 report called “The Modern Militia Movement” mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

“It seems like they want to stifle political thought,” said Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians. “There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don’t support violence as a means to any ends.”

The latter story probably won’t cause any real harm, but the anti-baggie crackdown has had tragic consequences for Philadelphia store owners. Many of them are vulnerable immigrants who have been victimized by thuggish anti-narcotics cops. The corrupt officers have allegedly cut the wires to surveillance cameras while conducting busts, stolen property, and threatened victims who report them. All of this not even to prevent people from buying illegal drugs, but just to prevent them from having bags to keep them in. The absurdity of the War on Drugs knows no bounds.

[Links via Radley Balko, of course.]


An a-Paul-ing endorsement

Recently I was feeling nostalgic for Ron Paul. If Obama’s likely to win the White House anyway, it would have been far better to see him spar with an intellectually interesting Republican rather than a political hack like McCain. Then yesterday he endorsed Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party for president. Dave Weigel offers a taste of Baldwin’s rhetoric. Such as this, from a few days after 9/11:

…it is now time for the American people to realize that the liberal policies of the last 30 years have created the opportunity for terrorists like those who attacked us Tuesday to accomplish their heinous crimes. America’s foolish fascination with multiculturalism and unrestricted illegal immigration made it easy for those Islamic terrorists to do what they did…

Our Founding Fathers knew that our nation’s protection was ultimately in the hands of God. Freedom and security are the blessings of God. Since God was no idle spectator when our country was birthed, He is no idle spectator today. Both blessing and judgment belong to Him. He can accomplish either according to His will.

It is, therefore, imperative that America returns to God! For nearly a half-century, we have forsaken the moral principles of Heaven. We have legally murdered too many unborn babies. We have too readily accepted aberrant, sexual behavior. We kicked Heaven out of our schools, out of our homes, and out of our hearts. As a result, God is giving us a little taste of Hell.

This in a year when the LP nominated former Congressman Bob Barr, one of the most credible candidates the party’s ever put on the ballot. As with Paul’s disgraceful failure to fire the guy who authored his racist newsletters, the Baldwin endorsement shows an appalling lack of judgment. Paul accomplished a fair amount of good with his primary campaign, but as far as I’m concerned now he can’t fade into obscurity fast enough.

Update: James Poulos has more reactions here.


Paul’s new project

After the New Republic article about the Ron Paul newsletters came out, I worried that the money leftover in his campaign bank fund would go to an objectionable group. Fortunately, Paul is deciding instead to start a new project: The Campaign for Liberty, a fund raising group for libertarian-minded Republican candidates largely excluded from the party’s current ugly turn toward big government. He’ll also be holding a large rally in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention — though not in the convention, where he and his supporters won’t receive a warm welcome. ABC News has the story.

I haven’t been following the so-called “Ron Paul Republicans” very closely, but this seems like a good use of the money (and one that campaign donors won’t object to). Paul has always been better at raising money than speaking as a candidate, and funneling money to some successful, small government Republicans would be a good direction for the movement he energized last year to take.

[Via Andrew Sullivan.]


Where will Paul’s campaign money go?

At Volokh, Ilya Somin writes about the opportunity cost of donating to the Ron Paul campaign. That is, given how things have turned out, think of what better use these dollars could have been put to in the hands of a group like the Institute for Justice.

A more troubling cost is how the remaining money may yet be spent. From my understanding of the law, Paul could donate leftover millions to a non-profit organization of his choosing. Yes, I believe this includes the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the group that’s been vocally supporting Paul and that’s currently headed by the guy widely thought to have been his frequent ghost writer when the offensive newsletters were published.

11 CFR 113.2(b) provides [pdf]: “In addition to defraying expenses in connection with a campaign for federal office, funds in a campaign account . . . [m]ay be contributed to any organization described in section 170(c) of Title 26, of the United States Code . . . .” [meaning organizations who may receive tax-deductible contributions.]

I’m not a lawyer, so I may be incorrect. However this seems like a direct application of the law. For those of us who donated to the campaign, this would not be a thrilling outcome.


Once more on Paul

That Ron Paul bumper sticker looked so good on my Pontiac Aztek. Now I have two things to be embarrassed about when I drive.

Between Paul’s 1996 responses, his current non-response, his likely dishonesty on CNN, and his continued close association with the rumored author of the newsletters, I’m through hoping for a sufficient apology. As David Boaz writes at the Cato weblog:

Ron Paul isn’t running for president. He’s not going to be president, he’s not going to be the Republican nominee for president, and he never hoped to be. He got into the race to advance ideas — the ideas of peace, constitutional government, and freedom. Succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, he became the most visible so-called “libertarian” in America. And now he and his associates have slimed the noble cause of liberty and limited government…

Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect “paleoconservative” ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism.

Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick. Shame on them.


Ron Paul on Wolf Blitzer

Ron Paul appeared on Wolf Blitzer today to talk about his old newsletters. It’s on YouTube, parts one and two.

Paul repudiates the charges of racism, apparently to Wolf’s satisfaction. He denies knowing who wrote the articles, knowing how to find that out, and reading them when they were published. These last three claims are hard to swallow.

Watching the videos, my impression is of a good man whose sense of integrity is pulling him in two different directions. Pulling in one direction is his honesty; in the other, his loyalty to old friends. Sadly, he’s chosen the wrong friends, and he’s misguidedly protecting them at the sacrifice of his own reputation.

Then again, perhaps I’m just reading libertarian blog rumors into the situation. With neither Paul nor the author(s) coming forward, it’s too damn hard to be sure.

Update 1/11: The rumors are going mainstream. Here’s The Economist naming names.


Ron Paul hates orcs

From a mass email the Ron Paul campaign sent out today:

Does this mean our campaign has done everything right? No! We have made mistakes, and will make them again. Not only because errors are to be found in any human endeavor, but because an effort like this, to repeal a hundred years and more of evil, is brand-new on the face of the earth. But now is the time to stick together like the brothers and sisters we are, to stand side by side in this fight against the media toadies, warmongers, and Wall Street rip-off artists who stand against us, and who always remind me of Tolkein’s Orcs.

I can believe that this was actually written by an aide. And statistically speaking, 95% of Orcs probably are criminals. But this isn’t Middle Earth anymore.

Seriously though, complaining about the media and brushing aside mistakes is not the best response to the coverage of the past few days.


Ron Paul in Texas Monthly

I vaguely recall reading this Texas Monthly profile of Ron Paul. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this part:

Then [political adversary] Morris’ subalterns dug up something even more damaging to Paul: copies of a 1992 newsletter he had published that contained racially tinted remarks.

They caused a minor sensation. In one issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report, which he had published since 1985, he called former U.S. representative Barbara Jordan a “fraud” and a “half-educated victimologist.” In another issue, he cited reports that 85 percent of all black men in Washington, D.C., are arrested at some point: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” And under the headline “Terrorist Update,” he wrote: “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”

In spite of calls from Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and other civil rights leaders for an apology for such obvious racial typecasting, Paul stood his ground. He said only that his remarks about Barbara Jordan related to her stands on affirmative action and that his written comments about blacks were in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.” He denied any racist intent. What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.

When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, “I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.” Paul says that item ended up there because “we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything.”

His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: “They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'” It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.

The article confirms that Paul very foolishly allowed his name to be used on articles he didn’t and wouldn’t write, then through some warped sense of loyalty to the author(s) and undue deference to his advisors opted to try and defend them rather than take immediate responsibility for his mistake. And even though this should have destroyed his campaign, he won a seat in Congress. Having escaped unscathed once before, it’s perhaps understandable why he thinks it’s not a big deal this time around.

But it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. His failure to see that has not only alienated him from many of his supporters, but tarnished the image of libertarian ideas for people who have been exposed to them for the first time through Paul’s presidential run. We’re all paying now for his unwillingness to repudiate these statements the first time they were used against him. Simply issuing a press release that they are “old news” and declaring that they do not represent his beliefs isn’t going to make them go away; the flippancy with which he’s treating their reappearance shows that his sensitivity to these matters hasn’t much improved since 1996.

In fact, if the Texas Monthly writer is correct that his interview is the first in which Paul publicly denied writing these abhorrent passages, then Paul’s statement yesterday that “for over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name” is not true. He seems to be implying that he has taken responsibility since his campaign to return to Congress, or at least since 1998. The profile was published in late 2001.

[Via Virginia Postrel, whose thoughts on the matter are posted here and here.]

Update 1/10: As always, read Jim Henley too.

Update 1/11: Jim points out that Paul had ample opportunity to denounce the statements in 1996 and clearly didn’t. Combined with his thoroughly unconvincing appearance on CNN last night and his continued close association with the probable author of the articles, I no longer think there’s anyway to deny Paul’s culpability in their publication.


On Ron Paul’s past

Having written many favorable posts about Ron Paul’s campaign these past few months, I feel obliged to link to the New Republic story unearthing many racist and homophobic quotes from old newsletters bearing Paul’s name. While it’s no secret that there were some unfortunate passages and many of us have feared the dropping of the other shoe when it comes to Paul’s stranger ideas, their extent is truly disappointing.

I have a hard time squaring these statements with the personality and policies Ron Paul currently displays, and based on Paul’s disclaimer and Jesse Walker’s post I do find it believable that he didn’t write them. Even so, the newsletters show at best an inexcusable lack of responsibility, and perhaps, more damningly, a willingness to associate with some of the fringe right’s lowest elements. Unless the campaign acknowledges the seriousness of the situation and thoroughly explains how this happened and how much Paul actively sanctioned, there might not be any way to know. In the meantime I can only hope that the inspiration he has given to proponents of limited government will not be undone by mistakes made in the previous decade.

I have little to add to what’s already been said, so here’s Nick Gillespie, Radley Balko, Brian Doherty, David Bernstein, and Andrew Sullivan.

Update: Wirkman weighs in with some insight on the writing of the letters. H/t Radley.


If it’s Sunday…

… it’s Meet the Press. And tomorrow morning the show will be compensating for its previous omission with a one-on-one interview with Ron Paul. Should be interesting. If you’re in DC, catch it tomorrow at 10:30 am.

Update 12/23/07: That was underwhelming. Paul avoided all the major pitfalls, but he was too easily flustered. Russert’s questions were difficult but entirely predictable. Is there no one on Paul’s campaign staff who’s job it is to rehearse these things with him, preparing him to answer clearly and concisely? Rambling and bringing everything back to abolishing the Department of Education is not the road to broader appeal.


Raw milk R[evol]ution

Ron Paul supports raw milk!

Paul never outshines his message, which is unchanging: Let adults make their own choices; liberty works. For a unified theory of everything, it’s pretty simple. And Paul sincerely believes it.

Most Republicans, of course, profess to believe it too. But only Paul has introduced a bill to legalize unpasteurized milk. Give yourself five minutes and see if you can think of a more countercultural idea than that. Most people assume that the whole reason we have a government is to make sure the milk gets pasteurized. It takes some stones to argue otherwise, especially if nobody’s paying you to do it. (The raw-milk lobby basically consists of about eight goat-cheese enthusiasts in Manhattan, and possibly the Amish.) Paul is pro-choice on pasteurization entirely for reasons of principle. “I support the right of people to drink whatever they want,” he says. He mocks the idea that “only government can make sure we’re safe, so we need the government to protect us. I don’t think we’d all die of unsafe food if we didn’t have the FDA. Someone else would do it.”

I don’t see Mike Huckabee, government fat warrior, being quite so supportive of adventurous eating. From a New York Times profile:

Six weeks ago, I met Huckabee for lunch at an Olive Garden restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. (I had offered to take him anywhere he wanted and then vetoed his first choice, T.G.I. Friday’s.)

The foodie and the libertarian in me are in agreement. Ron Paul’s my guy.

[Via Hit and Run and Kids Prefer Cheese.]


MtP ignores Ron Paul

Meet the Press this morning focused its discussion in large part on candidates’ fundraising reports. In typical fashion, the show failed to give any mention at all to the impressive $5 million raised by Ron Paul. I sent this letter in response:

Your discussion today about GOP fundraising results omitted the surprising $5 million raised by the Ron Paul campaign. Combined with the campaign’s reserves, Paul now has significantly more funding than McCain, whom you did cover.

Regardless of one’s political views, the success Paul has enjoyed mobilizing the peaceful, small government wing of the Republican party and bringing in anti-war supporters of all stripes is one of the more interesting stories to come out of the presidential race so far. You do your viewers a disservice in failing to mention it.

The feedback form is here if you’d like to write in as well.


Ron Paul redux (Go Ron!)

Attentive Ben Affleck is attentive.

After a rocky rhetorical start to his campaign, Ron Paul has really put his talking points in order and hit his stride in this appearance on the Bill Maher show. (Compare his first appearance, in which Maher attacked Paul’s more esoteric positions at the expense of relevant issues.)

If he keeps this up, I could face a dilemma about who to throw my vote to come election day: the LP candidate or a write-in for Ron Paul?