Liberty Weeps over Ferguson and New York

Liberty Weeps over Ferguson and New York


Last night’s decision over Eric Garner in New York after what happened in Ferguson has left the United States in more turmoil than the nation has experienced in years, maybe even decades. I tossed and turned much of the night, unable to sleep, angry and sad.  Liberty, what I hold most dear, weeps.


Much will be said about this over the coming years, but I believe it comes down to this. In order for people to respect the law, both the laws and those who uphold them must be respectable.


The law in the US is no longer worthy of respect, having criminalized human behavior to an insane degree and those who are to uphold the law have turned into a militarized force that is entirely too focused on intimidation and domination rather than “to protect and serve;” obviously this is not true for every person involved in enforcement. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (here), no other country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States, a dubious gold medal we’ve held since 2002. Over 7 people are incarcerated out of every 1,000. The US has about 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the entire world’s prison population!


While I understand the pain and frustration, the violent protests and broad accusations of racism detract from the very real issues and often harm the credibility of those accusations raises questions over their validity. We do have very real problems in the US, and it seems to me they have reached a point at which they can no longer be ignored, but history has shown that these are best resolved by principled dialogue. The US was founded on deep respect for individual rights and a passionate desire to limit the power of the government. Respect for an enforcement of individual rights by definition prohibits any racism in the law. Individuals are still free to be bigoted jerks, but no law can fix that. Only a just society can provide fertile ground for enlightenment of the ass.


As a nation we’ve stumbled along and not gotten things right many times, but the trajectory was at least in the right direction. We used to have credibility in our role as the global defender of liberty! We used to be a nation that fought for what was right and we weren’t so easily scared, so willing to give up responsibility for the empty promise of security. Fear has led to an increasingly militarized police force and a mind boggling expansion of what is deemed “criminal,” which has placed this insane, perverse, over-arching enforcement of “law” above basic human respect. It needs to stop, but if any nation on earth is capable of reversing this horrible course, it is America.  She can once again become the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Inequality of Racism

Inequality of Racism

Yesterday the NBA barred Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for the racist remarks he made in a recorded private conversation. Naturally Facebook immediately became a hotbed for inflammatory debate, much of it not worth one’s time to read as all too often in today’s society thoughtful discussion and reasoned, rational debate is replaced by verbal lashings and outlandish name-calling. That being said, underneath the often ALL CAPITALIZED rants, there are some valid frustrations concerning the inequality of racism.

A response to Donald Sterling’s remarks Monday in Charlotte, N.C., where the Miami Heat completed a sweep. Credit Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Many argue that Sterling ought to not be castigated because there is a long list of individuals with black skin who have made outrageous, racist, bigoted, or sexist comments and have suffered little ill will from society at large, occasionally even benefiting from their disgusting rants. The fact that some people get away with wrong-doing does not mean it is no longer wrong. The NBA’s actions are not the case of the government taking away private property, using the threat of force. The NBA is a brand and Sterling simply owns a franchise. When he bought the franchise, he agreed to honor the terms of the league constitution.

A McDonald’s owner cannot damage the McDonald’s brand without consequences. The same holds true for NBA team owners. Advertisers are pulling their sponsorships and do not want their ads run during a Clippers game. That harms other NBA franchise owner’s property rights. Many individuals will no longer attend or watch Clippers games on TV. That harms the NBA brand, other owners and the players. The NBA has the right, according to their own constitution, to defend their brand.

It is true that there are many loud-mouthed pundits who abuse the very concept of racism to forward their personal agenda, which is typically perfectly aligned with the interests of their own pocketbooks. There are plenty of people of all colors who are racist, bigoted, and vile in a variety of ways. Their actions do not make Sterling’s any less vile. The woman who recorded this private conversation is awful for doing so, but again, doesn’t make what he said, or the vile things he’s done for decades acceptable.

Yes, outrage in this country can be very biased, often one sided, and that angers the hell out of me, but again, doesn’t make this acceptable. This isn’t a tit-for-tat game. It has taken the NBA entirely too long to address the vile ethics of one of their owners, but now that they are finally doing so, let’s support that decision and make it known loud and clear that such a swift response will be expected any time racism rears its ugly head, regardless of the color of the skin of the perpetrator.

Prison, it’s not the perks, it’s the population:   An over-criminalization crisis

Prison, it’s not the perks, it’s the population: An over-criminalization crisis

The headlines this week have been touting how “Prison life has never been so good,” here and here. While I understand why taxpayers would be none too pleased at the idea that prisoners enjoy more daily life perks than those out earning a living every day, it isn’t the perks that are the problem. It is the massive prison population that ought to make you hopping mad.

The US has a wildly unproductive criminal justice system with a self-destructive focus on revenge-oriented judgment and entirely too many laws that permanently damage an individual’s potential for committing acts that ought never to have been considered a crime in the first place.  We have a veritable over-criminalization crisis.

No other country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States, a dubious gold medal we’ve held since 2002. Over 7 people are incarcerated out of every 1,000. The US has about 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the entire world’s prison population!

U.S. prison population is over 2.4m and has quadrupled since 1980, with the largest driver of this change being longer prison sentences for drug offenders. There is something seriously wrong with a system in which had the current President been caught smoking pot, as he admits he did in his youth, he could have been sent to prison and been unable to ever make much of his life, after being saddled with the stigma of a convict. Instead, he was one of the lucky ones who never got caught and is now arguably the most powerful person on earth. Something is very wrong with a system that would have imprisoned and effectively ruined his life, as it has so many others, even if you disagree with his political views!

Bottom Line: Prisons ought to be reserved exclusively for those who are a physical threat to society, not as a taxpayer funded form of revenge. Those who are not a physical danger to society ought to remain productive members of society and atone for their misdeeds while being an active part of the economy.

Forget Snowden and Focus on the NSA

Forget Snowden and Focus on the NSA

The NSA works for us.  The power to govern lies with We the People and flows from us to the government, not the other way around.  The NSA does not dictate to us what the appropriate constraints on its activities ought to be.  It may suggest, but We the People decide what controls we want on our government.  When the governing violate the constraints imposed by We the People, without our knowledge, someone like Snowden needs to take the risk to let us know.

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

2013-07-04 WhistleblowerListening to the pundits finger-wag and vilify whistle-blower Edward Snowden for the past few weeks has me in a serious lather.  I’ll admit that the recent heatwave in Genova, Italy (my part-time home along with San Diego, CA) and my upcoming trip from here to Las Vegas for FreedomFest probably has me even more fired up than normal.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had to drive in Italy in the heat.  I swear it makes an already anarchic driving society even more lunatic, but I digress.  I’m usually one to pshaw conspiracy theorists, but the vehemence of the vile attacks on Snowden’s character by those who have scant information to go on has even my eyebrows raised.  He may be an angel.  He may be a demon.  But why the hell is that even the focus?  That’s like finding the lost city of Atlantis in a tropical sea and obsessing over the clarity of your goggle lenses!

Snowden has been referred to as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood” in the Washington Post, a grandiose narcissist in the New Yorker, and Fox New analyst Ralph Peters and Donald Trump want to bring back the death penalty for Snowden.  Seriously people?  Talk about going off half-cocked and gunning for bear.

Where is the focus on the Constitutionality of the NSA’s spying?  Oh but not to fear, Jed Babbin of the American Spectator assures us that the NSA is “a whole lot more trustworthy than most of the rest of our government,” and isn’t like the IRS.  Oh that’s comforting, given the NSA’s track record.  For the love of Pete, in 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created specifically to limit the powers of the NSA after project SHAMROCK came to light, a project that Senator Frank Church claimed was, “probably the largest government interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”  That is until now of course.

Let’s not forget that the NSA is responsible for  the Gulf of Tonkin incident, reporting falsely that an attack had occurred on the USS Maddox, which ultimately led to the Vietnam war.  Ooops on that one too?

Now we’ve got National Intelligence Director James Clapper admitting in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee that his statement before Congress that the NSA did not have a policy of gathering data on millions of Americas had been “clearly erroneous”.  Right, you lied to the people you serve, but we’ll trust your judgment anyways.

A month after the Guardian broke this story, Snowden’s worst fears may be coming to pass, namely that nothing changes.  We have no Frank Church to lead the charge as he did in the 1970s, instead we have the likes of Cheney defending the NSA and calling Snowden a traitor.

The power of government must at all times be vigorously constrained because power will always end up being abused.  Perhaps we get lucky and have angels running the show for a while and we grant them all kinds of powers under the theory that they are there to protect us.  History has shown that angelic bureaucrats are a quickly fleeting dream.  Hell, if the NSA is so good at making sure this data doesn’t get into the wrong hands, how did Snowden get it?  Doesn’t look like he is exactly their poster child!

Liberty comes at a price.  Living in a society in which individuals are free to live their lives as they see fit, rather than living in a one-size-fits-all world comes at a price.  The more protection we ask for, the less freedom we have.  Keep this in mind.

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” ~ James Madison

Speaking with Wealth TV on the Apple Tax Charade

Speaking with Wealth TV on the Apple Tax Charade

On May 22nd, I spoke with Graham Ledger on Wealth TV about the horrific show the Senate put on in an attempt to shame Apple for not voluntarily paying more in taxes than it required by the tax code by implying inappropriate corporate behavior.

The Daily Ledger Chewing Up Apple from One America News Network on Vimeo.

The U.S. Senate has been hosting a sham of a hearing to try and publicly berate Apple for not paying “it’s fair share” of taxes despite the reality that Apple is in full compliance with tax law. The government has not even once suggested that Apple has in any way violated the tax code.  To try and publicly shame a company that is in full compliance with the law is an embarrassment and a blight on the legitimacy of our political system.

The supposed crime is that the company has not voluntarily paid more than required by law to pay and has taken advantage of the tax code, enacted by the very group hosting this charade, to the benefit of its shareholders, employees, suppliers, and all the ancillary individuals and organizations that benefit from such a successful company. The federal government apparently would prefer that Apple voluntarily take money away from American investors, retirement funds etc and give it to the government to spend. Apple does far more good for the American economy with every dollar it generates than the federal government ever could.

Apple should not pay taxes on income generated outside of the U.S. That income is already subject to foreign taxes. It is ridiculous that the U.S. would try to argue that another sovereign charges too little in taxes, thus Apple ought to pay more.

To the extent that Apple is using the tax code in order to minimize its taxes by shifting U.S. income into foreign income, the U.S. should be taking a long, hard look at how uncompetitive the U.S. corporate tax rate has become and review the Laffer curve. By lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate, multinationals would find less value in such techniques, which would likely raise the amount of taxes collected.

I was beyond thrilled to see Rand Paul call the Senate to the floor for the atrocious nature of this hearing.

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What is the proper role for government?

Only July 21st, Lenore Hawkins joined the Freedom Fighters, (Charles Payne, Ellis Henican and Kmele Foster) and on Freedom Watch to discuss the economics of electric cars, Florida selling info on citizens obtained by the DMV, the federal government’s restriction of potatoes in school lunches and the impending FAA shut down.

A Father's Gift

A Father's Gift

We are living in a time in which civility and mutual respect appear to be discarded relics from the past.  This morning I read through a speech my father gave to a group of lawyers, newly admitted to the bar, in Judge McKibben’s courtroom in Nevada on November 18th, 2004 and it reminded me of how lucky I was to learn about ethics, civility and collegiality from such a kind and wise man.

My father, Richard Horton, was one of the most noble gentlemen that I think I shall ever know.  He passed away on February 7th, 2008, but his legacy lives on in the many lives he touched.  As one of the finest lawyers in Nevada for over fifty years, he was a credit to his profession.  As a business owner in Lake Tahoe, he taught me about humility and grace.  He owned the place, but few people ever knew that.  Five days a week he was a partner in the largest law firm in the state.  Saturday and Sunday he’d pick up trash, pull weeds, change light bulbs and perform any number of seemingly menial tasks around the marina in a dingy, rust-colored button down shirt, paint and grease stained brown pants, and tattered brown work boots with wonderfully curled up toes.  I remember watching my mother cringe and look away, her head shaking at his unkempt appearance when he’d walk out the door Saturday morning, eager to get to work.  Mom has always been the epitome of style.  People would try to hire Dad away after watching how diligently he performed his tasks but all he would say is, “They treat me well around here.”  He’d pump gas and graciously accept tips, putting them in the jar Mom setup for him on the kitchen counter, the proceeds of which were used to help fund the company Christmas party and employee gifts: pretty inspirational stuff for an awkward, skinny little girl, following her father around like puppy.

 Lessons from my Dad:

Ethics is about doing the morally right thing.  By being ethical in both word and deed you will earn trust and respect, but only if you are also civil.  Civility is doing what is morally right with courtesy and respect.  Civility is being congenial, cordial and pleasant in your dealings with others.  Civility ought to be your way of life, so much so that even in the face of uncivil conduct by others, you are unable to be anything but civil.  Indeed, civil conduct is contagious.  Others will catch it from you as they realize their unacceptable conduct is not being returned in kind and is gaining them nothing.  Civility is essential for a smooth functioning society and to our enjoyment of interacting with each other.  There is no need for rudeness, discourtesy and cheap shots.

You must be honorable and it will be the work of a lifetime to gain the reputation that you are honorable, that your word can be trusted, that what you say you will do, you do; that what you represent to be true is true; that you claim no more than is warranted by what you know.  A reputation is a fragile creature.  It can be destroyed in a moment by some foolish conduct.  Your reputation is not something you can establish and then forget about.  It must be burnished every day by correct and civil conduct, and like fine wine, becomes more precious with the passage of time.

You must have integrity and that integrity must be manifested in all you do and all you say.

 Do not let anger and impatience creep into your voice unless anger is truly called for, a very rare event.  You can put emphasis in your voice without putting anger or impatience in it.

Use temperate words and phrases, not heated ones.

When you lose to another, walk over to your opponent and congratulate them on their win.  Neither your opponent nor those who observe your actions will soon forget it and it will be to your credit.

Do not attribute improper motives or purposes to your opponent unless you have the evidence to truly show such.  Empty claims of an opponent’s misconduct reflect on you, not your opponent.

Civility and courtesy are not to be equaled with weakness.  Civility is part of being a good steward of your community.  Stewards are forceful and unyielding when in the right, zealous in their advocacy, yet civil.  Others must be treated with dignity and respect, but we can only do that if our conduct is civil and respectful.  Otherwise we cheapen that which we should cherish.

I’ve always been a very passionate person, forever eager to take up the sword to fight against that which I believe to be wrong.  I was blessed to have a father with such wisdom and humility to temper the warrior in me.  Thank you Dad.  I miss you.