Archive for July, 2010

Latin Translation bleg

Posted by on Jul 31 2010 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

Would someone like to do a Latin to English translation of Leonado Bruni’s “De Militia”? It’s a 20 page essay from mid-15th century Florence, extolling the militia as the best defense of a free city-state. I can send you the original Latin text, which has been cleaned up so it’s in easily-read printed format, rather than the specialized medieval Latin script. This would be a useful addition to modern knowledge of the Renaissance’s militia philosophy. Currently, the only extended English translations of Italian Renaissance writings on the militia are texts by Machiavelli.

The translation will be published on my website, and an excerpt will appear in a forthcoming book. (I post an announcement about that book in a few weeks.) Of course you’ll receive formal credit for the translation, thus garnering fame and honor, if not fortune.

If you’re possibly interested, but don’t want do to all 20 pages, then it might be possible to pick the shorter passage for the book, and just translate that. However, you would still have to read the whole essay, so we could work together to pick the best excerpt.

Please contact me via the e-mail address supplied on the lower right-hand column of my website.


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Post-Human Humanitarian Law: The Law Of War In The Age Of Robotic Weapons

Posted by on Jul 31 2010 | International Human Rights Law, Robotics

(David Kopel)

This interesting essay, by Vik Kanwar of Jindal Global Law School (India), reviews four new books that examine how the laws of warfare may or should change in response to the development of autonomous weapons a/k/a “warbots.”


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Tommy “the Tank” Tancredo Visits Your Devil’s Advocate

Posted by on Jul 29 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

If there ever was a can’t miss public access TV show, this is it folks. American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo joins me this week for a one on one conversation. Tune in to hear a candid Tancredo on why he jumped into the race for governor, or better yet, just to hear a soundbite a minute. That’s tomorrow at 8:30pm on Colorado Public Television channel 12, repeated the following Monday at 1pm.

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Pedaling for Parker

Posted by on Jul 29 2010 | PPC, Purely Personal

During the fight for personal and economic freedom it is often hard to take a minute and focus on the non-political fights for life.

It is going on nine years since we lost our only child at the time to a vicious and rare form of cancer. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t feel the loss of my sweet daughter Parker, the love of my life. My son, Chance, battles Down Syndrome enduring nine surgeries in his short six years of life. As you might know, this is why I am fighting so hard to pass our Health Care Choice Amendment this fall. It is also why the Children’s Hospital is so important to me. The care they gave Parker to comfort her was graceful. And for my son Chance, well, they give Chance a chance to live.

I am so grateful that for years my friend and Independence Institute colleague Tracy Smith pedals the Courage Classic, a fundraising bike ride for Children’s Hospital. In my daughter’s memory she formed “Team Parker,” and will pedal through the Rockies this weekend. This year Team Parker is joined by Independence Institute’s Transparency guru Amy Oliver.

I know a big part of my job is to raise funds for Independence Institute, but I don’t think it takes away from that mission to ask you to give a little to save kids right here in Colorado. Team Parker has a goal of raises $8000 for Children’s Hospital. We can make this goal happen.

Give not just to save my son’s life. Give because, like me, someday sadly you might be grateful Children’s is there for your child.

Give here: www.couragetours.com/2010/tracysmith

And thank you to all of you who help me remember my angel, my love, Parker.

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Human Events’ ridiculous “Obama the Muslim” article

Posted by on Jul 29 2010 | obama, Religion

(David Kopel)

Ronald Reagan once said that the conservative D.C. weekly Human Events was his favorite newspaper. And with good reason. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were few significant alternatives to the then-hegemonic MSM. Along with National Review, which was Reagan’s favorite magazine, Human Events was an essential source for stories that the MSM refused to cover, and for perspectives that the MSM shut out or marginalized. Unfortunately, a recent article in Human Events falls very far below the solid journalism standards which helped Human Events earn the respect of Reagan and so many others.

Obama The Muslim,” by  Major Gen. Jerry Curry is an article not worthy of a fifth-rate blog, let alone a serious newspaper. The latter two-thirds of the article consists of criticisms of Obama’s policies on Israel and on Arizona border security. I generally agree with those criticisms, but they provide not a shred of evidence that Obama is a Muslim. Former President Jimmy Carter is extremely hostile to Israel, and he is obviously not a Muslim. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is extremely hostile to border security, and he is not a Muslim. 

So let’s consider the evidence that Curry deploys in the first third of the article:

“President Obama says there is nothing more beautiful than the Muslim call to prayer in the evening.” “Obama’s father and step-father were Muslims and he spent his childhood living in a Muslim country where his school enrollment records say his religion is Islam.”

–All approximately but not precisely true. Four years of his childhood in Indonesia, plus a school record there. The actual prayer call quote is “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset,” not “nothing more beautiful.” This is a starting point for Curry’s case, but in itself, not even close to proof that Obama is currently a Muslim.

“He says that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation.”

–The same position was taken by the United States Senate in 1797 when ratifying the Treaty of Tripoli, and by President John Adams in signing the Treaty. Neither President Adams nor any of the 1797 U.S. Senators were Muslims.  Article 11 of the Treaty stated:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

“As President of the United States he genuflects to the Muslim King of Saudi Arabia but not the Christian Queen of England. He thumbs his nose at America’s friends and bows to its enemies.”

–I agree that Obama is deferential and obsequious to American enemies such a Hugo Chavez and the Iranian tyrants, and that he has been the most anti-British President of the United States in well over a century, and that he is seriously harming American relations with Poland, the Czech Republic, France, and other allies. But none of that is evidence that he’s a Muslim.

As for the Saudi king: Obama did not “genuflect.” To genuflect, in a literal sense, is to bring at least one knee to the ground, as a sign of respect. Obama did not do that. He gave the Saudi king a deep bow from the waist. I thought this was a disgusting gesture for an American President, but it’s not genuflection. (“Genuflect” can also be used in a looser sense, as behaving in a servile manner. In the article, however, Curry is plainly talking about literal physical actions.)

However, Obama bowed even lower to the Emperor and Empress of Japan. That’s not evidence that Obama is a closet Shinto.

As Curry accurately states, Obama gave only the mildest quasi-bow to Queen Elizabeth II. In light of what 1776 was all about, patriotic Americans should not criticize the American President for insufficient bowing to the British monarch. One can infer from Obama’s bowing patterns that he is anti-British, and one can see that in Japan and Saudi Arabia, he went out of his way to make gestures which made himself and our nation look weak and obsequious. The bowing is evidence that he’s a poor President, but not that he’s a closet Muslim.

According to Curry, “My mother believed in ‘common sense’ testing. She said if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and acts like a duck; it’s a duck….In short, Obama quacks like a Muslim, waddles like a Muslim and acts like a Muslim, so is he a Muslim? My mother would say, ‘Yes! He’s a Muslim through and through.’”

I’ll give Mrs. Curry more credit than that. The looks/talks/waddles test for duck identification involves three characteristics are shared by ducks and by no other animals. Mr. Curry, however, listed only characteristics which are common to some Muslims and many non-Muslims: thinks America is not a Christian nation, dislikes the British, acts obsequious around some non-British royals, is anti-Israel, is weak on border security, tries to ingratiate himself with tyrants. Curry might as well have written, “It has two eyes, lives near water, and eats fish.” Sure, it might be a duck, but it also might be a lots of other things. Such as a law school lecturer who agrees with most of the beliefs of the far-left Christian church he attended for twenty years.

Curry’s final item of alleged proof: “Growing up as a Muslim, Obama must have learned that according to the Qur’an it is acceptable to lie, deceive and live by a double standard provided in so doing one advances Islamic goals. Muslims only pretend to trust and be friends with non-Muslims; in the deepest of their Muslim hearts they have been taught that all non-Muslims are infidels.”

–Generally speaking, “must have” conjectures are not evidence of anything. For the sake of argument, let’s temporarily accept the claim that Islamic teaching sanctions lying in certain cases. Even so, there is no evidence that “Obama must have learned” this particular alleged teaching. His Muslim education did not continue past an early age. It might be plausible to presume that he was taught some elementary tenets of Islam (e.g., there is only one God; God spoke to mankind through a series of prophets, culminating in Muhammed; the Qur’an is scripture.) There is simply no evidence that the “lying to infidels is OK” theory of Islam is universally taught in Muslim education for young children, or, for that matter, to all persons who progress through a full course of Muslim religious instruction. That some Muslims teach the acceptability of lying, and that some Muslim scholars endorse this approach, does not prove that Obama “must have” been taught this particular theory.

It would usually be a sign of bad character for any elected official to proclaim his adherence to one religion while secretly adhering to a very different religion. However, Curry’s strongly-stated conclusion is not even remotely supported by the feeble and poorly-researched evidence which he cobbles together. The article should never have been published by Human Events. Of course even eminent publications such as The Atlantic can have a writer who wallows in malicious speculation based on extremely weak and poorly-considered evidence. 

Jerry Curry’s article is not proof that Human Events never produces good articles, nor is Andrew Sullivan’s Trig Trutherism proof that The Atlantic does not publish good articles. However, because reading time is finite, when I choose to read an edited periodical, I try to choose periodicals for which I have confidence that the editors have done a good job in selecting reliable, credible columnists. Accordingly, Human Events’ retention of Curry as a columnist, like The Atlantic’s  retention of Sullivan, often make me choose to prioritize reading other periodicals instead.


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Now the Nightmare is Real

Posted by on Jul 28 2010 | Health Care, PPC

Thank goodness Congress passed Obama Care, because now at least we know what’s in it, right Nancy Pelosi? The bureaucratic nightmare that is the health care “reform” bill was, until this point, a horror movie where the scary monsters were still lurking in the shadows and hadn’t yet revealed themselves to the audience. But as we all know, a scary movie ain’t scary until the monsters make their gruesome debut. Unfortunately for Americans, the monsters lurking in the health care bill outnumber even the most sadistic projections. For example:

  • $569 billion in higher taxes
  • swelling of the ranks of Medicaid by 16 million
  • the creation of two new bureaucracies with powers to impose future rationing
  • that tangled, bureaucratic mess you see in the upper left
  • 17 major insurance mandates
  • Speaking of major insurance mandates, the Right to Health Care Choice ballot initiative is just inches away from being on your ballot in November. We are confident that we have met the quota, and we’re looking forward to beginning the next phase of this process – educating voters about the initiative.

    As more information trickles out about this horrifying monstrosity, even President Obama finds it difficult to continue some of his most cherished lies talking points. Keep your health insurance if you like it? Naahhhh. They’d rather force you to drop it so you become dependent on government rationed health care. (only of course, after you wait your turn). It’s terrifying to think that even with the most rosy projections, Obama Care does nothing to insure more Americans or reduce health care costs. Why, who could have ever imagined that this bill would result in exactly the opposite of what was intended? The only people who gain from unleashing this hell on the public are the politicians who will take credit for “doing something” long before that “something” is put into place, and the insurance companies who now enjoy an entire populace forced into buying their product.

    Stay tuned for updates on our initiative. I’ll report right here when we get official word that we’re on the ballot. *fingers crossed*

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    Citizen Auditor Training: How to CORA

    Posted by on Jul 27 2010 | Government Largess, PPC, Transparency

    I told you last week about our Citizen auditor training series and today marks our foray into the western slope, where our citizen auditor teachers find themselves in Grand Junction. After today, there are still two dates left – one in Colorado Springs on July 29th and the other in Loveland on August 12th. Please make it out to one of these if you can. Aside from learning some super cool skills like wading through the murky waters of the state budget, you can win up to $2,500 in cold hard cash!

    However, if you really can’t make it out to train in person, I’m still willing to throw you a bone. Our investigative reporter Todd Shepherd has been THE man to know when it comes to Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requesting. This man knows the CORA statutes like Doug Bruce knows escape routes from subpoenas. The information that floats around in Todd’s head is so valuable, we “talked him into” recording a tutorial video on the how-to’s in filing a CORA request with governments and other public institutions. Check out our CORA class website here, and when you’ve finished the tutorial, join our Google discussion group to learn more and ask any questions you might have.

    Now go out and audit government! Because it’s your money they’re spending after all.

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    Understanding Inception

    Posted by on Jul 27 2010 | Self-indulgent Academic Rumination, Space Law

    (David Kopel)

    Inception is a great movie. Perhaps one of the greatest of all time. You should see it without reading reviews, or learning anything about the film beforehand. For those of you who have seen it, some thoughts about various meanings are below the fold.

    First some resources: Six Interpretations and Five Plot Holes, by Peter Hall. Cinema Blend has a helpful FAQ and glossary. TechEBlog provides a useful graphic of the dream levels. To keep things straight, let’s adopt their terminology of level 1 (“reality”; takes place in Paris, Mombassa, the airplane cabin), level 2 (dream of the kidnapping of Fischer), level 3 (hotel dream), level 4 (ice world dream), and level 5 (“limbo,” perhaps; Cobb & Mal’s beach city, and Saito’s oriental mansion).

    As the above sources details, there are some plot holes which seems difficult to resolve. There are two meta-explanations: One, the movie-makers made mistakes. Two, the incongruities are clues to what’s really happening. Namely that everything in the movie is a dream.

    The all-dream theory is well-developed in this essay by Devin Faraci of C.H.U.D., comparing Inception to Fellini’s 8 ½, a film about making a film. It’s not at all a cop-out, in the sense of Fifties-era Superman comics in which Superman marries Lois, but then the whole episode turns out to be Lois’s dream.  In support of the all-dream theory, Faraci points out that the chase scene in Mombassa (which is supposed to be at level 1, Reality), ends with Cobb being trapped between two walls that are closing in (classic anxiety dream), and then rescued by Saito, who just happens to pull up in a car at the right moment. Further thoughts on Inception as a movie about movie-making here, by Maria Bustillos. 

    When you think about it, the whole Mombassa chase sequence (which reminded me of the chase sequence at the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin) is quite unrealistic, although it’s the kind of chase sequence we accept as “real” in movies. And there’s plenty of other stuff on Reality level 1 that, on second thought, doesn’t seem very plausible in real life. For example, Saito buys a transpacific airline in a few days. Really? Buying an international airline usually takes longer than that.

    I differ from Faraci in his conclusion that the final scene proves that Cobb is still dreaming. The ending is deliberately ambiguous. We don’t know if the top will fall. While it’s true that Cobb’s children are playing in the same place, and in the same posture as when Cobb last saw them, and wearing the same clothes, they are wearing different shoes, and they are played by different actors. Further, Cobb wears a wedding ring when dreaming, but not when in level 1, and at the end of the movie, he has no wedding ring. However, none of these facts are decisive proof that level 1 itself is not a dream. They’re just proof that the movie ends on level 1.

    Now if the whole film is a dream, one might say that Cobb has just decided to stay in dreamspace, hanging out with his children and father. The story arc is about Cobb progressing from being tortured by doubts about what is real, to being content with being happy and not worrying about reality. One might theorize that Mal was correct in discerning that level 1 is still a dream; she escaped, and the movie concludes with Cobb achieving peace about his decision to stay behind in dreamworld level 1.

    Fair enough. But here’s an alternate understanding. Cobb, the guy whose dream we’re watching, is not in true Reality (level 0) a professional dreamer who can get into other people’s dreams. He’s just a regular guy having a very elaborate dream. And it happens to be a dream in which Cobb learns some important lessons about himself, and Reality. When Fischer wakes up on the plane, Fischer knows that there was not really a pinwheel in his father’s bedside safe. But finding the dream pinwheel has helped Fischer grow emotionally, and make progress in his own real life. There is an obvious parallel between Fischer’s cathartic confrontation with his personal demons on level 4 (ice world) and Cobb’s confrontations on level 5 (getting rid of Mal, and—with Saito—remembering to come back to Reality). A more subtle point is that Cobb is continuing this process of discovery, of personal reintegration, when he returns to level 1; there, the barriers that have kept him apart from his children disappear, and he reintegrates into his family. When he wakes up, eventually, into level 0, he will have all the insights he gained from dream levels 1–5.

    Maybe real-life Cobb has been feeling bad because he wife walked out on him. Or maybe his real-life anxieties have nothing to do with a spouse. Someone named “Mal” can represent all kinds of pernicious influences or obstacles. Is Ariadne (who in Greek mythology gave Theseus the string which he used to escape the Minotaur’s maze, and who in Inception creates the maze for Fischer which will lead him out of his own mental prison) a projection of the part of Cobb’s personality that he needs to help him escape from Mal? Is she his real-life psychotherapist?

    The real answer is that we don’t know the meta-story around the movie, but we do know that the movie invites us into the creative process of creating the meta-story, and there is not necessarily only one true answer.

    One can reduce Inception to a didactic 1969-style moral like “There’s no reality. Just whatever makes you happy.” And it’s also true that no-one can fully answer the movie’s “Am I dreaming?” question, namely “How did I get here?” You may have scattered memories from when you were a baby, but those memories could just indicate a very long dream. However, blithe unconcern for reality vs. unreality is not entirely consistent with Cobb’s realization that Mal and he needed to escape from their fifty-year excursion in level 5.

    More broadly, Inception plants many diverse ideas in the audience—multiple ideas for every person who sees it. Like the characters in the airplane sequence, when we watch the movie we experience a shared conscious dream. Like almost all performance artworks, Inception is a deception; it is an unreal artistic construct which we choose to believe for a while, in order to find a deeper understanding of reality.

    Inception is not only about dreaming, but also an optimistic invitation to awaken to the creative possibilities of sharing imaginations—as some people do when participating in the creation of a film, and as we all can do with our diverse talents when we share our dreams with others, and they share ours.


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    Reason TV Takes on the Conservative – Libertarian Rift

    Posted by on Jul 27 2010 | Economic LIberties, Media

    Reason.tv has a great addendum so to speak to our show with Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie that aired this past week. (side note: this Gillespie show is by far our most popular Devil’s Advocate / Independent Thinking show ever). In this Reason video, they continue the discussion that Nick and I had on my show, where we talk about the points of agreement and points of contention within the conservative and libertarian movements. Should libertarians and conservatives try find common ground and build upon the areas that overlap with each other, or are there just too many substantive differences to forge any meaningful alliance? Nick and I took those questions on as did the Reason guys in their video. Check it out!

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    Nick Gillespie on the Nanny State and the Libertarian – Conservative Riff

    Posted by on Jul 23 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

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