Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Okay Libertarians for Trump Make Some Noise: #RossUlbricht, CC: @WalterEBlock, Roger Stone

Ross Ulbricht

Slate reports:
Sholom Rubashkin, whose 27-year sentence President Donald Trump commuted on Wednesday, is a corrupt criminal who deserves punishment for his misdeeds. The Rubashkin case was nevertheless a criminal justice scandal, and Donald Trump was absolutely right to commute his draconian and constitutionally defective sentence. The only shame here is that Trump will almost certainly decline to grant clemency to other prisoners whose cases are just as egregious.

Rubashkin’s crimes are well-documented. As the chief executive of a large kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa, Rubashkin allegedly hired hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including some minors. He also swindled his lenders out of millions. In 2008, federal agents conducted a massive raid on his slaughterhouse. Prosecutors charged him with violating child labor and immigration laws but eventually dropped those counts and focused exclusively on his financial deceit. A jury ultimately convicted Rubashkin of money laundering and bank fraud. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 25 years, a stringent punishment for a nonviolent, first-time offender.

But U.S. District Judge Linda R. Reade decided that the government’s proposed sentence was insufficiently harsh. She sentenced Rubashkin to 27 years behind bars, more time than the chief executives of Tyco and Enron faced. This fact alone is extremely troubling. Reade, it seemed, decided to factor in Rubashkin’s alleged immigration and child labor crimes even though he was not convicted of any immigration offenses. In fact, a jury acquitted Rubashkin of child labor charges in a separate state trial. Reade, who routinely hands out ruthlessly long prison terms, appeared to be punishing Rubashkin for crimes not proved at trial, a clear violation of his constitutional rights.
The same appears to be the case with Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.

He was convicted of
running a black market Bitcoin-using exchange. The judge in the case sentenced him to two life sentences.

The extremely harsh sentence suggests that he was also sentenced for alleged attempts to hire hit men to go after government cooperating Silk Road employees, though he was never put on trial for those allegations.

It also turns out that some government investigators were dirty.  Drug Enforcement agent, Carl Mark Force IV, and Secret Service / NSA agent, Shaun Bridges, both were Silk Road investigators. Both used pseudonyms to pilfer bitcoins from the site and attempted to extort money from Ulbricht. In addition, they both had high-level admin access to the site, with the ability to access accounts, manipulate data and change passwords.

Ulbricht’s defense team has now revealed that on November 18, 2013, someone logged into accounts on the Silk Road forum associated with “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR) while Ulbricht was already in custody following his arrest on October 1. This fact was documented in a discovery letter by his legal team.

None of this information was allowed in at trial and some was not even revealed to the defense team before trial.

Libertarians would certainly object on principle that Ulbricht should have even been charged for running the black market/free market exchange.

But I believe the young and naive  Ulbricht, he was 29 when arrested, bought into the anonymity hype of some libertarians that Bitcoin could protect your privacy and that running a drug exchange was somehow a noble libertarian effort.

But by its very nature Bitcoin is an extremely trackable exchange instrument. (See: "It Took Me Two Clicks To Trace Ross Ulbricht To Silk Road")

And as Murray Rothbard put it, when discussing libertarian/agorist theory and the underground promoted by Samuel Konkin (my bold):
If the black market should develop, then the successful entrepreneurs are not going to be agoric theoreticians...but successful entrepreneurs period. What do they need with Konkin and his group?  I suggest, nothing at all.  There is a hint in the NLM that libertarians would a priori make better entrepreneurs than anyone else because they are more trustworthy and more rational, but this piece of nonsense was exploded by hard experience a long time ago.   Neither do the budding black marketeers need Mr. Konkin and his colleagues to cheer them on and free them of guilt.  Again, experience has shown that they do fine on their own, and that urging them on to black market activities is like exhorting ducks to swim...

As much as I love the market, I refuse to believe that when I engage in a regular market transaction (e.g., buying a sandwich) or a black market activity (e.g., driving at 60 miles per hour) I advance one iota nearer the libertarian revolution.  The black market is not going to be the path to liberty, and libertarian theoreticians and activists have no function in that market...

Historically, classical liberal political parties have accomplished far more for human liberty than any black markets. 
In other words, if you want to advance liberty, it makes little sense to be operating a black market website just as it makes little sense to be selling drugs from a street corner to advance liberty. If the government snares you, you are going to pay dearly---and that is not going to help your liberty.

Ulbricht understood some about libertarianism and some about Bitcoin and some about government but not enough.

Ulbricht made a very big mistake but the sentence was unjustified even if one buys into the punish drug sellers theme. It is the Rubashkin case on steroids.

What happened to Ulbricht should be a lesson to all. shall I say, adventurous libertarians. Don't do stupid stuff when challenging the state.

Officials recently transferred Ulbricht to a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado. The prison, of course,  houses some of the most violent offenders. This news surfaced after a court denied his recent appeal. He is appealing his sentence to the Supreme Court.

I'm sure that Trump has been a disappointment to most "Libertarians for Trump," some have told me so. But it would seem that there would be little downside in Trump commuting Ulbricht's sentence. If he can commute Rubashkin's sentence, why not Ulbricht's?

There is no reason for Trump to listen to me. I didn't support him, but "Libertarians for Trump" is a different story. They should make some noise about getting Ulbricht out of prison, then maybe at least one good thing will come out of the Trump presidency.



  1. How about going to https://freeross.org/?v=47e5dceea252 and kickin in a few bucks for his defense?
    His (great) mom, Lyn, works 24/7 to keep hope alive.
    They don't have deep pockets, and as we know, the Feds use their limitless resources to grind down the innocent.
    So, c'mon, give a little help to the little guy against Goliath.

  2. "What happened to Ulbricht should be a lesson to all. shall I say, adventurous libertarians. Don't do stupid stuff when challenging the state"

    Similar if not the same lesson you made a point to make when Adam Kokesh was arrested and put in a cage

  3. --- Rubashkin allegedly hired hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including some minors. He also swindled his lenders out of millions. ---

    Knowing something about Trumpistas' macabre sense of justice, the man should be put in the rack and then hanged, drawn and quartered for giving 'dem illegulz' jobs that are the sole property of American Workers(c).

  4. The Slate article is one slander after another. Rubashkin's crimes were so egregious that the government, the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, with all its vast resources, couldn't make a single charge stick (hiring illegals and child labor), because he actually wasn't guilty of anything. He was found guilty of paperwork violations that even his banker was against, simply because they wanted to nab him on something. They literally forced his company into bankruptcy to get him, putting hundreds out of work and causing a loss to the bank. Then they sentenced him to an insane 27 years in a cage. I've read or heard about far more details of this case than I care to.

    That being said, Ulbricht does deserve mercy, but likely won't get it.

  5. My bad. The child labor charges were state, not federal.

  6. I disagree with part of these comments by Rothbard and Robert. Peaceful civil disobedience -- ignoring state edicts, and supporting businesses that do the same -- can be helpful in chipping away at unjust state regulations from the ground up. If the state realizes that it is fighting a massive wave of non-compliance (e.g., Prohibition), it may have to relent. Otherwise, we are consigned merely to combating the state through the loopholes it grants to us. Indeed, places like the Tenth Amendment Center are arguing for state-level disobedience against federal edicts, as are city-level "sanctuary cities."

    But I agree with Robert that there is risk, and thus each person is going to have to decide how much risk to take (which regulations to ignore, how high profile to make one's disobedience). Some, like Irwin Schiff and Ross Ulbricht, pay a steep price. But my guess is many more do not. I just don't think we should completely rule this out as a libertarian strategy. (And, to the extent that one gets away with a just "black market" transaction, one has advanced one's own liberty, and that of one's counterparty, for that particular transaction.)

  7. I think people with money should go out of their way to ostracized and humiliate any government emloyee associated with crazy projects like the drug war. Prosecutors, judges and Narcs should all be laughed out of polite society. If you're hosting a cocktail party and someone introduces you to a judges, ask him how he sentences non-violent drug offenders and if you don't like his answer take his drink and ask him to leave and do it in such a way that embarrasses him and his wife. We need to stop treat8ng these people like decent members of society. I'd rather hang out with rough and tumble street dealers than well-groomed drug warriors. The kind person who becomes a judge is primarily interested in the prestige and the respect. Slap it out of his hands and do where people he cares about can see it happen.

  8. Some personal experience with disobeying and confronting government authority has (for the most part) convinced me to agree with RW, “Don't do stupid stuff when challenging the state”. I will define stupid as unproductive. Examples are challenging the TSA and or Border Patrol at interior checkpoints. These are interesting confrontations to be involved in but probably do little to advance freedom in general, are more likely to diminish your personal freedom, and can piss-off your traveling mates.

    On the other hand, the reason these activities do little to advance freedom is because they are done by a small percentage of the population. In the past I have comment in this blog that, “we are all wimps”. Not just the readers of this blog but all that object to these affronts on freedom. As The NAPster indicated Prohibition was overturned due to non-compliance by a substantial part of the population and the subsequent crime and violence it caused. Laws controlling marijuana are going the same direction. There are probably as many people who object to paying taxes or the ridiculousness of the TSA as there are that want to consume drugs and alcohol. Too bad humans are more interested in being inebriated than being free.

    Ulbricht’s’ choices proved to be less than productive for himself and freedom in general. Ulbricht was trying to circumvent the controls the powers that shouldn’t be hold over money and the marketplace. Money and the marketplace are the foundation of our civilization. The state will not be ignored regarding such matters. They determined that they needed to come down on Ulbricht as hard as possible.

    The difference between the Silk Road and Prohibition is what benefits the powers that shouldn’t be and what benefits us mundanes. Those that are in power are just as mundane as the rest of us when it comes to consuming mind altering substances. And they can weave their laws so that they benefit from giving the rest of us access to these substances. Until they see a benefit to themselves in reducing their control over money and markets there will be no real changes.

    Most people try to avoid the kind of conflict that comes with consequences. Irwin Schiff rubbed the IRS wrong. He was pretty lonely when they came after him. How many would it have taken? How many people protesting and or NOT filing with the IRS would it have taken to have the state drop the charges? The answer to that is a lot. More than the number of people who have ever heard of Irwin Schiff.

    Irwin Schiff died as a political prisoner and Ross Ulbricht is a political prisoner. There are very few people that recognize that these men committed no real crimes, let alone that would stand up for them. Far fewer than would be required to convince the government to free them.

    I still say we are all a bunch of wimps. Now I understand that we have to choose our fights accordingly.

    1. Yep, got it.

      On the other hand, let me quote a good ol' boy from the Old Dominion:

      Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!