Monthly Archives: July 2006

Is Retreat an Option?

Today in the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby pens a screed called The Wisdom of Retreat. He suggests that while retreating from our hawkish stance supporting Israel may not be a good option, it just might be the least bad:

If its diplomacy fails, the Bush administration will have to face the dilemma that it’s now avoiding: whether to support an indefinite cease-fire that goes beyond the 48-hour suspension of airstrikes announced yesterday but does not neutralize Hezbollah. To support such an outcome would be to retreat publicly. It would boost the prestige of extremists in the Middle East and encourage Iran to defy the West over its nuclear program. Yet refusing to support an imperfect cease-fire would be a greater error, for it would involve disregarding three lessons that emerge from the administration’s own record.

He gives three main reasons for this opinion:

  • We’re losing clout with allies. While we must act on our own accord when absolutely necessary, if we do it too often we will find ourselves unable to marshal our allies’ forces when we need them.
  • Just because Europe won’t stand up for Israel doesn’t mean Israel has a winnable strategy here. We may not like the “retreat” option, but unless Israel has a real objective to accomplish with this offensive, we don’t need to support them.
  • War is an option, but how can this war be won? Unless we aim at Damascus & Tehran, we’re not really “draining the swamp”, and thus this will be a temporary victory after which Hezbollah will return.

There are some good points here. Israel is responding in a heavy-handed manner, and this sort of an offensive is not something that can just be walked away from. Israel is rapidly approaching the point of no return, if they haven’t crossed it yet. If we don’t do what we can to push for a cease-fire now, we may find ourselves backing Israel in a multi-year campaign of war and occupation of Lebanon, because all other options will have expired.

But what happens if we do push Israel into accepting a cease-fire? Will Hezbollah accept a cease-fire? I think Hezbollah will do one of two things. Start attacking or start re-arming for a later attack. It is clear that Israel is backed into a corner. Committing to a cease-fire now will be worse than— as Mallaby suggests— making America look weak and retreating; it will make Hezbollah victorious. All Israel has done so far is to piss off the world and the Lebanese without materially affecting Hezbollah, making the Lebanese more likely to support Hezbollah.

Israel is in a difficult position. If they stop, they’re giving Hezbollah the green light to re-arm and reorganize for future attacks. If the proceed, they’re embarking on a long campaign of war and occupation, and they can’t stop until they’ve proved a point that terrorism is a strategy that will not succeed. I don’t think they need to be aiming for civilians, but they need the Lebanese people to understand that allowing Hezbollah to operate within their borders will only lead to pain. That may require occupation of Lebanon to set up a sovereign government capable of reining in terrorists if necessary. But Israel has hit a point where retreat only ensures future attacks. They must decide whether the cost of war and occupation is better or worse than allowing those future attacks. While retreat might have short-term benefit, it is not a question of whether future attacks from Hezbollah would come, but when they come and how strong they’ll be.

Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of what the United States should do. I think either option is bad for us. For us to advocate a cease-fire looks to the world like a retreat, and hurts our position with Israel as their ally. For us to forcefully defend Israel’s actions make us look like the puppetmaster pulling Israel’s strings, and ensures that all the negative world attention that Israel gets is heaped on us as well. But is there a third way?

Can the United States publicly say “it’s your problem”? What would happen if the US basically proclaimed that while Israel is a trusted ally of the United States, they’re also a sovereign entity and need to determine for themselves how to handle this situation. We may simply need to tell the world that it is not our responsibility to secure a Middle East peace. We believe Israel is more than capable of taking care of their own security needs, and as their ally, we will assist if they ask us to. But at the moment, we’re stepping away from the situation.

Right now, the United States has no solution to the problem. And every time we try to step in and barter a peace between parties who don’t want one, we look like we have failed, not them. Why do we keep coming to the table? Why don’t we take the position that if they want us to help solve this problem, they need to invite us to the table, not the other way around?

Norwood v. Horney: A Crushing Blow To Kelo

Duncan Currie writes in The Weekly Standard about Wednesday’s decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in Norwood v. Horney, which he calls a crushing blow to the rationale behind the infamous Kelo decision. Currie identifies three areas in which the Norwood decision undermines the rationale behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London:

First: The Ohio High Court implicitly rejected the rationale behind Kelo. “Although economic factors may be considered in determining whether private property may be appropriated,” wrote Justice Maureen O’Connor, “the fact that the appropriation would provide an economic benefit to the government and community, standing alone, does not satisfy the public-use requirement of Section 19, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.”

The Ohio Constitution’s public-use clause is essentially the same as the one in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so the logic that the Ohio Supreme Court used in this regard applies equally to an analysis under the Federal Constitution.

Second: The court called for “heightened scrutiny when reviewing statutes that regulate the use of eminent-domain powers.”

Specifically, the Court rejected the city’s rationale, accepted by the trial court, that the use of eminent domain powers in this case was justified because the property in question was in danger of becoming “blighted.”

“We find that Norwood’s use of ‘deteriorating area’ as a standard for appropriation is void for vagueness,” wrote Justice O’Connor. “We further hold that the use of the term ‘deteriorating area’ as a standard for a taking is unconstitutional because the term inherently incorporates speculation as to the future condition of the property to be appropriated rather than the condition of the property at the time of the taking.” In plain English, that means Norwood grossly abused its authority. The mere possibility–or even probability–that an area may one day be blighted can hardly pass muster as legitimate grounds for property seizures. Indeed, by the yardsticks employed in Norwood–cracked sidewalks, light pollution, proximity to the highway, weeds, dead-end streets, and “diversity of ownership”–large bits of middle-class, suburban America are “deteriorating.”

The Court also struck down a portion of Ohio’s eminent doman law that made any appeal to the Courts pointless:

Third: The court rejected as unconstitutional the portion of Ohio’s eminent-domain statute that–get this–barred judges from enjoining the seizure and redevelopment of property prior to appellant review. The law had essentially allowed developers to tear down homes after they provided just compensation but before the completion of the appeals process. According to the Ohio Supremes, this “violates the separation-of-powers doctrine.”

In other words, Norwood v. Horney is, in some sense at least, the anti-Kelo. Obviously, the Ohio Supreme Court cannot overrule a decision of the United States Supreme Court. However, the ruling that the Justices from the Buckeye State have made will, hopefully, serve as the beginning of an argument that will see sanity returned to eminent domain law at the Federal level.

H/T: Wizbang

Previous Posts:

A Post-Kelo Test In Ohio
A Victory For Property Rights In Ohio

Republicans Being Democrats… Again

House GOP pressing vote on minimum wage

House Republican leaders, giving in to political reality, plan a vote to raise the $5.15 minimum wage before leaving Washington this weekend for a five-week recess.

“Whether people like it or not, we need to go ahead with it,” said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supports the idea. “There’s a general agreement among Republicans (opposing the raise) that `maybe we don’t like it much, but we need to move forward with it just for political reasons.'”

The No. 3 House GOP leader, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, said the plan was to have a vote before week’s end. But Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans leaders were working to pass the increase but that “no decisions have been made.”

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress voted to increase the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

The chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee said the GOP would embrace the increase to $7.25 per hour and probably attach a proposal passed last year that would make it easier for small business to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost. Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., said the minimum wage bill probably will not include tax cuts such as a repeal of the estate tax.

Great… So let me get this straight.

You’re going to give the Democrats what they ask for. In order to try to make it slightly more politically palatable, you’re going to barely ease regulations on small business. And when you might have an issue worth going tit-for-tat on, and actually getting a real concession from the Democrats, you roll over.

An estate tax repeal would be the ultimate poison pill for Democrats on this bill. I can just see the quandary they’d be in, knowing they can’t vote against a minimum wage, but being against the estate tax repeal. And it’s a politically great move. If you’re going to do something to help the rich, why not do it as an offset to helping* the poor. Yet the Republicans are not going to do it.

The Republicans are showing, once again, that they’re just as statist as Democrats, but with some nice religious authoritarianism and hyper-nationalism thrown in on top of it.

Thanks, guys. I really feel good about voting for you chumps in 2004.
» Read more

What’s A Libertarian To Do ?

These are not good times to be a politically active libertarian. The Libertarian Party, recent platform changes notwithstanding, is unlikely to ever become a force with any real political power in the United States and has done an abysmal job at promoting libertarian ideas among the general public. The Republican Party has pretty much abandoned even the rhetoric of limited government and seems to be fully controlled by the authoritarian social conservatives, who preach about freedom but rarely practice.

And what about the Democrats ? I’ve discussed the possibility of libertarians aligning with the Democratic Party in the past (here, here, and here), and its clear that the biggest obstacle for libertarians thinking of voting Democratic is that, while the GOP has become more authoritarian, the Democratic Party has become more socialist in its economic philosophy. While there may be some candidates who don’t buy into the economic policy of the Democratic Party completely, it is in the platform, and reconciling traditional Democratic economic policies with liberarian/classical liberal ideas is pretty close to an impossibility.

Logan Ferree, who has started a group that calls itself Fredom Democrats argues that its time for libertarians to give up on the GOP and try something new

The Republican Party of today is an unholy alliance of theocons and neocons that depends on majorities in Congress and control of the White House to win the additional votes needed to stay in power through fear-mongering and bribery. Control of the modern Republican Party rests largely in the hands of the Religious Right, which has grown to dominate the party since the late 1970s. Where once social conservatives hoped to use libertarian means to achieve their goals by liberating families, churches, and schools from left-wing utopian schemes, they now turn to the government as a weapon to wage a cultural war against their enemies: feminists, gays, non-Christians, and even fellow Christians that do not embrace their extremist beliefs. The government is used to impose a top-down policy of mandating school prayer and radical abstinence only sex education. Federalism is ignored in intervening in personal medicinal decisions, be it a woman’s right to choose or the right to die with dignity. However, the divide between libertarians and the Republican Party runs even deeper.

While I agree that the GOP, at least on the national level, is close to being a lost cause, I don’t see the Democratic Party as being a viable alternative for the reasons discussed above.

So what should libertarians do ? As James Joyner points out, there really are only three alternatives; either you vote Libertarian, you vote Democratic, or you don’t vote at all. I can see myself engaging in a combination of all three options depending on the circumstances, and waiting for the day when this authoritarian streak comes to an end.

A Victory For Property Rights In Ohio

In January, I wrote about a case being argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that was, without question the first major test of local government eminent doman powers since the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision. The case involved the city of Norwood, near Cincinnati, and its attempt to use eminent domain to take the propety of homeowners who were holding out on accepting buyouts from a private developer. Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that Norwood’s attempted exercise of eminent domain was improper.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that a Cincinnati suburb cannot take private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants.

(…)

The court found that economic development isn’t a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes.

In the ruling, Justice Maureen O’Connor said cities may consider economic benefits but that courts deciding such cases in the future must “apply heightened scrutiny” to assure private citizens’ property rights.

“For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house,” she wrote. “It is the taking of a home _ the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made,”

Targeting property because it is in a deteriorating area also is unconstitutional because the term is too vague and requires speculation, the court found.

O’Connor wrote that the court attempted in its decision to balance “two competing interests of great import in American democracy: the individual’s rights in the possession and security of property, and the sovereign’s power to take private property for the benefit of the community.”

Kudos to the Ohio Supreme Court for doing what the U.S. Supreme Court was apparently incapable of, standing up for property rights. And doing it unanimously no less.

And there’s a detailed analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision by Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy, who calls the decision “A Major Victory For Property Rights”

Further information can be found at the Ohio Supreme Court’s website. And a the full text of the opinion (in PDF format) can be found here.

More at Wizbang, The Volokh Conspiracy, and How Appealing

Atlanta Prefers Government Control to Results

Achieve Academy could be shut down

But Achieve Academy may close, a move that would force Zicuria and the school’s 170 or so other students from grades five through seven back to the traditional public schools they left. Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall is recommending against approving Achieve Academy’s charter, citing a weak curriculum, a history of financial mismanagement, low enrollment and other problems. The board is scheduled to vote today on the charter.

David Morgan, principal at Achieve Academy, said Atlanta school officials have been “unyielding in their position,” that the charter school must close, despite test scores that met state standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Though Achieve met state testing goals, the school did not meet testing goals spelled out in its charter, district officials said. “The performance in fifth grade was particularly troubling, as 23 out of 41 students did not meet standards on one or both of reading or mathematics tests,” district official Sharron Pitts wrote in a letter to Achieve’s board chair, Dana Thomas.

Morgan said school officials point out weak scores while ignoring high scores. Seventh-graders performed well on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test, with 87 percent passing math and reading. Achieve students generally outperformed schools such as Carson and Kennedy, where half the seventh-graders failed reading and where students will be sent back to if Achieve closes.

I realize that in their first year, fifth graders (who, invariably, were products of Atlanta Public Schools up until that point) were failing. But it certainly looks like they’ve gotten those same failing students up to an 87% pass rate by the time they hit 7th grade. That sounds like positive results.

So the students are happy, the parents are happy, and the kids are leaving with a higher pass rate than they came in. Even the fifth-graders, who didn’t meet the standards the school set for themselves, passed state and NCLB guidelines, which not all Atlanta Public Schools do.

It sounds like the school does have a bit of turmoil, between financial problems, moving every year, some leadership turnover, and losing out on one of their curriculum programs (due to a too-low enrollment number). But despite these problems, they’re getting it done.

And it appears that they’re on the right track, trying to buy a property while working with a new company, Imagine Schools. But apparently that’s not good enough for the local government:

Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine said the school had shown “pockets of improvement,” but she stopped short of calling Achieve a success.

She found the school’s plan for a partnership with the nonprofit Imagine Schools void of detail and full of conflicting information about such matters as whether the Saturday program would end at noon or 12:30 and whether students would be allowed a snack time. Augustine was not convinced teachers would cover the state curriculum, nor was she satisfied with the school’s plan to operate in a former church Imagine officials have said they intend to buy.

A half hour on Saturday? Snack time? These are reasons to refuse their charter? And the state curriculum hasn’t exactly made Atlanta Public Schools a success, so maybe they should stick with what actually works. I think Atlanta is searching for any reason to refuse the charter, not looking to determine if this school will actually educate children.

I think we can see through this. This school, despite its problems, is succeeding in its primary goal, educating children. If such a problematic charter school can succeed, I’ll bet the local government schools are quaking in their boots. How can they explain their failure in the face of success like this?

Hat Tip: Jason Pye

The Seen And The Unseen

More that 150 years ago, Fredrich Bastiat wrote a seminal treatise on economics discussing the seen and unseen costs of market regulation. Despite the passage of time, it’s clear that we have not learned Bastiat’s lesson. Government regulates the economy without any regard to what impact it is truly having on the market. Nonetheless, there are those who understand, most notable among them being George Mason University Economics Professor Walter Williams, who, as usual, puts Bastiat’s message in common sense language:

One of the great contributions of Nobel Laureate economist Friedrich Hayek was to admonish us to recognize the insurmountable limits to human knowledge. Why? Not even the brightest minds, and surely not the U.S. Congress, can ever have the knowledge to shape an economic system entirely to our liking. To think we can represents the height of arrogance and a pretense of knowledge. The billions upon billions of interrelationships between an economic system’s human and nonhuman elements defy human capacity to know.

Let’s examine just a few pretenses of knowledge. Under Social Security law, Congress forces workers to set aside a portion of their earnings for retirement. Take a 25-year-old — let’s call her “Mary” — who earns $40,000 a year. Her Social Security tax is about $2,500. Here’s my question to you: Was having $2,500 forcibly taken out of Mary’s pay for retirement her best possible use of that money? Mary might have saved and invested several years to open a small business. She might have put it toward private schooling or music lessons for her child, or any number of things that might have made her, and possibly the U.S., wealthier in the future.

How about Congress’ mandate for more fuel-efficient cars? According to a National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences 2002 report, delivered by Leonard Evans to the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have contributed to between 1,300 and 2,600 traffic deaths a year.

Congress’ mandate for higher gasoline mileage leads to the production of lighter, smaller and less crashworthy cars, resulting in unnecessary deaths. Through technological innovation and natural market forces, cars were already becoming more fuel efficient before CAFE standards were mandated. More important, how does Congress know this loss of life is worth the amount of fuel saved? Do they even know or care about the tradeoff?

As usual, Williams speaks common sense to power. Well worth reading.

Are We Too Nice To Win ?

John Podhoretz has an excellent column in today’s New York Post that consists entirely of questions. He doesn’t give any answers, but I’m not sure there are any.

WHAT if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?

What if the universalist idea of liberal democracy – the idea that all people are created equal – has sunk in so deeply that we no longer assign special value to the lives and interests of our own people as opposed to those in other countries?

What if this triumph of universalism is demonstrated by the Left’s insistence that American and Israeli military actions marked by an extraordinary concern for preventing civilian casualties are in fact unacceptably brutal? And is also apparent in the Right’s claim that a war against a country has nothing to do with the people but only with that country’s leaders?

Can any war be won when this is the nature of the discussion in the countries fighting the war? Can any war be won when one of the combatants voluntarily limits itself in this manner?

And it just goes on from there.

The context, of course, is the Israeli War against Hezbollah in which, media reports to the contrary notwithstanding, Israel has been far more restrained than it is capable of being if it used all of its military might.

The question also has relevance to our own fight in the War on Terror. The response to the September 11th attack was overwhelming to be sure, but, again, far more restrained than the U.S. military could have been under the circumstances. And, arguably, far more restrained than we would have been if the same event had happened 60 years earler. Witness Pearl Harbor and the reaction that followed.

The memory of Pearl Harbor stayed alive throughout World War Two and even afterwards. By contrast, the reaction to September 11th has arguable lessened over time. Yes, we still cringe when we see the video, but even the fact that our television networks don’t play the video of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center anymore is, I think, an indication of the fact that some segment of our society has “moved beyond” the events of that day.

The problem with forgetting September 11th, though, is that it has an impact on the will to fight. American casualties in the Iraq War are historically low compared to any other major war we’ve fought, and yet the public has clearly turned against the war to the point where there is real pressure to bring the troops home. And, more importantly, an obvious reluctance on the part of the Bush Administration to commit American troops to deal with any other potential troublemakers, be it North Korea, Iran, or Hezbollah.

I’ve written before (here and here) that the Bush Administration made a big mistake in not getting the American public more directly invested in the War on Terror after September 11th. The point Podhoretz makes is broader, and more serious, because it effectively asks the question — do we have the will to fight:

Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization – its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all – is endangering the future of our civilization as well?

I don’t know the answer to the question myself, but the signs don’t look good.

Linked with today’s Beltway Traffic Jam

“Fair Flat Tax” is Neither

Oregon Senator Wants to Take On the Burden of Fixing the Tax Code

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has made it his mission to force Congress to rewrite the entire tax code. If he succeeds, every interest in town would take one side or the other in what would be the biggest legislative battle in years.

Last November, a presidential advisory panel headed by former senators Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and John Breaux (D-La.) recommended that Congress lower tax rates, reduce paperwork, and pare back or eliminate most tax breaks, including popular deductions for home mortgage interest and employer-provided health insurance.

Wyden’s plan would also end many individual tax advantages but, in contrast to the panel’s proposal, would keep many of the code’s most popular preferences, including the home-mortgage and health-savings deductions. Wyden’s Fair Flat Tax Act would lower taxes for millions of middle-income families, in part by raising taxes on some corporations and also on wealthy people with significant investment income — which the president would likely oppose.

So Wyden wants to soak the rich, and his tax is far from flat. I think this is another failure of “truth in advertising” when it comes to congressional legislation.

Obviously to anyone who’s been here a while, I’m a big fan of the FairTax. That notwithstanding, though, it really sounds like Wyden is proposing a tax that has only the most popular exemptions included. While that may be politically expeidient, it’s not fair, nor is it flat. It’s probably a good proposal, and if he didn’t call it the “Fair Flat Tax”, jumping on the name recognition of the two most popular tax reform proposals before him, I might like it.

But the “Fair Flat Tax”. How’s the Holy Roman Empire doing these days?

The Daily Roundup

Keith who?

Democrats are on their latest election platform for 2006. They’ll come with yet another one next week sometime. I don’t know what’s worse, the GOP’s “American Values Agenda”, which doesn’t even deal with serious issues, or the Democrats’s lack of an agenda.

World trade talks collapse. (more on this later)

Space tourists can now walk in space. The universe will be colonized by the brave and adventurous, not government bureaucrats.

Venezuelan Leader Hugo Chavez continues his support for democracy and liberty abroad.

That’s all folks, until tomorrow.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Stem Cells and Liberty

The recent vote by Congress and veto by President Bush of legislation that would have allowed Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research has brought stem cell research and government funding of it back to the front pages of the news. There have been some liberty-minded people have expressed outrage at Bush’s decision. However, I believe that President Bush made the right decision by finally finding his veto pen and using it, but for the wrong reasons.

First and foremost, there is no constitutional justification under Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution for Federal funding of stem cell research of any kind. There is no serious arguement that can be made for funding this on national security grounds that can be made, for example, for space exploration. Stem cell research, as presently being speculated, cannot be used for contagious, deadly diseases, which would justify Federal funding under national security grounds.

Secondly, embroynic stem cells simply have no medical value. Michael Fumento wrote about the “successes” of embroynic stem cells, compared to adult stem cells in National Review Online:

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) receive tremendous media attention, with oft-repeated claims that they have the potential to cure virtually every disease known. Yet there are spoilsports, self included, who point out that they have yet to even make it into a human clinical trial. This is even as alternatives – adult stem cells (ASCs) from numerous places in the body as well as umbilical cord blood and placenta – are curing diseases here and now and have been doing so for decades. And that makes ESC advocates very, very angry.

How many diseases ASCs can treat or cure is debatable, with one website claiming almost 80 for umbilical cord blood alone. Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council, using stricter standards of evidence, has constituted a list of 72 for all types of ASCs. But now three ESC advocates have directly challenged Prentice’s list. They’ve published a letter in Science magazine, released ahead of publication obviously to influence Pres. Bush’s promise to veto legislation that would open wide the federal funding spigot for ESC research. The letter claims ASC “treatments fully tested in all required phases of clinical trials and approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration are available to treat only nine of the conditions” on his list.

Well! One answer to that is that it’s nine more than can be claimed for ESCs. Further, there are 1175 clinical trials for ASCs, including those no longer recruiting patients, with zero for ESCs. But a better response is that the letter authors come from the Kenneth Lay School for honesty, as do the editors at Science.

Now funding embryonic stem cells would be typical for the same government that runs the Postal Service and the government schools, which are both failures. If the embryonic stem cell proponents were big believers in their research, why don’t they open their own checkbooks instead of mine?

Third, there is a moral reason to opposing stem cell research funding. However, Bush has does not comprehend the following reasoning when he talks about morality. The government has no right to take the money of taxpayers and spend it on things they view as immoral and that have no common value. The vast majority of Americans will not benefit from stem cell research because, fortunately, they will not suffer from the conditions that stem cell research will treat. If President Bush truly believed that embryonic stem cell research was immoral, he would push for a ban, instead of the compromise position he came up with in 2001.

Finally, as to the issue of the morality and legality of embryonic stem cell research, good people can and will disagree on this. Where you stand on it depends on whether or not you believe an embryo is a human life, or merely a potential human. Good liberty-minded people have disagreed on the merits and morality of legalized abortion and probably always will, but just like on abortion, we must agree that the government has no right to fund it with money taken from taxpayers who find the procedure immoral and abhorrent.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Why Israel is Losing

Israel is not winning its war against Hezbollah, according to retired Colonel Ralph Peters in the New York Post. He has some bullet points that review the situation:

* By trying to spare Israeli lives through the use of airpower and long-range artillery fire instead of ground troops, the IDF played into Hezbollah’s hands. The terrorists could claim that Israel feared them. Meanwhile, Israeli targeting proved shockingly sloppy, failing to ravage Hezbollah, while hitting civilians – to the international media’s delight.

* The IDF is readying a reinforced brigade of armor and 3,000 to 5,000 troops for a “limited incursion” into southern Lebanon. Won’t work. Not enough troops. And Hezbollah’s had time to get locked and loaded. This is going to be messy – any half-hearted Israeli effort will fall short.

* Famed for its penetration, Israeli intelligence failed this time. It didn’t detect the new weapons Iran and Syria had provided to Hezbollah, from anti-ship missiles to longer-range rockets. And, after years of spying, it couldn’t find Hezbollah.

This should set off global alarm bells: If Hezbollah can hide rockets, Iran can hide nukes.

* The media sided heavily with Hezbollah (surprise, surprise). Rocket attacks on Israel were reported clinically, but IDF strikes on Lebanon have been milked for every last drop of emotion. We hear about broken glass in Haifa – and bleeding babies in Beirut.

* Washington rejoiced when several Arab governments criticized Hezbollah for its actions. But the Arab street, Shia and Sunni, has coalesced behind Hezbollah. Saudi and Egyptian government statements are worth about as much as a greeting card from Marie Antoinette on New Year’s Day, 1789.

* Syria and Iran are getting a free ride. Hezbollah fights and dies, Damascus and Tehran collect the dividends.

* Israel looks irresolute and incapable – encouraging its enemies.

* The “world community” wants a cease-fire – which would only benefit the terrorists. Hezbollah would claim (accurately) that it had withstood Israel’s assault. Couldn’t get a better terrorist recruiting advertisement.

* A cease-fire would be under U.N. auspices. Gee, thanks. No U.N. force would protect Israel’s interests, but plenty of U.N. contingents would cooperate with or turn a blind eye to the terrorists. Think Russia’s an honest broker? Ask its Jews who fled to Israel. Would French troops protect Israeli interests? Ask the Jews Vichy bureaucrats packed off to the death camps. (The French are more anti-Semitic than the Germans – just less efficient.)

* One bright spot: The Bush administration continues to resist international attempts to bully Israel into a premature cease-fire. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is flying off to the big falafel stand as a token gesture, not to interfere with Israel’s self-defense.

But the clock’s ticking. Washington can only buy Israel so much time.

* Every rocket that lands in Israel is a propaganda victory for Hezbollah. After 1,000-plus Israeli air-strikes, the rockets keep falling, and Israel looks impotent. The price of sparing Israeli infantrymen has been the elevation of Hezbollah to heroic status through the Muslim world.

* The Olmert government tried to wage war on the cheap. Such efforts always raise the cost in the end. Olmert resembles President Bill Clinton – willing to lob bombs from a distance, but unwilling to accept that war means friendly casualties.

* Israel needs to grasp the power of the global media. Long proud of going its own way in the face of genocidal anti-Semitism, Israel now has to recognize that the media can overturn the verdict of the battlefield. Even if Israel pulls off a last-minute win on the ground, the anti-Israel propaganda machine has been given so big a head-start that Hezbollah still may be portrayed as the victor.

The situation is grim. Israel looks more desperate every day, while Hezbollah appears more defiant.

What I think Israel must do to reverse the course is to first and foremost launch a full-scale invasion of south Lebanon and if the Lebanese Army joins the fight on behalf of Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces must be willing to hump the long and bloody road to Beirut and the Lebanese-Syrian border and bring the war to the Lebanese government. Second, Israel must be ready and willing and must bring this war to the tyrants Assad in Damascus and Ahmadinejad and Khamenei in Tehran and their respective regimes and support structures for those regimes for enabling and supporting this proxy war.

Then and only then will Israel be victorious.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Of Course We’re Taking Sides

The days of American foreign policy in the Middle East being based on the absurd idea that we should be a “honest broker” between the Israelis and Arab terrorists intent on destroying them are over, the Bush Administration is clearly taking sides in the Israeli-Hezbollah War:

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

Leave it to the New York Times to come up with yet another example of craven moral equivalence. The Iranians are supplying a terrorist group which is launching rockets into the residential neighborhoods of cities such as Haifa. The United States is supplying weapons to a nation trying to defend itself from a terrorist army on its northern border. One side is right, and the other is wrong, and unless you work for the Old Grey Lady, its pretty easy to figure out which is which.

The Times is also upset that Condoleeza Rice will not be visiting any Arab countries when she goes to the region tomorrow. Instead, she will meet with Arab diplomats in Europe.

The decision to stay away from Arab countries for now is a markedly different strategy from the shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations used to mediate in the Middle East. “I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante,” Ms. Rice said Friday. “I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling around, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do.”

Well, considering the fact that its the diplomacy that has gotten us to the place we are now, perhaps its a good thing that Condi is trying something different, like letting Israel defend herself.

Others blogging on this story: Captain’s Quarters, Don Surber, Taylor Marsh, Left I on the News, Brilliant at Breakfast, Outside The Beltway, Marc Cooper, The Real Ugly American.com, Silflay Hraka, The News Blog, Hyscience, The Democratic Daily, Blue Crab Boulevard and Just a Bump in the Beltway.

The Nanny State vs. The Family Part II

Last week, I wrote about Abraham Cherrix, a 16 year-old boy in Accomack County, Virginia in the middle of a custody battle between his parents and the Accomack County Social Services Department. The issue at hand, of course, was Abraham’s cancer treatments. Abraham and his parents made the choice to discontinue his chemotherapy and try alternative medicine. The state, however, claimed that it knew better and convinced a judge to issue an order effectively giving Accomack County joint legal custody of Abraham.

Just yesterday, I related how the Judge handling Abraham’s case was leaving him in a state of legal limbo and forcing him to undergo medical tests before allowing him to leave for Mexico for treatment.

Now, it appears that trip won’t be happening for some time, if ever. Judge Jesse Demps issued an Order late today that Abraham must undergo chemotherapy against his will.

NORFOLK, Va. — A judge ruled Friday that a 16-year-old boy fighting to use alternative treatment for his cancer must report to a hospital by Tuesday and accept treatment that doctors deem necessary, the family’s attorney said.

The judge also found Starchild Abraham Cherrix’s parents were neglectful for allowing him to pursue alternative treatment of a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements supervised by a clinic in Mexico, lawyer John Stepanovich said.

Jay and Rose Cherrix of Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore must continue to share custody of their son with the Accomack County Department of Social Services, as the judge had previously ordered, Stepanovich said.

Judge Demps sits on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which means that his Order can be immediately appealed to the Circuit Court of Accomack County. One can only hope that the Circuit Court Judge has a better view of the proper relationship between the state, the individual and the family than Judge Demps did when he made his ruling.

The lawyer for Abraham’s parents had a warning for Virginia parents that could apply nationwide:

“I want to caution all parents of Virginia: Look out, because Social Services may be pounding on your door next when they disagree with the decision you’ve made about the health care of your child,”

Because, of course, that’s their job.

Previous Post:

The Nanny State vs. The Family

World War IV

Late in 2004, I posted this piece at The Unrepentant Individual. Reading a story in the Washington Post today called The Guns of July, it drew a parallel between today’s fighting in Lebanon and the beginnings of World War I. It’s been hinted widely that the war against Radical Islam is a lot wider than simply Afghanistan and Iraq, and recent events in Lebanon and Israel might simply be the catalyst to start something truly horrifying. Below, I discussed a Norman Podhoretz essay from September 2004, and its implications discussing what may be the arrival of World War IV.

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World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win

I found the above article, and really felt it put a lot into perspective. If you choose to take a look, bear in mind that it is long, but well worth reading if you have some time.

The article makes the claim that our current war on terror is only accurately understood if it is seen in the context not of a single war, but as World War IV (WWIII, of course, being the “cold” war against the Soviet Union). To put it succinctly, it describes the true nature of the war we are fighting, in historical, present, and future contexts.

The 9/11 Commission was tasked with determining how we allowed such an attack to occur. For the lefties (Michael Moore, Howard Dean, etc), it was Bush’s fault, for not doing enough to stop it. For the righties (Sean Hannity), it was Clinton, for not doing enough in the years leading up to Bush. But neither group is correct. Since the early 70’s, we’ve been regularly assaulted by a fanatical enemy bent on our destruction. All presidents, from Nixon up through Bush before 9/11, did not actually respond with true force to deter future attacks. We all woke up on 9/11, and this is the first article that I’ve read that really makes the point hit home. The groundwork for 9/11 was laid by 30 years of inactions, so assigning blame (as attempted by the 9/11 Commission) is bound to be fruitless.

As for the future of this war, the author draws many parallels to the conditions at the end of World War III, aka the Cold War. Perhaps Eastern Europe and Russia are still going through growing pains (i.e. Ukranian elections), but it is obvious that they are on the road to democracy and prosperity. Even more impressively, some of the nations most familiar with being under the boot of Soviet oppression are the closest US allies in this current war.

Suppose that we hang in long enough to carry World War IV to a comparably successful conclusion. What will victory mean this time around? Well, to us it will mean the elimination of another, and in some respects greater, threat to our safety and security. But because that threat cannot be eliminated without “draining the swamps” in which it breeds, victory will also entail the liberation of another group of countries from another species of totalitarian tyranny. As we can already see from Afghanistan and Iraq, liberation will no more result in the overnight establishment of ideal conditions in the Middle East than it has done in East Europe. But as we can also see from Afghanistan and Iraq, better things will immediately happen, and a genuine opportunity will be opened up for even better things to come.

The Anti-War group has been on our case about the troubles and difficulties faced in building a free Iraq. And not without cause, as this has certainly been a difficult and troublesome process. But anyone looking at the progress that has been made cannot believe that given the reality of a years- or decades-long struggle, that we are losing. A point made by Haim Harari in an April 2004 speech is highly important. Our two biggest remaining foes in the region, Iran and Syria, are now completely surrounded by hostile nations. I’ve been one of those hawkish fellows who has long wondered whether invading Iraq was only done first because it was more politically expedient than invading Iran, but had noted that we now have two flanks on Iran, which may be a way to exert greater pressure.

Now that Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are out, two and a half terrorist states remain: Iran, Syria and Lebanon, the latter being a Syrian colony. Perhaps Sudan should be added to the list. As a result of the conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq, both Iran and Syria are now totally surrounded by territories unfriendly to them. Iran is encircled by Afghanistan, by the Gulf States, Iraq and the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union. Syria is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. This is a significant strategic change and it applies strong pressure on the terrorist countries. It is not surprising that Iran is so active in trying to incite a Shiite uprising in Iraq.

As someone who naturally savors political debate, I am unfortunately drawn into the peculiarities of the specific debate at hand. An article like the above gives a much more adept look at the “big-picture view” of the situation. Specific debates over the nature, timing, or necessity of the invasion of Iraq truly boil down to something much more simple. If you view Islamic terror as mostly a reaction to our support of Israel, our foreign policy, and our export of American culture, then Iraq is just a bigger mistake that will cause the pot of Islamic terrorism to boil over. On the contrary, if you believe, as I do, and as this author does, that the United States is embroiled into a conflict accurately described as World War IV, you most likely support the invasion of Iraq. The article above makes a strong case for the latter.

Maryland’s Wal-Mart Law Struck Down

A Federal Judge has struck down the law passed by the Maryland legislature earlier this year which would have required Wal-Mart to provide health care for all its employees.

BALTIMORE — A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a Maryland law that would have required Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend more on employee health care, arguing the retail giant “faces threatened injury” from the law’s spending requirement.

The state law would have required large employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health care or pay the difference in taxes. Only Wal-Mart would have been affected by the law.

However, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz concluded that the law would have hurt Wal-Mart by requiring it to track and allocate benefits for its Maryland employees in a different way from how it keeps track of employee benefits in other states. Motz wrote that the law “imposes legally cognizable injury upon Wal-Mart.”

More details to come later, I’m sure, but this is definiately a good development and, for me at least, a surprising one. If nothing else, this will definitely have an impact on similar efforts in other states.

Update: The Post story has been expanded to included reaction and an analysis of Judge Motz’s ruling. The reaction of Maryland Senate President Miller is priceless:

Democrats, meanwhile, called the ruling an affront to everyday working people. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the measure’s chief sponsors, said it was nothing less than a matter of “good versus evil.”

“These guys are billionaires,” Miller said. “It’s these guys versus the little people. We’re not going to let a big Arkansas corporation, protected by their contributions to the Republican party, avoid their basic responsibility to the citizens of Maryland.”

Miller noted that the measure is widely popular in the state. A Washington Post poll conducted last month found that 77 percent of registered voters supported the legislature’s efforts to force Wal-Mart to spend more on its employees’ health benefits.

Fortunately, we don’t like in a pure democracy sir, we live in a nation of laws where even 77 percent of the people can’t do whatever they want if its wrong.

As KipEsquire points out, though, this is hardly a victory for libertarians in a legal sense when you look at the basis for the ruling:

But those arguments did not satisfy Motz, who wrote in a 32-page opinion that the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act prevails when determining the types of health and pension plans that companies can offer their workers. And it also allows those companies to create a uniform system of benefits across several states.

The Maryland law, Motz wrote, “violates ERISA’s fundamental purpose of permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration.”

In other words, this was not a ruling that said that government doesn’t have the right to regulate employer-employee relationships when it comes to health care. It merely ruled that the Federal law trumps Maryland attempt at Socialism. A good result for the wrong reason, but probably the best we could’ve hoped for.

Update # 2: The full text of the opinion can be found here. (H/T: Professor Bainbridge)

Related Posts on this law at Below The Beltway:

Targeting WalMart
Hell Freezes Over
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Well That Didn’t Take Long
More Socialism In The Free State

Little Tyrannies
A Pro-WalMart Blowback ?
Wal-Mart And The War Against The Poor II
First They Came For Wal-Mart
Increasing The Burden On The Productive
Another Bad Idea Spreading Like Wildfire

War on Drugs is a War on Freedom

I was listening to Boortz today, and he made the (not original, he admitted) point at the end of his show that we’re not really fighting a “War on Terror”. Terror is a tactic. That would be like saying we’re fighting a “War on Blitzkrieg” or a “War on Mutually Assured Destruction”. It makes no sense. However you define it, we’re fighting a “War on Terrorists”, not a “War on Terror”.

What other faux wars are we fighting? The “War on Drugs” comes to mind. Drugs aren’t our enemy. Drugs aren’t sentient beings out to destroy our culture. Just as we make the point that guns are just a tool, drugs are likewise just a tool. Guns allow you to project force well beyond that level which you could with your bare hands, and drugs allow you to get messed up well beyond that level which you could with your bare mind.

So we’re not really fighting a “War on Drugs”. We’re fighting a “War on Drug-Users, Drug-Producers, and Drug-Dealers”. Again, we’re not fighting some abstract thing such as drugs, we’re fighting PEOPLE.

Granted, (usually) we’re not trying to kill those people. But whether we’re trying to or not, our job is to use force to prohibit people from engaging in commerce and ingesting chemicals. We’re using force to fight voluntary, consensual behavior. Were it not for the violence that follows a black market, it would be peaceful behavior.

Can I call it a “War on Freedom”. Not really. This falls victim to the same problem as calling something a “War on Terror”. It’s really a war on people whose behavior we don’t like. Freedom, however, ends up being collateral damage.

The Only Way Out

In this morning’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer outlines what may be the only sensible way to end the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon. Krauthammer argues that this war has created a unique situation; the Arab world, and most of the rest of the world, seems united in the opinion that Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria have gone too far and are the ones primarily responsible for the current state of affairs. Clearly, something must be done about Hezbollah, but there is only one nation with the capability to do it:

The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing.

Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded — implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.

Given that every other effort to rein in Hezbollah has ended in failure and has resulted in death and misery for the people of Lebanon and the people of Israel, this certainly seems like the only way that this can really be brought to an end. Any solution that results in armed members of Hezbollah on the ground within striking distance of Israel is only a cease fire, not a resolution.

Several questions remain, of course. How would Syria and Iran react to such an Israeli offensive ? And, more importantly, Krauthammer wonders if the political will for such a move exists in Israel and the United States:

Does Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have the courage to do what is so obviously necessary? And will Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s upcoming peace trip to the Middle East force a premature cease-fire that spares her the humiliation of coming home empty-handed but prevents precisely the kind of decisive military outcome that would secure the interests of Israel, Lebanon, the moderate Arabs and the West?

Those questions are all the more important given this report from the Guardian:

The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

“It’s clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week,” a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.

Under the circumstances, setting a deadline doesn’t seem to make sense. If the problem is the existence of a terrorist army on Israel’s Northern border, then the solution to that problem is obvious; either destroy that army completely or push it far enough away from the border that it is no longer a threat. If this war ends with a situation on the ground that is not much different from what existed before the fighting started, then all the fighting will have been for nothing, and we will just be biding time until the next war.

Related Posts at The Liberty Papers:

The 2006 Arab-Israeli War
So Be It
How To Fix The Middle East

How to Fix the Middle East

I think I’ll declare today The Liberty Papers’ “Middle East Day”.

Now, on to business. I think that an overwhelming majority of the Israelis want nothing more than to live in peace and prosperity. At the same time, most of the “Palestinians” want nothing more than to live in peace and prosperity.

So let’s see what is needed to bring this about.

For the Israelis, they have a powerful military, plenty of technology and firepower, and in a shooting war, are the odds-on favorite. For them to stop fighting only requires one thing: that the terrorists stop blowing them up.

For the Palestinians, they have no military, no economy, and are incredibly resentful that they keep having Israeli tanks and artillery raining down on them. For them to stop having Israeli use overwhelming force only requires one thing: that they actually stop trying to blow Israelis up.

In reality, there is a possible future of a two-state solution. As long as that solution isn’t an interim step to wiping Israel “off the face of the map”, there can be a lasting peace. It is possible, although I don’t think it’s very likely these days. Several things have to happen for this to occur. First, the Palestinians need to have a government that respects individual rights, private property, and the rule of law. Right now, the Palestinian people have something to hate, but nothing to live for. As Golda Meir said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”.

At the moment, there is no reason for Israel to continue a war. There is no monetary benefit. There is no wonderful territory to conquer. There are no necessary natural resources to exploit. It’s clear that the Israelis are fighting a defensive war against people who want to kill them. That, of course, doesn’t mean that the situation is completely “fair” to the “Palestinians”. As Chris pointed out:

I will concede several issues here. The creation of Israel was a blatantly illegal act, in so far as international law exists. The British and Americans basically drew some lines and said “Here jews; we feel guilty because we let 1/3 of you die, so you can have this country. Oh, there are some people here already, but we’ll move them out for you”.

Of course those people then fought a war against the jews, and they lost. They’ve been terrorists ever since. The Jews won, the Arabs lost, that was in 1948.

Had someone shown up, taken territory from me to give to someone else, I’d understandably be pissed. But look at what’s happened in the last 58 years. Israel became a thriving democracy. “Palestine” remained a desert wasteland. Why is that? Has Israel been keeping the Palestinians down? I don’t think so, because if you look within Israel itself, the population is about 18% Arab, and 16% Muslim. Within Israel, multiple religions live in mutual peace and respect. In fact, for the most part, the debate within Israel hinges upon whether they’re foretelling their own doom by respecting their Muslim population too much, rather than whether they’re oppressing them.

So what’s wrong with Palestine? Why have they gone from slightly beyond a stone-age society in 1948 to slightly beyond a stone-age society in 2006? That one is obvious. Their own ruling forces won’t allow it, and the nearby Arab societies use them as a proxy to foment war against Israel.

To solve the Arab-Israeli conflict only requires one thing: that the Arabs stop blowing up Jews. It’s that simple. Have the Israelis occasionally acted heavy-handidly in response? Sure, but after decades of terrorism, that’s somewhat expected. But until the Palestinians and Arabs allow their own citizens to flourish, creating a society where they can love life more than they hate Jews, the “cycle of violence” will continue.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that I think most people in this world are the same. They want to live in peace, in a society where they have freedom, opportunity, and the chance at a good life. That society doesn’t exist in Palestine, and at the moment, there are few signs of change. Until the Palestinians fault their own government for that problem instead of Israel, the current situation will continue. And a lot of people will die.

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