Monthly Archives: November 2006

William F. Buckley Jr. On The Minimum Wage

Although William F. Buckley Jr. can hardly be described as a libertarian or classical liberal, he does remind one of the day when conservatives and libertarians were far more united on issues than they are today. Perhaps that’s why he sometimes seems out of place in a world where conservatives identify more with the Rick Santorum’s of the world than with those who kept the right alive intellectually. In his latest column, Buckley reminds us why the minimum wage is such a bad idea:

We learn that one individual American last year received compensation of $1.5 billion. This leads us indignantly to our blackboard, where we learn that the average chief executive officer earns 1,100 times what a minimum-wage worker earns. What some Americans are being paid every year is describable only as: disgusting. But that disgust is irrelevant in informing us what the minimum wage ought to be. The one has no bearing on the other.

We are bent on violating free-market allocations. Doing this is not theologically sinful, but it is wise to know what it is that we are doing, and to know that the consequence of taking such liberties is to undermine the price mechanism by which free societies prosper.

Milton Friedman taught that “the substitution of contract arrangements for status arrangements was the first step toward the freeing of the serfs in the Middle Ages.” He cautioned against set prices. “The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum-wage laws.” Those laws are “one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.”

Professor Friedman is no longer here to testify, but his work is available — even in San Francisco.

Well said.

Cato Institute Drug War Interactive Map

If you haven’t seen this, head over and take a look. They’ve compiled a google map where each “pin” is a botched paramilitary-style raid. Some are simply raids on innocents’ houses. Others are raids where either an innocent person, a non-violent offender, or a police officer was killed. Either way, it’s staggering how this “Epidemic of ‘Isolated Incidents'” fills up this map.

What does this map mean?

The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of “no-knock” or “quick-knock” raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt — it’s difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night.

But even more disturbing are the number of times such “wrong door” raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map below aims to refute that notion.

How to use this map

Click on each marker on the map for a description of the incident and sources. Markers are precise in cases where the address of an incident was reported. Where media reports indicate only a town or neighborhood, markers are located at the closest post office, city hall, or landmark. Incident descriptions and outcomes are kept as current as possible.

Other map features:

–Using the “plus” and “minus” buttons in the map’s upper left-hand corner, users can zoom in on the map to street-level, as well as switch between street map and satellite views. In some large metropolitan areas, there are so many incidents in such close proximity that they tend to overlap unless viewed on a small scale (try zooming in on New York City, for example).

–Users may isolate the incidents by type by clicking on the colored markers in the key (see only “death of an innocent” markers, for example).

–The search function just below the map produces printable descriptions of the raids plotted on the map, and is sortable by state, year, and type of incident.

Hat Tip: Boortz

Appeals Court Strikes Down Illinois Video Game Law

A Federal Appeals Court has upheld a lower court ruling declaring Illinois ban on the sale of certain video games to minors unconstitutional:

ILLINOIS — The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed the ruling of a judge who struck down a law that would have banned the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled that the Illinois ban violated free-speech protections. The appeals court agreed that the law, which would have gone into effect Jan. 1, was too broad.

“The state must recognize that the question of a statute’s compliance with the 1st Amendment does not end once it is determined that the free speech rights of adults are unaffected,” the court wrote.

The law was championed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had promised to fight for its survival. A spokeswoman for him said the court decision was being reviewed by the governor’s office.

The law would have made sales of such games to minors illegal and punishable by as much as a year in prison.

This means, of course, that parents in Illinois will be forced to raise their children themselves rather than relying on the state to do it for them.

Your Home: The Next Front In The Anti-Smoking Wars

After being successful in efforts to ban smoking in virtually all public places, anti-smoking forces are training their sights on the final battlefield, your home:

Anti-tobacco forces are opening a new front in the war against smoking by banning it in private places such as homes and cars when children are present.

Starting Jan. 1, Texas will restrict smoking in foster parents’ homes at all times and in cars when children are present, says Darrell Azar of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Vermont, Washington and other states and counties already prohibit foster parents from smoking around children in their homes and cars.

Arkansas and Louisiana passed laws this year forbidding anyone from smoking in cars carrying young children. Courts are ordering smoke-free environments in custody and visitation disputes.

“We are very rapidly moving to protect children from secondhand smoke,” says John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health. “Even from their own parents and grandparents.”

And even if it involves invading what used to be the last bastion of freedom from state intervention.

Your Rights End Where My Contract Begins

There’s been some buzz created today about the story of a Colorado subdivision that has fined a homeowner for hanging a Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign:

DENVER — A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn’t thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, “Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing.”

Except, Ms. Jensen you bought property in a community governed by a private contract that has a very specific rule:

The subdivision’s rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Apparently, no such permission was given. That would seem to be the beginning and end of this issue, wouldn’t it ?

Related Posts:

Public Rights vs. Private Contracts

Informant cries foul

Fox 5 is reporting that the informant involved in the Kathryn Johnston never went to her home and he claims that the police are lying. You can watch the video here.

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington is taking action:

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington has put the entire narcotics unit on administrative leave while several agencies conduct an investigation about the shooting of an 88-year-old woman.

Officials said the FBI will lead an investigation into the fatal shooting of an elderly Atlanta woman during a drug raid last week. The announcement was made by Pennington at a news conference Monday, where he was joined by officials from the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, the GBI and District Attorney Paul Howard.

Stuck in Iraq Longer Than WWII?

A friend sent me this via e-mail:

U.S. Involved in Iraq Longer Than WWII

U.S. involved in Iraq war 3 years, 8-plus months – longer than it was in World War II

Only the Vietnam War (eight years, five months), the Revolutionary War (six years, nine months), and the Civil War (four years), have engaged America longer.

Fighting in Afghanistan, which may or may not be a full-fledged war depending on who is keeping track, has gone on for five years, one month. It continues as the ousted Taliban resurges and the central government is challenged.

Bush says he still is undecided whether to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq or add to the 140,000 there now.

Well, this is CBS, so you know they’re reporting it to make it sound as bad as possible. But is this truly accurate?

Yes, we’ve been in Iraq longer than than the time between Dec 7, 1941 and August 14, 1945. But if you’re measuring the time we’ve been there against the date we get a signed surrender from the insurgents, you’re going to keep waiting. But we didn’t exactly leave Japan and Germany in 1945. We were still “involved” there for much longer.

The time it took to defeat the Iraqi military, of course, was much shorter than the time it took to defeat the Japanese or German forces. In fact, we quickly destroyed Iraq’s command and control structure, and shortly thereafter felled their government. If you want to compare, perhaps we should compare the situation we’re in now with the reconstruction of Germany (which ended in 1949) and Japan (ended in 1952). Against that comparison, we’ve still got years left before we’re involved in Iraq for longer than WWII. But then again, that doesn’t paint nearly as bad of a picture, so I think we know why CBS chose to highlight this.

Of course, the situations aren’t completely analogous. I think the violent insurgency and sectarian warfare we’re facing is a lot more serious than we saw in either Germany or Japan. But, then again, the wars were considerably different as well. World War II was a long, hard-fought war, where there was considerable collateral damage. It wasn’t called collateral damage at the time, it was called “bombing the crap out of the enemy’s cities to break their will”. After four years of constant war, Europe was tired. In Iraq, we lopped off the head but the body remained. Now it’s flailing around lashing out at anything it can.

I have no problem with people who can come up with reasoned criticism of the war or the handling of the occupation. I think some of our policies have been muddled, our government has done little to justify what they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish, and the best answer we get is usually “stay the course”. It’s unacceptable whenever government refuses to justify their actions to the people.

But it’s also unfair for the media to be disingenuous with the facts. It took six years for the Allies (with four of those years including America’s participation) to achieve a military victory over Germany and Japan. It took a few months to achieve a military victory in Iraq. Trying to defeat an insurgency and police sectarian violence is not analogous to Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Bulge. To act is if they are is to play the American people for fools. One would think a respected news organization like CBS should be above such a thing, but recent history has shown otherwise.

A Tribute to Milton Friedman

Over at Catallarchy, they have a tribute to Milton Friedman:

Much of this is due to the work of Milton Friedman, a great economist and a great champion of Liberty at a time when she so desperately needed one. As you know by now, Dr. Friedman died recently. Though it is less than he deserved, we offer the following as a tribute to a man whose legacy we are honored to carry on.

There’s some great writing over there, and you should head on over and check it out.

My personal favorite of the posts so far is David Masten’s article, Friedman the Moderate, in which David has some lessons for other libertarians.

Despite the reputation Friedman has on the left as a radical libertarian, there is an striking dearth among his policy recommendations of anything any reasonable leftist or moderate might find objectionable on normative grounds.

This is a lesson we have preached on this page too. Radical libertarians and anarchists will be seen as part of the fringe and never effect real change.

The Far Reach Of Zoning Laws

I’ve written before (here, here, and here) about the impact that zoning and land use laws can have on individual rights. In various parts of the country, they are used to keep undesirable businesses out of certain areas, or to restrict the types of business that can be conducted in a certain areas. And, in one New Jersey town, they are used as a form of criminal punishment:

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, N.J., Nov. 21 — The man identified in court documents as A. B. does not talk to his neighbors or tarry at the convenience store. Seventy-seven years old, soft-spoken and sometimes confused, he hardly ever leaves the little ranch house he bought in 1969. “People know what’s what with me,” he said.

What’s what with A. B. is that he moved back here last year after serving seven years in prison for sexually molesting two grandchildren and another youngster. And because his home is in a “child safety zone” drawn by the township, he may be forced to leave it.

(…)
Such regulations — more than 100 have been enacted in New Jersey municipalities — are popular around the nation. More than 20 states have broad laws keeping sex offenders from schools, churches, playgrounds and the like. This month 70 percent of California voters approved expanding statewide restrictions to include more sex offenders, and authorized towns to designate even stricter limits.

New Jersey is not the only state where such laws have passed, of course, and some states have already starting imposing limits on the ability of local jurisdictions to restrict where people can live based solely on the type of crime they may have committed in the past:

An Ohio court ruled in October that the state’s buffer-zone law could not be enforced against offenders who lived in such zones before it took effect. Citing several constitutional concerns, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the residency restrictions set forth in the state’s recent ballot proposition.

In Georgia, plaintiffs in a class-action suit include several offenders who would seem to pose little further threat: an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease and another living in a hospice, along with a woman whose long-ago conviction was for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old boy when she was 17.

“We’ve represented people on death row, we’ve represented what I thought were some pretty unpopular people,” said Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is handling the Georgia case. “I didn’t know what unpopular was until we started representing sex offenders.”

What’s even more troubling is the fact that these laws don’t really address the real source of most crimes against children, which exist right inside the home:

Experts say at least 90 percent of child molesters, like A. B., abuse relatives or family friends. Yet Charles Onley, a researcher at the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the federal Justice Department, said that “most of the laws are passed on the basis of the repulsive-stranger image, when in most cases the offender knows the victim.”

Still, parents’ demands for reassurance are hard to dismiss, especially as sex offenders are forced out of neighboring towns.

And given the new laws that are coming on the books, it’s hard to see where they are going to go:

On Tuesday the City Council in Jersey City enacted an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, sports facility, theater or convenience store, among other places. The measure exempts offenders who already have established residence in such zones, but bars newly released convicts who want to return home or move in with relatives. Taken together, the zones block out virtually the whole city.

Of course, once that happens, there won’t be any more abused children in Jersey City, right ? Yea, sure.

Let’s Make Them Prove It

You’ve heard of The Free State Project ?

Well, someone else is starting up The Free Lunch Project.

Are you frustrated at the loss of a free-ride and sense of entitlement in America, while the growth of government involvement and distribution of wealth stalls? Do you want to live in communities where your right to three meals a day and universal healthcare are respected? Do you want others to fund welfare by forcing them to redistribute, by force if necessary, the earnings they have worked hard for? Are you looking for freedom without responsibility?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then the Free Lunch Project has a solution for you.

Heh.

Right now, they’re taking nominations for the state they’ll all move to and turn into a socialist paradise, and Jay Tea at Wizbang is nominating his home state neighboring state of Massachusetts.

I am personally endorsing Massachusetts, for the following reasons:

  1. It’s a smaller state, both geographically and population-wise, so it’ll be easier to influence.
  2. It’s been losing population since the last census, so a sudden influx of 20,000 newcomers could have a tremendous affect in elections.
  3. With Democrats now having an absolute lock on both Houses of the legislature, the governorship, all ten House seats, and both Senate seats, it’s well on its way already. The “Massachusetts Republican” is just shy of making the endangered-species list.
  4. It’s right next door to me, so I can nuke up some popcorn and enjoy the show.
  5. It has New England winters, so their theories will be put to a much harsher environmental test than California will (excluding earthquakes, brush fires, mudslides, and other far less predictable natural hazards).

The only question is, if this happens in The Bay State, how will we be able to tell the difference ?

How One Man’s Bad Ideas Can Affect A Nation

Today’s Washington Post has a profile on the man credited with being the father of the modern anti-immigration movement, and a sad story of how one man can help create a movement that destroys freedom:

PETOSKEY, Mich. — Let’s just get this out of the way. John Tanton, mastermind of the modern-day movement to curb immigration, is a tree-hugger. Literally. He has a favorite pair of ash trees “this big around,” he says, spreading his arms wide. He likes to visit them every so often in the forest just north of here, see how they’re doing.

He worries about them, too, whether — or when — the invaders, the metallic green emerald ash borers, will overwhelm them, wipe one of the dominant native tree species off the North American continent. To think that this little bug could do such a thing, he says, “it’s just hard to take.”

But it’s not just environmentalism that impacts Mr. Tanton’s thoughts:

Three decades after he began agitating about it, immigration has become a hot-button issue — the House passed a $6 billion bill to build a fence along the Mexican border, and several local governments have passed measures to crack down on illegal immigrants already here. But the courts have struck down several of these.

Tanton worries — how will the United States survive the “invasion” of people from Central and Latin America, not to mention China and Korea? More than ever, he is convinced that as they continue to come — waves of legal and illegal “interlopers” — the environment, the culture and the economy of the country will irreparably erode.

“We have 19 cities now on the globe with more than 10 million people in them,” he says. “Only one of them [Tokyo] is in the First World. So all the rest of them have got poor water supplies, poor sewage, poor public services.”

Okay, but how many of these cities are actually located in the United States. None of them, of course.

Interestingly enough, Tanton’s anti-immigrant beliefs are not of recent vintage, but stretch back to the anti-capitalist 60’s:

In 1964, while he was interning in a Denver hospital, his young wife, Mary Lou, provided family planning information to low-income women who had wanted two children but were leaving the maternity ward with their fifth or sixth. In this, Tanton saw a looming apocalypse, living evidence of the theory postulated in Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, “The Population Bomb” — left unchecked, the world’s population would double every 35 years, occupying the remaining habitable open space and overrunning cities and towns.

This did not come to pass. But, Tanton says, the threat is still out there. “I’m anti-immigrant like a person on a diet is anti-food,” he insists. But the intake must be controlled. “You don’t wait till you’re at 390 million [people] and think you can deal with the problem.” His ideas became even more focused after he read the French novel “The Camp of the Saints,” a darkly prophetic allegory of a million destitute people fleeing Kolkata and landing in Europe, where they loot, rape and pillage.

Yes sir, but that was a novel. In reality, immigration, and the increased population of workers and contributors that comes with it, has been a net-plus for the United States.

You Can’t Possibly Be Smart Enough ……

In the “consumers are really dumb, which is why you need us bureaucrats to make decisions for you” category, we have this story. A company that manufactures a sausage known as Welsh Dragon sausage has to change the name of the sausage. Why?

…..trading standards’ officers warned manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The response of the manufacturer?

Jon Carthew, 45, who makes the sausages, said yesterday that he had not received any complaints about the absence of real dragon meat.

That’s right folks, you are incapable of realizing that the sausage is not made from a mythical creature. Remember to thank your government for spending your tax dollars wisely.

Welsh Dragons are manufactured by Black Mountain Smokery.

The Problem With No-Knock Raids

There have been several posts here this week about what can go wrong when police execute a so-called no-knock search warrant, or more generally when they shoot first and ask questions later. In Atlanta, in resulted in the death of a 92 year-old woman. And, in New York, the shoot-first-ask-questions-later philosophy resulted in the death of a 23 year-old father on the eve of his wedding.

If these were only isolated incidents, we could possibly place the blame on over eager police officers in a particular jurisdiction, or perhaps a police force that doesn’t train its officers well enough on the use of deadly force. As Randy Balko, who has been on top of this issue for a long time now, points out, though, these are just the most recent incidents among many, and points to this report of another shooting in Merced, California:

Mary Silva, a 68-year-old retiree, said deputies got the wrong house when they burst into her Winton Way apartment at 6:30 a.m. on the day of the raids.

Silva said she was sleeping when she heard loud banging at her front door and a voice calling “Open up!”

Before she could answer, Silva said, deputies broke through her front door and threw a smoke bomb onto her carpet. As Silva stood in her nightgown, about 10 officers surrounded her with weapons drawn, she said.

They shouted, “Where is he? Where is he?”

Silva told deputies she lives alone. She said they responded, “Shut up! Don’t move!”

The team was looking for 24-year-old Reginaldo Ramirez, who lives next door to Silva.

But the search warrant deputies gave Silva lists an entirely different address — not Silva’s house or the house next door. Silva said deputies gave her the search warrant several hours after the initial raid.

Pazin said deputies may have transposed numbers in the address on the warrant, but that law enforcement acted in good faith when they entered Silva’s house.

The police are blaming the suspect they were looking for, who allegedly used Silva’s house when he was arrested at some point in the past. But, as Balko, points out, that’s just evading responsibility:

Police, on the other hand, are accountable to us. The least we can demand of them is that they do the necessary legwork before barging into our homes. Parzin’s men failed the people they serve in that regard. They took the word of a criminal. They did no corroborating investigation to see that the address he listed was indeed where he lived, or to see if other, innocent people may live there. Not only that, but they then transposed the numbers on the search warrant. They erred. Big time. They ought to cop to it. That is precisely where the “finger of blame” ought to be pointed.

The problem is, I think, that no-knock raids make it easy for the police to evade that responsibility. The warrant says they can go into a particular house without announcing their presence, so they do it. The fact that they may not even have the right house apparently doesn’t even enter their mind.

If nothing else Silva is lucky she didn’t have a gun in the house or that she otherwise didn’t try to defend herself, or she would’ve ended up like the woman in Atlanta.
Related Posts:

More Police Shooting Justice
Another Police Shooting

Shooting Shows Need For Reform
Another Victim Of The Drug War

More Police Shooting Justice

In almost any other profession, if you make a mistake that results in someone’s death, you’ll lose your job. Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply if you’re a cop in Fairfax County, Virginia:

Fairfax County police officials want to suspend for three weeks without pay the officer who accidentally shot and killed Salvatore J. Culosi, an unarmed optometrist being investigated for sports gambling, according to an internal affairs report.

The punishment recommended for Officer Deval V. Bullock in the shooting, which occurred in January, has outraged fellow officers, who said it is too harsh, and Culosi’s family, who said Bullock should never again be employed in law enforcement.

“Any sanction short of this we consider to be nothing more than permission to go out once again and have the opportunity to unjustly kill,” Culosi’s parents, Salvatore and Anita Culosi, said in a statement.

Fairfax officers said the proposed suspension would go far beyond what is typically imposed for an accidental shooting. “The discipline is very disproportionate to prior [shooting] cases,” said Officer Marshall Thielen, president of the Fairfax police officers union. “This was a case where an officer was trying to do everything right, with good intentions. I feel the punishment may be politically motivated because of all the media attention” over the case.

There’s been no small degree of suspicion about what happened in this case, and the officer’s version of events just don’t seem to make sense:

On the night of Jan. 24, the report says, Bullock was getting out of his vehicle when he was bumped on his left side by the vehicle’s door, causing his right hand to “involuntarily make a fist and depress the trigger” of his .45-caliber handgun.

Culosi, 37, was standing outside an undercover police vehicle, which was parked behind his townhouse in the Fair Oaks area. After Culosi was alleged to have paid the undercover officer, who was investigating accusations that he was a sports bookmaker, the officer signaled for two SWAT officers, including Bullock, to make the arrest.

Instead, Bullock, 40, fired one shot into Culosi’s side, killing him almost instantly.

Although police deemed Bullock’s actions accidental, the internal affairs report by Maj. Thomas Ryan says Bullock rushed to get out of his vehicle and arrest Culosi. “This hurried movement caused you to lose sight of your surroundings,” Ryan wrote, “and compromised the safety of your weapon while the muzzle was pointed in the direction of Mr. Culosi.

All of this over an illegal gambling arrest.

The Empircal Case Against The Draft

I wrote last week about Congressman Charles Rangel’s call for a resumption of the military draft. My primary opposition to the draft remains the fact that I don’t believe that the state has the right to force a person to engage in labor of any kind, especially labor that would likely involve serious death and injury. However, it’s worth pointing out that, philosophical arguments aside, the practical arguments that might be made in favor of reinstating the draft just don’t fly:

Regardless of one’s opinion of the management and progress of the war on terrorism, the concept of an all-volunteer force has been an amazing success by virtually any measure. The U.S. military is sustaining combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq while continuing to meet obligations around the globe. And even with unemployment rates near record lows, the military still has tens of thousands of young men and women on waiting lists to join the active-duty force.

What, then, about the argument that the majority of military volunteers come from minority groups, disadvantaged backgrounds, or otherwise from situations where they have nothing better to do than join the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps ? Well, that’s pretty much hogwash:

Each year about 180,000 men and women enlist in the active-duty forces (another 16,000 are commissioned as officers, and tens of thousands more, including many active-duty veterans, join the National Guard and the reserves). Those who enlist come from all parts of the country, from all races and ethnicities, and from households across the economic spectrum. Far from being concentrated among the poorly educated and economically disadvantaged, military recruits, the data show, represent the best of America’s youth. More than 90 percent of recruits have high school diplomas, compared with 80 percent of American youth overall. About two-thirds of today’s recruits score in the upper half of standardized aptitude tests. Military recruits are also more physically fit than American youth in general, and they are subject to strict character screening.

Finally, recruits come disproportionately from neighborhoods with above-average incomes. This was true before the war with Iraq, and it remains true today. In fact, those recruited during the war are more likely to come from affluent neighborhoods than are those who were recruited before the war.

In other words, we don’t need the draft to fight the War on Terror, and we don’t need the draft to alleviate some alleged socio-economic discrimination. Put more succinctly, we don’t need the draft.

The More Things Change….

If you thought that kicking out those unaccountable pork-barrel spending Republicans would teach anyone in Washington a lesson, you’d better think again:’

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 — Senators Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii are the best of friends in the Senate, so close they call each other brother. Both are decorated veterans of World War II. They have worked together for nearly four decades as senators from the two youngest and farthest-flung states. And they share an almost unrivaled appetite for what some call political pork.

Mr. Stevens, an 83-year-old Republican, and Mr. Inouye, an 82-year-old Democrat, routinely deliver to their states more money per capita in earmarks — the pet projects lawmakers insert into major spending bills — than any other state gets. This year, Alaska received $1.05 billion in earmarks, or $1,677.27 per resident, while Hawaii got $903.9 million, or $746.05 per resident, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that tracks such figures.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, and many Democratic candidates have railed for months against wasteful “special interest earmarks” inserted into bills “in the dark of night.” Now their party’s electoral victories mean that Mr. Stevens will hand Mr. Inouye the gavel of the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, which presides over the largest pool of discretionary spending and earmarks. But if the Democratic leaders are talking about “earmark reform,” that may be news to Mr. Inouye.

“I don’t see any monumental changes,” Mr. Inouye said in a recent interview. He plans to continue his subcommittee’s approach to earmarks, he said. “If something is wrong we should clean house,” he said, “but if they can explain it and justify it, I will look at it.”

Call me cynical, but something tells me that it will be extra hard to justify any spending cut that impacts either Alaska or Hawaii in Chairman Inouye’s eyes. What is clear, though (and should have been clear to anyone who remembers American politics prior to 1993), is that the Democrats are no more committed to eliminating pork than their Republican counterparts were:

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican’s allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, population 50. It became notorious as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next,” Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be “taking a long, serious look at their projects.” Every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted against an amendment to strike the bridge, and after threats from Ms. Murray and Mr. Stevens, only 15 senators voted for the amendment. The bridge’s future is unclear.

Actually, the future seems all to clear to me.

Red Wine Is Good For You, But The Government Keeps It A Secret

The health benefits of red wine have been the subject of media reports for at least the past 15 years, but wine producers seldom talk about it, because they’re afraid to:

NAPA, Calif., Nov. 19 — The wine industry certainly has welcomed the recent disclosures that a compound in red wine improves the health and endurance of laboratory mice. So why aren’t they crowing about it?

Because they can’t. The industry has long been handcuffed by state and federal laws that discourage promoting the benefits of wine, with some of those restrictions dating back to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

“Yes, we’d all like to make hay of this, and we’ll do what we can, but we are very constrained,” said Michael Mondavi, founder and president of Folio Fine Wine Partners, a producer and importer of wines here.

As an industry that is closely regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Mr. Mondavi said, “it is blatantly against the law for any alcoholic beverage producers to make any health claim regardless of the facts or the accuracy.”

“Until that regulation is changed or modified in some way so that we can talk about the positive health aspects that are proven,” said Mr. Mondavi, the older son of famed winemaker Robert Mondavi, “we have to sit on our hands and wait for others to pick up the story.”

In other words, there’s a product out there that may have health benefits but the people who produce it are forbidden from even discussing those benefits because our benefactors in Washington, D.C. prevent them from doing so and allowing the rest of us to decide for ourselves whether or not to drink red wine.

And what happens when they try to challenge those rules ?

In 1991, some aggressive winemakers sought to trumpet the health benefits of wine, but they were quickly shut down by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which then regulated the industry at the federal level. Even the industry’s trade organization, the Wine Institute, counseled against promoting wine as a health drink.

Mr. Mondavi, who was then involved in running his family business, the Robert Mondavi Corporation, was one of those who chafed at the strictures.

“We actually resigned from the Wine Institute because we wanted to come out and say wine is healthy and good for you,” Mr. Mondavi said.

“We put on a back label, that wine is healthy and recommended in the Bible,” he added. “The B.A.T.F. sent us a cease and desist letter and made us change the label even though we went back to Washington and showed them the scientific evidence and read them the Bible passages.”

In other words, Big Brother is watching what you drink.

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