Monthly Archives: December 2006

Death Of A Dictator

Say what you will about the current situation in Iraq and America’s place in it, but there can be no question that the death of Saddam Hussein is good news for anyone who believes in human freedom:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 — Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who rose from humble beginnings to build the Arab world’s most ruthless dictatorship but whose fall unleashed a turbulent era for his nation and the world, was executed early Saturday morning in Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television.

Hussein, 69, who demanded a cultlike devotion from his people and built monuments to proclaim his own greatness, was hung around 6 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Friday EST) in the American-controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad. Hussein was executed before a small group of observers, including some who had been tortured by his regime.

“Criminal Saddam was hanged to death,” state-run Iraqiya television said in an announcement. The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.

The execution took place three days after Iraq’s highest court upheld Hussein’s death sentence, a decision that meant the execution should take place within 30 days. Last month Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity for the killings of 148 Shiite men and boys from the northern town of Dujail after an attempt on his life in 1982.

So, a toast tonight, to the death of a horrible man and to the hope that, just maybe, the mess that is Iraq will straighten itself out.

Another Stupid Law

The New York Times reports today on a Greenwich, Connecticut family-run coffee stand owner being kicked out of its spot thanks to a law that favors the blind:

[A]fter eight years serving the hedge fund traders, chief executives and other New York-bound professionals who stream through the station in the Old Greenwich neighborhood each morning, Mr. Maher was notified this month that he, his wife, Mary, and their 82-year-old helper, John Edward Kennedy, had lost the coffee concession and must leave by Jan. 12.

Greenwich town officials said they had little choice but to displace the Mahers in favor of a blind entrepreneur, a third-generation Greenwich man named Adam Fairbanks, who will take over the concession. They cited little-known but longstanding federal and state laws that give preference to the blind when it comes to operating concessions on government property.

“I don’t happen to think it’s a very good law,” said James Lash, a Republican who is Greenwich’s first selectman. “But it is the law.”

There is, of course, more to the story. If the Maher’s had a long-term contract, this probably would not have happened. In reality, Greenwich officials consistently refused requests for such a contract after they took over the stand in 2001, hence giving themselves the legal right to do this.

Mr. Lash, the selectman, said such arrangements are preferable because they allow the town to replace vendors who are uncooperative or who invite complaints. As Mr. Maher described the deal: “As long as you do a good job and keep everyone happy you can stay here.”

Unless, apparently, a blind man wants your business.

That doesn’t mean people are happy about it, though:

Some customers said they would treat the new vendor warily. “I’m not looking forward to giving him any of my business,” said Stephen Mesker, a regular. “Preference is one thing when you award a contract” for the first time, Mr. Mesker said, but taking it from an existing operator is “like telling someone who owns a house: ‘Guess what? We have someone better for it.’ ”

Yeah, they had that problem just down the road in New London awhile ago.

Washington D.C. Picks Tax Revenue Over Blue Laws

Ordinarily, you can’t buy hard liquor in Washington, D.C. on a Sunday and the bars have to close by 2pm. Conveniently, though, the City Council created an exception this year for two particular Sundays that happen to be very big for the liquor business:

Liquor stores will be open Sunday in the District, and last call won’t roll around until 4 a.m. Monday under a law that the D.C. Council approved nearly three years ago to keep tax dollars in the city on Christmas and New Year’s eves.

Normally, Sundays are days of prohibition for hard liquor in the city, and bars must stop serving alcohol by 2 a.m. weekdays. But the council amended the existing alcoholic beverage law to make exceptions for liquor stores when the two holiday eves fall on Sundays. The council also amended the law to give bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs extra time to serve drinks on New Year’s Eve.


There are 208 licensed, full-service liquor stores in the city, [Jeff] Coudriet [director of operations for the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration] said. Sunday sales are voluntary. “They don’t have to stay open. We’re not forcing them. It’s sort of at their discretion,” he said.

Why it can’t be up to their discretion for the 50 other Sundays that fall during the year ? I’m sure the fact that increased holiday alcohol sales will lead to increased tax revenue has something to do with it.

The Taxman Wants Your Gift Cards

Not content with all of the available avenues of taxation one Wisconsin legislator has his eye on that Best Buy Gift Card you got for Christmas:

Madison – Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said today that the value of unused gift cards should go to the state treasury – not to the merchant – and that change will be part of a bill he’ll introduce in the legislative session starting in January.

Kessler said millions of dollars a year go unused by gift card recipients, and retailers are allowed to book the unused values after the cards expire. He cited figures from Consumer Reports showing that 19% of all gift cards are not used because they are lost or expired.

Kessler called that a “windfall,” which he said could be used to support schools, health care or roads. Under his bill, after a one-year expiration date on all cards, 80% of the value of unused cards would go to the state treasury. Merchants could keep 20% of the value of an unused card to pay for processing, Kessler said.

“I’d rather have people spend the money and use the gift card, but if they aren’t, I’d rather the state get the money,” Kessler said.

Of course you would. This is the government mindset at work. That money in your pocket, no matter what form it may be in, doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to them, and they are far better at figuring out how to spend it.

H/T: Hit & Run

The Economic Legacy of Gerald Ford

Over at Cato@Liberty, Daniel Griswold notes that the “accidental President” was among those Republicans who led the GOP away from it’s history of economic isolationism:

It is easy to forget today, but before World War II, the Republican Party was the protectionist, isolationist party. Republicans sponsored the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff bill that deepened and prolonged the Great Depression, contributing to a downward spiral in global trade and feeding the resentments that set the stage for World War II.

After the war, Republicans such as Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan broke from the party’s past to work with Democrats to forge a bipartisan trade and foreign policy. In the late 1940s, the United States not only joined NATO but also the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Under this bipartisan consensus, U.S. government barriers to international trade and foreign investment continued to fall from their peaks in the 1930s to their relatively low levels of today.

Gerald Ford’s presidency and career are open for critique, but on the basic question of whether the United States should engage in the global economy or wall itself off in fear, Gerald Ford was on the right side of history.

Unfortunately, political opportunists like Tom Tancredo and populists like Lou Dobbs seem intent on dragging America back in the other direction.

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